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Interview: Hazel Findlay Climbs Freerider (5.12d) on El Cap

Hazel Findlay has just got down from another free ascent of El Capitan, having climbed Freerider (5.12d) over three days with American James 'Big Fall' Lucas. This is Findlay's third free ascent of El Capitan, having freed Golden Gate (5.13a) in 2011 and Pre-Muir Wall (5.13c/d) in 2012.

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Hazel Findlay in Spice Girl, Reel Rock 8.  Photo by Reel Rock.Hazel Findlay has just got down from another free ascent of El Capitan, having climbed Freerider (5.12d) over three days with American James ‘Big Fall’ Lucas. This is Findlay’s third free ascent of El Capitan, having freed Golden Gate (5.13a) in 2011 and Pre-Muir Wall (5.13c/d) in 2012.

Findlay and Lucas abbed the route last Wednesday, stashing water and a haulbag along the way to allow them to keep hauling at a minimum and enjoyment at a maximum. After a rest day, they started off up the wall at 4.30am, to allow them to climb the dreaded Monster Offwidth before the route came into the sun. After two more days on the wall they topped out, with Findlay having freed every pitch and Lucas just missing out on a free ascent due to hanging on the rope once on two separate pitches.

Duncan Campbell asked Findlay a few questions about her recent ascent of Freerider:

Duncan: Freerider contains a number of notorious pitches, worst of all, the Monster Offwidth. What was the crux for you?

Findlay: The crux is supposed to be the 5.13a boulder problem. It took me a few tries which wouldn’t have been stressful if it wasn’t for the impending sun coming around the corner to spoil everything. The holds are small or slopey and it’s pretty hard to do it in the sun. But really the crux for me was not getting too tired on all the wide cracks. Doing the Monster on the first day having already climbed 12 pitches felt hard and then the upper quarter of the route has a lot of wide 5.10 which are all nails.

Duncan: In what style did you free it? Were you and Lucas swinging leads?

James Lucas seconds on the Enduro Corner pitch (5.12b). Photo by Hazel Findlay.Findlay: We swung leads for the most part, but I ended up leading the Monster because we fell getting in to it and then James lead the Scotty Burk (the last offwidth) because I thought I’d throw up if I saw another wide crack.

Duncan: Have you got any plans for the rest of your time in Yosemite?

Findlay: Not sure what’s next, partners are running pretty thin for me in the valley now, so I’ll just climb what I can with who I can. I always have fun on El Cap. Tomorrow I’m trying the Nose in a day with Hans Florine, should be fun! Maybe we’ll beat the bisexual speed record (if he is willing to haul me)

Duncan: Did it all go to plan or did you have some uncertain moments?

Findlay: If I’m honest our ascent was an assisted ascent. Both James and I aren’t the most organized of folk, and on day two found ourselves with dead batteries for one of our head torches. One of our friends happened to be trying Freerider in a day and gave us his batteries. It may sound like a minor detail but with the California sun, you have to climb a lot in the dark, which is pretty hard without a headtorch – so thanks to Walker and Eliot for saving our bacon!


Article originally posted on UKclimbing.com. Additional reporting by Andrew Hewitt.