While happenings on the Nose dominated the Rock and Ice headlines before Thanksgiving, there were a couple of big sends further right on El Cap and across the Valley.
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Nina Williams Sends Father Time (VI 5.13b)
On November 17, Nina Williams capped a six-day free ascent of Father Time, on Middle Cathedral. Williams was supported by Katie Lambert, who originally planned on trying to free it herself as well, but injured a finger during the ascent. A passion project of Mikey Schaefer, Father Time ascends 2,000 feet in 20 pitches and goes free at 5.13b. Schaefer worked on the route for multiple seasons before making the first free ascent in October 2012.
Williams and Lambert first tried Father Time in the spring, and found the climbing engaging and deviously tricky. This time up the route, they worked the hardest pitches on fixed ropes before committing to a ground-up push on November 12.
Williams wrote afterword on Instagram about Katie’s injury a few days in. “Katie caught a finger between two carabiners which forced a gnarly blood blister … The blister ripped, exposing a raw hole on the tip of her index. This freak accident cost Katie a day of climbing as she waited for it to heal over, and continued to plague her on the nails-hard crimping. After giving it her bet effort and trying hard to push past the circumstance, Katie put aside her send so that she could support mine.”
The three 5.13 crux pitches are stacked one atop the other: pitch 13, “the Boulder Problem”; pitch 14, “the Athletic 12c”; and pitch 15, “the Index 11d.” In his route description on Mountain Project, Schaefer noted that the Index 11d is “classic houdini climbing. Stemming, scumming, smearing, backstepping, palming, and high stepping … Jonathan Sieigrsit who attempted a repeat said he was totally baffled by this pitch and couldn’t do many of the moves, he has climbed 5.15a…”
While Williams and Lambert swapped leads on the easier climbing of the first day, Williams led all of the crux pitches, redpointing the Boulder Problem and the Index 11d, pinkpointing the Athletic 12c—which she described as “an insecure layback”—and rope-gunning the team through the 5.12s above as well.
Sonnie Trotter Frees New Variation to El Niño
There are still all sorts of free climbing potential on El Cap, and Sonnie Trotter knows it. Recently, he sent what he described on Instagram as his “dream project on the North America Wall of El Cap.” His new addition to the wall is a three-pitch free variation to the Huber Brothers’ 1998-route El Niño (VI 5.13c A0), which went all free except for one 25-foot rappel.
Trotter and Alex Honnold found the potential variation in 2017. Honnold was unable to make it to the Valley for any extended time this eason, and gave his blessing to Trotter to continue work on it without him.
Instead of Honnold on the other end of the rope, Trotter enlisted none other than Tommy Caldwell himself. Trotter wrote about his send day: “We met at 4:30am in the Meadow and began our day. I tried to harness a bit of the Honnold state of mind. Pitch by pitch, we move dup the wall, Tommy and I laughted a lot up there and everything seemed to click. We topped out just before 7pm.”
Trotter’s new route goes at 5.13b with a healthy dose of 5.13 and 5.12 climbing.