Kevin Jorgeson, First Free Ascent of Northwest Face, Higher Cathedral Spire
Kevin Jorgeson has added another new free route to the Valley walls. On October 25, he made the first free ascent of the Northwest Face on Higher Cathedral Spire. Reports indicate the climb goes at 5.13.
Royal Robbins and Tom Frost established the Northwest Face in 1961. Before Jorgeson cleaned it up, the climb had long-stood as 1,200 foot, VI 5.8 A3+ affair.
Jorgeson had put in work on freeing route earlier this season as well as last spring along with Ben Rueck. Earlier this week, though, Rueck pulled the plug on his own attempts after injuring his shoulder.
While this new route doesn’t compare to the Dawn Wall for difficulty or length, it is just one more new free route for Jorgeson to add to his resume. In fall 2016, he and Rueck polished off another route from yesteryear, making the first complete free ascent of the West Face of the Sentinel at 5.13. The first ascent of that route was by Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost in 1960.
Gobright Frees El Corazon in 19 Hours
Brad Gobright has freed El Corazon on El Cap in single-push, bottom to top. In all it took Gobright just 19 hours. Gobright checked in with Rock and Ice, telling us the ascent “went super smooth.” His is the third person to make a one-day free ascent of the route following Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell.
El Corazon—a classic free climb pioneered by Alex Huber in October 2001—is a 35-pitch link-up of the Freeblast and parts of Flight of the Albatross, Son of Heart and Heart Route, and comes in at 5.13b with five pitches of 5.12 and five pitches of 5.13. It had been a multiple season project for Gobright to free it in a day. He told Rock and Ice, “I tried to free it in a day last year and failed at the crux roof pitch. I tried again in September and failed at the same part.”
On October 7, Gobright wrote on Instagram, “Yosemite has been kicking my butt.” Needing to reset, he traded in the big walls for the smaller cliffs of Joshua Tree for a time, before returning to Yosemite ready to get down to business.
Yesterday, October 25, he managed to forget the failures of earlier in the season and last year and execute. “It was a pretty epic battle to get it done,” he said. He started at 10:30 pm, and climbing at night proved to be the “the key to success.” The sun heats the rock up past prime climbing conditions in the morning. Included in those 19 hours was a several hour break three-quarters of the way up as he waited for the afternoon wind to cool the rock.
The whole experience was one of his most memorable in Yosemite, and he wrote on Instagram that it was “probably the most challenging thing” he’s done in climbing. He elaborated on the day for Rock and Ice: “Super varied climbing with quite a number of scary sections … Significantly harder than Salathé in a day in my opinion.”
El Corazon adds to Gobright’s steadily growing list of Yosemite successes. Last spring he made a thirteen-hour free ascent of the Salathé Wall. Until Honnold and Caldwell took the record a few months ago, Gobright and Jim Reynolds owned the speed record on the Nose at 2 hours 19 minutes 44 seconds. In 2016, along with Scott Bennett, he climbed three El Cap Routes in 23 hours 10 minutes: Zodiac, the Nose and Lurking Fear. In June 2015, Gobright joined forces with Mason Earle to establish Heart Route (VI 5.13b V10) (Earle freed everything, Gobright everything save the V10 dyno).
Other Goings-On in the Valley
—Nina Caprez has been working on the harder pitches up on the Nose (VI 5.14), hoping to piece it all together for a free push. No send yet, but she’s getting closer! She has been supported by Lynn Hill, the route’s first ascentionist, who is back to celebrate her 25th anniversary of that seminal event.
—After six days fighting tooth-and-nail on Golden Gate (VI 5.13b), Jordan Cannon came up just shy of a free ascent. He wrote on Instagram of the 5.13 traverse, “I tried it 6 times, but fell 5 ft short of the anchor every time.” Solid effort!
—Looks like Adam Ondra is heading back to the Ditch? But what will he be gunning for? An onsight of the Salathé? The unfathomable Dawn Wall free in a day? Something else entirely? We shall see!