Hazel Findlay fantastically free on the Salathé Wall on El Capitan
British rock climber Hazel Findlay has made a rare free ascent of the legendary Salathé Wall on El Capitan, Yosemite, USA.
Braving an "epic all-weather 8 day push", Britain’s Hazel Findlay has made an impressive free ascent of the legendary Salathé Wall on El Capitan. First climbed over nine and a half days in September 1961 by Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost in a ground-breaking and uncompromising style, the most logical line up the face became the first big wall to be freed on El Capitan when Todd Skinner and Paul Piana blasted their way up it, swinging leads over a nine-day period in 1988.
Thirty years later the route named in honour of Swiss blacksmith John Salathé is considered one of the most sought-after lines on the Big Stone and even with today's rise in standards, free ascents are a rare occurrence. The Salathé Wall was first climbed by a woman when Steph Davis repeated the 1000m line in 2005, and New Zealand’s Mayan Smith-Gobat grabbed the second female ascent in 2011.
With the first female ascents of Golden Gate in 2011 and Pre Muir in 2012 to her name, as well as a repeat of Freerider in 2013, this season Findlay teamed up with Jonny Baker with her sights set on the Salathé Wall. This shares much of Freerider but, instead of breaking out left towards the end, continues directly through the radically exposed Salathé headwall.
The two hiked to the top of El Cap and spent four days working the upper headwall where the greatest difficulties lie, then returned to the base of the climb and launched into their 8-day push. The two swung leads on the easier sections and Findlay then led all the harder pitches including the Teflon Corner and the Monster Offwidth. Talking to planetmountain.com after her ascent, Findlay commented "It was amazing. That top pitch is all-time!"
28-year-old Findlay is considered one of Britain’s foremost rock climbers and excels on all terrain. In 2014 she became the first British woman to climb 8c, while in 2011 she had become the first British woman to master the dangerous grade of E9. The Salathé Wall is now her fourth El Capitan free climb.
The Salathé Wall
First ascent: Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost, 1961
Length: 870m (35 pitches)
Grade: 5.13b 8a/8a+
First free ascent: Todd Skinner and Paul Piana swinging leads, 1988 . In June 1995 Alexander Huber became the first to lead all pitches free, adding one offwidth pitch to avoid a 5.13b pitch above the Ear, and a 5.13a variation between E1 Cap Spire and the Block to avoid a wet crux.
One of the all-time monuments to free climbing, the Salathé is perhaps the most logical big wall up El Capitan. Every pitch has its own story to tell and, as always in Yosemite, has its own name. Every pitch is legendary. And marked by good belays. Normally the route is climbed by ascending the first 10 pitches to the Mammoth Terraces to then abseil to the base via the Heart Ledge before continuing the ascent the next day.
TOPO: The Salathé Wall, El Capitan
Link: FB Hazel Findlay, Instagram Hazel Findlay, hazelfindlayclimbing.com, FB Jonny Baker, La Sportiva