Sébastien Berthe free climbs The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite
Belgian rock climber Sébastien Berthe has made a rare free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite.
Belgium’s Sébastien Berthe has managed to free climb The Nose, the most famous big wall in the world first ascended in 1958 after 47 days on El Capitan by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore, and freed by Lynn Hill the year Berthe was born, in 1993.
Climbing with his friend Loic Debry, Berthe needed 8 days for his ascent, during which he led all the difficult pitches (above 5.12a). Berthe managed to reach Eagle Ledge on the first day, then got caught up behind slower parties as he made his way to the Great Roof on day 2. He climbed this famous crux pitch on day 3 (and only on the third attempt) and continued up to Camp 6 where he rested for a day before attempting the notorious Changing Corners pitch on his sixth and seventh day on the wall. The duo had planned a 6-day ascent and Debry had to leave, hence the support of Barbara Zangerl - who is currently also trying the route - proved providential. The Austrian brought food and belayed Berthe as he sent the Changing Corners on day 8, before climbing the remaining pitches straight off thanks in part to the beta provided by Zangerl.
26-year-old Berthe had climbed The Nose twice previously, ascending the prow in 10 hours and then, in 2017, in 3 days with his father; unfortunately during this second attempt the Great Roof was completely wet, forcing him to return this year. It's worth noting that he didn't ever walk to the top of El Cap to work the crux pitches on the upper section of the route, but instead gradually worked the route ground-up. Berthe obviously talks about a dream coming true and his success comes after two other important free climbs on El Capitan: the second free ascent of Heart Route with Simon Castagne in 2016 and Freerider free and in a single day with Siebe Vanhee in 2017.
While The Nose is the most popular route in El Capitan, paradoxically free ascents are extremely rare. After her above-mentioned ground-breaking first free ascent of The Nose over a four-day period in mid-September in 1993, in September 1994 Lynn Hill made her era-defining sub 24-hour free ascent of The Nose with Steve Sutton. Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden swung leads and free climbed The Nose in 2005, and Caldwell climbed the route free in just 11 hours a fortnight later during his Nose + Freerider 24-hour double. In November 2014 Dutchman Jorg Verhoeven climbed The Nose free in three days, while Keita Kurakami required five days for his rope solo free ascent and 15-year-old Connor Herson required three with his father Jim Herson in 2018. For the record, in 1998 America’s Scott Burke free climbed all the route except for the crux pitch, The Great Roof, which he was forced to climb on toprope as it was wet at the time.
INTERVIEW: the impossible The Nose in Yosemite and the vertical world of Lynn Hill
The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite, U.S.A.
First ascent: Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore, 1958 after 47 days of climbing
Length: 870 m (31 pitches)
Grade: 5.13c or 5.9 A2
First free ascent: Lynn Hill, Brooke Sandahl, 4 days September 1993
First single day free ascent: Lynn Hill, Steve Sutton, 22:00 19/09 - 21:00 20/09/1994
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A dream came true: I just free climbed THE NOSE in an 8-days ground-up push, partnered up with Loic Debry! I led all the pitches above 5.12a and we swapped leads on the easy pitches. The roof and the corners were climbed on preplaced gear. Until the end, I wouldn’t have bet on my success, but I kept fighting: I even had to add two extra days as we had planned only 6 days on the wall. I got the Changing Corners beast on the last try that our food supplies allowed us. This ascent was a real team work, thanks guys for the cheerings, belays, pictures, food and support… Without you I could never have finished this one: @debryloic, @a.eggermont, @babsizangerl, @florian_gourgue, @alexx4034, Chris, Lucas, @alanaaflor, @gillesdenisexpeditions, @nathan_goffart and so many others! I have dreamt about this line since I was a child when my father told me about @_linacolina_ freeing it the year I was born. I feel so happy, relieved and thankful! More details, pictures and stories to come! Credit to @a.eggermont for the pictures . @scarpa_de @lecomte.alpirando @petzl_official @revolutionclimbingteam @escalpades #thenose #elcap #noplacetoofar #yosemiteclimbing #project #stylefirst #climbing #petzl #accesstheinaccessible #helmetup #rockclimbing #climbing_lovers #climbing_pictures_of_instagram