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Sébastien Berthe making the second free ascent of Heart Route on El Capitan, together with Simon Castagne
Photo by Sébastien Berthe archive
Sébastien Berthe making the second free ascent of Heart Route on El Capitan, together with Simon Castagne
Photo by Sébastien Berthe archive
Simon Castagne and Sébastien Berthe celebrating on the summit of El Capitan after having made the second free ascent of the Heart Route.
Photo by Sébastien Berthe archive
The immense SW Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, USA. In the centre, the characteristic Heart formation
Photo by Chris McNamara
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Sébastien Berthe makes second free ascent of Heart Route on El Capitan, Yosemite


Over a 6-day period in October 2016 23-year-old Belgian Sebastien Berthe, climbing together with Simon Castagne, made the second free ascent of Free Heart Route (5.13b V10) on El Capitan.

Autumn 2016 will go down as a truly remarkable season for free climbing on El Capitan: Adam Ondra made the second free ascent of Dawn Wall, Jorg Verhoeven claimed only the second free ascent of Dihedral Wall, Barbara Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher cllinched the third free ascent of Zodiac and Pete Whittaker made a remarkable all-free rope-solo ascent of Freerider in just a day. And, last but by no means least, Belgium’s Sébastien Berthe made the second free ascent of the Heart Route, a nigh 1000m line straight through the main feature of El Capitan’s SW Face. First climbed over a seven-day period in April 1970 by Chuck Kroger and Scott Davis, it was freed in June 2015 when Mason Earle, partnered by Brad Gobright, managed to eliminate the A4 aid and substitute this with 5.13b climbing, peppered with a characteristic long sideways dyno V10 crux.

23-year-old Berthe is a former Belgian sports climbing champion who last summer he redpointed his first 9a sports climb, La Cabane au Canada at Rawyl, Switzerland. He reached the Yosemite valley in October together with Florian Delcoigne, Merlin Didier and Lucas Nyssens and spent the first month repeating valley classics such as Astroman and the Northwest Face of Half Dome before becoming more accustomed to the big stone by climbing Freerider and the Steck - Salathé. He then turned his attention to the Free Heart Route.

After having spent just a day checking out 'Heart Blast', ie the first seven pitches, Berthe then began his six-day push together with Simon Castagne to free climb all 32 pitches. He explained that the route "required all my skills to make it happen. The crux pitch (the 6th), is a huge and acrobatic downward and sideways dyno (maybe V10) followed by a super technical slab. The next pitch is another technical slab, very demanding and, maybe, the hardest of my life. This pitch literally ate my fingers and my toes. Pitches 14 to 16, 5.13b, are very steep and hard in different styles: physical lay-backing in a roof, boulder problem in compression on an arête, very thin finger cracks or dihedral with foot on the side of my ears. Pitches 21, 25 and 27, 5.13a, are more physical and european style. Finally, the end of the route is made of offwidths, chimneys and hand-jam. All these pitches are amazing and this route is a pure Yosemite climb!"

After reaching the summit of El Capitan Berthe concluded "During these 6 days, I almost reached my physical and mental limits. Every single pitch was a huge, hard and emotional fight. It’s definitively my best accomplishment as a climber so far!"

Berthe is sponsored by: SCARPA, CAB - Belgium Alpine Club and Lecomte Alpirando

22/06/2015 - The Heart Route on El Capitan climbed free by Mason Earle and Brad Gobright

27/08/2001 - Climbing in Yosemite - 5 Super Classics






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