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Friday, June 08, 2007

Who Will be First to Free Solo El Cap?

Two news events in recent weeks have got me thinking it won't be long before someone makes an attempt (and hopefully succeeds!) at the once-unthinkable: a free-solo ascent of a full-length El Cap route. In May, Canadian Stéphane Perron did a rope-solo, all-free ascent of Free Rider, a 35-pitch 5.12c/d route that's the easiest full-length free route on the Captain. More significantly, at the end of April Austrian Hansjörg Auer free-soloed the famous "Fish" route on he Marmolada in Italy, a 33-pitch 5.12c. Auer, barely visible against the huge backdrop in this Heinz Zander shot courtesy of, took only shoes, a chalk bag, and a helmet for his El Cap-size solo: no rope, no harness, no backup plan.

Free Rider just isn't that much harder than the Fish. Sure, it's slippery granite versus somewhat more positive limestone, and flaring pin scars versus positive pockets. The risk inherent in a solo attempt is almost inconceivable. But Free Rider now gets climbed multiple times each year. It's an obvious target, and whispers of solo aspirations have been heard for a while. It's only a matter of time before someone goes for it. So, here's my bet: Someone will free solo Free Rider within five years.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Memento Mori anniversary is coming up on Saturday. I wonder if my wife would like a gift of personalized jewelry? This necklace of toenails was assembled by ultrarunner Jan Ryerse. He collected fallen body parts after the Badwater, Western States, and other ultra-ordeals, from his own feet and other donors. (Disgusting image courtesy of Scott Dunlap's Trail Runner's Blog.) What's next? The Reinhold Messner frozen-toe charm bracelet?