ElCap Report 6/3/17 SPECIAL EDITION HONNOLD FREE SOLO OF ELCAP

ElCap Report 6/3/17 SPECIAL EDITION HONNOLD SOLOS ELCAP

By Tom Evans

Yo.. My day started at 4am when I got up, and left my camp at the Ranch, to shoot one of the greatest climbs in Yosemite climbing history.  By 5:30am my assistant and good friend, Skot Richards, and I were setting up at the far end of the ElCap Meadow to shoot the climb.  The weather was absolutely perfect for the event, cloudy with cool temps.  For me the clouds were such a blessing… no shadows, no glare, no air turbulence and no passersby’s asking to look through the camera!  Alex started around 5:30am and I could see him by the 4th pitch.  The shots you will be seeing here are cropped to afford a closer view of his climb of Freerider, and were chosen from the 350 or so I took during the climb.

Today’s ElCap Report..written just for you..unique in all the world!

1)  Alex seemingly walked up the slabby “Free Blast”.  Here he is seen on the fifth pitch. I quickly noticed his technique involved “looking his feet” onto all the footholds, so he was looking down a lot of the time.  He climbed unhurried, and seemingly with little effort.  He was calm and methodical and never seemed to have any real difficulty even though some of the moves looked horrendous, and any mistake would prove fatal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)  He stopped for a moment to wake up a camera man who had fallen asleep on the little triangular ledge on pitch 6.  That seemed to break the tension for a time!  I later learned that the cameraman was not asleep, but lying down to get a candid shot as Alex passed by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3)  One of the more interesting and strenuous pitches on the lower slabs, the Half Dollar pitch, climbs an awkward flaring corner and that has a difficult entrance, before turning into a narrow chimney.  Here is the move into the chimney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4)  He quickly dispatched the easy pitches to Mammoth Terraces and the downclimb to Heart ledge. He took a short break for some water and food and soon was off on the tricky pitch to Lung Ledge.  Here he is climbing that pitch… pretty interesting moves, though they looked a bit strung out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5)  On Lung Ledge, he came across a team sleeping in a portaledge.  They chatted a moment and then Alex moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6)  The guy got out of the portaledge and I got this shot of him, wearing a Unicorn suit.  Not the standard sleeping gear for ElCap! But he is known for wearing this attire on other bivies! Did he plan on being there at just the right moment? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7)  Alex moved on to the tricky 90-foot downclimb to the Hollow Flake, a notorious unprotected wide crack, of course the whole route was unprotected for Alex!  The moves to the crack are usually done by an easy pendulum but those tactics are not allowed on a free climb, even if he had carried a rope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8) Alex in the Hollow Flake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9)  At the top of Hollow Flake, he stopped to take off his shoes and rub his feet before continuing quickly up the 3 pitches to the start of the difficult and strenuous “Monster Crack”.  Climbing shoes are worn to fit really tight and cause a lot of pain to the wearer, and he stopped a few more times on the route to ease the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10)  Alex, going for some chalk, on the lower portion of the Monster.  Normally most teams enter the Monster from the top of the Ear, but that involves a very sketchy downclimb and stretch that is better left to roped teams.  This start is less exposed and, more importantly, has very secure hand and foot jams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11)  A little higher the crack widens but Alex had no problem adjusting to the change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12)  Higher in the Monster crack there is a rest stance just inside the crack.  This crack, known as an “off width” is too wide to jam and too narrow to get inside and chimney up. It is relatively secure but requires a lot of energy to stay in enough to climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13)  Alex is seen here, taking a breather before finishing off the ramp, up and right to the belay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14)  He quickly arrived at the Alcove, a wide cave-like protected area where he took a short break.  He then climbed the wide chimney behind ElCap Spire and was soon on the pitch above the Spire, as seen here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15)  He climbed another pitch and rested again, for a short time, before doing the infamous “Boulder Problem” which has turned away most of the suitors of the free ascent.  This is the crux of the entire route and it was mandatory that it be done well. As you can see the body position is extremely awkward, if just possible.  I know the route pretty well and where the cruxes are, and at each crux I felt the hair on the back my neck tingling and an uncomfortable nervousness pass through me, with a shutter.  I felt a great sense of relief when he passed this crux successfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16)  He easily climbed past the “Sewer” and I got him just before he finished jamming the corner up to the “Block”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17)  He continued off the Block and passed Sous le Toit ledge.  Here he is just above that ledge on the long “Enduro corner” pitch… another strenuous and difficult pitch that had to be mastered.  His technique was solid and he moved along calmly with determination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18)  He finished the Enduro corner and had to go onto the Traverse pitch without a rest, as there was no place to rest there. At this point a swarm of photographers made their appearance and stayed with him for most of the rest of the climb.  By then the light was failing due to direct sunlight crossing between me and the cliff which tended to wash out details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19)  He successfully passed the leftward traverse and is seen here on the Scotty Burk chimney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20)  Soon he was off to the top, with a pause for that last chalk-up before the top.  It was with considerable relief that I watched him step over the top… and it was done. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Honnold, the man we figured would do it someday … did it today, after long preparation and practice. This was no snap decision.. it was carefully planned and carried out over a long period of time with many practice-runs on the route, using ropes and gear.  It was not a wild death wish or a garnering for glory.  He did the entire climb in about 3 hours 59 minutes… a new record for the route… almost an hour better than last week when he and Tommy Caldwell “flew up” the route!

 

So that’s the way it happened, on this Saturday morning, the third day of June, 2017.

Capt. Tom.. as always, right in the thick of the action… just so you can see it for yourself.  One of the great days of Yosemite climbing has come to a close, with the very best possible outcome! 

DON’T TRY THIS AT KIND OF CLIMBING… IT WILL KILL YOU!!

 

 

Alex' solo

Thanks for the wonderful photos and commentary, Tom!
Steve W.

Tom, Your photos and comments

Tom,
Your photos and comments say more about the ascent that many articles I read.
Thanks, bro