South Face C1 5.8

 
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Washington Column


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
First Free Ascent of the South Face of Washington Column
Thursday March 3, 2011 3:08pm
Article by Chris Van Leuven (chris mac just posted it)

In 2002, Matt Wilder left his mark on the South Face of Washington's Column in two radical ways. First, on October 3, he freed the route calling it (IV V10 5.12c; or 5.14), and later speed climbed it with Kansas native/hardman Nick Martino in an astounding time of 1:19, employing ultra-fast speed climbing mixed with aid to set the record.

"When I actually sent the [Kor Roof] problem I did it in the evening” says Wilder, who had to wait until the cooler conditions for the send. “It was an hour until dark,” he says. Next came a 12c technical undercling traverse capped with a hard reach to a jug. Following this was a straight up 12a crack that thins out at the end protected with RP’s. Wilder completed the final crux, 5.12b/c, by the light of his Tika headlamp. Though initially protected by good gear (and the use of a many gastons) the final 5.11+ section had blind cams.

“I was there in the dark, and all my tick marks had washed off in the rain. I was just fully committed, going for it. If I fell, I probably would have ripped all my gear.” Up to this point “There was a lot of uncertainty if I could send the route,” he says. “This pitch is really involved. It would have been really hard to motivate for it again. I knew my gear was bad, and I knew I should be scared. I didn't care about the fall. I didn't care about getting hurt. I was afraid of not sending. When I finished that pitch, I had one of the greatest feelings from climbing I ever had.”

Wilder sees the South Face of Washington’s Column as a 5.12 version of the stunning Serenity Crack (5.10d, 3 pitches), save for a few moves of aid out the Kor Roof, calling the route “perfect.”

“If people open their minds to open new routes with minimum aid--that is the future of Yosemite climbing. That is a big untapped [potential],” says Wilder. “That style of delineation is less important if you aren't publicizing the ascent. Like the [Squamish] Grand Wall. It's 5.11 for most of it minus a few feet of aid.

At press time, Tommy Caldwell is the only person to repeat the free South Face.

Free ascent topo of the South Face of Washington Column by Matt Wilder
Free ascent topo of the South Face of Washington Column by Matt Wilder
Credit: Matt Wilder

  Trip Report Views: 3,133
Chris McNamara
About the Author
When Chris Van Leuven moved to Yosemite out of high school in the summer of 1995 he never imagined he would climb a big wall, after all he was a scrawny gym rat just learning the ways of trad. Within a few months he managed to make it up the Regular NW Face of Half Dome, barely; in the process he earned the nickname "Spaz." He stayed the winter, making a living cleaning rooms at the Awhahnee Hotel to support his climbing habit. That spring he climbed El Cap, via the Salathé Wall, for the first tim­e and was hooked. Over the next 15 years he would call Yosemite his seasonal home, developing his free climbing skills and bringing them to the big walls. The Salathé remains his favorite climb.
He lives in Loveland, Colorado with his wife, Lynn, and dog Jake.

Comments
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JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 3, 2011 - 04:07pm PT
Thanks for the post, Chris. In 1973, when I was still young and virile, I thought the Kor Roof could go free (for the record, I aided it and, at all of 5' 5", had plenty of trouble doing a bolt ladder -- and particularly the reach into the crack at its end -- on aid!).

Now that I'm old and forgetful, freeing the South Face amazes me.

John
Gene

climber
  Mar 3, 2011 - 04:14pm PT
I'm with John - to an extent. The Kor Roof going free is not something I would have predicted. Amazing? Absolutely!
wildone

climber
EP
  Mar 3, 2011 - 05:25pm PT
So let me get this straight. He untied from the rope for the Kor Roof, then, after the sick-gnar, he tied in again and took off his beanie and put his shirt back on and went back to climbing?

Wow.
Slater

Trad climber
Central Coast
  Mar 3, 2011 - 06:18pm PT
save for a few moves of aid out the Kor Roof

How, without french free moves - AO, do you free the Kor Roof?
There isn't a crack there where the bolts are... and it's a near horizontal roof. I didn't see that part (and what's with the V10?).
Just curious... is part of the story missing?
wildone

climber
EP
  Mar 3, 2011 - 06:46pm PT
Well, obviously, you boulder it. Never mind it's on a wall. It's a boulder problem! Somehow....
caughtinside

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Mar 3, 2011 - 06:49pm PT
A good story!

Regarding the Kor Roof, the v10 or 5.14 seems to me to be an attempt to describe the difficulty of a very short section. I looked at the free climbing bolt out left as I stood there in the slings and was duly impressed by the total lack of features.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Mar 3, 2011 - 06:50pm PT
kb and I watched some dude from Santa Cruz try to free the Kor Roof one afternoon. He was taking hangs but had mostly worked it out. I knew then it would go free some day soon. Wonder is this is the same guy?

DMT
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Mar 4, 2011 - 01:47pm PT
the mat must look pretty small from up there
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Mar 4, 2011 - 02:04pm PT
Slater, check the topo. The free variation heads left of the original route at the Kor roof.
Double D

climber
  Mar 4, 2011 - 11:57pm PT
Impressive.
Sonic

Trad climber
Boulder, Co
  Mar 7, 2011 - 07:30pm PT
Awesome, Heading out this weekend for a day ascent!
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Washington Column - South Face C1 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The South Face of Washington Column.
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on Washington Column
Washington Column - Astroman 5.11c - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Astroman, 5.11c
Washington Column
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Astroman takes a brilliant steep and clean line.
Washington Column - Prow C2F 5.6 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Prow, C2F 5.6
Washington Column
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The line follows a series of small features.
Washington Column - Skull Queen C2 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Skull Queen, C2 5.8
Washington Column
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Skull Queen.
Washington Column - Re-animator A3 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Re-animator, A3 5.8
Washington Column
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The steepest route on the Column.
Washington Column - Ten Day's After A3 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Ten Day's After, A3 5.8
Washington Column
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A series of steep corners lead to an exposed face.
More routes on Washington Column