South Face C1 5.8
Trip ReportFirst Free Ascent of the South Face of Washington Column
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.
Recent Trip Reports
Other Routes on Washington Column