Trip Report
Scarface on Liberty Cap goes free!
Thursday December 5, 2013 7:34pm

Ben on the first pitch of Scarface

It is almost impossible for me to understand how we prepare and execute in moments of doubt and uncertainty. But when all the pieces fell into place instead of being concerned, or even confident I was empty.

This was the feeling I needed. Not the feedback loop from the pump in my forearms, not the desire for glory that would only undermine my success. I needed the feeling of flow and floating, when I came to the crux, a reach I could barely make, I just needed to try.



At first I didn't even know how to try. Thrice I had gotten to the move, the move that made or broke Scarface for me. My mind was too afraid of failure, and unsure how to proceed. Each time I had failed to stick the hold.

Of course I had done the move before, I knew it was possible, but the thousand feet of climbing had worn me down and put seeds of doubt in my head.

Ben following the "Crumbling Empire" aka the chossy pitch

With the feeling of emptiness I tried as hard as I could and went for the hold. This time, as my body came to rest, my fingers still gripped the rock. It wasn't over. I had to keep in my zone; but it was finally happening. I went through the motions, the beta freshly ingrained in my mind, and kept climbing. Soon enough I clipped the anchors of the eighth pitch and was overcome with excitement and relief.

Ben on the splitter pitch five

Finger tip destruction!=

The waves of emotion had been cresting and breaking all day. Pitch after pitch led us closer to the elusive one day red point of Scarface. We had near misses with a foot slip on some dirty rock, a broken hold on another pitch. Finally the tension was broken when Ben fell off the first crux of the fifth pitch. As I lowered him back down I started weighing the options. I had faith in my partner and I knew Ben would keep it together and send. And so he did, fighting the deep pump and getting us past the first trial of the day. Too stubborn to listen to the pump I too made it through.

Laybacking up the tips crack on Pitch Five

Getting ready for the final crux on Pitch Five

We cruised up the clean white granite for a few pitches but my confidence was shaky. Nervous and unsure I fell off the Cubano Corner, pitch 8, and came back to the belay. As Ben pulled the rope I was hopeful about the situation. I had easily made it to the crux, an improvement on last time, despite feeling so far away from the "jug". I worked on my mental attitude, tried to get my breathing in check and rallied. Sticking the move was unreal, it was right at the limit of my reach and in that moment I saw the whole route come together.

So excited to be done with the first crux, almost too pumped to move...

Ben followed without a problem, but later told me he found these situations almost more stressful than leading. Once I had sent the pitch it was up to him to keep the FFA going and rally to the top. We kept swapping leads and in no time we were on the summit, having climbed the second all free route up Liberty Cap. The dream of free climbing Liberty Cap was a reality!!

Ben following the Cubano Corner, Pitch Eight

I would be remiss to discount the fact that I had wanted to be the first up Liberty Cap, one of the few un-freed faces left in Yosemite. But when we reached the summit there was nothing but bliss. I'm proud of all of the friends who have helped me on this project. The times spent on the wall hoping it would go and putting the pieces together were incredible. For a group of weekend warriors to put up a new free route in Yosemite is amazing!

I also am stoked that Lucho and Cedar freed Mahtah earlier in the season. I spent many days talking details with Lucho, sharing the psyche and rehashing all the work that goes into freeing a route. Hopefully 2013 will be remembered in Yosemite as the year of Liberty Cap with two free routes going up the Southwest Face.

Ben finishing up the golden granite of Pitch Nine

This is the longest FFA that I've done and some of the pitches are surely 4 and 5 star climbing. Not every pitch is amazing and the dirt and foliage on the first few pitches may dissuade people from continuing up the route. But if you make it to the fifth pitch you will be rewarded with five back to back high quality pitches. Right now Scarface climbs more like an alpine route with lichen and gritty rock. With time and traffic this could change and maybe Scarface will become a classic. If you ever find yourself waiting in line for the Harding route, I highly recommend walking another 500 feet and getting on Scarface! As I've mentioned before this route would also be a great adventure at 5.11a C2 and could be done in a day. Eight of the pitches are in the 5.10 range with only two pitches at 5.11- and two at 5.12.

Summit success!

Scarface Photo Topo
Scarface Photo Topo
Credit: cultureshock

For pitch by pitch details on the route:

Scarface Topo
Scarface Topo
Credit: cultureshock

Topo that shows both aid and free routes:

More stories from working the route:

Thanks to the many partners as well as the First Ascentions Josh and Steve for cheering me on during this project.

A parting quote from -Rock and Ice

Unless Kevin Jorgeson frees the Dawn Wall, this will indeed be the year of Liberty Cap. And for all of the weekend warriors out there, Stefurak and Steelís ascent is a confirmation that big, imaginative, and undone adventures are still out there for the common manís taking.

Dream Big!


  Trip Report Views: 4,626
About the Author
Luke is a trad climber and occasional runner from Sunnyvale, CA.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Dec 5, 2013 - 07:58pm PT
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
Proud effort gentlemen!

Stellar looking line!

I saw Lucho at the Oakdale Festival and tried to stoke him up real good on his efforts.

People have indulged in declaring that the Valley is climbed out for decades now but it isn't. Not by a long shot.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:21pm PT

Rad rad rad.

That fifth pitch looks spli-hitter. Way to go. Nice payoff. Congrats.


Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:24pm PT
Congrats on finishing a hard project.

I don't see how anyone can sit at a belay station anywhere in the valley, look around, and think there is nothing new left to climb. It's ridiculous and laughable!
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:28pm PT


Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:32pm PT
Very cool
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:39pm PT

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:40pm PT
well done, sir.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Dec 5, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
Holy radness. Charge it!

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Dec 5, 2013 - 09:46pm PT
Your trip reports are always inspiring.

Random Nobody
  Dec 5, 2013 - 09:54pm PT
Very cool TR. Thanks for achieving your goal and bringing back some pictures!!!

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Dec 5, 2013 - 09:55pm PT
Fantastic stuff. You guys did great work up there!

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Dec 6, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Good work up there Luke and Ben. Glad you took it down.

Bonus; hanging the day after the send, stoke was huge !

Jebus H Bomz

Sacramento, CA
  Dec 6, 2013 - 01:36am PT
This is NOT Malkovich! Rad!!!!

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Dec 6, 2013 - 02:04am PT

I was hoping you'd do a taco TR for this, congratulations and keep dominating!

Trad climber
under the sea
  Dec 6, 2013 - 08:33am PT
Great job Luke...was nice to bump into you at Balch. Sounds like you had a great year...keep it up.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Dec 6, 2013 - 02:36pm PT
Wow! Great work, great line, and great TR. Thanks.

KP Ariza

  Dec 6, 2013 - 04:42pm PT
Looks amazing! Damn good job!

Grizzlyville, WY
  Dec 6, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
Credit: WyoRockMan
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 7, 2013 - 06:51am PT
Trusty Rusty

Tahoe Area
  Dec 7, 2013 - 07:55am PT
Right on guys, thats an excellent line you've opened up there. Big cheers

A place where Blue is the new Black...
  Dec 7, 2013 - 09:06am PT
Great TR! Loved the psychology/spirituality of being in emptiness (when confronting the crux) that you shared with us.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Dec 7, 2013 - 10:03am PT
Way to be persistent!!!!
The Warbler

the edge of America
  Dec 7, 2013 - 11:18am PT
Nice work fellers!

That's a nice line on a formation that's been ignored too long - lots of potential thereabouts.

The Valley's only climbed out for slackers who lack the energy and imagination to hike more than 20 or 30 minutes on a trail to do what everybody else does.

Hike more than an hour or so and the doors to the frontier are wide open.

It's a beautiful thing - the above dynamic, and your new climb.

Way to keep The Valley Spirit alive!

  Dec 7, 2013 - 11:15am PT
Looks like a fun one!!! Ahhh the feeling of accomplishment. Nice work to everyone involved. The puzzle is complete!!!

Bob J
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Dec 7, 2013 - 05:13pm PT

I found a guy who is also psyched like you in photo #3, his name is Borat. What a surprise?!...NOT!

Anyways, WELL DONE!


Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Dec 7, 2013 - 05:58pm PT
I like your routes! It's on the list :) nice work

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Dec 7, 2013 - 06:53pm PT
Bump! Well done

Trad climber
  Dec 7, 2013 - 10:11pm PT
Hell yeah you two! Warblers right! So many ignored formations in Yosemite alone and still so much adventure to be had. Your early efforts on Liberty inspired me to get up there again and check out the free route we did this year.

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Dec 12, 2013 - 04:41pm PT
Thanks for all the comments. Always tons of stuff to do, both on and off the beaten track.

Having just visited Fifi buttress for the first time I'm amped to go back when it is a little warmer!

Trad climber
New England
  Dec 17, 2013 - 10:06pm PT
Right on, that's awesome

Trad climber
Mountain View
Author's Reply  Jan 8, 2014 - 07:33pm PT
If the weather stays dry it's prime season to go up and climb Liberty Cap. Even when there is snow on the Muir trail you can be climbing in a T-shirt when the sun hits the wall.

A solid team should be able to pull off Scarface in a day, even at 5.11a C2

The first few pitches of Scarface get a little seepage if there is snow on the summit. The crux and the other pitches in the rock scar stay dry.

I'm pretty sure you could pioneer a variation that starts one crack system to the left that would always stay dry. I've climbed those pitches but didn't clean or free them.

I know a few guys have been thinking about going up for the 2nd ascent. Hoping for some traffic in 2014...

Go get some!


Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jan 8, 2014 - 11:39pm PT

Splitter pitch, alright!

Nice job, lads!!!!!

The Good Places
  Jan 8, 2014 - 11:43pm PT
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 4, 2016 - 12:17pm PT
Bump for climbing content.

Trad climber
  Jun 4, 2016 - 12:24pm PT
Love this report. Keep stoke alive!
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report