50 Pitches at Tennessee Wall in a Day


Walker In Pursuit of Excellence (5.9).

Walker on an unnamed 5.10 chimney.

Chattanoogan transplants Nathaniel Walker and Luke Laeser recently climbed 50 pitches at Tennessee’s T Wall in a day. The pair climbed for about 18 hours on 50 different traditionally protected routes at T Wall’s right side, an area that is stacked with "splitter" moderates. The marathon day began at 7:15 a.m. by headlamp in a dense fog, just before the sun was coming up. After the fog lifted, Laeser redpointed a 5.12a finger crack called Mrs. Socrates for the team’s hardest route of the day. For the 12th pitch, Walker onsighted a wicked 5.11c slab, Bugs from Hell, with a fixed knifeblade—the only piece of fixed gear they clipped in 50 pitches; every other route was naturally protected.

Photos by Nathaniel Walker and Luke Laeser

The majority of the routes the team climbed were in the 5.8 to 5.10 range. "One thing about T Wall is that almost all of the routes are 80 to 100 feet long," said Laeser. "To keep pace we climbed about 3 pitches per hour until dark, then we slowed down a bit. We did the last 16 pitches with headlamps, and finally finished about 2 a.m."

Walker has redpointed four of the five 5.13 cracks at the sandstone paradise over the last six winters, with only the (usually seeping) mega roof of Dark Star (5.13a/b) remaining. Last winter he made the first ascent of Fiddle on the Roof (5.13a/b) a long-standing open project that had eluded locals for years.

Sunrise in the fog.
Photo by Nathaniel Walker

Marathon days at crag are nothing new; climbers have been linking together pitches to train for huge alpine climbs since the beginning and of course the most legendary link-up of all: the El Cap Half Dome in a day. Check out the The 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell in Arkansas at the end of September, where 200 climbers will battle it out for 24 hours. It's rumored that Utah climber Jeff Webb climbed 50 pitches in a day at Rifle Mountain Park, Colorado, in the 1990s. And if you're willing to skip the rope you can try to keep up with the late Michael Reardon's impossible record of 280 routes in Joshua Tree.

Date of Ascents: January 12-13, 2007

Source: Luke Laeser

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