High-Altitude Testpiece in Colorado
Rob Pizem has redpointed a three-pitch line at around 12,000 feet (3,658m) on Mt. Evans in Colorado with a crux second pitch that goes at 5.13c/d. Back to the Earth ascends a granite buttress down-valley from the Black Wall on Evans, following a 5.11 corner system to a pair of 5.13 cruxes. The first requires about 25 feet of deadpoints across an overhanging wall, “like climbing on poorly sculpted monkey bars”; the second crux, after a 5.10 hand crack (and possible belay), is a traverse across an overhanging band of pegmatite, with technical moves leading to back-to-back dynos for slopers.
Pizem worked on the route for about 20 days over six weeks this summer, hand-drilling all the bolts he placed. The climb is protected with a mix of bolts and removable gear.
Pizem, who lives near Denver, recently spent about a year in Europe, honing his technical skills. This summer, he and Mike Anderson free-climbed Arcturus (VI 5.13) on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. He and Anderson also have freed several big walls in Zion National Park, including the 16-pitch Thunderbird Wall (VI 5.13- R).
Back to the Earth is now one of the hardest free climbs above 12,000 feet in North America. Other Colorado high-altitude testpieces include Sarchasm (5.14a) above Chasm Lake and The Honeymoon is Over (5.13) on the Diamond of Longs Peak, both in Rocky Mountain National Park, and both first redpointed by Tommy Caldwell. And now there’s an unclimbed open project for ambitious free climbers to attempt: Pizem bolted a harder version of Back to the Earth with an overhanging arête crux estimated at “V12ish.”
Pizem’s first-person account of his Back to the Earth journey can be read soon at the C.A.M.P. blog golightgofast.com.
Date of Ascent: September 19, 2007
Sources: Rob Pizem, The American Alpine Journal, Climbing 260
Photo by Rob Pizem