Mt. Hooker Free For All

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Nik Berry climbing the A3 Beauty pitch on Hooker in 2013. Photo by Dave Allfrey.

Nik Berry climbing the A3 Beauty pitch on Hooker in 2013. Photo by Dave Allfrey.

8/28/14 - The 1,800-foot north face of Mt. Hooker is one of the most imposing and remote big walls in the Lower 48. This August it was the scene of three impressive free climbs.

Dave Allfrey, Nik Berry, and Mason Earle wrapped up the project they started last summer, climbing the final six pitches of Sendero Luminoso (V 5.13d) to complete Hooker's hardest free climb—and also the hardest alpine free route in Wyoming. In 2013 the three men climbed seven pitches of their line up Hooker's north prow, starting on an old project and then joining Sendero Luminoso below the crux pitch they called the A3 Beauty. (Berry said a hold broke on the A3 Beauty as they were aiding it this year, downgrading the pitch to 5.13d from 14a.) After another 5.13a lead, they headed right to join Shady Lady (VI 5.11 A4, Bradshaw-Dockery, 1978). They had free-climbed the wall, but they all wanted to return and  finish straight up Sendero Luminoso, a stunning line first climbed solo by Steve Quinlan in 1980. This year, another 5.13a face climbing pitch and a 5.12d pitch connected them to four easier leads. The entire upper wall was an "immaculate seam through [an] otherwise blank shield of rock," Earle posted to Mountain Project.

Berry completed a one-day free ascent of the route, leading most of the hard pitches, before foul weather shut down the team's efforts. A multi-part video of the Sendero Luminoso ascent, by SparkShop Creative, will air soon at Epic TV.

Meanwhile, Whit Magro and Josh Wharton, with some help from Hermes Lynn, had their own Hooker project: free-climbing the 12-pitch route Boissonneault-Larson Route (1979), with some major variations. Starting on the same ramp system as the free version of Sendero Luminoso, the climbers angled left onto the northeast face to join the Boissoneault-Larson.

Josh Wharton on pitch five (5.11+) of Hook, Line, and Sinker. Photo by John Dickey.

Josh Wharton on pitch five (5.11+) of Hook, Line, and Sinker. Photo by John Dickey.

They spent three days working on the first six pitches and then climbed the full route in a single day, onsighting the upper half, including two 5.12 pitches that had previously been done during the first free ascent of the Third Eyein 2010, by Dave Sharratt, Pat Goodman, and Taki Miyamoto.

Wharton said the new free line, which they called Hook, Line, and Sinker(5.12), was notable not for its extreme difficulty but for its high quality, sustained climbing (seven 5.11 or 5.12 pitches in a row in the meat of it). "Hooker has incredible rock for free climbing," he said. "It’s highly featured and often very clean. The biggest issue is protection, as many of the cracks are discontinuous or seams, which makes establishing routes on the steep, large part of the face a process. Despite that, I think there will be an enormous amount of high-quality long free routes done on this wall in the coming years." (The long approach—roughly 20 miles—is another issue for Hooker routes. Most parties hire horses to carry their gear at least one way.)

Anne Gilbert Chase and Kate Rutherford on the cold Jaded Lady (VI 5.12a) on Hooker. Photo by John Dickey.

Anne Gilbert Chase and Kate Rutherford on the cold Jaded Lady (VI 5.12a) on Hooker. Photo by John Dickey.

During the same month, Anne Gilbert Chase and Kate Rutherford free-climbed the 19-pitch Jaded Lady (VI 5.12a), the original free route up Hooker's north face. (Jaded Lady is the free version of the historic 1964 Original Route, put up by Dick McCracken, Charlie Raymond, and Royal Robbins, and generally considered the first wilderness big-wall climb in the U.S.) The two women free-climbed the route in a day. "It's a little alpine, but also steep and great rock quality, though there is a burly offwidth way up high that is eternally slimy and running with water," Rutherford said.

Mason Earle fishing below Hooker's 1,800-foot north wall in 2013. Photo by Nik Berry.

Mason Earle fishing below Hooker's 1,800-foot north wall in 2013. Photo by Nik Berry.

Wharton, who climbed Jaded Lady in 2013, praised Rutherford and Hermes Lynn for replacing some poor bolts and pitons on the route, "a huge community service because Jaded Lady is a complete stunner of a route!"

Dates of ascents: August 2014

Sources: Nik Berry, Josh Wharton, Kate Rutherford, Mountain Project, American Alpine Journal