Rodden Frees 5.14b

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Beth Rodden has made the first free ascent of an old aid pitch at Smith Rock, Oregon, and rated it 5.14b. Rodden worked about a month on the first pitch of The Great Roof, a 1967 aid route on Smith’s remote Brogan Spire. She had picked the project during a visit to Smith last spring with her husband, Tommy Caldwell, while recovering from a broken foot that stopped her from climbing for eight months, until the end of this May. “I trained really hard this summer with this climb in mind,” Rodden said. “I always climb better when I have a goal.” The 80-foot first pitch of The Great Roof had been bolted years earlier for free-climbing attempts. The business comes in the first half, an overhanging seam where old piton scars are the only handholds and the footholds are terrible. Rodden said most of the holds were technical jams or sidepulls, adding, “I never down-pulled on a hold the whole time.” Caldwell stopped working on the climb after the first week of his wife’s attempts, in part because they feared he might break a crucial hold. Rodden redpointed the climb Oct. 19 and suggested a new name, The Optimist, for the free first pitch. Rodden has climbed two 5.14a routes (To Bolt or Not to Be at Smith Rock and Sarchasm in Rocky Mountain National Park), and she graded The Optimist 5.14b because it “definitely felt harder than those,” she said, and because Caldwell felt it deserved the grade. Asked about speculation that her petite stature might have given her an advantage because of the climb's tiny pin scars, she said, “For some of the moves small fingers help, for sure. But there was one section in the middle where Tommy did only two moves and I did, like, seven. I think these things tend to balance out.”