Yuji: Two Falls on El Niño

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Barely missing on his third attempt to onsight an El Cap route, Yuji Hirayama managed a two-fall free ascent of El Niño (30 pitches, 5.13c) on the right side of El Capitan. Over four days of climbing, Hirayama onsighted five 5.13 pitches and numerous 5.11 and 5.12 pitches. He freed the first five pitches in two days, took a rest with his family in the Valley on Day 3, and then jugged to the start of the sixth pitch and continued to the top over two more days of climbing.Earlier this autumn, Hirayama attempted to onsight the Huber brothers’ 41-pitch 5.13 Golden Gate, on the left side of El Cap. He took only three falls on that attempt. As a warmup for this campaign in the Valley, he onsighted Uncertainty Principle (5.13a, 13 pitches) and Psychedelic Wall (5.12c, 11 pitches) on Sentinel Rock. Last year, Hirayama free-climbed the Salathe Wall in 13 hours with no falls; he previously had attempted to onsight the climb, but fell several times. Nearly every pitch on El Niño was onsighted by the team of Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond shortly after its first ascent by the Huber brothers in 1998. Houlding fell on only two pitches of the route. However, the two young Britons were climbing big-wall style, with the second jumaring each pitch. Hirayama’s free-climb of El Niño, the fifth overall, was the second attempt by one leader to onsight the entire route. Austrian Michael Mayr made the route's third free ascent in 1999, onsighting every pitch up to 5.12d.