Winners: Nik Berry, Mason Earle, David Allfrey
These three twenty-somethings could have called it good in 2013. David Allfrey, Nik Berry, and Mason Earle had pieced together a new free line on the north face of Mt. Hooker, the remote 1,800-foot wall in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Their free link-up of Sendero Luminoso, Shady Lady, and some new ground had created Wyoming’s hardest alpine rock route.
But they weren’t satisfied. After seven pitches, the three had escaped to the right below the headwall of Sendero, a route they described as the “perfect line.” So in August they made the 15-mile trek back into Hooker, hiring horses to guarantee they had enough supplies—or at least a sustained sugar buzz. “We had a lot of food,” Allfrey said. “It’s not every expedition that you can just mow into the 10-pound bag of peanut M&M’s with reckless abandon at 7 a.m., just because you want to.”
The trio set to work on the straight-up line. “We were optimistic about completing the route, but there were definitely still question marks,” Earle said. The next pitch after their 2013 high point was a “proper, hard A4 lead.” But the wall to the left of the aid seam appeared to be well-featured, and after some work (including placing some protection bolts), pitches eight and nine went at 5.13a and 5.12d. In all, the 13-pitch wall has seven pitches of 5.12 and 5.13, with a 5.13+ crux—likely the hardest wilderness big wall free climb in the United States. Before leaving, Berry completed a one-day, all-free ascent, leading most of the hard pitches.