All-Free Rope Solo of El Capitan

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All-Free Rope Solo of El Capitan

Canadian Stéphane Perron capped a remarkable string of solo ascents in Yosemite Valley with an all-free rope solo of Free Rider (37 pitches, 5.12d) on El Capitan. Perron spent six nights on the route, leading all but three of the pitches without any falls. After falling on each of those three pitches, he finished the lead, cleaned the gear on rappel, and then sent the pitch free on his second go. Perron had previously climbed the bottom half of the route (shared with the Salathé Wall), but he was onsighting from the top of the Ear (pitch 18) to the summit.

Before climbing Free Rider, the climber from Québec rope-soloed The Crucifix (5.12b) on Higher Cathedral Rock, starting via Mary’s Tears (5.11b). Perron had previously tried the bottom of the crux pitch (approaching by another route), but otherwise he climbed onsight with no falls, completing the nine-pitch route in nine hours.

Perron also rope-soloed Astroman (11 pitches, 5.11c) in eight hours. He had previously done the route with a partner. “The Soloist [his self-belay device] got in the way a little in the Harding Slot, but it was OK,” he said.

Perron used a Rock Exotica Soloist to belay himself. “I fix the rope to the anchor with a Screamer, in case I fall straight onto the anchor, which has happened,” he explained. “It also absorbs some [of the load] if I fall on one of the first few pieces. [Then] I lead the pitch, managing the rope. You have to equalize the weight [of the rope] on each side of the device so that it runs freely but doesn’t start giving slack like crazy.” In addition to the free-climbing difficulty added by keeping his self-belay system running smoothly, Perron had to rappel and then clean every pitch on these routes with ascenders. He also had to do all of the hauling during his seven-day ascent of Free Rider. All of which adds up to a remarkably difficult ascent of El Cap’s “easiest” full-length free route.

Perron, 33, is a college physics teacher enjoying a sabbatical. Why solo? “I began rope-soloing many years ago just ’cause I come from a small place and there were not many climbers around,” Perron said in an email. “Since I was really motivated, I began rope soloing, but I didn’t have to do it for very long because I moved to a bigger city (Québec). I began rope soloing again on this trip because I’m traveling alone and sometimes it is difficult to find partners. But I also see it as another aspect of climbing. I love bouldering, sport climbing, trad, cragging, multipitch, big wall. And soloing. So I refined my system to be able to climb the hardest I can even if I’m solo.”

Date of Ascents: May 2007

Source: Stéphane Perron