Beautiful Yosemite Wall Free Climbed

Lucho Rivera following the Peregrine Pitch, part of the aid route Bad Moon Rising, while working on the first free ascent of Liberty Cap's southwest face

Lucho Rivera following the Peregrine Pitch, part of the aid route Bad Moon Rising, while working on the first free ascent of Liberty Cap's southwest face. Photo by Cedar Wright

6/5/13 - Lucho Rivera and Cedar Wright have completed the first all-free ascent of the southwest face of Liberty Cap above Yosemite Valley. The two men redpointed the 16-pitch route, tentatively called Mahtah (the Native American name for Liberty Cap), on May 31, with Wright leading the majority of the crux pitches and Rivera following free.

"This is by far the best first ascent I have ever done, and I think ranks as one of the best free routes in Yosemite Valley," Wright exclaimed. "A harder hardman's Astroman!"

Liberty Cap rises above Nevada Fallls and the entrance to Little Yosemite Valley. The free link-up begins on the first two pitches of the Original Southwest Face, established by Warren Harding, Galen Rowell, and Joe Faint in 1969. It then traverses right to join Bad Moon Rising, an aid route put up last October by Josh Mucci, Steve Boque, and Ezra Allee. "In their report in the AAJ,  they mentioned their route would make an amazing free climb, and that was our inspiration for checking out the route," Wright said.

The two men followed Bad Moon Rising for four sustained pitches of corner climbing, then joined the Direct Southwest Face (Braun-Cashner, 1982) and surmounted "a wild and heinously pumpy roof pitch." They then headed straight left to rejoin Bad Moon Rising along the extraordinary "Crack of God" pitch: a splitter, half-inch crack that traverses the wall horizontally for nearly a rope length. From here they rejoined the Original Southwest Face and followed this with a couple of small variations to the top.

The line on Liberty Cap

The line of Mahtah (5.13a) on Liberty Cap's southwest face, Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of Cedar Wright

Wright said the route has five 5.12 pitches in a row once it reaches Bad Moon Rising, of which the last three are borderline 5.13a. The Crack of God, he said, "has to be one of the coolest and most unique pitches I have ever experienced: Picture campusing 180 feet sideways, way up off the ground with Nevada Falls booming below you. Lucho thought this pitch was 5.11, and I thought it deserved a prouder grade, so we settled on 5.9+." More 5.11, a slabby 5.12b pitch, and "the hardest 5.8 slab I have ever climbed" guard the top.

As for the grade of the full route, Wright said, "We are going to leave it open-ended and let repeaters give it a definitive grade. Let's say it's somewhere between 1980s 12c and modern 13a. The real difficulty isn't in any particular pitch, but in climbing it all back to back in a day without your forearms exploding.

"Right now, I'm just on cloud nine," Wright added. "This is one of the last major faces in Yosemite that had not been free climbed, and it took every ounce of my desire, training, and experience to pull it off. I feel really lucky to have a partner in Lucho—there aren't many people out there psyched for the uncertainty and toil of big first ascents like this."

Wright wrote a superb feature article for Climbing in 2012 about his long partnership with Rivera, their troubled boyhoods, and an expedition to Malaysia. Read it here.

Date of one-day redpoint: May 31, 2013

Sources: Cedar Wright,, American Alpine Journal