Caldwell Flash-Frees Leaning Tower

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Tommy Caldwell has flashed the mostly free version of the Leaning Tower, Yosemite’s steepest big-wall climb. Using extensive beta provided by Adam Stack, who made the face’s probable third free ascent in March, Caldwell cruised the West Face in about five hours. First freed by Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles in May 2001, the West Face begins with a 200-foot bolt ladder that will “never go free,” according to Houlding. Next, a 160-foot 5.13b groove gains Ahwahnee Ledge, followed by a 5.12c hanging ramp and a 12c “stamina fest” pitch. The second 5.13 pitch climbs an enormous roof, with 20 feet of horizontal climbing followed by 20 feet of stemming up a 45-degree overhanging groove, and “every hold a jug,” according to Houlding, who nonetheless gave the pitch 5.13a. Chris Van Leuven, who is also working to free the route, believes this pitch is no harder than solid 5.12. A final 5.12 pitch, with long reaches to fingerlocks, is the last of the difficulties. The West Face got its probable second free ascent last fall, when Yosemite hardman Rob Miller freed the route. Miller worked on the route over nine days, using no fixed ropes to regain his high point. His final redpoint burn took about five hours.

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