Connor Herson, 18, Establishes Steep and Rope-Stretching 5.14- in Tuolumne

It is already being touted as one of Tuolumne Meadows' proudest lines.

Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

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Last week, Connor Herson, 18, established a stunning new route in Tuolumne Meadows, Kilogram (5.14-). Herson climbed the 230-foot line in a single pitch: tackling an imposing blank face, a 10-foot roof, and the upper headwall with the rope’s full weight dragging at his heels.

Climbing reached out to Herson over email to get the full story.

Where did you first hear about the potential line? 

HERSON: Kilogram climbs the face right next to Oz (5.10d), one of the most popular routes in Tuolumne, into a very obvious looking roof crack. Every time I’ve done Oz, I’ve looked over at the face and roof crack and wondered if it was doable. Last summer, I checked out the roof crack, and it went pretty quickly. A few friends of mine suggested I try the face, so I started checking it out, but once wildfire season hit it was too smoky to climb in Tuolumne, so I had to put it off until this year. The line was bolted in the ’80’s, but since the bolter couldn’t do the route and had used the then-controversial technique of bolting on rappel, as well as using a power drill (illegal in designated wilderness), the bolts were chopped and the line was forgotten.

Why is it “one of the sickest lines” you’ve ever done?

It’s an obvious king line consisting of a 160-foot face on edges (which is unusual for Tuolumne, known for its knob climbing) into a roof crack with amazing movement. The position is unreal; there’s one point in the roof crack where I was doing a kneebar above my head over gear with a 300-foot drop below me.

What are Kilogram’s features, cruxes, and protection like?

The pitch is a 230-foot rope stretcher. The face starts off with a few bolts of relatively easy yet fun climbing into a two-bolt crux section. The holds are really thin and slightly sharp, and the feet are pretty small. Past the crux is about half a dozen bolts of really fun relatively easier, yet still pumpy, climbing on perfect edges. At the last bolt, located at the base of the roof, there’s a good rest, followed by some burly roof climbing on very solid gear. Pulling the lip of the roof is the redpoint crux of the route, and it’s protected by an RP. The headwall above the crack is really easy yet really fun climbing.

Herson hand-drilling Kilogram’s protection bolts on rappel. Photo: Courtesy Connor Herson

What is your personal history climbing in Tuolumne? 

I grew up climbing in Tuolumne, quite literally; my first multipitch route was Hermaphrodite Flake (5.7, 4 pitches) on Stately Pleasure Dome, and all throughout my life I’ve spent time climbing there. Stay tuned for a Petzl film coming out in 2022 about my climbing in Tuolumne! (It includes footage of Kilogram).

Future suitors can find Kilogram on Drug Dome, beside the classic Oz—you actually climb its first two pitches to access Kilogram. The 15-minute approach is relaxed and the climb has shade until around 4:00 pm.


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