Jordan Cannon Climbs El Cap's Golden Gate Free in a Day
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Update: Based on multiple sources, the initial version of this story reported that Jordan Cannon climbed Golden Gate in a day without taking any falls. Cannon has since informed us that he took two falls on the route. The story has been corrected to reflect this.
On Monday, November 16, Jordan Cannon completed a free, in-a-day ascent of Golden Gate on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. Cannon’s ascent was the route’s fifth of its kind. Before him Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold, Brad Gobright, and Emily Harrington each freed the route in a day. Harringon’s ascent, the route’s fourth, just this month on November 4.
Golden Gate is a a grade VI 5.13 route that follows 36 pitches up the south face of El Cap. James Lucas described the route in his recent story about Harrington’s ascent for Climbing:
Alexander and Thomas Huber made the first free ascent of the 36-pitch route in 2000. Golden Gate follows the first half of Freerider, tackling 8 pitches of slab on the Freeblast variation and then continuing up through the Hollow Flake and into the difficult Monster Offwidth. From El Cap Spire, the line involves a hard pitch moving down and right across the wall. The Downclimb (5.13-) is one of the four crux pitches. The route then traverses into an immaculate expanse of golden granite and a stack of three hard pitches. The Move (5.13-) features a short, albeit difficult V6/7 boulder problem. The Golden Desert (5.13-) takes thin laybacks to the routes finishing crux, The A5 Traverse (5.13-) a dizzying and powerful traverse across crimps and slopers. From there a few hundred feet of easier, albeit dangerous, 5.11 climbing on hollow flakes remains.
Cannon previously freed Golden Gate and Freerider during separate multi-day ascents. In 2019 he returned to Freerider with Mark Hudon and completed his first in-a-day free ascent of a free El Cap route, climbing in in 14:30. He meanwhile supported Hudon, at 63, on his goal to free the route in as many days as necessary. The pair’s adventure was documented in the film Free as Can Be.
Cannon made his first attempt to free Golden Gate in a day on Halloween of this year. He chronicled the day in an Instagram story series. He began by simul-climbing the Freeblast portion of the route with Alex Honnold to save time. Above that he met Hudon, who took over the belay duties. for the rest of the day. Cannon completed the first 20 pitches in a mere five hours. He reached the top of pitch 31 after 12 hours. In Cannon’s Instagram story, Mark Hudon is seen wearing a Napolean costume on the ledge to celebrate the holiday.
While success seemed likely at that point, mid-day temps had heated up the wall. Cannon encountered hot granite on the difficult upper pitches that caused poor friction and stymied progress. The team waited three hours for the sun to set in hopes of better conditions. Cannon then sent the following 5.13a Golden Desert pitch. Next he faced the crux A5 Traverse pitch. After 32 pitches and after 18 hours on the wall, he was unable to complete the pitch and ended his attempt.
That wasn’t the end, though. According to photographer Max Buschini, who was present for the first attempt, “Instead of throwing in the towel, he rapped in from the summit and worked the A5 like crazy.” Cannon continued to rehearse the route and put in sessions with Emily Harrington as she prepared for her own ascent.
On Tuesday, November 17, Hudon announced Cannon’s successful ascent on Mountain Project. He started a thread titled “Jordan Cannon climbed Golden Gate 20.5 hours yesterday!” (The final time was 20:26.) Cannon managed the route with just two falls—once on the 5.12 Downclimb and once on the 5.12 Traverse following the A5 Traverse pitch. He completed both of the pitches on his second try. He sent the A5 Traverse go. Josh McClure, a longtime Yosemite climber and Yosemite Mountaineering School guide, supported Cannon during the climb. The pair simul-climbed the first half of the route, then McClure jugged the second half to provide belays. “Huge team effort for sure,” Cannon said in an email. “Couldn’t have done it without support from him or Max [Buschini].”
Harrington congratulated Cannon on his success. In response he wrote, “Thank you Emily. I’m so stoked we were both able to pull it off this season and share part of the experience together.”