Scary Half Dome Route Gets Second Free Ascent


Leo Houlding and Dean Potter have free-climbed the notorious Southern Belle (V 5.12d) on the South Face of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. The 14-pitch route has four pitches of 5.12 and six pitches of 5.11, including some extreme runouts. Southern Belle was established by Dave Schultz and Walt Shipley in 1987, and then free-climbed in 1988 by Schultz and Scott Cosgrove. During a 1994 attempt to repeat the climb, Hank Caylor broke his ankle in a 60-foot fall.

Houlding and Potter free-climbed the route in a day on their second ground-up attempt, making only the second free ascent in 18 years. “It was pretty dang serious,” Potter said in an email. “On a fair bit of the upper ground, if you fall you might as well be dead.” Referring to his British partner, Potter added, “I was glad to be with such a strong lad.”Sources: Dean Potter,, Yosemite Climbs: Free Climbs

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