Sjong, Schneider Free Golden Gate
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Justen Sjong and Steve Schneider free-climbed Golden Gate (5.13b) on El Capitan, making the fourth or fifth ascent of this 41-pitch Huber brothers testpiece. The two had tried the route in May but were stymied by deteriorating fixed protection on the 5.13a 31st pitch. Unwilling to risk a long fall on two knifeblades that Sjong had pulled out by hand, they retreated. In June, the two returned to the route with permission from the Hubers to add a bolt by the worthless pins. (They left the knifeblades in place in case anyone wants to try the route in its “original” state.) Over six days, including one rest day, each climber freed every pitch, either leading or following, with Sjong leading all three 5.13 pitches and Schneider leading the five 5.12 pitches. Schneider injured two ribs in a mishap below the Tower to the People bivy ledge, with two of the three 5.13 pitches still looming above. Despite growing pain in his chest, he managed to follow those 5.13a and 5.13b pitches on their last day. Above this, he said, “The last four overhanging 5.11 pitches nearly killed me. Every move was total agony.” This was Sjong’s second El Cap free route of the year; in late April, he and Adam Stack did the Salathé Wall. But Sjong may be just getting started — he plans to spend “all next fall and winter on El Cap.”