4/2/13 - Will Stanhope has free climbed the Finger of Fate route on the Titan, the 900-foot colossus of the Fisher Towers in Utah. This may be the second free ascent of the eight-pitch, soft-rock tower, though Stanhope said he'd heard there had been another free ascent since Britons Ben Bransby and Pete Robins nabbed the first free climb in 2005.
Stanhope climbed with Coleman Blakeslee, Jesse Huey, and Paul McSorley. "I was the only one to lead everything clean, but it was a big team effort and a joy to go mud-a-neering with some really good friends," Stanhope said in an email. "It wasn't necessarily super technically difficult but a great adventure in some gale-force winds."
Stanhope said the two hardest pitches on the route were the fourth and seventh (both 5.12), but the route is quite sustained, with six pitches of 5.11+ and 5.12. "Those two were also the scariest, as they relied on some sketchy fixed pieces in the mud," Stanhope said. "I climbed the roof pitch with a couple cams preplaced."
The Finger of Fate was the first route up the Titan, climbed in 1961 by George Hurley, Huntley Ingalls, and Layton Kor. The ascent was filmed from a small plane by Barry Bishop, and was featured in National Geographic. In 1996, Steve Haston, another Briton, attempted to free the route but was put off by the vintage bolts on the last two pitches. The route was rebolted in 2004, making free ascents possible. Haston went on to free the Sundevil Chimney route on the other side of the tower, a route that has inspired Stanhope to plan a return visit to the Fisher Towers. "The Sundevil looks to me like one of the wildest lines in the desert," he said. "I can't wait to give that a try now that I'm a little more familiar with the esoteric art of mud climbing."
During his Utah trip, Stanhope also repeated Concepción, a full-rope crack climb in Day Canyon, near Moab, put up by Dean Potter in 2003. Potter didn't rate the climb, but Stanhope suggested 5.13b.
Here's a new video of the ascent created by Paul McSorley and Will Stanhope:
For those interested in attempting the Finger of Fate in its usual manner, as a clean-aid classic (5.9 C2), check out this video of Mark and Janelle Smiley's ascent.
Date of ascents: March 2013
Sources: Will Stanhope, benbransby.com