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Photo Gallery: 4 Alpine and Big Wall Climbing Photos

Flash—Our monthly climbing photo gallery

Flash: Climbing Photo Gallery

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Climber: Ueli Steck
Route: Supercouloir Direct (5.9 A1/M6 90˚; 1,575 feet)
Location: Mont Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix, France

On Sunday April 30, legendary Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck died on Nuptse during an acclimatization run for the Lhotse Traverse, his goal for this trip to the Everest region. Born in the town of Langnau im Emmental, near the Swiss capital of Bern, in October 1976, Steck began climbing when he was 12. In his 28 years as a climber, he made significant ascents on rock, including the first ascent of the Eiger Nordwand’s most difficult route, Pacienca (5.13b; 23 pitches), in 2008; and, in 2009, a near-onsight of Golden Gate (VI 5.13b) on El Capitan. (Steck’s only fall was on a wet 5.11 pitch.) However, Steck was best known for his unmatched alpine prowess, which earned him two Piolet d’Or medals: first for a 2008 alpine-style ascent of the north face of Tengkampoche (6,487 meters), Khumbu Valley, Nepal, with Simon Anthamatten; and second for his 2013 solo of the South Face of Annapurna (8,091 meters) in Nepal. Steck is survived by his wife, Nicole. For more about Steck’s life, visit Looking Back on the Life of Ueli Steck.

Photo: Jonathan Griffith/Alpine Exposures

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Climbers: Mason Earle and Erik Leidecker
Route: Gar Wall (IV 5.13-)
FA: Roger Debeyer and Kirt Sellers (5.10 A2), August 2001; FFA (noncontinuous): Mason Earle, July 2014
Location: Pigeon Feathers, East Creek Basin, the Bugaboos, Purcell Mountains, Canada

In July 2014, Hayden Kennedy, Andrew Burr, Mason Earle, and Erik Leidecker climbed the seven-pitch Gar Wall on the Pigeon Feathers formation. The team cleaned the route as they climbed, and summited to heavy weather. They rappelled posthaste, then fixed the final 400 feet to the ground to escape the downpour. Earle had freed the difficult 5.12 fourth pitch on that push but wanted to free a blank slab (shown here) just below the summit—the rest of the climbing between the two cruxes was only 5.10. Earle returned the next day to send the crux slab at 5.13a, describing it as “like trying to write an English comp paper with an axe murderer in your house.” The holds were so small, he blogged, that he had to climb with his nose just inches from the rock to find usable edges. Though Earle did not make a continuous ascent, this was the first time all the pitches on the route had been freed.

Photo: Andrew Burr

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Climber: Allen Riling
Route: Blanca—Little Bear Traverse (5.0)
FA: Joe Merhar and Dale Norton, 1931
Location: Sangre de Cristo Range, Colorado

Colorado is known for its airy “sidewalks in the sky,” connecting ridges that link its many Fourteeners. The most famous outings are the Mt. Wilson–El Diente Ridge, the North Maroon–South Maroon Traverse, the Crestone Needle–Crestone Peak linkup, and the king daddy: the mile-long Blanca—Little Bear Traverse. The Blanca group is special: Here, the four 14,000-plus-foot summits lord over the vast, flat San Luis Valley 7,000 feet below. Unlike many of Colorado’s high points, these peaks do not get lost in a sea of ranges and summits. You can run the ridge in either direction, though it’s common to start with Little Bear (14,037 feet), tag Blanca (14,345 feet; top right), and mop up with Ellingwood Point (14,042 feet; top left), moving south to north. Along the crux ridge, expect lots of third and fourth class, with the occasional mini-crux. Route-finding couldn’t be easier: You’re on the granite spine almost the whole way, with nothing but air to either side.

Photo: Kennan Harvey

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Climber: Jon Cardwell
Route: Misty Wall Direct (IV 5.13-; 1,700 feet)
FFA: Jon Cardwell, Sasha DiGiulian, Marcus Garcia
Location: Misty Wall, Yosemite Valley, California

In late May 2017, Jon Cardwell, Sasha DiGiulian, and Marcus Garcia made the first free ascent of the 15-pitch Misty Wall Direct, right of Yosemite Falls, with Cardwell and DiGiulian freeing every pitch. This section of rock has a long history. To begin, Royal Robbins and Dick McCracken made the first ascent of Misty Wall (5.9 A4) in 1963, climbing 11 pitches before penduluming left under a series of roofs to finish via three more short pitches. In 1991, Walt Shipley and Kevin Fosburg free climbed up to the roofs at 5.11d. In 2002, Eric Kohl aided Escape from Tora Bora (5.9 A2), a three-pitch direct finish to the Misty Wall. In October 2015, Cardwell and Garcia bolted and freed a 25-foot variation at 5.13- just eight feet right of Kohl’s line. The climb presented unique challenges: The new terrain required significant cleaning, while the massive Upper Yosemite Fall boomed a couple hundred feet away. The team also had to negotiate informal Valley approval to place bolts so close to an existing aid line. “The waterfall feels very present,” says Cardwell, shown here on the 5.10d second pitch.

Photo: John Evans

Four alpine and big wall climbing photos: Mason Earle and Erik Leidecker in the Bugaboos, Jon Cardwell on a Yosemite first ascent, Allen Riling on a Colorado 14er traverse, and a tribute to Ueli Steck.

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