The Yosemite Valley has seen a great amount of activity in the last few years in the realm of free ascents, free-solo ascents, enchainments and speed ascents. Alex Honnold has had a very busy year, with free solo ascents of both Astroman (5.11c, 300m) and the Regular North Face of the Rostrum in a day, a free ascent of Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b/c, ca. 3,200′) and a one-day free ascent of Freerider (VI 5.12d, 37 pitches). [Photo] Luke Bauer
Alex Honnold had a busy year in Yosemite that kept getting better. In May, he made a one-day free ascent of Freerider (VI 5.12d, 37 pitches). In September he free soloed both Astroman (5.11c, 300m) and the Regular North Face of the Rostrum in a day. And in October he free climbed Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b/c, ca. 3,200′).
Honnold’s free solo of Astroman (5.11c, 10 pitches) is the third such ascent on record. In 1987 the prolific Peter Croft did both the first free solo of Astroman and the first free-solo link up of Astroman and The Rostrum. Dean Potter accomplished the second free solo of Astroman in April of 2000.
Honnold climbed all of the harder variations on Astroman, including the 5.11c Boulder Problem and the 5.11b pitch above the Harding Slot, according to a SuperTopo.com posting.
Later in the day Honnold soloed the Regular North Face of the Rostrum using the 5.10 variation at the second pitch to avoid a party on the 5.11a variant. The route originally was climbed free via the Blind Faith finish in 1977 by John Yablonsky and Ron Kauk. A variation using the original finishing pitches can be climbed at 5.12 or 5.13 and rarely is completed.
Honnold’s October ascent of Salathe is the eleventh free ascent of the route. He rappelled from the top to stash gear on top of The Block, then continued rappelling to the base. The following day he and his partner climbed up to The Block, where they rested for a day and took advantage of the stashed bivy gear. They climbed the remainder of the route on their third day on the wall.
The first free ascent of Salathe was made in June of 1988 by Todd Skinner and Paul Piana, who–after thirty days of attempts–took seven days on their final free push. Alex Huber–who, with brother Thomas, recently set a new speed record in the valley–climbed a new free variation of Salathe in 1995 that avoided two of the original pitches. All of the recorded free ascents of the Salathe, with the exception of Jim Herson’s, who climbed the original Skinner-Piana pitches in his 2003 free ascent of the route, use the Alex Huber variations.
Freerider is a variation on the Slathe Wall that avoids the 5.13 Salathe Headwall, using both Alex Huber’s 1995 variations to the Salathe route as well as three pitches of the route Excalibur to ascend the wall at a relatively easier grade of 5.12d. Honnold, with partner Brian Kimball following every pitch free, climbed the route in a day.