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Link-ups Test Climbers in Sierras and Squamish

Alex Honnold fires a burly roof on Pitch 6 of Freeway (5.11c, 11 pitches) while Will Stanhope belays. On July 30, the pair completed a quadruple link-up of The Free Grand (5.13b, 10 pitches), University Wall (5.12a, 8 pitches), Northern Lights (5.12a, 12 pitches) and Freeway in 13.5 hours. [Photo] Colin Moorhead

Not one, but two phenomenal link-ups came to life on July 30. Matt Ciancio and Peter Croft climbed four routes on the Incredible Hulk, the 1,200-foot spire in California’s northern Sierra; on that same day, Alex Honnold and Will Stanhope ran up four climbs, 5.11c and harder, on the 1,000-foot Chief in Squamish, British Columbia. A few weeks later, Jason Lakey free-soloed five long Sierra alpine climbs around Mt. Whitney in a day.

Ciancio and Croft did their first climb, Positive Vibrations (5.11a, 12 pitches,), in the twilight hours and climbed most of the route by headlamp. After topping out, they sprinted to the base and back up the wall via Astro Hulk (5.11, 12 pitches). Back at the base of the wall, they downed a quick cup of coffee before climbing Airstream, leading into Sunspot (5.11b, 9 pitches). The duo rounded out the quadruple link-up by simulclimbing Red Dihedral (5.10b, 12 pitches).

“By the time we hit the summit, the sun was getting low, so we were a little unsure about another route,” Croft told “We went for it anyway and really had a blast simo-ing Red Dihedral in dreamy evening alpenglow, with the shade hard on our heels.”

In total, Ciancio and Croft climbed 45 pitches and nearly 5,000 vertical feet.

Meanwhile, in Squamish, Honnold and Stanhope got an early start to climb The Free Grand (5.13b, 10 pitches), which winds its way up the Grand Wall, through splitter cracks and runout slabs. The pair arrived back at the foot of The Chief at 7 a.m. and beefed up their rack before jogging over to University Wall (5.12a, 8 pitches). They swapped leads on the steep crack and finished the climb via Roman Chimneys (5.11d, 4 pitches).

Back at the base, Honnold and Stanhope drove to the North Walls to climb Northern Lights (5.12a, 12 pitches), which Stanhope described as a “meat-and-potatoes” climb with “some overhanging flare climbing, some long corners, some greenery and some choss.” A time-consuming descent through dense bushes brought the climbers back to their van at around 4 p.m.

“At this point, I started to get a little wobbly on my feet, a little more conservative with the runouts,” Stanhope said.

In the late afternoon heat, the team scaled Freeway (5.11c, 11 pitches), a sustained climb with only three pitches easier than 5.11. They completed their final descent of the Chief at approximately 6:30 p.m., rounding out their quadruple link-up just over 13 hours after starting.

Will Stanhope and Alex Honnold refuel after their four-climb blitz in Squamish. [Photo] Hazel Findlay

On August 27, California climber Jason Lakey bagged a remarkable chain of ascents of his own, free-soloing five climbs in the High Sierra in approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes, car-to-car.

Lakey first tackled Keeler Needle (5.10c, 13 pitches) at around 5 a.m., which allowed the face to warm and the snow at the base of the spire to soften just enough to make it a quick scramble, he said.

Next, he soloed the East Buttress (5.7, 11 pitches) and the East Face (5.6, 10 pitches) of Mt. Whitney. After descending, Lakey hoofed it over to Mt. Russell where he dashed up the Mithril Dihedral (5.9+, 6 pitches) and Fishhook Arete (5.9, 8 pitches). In total, Lakey soloed about 5,500 feet.

No stranger to arduous link-ups, Lakey has climbed the The Nose of El Capitan (VI 5.9 C2, 31 pitches) and The Northwest Face of Half Dome (VI 5.7 A2, 23 pitches) in 21:25; three routes in fewer than 24 hours on the Incredible Hulk; and five desert towers in a day in Utah’s Castle Valley.

Reflecting on his climbs, Lakey said his alpine link-up on August 27 was “one of [his] realist, purest, proudest days of climbing in the mountains.”

Sources: Jason Lakey, Dave Lane, Will Stanhope,,,,