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The east face of Longs Peak (14,255′), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. On September 3, Steph Davis free soloed Pervertical Sanctuary (IV 5.10c), which climbs the left side of the upper face, the Diamond. Earlier in the summer, Davis free soloed the Casual Route (IV 5.10-), which starts near the bottom of the Diamond and works left. For more on the Diamond, check out the profile in Issue 19, in which this photo was published. [Photo] Topher Donahue /

On September 3, Steph Davis realized her dream of free soloing Pervertical Sanctuary (IV 5.10c) on the Diamond, Longs Peak (14,255′) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. She returned on September 13 to repeat the free solo a second time, with Peter Mortimer filming.

The Diamond (profiled in Issue 19) is one of the most revered alpine walls in North America; its 900 feet of vertical and overhanging terrain allow no passage easier than the Casual Route (IV 5.10-). The face was first free soloed via this route by Charlie Fowler in 1978 (this diminution resulted in a change of its name, from the Integral Route to the Casual Route).

Davis is the the first woman to free solo the Diamond and the second person with a recorded free solo on Pervertical Sanctuary, the other being prolific free soloist Derek Hersey. Known in particular for her hard free climbs on El Capitan, Davis soloed the Casual Route twice this summer, once in July and again in August, prior to her two efforts on Pervertical.

“I’m so lucky I had the experience of a troublesome fear feeling on my first solo of the Casual Route,” Davis said, “because it forced me to look hard at that feeling, and to dissect it… I realized that to do a more serious solo, I need[ed] to focus all the way on my mental state. I need[ed] to believe in myself completely.”

On her September 3 ascent, Davis bivied below the east face cirque the night before. To ensure she was ahead of all parties, she began climbing at 4:15 a.m. (at that hour, two intending to rope up on Pervertical passed her bivy). She reached Broadway ledge, the start of the route proper, in the dark and waited until the sun gave her enough light to climb. She reached Table Ledge, which gives access to the walk-off, before 9 a.m.

The great free soloist Derek Hersey on Pervertical Sanctuary, as part of his 1989 triple enchainment. For more on Hersey’s Diamond exploits, check out the profile in Issue 19, in which this photo was published. [Photo] Steve “Crusher” Bartlett

Positive thinking, Davis said, was important for success: “I focused completely on the positive granite, the confidence in my shoe rubber, and the freedom of climbing light, with nothing to carry. I was hoping to feel solid and safe on the finger crack crux, and reminded myself as always that I am a crack climber.”

Pervertical Sanctuary was first ascended by Ron Olevsky and Bob Dodds in 1975 at a grade of 5.8 A1. In that same year, Bruce Adams and Tobin Sorenson freed the line at 5.10c. The route has since been graded as high as 5.11a.

In 1989, Hersey free soloed the Yellow Wall (V 5.11a), downclimbed the Casual Route and sped up Pervertical Sanctuary ropeless, finishing before noon. He returned in 1991 to free solo Pervertical Sanctuary once more, this time capping off his day by deferring to a downclimb of the Red Wall (IV 5.10-) when wet conditions on the Casual Route proved too risky.

“Walking down the Camel, back to my bivy, I could see my fellow Pervertical climbers way up on the face. I felt deeply moved, joyful and very much alive,” Davis reflected.

Sources: Steph Davis,, Roger Briggs, Topher Donahue, Mark Hesse