Leo Houlding Frees The Prophet – El Capitan

Leo on the amazing crack 'A1 Beauty' pitch of the Prophet, El Capitan, YosemiteUKC Articles, Sep 2010© Alastair Lee

Leo Houlding on Asgard in 2009© Alastair Lee, Nov 2009Leo Houlding, partnered by Jason Pickles, has free climbed his long-term project on El Capitan: The Prophet. In an interview with Mick Ryan on UKC back in September, Leo Houlding described his route:”It starts up the first 5 pitches of Bad to the Bone on the right side of El Cap, then three new pitches, a new traverse featuring the epic 'devil's dyno', it shares Nicolas Favresse and Seán Villanueva route The Secret Passage for 25ft then finishes up the last 4 pitches of Eagle's Way. Nico and Seán started up Eagles way then finished up the line I was originally looking at (Bad to the Bone) so I tried to find an alternative finish. The Prophet and The Secret Passage run parallel then cross sharing 25 feet on pitch 9.The Prophet has been almost 10 years in the making. I originally attempted it from the ground up with Jason Pickles; no aid, no fixed ropes, no drill, in-a-day. It's quite harrowing – hardest climbing I've done ground up; shitty belays, shitty bolts, hard moves. Jason got hurt on third attempt in fall from first pitch, then on the fifth attempt I got half-way with Kevin Thaw. We retreated when faced with a with loose, blank section that needed a bolt to be freed. Tried again ground-up in 2004 with Jason using aid and a portaledge, winter arrived just below previous high point and we got pounded by a storm and we retreated as our ledge flooded with 2 feet of water. Two Japanese climbers unfortunately died on the Nose in the same storm.” “At the end of last June Jason and I climbed all 13 pitches from the ground. I led every pitch to the top over 4 days. All free with no falls apart from the A1 beauty (the crack – see photo). I couldn't link the A1 beauty pitch, which is the second to last pitch, in 30 degree C summer temps. I did it in two sections (several times) and all free on top rope whilst working the route top down. We are going back in October when it cools down, rap in and lead the A1 beauty then do whole route from the ground again.Leo freed the A1 Beauty pitch yesterday (27/10/2010) and topped out, completing The Prophet and adding a new free climb to El Capitan.The ascent was watched by Tom Evans, photgrapher and blogger on the famous El Cap Report.The Prophet will be the hardest route I've done by miles, the A1 beauty pitch alone is the hardest thing I've tried…Leo HouldingTom described Leo's climb:”He was down to his last day, flying out tomorrow.  This was it.  They had just endured one on the worst storms in memory and spent two nights with water pouring down upon them…they were soaked, cold, buffeted by strong updrafts and yet they stayed in the fight.  No going down for the lads…not this time.  Yesterday, the climb dried out enough for them to give it a try.  Leo climbed well but fell and fell again at the crux section.  He must have really been disappointed, to say the least.  Would it be different today?He started well, moving in his smooth, measured style.  He squeezed his finger tips into the narrow crack, the so called, A1 Beauty.  He stemmed and liebacked, crimped and stepped high with his great footwork.  Soon he was at the spot he used to rest for some time yesterday, before trying the hardest part.  This time he chalked a couple of times and went to meet his fate.  He rose to the challenge and moved smoothly past the rounded arete that had sent him flying yesterday.  He made an outrageous dead point lunge and just grabbed a key hold that allowed him to move left, off the arete and onto some more positive holds.  A wild move left and soon he was at the belay.  Tommy, Kevin, Becca, and others in the meadow, sent up a loud roar of approval and Leo called back.  It couldn't have been sweeter!”

Leo Houlding free climbing the 'A1 Beauty' – high on The Prophet, El CapitanUKC News, Oct 2010© Tom Evans, El Cap Report

For more photos and info check out Tom's full blog post on the El Cap Report. Leo Houlding is sponsored byBerghaus,DMM,Adidas Eyewear,Five Ten

Alastair Lee's film The Prophet covering Leo's attempts to free the route will premier at the Kendal Mountain Festival 2010.Berghaus are presenting the The Adventure Tour Autumn/Winter 2010 featuring Leo Houlding & Mick FowlerYou can also see Leo at the Buxton Opera House on Sunday 31st October.

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