Major Yosemite News

Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles have free climbed all but the first pitch of one of Yosemite´s most popular big walls, the West Face of Leaning Tower. The first pitch is a bolt ladder, but the following 10 pitches are thought of as the steepest terrain in the Valley.Leo had this to say about their ascent: THE WESTIE FACE"On Wednesday 16th May 2001 Jason Pickles and I made the first free ascent of the West Face of the Leaning tower. First climbed by Warren Harding in 1953 with a heavy use of bolts, Royal Robbins called the Tower “the steepest wall in North America”. Comparable in angle to Kilnsey North Buttress but a thousand feet high _ you get the picture! Harding´s rusty bolts were replaced by the American safe climbing association in 1997 – good work boys.The initial insanely steep bolt ladder remains an aid pitch and will never go free (so prove me wrong). The free climbing begins where the bolt ladder ends at a small ledge in a shallow, steep groove. The crux pitch – a 160 foot, 5.13b (E7 6c) – leads you on to the Ahwahnee ledge. A five star perch named after the exclusive Hotel in the Valley. An unusual hanging ramp pitch then a full sixty metre stamina fest, both around 5.12c bring you to the big roof. Its size is deceptive but when you pull into the back of it its scale is clear. About twenty feet of horizontal laybacking then another twenty feet of bridging up a forty five degree overhanging groove. Every hold a jug, it´s a wild pitch. Extremly exposed E6 6c(5.13a). A final typically steep corner completes the outstanding, sustained route.The increadible view of El Cap obtained from the summit makes the final mantle perhaps the most spectacular topout in the world. Achievable in a day and of a semi-sport nature this route is set to become a classic of its grade. Several days later we made the fastest aid ascent of the same route while retrieving a jammed rope. 1 hour 59 minutes sheds a considerable 1.20 off the previous speed record. The same afternoon Jason caught his bus out of the Valley. The next afternoon Jason Singer and I climbed the Nose of El Capitan. Leaving the cafe at 12 noon, without head torches we began climbing at 12.40. On the third pitch I narrowly avoided a monster fall by catching a tiny ledge 10 feet into the 120 foot screamer! Not the best way to start a speed ascent. In our fifth hour we passed a party who were on their fifth day. Topping out at 7.42 we made it down just before dark."Report courtesy of Berghaus.