Canadians Bronwyn Hodgins and Kelsey Watts have made the third free ascent, and first female ascent, of El Gavilan, a nine-pitch 5.13a in Mexico on a rock prow called La Popa. This spring, Hodgins freed the 36-pitch Golden Gate 5.13 in Yosemite, becoming the first Canadian woman to free two routes on El Capitan.
Hodgins and the team replaced the old hardware over two seasons and opened a new approach to the wall which avoids a lengthy cactus-filled hike. The pitches go at 5.12a, 5.12d, 5.13a, 5.12b, 5.12a, 5.12c 5.12d, 5.12b and 5.11c.
The first ascent of El Gavilan was in 1997 by Kevin Gallaghar and Jeff Jackson, the likely second ascent was in February 2013 by Alex Honnold and Josh McCoy. Then Jacob Cook and Canadian Tony McLane made the third ascent, but didn’t free every pitch – read about their epic Mexico trip here. There are two other climbs on the wall: Spanish Harlem, an 11-pitch 5.11+ A0, and Super Blood Wolf, a 275-metre 5.11 established by McLane and Cook and freed by Drew Marshall and JP Thomas.
Cook learned about the route thanks to a Enormocast podcast with Jackson, which you can listen to here. In the chat, Jackson said, “You take this dirt road through the village of Los Remotos, then keep going to the end of the road. Strange things happen out there in the desert though man, the locals talk of the Naguales, shape-shifting horse people, horse by day, human by night, some use their powers for good, others for ill…”
Hodgins wrote about their historic ascent on Instagram, saying, “The line is the steepest multi-pitch I’ve ever been on, following an outrageously overhanging corner system dripping with tufas. Kelsey and I knee-barred and stemmed our way up the orange limestone wall, pulling the two wildly exposed crux roofs near the top, and swinging leads with no falls!”