Connor Herson has made a free ascent of Salathe Wall on El Capitan with his dad Jim Herson, who freed it 18 years before. Connor is fresh off climbing Empath, a 5.14d/15a sport route in California using trad gear.
Jim topped Salathe Wall out only 90 hours before Connor was born and even put a small shirt on Connor as a baby that read: “My dad climbed Salathe Wall and all I got was this silly outfit.”
The Salathe Wall was freed in 1988 by Todd Skinner and Paul Piana. Skinner was a leading big wall free climber who died in a climbing accident in Yosemite in 2006. On his website, which is still up and worth a visit here, the report for Salathe Wall reads: “By using modern day climbing techniques they realized that another new age in climbing was emerging, and were ready to meet the challenge. Standing on the shoulders of the early Yosemite pioneers, Skinner and Piana became the first to free climb El Capitan Salathe Wall and usher in a new dawn of climbing.”
In 1998, Alex and Thomas Huber established Freerider, a variation to Salathe Wall which avoids the hard 5.13 cracks by heading out left to the 5.11d Monster Offwidth, a section of El Cap used for several routes. Herson said that “it’s not the Salathe if you do the monster offwidth instead.”
The headwall was originally climbed in two pitches, which is how Herson climbed it, but he said he’ll return to link the crux 5.13s.