Mason Earle, 26, has made the first free ascent of the Heart Route on El Capitan and his partner, Brad Gobright, 27, freed everything but a few metres.
The 1970 route up the southwest face of El Cap was first climbed by Scott Davis and Chuck Kroger. The Heart formation is a landmark feature on the wall that has inspired many routes over the years.
“Things are starting to come together on the Heart Route,” wrote Earle about this photo on Instagram. “Pictured here is the 20 feet of razor-blade-crimps that lead to Heart Ledge. Now we just need California’s drought to last another 10 days to have a proper try.”
Earle and Gobright’s free variation starts left of the Salathe Wall on the Slack pillar and then climbs difficult 5.13 pitches to the famous Heart Ledge. Earle the free variation of the Heart Route to Heart Ledges “Heart Blast,” to add to Muir Blast and Free Blast, two other hard El Cap free routes.
It was Earle’s fourth season on the wall and the final ascent took six days. High on the Heart Route, they climbed into Golden Gate, Alex Huber and Max Reichel’s 2001 free route, which was recently climbed by Emily Harrington.
The new free route has nine 5.13 pitches, a dozen 5.11 and some moderate climbing. The crux was on the slabby sixth pitch, where a downward dyno got the difficult V10 grade.
“The roof pitch on the Heart Route marks the start of a burly block of steep hard pitches,” wrote Earle on Instagram about this photo. “The crux comes at the very end of the pitch, a soul crushing place to fall. Top effort Brad, for sticking the lead”
In summary, the Heart Route in a 34-pitch 5.13b with five 5.12 pitches and eight 5.13 pitches. Pitches one through seven, “Heart Blast,” climb to Heart Ledge. Pitch eight to eleven climb Salathe and exit above Hollow Flake Ledge. Pitches 12 to 19 are on Heart Route and have three new consecutive 5.13 pitches. Pitches 20 to 34 are on Golden Gate and have three 5.13 pitches. For a list of all free ascents on El Cap, visit here.
This 2012 poster gives you a good idea of the quantity of El Cap free climbing. This poster does not include the Heart Route or Dawn Wall.