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Five Big Alpine and Wall Sends from 2018

While there were many impressive sends of hard sport routes and boulders, there were also a number of memorable big wall/alpine accomplishments in 2018.

The climbers who go after these high consequence grade VI ascents are highly skilled, well-rounded climbers with years of experience.

Big wall and alpine climbers deal with shorter weather windows than crag climbers and have less time to project the route, if any. Here are five memorable climbs from up high this past year.

Pineapple Express

Sonnie Trotter made the first free ascent of Pineapple Express VI, a three pitch 5.13b/c variation to the 30-pitch El Nino 5.13c on El Capitan.

Trotter had worked on the wall with Alex Honnold and eventually made the first ascent, leading every pitch with Tommy Caldwall assisting and belaying. It’s the first free ascent of the wall between Dawn Wall and Zodiac.

Looking back at this year, it all comes down to this; ‘Pineapple Express’ 5.13b/c – First Free Ascent on Nov 19th, in a 13 hour push, leading every pitch. Sometimes I still can’t believe it all happened, and only 4 days after turning 39😉. Seriously though, dropping into the Valley this season with my family and our 1998 Scamp Trailer I was really, really hoping to finally climb this route (with or without @alexhonnold ) but in the back of my mind I had a feeling it would take a miracle. On the phone with @tommycaldwell the night before the climb I had the same feeling, we were all getting run down with head colds and sore throats, and with the imminent snow storm quickly approaching I knew this would be my one and only attempt. I told him how nervous I was, and he said “yeah, you should be” and laughed, but continued…“that’s the way I feel before every big push” naturally, his words were more comforting than troubling. Like usual, Tommy was an absolute machine on this day, jugging every pitch with a heavy pack, cleaning, reverse aiding, swinging, hauling, and yelling words of encouragement that I could feel in my bones. This year has been one for the books, a multi year dream. I’m currently writing a piece for @climbingmagazine about this wall and its magnificent history. I’ll be happy to share the word when it comes out on newsstands. As well as a more detailed topo. Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for the Photo: @austin_siadak 💥

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Lunag Ri

David Lama made the solo first ascent of Lunag Ri, a 6,907-metre mountain on the border between Nepal and Tibet on his third attempt.

“The three days climbing Lunag Ri have been some of the most intense I’ve ever spent on a mountain,” said Lama. “Being alone certainly added to this experience and so did the journey that had unfolded for me ever since my first encounter with this unclimbed peak back in 2015 together with Conrad Anker.

Lama set off from base camp on Oct. 23 and, after two cold bivouacs, summited at around 10.00 am before quickly descending and waiting for the cold of night to freeze the face and return safely to base camp.

From the summit of Lunag Ri.⠀ ⠀ And suddenly it’s just a few more steps. In front of me lies the summit spur of Lunag Ri. I can still remember well how @Conrad_Anker and I sat by our tent at advanced basecamp in 2015. With binoculars in hand, we wondered if this granite tower visible from below was actually the summit. It was just one of the many questions that came up when we first set out to attempt the first ascent. That was four years ago now. A lot has happened since then, and that’s exactly what makes these final steps so special.⠀ ⠀ I traverse the last few metres over wind packed snow that sticks to the granite on the Nepalese side of the mountain. Even though my head is full with the impressions that I absorb every moment up here, my thoughts are somehow empty. The knowledge that I must not make any mistake is constantly present and dominates all other feelings. It results in an intense, almost exhausting concentration – a feeling I know only from other solo ascents in the mountains.⠀ ⠀ Having arrived at the very front of the summit spur, I stand still. It feels strange that suddenly I have no more further to go. I sink down to my knees, tired and happy, even though I wouldn’t be able to express it that way right now. Briefly I think about Conrad. He is the only one I would have liked to share this moment with.⠀ ⠀ Then the short wave of emotions is over, and the knowledge that I should descend the mountain as far as possible today takes hold. I’ve achieved my goal and the descent is upon me – as I’ll have only fully succeeded when I’m back down again.⠀ ⠀ Click my bio link to watch the entire series of videos from Basecamp to Summit.⠀ ⠀ #LunagRi #firstascent #himalayas⠀ ⠀ @Redbull @thenorthface @gloryfy @lasportivagram @kaestleski @Leki.Ski.Outdoor⠀

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Slovak Direct

Chantel Astorga and Anne Gilbert Chase made the first female ascent of the Slovak Direct, a 3,000-metre grade VI on Denali in June.

It took the strong alpinists four days to climb Slovak Direct 5.9 X M6 WI6+. Chase said of the nearly two-mile-long route, “It’s extremely steep with a lot of mixed climbing and a bit of everything.

“There is also a lot of water ice up to WI6 and difficult rock. Though not extremely hard off on the ground, climbing at 16,000 feet with runouts and with a pack on added to the challenge.”

Yesterday Chantel and I stepped off the Kahiltna glacier back into Talkeetna after almost a month off the grid. Smelling the warm summer air and putting on flip flops and cotton never felt so good. // From June 2-5 2018, C and I made the 9th overall (we think) and first female ascent of the Slovak direct on the South Face of Mount Denali completing a 2 year dream. It was an amazing and wild adventure that I can’t put into words at this time. It took everything we had and challenged our mental and physical strength many times over. What a beautiful mountain and a badass route! Thank you Blažej Adam, Tono Križo and František Korl for the vision in 1984. Thank you to @petzl_official for making this dream a reality and to @patagonia @lasportivana @julboeyewearna @clifbar for keeping me warm and happy up there. Also thank you to the @denalinps rangers for all of the hard work you do on the mountain. What an amazing place!! #alpineclimbing #denalinationalpark #lovethelifeyoulive

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Babsi and Jacopo on Eiger

Babsi Zangerl and Jacopo Larcer climbed the three hardest routes on the Eiger’s north face this summer.

Climbing ground-up and in a single push, they made the second ascent of Odyssee, a 1,400-metre 5.13 first climbed in 2015 by Roger Schaeli, Robert Jasper and Simon Gietl.

The week before, they climbed Deep Blue Sea 5.13 and Magic Mushroom 5.13 during their first trip up the big north face.

It was always a big dream to climb a route on the famous Eiger northface. But it is not easy to find a perfect weather window with good conditions for the long routes. So it can turn out to be a real serious adventure. Exactly how it felt to free climb all 33pitches to the top of “Odyssee”. Unforgettable experience. Some wet pitches scared us like hell and we were close to give up on some points. At the end the whole adventure went out pretty lucky and we completed a “all free” ascent in 4 days for both of us. Super happy!!! High five for @rogerschaeli @robertjasperextremeclimber and @gietlsimon for this amazing route they put up and “team-freeclimbed” in 2015 as the hardest „freeclimb“ on the Eiger! #tired #liveclimbrepeat #bdofficeibksingleledgeadventure Big thanks for @paolosartophoto for joining us and taking some stunning pics.

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Cassin Ridge

Colin Haley, one of the world’s most accomplished alpinists, made the fastest solo ascent of the Cassin Ridge VI on Denali in a mere eight hours and seven minutes from the Bergschrund to summit. Most climbers take between three and five days.

Haley said after, “The crux was getting off-route near the top of the second rock band and accidentally climbing a more difficult variation.

“I’d say that many solos are very mentally taxing for me, especially things like Torre Egger, but since the technical climbing on the Cassin is pretty easy for me, it was more of an athletic challenge than a mental one. For training, I spent six weeks in Chamonix beforehand, just doing a lot of alpine climbing and ski mountaineering.”