Pete Whittaker Flashes El Cap
Pete Whittaker has flashed the famous route, Freerider 5.12d. He climbed it with Tom Randall in mid-October.
U.K. strongman Whittaker has spent much of the later half of 2014 in Yosemite. He said that he is surprised by the lack of progression in big wall climbing. By that, he refers to flashing/onsighting big wall routes.
“One of the odd things about big wall climbing is that standards seem to lag behind other parts of climbing. While Paul Robinson is out there cranking V14s and Adam Ondra on the 5.15s, the big wall free climbers are stuck at 5.14- at the cutting edge. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson being the exception of course. It would seem that standards should be broadly in line across all styles, but even in the access-friendly Yosemite, this does’t seem to be the case,” said Whittaker.
“Likewise, the onsight/flash standards have lagged on the big walls. The biggest surprise to many might be that El Capitan has still never had a pure onsight of any of its free routes, despite the grades rarely going over 5.13+ on the hardest pitches. So why is this? Is it the cumulative effect of tiredness? The diversity of climbing styles? The skin condition issues of five days of continuous climbing?”
Freerider was first established by the Huber brothers in 1998 and essentially forms an “easy version” of Salathe on the left side of El Capitan.
Whittaker continues his story on the Wide Boyz blog. In the end, he flashed Freerider for the first possible flash/onsight of the wall. Mid-way they had to retreat off the wall because Randall was ill. So technically, they left and returned. Nevertheless, Whittaker onsighted every pitch of the route.
Whittaker said his favourite big wall flash attempts are:
Cedric Lachat’s Freerider attempt
Ueli Steck on Golden Gate, one fall
Leo Houlding on El Nino, a few falls
Yuji Hirayama on Salathe, four falls