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Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold Free New El Cap Route

It follows a line of cracks and face pitches near New Dawn

Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have freed a new monster route on El Capitan in Yosemite. The new all-free climb heads up a variation to Early Morning Light and New Dawn to the right of The Nose.

The route was a project started by Leo Houlding nearly 20 years ago. He’d freed pitches up to the top of El Cap Tower and called it Passage to Freedom. Kevin Jorgeson had joined Caldwell and Honnold, but wasn’t on the final free push. Caldwell said the route has “some of the most spectacular climbing I have found.”

Caldwell has made a number of first free ascents on El Capitan, including the West Buttress in 2003, Dihedral Wall in 2004, Magic Mushroom in 2008 and Dawn Wall in 2015. Honnold made a free solo of El Capitan via Freerider two years ago. And in 2018, Honnold and Caldwell set a new speed record up The Nose in less than two hours. There are few details about their new route, so be sure to watch for info on their social media below.

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We’ve been keeping things kinda vegue this season as to not make too much of a spectacle. But @alexhonnold and I, with @austin_siadak and @kjorgeson finished a pretty legit new free route on El Cap a few days ago. It primarily followed the aid climb New Dawn and has some of the most spectacular climbing I have found. It’s a continuation of a free route that @leo_houlding established half way up the wall 18 years ago called Passage to Freedom. That route was ahead of its time and a work of art in itself featuring El Caps first sideways Dyno. Leo also bolted a Alfa Romeo hood badge to the wall which he used as a handhold to get past a section he believed was impossible without. (We found a way around). After a few weeks of work, having not tried many of sections of the climb, Alex and I went for kind of a Hail Mary attempt. Miraculously we pulled it off! Life complications kept Kevin away for too much of the Toiling and working of the route for him to feel ready for the Hail Mary. Wish you could have been with us buddy. There are many great stories and photos from @austin_siadak. So I’m going to try and share a few in the coming days. Last photo in the reel is Leo back in the day and was taken by Andrew Mcgarry.

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Passage to Freedom

“I wanted to find a way to free climb the Dawn Wall and decided to attempt a line built around the aid climb, New Dawn,” wrote Houlding in the American Alpine Journal in 2000. “Andrew McAllum fixed ropes to the fourth belay. I spent several days on these pitches, closely inspecting all the free lines on offer. After climbing pitch one of Mescalito and conducting a few wild pendulums, I found a way through the initial polished, blank slabs into the comer and crack systems of New Dawn.”

The crack system proved to hard to climb and led to blank rock. Houlding moved to an old bolt ladder, a pitch that became Alfa Slab 5.13b. The first three pitches went at 5.12b, 5.10 and 5.12c.

“At this point the line split into two distinct routes,” Houlding wrote. “The right-hand comer looked climbable, but only if there was a way to cross the featureless rock between the two lines to get to it… Having never placed a bolt before, I didn’t do a very good job, so when it came to climbing this section I would have to contend with a spinning hold!”

Houlding went for a redpoint push a few days later. “I then returned to the Alfa Slab. I took a belay at the hands-off rest by the bolt that Kevin Thaw had placed for me. An imaginative reverse mantle, then tiny holds led to a balancey reach for the Alfa badge. A fantastic double dyno off the badge to the start of the ledge systems and the hardest climbing of the route was over. The way I climbed it created a long 5.13b and a short 5.13c pitch. Now all that remained were the three comer pitches from Lay Lady Ledge onto El Cap Tower.”

Houlding stopped working on his new free route shortly after. “I had failed. But in this failure I think I learned more about myself, people and climbing than in any success. The three 5.11s to El Cap Tower gave José and I a sweet and lasting reminder of what it is we climb for in the first place: the experience, not the achievement.”

Leo Houlding on Passage to Freedom Photo Andrew McGarry

Seven Memorable Caldwell Climbs on El Cap

2003: West Buttress VI 5.13c
2004: Dihedral Wall VI 5.14a
2005: The Nose VI 5.13, third/fourth free ascent with Beth Rodden
2008: Magic Mushroom VI 5.14a with Justen Sjong
2012: Yosemite Triple Crown 5.13a with Alex Honnold
2015: Dawn Wall 5.14d with Kevin Jorgeson
2018: The Nose 5.11 C2 sub-two-hour record with Alex Honnold