In 2015, Emily Harrington freed Golden Gate 5.13 on El Capitan over six days. With the support of Adrian Balligner, in addition to a photo and video team, she completed one of the more impressive free climbs on the wall.
This week, Harrington tried to free Golden Gate in a push in a day with Alex Honnold supporting her. Honnold free-soloed much of the route as it shares pitches with Freerider 5.13, which he free-soloed in 2017. One of the pitches shared by the two routes is the Monster Offwidth, a chimney/crack high on the wall.
After she climbed Golden Gate in 2015, Harrington said, “Deep inside the dreaded Monster Offwidth, a 200-foot-long abnormally wide crack that requires a very special technique in order to be efficient and not completely exhaust oneself. Although only graded 5.11, I found this pitch to be the most intimidating and exhausting. For two-and-a-half hours I struggled my way up the Monster inch by inch, fighting as hard as I could to stay in. It was honestly one of the biggest efforts I’d ever put forth on a single pitch of climbing. Battle wounds as a result of going to war with the Monster. I’d struggled so hard to stay inside the crack that I wore a hole in my elbow and scraped all the skin off my left shoulder.”
In this year’s one-day attempt, Harrington made quick time up the wall to the Monster Offwidth. Once at the pitch, she slotted a number-six cam and started to work her way up. Every few moves, she slid the cam higher up, as a moving piece of protection.
Near the top, Harrington realized that she forgot to clip her rope into the cam. A good reminder to always be sure that you’re clipped in when moving fast.
She wrote on Instagram after her attempt, “The six is the only protection you get on the Monster, aside from a cam at the start and a bolt about 30 feet up. Then it’s around 80 feet of shuffling that 6 above your head until it’s too tight and you have to leave it behind for the last 20 feet.
“It came time to leave the six and I cautiously moved out a bit to get around it when I glanced down and realized that it wasn’t clipped to anything. I had pushed the cam up the entire Monster without actually clipping into it. I laughed out loud at the horror of taking a 100+ foot whipper and understood immediately why it was so easy to push up.”
Honnold said after the climb, “It was pretty inspiring to see her try her best and fight her way up to the last hard pitch. No send, but a lot of learning and character building, which is kind of all we’re after in wall climbing.” Read Harrington’s story below.
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We reached the base of the Monster Offwidth in a little less than 4 hours after leaving the ground. It was the fastest I’d climbed the bottom of El Capitan – with the golden ticket of a partner @alexhonnold simuling/jugging behind me. It felt pretty amazing to cover so much rock so quickly. After the powerful downclimb I lurched into the offwidth, shimying my body upward in the nausea-inducing way wide climbing provides. Although now I have a cheeky system that helps me squeak through this pitch w less drama and blood than before. After the downclimb I scrape my way up 15ft to a no hands pedestal and sit. I tag across a right approach shoe (@lasportivana TX4) and a #6 Camelot. I switch my right TC pro for the TX4 and now with a slightly larger more comfy right foot I am able to cam and heel-toe, a much more effective method than my prior reverse cheese grater strategy. Yesterday it felt easy. I was moving upward at a slow but consistent pace. Even the #6 – which is usually annoying to push above my head – was sliding smoothly and not snagging like usual. The 6 is the only protection you get on the Monster, aside from a cam at the start and a bolt about 30ft up. Then it’s around 80ft of shuffling that 6 above your head until it’s too tight and you have to leave it behind for the last 20ft. It came time to leave the 6 and I cautiously moved out a bit to get around it when I glanced down and realized that it wasn’t clipped to anything. I had pushed the cam up the entire Monster without actually clipping into it. I lol’ed at the horror of taking a 100+ft whipper and understood immediately why it was so easy to push up. My day did not end with a send of Golden Gate in a day, but I was damn close and I made it a lot further than I expected. I feel really lucky and grateful that I have the opportunity to put everything I have (time, energy, passion) into such a big project, that I have so much support from partners, friends, and sponsors; and that the Monster Offwidth is no longer my biggest fear on El Cap. Maybe I should just ditch that #6 all together next time? 📸 @austin_siadak of me entering the Monster at sunrise // @thenorthface_climb // @petzl_official