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1979 First Free-Climb of El Capitan, Yosemite

Mountain 69

September/October 1979

"El Cap Done Free"

In an amazing ascent Ray Jardine and Bill Price managed in May to free climb West Face Route, El Capitan. They worked on the first pitches in the expectation that the seventh pitch would be the crux. "But it went at a reasonable 5.11," was the 'pleasant surprise' for Jardine. Whilst making the complete ascent later, after leaving the first two pitches only fixed, they found three pitches of 5.11 in two days of climbing. The climb was originally done by Royal Robbins and TM Herbert in 1967 and was graded V1,5.9 A4. The 2,000 ft route is now the first all-free way to climb El Capitan and thus represents a landmark in the history of Yosemite climbing.

Ray's historical notes:

¤  May 14, 1979 - I freed the first 2 pitches, with Susie belaying.

¤  May 17, 1979 - I jumared the first 2 and belayed Bill Price free. We then alternated leads to the top of the 7th pitch.

¤ May 20, 1979 - With the first two fixed, we alternated the entire route in a single day. Not two days as indicated in the Mountain article.

This was the First free ascent of a grade VI in the country, and the first free ascent of an El Cap big wall.

The story has 26 pages. This is page 5.
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