Respect The Nose
July 28, 2007 2:28 AM   Subscribe

I am going to be a storm-a flame
I need to fight whole armies alone;
I have ten hearts; I have a hundred arms;
I feel too strong to war with mortals-

Lynn Hill's free climb of 'The Nose' route on El Capitan (GoogleVid 19:40). "What stunned the climbing world (although if anyone could do it, Hill could) was her success in freeing The Nose in 1993 over the course of four days, finishing a project no one else had managed in 30 years. To "free" a route you must climb only the rock, and only with your hands and feet. Although Hill could rest at belay stations and had a climbing partner to catch her when she fell, she led every pitch and managed to climb sections that previously had been ascended only with "aid"--that is, by hanging and climbing on equipment placed in the rock. She went back in '94 and did the same route, free, in 23 hours."[from her bio] Always wanted to try climbing? Have Lynn teach you.[image gallery][terminology]
posted by sluglicker (21 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
"I was quaking in my boots."
posted by Mblue at 2:58 AM on July 28, 2007

Or you could do it like Captain Kirk, and hope Spock, wearing his anti-gravity boots, catches you when you fall.

Seriously, stuff like this makes my palms sweaty.
posted by bwg at 4:11 AM on July 28, 2007

I cannot imagine what it is like to be looking down the face of that mountain. Just the idea of climbing a 3000' mountain using 50/60m ropes is amazing, what needs to be done...the pendulum swings...
Then to free- climb it

Excellent fiction about climbing El Cap: Looking for Mo
posted by MtDewd at 4:19 AM on July 28, 2007

Not to diminish this impressive un-aided achievement, but doesn't "free climbing" mean challenging the route without the safety net of a harness and belay?
posted by three blind mice at 4:42 AM on July 28, 2007

That's usually called "free solo".
posted by gleuschk at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2007

My 4 year old daughter and I watched this intently.
Thanks for posting.
I liked how she talked about her mental preparations, practicing attacking climbs without self doubt.
posted by kendroberts at 5:42 AM on July 28, 2007

This is free solo. Yes, he was insane. Was.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:42 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yosemite is mecca to climbers. It's where a lot of modern climbing techniques were developed, and there are some stories about nights spent on El Capitan and Half Dome that will turn your hair white.

Lynn Hill's feat is freaking incredible. A lot of people don't have fingers small enough for the crack in the seam of the Great Roof pitch of El Cap.

Someone else kicking ass on El Cap is Hans Florine, who with Yuji Hirayama speed climbed the Nose in 2:48:50. Under three hours. For something that takes most first-timers on the route multiple days. Granted, he's not free climbing, he's pulling out every trick in the book and taking calculated risks.

Big Wall climbing is a totally different discipline from free climbing. Different gear, different style, different mindset. To tackle a huge wall by climbing it free is an incredible feat that can't be done by many people in the world, and this is why Lynn Hill gets paid to climb for a living.

I've been waiting for climbing to hit the blue. Climbing culture is un-fucking-real. People will get their panties in a wad over things that just make no sense to non-climbers. Local climbers are extremely protective of their areas, and access is everything. There's even a non-profit organization dedicated to aquiring climbing areas and protecting those that are currently open to climbing. The worst thing in the world for a climber is to remove their access to their favorite climbing spot. This happens when land managers either feel threatened by liability issues or get fed up with annoyances and decide to shut down the climbing on their land.

Consequently, people have a vested interest in responsible route development, and take things like Dean Potter's free solo of Delicate Arch very seriously (named arches in that park are not to be climbed, but Potter interpreted the regulation's since been clarified). I'd provide a link for that but so far searching is turning up Harry Potter fan fiction.

If you want to get over 2,000 feet off the ground and not need to be a super badass to do it, I recommend El Potrero Chico near Monterrey, Mexico.

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:44 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can someone explain how they get the footage? I've never understood how they shoot rock climbers. It seems like it must be a helicopter but that doesn't make sense logically.
posted by dobbs at 6:42 AM on July 28, 2007

well, i think they can shoot some of the footage themselves, of course. they can also send climbing teams up ahead and film the climbers at they pass. in the case of this footage, there's any one of a number of routes on el capitan parallel to the nose route that they can send people up who can film from there. on the nose route, the two cruxes she works though (the "great roof" and "changing corners") are relatively close to the top, so it's conceivable that the photographers could rappel in from above.

this ascent is one of the great athletic achievements of the last century, imo. it's a tremendous accomplishment that clearly pointed the way towards entirely new possibilities for the sport.

and just for grins, here's a map of routes up el cap.
posted by the painkiller at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2007

That is amazing. She is hot, but those man hands!
posted by autodidact at 7:26 AM on July 28, 2007

but those man hands!

You mean hands that are dirty and maybe scarred and look like they have done important things.

Her hands are actually quite small and delicate - being female may have helped her with some of those tiny cracks. Certainly I doubt that my larger female hands would have fit in some.
posted by jb at 7:46 AM on July 28, 2007

spike...mints, here's an article about dean potter's ascent of delicate arch. if lynn hill's free climb of the nose route is the zenith of the sport, potter's ascent of delicate arch has to rank at or close to the nadir.
posted by the painkiller at 7:48 AM on July 28, 2007

but doesn't "free climbing" mean challenging the route without the safety net of a harness and belay?

No, only to the non-climber. Free climbing has always meant "not aid climbing." Non-climbers have no idea what the distinction is, so often use the term free climbing to mean climbing without a rope. Climbers don't use it that way.

Very few climbers climb without a rope. When they do, they call it soloing (or free soloing if they are trying to be very specific, but usually rope soloing is employed if one is climbing alone with gear, so soloing is hardly ever ambiguous. Rope soloing is very uncommon and specialized).

I saw Lynn Hill talk at the Patagonia store in downtown Denver back in 1994 — you know, when this was actually current news ... ;-p

She was a nice lady. But a very underwhelming public figure. And she's very short. Made me think about every time I whined about being short (I'm 5'7", I think she's like 5'2").

Free climbing The Nose is something that is hard to appreciate. It's not only 3500 feet of vertical (and more than vertical) cliff, it's also brutally difficult. One of the very last pitches is 5.13. That's Olympic calibre physical effort at the end of a very exhausting physical endeavor, more than 3000 feet off of the ground. 150' tall red woods look like tiny toys down below.

Pretty amazing.
posted by teece at 8:16 AM on July 28, 2007

Oh, I also want to add:

Lynn Hill is also very lucky to be alive. She forgot to buckle her harness on a route once, and fell 80' when she weighted the rope at the end, to lower off.

She walked a way with only a dimple-like scar on her butt. Amazingly lucky.

(I've forgotten to buckle my harness, too. I noticed before I weighted the rope, thankfully. This is why I no longer like harnesses with velcro -- the velcro is a convenience, to make it easier to engage the buckle. But it also makes it possible to get interrupted mid-buckle, and then have your harness seem like it is on, when it isn't. Bad juju. Never talk to a climber when they are putting on their harness).
posted by teece at 8:32 AM on July 28, 2007

Can someone explain how they get the footage?

The footage is shot exclusively by a fellow rock climber(s), that climbs the same (or nearby) route with a camera, and finds a place to hang in their harness or stand/sit and do the filming. Same with most good climbing photography. Often times photographers will have elaborate gear setups, and carefully chosen positions, that allow them to get as far away from the main rock wall as possible, to get good shots.
posted by teece at 8:38 AM on July 28, 2007

Great post, thanks. The woman has ovaries of steel.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2007

Some of those heli shots are incredible. She's so excrutiatingly tiny against that rock face!

People do amazing things in this gigantic ol' world.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 AM on July 28, 2007

What makes Hill's ascent even more impressive is that it took eleven years and many, many tries by many talented climbers (almost all men) for someone to repeat it. In fall 2005 Tommy Caldwell and his wife Beth Rodden freed the nose, smashing the myth that it was Hill's small fingers that allowed her to free the great roof. Even more impressive, two weeks later Caldwell went and free climbed both the nose and another route called freerider in the same day, leading every pitch. That's over 6,000 feet of free climbing very hard terrain in under 24 hours. The man is a machine.
posted by alpinist at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2007

smashing the myth that it was Hill's small fingers that allowed her to free the great roof

Or supporting the thesis that Tommy Caldwell is a fucking god. He did it with only 9 fingers.
posted by gleuschk at 2:22 PM on July 28, 2007

My balls were trying to climb up into my gut watching that video. Climbing is probably not for me. Which is weird, because I was a fearless monkey of a child.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:14 AM on July 29, 2007

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