Road to Freerider

I was back in the valley for now my 4th trip and again with a different style of climbing on the agenda.  This time the goal was to push our skill and strength to the limit and try and free climb as much as we could on a variety of routs with the end goal to have a look at Freerider on el cap which deviates from Salathe walls head wall for 3 pitches.

It is one of the easiest routes on el cap but is still hard.  The Huber pitch use to go at 12 d about E7 which after hauling and climbing 20 pitches is HARD, but 3 years ago an Australian friend of mine broke off the jug and it is supposedly harder now…  But I had to go and have a look for my self.  I have been dreaming about doing the line every since my first trip.  But it is only now 6 years on I have the skills to even be looking at it.

I was with my good friend Nathan Murphy for this trip and managed to swindle the flights so that we went for 4 weeks.  Which should have left enough time to get back in shape for hard climbing again, as I  had just finished a ski season.  Doing ski seasons is perfect for being a rubbish climber!  Well for me anyway, I eat and drink too much gain a lot of strength in the legs and lose the upper body.  But that is just me; my knick name of “the Fat man or Fat Oli” is not without reason.

The trip started with some classics like Serenity and Sons about E3, supper classic but I hate the first pitch it absolutely boxes you feet, but a great climb.  I remember the first time I did it 6 years previously I thought it was one of the best climbs in the valley.

We then got on some harder sport climbs I cant remember the names of and the great escape which had some great climbing on it.

The Granite was hard though and defiantly pushing me off it rather then me crushing it…  I needed to toughen up and get use to it again.  So we decided on a super chilled fun ascent of the Nose.  We took supplies for 6 days and it was brilliant.  The goal was to free as much as we could, and french free if not, but the goal was not to take the aiders with you and never use the fefe.  Which I managed, and only used them on the last pitch.  I did not care about the style of we did the route or time (obviously) as I have done the route before, so we climbed to sickle, fixing lines on the first day before retreating to the Awahney for the evening…

The next day we hauled and climbed up to the first pitch of the stove legs.  This was a brilliant section, with fun pendulums and great easy climbing.  The stove legs is only 5.8 maybe if you are Alex Huber but goes on forever, and if you are an unfit fat man like me I was Boxed at the top, I wanted to vomit.  It is dream climbing Camelot 2′s but I was defiantly not wall fit and I was dead after a long day.  But after all that is what we wanted from this wall, so it was perfect.  We took the portaledge that now has a definite sag to it, but it was great we had no pressure and could bivi anywhere.

We then went to El cap tower the next day and it was Nathan’s turn to lead and I jugged as I had lead all the day before.  So it was nice only about 5 pitches and

chilled for the afternoon to the tower, which is a fantastic bivi.  From there you have the King swing which is nuts, I gave Nathan the classic pitches like this, and he loved it.  You can link the swing and everything with a 60m but it is tight.  The pendulum is about a 50 meter horizontal run across the wall and is really tiring as you time your jumps and run alongside the feachers on the wall.

I then really enjoyed the climbing in the gray band.  It is amazing how much loose stuff there is on such a well-traveled route but it is really fun climbing.  I was then overtaken by Stanley who impressively linked all 3 pitches of the gray band with no gear so his belayer could jug straight to the great roof, very impressive and defiantly inspired me.

Then for the rest of the wall Pancake flake and the alcove were the real highlights for me, after topping out we left on top and had a fire in traditional style.  It was a great wall and surly one of the best climbs in the world, If you go for it I would say try and free as much as you can, and if you climb E3 crack you will have a great time on it, just take your time and have fun.

We were then pretty spent, as you would be from pulling up a 60kg haul bag 1000m up a wall.  But it was not over… The east ledges decent is never as easy as you think, and I would go as far as to say it is harder than climbing up some routes on el cap, it is just a pain in the ass!

So with a few days to rest we headed west to Vegas and Death Valley.  Vegas is pretty bonkers, but I am over it there, but defiantly

good to go once.  Death valley on the other hand and the desert around there was awesome.  It was sooo hot as well, you felt like you were in the sauna world championships.  I loved just going on random walks, and if you walked in any direction you would find something.  It is so dry there that things don’t really degrade, or do very slowly.  We found lots of artifacts from the 20’s and rattle snakes, which were very cool.

It was then back to the valley and we got on Astroman and separate reality, getting horribly lost trying to find both, but we were lucky to run into Tommy and Becka Caldwell who led us to Astroman, and we climbed behind.  It was incredible to watch him lead the Enduro corner ahead of me, his technique was incredible, making it look like you could stem and scissor on who knows what, the whole way up on good holds.  This was not the case as I was boxed out of my head trying to find the footholds and finding nothing.













The Enduro corner is one of the best pitches I have been on, and was not able to onsite it even with Nathan’s promise of buying me a pizza if I do.  But next time it is going down, and I can’t wait.  I learnt so much about climbing crack from that pitch almost that you would think I have never climbed before, I was really enlightened by it and just figured out a big part of the puzzle.

The weather then came in for 2 days, which was not bad considering we had incredibly lucky with the weather and it was good for the rest of the trip, after all it was May.  So we went to Santa Cruz to get away from the Memorial Day crounds in the valley and see friends.

We only now had 3 days left with the weather so decided to have a look at Freerider.  It is only a climb but it takes a lot to even try something like Freerider it is a monster!  So we did the free blast (the first 10 pitches of the route) the day we got back which was fun.  I managed to fall out of the half dollar twice… but was just being stupid and it was actually really easy and an awesome pitch.

Then with only 2 days left we decided to walk up the East ledges and rapped the route inspecting it as we go, and climbing the hard pitches to see if it will go.  I made a route finding error and went down the Salathe headwall instead.  It is an insane pitch.  It has the most exposure you have ever seen and requires some devious down aiding to get down it.  It is a beast of a pitch, I can only dream of being strong enough to try it.


So we abseiled down to el cap spire, and left fixed lines to the top of the tephlon corner to try the next day.  El Cap spire is a very cool bivi which you wonder how long it is going to be before it falls off like many features on el cap, and is hard to work out what is actually holding the whole thing up.


The next morning we were up at the tephlon corner, which was not what I expected to look like at all.  I was expecting a long soaring overhanging pitch like the enduro corner but with no holds.  In fact it is quite ledgey and when inspecting it on my way up all the holds were there.  The Huber pitch is only about 10m long and only 5m of that is hard the rest of it is jugs and the hard bit is protected by 3 bolts I could not believe it.  On my first go I did all the moves individually.  I was so psyched it only took 20minutes to work out and was a real goer, I know I can do the pitch.


This was due to the spray down I received off Tommy a few day before though, which instead of a crazy looking hands and foot loose dyno, you can do it statically with a unbelievable karate chop with the left leg on the wall and it is easy.  Thank god for all my training at Rex Quon Do…




Then it was down on to the Monster off with.  We did if on top rope and when I was being lowered into it you cant believes it you just keep going down it is like 60m, I know I was about to get raped as I am not a good off with climber.


And oh did I get raped afterwards I felt like the left side of my body was paralyzed and it was a mad bad fight, but I figured it out and got up it.  The key was just keeping low feet and let the feet do all the work pretty simple but so easy to forget.


It was a great pitch to finish on and the next day we were back off home and the end of a satisfying trip.  I am so pumped to go back and Chris and me are planning a 3-month trip to the states next year.  I can’t wait.

Here is a video I put together about the trip:

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