Alex Honnold is back in familiar territory: Yosemite National Park‘s El Capitan, where he and Tommy Caldwell set a new speed record last summer by climbing the famed Nose route in under two hours (and where he made his death-defying free solo climb in 2017). This time, Honnold returned with climbing partner Brad Gobright for a free ascent of the El Niño route on El Cap, making them the second pair ever to do so, Rock and Ice reports.
“The ascent was full of grunting, groaning and the occasional scream,” Gobright wrote on Instagram after the pair completed the climb.
He and Honnold began the ascent in the late afternoon on June 10, and topped out 14 and a half hours later, according to Rock and Ice. They followed the El Niño route, which was first established in 1998, and included the Pineapple Express variation pioneered by Honnold and climber Sonnie Trotter in 2017. This variation makes it possible to free climb the entire ascent, and in 2018, Trotter and Tommy Caldwell became the first to free climb the whole route using the variation. Talking with Rock and Ice yesterday, Gobright pointed out that this route is a little different from others on El Cap.
“El Niño doesn’t have the glorious never-ending splitter style of climbing that El Cap is known for, but the climbing is interesting and a little scary at times,” he said. “Most of the hard pitches involve technical face climbing.”
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@alexhonnold and I just sent El Niño on El Cap last night! We started at 4pm soon after the wall got into the shade and topped out in the beautiful sunrise of this morning. It was a brutal 14.5 hour ascent with six pitches of 5.13, five pitches of 5.12 and plenty of 5.10 and 5.11 pitches. We took the Pineapple Express variation put up by Alex and @sonnietrotter which allows all of El Niño to go free. The ascent was full of grunting, groaning and the occasional scream. Alex has done almost no outside climbing this year but still crushed it with only a few falls on the soaking wet 13a pitch at the very top. I had a bit more trouble but still managed to send route. Alex ended up leading most of the hardest pitches but I’m still really psyched for how things turned out. I was almost certain I’d have to save this climb for the colder and drier conditions of next Fall. Even in the night this route was pretty warm. Today my body is super wrecked and I think I’ll be feeling this way for a while longer. I’ll probably just be napping, eating and basking in the send glory for the next couple days. @gramicci_climb @evolv_worldwide @frictionlabs
Rainy weather has made this climbing season a dicey one in Yosemite, to the point where Gobright wasn’t sure if he and Honnold would be able to pull off El Niño this year at all. Despite some wet conditions on the rock face, and the fact that Honnold hasn’t done much outdoor climbing this year, the pair made the most of their weather window. Now it’s time for some well deserved rest.
“My body is super wrecked,” Gobright wrote on Instagram. “I’ll probably just be napping, eating and basking in the send glory for the next couple days.”