On El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, Babsi Zangerl and Lara Neumeier manage a free ascent of the Muir Blast/El Corazon big wall linkup. Over six days they climb 35 pitches with difficulty up to 8a and experience a terrible moment of shock while hauling in a long traverse.
For the Austrian trad specialist Babsi Zangerl is the Muir Blast/El Corazon already the sixth big wall route El Capitan, which she can climb freely. For her rope partner Lara Neumeier On the other hand, the 1000 meter granite walls in Yosemite, California are new territory - given this fact, their free access is all the more impressive.
Not a perfect start
The pair's venture to climb the Muir Blast/El Corazon Groud-Up combination got off to anything but an optimal start. “I injured my finger, our haul bag got jammed and Lara dropped a shoe and a Jumar,” says Babsi Zangerl.
Despite these initial difficulties, they managed 11 pitches on the first day and 6 on the following day. From Bird Beak they rappelled directly to Mammut Ledge in order to carry all the material to the highest point the next day.
The hauling nightmare
They started the arduous work at 3 in the morning. During a 50-meter crossing with fairly loose rock, the heavy haul bag got caught on a scale. “We pulled on the rope from both sides, but the haulbag didn’t budge,” remembers Babsi Zangerl.
That was definitely the most shocking moment of the entire route. “A large rock fall on El Cap meant a great risk for the other climbers below us as well as for the tourists at the base of the wall.”
The first thing the two of them did was fix the haul bag. Lara then climbed over to him, detached him from the scale and tried to fix it.
Climbing helmet wedged in the crack
Day 4 began with the 7c pitch, which the duo were unable to free in the blazing sun the day before. While Lara found a dynamic solution, Babsi relied on fine strips. Via a technical, flat 7b+ they entered a system of cracks that were wider than they were used to.
A huge and intimidating fireplace awaited them. “It was my turn to climb and I have to say that I still feel like a beginner in wide cracks,” says Babsi Zangerl.
The fact that she didn't take off her helmet for this pitch would soon prove to be a mistake. “A little later I was effectively stuck with the helmet and had to pull it out with my free hand without falling out of the crack myself.” The plan was successful and Babsi fought his way up to the next stand with the last of his strength.
Then it was Lara's turn. She gave it her all and only fell out shortly before the stand. To Babsi Zangerl's surprise, she tried again. "I didn't think she would ever want to try this thing again after such a heartbreakingly long battle." But the second attempt was successful and the two were “back in the game”.
After a 6b chimney that felt like 8a, the climbers moved into their sleeping place below the last key pitches. It was now one o'clock in the night. At 2 a.m. they were all settled in and treated themselves to a meal.
Self-imposed compulsory break
After just three hours of sleep, the two feel like they've been hit by a truck. The previous four days of intensive climbing and the non-stop hauling had left their mark. So they treated themselves to a day of climbing and relaxation and immediately fell back to sleep.
Time is running out
A total of 10 pitches, including one 8a, three 7c+ and a few tricky sevens, separated the two from the exit. Given their condition, it was anything but certain whether they would be able to do it in one day, says Babsi Zangerl.
Both freed the first crux pitch in the first attempt, with Lara giving loud battle cries for the first time. Now all that was left to do was tackle the large roof.
“I tried to persuade her to try to flash,” Babsi remembers, “and half an hour later she did exactly that: she flashed the roof. What a moment!” After Babsi had also freed the length, they treated themselves to a long break.
Afterwards they fought their way along pitch by pitch. And even though the difficulties increased towards the top, finding the way proved difficult, especially as their headlamps gradually stopped working. “To be honest, it felt like an eternity before we finally got to the top.”
«We felt shaky and had had enough of big wall climbing. At the same time, we felt so happy: we had achieved our goal of climbing everything freely and we really had to suffer for it. Another great adventure that we will remember forever.”
That might interest you
- Laura Tiefenthaler and Babsi Vigl climb the integral traverse of the Drei Zinnen
- Babsi Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher repeat Eternal Flame (650m, 7c+) at the Trango Tower
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Credits: Cover picture Miška Izakovičová