INTERVIEW: Hazel Findlay Climbs Freerider on El Cap

Hazel Findlay in Spice Girl  © Reel Rock 8
Hazel Findlay in Spice Girl
© Reel Rock 8

Hazel Findlay has just got down from another free ascent of El Capitan, having climbed Freerider, 5.12d, over three days with American James 'Big Fall' Lucas. This is Hazel's third free ascent of El Capitan, having freed Golden Gate, 5.13a, in 2011 and Pre-Muir Wall, 5.13c/d in 2012

Hazel and James abbed the route last wednesday, stashing water and a haulbag along the way to allow them to keep hauling at a minimum and enjoyment at a maximum. After a rest day, they started off up the wall at 4.30am, to allow them to climb the dreaded 'Monster Offwidth' before the route came into the sun. After two more days on the wall they topped out, with Hazel having freed every pitch and James just missing out on a free ascent due to hanging on the rope once on two seperate pitches. 

Duncan Campbell asked Hazel a few questions about her recent ascent of Freerider:

Duncan: Freerider contains a number of notorious pitches, worst of all, 'The monster' offwidth. What was the crux for you?

Hazel: The crux is supposed to be the 5.13a boulder problem. It took me a few tries which wouldn't have been stressful if it wasn't for the impending sun coming round the corner to spoil everything. The holds are small or slopey and it'd pretty hard to do it in the sun. But really the crux for me was not getting too tired on all the wide cracks. Doing the Monster on the first day having already climbed 12 pitches felt hard and then the upper quarter of the route has a lot of wide 5.10 which are all nails.

James Lucas seconding Hazel Findlay on the Enduro Corner, 5.12b, Freerider
© Hazel Findlay

Duncan: In what style did you free it?? Were you and James swinging leads?

Hazel: We swung leads for the most part, but I ended up leading the Monster because we fell getting in to it and then James lead the Scotty Burk (the last offwidth) because I thought I'd throw up if I saw another wide crack.

Duncan: Have you got any plas for the rest of your time in Yosemite?

Hazel: Not sure what's next, partners are running pretty thin for me in the valley now, so I'll just climb what I can with who I can. I always have fun on El Cap. Tomorrow I'm trying the Nose in a day with Hans Florine, should be fun! Maybe we'll beat the bisexual speed record (if he is willing to haul me)

Duncan: Did it all go to plan or did you have some uncertain moments?

Hazel: If I'm honest our ascent was an assisted ascent. Both James and I aren't the most organised of folk, and on day two found ourselves with dead batteries for one of our head torches. One of our friends happened to be trying freerider in a day and gave us his batteries. It may sound like a minor detail but with the california sun, you have to climb a lot in the dark, which is pretty hard without a headtorch - so thanks to Walker and Eliot for saving our bacon!

James on the notorious 'Monster Offwidth' pitch on Freerider, El Capitan
© Hazel Findlay

You can read more abut Hazel's ascent of Freerider, and about her climbing The Nose in a day on her blog here

Hazel Findlay is sponsored by: Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Sterling RopeThe North Face and Mule Bar

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Hazel Findlay has been climbing for 20 of her 28 years, and started out trad climbing on the limestone sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. She dabbled in competition climbing - she was the British junior champion six times - but...

Hazel's Athlete Page 43 posts 5 videos

30 Oct, 2013
Nice. Good to see Brits making a splash over in the states.
30 Oct, 2013
I wonder how much slower/faster it is than the lesbian speed record, or the transgender one... has anyone recorded a transvestite speed record on the Nose? :-)
31 Oct, 2013
So which woman has done the most free big walls on El Cap? Anybody got a scorecard?