US climber Mason Earle has freed The Heart Route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park alongside partner Brad Gobright, who managed to free all but just a few metres of climbing.
The Heart Route is an iconic line which takes in one of the most distinctive rock features in Yosemite, situated on the southwest face of El Capitan and first climbed by Scott Davis and Chuck Kroger in 1970. The route was originally graded VI 5.9 A4.
The free version consists of a 34-pitch 5.13b with five 5.12 pitches and eight 5.13 pitches. The crux move on the 6th pitch which defeated Gobright involved a downward, sideways dyno graded around V10 in difficulty.
Having attempted to free the climb 5 years ago but to no avail, Earle and Gobright returned this season - inspired by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson's perseverance on and eventual ascent of the Dawn Wall (UKC News Report). The pair spent 6 days on the wall during the final push and topped out on 17th June.
The free version begins left of the Salathé Wall on the pillar called the Slack then trends right after four pitches for several harder pitches leading to Heart Ledge. Above, the climbers followed the Salathé for a few pitches, then traversed back right to follow the Heart Route to the summit. Near the top of the route, they climbed into Golden Gate, Alex Huber and Max Reichel’s 2001 free route which links Salathé and Heart Route.
Mason also recently climbed a 5.14 finger crack in Utah with just one shoe...(UKC News Report and video).