Hazel Findlay has made a free ascent of the classic 35 pitch Salathe Wall on El Capitan's Southwest Face, Yosemite Valley. Hazel worked the line for four days from above before completing the route in an eight day push with her partner Jonny Baker, who also came close to a free ascent. The pair even sat out a snow storm along the way.
Commenting on Instagram, Hazel wrote:
'Psyched! The free Salathé. Super happy to have ticked this all time classic off the list. At the top of El Cap with only air beneath your feet it's the kind of climbing which has your stomach talking to you with excitement and apprehension. We worked it from the top for 4 days then went from the ground on an epic all-weather 8 day push.'
No stranger to El Cap big walls, in 2011 Hazel made the first female ascent of Golden Gate before making the first female ascent of Pre-Muir Wall in 2012 and an ascent of Freerider in just three days in 2013.
The Salathé was first freed in 1988 by Todd Skinner and Paul Piana over eight days after thirty days of working the line; the first free ascent of a main El Cap route. The first female free ascent was made by Steph Davis in 2005. The crux headwall pitch is an imposing crack line with plenty of exposure.
Hazel's free ascent is only the second British ascent in this style after James McHaffie's free climb in 2014 (UKC News report).
Before starting work on the Salathé, Hazel made an impressive flash ascent of The Phoenix, the first 5.13 crack in North America, onsighted by the likes of Beth Rodden and Jerry Moffat in their prime. Hazel lost her onsight after belaying James McHaffie a few years earlier, but was keen for the flash having 'saved' it for many years.