US climber Carlo Traversi has made the long-awaited first repeat of Beth Rodden's Meltdown 5.14c/8c+ at the Upper Cascade Falls, Yosemite Valley. Rodden made the first ascent in 2008 and the line was both the hardest single pitch trad climb in the USA and the hardest trad climb established by a woman at the time (and to our knowledge, remains so).
Although Meltdown is not a dangerous trad line, the gear is small, fiddly and very blind. The route was a discarded Ron Kauk project, which follows a thin seam that even the smallest of fingers struggle to make use of. As a result, the climb largely consists of strenuous laybacking moves on poor footholds and has seen off numerous attempts by capable crack climbers over the years, including Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker and Tommy Caldwell.
Traversi first attempted the route in 2013 but 'got completely shut down' by the technical moves on glassy footholds. In 2015 he managed to top-rope the line cleanly, but poor weather in the following two years hampered attempts. A dry Autumn and current cooler temperatures aligned this month to enable an ascent. Traversi climbed the route on his 3rd attempt of the day, placing all gear on lead to match Rodden's style of ascent in 2008.
Commenting on Instagram, Traversi praised 'the vision, tenacity, and incredible climbing ability that brought this route to life over 10 years ago.' He added: 'The First Ascent of this route is a benchmark in the history of climbing and is one of the most impressive achievements I can think of in the last few decades.'
Meltdown. What a ride. First tried this beautiful line in 2013 and got completely shut down. Couldn't figure out how to stand on the absolutely miserable footholds. The next year I tried again and solved the crux, a desperate lie back section on gently overhanging granite while smearing on glass. I thought everything would come together quickly after that but I was wrong. It's one thing to climb through a difficult section, it's another to be relaxed enough while you're doing it to not burn yourself out for the rest of the route. I top roped it clean at the end of 2015, got desperately close on lead, and then proceeded to go to war with the weather through 2016 and 2017. This season it all came together. A dry Fall and this week the colder temps are just sweeping into the Valley. Yesterday I was able to climb it on my 3rd try of the day after a couple weird slips after the crux on the first two tries. All gear was placed on lead, after the first piece was placed I climbed back down to the ground to re-chalk and re-compose. The climbing went smoothly including the placement of the final #4 @blackdiamond Stopper which is always a tricky one to get in. A massive thanks to @marymeck for all the days supporting me in the Valley through some of the coldest times. And my brother @gtraversi for standing in knee deep ice water in underwear in freezing temps to belay when the pool at the base of the route filled up. Last but not least a huge thanks to @bethrodden for the vision, tenacity, and incredible climbing ability that brought this route to life over 10 years ago. The First Ascent of this route is a benchmark in the history of climbing and is one of the most impressive achievements I can think of in the last few decades. Respect. Photo by @bearcam. @blackdiamond @blackdiamond_climb @fiveten_official @frictionlabs @theboulderfield
Earlier this year, another contender for the world's hardest single pitch trad climb, Nico Favresse's 2013 route Recovery Drink 5.14+ at Jøssingfjord in Norway, received its first repeat by Daniel Jung.