Alex Honnold and Brad Gobright climb El Niño via variation

Alex Honnold and Brad Gobright have teamed up to make the second free ascent of El Niño (5.13c/8a+) via a three-pitch extension called Pineapple Express. The variation was first climbed by Sonnie Trotter and Honnold in 2018, although Honnold was unable to join Trotter for the final push, therefore Trotter, supported by Tommy Caldwell free climbed the route in a 13-hour push.

Honnold and Gobright began their push at 4pm once the wall was in the shade and topped out at sunrise after a 'brutal' 14.5-hour ascent. The route includes six pitches of 5.13, five pitches of 5.12 and a lot of 5.11/5.10.

Brad Gobright wrote: 'The ascent was full of grunting, groaning and the occasional scream. Alex has done almost no outside climbing this year but still crushed it with only a few falls on the soaking wet 13a pitch at the very top. I had a bit more trouble but still managed to send the route. Alex ended up leading most of the hardest pitches, but I'm still really psyched for how things turned out. I was almost certain I'd have to save this climb for the colder and drier conditions of next Fall. Even in the night this route was pretty warm.

'Today my body is super wrecked, and I think I'll be feeling this way for a while longer. I'll probably just be napping, eating and basking in the send glory for the next couple days.'

@alexhonnold and I just sent El Niño on El Cap last night! We started at 4pm soon after the wall got into the shade and topped out in the beautiful sunrise of this morning. It was a brutal 14.5 hour ascent with six pitches of 5.13, five pitches of 5.12 and plenty of 5.10 and 5.11 pitches. We took the Pineapple Express variation put up by Alex and @sonnietrotter which allows all of El Niño to go free. The ascent was full of grunting, groaning and the occasional scream. Alex has done almost no outside climbing this year but still crushed it with only a few falls on the soaking wet 13a pitch at the very top. I had a bit more trouble but still managed to send route. Alex ended up leading most of the hardest pitches but I'm still really psyched for how things turned out. I was almost certain I'd have to save this climb for the colder and drier conditions of next Fall. Even in the night this route was pretty warm. Today my body is super wrecked and I think I'll be feeling this way for a while longer. I'll probably just be napping, eating and basking in the send glory for the next couple days. @gramicci_climb @evolv_worldwide @frictionlabs

A post shared by Brad Gobright (@bradgobright) on

El Niño was first climbed by Alex and Thomas Huber in 1998 and was the third free route on El Cap. The route included an A0 section known as the 'Man Powered Rappel' – a section that the brothers couldn't find a way to free climb. Trotter's variation completely avoids the rappel by taking a more direct line. Trotter told planetmountain.com in 2018: 'It was a major pain in the ass to find and to equip because it's right in the middle of the 2700-foot wall. Gaining access was the biggest crux.'

Below is a video of Jacob Cook and Robbie Phillips free climbing El Niño in 2016:


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Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America’s biggest cliffs have made him one of the most recognised and followed climbers in the world. A gifted but hard-working...

Alex's Athlete Page 18 posts 8 videos

Brad Gobright has made a name for himself in the world of hard soloing, racking up many terrifying ascents. He's also at home on big walls, scary trad and speed ascents.

Brad's Athlete Page 2 post



12 Jun

Was the word 'push' in this context invented by Tommy caldwell when he did dawn wall?

Because I like Tommy caldwell, seems a nice chap. But I'll struggle to forgive him for this :)

12 Jun

No, has been in use forever in Alpine / greater ranges climbing.

CB

12 Jun

Tommy's use of the term in his book title is of course a deliberate ambiguity referring to a previous key event in his life.

13 Jun

Sounds unusual for Alex - any idea why this is?

13 Jun

I guess most of his time has been spent in interviews on Free Solo.

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