Connor Herson climbs Empath 9a+ on Trad Gear

© Christian Adam

18-year-old US climber Connor Herson recently made a trad ascent of Empath 5.15a/9a+ at Lake Tahoe in the northern Sierra Nevada, USA. Herson had previously redpointed the line as a sport route. If climbed on gear, Empath ranks among the hardest trad routes in the world and involves powerful compression moves on undercuts and sidepulls.

Connor Herson repeats Empath 9a+ on trad gear.  © Christian Adam
Connor Herson repeats Empath 9a+ on trad gear.
© Christian Adam

'A climb so nice, I climbed it twice - the second time on gear!' he wrote on Instagram.

The route was bolted by Carlo Traversi and Dave Wetmore in 2019 and was first climbed by Traversi in 2020, who described it as follows in a Rock and Ice interview at the time:

"Empath is slightly overhanging, about 65 feet tall and it's difficult all the way from the bottom to the anchors. It's a power endurance test piece with very few resting positions. The minimal shake spots are on bad liebacks with smears for feet. The route revolves around squeezing this refrigerator-like feature from bottom to top. There are only two down-pulling holds on the entire route. One of the uniquely difficult aspects of the climb is that your left hand is always on the 'good' holds and your right hand is always on bad holds. Your left arm gets completely smoked, because there are few opportunities to rest it."

On Instagram, Connor highlighted the fact that the route narrowly evaded destruction from the Caldor wildfire that devastated the Sierra Nevada last year:

'Thanks @carlodenali for your vision. This is truly one of the best routes around, with some of the best movement I've ever done on granite. We are incredibly lucky to still have this route after the Caldor fire, and it was a privilege to climb on it.'

Connor grew up in a climbing family who ventured in and around Yosemite: his father Jim freed the Salathé Wall on El Capitan in the days before Connor was born.

In 2018, Connor became the youngest person to free The Nose. He climbed the Yosemite classic over a 3-day period with his dad in between school commitments. 

Not long after ticking Empath this month, Connor repeated his father's feat of freeing the Salathé Wall, "18 years and 351 days" later.

This post has been read 5,853 times

Return to Latest News

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make UKClimbing the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate UKClimbing then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support - UKC Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

21 Jun, 2022

He can chop the bolts now ;-)

21 Jun, 2022

Or shows both can co exist

21 Jun, 2022

Would he have done it without the back up of the bolts though? Doesn't show anything.


Amazing ascent Connor! :)

22 Jun, 2022

Wonder what 'E' grade it gets?

More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email