Connor Herson has made the fifth ascent of Beth Rodden's 5.14c/8c+ Yosemite trad route, Meltdown.
The line - which was left unrepeated for a decade - follows a thin sixty-foot seam, and consists of a series fingerlocks and laybacks on poor feet, as well as blind and fiddly gear placements.
Upon Rodden's first ascent in 2008, Meltdown was the hardest single pitch of trad climbing in the USA. It remains one of the hardest trad routes in the world, and the hardest established by a woman.
Having freed both The Nose and The Salathé Wall as a teenager, Herson made further headlines last year for his repeat of the 9a+ sport route Empath on trad gear.
However, recent exploits have arguably made 2023 his most impressive year to date.
This summer, he made repeats of both Didier Berthod's Crack of Destiny and Sonnie Trotter's iconic Cobra Crack (both of which he graded at 5.14b/8c), as well as making a repeat of Hazel Findlay's E8 corner climb Tainted Love.
Whilst waiting for the skin required for his crack climbing ascents, Herson also made a quick ascent of Spirit Quest, 9a.
Writing on Instagram about his ascent of Meltdown, Herson had the following to say:
'This one meant a lot. The most sessions I've spent on a gear-protected pitch, the most uncertain I've been about whether a route is possible for me, the most I've learned on a route—the list goes on'.
'The crux boulder felt harder than any boulder I've done on the ground. Finally, on Thanksgiving Day, I was able to just barely string the whole thing together! Stay tuned for send footage'.
'So much respect to Beth Rodden for her vision and determination on this one. Her ascent of Meltdown was so far ahead of its time. In my opinion one of the greatest achievements in climbing!'
'Thank you everyone who came out and supported or belayed during the process... Couldn't have done it without y'all'.
Herson's comments add yet more gravity to Rodden's ascent, now more than fifteen years old. A groundbreaking ascent at the time, it has become even more impressive with subsequent repeats - with each of the repeat ascensionists offering praise, and at times disbelief, at Rodden's achievement.
Carlo Traversi, who made the route's first repeat in 2018, described Rodden's ascent as 'a benchmark in the history of climbing', and 'one of the most impressive achievements I can think of in the last few decades'.
Jacopo Larcher, who made the third ascent just over a year ago, stated that 'what Beth did in 2008... was way ahead of the times, both in women's and men's climbing history! I honestly believe the shorter you are, the harder this route gets... and yes: finger size doesn't matter!'
Babsi Zangerl, who made the fourth ascent (and the first female repeat) late last month described the route as 'the hardest trad line I have done so far', and said that, even at 8c+, 'it felt hard for the grade'.
Finally, whilst they haven't made an ascent, Britain's own crack aficionado's - the Wide Boyz - have spoken of the difficulty of the route. After a 2014 visit to Yosemite, Tom Randall wrote in a feature in Rock and Ice that he and Pete 'took a day to get to know Meltdown', and said that 'while it's extremely difficult to gauge a rating in a single visit, it's not hard to know when something isn't a soft touch'.
'Almost every move on the route is desperate - there is no respite - and the footholds are appalling, so dire that in many parts of the route it's extremely hard just to pull into static positions because the feet have to be placed semi-dynamically to stick. After a few hours of working the moves, both Pete and I walked away having done only 10 percent and scratching out heads over how the crux was even possible'.
Check out uncut footage of Babsi Zangerl's fourth ascent of Meltdown, from just over a month ago, below: