Lynn Hill

Lynn Hill, b. 1961, USA

I have been all over the world and have had the fortune of doing things with many special people, some famous, some anonymous. But the biggest little hero I’ve ever known is Lynn Hill. The rest of us are just holding her rope.

John Long, 2002

I first saw Lynn Hill at Joshua Tree, probably around 1976. Perhaps 16, she had a tight little gymnast’s body, a face like a picture, and a shock of sandy hair under a wool Grand Prix driver’s hat. Any fool could see she had a gift. Back then, when most female climbers were bored girlfriends, hippies, or peculiar in the extreme (I don’t know why), it seemed strange and novel to see an athletic girl on the crags.

John Long, 1991


Becomes AMGA rock instructor


West Face V 5.13b/c A0, Leaning Tower, first free ascent, with Katie Brown, the free variation starts atop the 200-foot bolt ladder at the base of the wall, five pitches of 5.12 or 5.13.

Starts the Lynn Hill Climbing Camps


Viva la Liberdad 5.12b, Vinales, Cuba, first ascent.

Sprayathon 5.13c, Rifle, Colorado, first female ascent.

Redpoints 5.13d in between breast-feeding her son, Gorge du Tarn, France.

Petzl Roc Trip, wins RP event – the only woman to lead “ultimate route”
For me it was a big honour to climb with her. She’s simply amazing. With a lot of energy, that shines from her eyes. And she’s  in love with climbing. It was great to watch her, how decisively she did the long dynamic moves. I learned a lot from her and she showed that age is not a limiting factor in climbing. The ultimate route was 8c for me; only two and one finger pockets. Therefore I admired her performance even more. She would win also flash contest, but there was a 7b route with really long move, a jump which she couldn’t do (I am almost 15 cm taller) and I did.

Martina Èufar


Book: Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World published


Scarface 5.14a, Smith Rocks, first female ascent.

Bravo les Filles VI 5.13d A0, 13 pitches, Tsaranoro Massif, Madasgascar, first ascent, with Nancy Feagin, Kath Pyke,  and Beth Rodden, probably the most difficult rock climb ever put up by a team of women


Midnight Lightning V8, Camp 4, Yosemite Valley, first female ascent.

King Cobra V9/10, Camp 4, Yosemite Valley, first female ascent.

To Bolt or Not to Be 5.14a, Smith Rocks, Oregon, first female ascent, second 8b+ climb by Hill


Tete de Chou 5.13a, Todra Gorge, Morocco, first ascent.
Free Climbing El Capitan: A Journey on the Route to Liberation, produced and directed


Halong Bay, Vietnam, many new routes, with Greg Child


Clodhopper Direct IV 5.10+, Central Pyramid (3550m), Kyrgyzstan, first ascent, with Greg Child

Perestroika Crack (V 5.12b), Peak Slesova (4240m), Kyrgyzstan, first free ascent, with Greg Child

West Face V 5.12b, 1219m, Peak 4810 (4810m), Kyrgyzstan, first free ascent, with Alex Lowe.


The Nose,  El Capitan VI 5.14a, Yosemite, first one-day free ascent (23 hours)
The magnificent beauty and historic significance of the line, as well as my own efforts to free it, then later freeing it in a day, made this ascent the most meaningful achievement of my entire climbing career.

Mingus (V 5.13a, 12 pitches), Verdon Gorge, France, first free ascent, onsight, done while training for The Nose free 


The Nose, El Capitan VI 5.14a, Yosemite, first free ascent.

The final realization of this ascent was not only the culmination of my eighteen years of climbing, but it was also symbolic of the kind of values that give meaning and richness to my climbing experiences. Throughout my life, one of the underlying qualities that has inspired me to pursue my vision of what is possible has to do with trusting in what I truly love and believe in. Cultivating such feelings of passion and conviction is what enabled me to tap the source of my being and access the immense power of the human spirit.


Simon 5.13b, Frankenjura, Germany, first female onsight of the grade.

Rock Master, Arco, Italy, winner


Moved to France


Masse Critique 8b+, Cimai, France, first woman to climb 8b+ route

In 1990 I decided I wanted to do a 5.14, so I stopped traveling around so much and climbed in one area for a couple of weeks. I spent nine days on a Masse Critique and did it. Up to that point I didn’t have the opportunity to work on a hard route because I’d been traveling around doing on-sight climbs in preparation for one competition or another.

Rock Master, Arco, Italy, winner

World Cup Champion. Tied with Isebelle Patissier from France.


Running Man 5.13d, Shawangunks, first free ascent, perhaps the hardest route by a woman at the time

Rock Master, Arco, Italy, winner

Dislocates elbow in seventy-foot ground fall, Buoux, France

Basically I didn’t tie a knot. I put the rope through my harness, but I didn’t finish tying my knot. After putting my shoes on, the rope was still in my harness, but since I had a jacket on which covered my harness, I didn’t notice that my knot was not tied. When I got to the top of the Styx-Wall, I leaned back to abseil back to the ground and just kept falling. I don’t remember exactly, but apparently when I fell backwards I used my arms to steady myself as I was failing. I landed on a tree branch, which slowed me down before I hit the ground.


The Greatest Show on Earth 5.12d, New River Gorge, West Virginia, first free ascent

Rock Master, Arco, Italy, winner


Supremacy Crack 5.11d, Eldorado Canyon, used only two points of protection to onsight the overhanging hand-crack

Rock Master, Arco, Italy, winner


Tweazle Roof 5.12d, Shawangunks, first free ascent after hangdogging from pitons placed on rappel by another party

Girls Just Want to Have Fun 5.12 X, Shawangunks, first free ascent


Organic Iron 5.12c, Shawangunks, first free ascent, with Russ Raffa.

Tourist Treat 5.12c, Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire, first free ascent, with Russ Raffa.


Tourist Treat 5.12d, Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire, first free ascent, she led it onsight, with but one fall, perhaps the most difficult first ascent in the north country at the time.

Organic Iron 5.12+ R, Shawangunks, first ascent

Yellow Crack Direct 5.12c R-X, Shawangunks, first free ascent.

It was one of the most incredible on-sight leads I’ve ever seen. It was everything working together: boldness, lack of fear, athletic ability, ability to succeed.

Russ Raffa


Vandals 5.13, Shawangunks, one of the four Gunks top climbers to master region’s first 5.13


Blue Nubian 5.11, Joshua Tree, first free ascent.


Levitation 29 IV 5.11a, Red Rocks, Nevada, first free ascent, with Long and Jorge and Joanne Urioste

The most beautiful free climb we did that year was a ten-pitch face route called Levitation 29. John and I made the first free ascent of this route, accompanied by the two climbers who had made the first ascent using aid, Jorge and Joanne Urioste. The mysterious-sounding name Levitation 29 had to do with the climb having been made on Joanne’s twenty-ninth birthday, and the idea that levitation would be hopeful to rise up this sheer 800-fot wall.

Hidden Arch 5.12a, Joshua Tree, California, first free ascent


Coatamundi Whiteout II 5.12, Granite Mountain, Arizona, first free ascent, with Long and Keith Cunning.


Ophir Broke II 5.12d, Telluride, first free ascent and first female ascent of the grade, with John Long.

Though I did the FFA of this route, the guidebook to the Ophir Wall credits John with the FFA, probably because in 1980 I was an unknown climber, just a protégé of Largo.

Pea Brain 5.12d, Independence Pass, Colorado, first free ascent and first female ascent of the grade, with John Long.

Stairway to Heaven III 5.12, Tahquitz Rock, California, first free ascent, with Long and Tim Powell.

The Nose, El Capitan, ascent, with Mari Gingery

The Shield, El Capitan, ascent, with Mari Gingery

We learned to use Copperheads, hooks, Bashies, knife-blades, RURPs, and all that stuff. We learned a lot about aid climbing on those routes.


Helweg JörgenLynn Hill Interview „Mountain“  1991, no 139, p. 40 
Hill LynnClimbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World, W.W. Norton & Company Ltd 2002
Hill LynnEl Capitan’s Nose Climbed Free, “American Alpine Journal” 1994, p. 41-49
Lynn Hill, “Alpinist” No 17, p. 10-11
Long JohnLittle Lynny, “Rock & Ice” 1992, May/June, No. 40, p. 20
O’Connel NicholasBeyond Risk, Conversations with Climbers, Diadem 1993
Waterman Waterman Laura and GuyYankee Rock&Ice. A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States, Stackpole Books 1993