Aid climbing is not a valid form of ascent in our eyes and is little different from a helicopter ascent of a peak. One move of aid means total failure on the wall.
Todd Skinner 1958-2006
Todd Skinner, one of the great American free-climbing and sport climbing pioneers, has died in a rappelling accident on Leaning Tower in Yosemite. Details about the accident are not known yet, but it appears increasingly likely that a broken belay loop on Skinner’s harness caused his death. Todd leaves behind a wife, Amy, and three children, Hannah, Jake and Sarah.
Todd was born in a family of professional outdoorsmen in 1958 in Wyoming. In the early 80’s he was one of the first American climbers to break with trad style and use European-born sport climbing tactics to create free climbs.
Skinner made hundreds of first ascents up to 5.14 grade in many climbing regions all over the world. He was one of the first American climbers to take part in climbing competitions in 1986 (World-Speed Climbing Championships in Soviet Georgia) and 1987 . He was the major activist in Hueco Tanks (eg. Gunfighter 5.13b in 1984, When Legends Die 5.13a/b in 1987)), Wild Iris (eg. Throwin' the Houlihan 5.14a) and Mount Rushmore.
However, he is best known for his achievements in big-wall free climbing. His first free ascent of the Salathé Wall 5.13b, 36 pitches, which he made in 1988 with Paul Piana, distinguished him as a visionary in this new discipline. On this climb the pair combined siege and sport climbing to work each pitch of big-wall route and finally they free it. They spent several months on the route (sometimes descending from the top to work some pitches) and finally made the first free ascent of the line over the course of week. The two swapped leads on the crux pitches while the follower jumared. This prolonged ascent brought criticism from many climbers but with four 5.13 pitches the Free Salathé was undoubtedly the hardest big-wall climb in America and probably in the world.
Two years later, together with Piana, Gallen Rowell and Tim Toula, Skinner made the first free ascent of the North Face (VI 5.12) of Mount Hooker 3811m in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.