Houlding and Potter make the second free ascent
of Southern Belle in 18 years
Leo Houlding and Dean Potter made the second free ascent of the infamous Southern Belle V 5.12d on the Half Dome’s South Face in Yosemite Valley. Houlding and Potter free-climbed the route in a day on their second ground-up attempt.
Originally established in spring 1987 by Dave Schultz and Walt Shipley, the 14-pitch route starts at the second prominent arch in center of face and breaks through to the forbidding headwall above. It was freed year later by Schultz and Scott Cosgrove, becoming one of the most runout and severe lines in America and probably one of the finest long free routes in the world. The 3-pitch 5.12 crux offered difficult crack system (5.12b, two bolts), followed by a beautiful overhanging crack splitting an outside corner (5.12c) and then a very technical 80o face (originally graded 5.12c/d).
“It is more serious than the Bachar Yerian or You Asked For It, with 5.10X and 5.11X pitches”, commented Cosgrove. Schultz was of the same opinion: “It’s only 14 pitches, but it’s horrendous! There are no more than four bolts per pitch!” (overall only 30 bolts including belay anchors protected the climb).
In 1994 Hank Caylor shattered his ankle going for the second free ascent of Southern Belle. He fell probably more than 20 meters on the last 5.11 pitch and impacted a ledge about halfway down.