Lee Cossey Sends Three El Cap Free Routes
25 year old Australian Lee Cossey spent two months in Yosemite this fall. During his stay he succeeded in climbing three major El Cap free routes. These ascents are even more remarkable, considering that Lee and his partner Lawry Dermody did each individual route in single push and never used any fixed ropes.
The first route the two climbers from down under tackled was Free Rider 5.12d (36 pitches), with both of them freeing each pitch, alternating the leading. For the ascent the pair spent five days on the wall.
Lee: We were quite happy to have the route for ourselves at that time, so no one could hear us screaming and yelling, while we were loosing lots of blood in the monster offwidh!
After their warm up they set their sights on El Niño 5.13c (30 pitches). A really sustained route that has seven pitches of 5.13. Again they attempted to do the route with both climbers freeing every pitch. After some frustrating attempts on the very thin low crux’s, Lawry had put a couple of holes in his fingertips. So the team freeing was no longer possible. Lee kept on freeing each pitch of the route though, while Lawry did most of the hauling. After six days, rain and hail storms included, they topped out.
Lee having onsighted five of the seven 5.13 pitches, and taking only three falls throughout the whole route, the other being when a large foothold broke off on an easy pitch halfway.
Since the team still had some Vegimite paste left, the guys went on climbing and also did Golden Gate over five days. From where the route breaks off Free Rider, Lee did all but four pitches onsight , which he then sent second go.
Once back home, the humble Australian, who has climbed as hard as 34 (8c+ / 5.14c) made comments on his achievement: I guess it came as a bit of a surprise to me, having never done Big Walls before, and also coming off an injury (severing four tendons in his right forearm earlier in the year). On the whole I´ve been blown away by the quality of the climbing on El Cap, and could see the popularity of the big wall free climbing here exploding in the near future.
Text by Gerhard Schaar and Lee Cossey
Photo by Gerhard Schaar, www.gerhardschaar.com