Lee Cossey on El Cap Climbs
ClimbAndMore: First, I would like to congratulate you on your climbs in the Valley. Was it your first trip there? Have you realized your plan in 100% or was it way more?
Lee Cossey: Thanks, yeah it was my first time in Yosemite so I really didn't know what to expect. We planned on trying Freerider and El Nino but had no idea whether or not we'd manage to do them. Then we did them quickly and had more time before going home so we did Golden Gate too.
You are famous for your very difficult sport climbing ascents, but I couldn't find any information about yours multi-pitch climbs. If your El Capitan climbs were your first long routes, how were you training before? Yuji Hirayama wrote in “Alpinist” that he needed few years to prepare the on sight attempt on El Nino.
In Australia the opportunities for doing long routes are limited so for the last 10 years most of my time has been spent on sport climbing and occasionally doing some multi-pitch climbs. Before this my introduction to climbing was more traditional. I think as long as you have done a little trad climbing and know how to place gear you can transfer the strength and fitness you get from sport climbing very well to bigwall free climbs. Before this trip I made sure that I was very fit and could climb for many hours and many days in a row. This definitely helps when you want to try to onsight a hard pitch after 5 days of climbing.
How is your crack climbing? A lot of good sport climbers have big problems with cracks, for example with Monster Crack. Did you prepare in a special way for this climbing?
No special preparation but it would be a good idea. The first time up the Monster Offwidth pitch (as Golden Gate also climbs this pitch) was extremely hard, it was getting dark and it was very hot, so my whole body was sweaty, there was one point on the pitch where I actually slid back down the crack 0.5 meter, I thought I was off but managed to stay in there and finish the pitch.
Probably nobody before you has climbed 3 big free routes on El Capitan in one season. Do you regard it only as a short break from sport climbing or maybe you have already started thinking about next multi-pitch projects? If so, which route from El Capitan will be next one?
Near my home in the Blue Mountains there is mostly sport climbing and I love the climbing here, so I will always sport climb. However now, when I travel, I'm much more interested in going to places like Yosemite and doing long routes. The next route in Yosemite? After reading Tommy Caldwell's story of Dihedral Wall I was very inspired, it sounded so hard, I think now I'll work toward doing it with some Huber classics in the meantime.
The Yosemite Valley is getting more popular among European climbers. Which route from what you have done would you recommend for the first climb and which line was the most beautiful one?
Freerider is the perfect first free route on El Cap for those climbing at that level. Each of the 35 pitches is beautiful and there are so many different styles of climbing on the route from technical slabs to boulder problems to pumpy corners and of course wide cracks! I also think this route is within the abilities of many climbers and was surprised that there were not more people out there climbing. Get out there and have fun!