Barbara Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher
Magic Mushroom (VI 5.14a)
Steve Sutton and Hugh Burton, 1972
FIRST FREE ASCENT
Tommy Caldwell and Justen Sjong, 2008
El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California
In December 2017, the Italian Jacopo Larcher and the Austrian Barbara Zangerl completed the second free ascent of El Capitan’s 2,900foot Magic Mushroom. The pair spent more than 30 days on the wall. “The goal was to climb ground-up first,” says Zangerl. “On the way up [using free and aid], we worked on single pitches. But also after, we went back to work more on the different pitches.” Tommy Caldwell and Justen Sjong freed the 28-pitch line in May 2008, climbing a dozen pitches of 5.13–5.14 and nine of 5.12. For Larcher, the crux came on pitch 20, a 100-foot flared dihedral that could be 5.14. “There are no footholds, and it’s quite narrow in some spots,” says Larcher, shown here on P25 (5.13c). “It’s super pumpy for the legs.” For Zangerl, the crux was the last 5.14a pitch, a steep finger crack near the top. After falling on the last move twice, Zangerl worked out new beta. “I pressed my head against the left side of the crack, for balance. Then I could place my left foot high and the crux felt way easier,” she says. Apparently, the pitch was “heads-up.” All told, the climbers spent 11 days on their final free push.
Coal Train (5.14a)
Beauty Mountain, New River Gorge, West Virginia
As anyone who’s climbed at the New can testify, it’s the world’s best rock with the world’s wettest weather—so you’re often racing the clock. The Santa Fe, New Mexico, climber Ben Hanna, 19, used an approaching storm last October to motivate him, in a 24-hour period making his first-ever 5.14 flash, redpointing another 5.14, and taking down two 5.13s first try. On the afternoon of October 27, Hanna fired the venerable Doug Reed testpiece The
Racist (5.13b/c) at the Endless Wall, for his hardest flash to date. “Exhausted” but still game, he then took down his
new hardest flash, Proper Soul (5.14a) at the Cirque. Surprised to have fired the crux, he battled a massive pump, finding a no-hands kneebar at the last bolt and eyeing the exit. Hanna threw to a slopey edge and found himself stuck: “I frantically slapped at nonholds to keep myself on,” he recalls, clipping the chains as his fingers opened. The next morning, Hanna redpointed
Coal Train (5.14a) at Beauty Mountain and onsighted Pod (5.13b) at Summersville Lake. Hanna climbed the routes in his trademark aggressive flow, jumping for holds where other climbers might lock off, going
a muerte. See page 22 for a Portrait of this up-and-coming climber.