Jorg Verhoeven Frees The Nose

One of the more interesting aspects of living in Boulder is that you never know when you might come across someone who is well known in the climbing world.  This was the case back in September when I had the opportunity to hang out with Jorg Verhoeven and Katha Saurwein after a Patagonia event here in town[1.  Turns out they are both pretty good at darts].  They were nearing the end of their time in Colorado, a time that had seen Jorg climb most of the hard boulder problems in Chaos Canyon with the quickness[2.  As the kids would say] and that would see Katha climb her first V13[3. Dave Graham’s Nuthin’ But Sunshine] before their trip was up.

As is often the case, our conversation turned to what their plans were when they were done in Colorado which is when Jorg mentioned he was heading to Yosemite.  I naively assumed that since he was such a good boulderer he must be heading there to climb the world class boulder problems that litter the Valley floor, but it turns out he had much bigger aspirations than that.  Much bigger.

Upon arriving in Yosemite it quickly became clear that Jorg had his sights set on one of the biggest objectives there is in Yosemite:  free climbing the Nose on El Cap.  At first I was surprised, but then I remembered that Jorg is one of the most well-rounded climbers in the world.   In addition to having climbed multiple V14s, he has also sport climbed up to 5.14d and won the Lead World Cup in 2008.

The main hurdles in free climbing the Nose revolve around two very difficult pitches:  the 5.13 Great Roof and the 5.14 “Changing Corners” pitch.  In mid-October Jorg mentioned on Facebook that he could barely one hang the Changing Corners pitch and that the Great Roof “poses challenges”, but it looks like persistence and better conditions paid off in a big way.  After working the route on and off over the course of a month, Jorg became only the 3rd or 4th[4. If one counts Scott Burk’s 1998 attempt like Tommy Caldwell seems to] person to free climb the Nose on El Cap since Lynn Hill’s groundbreaking free ascent 21 years ago in 1993[5.  The other two being Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden].

Louder Than 11‘s Jon Glassberg was out in Yosemite during Jorg’s early attempts where Jon captured media for an upcoming project. Here are a couple of Instagram snaps from that trip:

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22 Responses to Jorg Verhoeven Frees The Nose

  1. T November 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Climbing a 5.14 smearing lie-back corner on El Cap in Sportiva Solutions….not the shoe choice I would’ve expected

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    • Really? November 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      They are exceptional for smearing and precision edging.

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  2. the menace November 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Its because the solution excels at crushing. No matter what. On the right foot the solution is capable of anything.

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    • 1225 November 16, 2014 at 10:15 am #

      But what about the LEFT foot?

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  3. Seth November 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Should I be embarrassed that I’ve always assumed the Nose has been freed tons of times? I thought the title was a joke.

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    • Nate November 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      I thought the same.. I get that it’s really long and committing, but it’s also super iconic. If the cruxes are 5.13 and 5.14 I don’t see why it doesn’t have more ascents.

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      • matt November 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

        because 5.14 on el cap (well, on most granite for that matter) tends to be very different than what the ‘average’ 5.14 sport climb looks like

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      • Narc November 11, 2014 at 10:55 am #

        I suspect the fact that the Nose is so popular with aid climbers makes it sort of annoying to try and spend extended amounts of time working on the free climbing cruxes. But that is just a guess on my part.

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  4. Zach November 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    It’s probably more like the fifth ascent after Scott Burke. Even though Scott never sent the great roof on lead, He still basically did the route. I think its interesting that climbers assume big wall climbing to be so much easier than bouldering. there is certainly a reason people haven’t sent the nose that many times.

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    • DDD November 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      Most climbers don’t bother comparing big wall climbing and bouldering, because they are completely different disciplines and either one can be very easy or very hard.

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    • Sean Võ Kirkpatrick November 10, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

      Scott didn’t free the entire route, so he’s not included in that list. Freeing every single pitch of the Nose is no small feat, which is why there aren’t that many free ascents. “basically did the route” is not the same as freeing the whole route.

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      • RyanJ November 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

        Then by your logic neither did Beth Rodden. She free climbed every pitch but didn’t redpoint all of them. Some followed some of the pitches with no falls, i.e. on top rope just like Scott Burk.

        The thing is, freeing big walls historically includes seconding/no falls toproping a pitch. So it probably counts.

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  5. Zach November 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    DDDuhh

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  6. Super Free? November 11, 2014 at 1:21 am #

    Has anyone freed every pitch of The Nose on lead, bottom to top, no falls? That would be nearly incomprehensible. Tommy Caldwell?

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    • Narc November 11, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      As is no falls the entire push from ground to summit?

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      • Super Free? November 11, 2014 at 10:47 am #

        Yup!

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        • austinhowell6 November 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

          Lynn Hill Redpointed the nose.

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          • Super Free? November 13, 2014 at 12:25 am #

            I don’t think she led every pitch.

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        • Nate November 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

          The link that Narc posted in the footnotes from Caldwell has details from each ascent. Based on that, no one was ever led with 0 falls.


          1993: Lynn Hill. First free ascent, four days, traded leads but led the hardest pitches.
          1994: Lynn Hill. Free ascent in 23 hours, leading every pitch, 3 falls on Changing Corners pitch.
          1998: Scott Burke. Led every pitch free over 12 days except for the Great Roof, which he toproped free as storms threatened to end the climb.
          2005: Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden. Each climber led or followed every pitch free over four days.
          2005: Tommy Caldwell. Free ascent in 12 hours, leading every pitch, 1 fall on Changing Corners pitch.

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    • matt November 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      no. I think tommy caldwell nearly did it (i.e. just a couple falls on one pitch), when he entirely led and freed both the nose and the salathe wall in a single day (which is pretty incomprehensible, to be honest!)

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  7. Felipe November 21, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Free climb the Nose is a very proud achievement. Clearly that puts you in a very small list of people who has done it.
    Doesn´t matter the shoes you wear. Lynn Hill climb it with old Boreal shoes.

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  8. Jonga tha Rhetor January 5, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    @matt. Dosage IV, Tommy frees The Nose and then Freerider, which is 2/3’s the same as Salathe, just without the Headwall cruxes (.13+).

    @all. Sorta confused here, Super Free wonders if it’s been done with no falls, which hasn’t happened yet, but it has been redpointed, since on a multipitch redpoint you can fall on pitches, you just gotta start the pitch over.

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