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].
Jorg Verhoeven cruising the intro 5.11 section of “The Great Roof” (5.13+) on The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite, CA. The Great Roof has a technical 80 ft section of layback leading into insecure pin scars in the overhang with terrible feet. The pitch takes a lot of memorizing, patience, and practice and comes about 2/3 of the way up El Cap! #elcap #thenose #thecaptain #yosemite #bigwall #freethenose @marmot @sportiva #climbing #climb #rockclimb #rockclimbing #thevalley
Jorg Verhoeven making big links on one of El Capitan’s hardest free pitches, “Changing Corners” (5.14), pitch 28 of The Nose, Yosemite. Jorg is making good progress on the worlds most famous rock climb and gunning for the 4th ascent in 20 years!!! #climbing #rockclimb #rockclimbing #elcap #elcapitan #changingcorners #trad #mixed #crux #climb #yosemite #thevalley #ca #california @marmot @lasportivana
A photo posted by Jon Glassberg (@jonglassberg) on