The Salathe Wall / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Free climbing El Capitan has always been a dream of mine... Something which I have always aspired to ever since I started climbing. I have always had a fascination for big walls, and loved being in exposed, beautiful places. However, until a couple years ago I did not take it on as a real goal. Then, when I when I climbed El Capitan for the first time, via the Free Rider, I realized my dream was not too far fetched and I set my sights on trying the Salathe. The strikingly steep, flaring crack on the crazily exposed headwall captured my imagination... It is beautiful and brutally unforgiving. I started my mission on the Salathe on my own and spent countless hours alone on the Headwall, working out how to climb an overhung flaring crack... This is where I really started learning how to crack climb. I had several unsuccessful attempts on the route - Exactly a year before sending the Salathe I was forced to bail off the route after freeing everything up to the Headwall, when a brutal thunderstorm hit and soaked us and all our equipment. This year I spent several days trying to climb the Headwall, and the day before I sent I had a heartbreaking fall off the very last move. This left me dejected and with the weather looking a little threatening, I was also very anxious that it would be a repeat of the previous year. But Sean, my climbing partner, was a constant source of energy and belief in my abilities. He could not have been more encouraging and supportive, and helped keep my spirits up with the help of his music and stories.

The weather held, conditions were perfect the next day... Every hand jam felt amazing and the climbing flowed - It was an incredible feeling reaching the top of the Headwall, free from the ground, with only a couple easy pitches to the top. A total sense of elation, release of tension and relief. Then slowly the emptiness set in, the Salathe has been a huge part of my life for the last year, and there was almost a sense of sadness - kind of like saying good bye to a great friend and teacher. Best of all Sean also succeeded in climbing the Salathe the next day! Thanks to everyone who has supported me and helped me achieve this goal of mine... It really is one of the most amazing climbs!