Discover Martin Skaar Olslund and Thomas Meling, the first Norwegian people to free climb "The Freerider" in El capitan, Yosemite, California
"Thomas Meling and I left for Yosemite with only one thing in mind. We wanted to free climb the 1000 metre high El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. As told to us by local climbers, there is no easy way up El Cap. We were looking at climbing the easiest, “The Freerider”. The Freerider follows the well-known “Salathe wall”, from which it separates at the very top. Besides having a grade of 5.12d (French 7c), the Freerider is 35 pitches in total, which means multiple days on the wall.
We geared up with food and rack for a four day long push from the ground. We pre-hauled to what would be our first bivy ledge, a quarter of the way up the wall and started climbing with a light rack Tuesday morning. We had great progress the first day of climbing and flashed all the 14 pitches up to Heart Ledges, where our Haul bag was placed. The next day was all about climbing the horrendous Monster Off width, but Thomas, who had been to Indian Creek at several occasions, cruised it like it was a 7a. In fact it was a 7a! Only that it felt way much harder because of the awkward, dead vertical off width climbing that continued for 40 metres. I got to experience this myself when I was desperately scrambling my way up the 20 cm broad crack until I fell out from the top of it. Shot down, I went to sleep that evening realising that we would no more be able to it in the best of styles, all free.
Thursday morning was the 17th of May, Norways National day. We woke up to the sun rising on the best bivy ledge one could possibly imagine. El Cap Spire is a freestanding pillar, dead flat top. Anyway, we had to move on and it was going to be the day for the hardest of all the pitches. There were two options. You could either do a very hard boulder problem, where a hold recently broke off, or you could climb the Teflon Corner. We chose the Teflon, because I feel fairly secure on corners and it is also supposed to be a little easier after the hold broke off on the boulder. However I had not seen anything like THIS corner. It was not long nor was it very steep, but it had absolutely no holds at all. Besides, the granite was slightly polished so no wonder it was called The Teflon Corner! I found the style quite fast where I had to push with my palms at either of the two walls, while stemming with my feet standing on poor smears.
I did not manage to send before the sun came around “The Nose” of El Cap. Instead we moved on to the next bivy ledge, and I sent it at first try later in the evening. At this point the summit felt to be within reach so we enjoyed a tiny bottle of white wine (of course the cheapest we could find) in the evening of a very different 17th of May.
The next day was planned to be the day for the final push, but we feared that we had to squeeze in an extra day in order to free every pitch. We had three harder pitches from 7a to 7b/+ left, but everything went smooth, and we had sent them all before noon. Six more hours, through another off width, through one of the steepest most exposed finger cracks I have ever climbed, then a final squeeze, and we were on the top of El Capitan! It was supposed to be a seminal moment, but all I felt was being tired after four days on the wall. So we emptied the remaining eight litres of water that we had carried 1000 vertical metres, and shared the last can of fruit. We started walking down in the dawn, not wanting to think on any new big project. Only now I am dreaming again."
Martin Skaar Olslund