Words by LYA Editor
For our Friday climbing season installment of Epic Clips we’re sticking with the year of accomplishment for Eddie Bauer climber Mason Earle and recapping his first free ascent on At Dawn We Ride (VI 5.12c R). Watch the clip as he breaks down the mechanics of big wall climbing in a very remote location.
The recap: When big-wall free climber Mason Earle headed north to the Cirque of the Unclimbables in Canada’s Northwest Territories last year, it was with his sights set on the sheer 2,000-foot southeast face of Mt. Proboscis. The imposing tower of steep, hard granite has drawn climbers from Royal Robbins and Layton Kor to Todd Skinner and Galen Rowell to its remote location for decades due to the massive vertical challenge. Over a 17-day stretch, Earle completed a bold new free ascent of the 15-pitch At Dawn We Ride (VI 5.12c R) with the climbing support of Eddie Bauer teammate Katie Lambert, photographer Ben Ditto, and Bronson Hovnanian.
The foursome made steady free climbing progress up a variation of the Grendel route established in 1996 with a siege-style technique that utilized long rappels to their camp at the end of each day. They also experienced an uncharacteristically good weather window in this near-Arctic location that made for fast face-climbing progress up the wall, with Earle spending two full days redpointing three crux pitches of 11 total that had been previously only climbed on aid. The burly highlights of the expedition included 20- to 30-foot run-outs right off belay, closed off seams protected only with beaks, and one day when Earle spent seven hours on lead while hand-drilling protection and hanging on hooks. While Earle and Hovnanian were still working the final pitches of the first ascent route, Lambert and Ditto completed the first one-day, all-free ascent on the neighboring Women at Work (VI 5.12 R) route.
During the last day, bad weather descended while the team was high on the wall, which forced Earle to crimp out the last two and most difficult pitches in blizzard conditions with wet, frozen feet. At the top, Earle screamed in triumph before the team completed the 1,000-foot rappels back to their camp at the base of the climb. “It was a huge mental battle and it was one of those moments where I really, truly had to dig deep,” Earle says. “We just kept telling ourselves that we were there to try the biggest, baddest line and we had to stay committed to it.”
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