Sebastien Berthe, a 23-year-old Belgian climber, has made the second free ascent of the Heart Route (5.13b V10). The 26-pitch route scales the southwest face of El Capitan in Yosemite. Berthe, supported by Simon Castagne, spent six days on the wall
before topping out.
"It’s definitively my best accomplishment as a climber so far!” Berthe reported. “During these six days, I almost reached my physical and mental limits.
Every single pitch was a huge, hard and emotional fight.”
The Heart Route, originally an aid route pioneered by Scott Davis and Chuck Kroger in 1970, was first freed by Mason Earle and Brad Gobright in
June 2015. Earle and Gobright put five years into the project, and on their final free push, Earle freed every pitch. Gobright was able to free all
but the infamous downward and sideways V10 dyno of pitch 6. The team topped out on June 17 after six days on the wall.
“The free climbing follows most of the original route, with a few variations,” Earle described on Mountain Project. “The climbing is varied, with tedious slabs down low, and steep, enduro pitches above the heart. The ‘V10’ rating
is for a dyno on the sixth pitch.”
Before his attempt of the Heart Route, Berthe warmed up on Valley classics such as the Regular Northwest Face on
Half Dome—complete with knot throw, due to the rockfall of 2015—Freerider on El Cap, which he almost onsighted, Astroman on Washington Column, The Cobra on Royal Arches, and Steck-Salathé on Sentinel Rock. With these routes ticked, Berthe felt ready for the Heart Route’s 26 pitches—nine
at 5.13, 12 at 5.11 (the remaining five are easier), and one massive V10 dyno.
“It required all my skills to make it happen,” he reported. “The crux pitch (the sixth) is a huge and acrobatic ... dyno followed by a super technical
slab. The next pitch is another technical slab, very demanding and, maybe, the hardest of my life. This pitch literally ate my fingers and my toes.”
Berthe completed the climb on November 13, after spending six days on the wall. “All these pitches are amazing and this route is a pure Yosemite route!”
More Yosemite Action this Season
Adam Ondra Sends the Dawn Wall!
Barbara Zangerl, Jacopo Larcher Free El Cap's Zodiac (VI 5.13d)
Jorg Verhoeven Makes Second Free Ascent of Dihedral Wall (VI 5.14a)
Robbie Phillips Frees El Cap’s 30-Pitch Pre-Muir (5.13d)