An Unsupported Team FRIAD

Amity Warme and I freeing El Cap in a day without rap rehearsal, stashing, or jugger support.

April 2022

There is a bit of a disconnect between what one sees in the El Capitan in-a-day news blurbs and what a “normal” multipitch climbing experience looks like. Most in-a-day free ascents are supported in some manner, focusing on the pure athletic nature of free climbing the pitches without logistical complications or food/water weight. The logical format of two free climbing partners carrying all supplies needed for the route is rarely used, or even considered.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve seen this elusive single day effort ascent as the gold standard. Two partners walking up to El Cap with a rope, cams, food, and water; and then climbing to the top! I had also discussed the difficulties in finding a partner willing to sign up for this method with its lower chance of success.

Fortunately, my friend Amity Warme had read that post and was also convinced of the merits in this style. We exchanged enthusiastic texts mid-winter and penciled in an April Freerider attempt on our calendars. Amity was one of the few partners in my circle who I knew had the strength margin to pull this off! Amity sent the Freerider ground-up wall style last spring, but hadn’t tried to do it in a day yet. I hoped to learn from my first attempt and double down on a truly “unsupported” ascent, not even stashing water up the Heart fixed lines. It would be difficult, but the boundaries are what make the game.

In terms of fast free climbing styles, I think trail running FKTs provide a quality analog to borrow from. FKT’s are often categorized by Fully Supported, Self Supported, and Unsupported. Applied to free climbing, I’d propose the following definitions:

  • Fully Supported: An ascent focused on one individual’s success where anything goes - as long as the leader does the free climbing. Endless opportunities for stashing, headpointing, ticking, dedicated haulers, dedicated juggers, Honnold simuling behind you, etc. An athletic test, but can become abstracted from the standard climbers’ experience.

  • Self Supported: A partnered ascent of equal contribution (or solo ascent), but where pre-stashing may have been used. All the labor for the ascent is done by the climbers themselves, but the effort may have been spread across a period of time before the ascent itself.

  • Unsupported: A partnered ascent of equal contribution (or solo ascent) with all supplies for the ascent carried on route by the climbers themselves. No prestashing or dumping of gear. The standard mode of climbing.

I find the unsupported ascents especially interesting because they test the holistic skills of a multipitch climber, including: planning, commitment, system management, team dynamics, and quick execution.

Amity sticks the Karate kick to send the Boulder Problem crux

On April 10th at Midnight, Amity and I started up the Freerider for an unsupported (and ground-up, as neither of us have ever rapped into El Cap for rehearsal) free attempt. Using safe simul climbing tactics, we simuled multiple blocks adding up to 24 of the 32 pitches along the way. Much of the route was climbed with a small backpack (descent shoes and other supplies) and 2L of water on each of our harnesses. We hauled key pitches where the weight or bulk mattered. For the boulder problem and the pitches from the enduro corner to the Scotty Burke offwidth, we reverted to regular multipitch climbing, swapping leads and hauling all our weight on the tag line or the tail of the lead line. We chose clever systems over added risk for our entire ascent.

We followed our detailed plan with minimal hiccups and crested the summit having sent the route together in 18 hours and 16 minutes. There were a few falls along the way; both of us having fallen on the boulder, and Amity having slipped on the move off Heart ledges and the weird alcove boulder on the final real pitch, but all these sections were repeated and sent by each of us. We had to dig deep, push through intense fatigue and cramps, but we executed as needed and pulled off the elusive ground-up, unsupported, team free ascent of El Capitan.

With the ever increasing popularity of El Cap free climbing, I feel it is important to share the minimal trace ascents as notable in their own right. I believe Amity was the ~5th woman to free El Cap-in-a-day, and the 2nd (behind Mayan in 2011) to do it in this difficult team style. Please know that despite popular media of rap rehearsals, climbers really do walk up to the rock with food and water, and then send to the top!

Post-Burke OW selfie, right as we knew we could pull this off

Setting up the FiFi release to be able to haul our kit on the tail of the lead line for the Monster Offwidth, one of our many key tactics

This ascent was a logistical puzzle that had taken many hours of visualization to solve. We used a combination of simul-climbing with traxions, pull cord resupplies, fix and following, FiFi release hauling, lead line hauling, tag line hauling, and more to both move fast enough and to manage the weight. I always strive for solving obstacles with systems rather than applying added risks. In hopes of promoting future unsupported ascents, I’d like to share all the methods we used to pull this off. Below is our packlist, our shorthand logistical plan, and an annotated topo.

Team FRIAD Packlist:

Personal Gear (2x each):

  • Headlamp

  • Sun hoody

  • Puffy

  • Synthetic pants

  • UL Descent shoes

  • Snack Pack

  • Crack Gloves

  • Sunglasses

  • PAS

  • Harness

  • GriGri + Locker


  • Climbing Tape

  • Liquid chalk

  • Extra chalk

  • Small knife

  • 2x Wag bags

  • Spare headlamp batteries or spare mini lamp?

  • Fifi (with release cord)

Follow Gear:

  • Neck Bungee

  • Extra locker (for cache loop)

  • Bullet pack + locker

Lead gear:

  • 70m Rope ~9.2mm (skinny cord, beware of rope drag!)

  • Extra locker (for Mammoth downclimb)

  • 8x UL quick draws

  • 6x alpine draws

  • 4x traxions on dedicated lockers

  • Double rack of cams 0.1-3, single 4,

  • 1x #5 and #6

  • 1x sets of Offset Z4s

  • 40m tag cord, (5mm) + locker

  • Comfy shoes (TC Pros)


  • Water, 2L /person with drink mix in collapsible bottles with biners

  • Stuff snack pack with 2000 calories:

    • 2x meat bars

    • 4x shot block packs

    • 2x protein bars

    • 2x fig bars

Logistical Plan:

[As of April 8th - Monster gets sun around 10am, boulder at 11am, Enduro at noonish, start at midnight]

Commit to climbing with small bullet pack of food/descent shoes and 2L on each climbers, ~2000 calories of dense food. PAS each for rope switches. See topo for locations of Traxions! Pitch numbers are based on topo below, but don't fully match how we will climb it.

P1-9: Simul freeblast with 4x traxions and 40m resupply cord, back cleaning draws where possible. Leader should clip tag through directional at anchor before 11b slab. Resupply gear once when leader is atop 11b pitch. All simuling is protected besides the 5.7 ramble to Mammoth. Continue across to the Mammoth down climb, leader leaves TR locker at last anchor then heads down while simuling. Follower stops at top of down climb to finish with regular belay, then threads rope and gets mega TR. Leader uses tag to extend their tail for TR to reach. Regroup at heart ledges.

P10-11: Simul to Hollow Flake pitch with traxions, optional tag of kit at heart "move" pitch. Leader should tie tail of tag to anchor before simuling down HF for hauling kit! Leader simuls down HF. Follower should "fish" for down climbing leader to avoid extra slack pooling up. Follower catches up, but stops at anchor to belay leader back up HF, then leader hauls kit on tag (lower out with lead rope tail). Leader then gives follower regular belay, follower uses leaver biner directional on down climb bolt, then climbs down, around, and up with slight penji risk. Leader drops other tail of leadline to follower once it can reach, follower switches ropes, and leader pulls free lines through leaver biner on previous anchor. Leader belays follower up the rest of the OW to regroup at the nice ledge.

P12-14: Simul up through ear in single pitch, no resupplies. save singles #1-4 and #6 for ear. Leader clips tag through anchor before ear! Leader fixes line for follower, follower dumps kit on tag so leader can haul while they TR solo follow ear. Regroup atop ear

P15: Regular lead belay for monster. Setup kit on Fifi release to remove down climb weight. Leader stops at standard belay on ramp for clean haul on face. Leader soft fixes on GriGri with ~20ft slack and follower sets up TR solo. Leader belays downclimb, then puts stopper knot behind GriGir as follower switches to TR solo for rest of OW. Haul kit on tail of lead line.

P16-19: Leader leads short OW to start simul block while back cleaning big cams. Simul long wide pitch off alcove dropping traxion at ~40m at good stance on right. Continue into 5.10 corner, and possibly 5.11 right var pitch to boulder if feeling comfy and have gear (ledge risk, yell down for minimal slack). Fix line for follower when at belay for boulder problem. Regroup here.

P20: Regular belay both lead and follow for boulder. Take turn leading until one person sends, then follower continues until sending on TR to rejoin atop pitch. Leader hauls kit on tag

P21-22: Preload traxion for midpitch deployment, simul sewer leaving traxion below block roof (not on lip bolt, FF1 risk!). Follower tries to catch up to reduce drag for top have of sewer. Continue simuling into flakes pitch, but follower stops at block and waits to fix and follow (no great midpitch cams for a Traxion). Follower can dump kit on fixed line tail

P23-24: Regular belay for leader and follower for both Enduro pitches and traverse. Leader hauls kit on tag while follower fix and follows. For traverse, tie tag to top of enduro corner anchor and haul kit on that line! Discuss communication if not able to hear each other. Follower gets regular belay for traverse.

P25: Regular lead belay for hand crack off round table, fix and follow while leader hauls kit on tag

P26: Regular lead belay for Burke, fix and follow, haul kit on tail of lead line (tag won't reach). Discuss communication if not able to hear each other!

P27-29: Simul to summit! Leave traxion on a cam in slab crack atop thin hands 5.10 prior to weird alcove. Long draws for pins through the alcove boulder problem (ledge risk here, may make sense to stop and pitch out). Leader fixes line at summit.