This article originally appeared on Climbing
Last Saturday, October 28, Barbara Zangerl made the fourth ascent of Meltdown (5.14c), one of the Yosemite's hardest gear pitches.
After being established by Beth Rodden in 2008, the route--which involves 60 feet of powerful laybacking and water-polished feet--waited a full ten years before Carlo Traversi made the second ascent after multiple seasons of attempts. On Instagram he called Rodden's 2008 ascent "one of the most impressive achievements I can think of in the last few decades." (You can watch Traversi climb Meltdown here.)
Zangerl's partner, Jacopo Larcher, echoed Traversi's sentiment after making the third ascent of the line last November, calling Rodden's ascent "way ahead of its time." When Larcher and Zangerl first inspected Meltdown in 2016, while taking a break from their big-walling missions in the valley (they claimed the third free ascent of Zodiac [5.13d 1,800 feet] that year), they were surprised to find that, contrary to the rumors that had accumulated around the climb, Meltdown's difficulty came not from tiny, finger-size-dependent jams but from the powerful laybacking on terrible feet. "I honestly believe the shorter you are, the harder this route gets," Larcher wrote afterward, "and yes: finger size doesn't matter!"
While Zangerl has done sport climbs up to 5.14d and boulders up to V13, she is best known for her impressive trad and big wall resume, which includes hard, dangerous gear lines like Le Voyage (5.14a R), The Path (5.14a R) and Gondo Crack (5.14b R), plus multiple Yosemite big walls such as The Nose (5.14a 3,000 feet), the Pre-Muir Wall (5.13d 2,900 feet), and Magic Mushroom (5.14a 2,900 feet).
But Zangerl says that Meltdown is the hardest trad route she's done to date, adding that it "felt hard for the grade" and was "a real mental battle."
"I had to reduce my gear to a minimum to save some power," she said in a press release, "because to get through the crux was always low percentage. It was not even close to 50/50 that my foot stuck on the tiny mini-edge. My foot slipped so many times. When I got past this hard sequence today, I knew that it was my chance; I had to keep it together. It is still not over there. The upper part of the route was still very hard, and very tricky to place the final micro-nut. I almost fell off on the last two hard moves."
Like Traversi and Larcher, Zangerl applauds Rodden's 2008 accomplishment: "You are a legend!" she wrote.
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