Wings of Steel—likely El Cap’s hardest aid route and unrepeated since its first ascent 29 years ago—has finally been repeated. After repulsing accomplished big-wall veterans including Rob Slater and Kevin Thaw, Wings of Steel has been climbed by the “El Cap Pirate” Ammon McNeely and his partner/girlfriend Kait Barber. At this writing the duo have completed Wingsproper and are exiting via the Aquarian Wall.
Wings of Steel is El Cap’s most controversial route. Mark Smith and Richard Jensen—two unknown Valley “outsiders”—arrived in 1982 to climb the apparently blank Great Slab to the left of the Salathe Wall. They found compact granite on a low-angle face that could be climbed—barely—using tiny Leeper pointed hooks on nearly invisible rugosities. So impossible did the climbing appear that numerous Yosemite locals assumed that Smith and Jensen were drilling and chipping their way up the face.
Disgusted by the perceived desecration, the team’s snail-like pace and the fact that Smith and Jensen hadn’t paid their proper dues by repeating El Cap’s hard big walls of the day, local climbers threatened Smith and Jensen, verbally abused them and in a night-time raid, pulled their fixed rope on the first pitch and defecated on it.
Click here to read on.