THE FIRST ASCENT
Lynn Hill is a pioneer in the sport of Free Climbing – redefining what is possible and setting a new standard of excellence. But her story doesn’t start on the side of a rock. It starts as a gymnast. Lynn loved the art of gymnastics because it allowed her to experiment with her body in space. That exploration and athleticism led her to an internal belief that she had a lot of the skills required to do something truly groundbreaking. When Lynn first "roped up" for her initial ascent at the age of 14, no one knew just how much of an impact she would leave on the sport – no one but Lynn.
The recent film “Free Solo” - and resulting media publicity - brought the difficulty, intensity and achievement of free-climbing The Nose on El Capitan in Yellowstone to the mainstream. It was a challenge that had viewers’ palms sweating while sitting at the edge of their seat. Would he make it? Little do most people know that Lynn was the first person to free climb The Nose back in 1993, almost thirty years prior to the recent free solo achievement. And for two decades after her 1994 ascent, Lynn still remained one of only two people to climb it in a single day. This wasn’t abnormal for Lynn though. She set routes from Joshua Tree to Kyrgyzstan, becoming the first ascent, first free ascent or first free climb – male or female – on some of the world’s most difficult climbs.
Lynn is one of those women, pioneering a way for others with achievements that include …
- 1979, Ophir Broke II, Telluride, Colorado − First free ascent
- 1979, Pea Brain, Independence Pass, Colorado − First free ascent
- 1979, Stairway to Heaven III, Tahquitz Peak, California − First free ascent
- 1980, Coatamundi Whiteout II, Granite Mountain, Arizona − First free ascent
- 1981, Hidden Arch, Joshua Tree, California − First free ascent
- 1981, Levitation 29 IV, Red Rock, Nevada − First free ascent
- 1982, Blue Nubian 5.11, Joshua Tree, California − First free ascent
- 1984, Yellow Crack 5.12R/X, Shawangunks − First free ascent
- 1984, Vandals, Shawangunks − First ascent
- 1984, Organic Iron, Shawangunks − First ascent
- 1985, Organic Iron, Shawangunks − First free ascent
- 1987, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Shawangunks − First free ascent
- 1988, The Greatest Show on Earth, New River Gorge, West Virginia − First free ascent
- 1989, Running Man, Shawangunks − First free ascent
- 1993, The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite − First to free climb
- 1994, Mingus V, 12 pitches, Verdon Gorge, France − First free ascent
- 1994, The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite − First free ascent
- 1995, Clodhopper Direct IV, Central Pyramid, Kyrgyzstan − First ascent
- 1995, Perestroika Crack V, Peak Slesova, Kyrgyzstan − First free ascent
- 1995, West Face V, Peak 4810, Kyrgyzstan − First free ascent
- 1997, Tete de Chou, Todra Gorge, Morocco − First ascent
- 1999, Bravo les Filles VI, 13 pitches, Tsaranoro Massif, Madagascar − First ascent
- 2004, Viva la Liberdad 5.12b, Vinales, Cuba − First ascent
As an athlete, Lynn is always looking for efficiency. How can she do something just a little better and optimize – her route, her fitness, her life. OOFOS play a pivotal role in this for her as an Active Recovery tool she uses to rebuild. Between the physicality of scaling a rock wall and the convex positioning climbing shoes intentionally place the foot in, OOFOS have become essential in Lynn’s recovery between ascents. The first time Lynn felt OOfoam™ underfoot, she was amazed at how the impact-absorbing technology felt. She immediately understood how they would help her feet and body between climbs. “Our feet are the most important thing in climbing. If you can use your feet cleverly, you can use a lot more strength from your legs.” Lynn now wears a variety of styles during her day-to-day life as one more tool she can use to rebuild.
To Lynn, there’s something therapeutic about nature. She finds it grounding and calming to be about being outside and just observing nature. Even on the side of a rockface, Lynn finds an artistic parallel. She believes the rock creates its own choreography and she adapts in the most harmonious way possible. But even this beautiful connection to nature’s gifts isn’t where Lynn has found her greatest joy in the sport. That comes from community.
The climbing community is an incredibly tight and supportive group of people. They belay for each other, share gear with each other and even provide beta (tips) for succeeding at a route. While competition climbing is a piece of the climbing world, there’s a unity and understanding of the personal challenge and endeavor that is collectively celebrated.
Lynn’s legacy lives on not just in the routes still being attempted by todays young, aspiring climbers, but in her unquenched thirst for more. She continues to challenge herself on some of the world's toughest, and knows that she can continue to sharpen herself if she provides space to recover. Paying attention to the small things and treating her body well allow her to push her limits as a climber, coach and mom.
Lynn’s legacy is also being built through those around her. Her mentorship of younger climbers is leading them to challenge their own perception of what is possible and helping them reach new heights of personal and physical achievement through climbing. Clearly, Lynn Hill still hasn’t “peaked” in her climbing career.