Hotline, Yosemite

by Ron Kauk
Spring 2009 - Classic Climbs

Hotline was first climbed in ’73 by Mark Chapman and Jim Bridwell, two of my free-climbing inspirations. In the early ’70s I was in high school sitting in the back of the class reading Bridwell’s article “Brave New World” in Mountain Magazine. The photos of Chapman attempting The Owl Roof were so impressive to me. This was the beginning of a real push of opening up free climbing in Yosemite.

In 1975, John Bachar and I crossed the Merced River and headed up to Elephant Rock with our dream to free climb the tension traverse on the second pitch of Hotline. We knew we had a chance to help push free climbing forward. We freed Hotline and it became the first 5.12 in Yosemite. We reveled in the seven-pitch route with its spectacular 130-foot hand crack on the third pitch, the overhanging 5.10 flaring chimney on the sixth pitch, and the bouldering face climbing moves that top out on one of the most amazing formations in the Valley – a 600-foot pillar leaning against the main wall of Elephant Rock.

For thirty years I’ve admired this climb from across the valley while climbing at the Cookie. It’s a rare occasion to see anyone on Hotline, as it’s so close, yet so far away. It has always held itself in that deep-rooted mystery of what I believe is a Cult Classic.

About the Author

Ron Kauk first visited Yosemite Valley as a teenager, and the place so captivated him that he has lived in, or near, the Valley ever since. He made the first ascents of Astroman and Midnight Lightning in the late ’70s, established the Valley’s first 5.14 in the ’90s, and has always viewed climbing as something beyond the physical; as a transformational experience through which people can connect with the incomparable wonders of our natural world.