Monkey off the back

Over the course of three and a half days I managed to repeat the Prophet, making the fourth ascent of the route.

It was a major battle, perhaps the toughest for me.

I recruited “Big Wall” Dave Allfrey for the mission, and he hauled the lion’s share of the weight.  Perhaps most important was his relentless enthusiasm, and positivity when the chips were down.  He’s been scorching his way through Yosemite’s wall in the last few years, setting a stack of speed records.  I won the lottery having him as a partner.

This year I took one different variation: Nik Berry’s “Devil’s Reacharound” as opposed to Leo’s gigantic sideways dyno.  I had led Leo’s variation last year, but in the end, the dyno proved too low-percentage, and I hedged my bets on Nik’s way.  The fact that Leo could consistently stick the dyno is testament to his ninja-like ability.  Nik’s way turned out to be tougher and scarier than I had originally given it credit for.  I led this way using two ropes to alleviate rope drag so I didn’t have to split the pitch up.

On the evening of day three I found myself underneath the A1 beauty once again, a deja-vue experience, as I had found myself in the identical spot last year.  And, like last year, I was starting to feel deep fatigue setting in.

I couldn’t possibly conjure up in my head, if I tried, a wilder finish to a wild route.  A laser cut finger crack, bordered by a razor-sharp arete; in my books, it doesn’t get any better than that.  It captured me when I first laid eyes on it.  My friend Matt Van Biene rapped in to snap some photos in the magic hour, just as the rock was turning a gold-pink colour.

My first try I performed poorly, burdened by nerves and expectations.  The next try went better, and I soon found myself at the rest before the heading left on insecure sidepulls and terrible footholds.  I could hear Tommy Caldwell and Jonathan Siegriest hollering encouragement from over on the Dawn Wall, as well as Jasmin Caton and Evan Stevens in the meadow.  I knew this was a special moment and that it was time to give it everything I had.

Somehow I managed to do it, digging deeper than I ever have before.  After I clipped the anchor I slumped onto the rope, absolutely spent.  Dave lowered me, embraced me in a bear hug, and we had a King Cobra each to celebrate.  The next day still had the “final defense” pitch in store for me, 5.13a R, but there was no way in hell I was going to let that stand in my way.

I didn’t sleep much that night, instead just blinking at the stars from the portaledge, enjoying being up there.  I felt enormously grateful for all my friends that helped me along the way.  Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles, for the inspiration in the first place.  If it wasn’t for those two brits, the Prophet wouldn’t exist.  And Sonnie Trotter, for ropegunning the route last year.  He took the leads when I was having serious doubts, terrified of re-breaking my foot.  He never made me feel guilty about anything, instead he just gently took over the sharp-end, and showed me how it was done.  The night seemed to drag on forever, but I was ecstatic, savoring every minute of darkness, high on the wall.

The “final defense” went down in a few tries the next morning, then we winched the bags over the top.  We shared the last Cobra in the late-morning, then staggered down the trail.  The Prophet was a done deal.

Dreamer pitch, Tom Evans photo.

Pitch 4, Tom Evans photo

Lowering off A1, heading back to the ledge for a much-needed King Cobra.

Leo and Stanley stop by for a guide’s meeting atop Prophet after climbing the Nose.








  1. Awesome! Nice article and great photos.
    Keep up the good work!
    I really enjoy reading articles like this.

  2. Greg Gavin says:


  3. Yoav says:


  4. Jake says:

    Awesome stuff, man! It’s my dream to one day be able to do some big wall like this. Know that all you guys are a constant inspiration! Keep goin at it.

  5. [...] Stanhope on his 4th ascent of The Prophet, a route on El Cap best known for its stunning “A1 Beauty” crux pitch: I didn’t sleep [...]

  6. Walker Emerson says:

    So sick Will, a thousand congrats.

  7. will says:

    Thanks everyone, that route meant alot to me.

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