National Geographic is reporting that Jim Reynolds, a 25-year-old member of the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, free soloed a 5,000-foot face on Patagonia’s iconic Cerro Fitz Roy back on March 21. Reynolds climbed the Afanassieff route using no rope and no gear (rated 5.10c), going up and down the route in 15.5 hours, an astonishingly long time to be exposed on a mountain like that.
The only other known free solo of Fitz Roy was the late Dean Potter’s climb up the Supercanaleta route in 2002. But even Potter rappelled back down.
Reynolds has spent a chunk of the austral summer in Patagonia, free soloing other prominent peaks. He climbed Rafael Juarez and Saint-Exupéry, both over 8,000 feet in elevation, without ropes or aids, and down climbed those as well.
Climbing back down, rather than rappelling, is a key part of Reynolds’ approach in the mountains.
“For me, soloing is a way to combine the beauty of humanity with the beauty of the natural world to create a higher art,” Reynolds told Nation Geographic. “That’s what’s worth pursuing in a modern age where many have no purpose.”
Reynolds apparently did carry a small length of rope and a bit of climbing gear should he be required to perform a self-rescue, but reportedly climbed without using it.
Until this point, Reynolds had flown fairly well below the climbing world’s radar, though he did, briefly, hold the speed record for climbing The Nose route on El Capitan back in 2017, along with Brad Gobright. The following year, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell smashed the record by 20 minutes.
He’s made his mark on the climbing world now.
Photo: Alexandre Ackermans