Hayden Jamieson climbs Freerider in a day Hayden Jamieson climbs Freerider in a day

The gold standard of big wall free climbing. 

On May 9th, Hayden Jamieson and Aaron Livingston free climbed El Cap’s Freerider in under 22 hours. This had been a long term goal for Rab athlete Hayden. It is a benchmark in big wall free climbing. And their decision to both free climb the route makes it all the more impressive.

We had a chat with Hayden to hear all about it.

You’ve been going to Yosemite for the last ten years or so, when did you decide you wanted to do an El Cap route in a day?

I climbed Freerider over the course of six days for the first time in 2018. I came close to sending, but got shut down by the physical nature of the route and walked away empty-handed. At the time, I remember thinking that to do the route in a day would be a huge dream come true. But it felt so hard to climb it over the course of a week that I couldn’t fathom climbing it in under 24 hours.

What made you and Aaron decide to both free climb the route together in a day instead of finding someone to jug behind you and support your effort?

"Starting at the bottom with your rope, rack, and climbing partner, then both of you free climbing every pitch while sharing leads, is the best style to complete a big objective like this. As far as we know, there have only been a few other parties to do the route in this style."

Have you done anything like this (big link-ups/speed climbing) in Yosemite before?

In Yosemite, doing big link-ups is such a natural thing to do. Over the years, I’ve done quite a few big long days of trying to cover as much ground as possible. Although with this route, it never really felt like we were speed climbing. It felt more like marathon pace throughout the day, which allowed us enough energy to send the harder pitches near the top.

What made you and Aaron decide to both free climb the route together in a day instead of finding someone to jug behind you and support your effort?

Starting at the bottom with your rope, rack, and climbing partner, then both of you free climbing every pitch while sharing leads, is the best style to complete a big objective like this. As far as we know, there have only been a few other parties to do the route in this style.

Is this your first El Cap route in a day?

No, this was my 7th El Cap in a day route.

HA! Well that is impressive… What made you choose Freerider as the route you wanted to do in a day?

I’ve always seen the Freerider as the gold standard benchmark in big wall free climbing. Besides being the easiest free route on El Cap, it presents an incredible challenge. It combines so many styles of climbing: offwidth, slab, bouldering, enduro, and miles of varied cracks.

What kind of prep did you do for the route? Gear/food stash, bivy below/on top of the route?

Our tactics to prep for our ascent included spending 5 days on the route before our push. We did Freeblast, the first 10-12 pitches, twice. Climbed Heart Ledge to El Cap Spire and Enduro Corner to the top. And we rapped the entire wall to work out the Boulder Problem. During our last rappel mission we stashed a haul bag with food and water in the Alcove (at pitch 19). We also had sleeping bags and pads on top of the route, in case we wanted to crash before navigating down the East Ledges.

What kind of training do you have to do to climb 30+ pitches for 22 hours straight?

In the month or so before heading to Yosemite I invested a lot of time in climbing as wide a variety of routes as possible. I would spend early mornings in the gym on the hangboard. Then most of the day climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon to get my granite practice in.

To me, a goal like FRIAD (Freerider in a Day) is as much about the mastery of climbing the 5.9 - 5.11 (HVS - E3) pitches with minimal effort as it is about having the fitness to send the harder pitches.

The evening of a training day I'd spend in the gym focusing more on strength based exercises, to keep up my fitness and get me ready for the offwidth pitches. You really have to be able to do it all, all day long!

What kind of strategy did you two deploy? Did you have an outline of deadlines/cutoffs you were trying to hit?

Our strategy for the route consisted of simul climbing from the ground to the Alcove (pitch 19). We estimated that we’d be able to make that happen in around 6-7 hours. And we did.

After that is all the harder climbing on the route. So, after the Alcove we decided to pitch out the rest of the route and haul a bag to allow us both adequate time to rest and fuel between pitches.

What pitch/pitches were you dreading the most?

Leading up to the trip I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to climb the Monster Offwidth efficiently enough to have any energy afterwards.

When I first tried the route in 2018, it took me well over 2 hours to climb the pitch. This year it took me about 30 minutes. It was a huge relief.

But the other pitch I was dreading was the infamous Scotty Burke Offwidth. This pitch really is the sting in the tail as it comes at the very top of the route. Although it’s only graded 5.10d, it has a reputation for being the most physically challenging pitch on Freerider. This one also went “smoothly” despite the blood sacrifice it took to send.

How did you and Aaron link up? Was this something you all had been planning for a while?

Aaron and I had only climbed together once before this trip. Last August we were both stationed in the same base camp at Mt. Hooker in the Wind River Mountains. And during our respective rest days, we got to talking about how cool of an objective the FRIAD is. From then on we set our plan to climb it together in the spring.

There's a lot of different climbing styles on the way up. How did your background prepare you for this?

Since I started climbing in 2010, I’ve had a hard time committing myself to a single discipline. I tend to bounce around. Getting side tracked from my training goals with big walls, first ascents, boulder problems, and sport climbs. In a way, this has kept me from ever performing at a very high level in any of those disciplines.

From another perspective, all those little skills that I’ve learned along the way prepped me perfectly for Freerider. I’ve never encountered a route that requires so many skills. Slabbing, bouldering, down climbing, traversing, squeezing, offwidthing, enduro climbing, and more than any of those things, suffering. Freerider has it all.

One of my oldest climbing partners told me once “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun”. That was the perfect motto for the FRIAD.

What's next?

I’m really excited to spend some time at home in Salt Lake City this summer. I’ll be working loads, training a bunch, and investing my free time towards some local single pitch projects. That will hopefully get me ready for my big wall goals in the fall!

We got to ask, how did your kit far on those long offwidths?

I wore the Rab Ascendor Light pant and the Rab Filament Hoody for every climbing day on the route and they both came out unscathed! Solid pieces of kit, I'd highly recommend.

Congratulations Hayden and Aaron. A true mastery climbing.

Looking forward to seeing what the next big adventure is (no pressure).

Words and Images by | Hayden Jamieson

First Image by | Christian Joudrey on Unsplash


Dedicated and generous, Hayden has undergone hardship to keep doing the sport that guides his life. Alongside sending big walls, he’s a bedrock in his local climbing community, coaching the new generation and maintaining local sport routes.