April 29, 1996
What was your best experience?
Question: What is the best experience that you have had?
Sean T. Anderson
Answer: The best and the worst came within about 15 seconds of each other. We finally got to the top of the Salathé Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley on the first free ascent. We'd been in Yosemite two months trying it, and had just completed it and were actually standing on the top where the summit block is the anchor. The partner I'd been climbing with, Paul Piana, arrived up there first and I arrived behind him and I stood up and shook his hand. That was the first time a big wall of that difficulty had really been free-climbed.
Ten seconds after I shook his hand, we started to holler "gear" and that summit block came loose, breaking Paul's leg in five places, breaking my ribs, doing some other damage, and cutting all but one of our ropes, and almost killing both of us, thereby necessitating a seven- to eight-hour crawl-off from the summit.