Sometimes I read articles about climbers having freed a route. For example: "Lynn Hill freed the Nose". What does this exactly mean in terms of how they climbed it?


  • Are they not allowed to fall at all during the climb?
  • Are there ropes and partners involved (like a normal multi-pitch climb)?
  • What sort of protection is available? Bolts, trad gear?
  • Is a route freed only once by the person who climbed it first (so a synonym of a first ascent)?
  • Is "freeing a route" ever used for single-pitch climbs, or is it mainly used for much longer climbs?

1 Answer 1


"Freeing" a route does basically mean to climb a route, which up to then was only aid climbed, in free climbing style for the first time (i.e. using only the natural holds for gripping and stepping on them). Therefore it is a thing that can only happen once per every route.

In the great times of the redpoint movement from the mid-70ies on, many single-pitch routes were freed by the famous free climbers of that time. But in the meantime the term might typically refer more to multi-pitch climbs as there are not many people who climb new single-pitch routes in aid climbing style.

To be accepted as freeing, the route must typically be climbed redpoint or – for multi-pitch routes – at least team free (i.e. every pitch as to be climbed redpoint by at least one of the team members). The protection can be of any type but it seems that in most cases it's considered ethical to not install more bolts for the free ascend than are already there from former aid climbs. So it can be a mixture of bolted and trad-style ascent.

  • So if someone wants to free a route by him/herself, they just take a person to second all the way? And if they happen to fall on a pitch, will they lower back down and try again until they get it clean?
    – shimizu
    Sep 4, 2014 at 13:30
  • @shimizu Exactly that. You will do anything that you do when you free climb any other route, you are just the first to do it. Sep 4, 2014 at 13:40

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