Scarpa North America Blog

Seven Days On El Cap With David Allfrey

Aug. 14th 2014

Once a California climbing bum with big wall aspirations, David Allfrey is now has now proven himself an accomplished climber—recently climbing seven routes in seven days on El Capitan with friend and partner Alex Honnold.


He spoke to us about his recent climbing achievement, alpine climbing aspirations, and balancing the sport with the rest of his life.

SCARPA: Talk about your 7-in-7 project on El Cap. What inspired you to attempt this?

DAVID ALLFREY: I had heard about this idea seven or eight years ago, but it seemed so far out—just an insane idea. I had never climbed El Cap at the time, let alone climbed it in a day. But it stuck with me in the back of my mind. When I started doing more endurance climbing two or three years ago, the idea started floating around in my mind again.

Alex and I had just done a one-day ascent of Excalibur. We were walking off the summit and I was thinking about what’s next—which is kind of sick because we had just finished a huge climb—and I had the realization that it might be possible. Alex is definitely the right partner; our combination of skills works. He was into the idea and we made plans to go for it.

Allfrey climbing Fitz Roy.

SCARPA: What were the highs and lows of the week?

DA: I think the high point was starting the route every morning. Every single morning—no matter how messed up I felt—as soon as we started climbing, everything faded away. The exhaustion, the hurting joints, the swollen wrist, everything disappeared as soon as we started climbing. Once I’d start, I knew I was going to the top.

The low point was on the third night, right after finishing the third route. I woke up and had wrist and elbow pain that radiated from my shoulder to my fingertips. It hurt so badly. I actually have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I couldn’t even sleep. I just sat in my van with my head in my hands and felt like I was going to cry. My hands were numb and I knew if the pain continued, I couldn’t go on.

I finally managed to sleep and woke up in the morning when Alex popped his head in the van with the usual, “Good morning sweetie!” His voice quickly changed when he looked at me and said, “You look like hell, dude.” I felt terrible, but we got up and climbed The Nose in five hours. Afterwards, we iced in the river, hydrated and ate and got to sleep early. The next morning I felt better, more positive.

Allfrey on Moose’s Tooth

SCARPA: What do you love about alpine climbing and what’s the hardest trip you’ve been on?

DA: I love alpine climbing because of the locations it brings me to. There’s nothing like being in the mountains and looking at an objective. I went to Alaska this spring and did some true alpine climbing there. It was really challenging and amazing. The hardest alpine climbing I’ve done was there, when I climbed the east face of Moose’s Tooth. It was -15 degrees Fahrenheit and we did not summit or succeed.

SCARPA: Favorite shoe for alpine climbing?

DA: Absolutely the SCARPA Instinct.

Climbing the Triple Link.

SCARPA: Biggest climbing accomplishment?

DA: A week and a half after the 7-in-7, I did the Triple Link: Mount Watkins, El Cap and Half Dome in 24 hours. So, I think June in Yosemite was my biggest accomplishment. I went into the 7-in-7 not sure I could do it—I gave myself about a 65 percent chance. It was a goal I had dreamed about and directly focused my climbing on for seven or eight years. But as soon as I finished the 7-in-7, Alex told me I should rest and then go for the Triple. I had dreamed about doing the Triple Link and had talked about it, but had never thought about doing it on the same trip. It was a major, major accomplishment. It made the whole thing blend together into one big event. They were two goals I thought I would never ever do. And I did both of them. It was spectacular.

SCARPA: What’s next for you?

DA: I have nothing planned or set in stone. I’ve been avoiding thinking about it because I’m starting nursing school in the fall. One goal I’ve set for myself during nursing school is to see how hard I can rock climb. I want to actively chase grades, so to speak. I love to rock climb every day and I’m one of the first people you’ll see scrambling an easy route just because it’s fun. But at the same time, I want to see what I can do in terms of challenging, difficult rock climbing. I’ve never really pushed myself on that.

Photos: David Allfrey and Cheyne Lempe

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