Big wall climber Mayan Smith-Gobat is returning to the Mecca of rock climbing, Yosemite Valley in California.


  • Update 1 October 2013: Free climbing female record on the Nose completed with Libby Sauter, 5 hours 39
  • Update 3 October 2013: Speed record on the Nose, El Capitan, in 3 hours 30, with Sean Leary.

Mayan Smith-Gobat

Mayan Smith-Gobat

What: 1) free climb a link-up of El Capitan and Half Dome (1444m),  2) break the speed record on the Nose, and 3) Free climb the Nose on El Capitan (2307m),
Where: Yosemite Valley, California, USA
When: September 2013
Follow: Blog

Christchurch’s Mayan Smith-Gobat has already notched up a number of world firsts. In the rock-climbing world, she’s unstoppable.

Known as one of the world’s best female rock climbers, Mayan proved this once again last year when she hit the headlines for her free climb of the Salathe on El Capitan, a famous rockface in California’s Yosemite Valley. It was the was the first time a New Zealander had free-climbed this wall and a week later she did the whole 1,000m face in a single 14-hour push.

Below: Half Dome

Challenge one: Speed climbing the Nose

Arguably her toughest challenge will be breaking the speed climbing record of the Nose.  Mayan holds the female record for this already, at a time of around 7.3 hours. She hopes to break the overall speed record, at a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes. This is a notoriously difficult time to crack, in a speed race that is increasingly becoming stuff of legend.

El Capitan

El Capitan

Challenge two: Free climbing a link between El Capitan and Half Dome

Mayan’s first goal is to free climb a link-up of El Capitan and Half Dome. If successful, she’ll be the first woman to do it.

“In rock climbing women are close to men, if you look solely at pure difficulty, but rarely do they compete on the same level as the guys,” says Mayan.

“I want to show that we women are just as capable, on any terrain.”

Half Dome. Photo: Rainer Hübenthal

Half Dome. Photo: Rainer Hübenthal

Challenge three: Free climbing the Nose

In free climbing, rope is used as a safety link to prevent falling only. Climbers use their hands, feet and other parts of the body to ascend.

Free climb ascents are rarely attempted by a one woman team, but Mayan plans to use this method up one of the most famous routes in the world, the Nose, a 1000m  buttress on El Capitan. There have been only three free ascents of the Nose before.



Mayan is already well known in the climbing scene, having spent more than 10 years climbing fulltime. Mayan first began dabbling in alpine and rock climbing as a 16 year old.

After finishing high school, Mayan devoted herself to skiing and spent the next few years chasing winters around the world. She began competing in Big Mountain Extreme skiing competitions and was soon a semi-professional skier, at the top of her field in New Zealand. Consequently, she barely touched rock during that time.

It wasn’t until 2001, when a skiing accident forced her to spend the next six months on crutches, that Mayan focused on training her upper body. During this time she rediscovered her love for climbing. This was the true beginning of Mayan’s climbing career, since then she has dedicated her life to rock climbing.

Several injuries have forced Mayan to move away from climbing for long periods of time, but these absences have only strengthened Mayan’s addiction to rock. Mayan lives on the road most of the time, traveling around the world in search of new challenges and inspiring lines to climb.



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