Beth Rodden

Over the winter, in Yosemite Valley, the 28-year-old superclimber from Davis, California, notched the country's hardest trad climb, meaning she used nuts and camming devices only to catch her falls. It took Rodden 40 days and more than 80 attempts to scale Meltdown, a 70-foot, overhanging, finger-width crack rated 5.14.

Matt Samet

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OUTSIDE: What's a 5.14 crack?
Rodden: You're climbing with the very tips of your fingers—using maybe just half a fingernail—and standing on tiny round bumps. But the crack's also offset, so you're grabbing it at a weird angle.

Sounds painful.
I'd tear open flaps on my knuckles and wear my skin down to nothing. It was like sandpaper grinding—five Band-Aids at night. Luckily, I have a hand therapist who's awesome. I don't think crack climbing is very healthy for you.

Well, you managed not to hit the ground. That's worth something.
I don't think I fell on the first piece, though I did hang on it. But I fell on every other piece of gear. That's a little scary.

How did you feel on the rock?
Very insecure, I'd say.

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