Assault on El Cap

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Ammon McNeely and Kait Barber

This is a screening of the independent film Assault on El Capitan. It features the most controversial climb in Yosemite--Wings of Steel--and the most colorful climber of modern times, Ammon McNeely. It is Monday, June 9 in Beckman Institute Auditorium on Caltech's campus in Pasadena.

Ammon is a renaissance man of the adventure world. In addition to his formidable reputation as a big wall climber, he is a self-described "5.10 or 5.11 BASE jumper." He has suffered countless grisly injuries, including a nearly severed foot in a horrific BASE accident which was documented on the popular climbing forum Supertopo. He recovers from his many injuries and carries on with a characteristic grit that's earned him the nickname "The Pirate." The Pirate is not only a prolific El Cap climber, having climbed The Captain over seventy-five times, but he also holds several speed records. Many of his ascents are on frightening and seldom-repeated routes, including the famous and controversial Wings of Steel. Assault on El Cap is a film about the second ascent of that storied route.

Why is Wings of Steel so controversial? A couple of nobody climbers trained for hard aid climbing on a piddly little quarry near Los Angeles--the Riverside Quarry. They showed up in Yosemite and put up the hardest aid climb on El Capitan. The locals didn't exactly embrace the duo warmly; in fact, they went so far as to defecate on their fixed lines. The controversy and drama continued for 30 years, eventually spilling over onto the Internet when the crusty old Yosemite climbers of yore found Supertopo. It was only recently that one of the poopers fessed up and apologized to the first ascent party. Ammon and his then girlfriend Kait Barber completed the second ascent of Wings of Steel in July 2011. Ammon logged 500 feet of airtime during their 13 day ascent.

Event Details

This film screening is Monday, June 9, 7 pm in Beckman Institute Auditorium, Caltech, Pasadena. There is a suggested donation of $7 and a reception beforehand with free snacks, free beer, and lots of local climbers, both current and of the has-been or injured varieties. Jeff Vargen, the producer, will be on hand to introduce the film and answer questions.


The location is Beckman Institute Auditorium on Caltech's campus in Pasadena. If you came to the Banff Film Festival 2013, Beckman Institute is just west of the giant circular "wedding cake" building past a long fountain. Otherwise check out the Caltech interactive campus map or the Google map at the end of this page.

Parking after 5 PM is easy and free. We recommend that you park in "Structure 1" in the visitor parking guide or on any of the streets around Caltech. Parking near the intersection of Wilson and San Pasqual would be perfect, since this is the closest intersection to the venue.


Film homepage


Here are the latitude and longitude of the venue: 34.139379N 118.126507W. Here is a Google Map.