Carlo Traversi Performs Vertical Ballet on Legendary 5.14 ‘Magic Line’

Watch the send footage as all-around crusher Carlo Traversi makes a flawless ascent of ‘Magic Line’ (5.14) in Yosemite Valley.

As Vernal Falls roars in the background, Carlo Traversi puts together a performance of pure granite wizardry. No desperate lunges. No Elvis leg. Perfection.

“Magic Line” is among the most difficult pitches of trad climbing on Earth. It was first climbed in 1996 by stonemaster Ron Kauk using pre-placed gear. In 2018, Kauk’s son Lonnie made the second ascent, placing all the gear on lead and grading the route 5.14c. Hazel Findlay nabbed a true redpoint in 2019, making Traversi’s effort the fourth ascent overall.

Traversi first attempted the route in winter 2016. He managed to toprope it clean in just two goes, and after a few working sessions, he came very close to sending it later that season.

Over the next 5 years, Traversi visited the route infrequently, as the combination of psyche, conditions, and free time never quite came together. In 2019, he briefly sessioned “Magic Line” with Findley. In winter 2022, Tommy Caldwell invited Traversi to work the route as a pair. With a consistent partner at the ready, Traversi wrapped up the project on Feb. 27, 2022.

Fortunately for us, the Black Diamond crew was on hand to dangle around on fixed lines and shoot video.

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Projecting (and Sending) ‘Magic Line’

Traversi’s expert execution makes the route appear smooth and evenly sustained, but it actually has two distinct cruxes.

A hyper-insecure V11 boulder problem near the start involves terribly polished smears. Next, a long section of 5.13+ laybacking leads to a rest and a final V9 sequence.

All in all, “Magic Line” demands immaculate precision for 100-plus feet. Power and steel tendons won’t help you — it’s all about finesse.

Carlo Traversi on Magic Line.
Traversi gastons the offset of the crack while pressing his foot into an insecure smear; (photo/Black Diamond)

Though the route received an “R” safety rating back in the ’90s, well-placed modern gear provides adequate protection. Traversi utilized a variety of Black Diamond C3s and Z4s, inspecting and lightly pull-testing each before clipping.

As for shoe beta, Traversi went with a lightly broken-in pair of Five Ten Hiangles. Each pair lasted just 2-3 days before they became too soft to stick to the route’s micro-edges and quartz crystals.

While projecting “Magic Line,” Traversi also worked and sent “Meltdown,” another Yosemite 5.14. In an interview with The Runout Podcast, Traversi said that he found “Meltdown” to be harder than “Magic Line,” with the former perhaps deserving of the 5.14d grade. Beth Rodden made the first ascent of “Meltdown” in 2008, over a decade before Traversi.

In the same interview, Traversi characterized “Magic Line” as “low-end 5.14c, maybe hard 5.14b.” He also said it felt like 5.14a on toprope, with placing gear adding a significant additional challenge. Traversi acknowledged that both “Magic Line” and “Meltdown” will require more input over time to reach an accurate grade consensus.

In November 2021, Traversi also made the third ascent of Caldwell’s “Flex Luthor” (5.15b), one of the hardest sport routes in the U.S. With elite-level sport, trad, and bouldering accomplishments under his belt, Carlo Traversi is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded climbers on the planet.

Runtime: 10 minutes

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Austin Beck-Doss

Austin Beck-Doss is a Staff Writer at GearJunkie.

Austin has been writing about climbing, hiking, and snow sports for 5 years.

Prior to that, Austin worked as a rock climbing guide for an adaptive recreation organization.

Based in Wyoming, Austin enjoys hiking in quiet areas, recording observations as drawings, and looking for new (old) rocks to climb.


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