Reflections on 2009

31 12 2009

As the year comes to a close and climbing trips seem a bit less frequent, I feel it is important to reflect.

As a climber I like to focus on progress and usually push myself to increase my abilities.  While I have been climbing for about ten years, I have only been setting goals for the last five. I have most of these written down in various word documents and it is interesting to look back and see where I was at.

Was a certain level of climbing intimidating? Did I tend to try only a particular style of routes? What was my most proud accomplishment of the year?

Lizzy had a good idea to put events in chronological order to make everything more readable. Here are some of my important events of 2009.

  • Pinky finger pulley rupture at the climbing gym.
  • Strained ring finger  bouldering on pockets in Bishop.
  • Competed in my first trail races since high school (25k, 15k, and 22k).
  • Had a very fun and relaxing trip to Indian Creek. (No grade chasing)
  • Regained bouldering strength and met up with college friends in Joe’s Valley, Utah.

On Planet of the Apes in Joe’s Valley

  • Climbed a number of diverse 5.11’s in Joshua Tree.
  • Continued improving and took a first trip to Zion and onsighted all but one pitch of my first 5.12 multi-pitch, Sheer Lunacy.
  • Climbed Vahalla at Suicide Rock. (Stonemaster!)
  • Got taught a lesson in fear and footwork at Smith Rock.
  • Started off a great alpine season with an ascent of Positive Vibrations on the 4th of July.
  • Climbed two awesome 5.11+ bolted multipitches, The Cathedral Route at Mount Charleston and The Megaplex in Pine Creek Canyon.
  • Continued alpine climbing all summer and brought Lizzy to the Hulk to finish off the pitches I had missed on Positive Vibrations.

On the Incredible Hulk with Lizzy!

  • Did a new 5 pitch route on Mt Langley and a new finish variation on the Keyhole Wall. (Yeah first ascents)
  • Had an amazing trip to the Needles and climbed Atlantis and Spook Book!
  • Re-climbed The Vampire at Tahquitz and stepped it up by leading The Flakes and following Stairway to Heaven.
  • Climbed my first Yosemite 5.11 (The Tube) and 5.12 (Underclingon).
  • Started training for Freerider by climbing the Free Blast.

Climbing high on El Capitan

  • Climbed the Original route on Rainbow Wall with one take. Likely my best single day of climbing all year.
  • Climbed El Capitan via Freerider over 4 days. Free climbed almost 75% of the pitches.
  • Had an amazing trip to Indian Creek and climb my first handful of 5.12 crack routes.
  • Finished the year in Sunnyvale ready for more trips to the Valley.

I think the most important thing this year has been a change in attitude. In the past I have been bent on doing things in a particular style. Climbing onsight and not wanting to get on climbs that I couldn’t do first try. This limited me mentally and I wouldn’t push myself as far as possible. This year my positive relaxed attitude really helped a lot and my climbing has noticeably improved.

I really hope to get in to a good routine in 2010 with more regimented training to prepare for climbing El Cap again as well as finding a few hard projects to keep me motivated.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

–   Luke

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2009 – A Milestone Year

29 12 2009

The year is drawing to a close and I’ve begun to realize that, even though I didn’t allow myself to literally write down a list of goals for the year (I find this just results in too much pressure and disappointment…), I did in fact have a bunch of goals and I accomplished a big number of them. In fact, I hit some pretty big milestones this year. So without further ado, here are the highlights (in chronological order):

  • First time: pulling a chest muscle by coughing too much. And then taking 2+ months to recover.
  • Onsighted my first Indian Creek 5.11, Rump Roast II. After several months of not climbing because I had pulled a chest muscle.
  • Turned 21.
  • Accepted as a PhD student in geology at Stanford.
  • Awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • Ran my longest ever trail race: 22k in Malibu.

  • First time: in Zion, and first time on a multipitch free route in Zion – Sheer Lunacy.
  • Graduated from Caltech with a B.S. in Geology.

  • Returned to Smith Rock after not visiting for almost 5 years.
  • First time: onsighting 5.11d (or sending any 5.11d, for that matter) – my dream route, Sunshine Dihedral.
  • Returned to Squamish, one of my favorite areas to climb, and finally sent Crime of the Century, right before onsighting Yorkshire Gripper.
  • Moved to Palo Alto, started climbing at Planet Granite Sunnyvale.
  • First: duathlon. Competed in the Luna Bar Women’s Duathlon at the Luna Bar Women’s Triathlon Festival: 2mi run, 20mi bike, 4mi run.

  • Met Sarah Kate, my awesome climbing partner. 🙂
  • Started my first term of grad school at Stanford.
  • Biked to school every single day.
  • Visited Arkansas for the first time, on a geology field trip.
  • First: Climbed my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Yosemite 5.10s – 2 onsights and a redpoint.
  • First: Climbed my first Yosemite 5.11, the crux pitch of South by Southwest, which I climbed with Sarah Kate.

  • First time: Feeling like I am getting over being cripplingly intimidated of climbing in Yosemite.
  • First time: attending a tweetup: #jtreetweetup!
  • Finally sent Gunsmoke! (First tried it in April 2005)
  • First time: getting the whole week of Thanksgiving off, prompting an awesome trip to Indian Creek.
  • First: 5.11++ onsight in Indian Creek – Quarter of a Man.
  • First: 5.12!!! Swedin-Ringle.

  • First: 5.11+ that felt easy… Coyne Crack.
  • Finished my first term as a grad student at Stanford.
  • First time: living less than 2 hours away from Luke – he moved to Mountain View!
  • Finally met theclimbergirl 🙂

So, as you can tell, it’s been a great year, in both my lives (as a climber and a geologist). I think 2010 will be a really exciting year as well, as I start to get more involved in my research at school and I continue to train (and hopefully not get injured). Sarah Kate and I have a really big goal for next year in Yosemite, so hopefully that will keep us motivated! Also, Luke got me a triathlon wetsuit for Christmas, yet another reason to start training for a triathlon (or two!) in 2010 – hopefully a sprint distance first and, if all goes well, an Olympic distance.

Happy (almost) new year!

Lizzy





Turkey Day in Indian Creek

26 12 2009

Back in March, Lizzy and I decided the next time we went to the Creek we wanted to go with friends. Our trip had been awesome, but there is something about spending time with good company in such a beautiful place like Indian Creek. Over the week of Thanksgiving, we climbed with many people and ran into others multiple times throughout the week. To make logistics possible, I drove out with Konstantin and Lin while Lizzy drove from the bay with Sarah Kate.

The trip went amazingly well for me from the first climb to the last and I am very happy with how far my climbing has come in the last year and a half. I was able to redpoint many of the climbs I had top roped my first trip to Indian creek in 2008 and sent a ton of other four star routes.

Luke is getting quite pumped on Mad Dog. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Unlike March, where we focused on easy routes and exploring new areas, this trip was about sending projects and pushing ourselves to failure. When toying with the edge of your fitness and mental space, failure can actually be very important. In a trend that I have been working on recently, I fell on gear and kept trying as hard as I could until the end. I saw fitness gains and had my most productive trip thus far. I climbed at least one route that I wanted each day and some day saw two or three exciting sends.

Luke is really excited the crack is finally getting bigger. Photo by Andre Kiryanov


Luke poses under Pit Bull Terror. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Its interesting to figure out what feels hard especially as you go through the many different sizes. A harder finger crack can be quite powerful but feel much more secure than ringlocks of the same grade. The list below is of all the routes 5.11 and harder I did over this trip. I wanted to write this down and put an order to the climbs to note what felt harder so I can look back upon this in the future.  The grades in IC are totally subjective due to people’s fitness, skill set and the size of their hands. When you break into 5.11 and above the routes will demand odd size jamming and can often be quite continuous which requires good endurance and the ability to recover.

  1. Three Strikes You’re Out 5.11a/b Onsight
  2. Our Piece of the Real Estate 5.11a/b Redpoint
  3. Twitch 5.11b – TR Flash
  4. Mantel Illness 5.11b Flash
  5. Pit Bull Terror 5.11b/c  Redpoint
  6. Sicilian 5.11c Onsight
  7. Bachelor Party 5.11c Onsight
  8. Johnny Cat 5.11c Redpoint
  9. King Cat 5.11c   Two hangs
  10. Coyne Crack 5.11c/d Flash
  11. Mad Dog 5.11c/d Flash
  12. Layaway Plan 5.11d TR Flash
  13. Way Rambo 5.11d/12a Repoint
  14. Annunaki 5.11d/12a Onsight/Flash
  15. Quarter of a Man 5.11d/12a One hang
  16. Swedin-Ringle 5.12a Redpoint
  17. Cat Burglar 5.12a/b Redpoint
  18. Way of the Gun 5.12b/c – TR hangdog
  19. Digital Readout 5.12 b/c Redpoint

Luke gives Pit Bull Terror another burn. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

The two hardest routes were both finger cracks, which is fitting since that is my favorite/strongest size. It is fun to learn more about finger stacks (about a .75 camalot for me) and learn to do thin hands. I ranged from pumped on Coyne Crack, to very pumped on Mad Dog, to terminally pumped on Quarter of a Man.  Most of the trip I was able to manage my pump and really only ran out of juice on Quarter of a Man. Since I did so well I know that I will have to start trying harder cracks in the future. On this trip, Digital Readout seemed much harder than the other routes I tried and the only route I actually felt improvement on. For me the difficulty came from the poor feet and the insecure jams at the end rather than the pump of the climb. I found Cat Burglar to be easier but more pumpy since there is no midway rest. I could have done it first try if not for the pump factor. Digital Readout, on the other hand, required me to really pull hard, trust my feet, and commit.

Luke feels a bit beat up after Pit Bull Terror Photo by Andre Kiryanov

On the mental side of things I had a really good trip. On Johnny Cat I have to gun for the anchors to get through the bad size. There was a moment where I looked down at the cams below my feet and just smiled. I took falls on gear twice, both unexpectedly and the falls were clean. I still need to figure out how to push my self when the climbing is hard or insecure since I was a bit worried about falling before I finally peeled on Quarter of a Man and this lead to much wasted energy.

Enjoy the Photos!

– Luke

Sarah Kate onsights Soulfire

Lizzy enjoys some red Camalot hand jams on her redpoint of Soulfire Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Lizzy slots a cam near the finish of Soulfire Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke warms up on Long Island Iced Tea. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke makes a few final hard moves on Annunaki Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke has the anchors in sight on his flash of Annunaki Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke on his way to an terminal pump on Quarter of a Man.

Andre redpointing Mantel Illness

Andre gets ready for some cruxy face climbing on Mantel Illness

Leah finds a pre-crux rest on Mantel Illness

Lizzy starts up Way of the Gun

Lizzy gets ready to pull the roof on Way of the Gun.

Konstantin pulls the roof on King Cat.

Lizzy works through a hard section of green Camalots on Mad Dog.





Sweet Gear Review: Patagonia Crosstown Backpack

17 12 2009

Although most of the sweet gear I get is for climbing or running or cycling, there is some awesome gear that I use for my during-the-week life. I know that most climbers out there are like me: we have a “normal” job during the week to help support our climbing habit on weeknights, weekends, and vacations. Many of you probably commute to work in some way, and you might even have a laptop that you commute with, like I do.

Well, if you’re looking for a great solution for organizing your stuff and transporting your laptop to and from work or school, the Patagonia Crosstown backpack is a great choice.

Patagonia Crosstown backpack. Photo from Patagonia.com

For the last many years, including my entire time at Caltech, I used a Timbuk2 bag as my school bag. Although there are some great reasons to use a Timbuk2 bag (they’re awesome, and generally very compatible with getting around by bike), they are not really the best commuting bags, in my opinion, especially if you’re carrying a laptop back and forth. The fact is that the bag is only ever on one shoulder and, well, it doesn’t feel good on your shoulder. So, when I knew I would be carrying my computer to and from the office every day at Stanford, it was time for an upgrade (my parents offered to get me a new backpack as a graduation gift).

I chose the Patagonia Crosstown backpack because it seemed to have a great combination of features, functionality, and style, and that has definitely proven to be true.

Here’s a rundown of the features I love:

  • Laptop sleeve is perfect for my 13″ laptop, and easy to get my laptop in and out even when the main compartment is pretty full.
  • Plenty of room for notebooks, textbooks, lunch, extra jacket, etc. in the main pocket, plus a little internal mesh pouch that’s perfect for my calculator and mouse.

Main compartment, showing laptop sleeve and internal mesh pouch.

  • Just the right amount of organization in the front compartment – my favorite pencil, my favorite pen, my cell phone, and my ZuneHD. Everything a girl needs 🙂  Plus room for my wallet and other small necessities.

Front organizer compartment

  • External mesh water bottle pouch. Because it’s good to stay hydrated.
  • Zippered side pouch. It fits my keys and the “coffee shop” covers for my bike shoe cleats. It is really awesome to arrive at my office or my apartment and not have to take my backpack off to access my keys. I don’t think I can ever be happy with a bag that doesn’t have this feature from now on…

Zippered side pouch (perfect for keys!)

  • The front sleeve is PERFECT for my Chaco Flips, which I wear approximately 350 days a year, including most school days. Since I wear bike shoes to ride my bike, it’s great to be able to easily throw my flip flops into my backpack.
  • Comfortable suspension. To be fair, I don’t have a very long “commute” – 5-6 minute bike ride or a ~20 minute walk – and I have a very light laptop, but I’ve taken the backpack (full of stuff) through airports, too and it’s generally very comfortable.
  • Durable fabric that does a good job of staying clean. I don’t have a rear fender on my bike, so when it’s wet, the spray from the back wheel gets on me and my backpack. But you couldn’t tell from looking at my backpack – the dirt brushes right off.
  • Environmentally friendly: the backpack is made from 100% recycled polyester (except for the lining and mesh).

Flip flop sleeve!

There are a few minor issues I’ve had with the backpack:

  • The shoulder straps have a tendency to loosen – I feel like I have to re-tighten them fairly often. This may be due to the amount of on and off I subject my backpack to – I’ve never had a problem with it loosening while I’m riding my bike.
  • The waistbelt also seems to spontaneously loosen, even though I never use it (just keep it clipped closed so it’s out the way). This could be kind of annoying if you use the waistbelt on a regular basis (I don’t).
  • It might be tricky to fit a large laptop into the pouch, although if you have a computer that big, you’re probably not carrying it to work/school every day.

So, to sum up my thoughts: this is a really great backpack, especially for my (short) commute. It has great tools for organizing my stuff, without going overboard, as it seems many backpacks do these days. And there are many really thoughtful, awesome features like the zippered side key pouch and the front (flip-flop) sleeve.

Lizzy





Holiday News update!

14 12 2009

Things have been a bit slow here at DreamInVertical over the last month or so. Life has been exceptionally busy and the climbing trips have been plentiful.

We are pretty behind on trip reports and hopefully many will get finished over this holiday season. I finally completed writing my reflections and trip report from my first attempt on Freerider and, thanks to editing from Lizzy, it just went live. It’s a bit long, but hopefully a good read.  As the year comes to an end, Lizzy just finished up her first quarter of grad school and I am in the process of changing jobs and moving to the Sunnyvale/Palo Alto area.  Things are chaotic and I expect to get back to a more normal schedule come January  or February.

Luke enjoys a lap on Gunsmoke.  Photo thanks to RockGrrl

Back in November Lizzy and I attended the 1st annual #jtreetweetup. It was very cool to meet the many people that we chatted with online and help show them around Joshua Tree. Hopefully Lizzy or I will be writing a post from the trip soon. The highlight for Lizzy was a send of Gunsmoke! This has been a long time project and she has gotten quite close in the past. This trip she aced both cruxes and had enough endurance to finish it off. I was psyched to do a bit of exploring around the park in the mornings before meeting up with the Tweetup crew and found a new project. The Acid Crack features powerful thin fingerlocks to a core intensive face climbing section once the crack pinches down to tips. I worked the line twice on top rope and was able to figure out all but once section. This climb is steep and my style and I look forward to going back to it once I get a bit stronger.

Lizzy on Gunsmoke

Over Thanksgiving break Lizzy and I went out to Indian Creek with a bunch friends. We meet up with people from all over and had a blast with amazing weather. Lizzy just finished her post and  I will be writing about our trip soon too, since we both climbed exceptionally well. Definitely check out some of our photos here or even better ones from our friend Andre.

One highlight of the trip for me was seeing Matt Segal and Jason Kruk working on a new route at Battle of the Bugle. On our last day while driving past Battle of the Bulge we saw a few camera men above the project. We pulled over and saw Matt climb the last 15 feet or so and clip the chains for the first ascent. It was awesome to watch these guys work on this climb over the many days we were at the Battle of the Bulge. This new age line uses tricky face sequence to connect thin cracks with infrequent gear.

Like A Prayer by Renan Ozturk

On a final note, we have added a few new pages to DreamInVertical. First came our Gear Review section to allow people to more easily find our Sweet Gear reviews. As well the new Multi-Pitch Route Beta page has links to topos and trip reports from many of the classic multipitch and alpine routes we have done. This page is a work in progress so feel free to leave comments if there is something missing or some additional beta that could be added to future trip reports.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season,

Luke





A Week of Splitters in Indian Creek

8 12 2009

There are many things that are awesome about Stanford. One of these many awesome-tastic features is the fact that we get an entire week off for Thanksgiving. At Caltech, we only got Thursday and Friday off, and most professors considered it a normal week of school when scheduling work for the week. We decided to take advantage of this awesome opportunity to head to Indian Creek for a week of excellent desert splitters.

Day -1 (Friday): Travel Day

Sarah Kate and I set off from Palo Alto around 2pm. After getting stuck in some traffic and losing over 2 hours because of a little snow over Donner Pass, we made it to Winnemucca, NV at around 11pm and passed out in a Motel 6. Meanwhile, Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey had left San Diego around 6pm and were driving through the night so they could get some climbing in on Saturday.

Day 0 (Saturday): Travel Day / Cat Wall

Sarah Kate and I rolled out of bed at 5:45am and were on I-80 heading east by 5:55am. It was good that the speed limit was 75mph, because we had a lot of distance to cover to make it to the Creek by dinner time.

Meanwhile, the San Diego crew was just rolling in to Moab when we were leaving Winnemucca. Even if Sarah Kate and I had driven through the night, we would not have been in Moab yet. We were glad we stopped to sleep. Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey drove out to the Creek, set up camp, and headed to the Cat Wall to get some pitches in. Luke sent Johnny Cat (5.11+), one of his former projects, as a warm-up. They also got on Mad Dog (5.11+) and Pitbull Terror (5.11). Luke took a (rare) lead fall on gear when a foothold broke unexpectedly on Pitbull Terror.

Luke flashes Mad Dog (5.11+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After a rushed water fill-up/gas fill-up/grocery trip in town, Sarah Kate and I managed to make it out to the Creek Pasture by about 7pm to find a crackling fire and three hungry climbers. We had excellent beer sausages for dinner. Sarah Kate and I were again happy that we had stopped to sleep on our drive out based on how tired the crazy drive-through-the-night folks were already.

Luke about to whip on Pitbull Terror (5.11). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Day 1 (Sunday): Optimator / Battle of the Bulge

From our previous trips to the Creek, Luke and I have learned that it’s good to start slow. Manage skin, get used to climbing splitters, get comfortable with your cam sizes. We had decided that Optimator was a good place to go for Sarah Kate’s and my first day. There was one sweet route there for Sarah Kate and Lindsey to try to onsight and me to get some revenge on – Soulfire (5.11-). I’d pumped out just before the anchor before…

Lizzy watches Luke on Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

We got on Lady Pillar (5.10-) and Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+) for warm-ups. Sarah Kate, Luke, and I headed over to Soulfire, while Konstantin racked up for Annunaki (5.12-). Sarah Kate onsighted Soulfire, a great start for her Indian Creek trip! Then I got my revenge redpoint, feeling relaxed and unpumped the whole time, which really helped my confidence for the trip. Lindsey also onsighted the route (she hadn’t watched either of us climb it).

Lizzy sends Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Meanwhile, Konstantin took some falls on Annunaki, but made it to the anchor. After watching me on Soulfire, Luke headed back over for a flash attempt, which was successful, for Luke’s hardest Indian Creek flash!

Lindsey onsights Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke and I walked over to the base of Optimator (5.13-) and found two dudes toproping it, which was pretty awesome. Optimator is definitely a route I’d like to get on eventually, although I know I’m nowhere near ready for it yet (long very tight hands and stacks). It was cool to watch someone on it, though.

Luke sends Annunaki (5.12-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After sending Soulfire, I was pretty much out of motivation for routes at Optimator and Luke and Sarah Kate agreed to go with me to Battle of the Bulge so I could get on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-), which, as you may remember, was one of my projects on both of our previous Indian Creek trips. It was a very low stress situation, since I still had plenty of days to send, so even though I fell, I felt much stronger and actually climbed through all the moves to the anchor (rather than cam-jugging the last couple feet, which I had done before). Then it was Luke’s turn to redpoint (he had lead it on my gear before), so he racked up and sent! He was happy to go second so that the quickdraws would already be hanging from the anchors. 🙂

Day 2 (Monday): Battle of the Bulge

After our warm-up day(s), it was time to go to Battle of the Bulge to get on some projects. We headed over to The Warmup (5.9 sandbag) to warm up. Luke, Sarah Kate, and Lindsey all sent Our Piece of the Real Estate (5.11-), but I needed to conserve energy. I racked up with the small cams and headed over to Digital Readout (5.12) with Luke. I had been on this route once before, on our first trip to the Creek, and had struggled a lot. I surprised myself and made it to about 3 feet below the anchor, where the footholds disappeared. I tried to figure out a sequence, but my feet slipped and I was off. After a short rest and the discovery of a very small face foothold, I got back on and easily reached the anchor. I was frustrated and exhausted when I got back to the ground, but in retrospect, it was pretty awesome to be so close to sending a 5.12 on only my 2nd try… I tend to be kind of hard on myself.

Luke closing in on the anchors of Digital Readout (5.12). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke got on the route next and fell a lot, struggling with the thin jams and tricky feet. Later, he got on for a 2nd time and nearly sent, getting just a little below where I had fallen on my attempt (so frustrating). We were both pretty tired by then. It took me probably 3+ hours to feel recovered enough to climb again…

Meanwhile, Lindsey tried The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout (5.11-, probably sandbag), managing to work out the chimney with some takes and figuring out the gear and size beta for the long upper crack. Konstantin took a TR lap on Big Baby (5.11), which Sarah Kate’s friend Dave had put up. Luke and I took a break to watch Andre and Leah working on Ruby’s Cafe (5.13-).

After I’d finally recovered from Digital Readout, I wasn’t very psyched on getting back on it, so I decided to try to onsight Quarter of a Man (5.11++). I knew it was a long, sustained route (35m+), so I hadn’t tried it on previous trips because I’d known I didn’t have the endurance. But, I was feeling strong this time, so I went for it. The crack was smaller than I’d expected – mostly sustained black Metolius cams (all the red Camalots were very tight) and there were not many rests. I focused on moving forward and not wasting energy. I had expected the top section, where the crack zigzags steeply, to be the crux, but luckily it was not – there were stem stances and layback jugs, which were great after the long sustained corner. In no time I was clipping the anchor – tying with Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) for my hardest onsight!

Lizzy on the final section of Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

I gave Luke the beta and he set off on his flash go. The crack had felt tight for me, so it must have felt even smaller for him. He tried pretty hard, but fell just before the rest pod. A little rest and he sent to the top – it’ll go next time! Then Sarah Kate got on the route. I’d rounded up a total of 5 black Metolius cams from our gear and our friends’ gear so she’d have better pro for the route. Even though she didn’t quite have the endurance to send the route, she stuck with it, climbed every move, and even took a big whipper on a green Camalot near the end – a very proud effort.

Sarah Kate on Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

The sun had gone down while Sarah Kate was on the route, so it was time to head back to camp for dinner and campfire sitting.

Day 3 (Tuesday): Scarface

Scarface (5.11-), Wavy Gravy (5.10-), and Mantel Illness (5.11) were on various people’s to-do lists, so we headed to Scarface. Lindsey and I warmed up on Unknown 5.9 to the left of Wavy Gravy, while Luke, Konstantin, and Sarah Kate got on Wavy Gravy. Lindsey also sent Wavy Gravy after warming up. I was feeling pretty tired and not psyched about leading it (or TRing it, because I like leading anything that’s not a warm-up at the Creek – it’s good for me mentally), so I abstained. Andre, Leah, and Luke all sent Mantle Illness and Sarah Kate, Lindsey, and Konstantin headed over to get in line for Scarface.

Luke sends Wavy Gravy (5.10-).

Meanwhile, I had scoped out a thin crack corner called Way of the Gun (5.12) and wanted to go for it. I made it through the initial corner (easier than I’d thought) and the roof, but took when I realized I didn’t have the right rack for the corner after the roof. I got more cams from the ground support crew, which was good because, although it was short, the upper corner was definitely the crux, with some very sport-y climbing (i.e. not straight-up jamming). Leah and Luke both toproped the route, having more success on the upper section (they are much stronger crimpers than me) than I did.

Lindsey on Scarface (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke had belayed Andre on Twitch! (5.11), which he and Leah also TRed. We all headed over to Scarface to check on the other group’s progress. Sarah Kate had sent first try, Lindsey was in the process of sending after many falls at the beginning, and Konstantin sent soon after. Success! While Scarface was being sent, Luke onsighted the Sicilian (5.11), a short, fierce off-fingers crack.

At this point, everyone was starting to feel ready for a rest day, so we called it a day and headed back to camp.

Day 4 (Wednesday): Rest Day

It had been 3 days on for Sarah Kate and I and 4 days on for the San Diego crew, so it was time for a break. Luke got up early to go put an anchor on an unclimbed crack we had spotted on our last trip and the rest of us rolled out of our tents a little later and directly into Lindsey’s car. We had delicious breakfast at the Diner in Moab, then amazing showers at the Texaco, then some chai, internet, and sandwiches at the Love Muffin.

The Love Muffin closed early (2pm – winter hours) and Sarah Kate and I still had more work to do (this whole 1st year grad student thing…) so we headed to the Moab Library. In case you haven’t been there, the Moab Library is awesome. It is an excellent place to do work (if the Love Muffin is closed).

After a quick grocery store run, we headed to the Moab Brewery for some dinner and beers, then back to the Creek Pasture to sit around the fire a bit. It was an excellent rest day.

Day 5 (Thanksgiving): Battle of the Bulge

The post-rest day plan was to return to Battle of the Bulge to get back on some projects with renewed energy and the built-up endurance of the first couple days of climbing. We warmed up on Railroad Tracks (5.10-) and Unnamed 5.10-, then went straight to projecting. I checked out Christmas Tree (5.12+) and was totally inspired, but not totally confident I had the guns for the steep upper layback corner (the first half looked not so bad). So I decided to devote my energy for the day to some more attainable goals.

Lizzy chalks from a fingerstack on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

Konstantin wanted to try Swedin-Ringle, but let me go first so he could check out my beta. First, Luke onsighted Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11) with my camera on his harness so he could take photos. Thanks Luke! I felt really smooth and relaxed, solid even on the stacks, but my foot slipped unexpectedly when I was adjusting a cam out of a foot pod. I got right back on and easily sent to the anchor. I was frustrated, but also felt like the route was very attainable on the next try. Konstantin got on the route and essentially learned to stack as he went. He was obviously trying pretty hard and took some sweet falls that involved me (the belayer) flying into the air.

Konstantin trying hard on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

When Konstantin lowered off, I got right back on the route and, with only a little bit of struggling at the grey alien section (my worst crack size), sent the route – my first 5.12! It felt great to send, on only my 8th time on the route (all attempts on lead, which I am very proud of) and for most of the route to feel so smooth and relaxed. I’d even say I might use it as an intermediate warm-up for other 5.12s in the area in the future (yes, it is that fun).

Meanwhile, Lindsey had gone over to get back on her project, The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout . Although she made progress and climbed higher than her first attempt, exhaustion and pump took over and she had to take. I’m sure it was a valiant effort, because she was exhausted for the rest of the day. Afterwards, Sarah Kate (who had belayed) came back over to the Swedin-Ringle area and flashed Three Strikes You’re Out, her first solid 5.11 at the Creek.

Sarah Kate flashes Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11).

Luke and I then headed over to Digital Readout so he could have another redpoint go. He felt much more solid than on his previous tries and clipped the chains, for his first solid Indian Creek 5.12.

I had thought about getting on Digital Readout, but remembered how draining it had been on my other try. I really wanted to get back on Coyne Crack (5.11+), so I decided to try that first and leave Digital Readout for a later time (or day… or trip). Luke headed over to Supercrack Buttress with us ladies and we congregated below the base of Coyne Crack. Although it had been a busy day at the Battle of the Bulge/Donnelly/Supercrack area, I don’t think Coyne Crack had seen an ascent all day. That was about to change 🙂

I was FULL of psyche, so I convinced everyone else to let me go first (I guess they like to have my beta…). The initial crack felt WAY easier than when I had gotten on it on our first trip. I was able to get very thin hand jams from the very beginning (probably because I was much stronger on this trip) and quickly made it to the money section (which is most of the route) of red Camalots forever. IT WAS SO GOOD. I was a little sad when it ended. Sarah Kate flashed for her hardest trad lead ever! Yay! Luke also flashed, with a bit more struggling than the rest of us due to his larger hand size. Lindsey also got on, but ended up taking a couple times, being still tired from doing Jane Fonda in the morning.

Sarah Kate flashes Coyne Crack (5.11+).

It had been a great day of climbing and I would’ve kept going, but it was starting to get dark and we had Thanksgiving dinner to make. Together with food from Bob and Heather, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, complete with mashed potatoes (real), stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and chicken cooked in the fire. Somehow everything was ready at the same time, but I guess that’s just the magic of Thanksgiving.

Day 6 (Friday): Cat Wall

We headed back to the Cat Wall. Luke and Konstantin wanted to try King Cat (5.11+) and Sarah Kate and I had been told that we should try Mad Dog (5.11+). After warming up on Unnamed 5.10 and Cat Man Do (5.10), we headed over towards Johnny Cat to get on the projects of the day.

Konstantin on King Cat (5.11+).

Luke and Konstantin both made valiant efforts on King Cat, but had trouble figuring out the beta for pulling the roof. I tried to onsight Mad Dog, but got pumped for essentially the first time all trip (while climbing, at least) and fell. After resting and unpumping, I sent the rest of the route cleanly, but my psyche and energy were pretty much gone for the day. Sarah Kate and Lindsey both got on the route afterwards and struggled with the tight green camalots, but eventually made it to the top also. A project for all of us for another trip to the Creek.

Lizzy on her onsight attempt on Mad Dog (5.11+).

Luke tried to onsight Cat Burglar (5.12) and fell just short of the anchor, but sent on his 2nd try for another Indian Creek 5.12! Luke ended the day with an onsight of Bachelor Party (5.11+).

I discovered a potential pre-Christmas Tree project in this vicinity, too: Cathedral of the Mad Feline (5.12+), a steep Lisa Gnade tips corner. It was gorgeous and would definitely be good training for the steep section on Christmas Tree.

Day 7 (Saturday): Way Rambo / Travel Day

Everyone was starting to feel pretty tired and we’d heard forecasts for rain and other bad weather coming in on Saturday afternoon, so we decided to pack up camp in the morning, go climbing, then start driving home whenever we got tired or it started raining. Bob wanted to go to Way Rambo to work on Slice and Dice (5.12), so we decided to go there, too. Luke and Konstantin were psyched on Way Rambo (5.12-) and I was considering trying to onsight Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Luke getting sucked into Way Nutter (5.9 OW).

We got on Blue Sun (5.10-) as a warm-up, while Luke and Sarah Kate also did Way Nutter (5.9 OW). Lindsey had brought a fleece Mickey Mouse Christmas themed onesy, so she wanted to do some climbing in it before we left. So she lead Blue Sun in the onesy, which was pretty awesome to watch.

Lindsey climbs Blue Sun (5.10-) in the onesy.

After warming up and checking out Layaway Plan, I decided to go for it even though I was deeply intimidated by the roof. Everything went pretty well until just before the roof, when my foot slipped off a sandy foothold – no onsight. Even though the pressure was off, I was still worried about pulling the lip of the roof, the crux. I placed my gear, transitioned into the undercling and, with much effort, pulled around the roof. The rope drag was awful on the last couple feet, but luckily there were good stances. An awesome route! Luke followed to clean my gear.

Lizzy underclings out the roof on Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Konstantin got on Way Rambo, but took several falls at the beginning of the stacks section, and lowered down off two cams so Luke could have a try. Despite feeling tired (on his 7th day of climbing at the Creek), Luke sent first try!

Luke sends Way Rambo (5.12-).

Meanwhile, Sarah Kate and Lindsey had both taken TR laps on Slice and Dice and we watched a dude flash it with beautiful style – very inspiring. Everyone was pretty tired by this point, so we decided to call it a day (it was already 4pm anyways) and load into the cars to head home.

Luke, Sarah Kate, and I drove into Moab to enjoy some dinner at Zax before driving north to Salt Lake City and finding a motel for the night, happy to have cut several hours off our driving time for Sunday.

Day 8 (Sunday): Travel Day

We had a pretty uneventful travel day driving from SLC to Palo Alto. There was barely any traffic, which was awesome (especially compared to the post-Thanksgiving Vegas-LA traffic). We took a little break in Reno to check out the Patagonia Outlet, which was pretty cool even though the prices weren’t quite low enough for me and most styles I actually liked weren’t in my size. Luke got lucky with a couple shirts and pairs of pants, though.

Reflections

This was by far the best trip Luke and I have had at the Creek. We came into the trip feeling strong, started slow, conserved skin, and tried really hard (at least I was super comfortable pushing and falling from above gear by the end of the trip, I don’t know about Luke, but he did take a couple falls, too). It was awesome to finally have some success (and some near success). Sending Coyne Crack and Swedin-Ringle and onsighting Quarter of a Man were really big accomplishments for me and I’m super happy. Coming so close to onsighting two other 5.11+ routes (1 fall each on Mad Dog and Layaway Plan) isn’t so bad, either. Too bad it’s not Squamish season, because I’d love to take my strength and confidence onto some of my projects there.

For more photos, check out our Picasa Indian Creek gallery.





Freerider: How I First Climbed El Capitan

4 12 2009

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El Capitan! So big, so beautiful!

I’ve been dreaming about Yosemite for a many years. I can’t quite figure out when it started but I quickly became infatuated with this mythical climbing area.  I had never been to “The Valley” but read as many books about it as possible in college. Perhaps the tales of John Long introduced me to these gargantuan walls. My imagination was captured by the Stonemasters and I wanted to experience all that California rock climbing had to offer.  In the summer of 2005 I planned my first trip to Yosemite. I had aspirations of climbing the Nose but knew that I had to test my aid skills on a smaller route first. With the help of the internet and books like Freedom of the Hills I had taught myself to aid climb, solo, at an abandoned Quarry in Pennsylvania. My friend Hartley, a Cali native, was eager to show me to the valley and off we went.

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Geared up and ready to go!

Our first multi-day route, The Prow on Washington Column, took way too long – 3 days and 2 nights on the wall – and Hartley and I knew that we were moving too slow for El Capitan. We retreated to Idyllwild and threw ourselves at Valhalla, still clinging onto the idea of becoming Stonemasters.  The general feeling during my first trip to Yosemite was one of extreme scale. I was overwhelmed with the length and commitment of the routes and Hartley and I were at a loss of what to climb. Lizzy and I had a similar feeling in the summer of 2007 on my second trip to the Valley. We climbed many classic routes like Serenity and Sons, the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, Royal Arches and Snake Dike, but during the days between lounged in camp no idea what to climb. Despite all these classic sends we were quite intimidated by El Capitan. Lizzy and I decided to go for it anyways but bailed off of Sickle Ledge. We had been moving too slowly and our water supply was quickly decimated in the summer heat.

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Hauling up the fixed line, El Cap looms above.

Over the last few years I have gained much confidence and most importantly the willingness to fail. In most of my climbing I like starting off with a near 100% chance of success. I work a route until I am ready, onsight near but not at my limit and enjoy sending hard routes when they feel easy. Trying mulipitch routes where you may not send all the pitches first try really opens up the possibility of doing harder climbs.

To make El Capitan seem more doable, Stein and I climbed the Free Blast back in October.  On our second day we continued past Heart Ledges and made it right below the Ear. In a 12 hour day we had free climbed, with no falls for Stein, the first 18 pitches (according to supertopo) or 1000+ feet of El Capitan. I was pretty tired by the end of the day but we had done quite well, possibly a bit too well.

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Looking a bit fuzzy after a night on the Heart Ledges.

With this in mind Stein suggest we try to climb the entirety of Free Rider. Since this would not be our official send, we would jug up the fixed line from Heart and climb as quickly as possible to the new pitches above the Ear. The only pitch we had not climbed, the traverse to the Hollow Flake, could be saved for a later date or attempted if the fixed line to Hollow Flake ledge was gone.

I was thinking we would work on the hard pitches a bit first before trying the full route. However I was excited to climb El Capitan and even more psyched to have a have a partner with the same intentions. So we set plans in motion and as October quickly passed by we got ready to climb the Big Stone.

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Stein starts off on the slab traverse to the Hollow Flake

In an epic sort of way our first day started with Stein flying to San Fransisco from New York. I had driven up from San Diego the day before to pay Lizzy a quick visit before bailing to the Valley. IThe plan was to drive to the Valley, climb as high as we could, and sleep on the wall. Any progress made on Friday would be a bonus and, since we had climbed these pitches before, would hopefully go quickly. My estimation was that we would bivy on Hollow Flake Ledge, hopefully able to skip the Hollow Flake if the fixed rope we had seen previously was still there. Such quick progress was not in the cards.

Darkness came early and we were still hauling the pigs up the fixed lines. The hauling was hard work and our large supply of water, approximately one gallon per person per day for four days, was extraordinarily heavy and hard to pull up the slabby wall. A bit of jugging and hauling by headlamp put us at the Heart ledges where we settled in for the night, happy to chow down on Chipotle that we had picked up on the way. The days were short and we though it would help save time to stay on the wall instead of the standard approach of rapping back to solid ground.

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Morning light on the Monster Offwidth

The morning saw me warming up on the 5.11 slab to get to Lung Ledge. I had failed to free this pitch before, laden with a full pack, and was very happy to send. While crimping on two credit cards my right foot some how stuck to a tiny foothold, about the size of a grain of rice,  I was able to balance up and get to the easier part of the pitch. This put us in place to do the traverse into the Hollow Flake. The fixed rope, most likely used by a free climbing team, was gone. Stein made great work of the thin traverse, falling only once and some how making the crux final move into a crack. I followed cleanly until the final downclimb move to the crack across from the Hollow Flake. A failed attempt sent me flying 50 feet across the wall, a fall I had dreaded but ended up being not too bad.

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Luke leads up on of the many chimneys on the Salathe Wall

In no time I was laybacking up the Hollow Flake. As a follower I could stay outside of the crack and I laybacked at least 75% of it, spending much less time and energy than chimneying.  We switched back leads and I comfortably led the chimney in the photo above. I knew the right place to pull on to the face and made good time. At the 5.10 crux near the end of the end of the pitch I gauged my tiredness and felt better than when I had lead this pitch on our previous attempt (after doing the FreeBlast), a good sign! Stein lowered out our haul bags so they would avoid a big swing and motored up the pitch. Our bags however got stuck under a roof and after many attempts I had to rappel down to free them.  One more pitch lead by Stein put us below the Ear. For once we had an easy haul and I got ready for the next lead.

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Luke is having a blast on the way to the Ear.

From below I was worried, the Ear looked scary. First I had to get though some 10+ moves which required some trickery and a bit of grunting before the main course. In no time I was below the flaring chimney and looking up I couldn’t imagine how to climb such a feature. I looked all around trying to find a way around it but had no luck. I found traces of chalk and went right side into the chimney. Magically my hands found perfect edges as I shimmied deeper into the void. As the crack narrowed down I realized there would be gear and  I tagged up #4 and #5 Camalots. These pieces really helped my mental space as I squeezed up into the crack. My torso was jammed in tight but my legs were in a much larger section,  occasionally peddling in air. The holds I followed allowed for passage at a moderate grade but brought my head into a section so tight I couldn’t turn from side to side. Eventually I traversed to the edge, nothing but air below my feet, and wiggled around onto the top. The pitch was short, the grade irrelevant, and I was ecstatic. The climbing had been out of this world and I could not believe how holds showed up at the necessary moments.

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Stein is ready to push into the unknown.

Switching leads again Stein racked up for the Monster Offwidth. This would be the first crux and at the time we didn’t know how hard it would be. Stein aced the 11d downclimb to the wide crack on his first try and I was impressed. As he worked up I could tell it was hard. Ten feet up he encountered a very loose block, which I had assumed was a rest, tethered to the wall with a old piece of webbing. Intermingling laybacking with grunting, Stein made good progress. I should have guessed the difficulty when he asked me to keep talking to him. It was hard up there, at 7″ the crack is too big for a knee jam or leavittation.  After almost 100 feet of progress Stein was through. The sun was sinking in the sky and we still had another pitch to El Cap Spire.

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Stein exits the Ear. What a crazy pitch!

A bit of cam-jugging put us at the alcove which was camp for a team of Canadians, Will and Jason who were working on Golden Gate. We made small talk and they gave us beta for the next pitch as we hauled our bags. Since it was dark I assumed we would be sleeping here but Stein smartly suggested we keep going and I got back in the lead. With the Canadians’ beta I found the crack behind El Cap Spire and lead a very cool pitch by headlamp only making the mistake of clipping the haul line instead of the lead line… The final mantel onto the spire was phenomenal and the rising moon basked this incredible ledge in light. With the bag hauled, and Stein up shortly after, I started making a dinner of Tasty Bites. The Jetboil was great and I also enjoyed some mashed potatoes. While I didn’t know it at the time Stein was pretty wrecked and could barely eat.  Since I had jugged the Monster I had no idea how much effort it had taken to lead the pitch.

Bivy #2 on El Cap Spire.

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Starting up the Monster after cruising the traverse.

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Stein fights his way up the Monster Offwidth.

Wasting no time the next morning I racked up for the 5.11+ splitter off the Spire. It was super thin hands for a long ways and I really struggled as I plugged .75 camalots. After a night of sleep I was full of psych but lacking on power as my jams gave way and sent me for a morning whipper. Onsight blown, I went into aid climbing mode and cam-jugged up the crack. Tired from shaking my way up the first part of the pitch, I went slowly and cost us some time. The next part of the pitch, a 5.9 squeeze seemed doable as I scooted up. All of a sudden fear set in, as I was above a ledge with no gear in, and I couldn’t make the next move. I went up and down many times before wriggling into the back of the chimney and going up the much harder but more secure way. A number six camalot was useful here! The whole time Jason and Will had started working up their fixed lines and gave me kind words of encouragement as I struggled to commit to the wide crack.

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Another great morning on El Cap!

The final part of this monster 60 meter block (since I was linking two pitches) was up an amazing handcrack in a corner. I put a bunch of energy into it and came out on top, sending the second half of my block cleanly after aiding the first 5.11+ section.  The hauling on this pitch was horrible and I had to wait for Stein to move the bags. I didn’t want to waste any energy doing a 1:1 haul and didn’t have any gear for a complex system, a mistake for sure.  The next pitch was Stein’s lead and the 2nd crux of the route. The more popular Huber Pitch has broken changing the boulder problem from a tricky 5.12d into a 5.13b dyno. This made the more moderate option the Teflon Corner at 12d. It took us a bit of time to figure out where the Teflon Corner was and we had to relocate the belay to the far left side of the ledge at a pair of very convenient bolts. Unfortunately, the wasted time on the previous pitch, coupled with the route finding time, put the Teflon Corner in the sun. By the time Stein had climbed the easier half of the pitch the rock was quite warm.  After a few valiant efforts to overcome the “ninja stemming” Stein had to aid through the crux but managed to do a good job finishing up the pitch.

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Best Belay Ever?

Despite getting to the top of the pitch we had reached a turning point in the climb. This pitch was hard and it had taken a lot of time and effort to get to the top. Stein was worried about continuing up and I shared the same fear that we would not make it to the next ledge before nightfall. The original plan had us climbing two more pitches followed by two hard pitches that day. Since the Alcove the anchors had been very inconstant, either on gear or an array of fixed pins and tat, and  I did not want to bail and leave gear. I also knew that it would take us a lot of time to get back to the ground. I was especially concerned about having to reverse the pendulum from the hollow flake while rappelling with a haul bag.  I was confident that we could keep going since we had enough water to make it, possibly with a bit more aid than we hope. In fact, I was pretty sure it would be less effort, and more valiant, to continue to the top. The hauling was getting easier and the haulbag beat me to the next belay as I jugged up the Teflon Corner.

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Psyched that the Sewer is DRY!

Back in the lead again I was psyched for a 5.10 pitch. While the Sewer is supposed to be horrible I had quite the good time. There was a good deal of dirt but the cracks were dry and I made good work until the final roof on the pitch. Tired from previous days of effort I struggled across the roof towards the two bolt belay. Shocked to see two 1/4 bolts I continued on and stupidly placed a #2 camalot right around the roof. As I struggled to jam up the corner  after the roof my rope got completely wedged between the #2  and the crack. As I fumbled with what little gear left I could not pull the rope up to clip. 15 feet out I had to use my longest sling to clip the piece and sadly had to lower and remove the #2, blowing my onsight.  The send was most likely not in the cards as I had to pull on gear for the final two moves on to the block.

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Luke races the darkness to Sous Le Toit ledge

As Stein followed the pitch cleanly I struggled to haul the bags. The rope turned a sharp corner and created more friction than I could handle. Situations like these made me want a 2:1 setup yet again.  A bit of two person hauling later we had the bags on the big sloping ledge. Stein set off on the next pitch which was one of the most spectacular yet. The pitch started with easy climbing to a set of in obvious face moves and finished with awesome laybacking seen in the photo above. While I took my time to follow the pitch clean, Stein expertly hauled our bag to the next cramped ledge.

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Stein makes a morning phone call after a night on the block.

The following two pitches were mine and I wasted no time racking up and switching into full on aid climbing mode. 5.12+ at sunset was not for me and I slowly climbed bomber C1 as darkness fell. Headlight switched on, I was lost. The cruiser corner crack had podded out and I was confronted with unclimbable pin scars. I equalized a C3 with a tipped out alien and stepped on the connecting sling. My Easy Aiders could not get the necessary height to reach the next flaring placement. Two lobes of a red camalot went in and I reached high slotting a bomber nut. One more move and I was at the midway anchors, a nice bolt and a strange hanger that I had never seen on a rock climb. The hardware seemed like it would fit better in Home Depot than on El Capitan.

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Luke is keeping his energy level on HIGH!

The final section of climbing to the Salathe Roof was bizarre. The square pin scars continued but I had the advantage (maybe….) of fixed gear. Some poor soul had gotten to this point in the climb and decided the best thing to do was hammer in nuts the wide side facing out. I wish I had a photo to explain how the nuts and hexes had been fixed in the flaring square slots. I’ve never seen such a thing but I had to trust the gear and keep going. A string of these bashed in nuts lead to a nice finger crack and eventually a wide flare. With a single #3 camalot, I had to make a dubious aid move to bump the piece high enough to reach the anchors. There was one pitch remaining between us and Round Table Ledge and I was too intimidated and unsure to continue around the corner. I fixed the rope and rapped to Sous Le Toit. In a brilliant move we decided to fix another rope and retreat to the block. This would allow us a place to stand and walk around and would be fairly comfortable with our portaledge.

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Our portaledge bivy on the Block.

Unlike the previous night Stein was quite hungry and we both feasted on Backpackers Pantry. While dehydrated food is not the best on a wall, since you have to carry extra water, the hot food tasted great and was likely worth the effort. I took the exposed outside part of the portaledge, which was a bit scarier. I had dreams of falling off, but lucked out with the more level position.  The night was not too cold but I enjoyed having a pad on top of our ledge.

A bivy tour from the Block.

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Stein is back up to Sous Le Toit and excited to charge to the top!

The next morning Stein was full of psyche and his enthusiasm would carry us all the way to the top. We jugged our fixed lines and then I hauled the bags to the roof, allowing Stein time to prep for his lead of the roof traverse. As I dangled in space underneath the roof I really felt the exposure and extreme nature of our position. The next pitch wrapped around a corner to the left, traversing over almost two thousand feet of nothing. I was scared, maybe not for the first time, and was happy to have Stein in the lead.  The pitch was tricky at first with small foot holds and good crimps. Stein worked his way across, with a hang on some fixed gear before making a spectacular move and disappearing around the corner.  I kept feeding the rope out and would occasionally hear the clipping sound of a carabiner.  All of a sudden the rope pulled tight and Stein came swinging back around the corner. He had found the crux and taken a beautiful arcing fall into space. I saw a smile on his face and knew everything was all right. A few minutes later he was yelling off belay and I lowered the bags out into the void. The pitch was very short but it was crazy to see the haulbags hanging so far out from the wall.

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Unreal exposure!!

I started climbing the traverse, overgripping with fear and happily made it to the first fixed piece, a nut that barely seemed fixed at all….  After much hesitation I committed to to corner move and made the big reach left to a jug.  As I had seen Stein do many minutes before I relaxed and shifted my weight onto my left arm.  My body now dangled above more feet of air than I would like to think about. I made a small one arm pull and crossed over to swing around the arete. I was greeted with more fixed gear and a wild series of huecos. I rested a few more times on the rope and made my way to the crux. The holds blanked out and you had to get all of your weight around a final corner. I worked out a different sequence than Stein but did every move and eventually made it up to Round Table ledge.

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The knot of the century…

With an old rope and a huge fall Stein had welded his knot and it took us almost 30 mins to get it undone. This time was a good rest before Stein started up the next pitch. Things were looking up since we had no more pitches of 5.12 and only one more offwidth.  The next pitch was insanely steep and started with an amazing handcrack in a corner. Expertly Stein figured out that he could chimney the start of the pitch to keep from getting too pumped. This allowed him to bump along his cams since we only had a double set.  The crack widened to offwidth and when I followed had to use leavittation to get through. The finish of the pitch was equally amazing as you had to do a 180 degree rotation in a chimney to set up for the final layback to the anchor. I spent a ton of energy but managed to follow cleanly, which was very motivating!

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Stein hides from the sun in the hole belay.

There was supposed to be one more section, according to one of our topos, before the Scotty Burke OW so Stein set off again up the intimidating next pitch. While I had just climbed well, three roofs in 50 feet did not look too inviting. This bit of climbing, which was grey aliens, aka off fingers, was incredibly strenuous and both Stein and I had to aid through it.  In no time Stein was at the base of the SB Offwidth but there was no obvious belay. He tagged up a hand full of big cams: #4, #5, #6 and started up the crack. We had moved back in the sun and were in no shape for hard Offwidths on our 4th day. Cam jugging quickly commenced and I did the same when following.  Stein found a nice cave to escape the shade and allowed him to easily haul the bags. We were a bit below the suggested belay but it seemed to work out nicely.

Stein ponders offwidths

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We are going to summit!!

Stein went off to lead one more pitch before turning the sharp end over to me. He did a great job despite getting a bit lost and having do downclimb an incorrect crack. We had rejoined the Salathe and the correct path was hard to see due to the offset of the crack.  A zig-zagging lead put Stein below a final chimney. Struggling to climb the many off fingers cracks on the next pitch I dug deep to follow another pitch clean. I was really psyched and happy to take the rack and charge for the top. The pitch started with 5.11 face climbing which quickly turned in to C1 to take less time. I squeezed in the chimney and quickly wiggled my way to the top.  As the chimney closed out I was too high and had to climb down to the exit, photo below. With no solid holds I couldn’t make my way out. In went a #4 and with a bit more french free I kept going up. The top was in sight as  I raced up the 5.6 slab to the final tree.

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Luke struggles up one final chimney.

I reached the tree and fixed the rope as the sun set. Stein followed as I struggled to haul the bags. The flat ground made a steep turn back onto the face and it was slow going as the bags inched up the wall. Following in darkness Stein made his way to the top, happy to have summited El Capitan! We had managed to pull it off and climbed five hard pitches with a minimal amount of aid.  In the face of failure we had conquered the fear in our selves and made it to the top!

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Summit!!!

A dark summit video.

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Dinner time on top!

Food and water were my number one priorities as I set up the stove and cooked up some mashed potatoes and Tasty Bites.  We feasted on fruit cocktail for dessert and passed out as the moon rose. It was so odd not to be wearing my harness and I woke up occasionally wondering why I wasn’t wearing one. My fingers were swollen and my shoulders hurt so much that I had to sleep on my back. The previous nights Stein and I had gone to sleep with a feeling of burning in our hands. Thoughts of flat ground and normal life floated through my dreams.

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Luke racks up for the East Ledges 😀

The next morning we divided up all the gear and humped the bags down the East Ledges descent. The cross country travel to the drainage went very quickly but the gully itself went on forever. After being fooled by a fake wall of dikes we eventually found the amazing black wall with white dikes. The rappels were not too bad, though I found out it is much easier to rap with the pig on hanging below you than on your back.  I thought having the pig on my back would be faster but it quickly turned into an ultimate ab workout that I could not handle.

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Psyched we haven’t gotten lost yet on the hike down.

The hike seemed to last forever before we found the Manure Pile parking lot. Some Canadian tourists took the photo below and gave Stein a ride back to our car. It was really warm and despite the many days of wear and tear I felt pretty good. Stein and I had both lost a bunch of weight and were tired from the foreign lifestyle of living in the vertical. I don’t really know how to sum up the experience but it was positive.  We had overcome a lot and kept good attitudes almost the whole way. Our partnership worked really well and we both were key in getting to the top. I hope to write again in the spring we we return to work on the harder pitches!

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Back at Manure Pile! We made it!!

Some thoughts after making it down to the Valley floor.

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3000 feet of climbing, 8 gallons of water, 4 days on the wall and 2 happy climbers

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Enjoy,

Luke