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

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Climbing Free While Having a Blast, a Weekend on El Capitan.

29 10 2009

Lizzy has spent almost two months in the bay area and I was due for a visit . We started off with a weekend with new friends in Yosemite where I was happy to redpoint my first Yosemite 5.12a, Underclingon. A bunch of fun was had sport and trad climbing at Pat and Jack’s Pinnacle before snow fell on Saturday night. Only the first weekend of October and snow already…

I spent the rest of the week reading, working from home, and sleeping – trying to recover from my cold which had flared back up. My friend Stein was flying in Friday morning so we could head to Yosemite to start working on Freerider, an easier free variation to the classic Salathe Wall on El Capitan.

It had been almost two years since I had been to the valley and I am quite a different climber.  These two weekends helped break down mental barriers and encouraged a go for it attitude. With these thoughts in mind Stein and I were at the base of the Free Blast at first light. Surprised by the warm weather I ended up climbing in a t-shirt all day.

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Stein starts off on the first crux slab pitch of the FreeBlast.

Despite warnings otherwise Stein and I enjoyed the Free Blast. The pitches had dramatic variety and pin scars were ever present. I made quick work of the first two pitches linking them and enjoying the glorious fingerlocks.  The next pitch was the first 5.11 crux and I made my way across and while searching for holds when my foot came off. A nice rope burn and a hidden hold later I figured out the crux move. I lowered and repeated it again, making sure I could do it again in the future. I linked this to the next pitch for a fun long romp of fingery fun!

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The pin scars require tricky pro.

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Looking up at the Big Stone after Stein climbed the first crux slab.

The tricky first slab pitch was Stein’s lead. Odd pin scars and tricky friction lead to a bolted slab that I’ve seen rated anywhere from 5.11b to 5.11d. Stein made good progress before coming off a bit over half way up the pitch. He worked out the moves and made it to the anchor. I somehow squeezed it out clean as a second, almost coming off at a tricky horizontal move shown in the video below. I was sliding off and Stein told me to jump for it. So I set up a crappy cross through foot and pressed right dynamically catching the next hold. Very cool!

Stein wanted to be sure he could redpoint the pitch at a later date so he lowered down and figured out the moves on TR (seen in the photo below and video above).  It was getting a bit warm but we still had another 5.11 slab pitch to go. This one is less sustained but with a very tricky move between the 5th or 6th bolt and a fixed pin. Stein fell on this pitch and I did too, but we both figured out the moves and continued up the route. There was no one behind us and we had all the time to relax and sort things out.


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Stein on the first crux slab pitch.

I was back in the lead and had a easy pitch to get up to the Half Dollar. We decided to link these two pitches to get us quickly to the Mammoth Terraces. This required a bit of simuling on 4th class and 5.8 terrain which is pretty reasonable. Some how I figured out the really awkward entry move into the half dollar chimney and onsighted the long ~250 foot pitch. On the Mammoth terraces we were almost done. Doing everything in good style we did Rock-Paper-Scissors for who would lead the downclimb to the Heart Ledges. Going first (on lead) was better than following since you would essentially be on top rope the whole time. I won, and lead down placing lots of gear to protect Stein. There was one tricky section and then I chose the wrong way and climbed down an awkward unprotected chimney. I didn’t want to have Stein risk a 20 foot ledge fall so I had him rap the fixed line which seems more logical. It was good to do the downclimb and I doubt we would ever do it again since it is pretty contrived….

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Stein the Ropegun, El Cap edition

We finished rappelling down the fixed lines having to wait for a few guys who were hauling. The lines were in fairly good shape and we only had to pass a few knots.  It was only about 3 or 3:30 but we decided to hang out so I could spend some time with Lizzy and relaxed at the base of El Cap. Lizzy onsighted the first pitch of the Salathe for her first 5.10c in Yosemite. Sarah Kate and I did a lap while Stein explored the base and saw Tommy and Kevin working on freeing Mescalito.


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On the Mammoth Terraces on my way to rap to the Heart Ledges.

The next day saw another pre-dawn wake up so we could climb the Free Blast again and venture as far up El Cap as daylight would allow. This day the route was super crowed with four parties of free-climbers and one aid team.  We were first to the base but a Swedish team, as mentioned in Stein’s post, showed up soon after. Had I known they were so talented I would have let them pass but there was no way to know and it’s awful to get stuck behind a slow party, especially if you arrive first.  The respective leaders redpointed the 5.11 pitches from the day before and we were soon below the Half Dollar. Despite moving much faster, the sun was in an awful place and the entry moves into the chimney were quite hot. I was tired and failed to figure out the tricky move again, opting to aid into the chimney and continue up.

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Stein pointing back down at the FreeBlast, after redpointing the slab pitches!

With the Freeblast behind us we rapped to the ledges and had a relaxing lunch around noon. The climbing had taken a lot less time and we were about to launch into the unknown. Feeling tired, I was happy when Stein volunteered for the first 5.11c pitch. He made quick work of the pitch, showing his crimping skills on the hard balancy slab. I was unable to commit with the heavy pack and aided the 11c move and freed the rest. We switched leads and I set off up the Lung Ledge. I was unsure where to belay and ended up going a bit too high. Stein was up the 4th class quickly and I was soon lowering down to the Hollow Flake. I was happy to exchange the hard leads for the first of the “Death Chimneys”. This section is a No falls zone since 8-10″ gear is hard to come by and heavy to boot.  On the advice of the Swedes, I brought two finger sized cams, one of which I placed in the singular small crack. This gave me horrible rope drag but prevented a swinging falling.

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The party ahead of us getting ready to lower down and pendulum to the Hollow Flake

The Hollow Flake was not too difficult but was not as secure as I as hoping. Due to the lack of protection and possibility of 50+ foot falls, I moved very slowly and wasted a lot of time on this pitch. Finally I made it to the top and we hauled the pack (putting a nice hole in the front) so Stein could climb gear free.  Without the possibility of falling, Stein climbed in about 1/3 of my time but still said it was quite strenuous.

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Stein crimps hard and onsights a 5.11 slab.

Even though I was exhausted, I wanted to keep leading to allow Stein to conserve as much energy for the Monster Offwidth.  After fooling around deep in the next chimney I remembered that its easier when its wider so I set off, no thought of placing gear, as far out as seemed logical. I made good progress and it almost felt 5.7 (well, not really). After skipping a few super hollow gear placements I got a hand full of pieces in and continued up the chimney. This was a mistake causing another loss of time. I was supposed to go on the face and climbed a likely 5.9 (Yosemite Sandbag) chimney requiring our #6 C4 as protection. I linked this to the next pitch and made it to the belay exhausted but happy with the onsight. Stein had no problem with the crack, stemming out at the right spot and was to the ledge in no time.

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Luke gets lost in the dark Chimney…

It was starting to get late and the wind had picked up. For the first time all day we put on our jackets and Stein took over the lead. The next pitch was one of the best of the day and started with some easy 5.10 before the angle steepened. There were long sections of 5.10+ laybacking – very cool features. Stein really had a blast on the nearly 60m pitch, skipping an optional belay/rap station in the middle. Realizing we were out of time, I left the pack and followed weight free. This was an amazing change of pace and I got to enjoy each fingerlock and bit of movement. The view was icing on the cake as the sun was dipping low in the sky.

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Ah the glory of El Capitan!

Darkness was coming and we were almost halfway up El Capitan. With two ropes we started rapping and noticed that a 70m rope would have worked as well. We got really lucky with the pulls and managed not to get our ropes stuck. There was also a fixed line from Hollow flake ledge to Lung Ledge that we used. This allowed us to rap really easily and I hope it is there in the future.  A 35m rap put us on the Heart ledges (but not at a bolted anchor) from the lowest Lung Ledge station. From here we took the now familiar fixed lines down to the ground. At the base by 7 pm, we had a full 12 hour day but had much success and Stein had not taken a single fall!

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Luke looks up at the at the Monster Off-width

The next day we worked on ascending by going up the Fixed lines to Heart before driving back to the Bay and flying back to San Diego.  Our next trip will hopefully have us climbing the remaining pitches from the Ear to the top over Halloween Weekend. I am excited since it seems the best of El Cap is still waiting for us. Stein and I both enjoyed the last pitch which indicated the steep sections that are yet to come. I am a fan of steeper angles and look forward to a few more holds on the harder pitches.

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Last chimney of the day sent! Luke is excited but way tired…

Enjoy,

Luke





Just Another Sweet Weekend in the Valley

27 10 2009

I first became interested in South by Southwest (5.11a, 5 pitches) on Lower Cathedral Spire when a dude from Colorado mentioned it when we were chatting at the Penny Lane crag in Squamish. He mentioned something about it being easy for the grade in the Valley (hey, if I’m trying to break into a grade, I have no problem trying the easiest objective first) and having red camalot hand cracks (RED CAMALOT HAND CRACKS!!!).

So I investigated – looked it up on MountainProject, checked it out in the guidebooks, and asked my personal climbing information guru, Luke, for info on the route. It sounded like a great objective – not too long, not too much hard climbing (but with good climbing on the hard pitches) and a spectacular summit. Even the long (at least by Yosemite standards) approach didn’t seem like too much of a negative because it would keep the crowds away.

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Looking down into the Valley from the approach hike.

I’d planned on doing the route with Luke the first weekend in October, but I picked up a nasty cold/flu the week before and was in no condition to hike far or climb hard. The following weekends, I climbed with Sarah Kate and we realized that we had a pretty good climbing partnership going – we motivate each other to try harder. When thinking of routes to do last weekend in Yosemite, we tossed around the thought of doing South by Southwest and realized it would be an awesome idea. Although we knew the crux climbing would be challenging, the rest of the route would be pretty relaxed for us. Plus, it’s a rare opportunity to climb a hard multipitch route with another girl, where you can swing leads and both feel like you’ve really pulled your weight on the ascent.

We awoke at 7am in our Lower Pines campsite, broke camp, ate some oatmeal, made sandwiches, and headed for the parking near El Cap Meadow. We discovered that Sarah Kate’s partner from Friday had forgotten to give all her gear back (some of which we wanted to bring with us), so we made a quick trip back to the campsite (where he was luckily still packing up) and then back to the meadow. With tremendous effort, we took off our jackets (it was chilly) and hiked briskly to the start of the approach trail.

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Looking up at the third (5.10d) pitch from the belay (you can’t see the crux section).

The approach was not as bad or long as we had expected (except for a short section of steep dirt when we got kind of off track) and we were at the base of the route in under 2 hours, including a short excursion further up the gully (slight confusion about which Spire was which). Sarah Kate said I could lead the crux 11a pitch (the money pitch) since I’d been psyched on the route for so long. This meant she would take the 10d boulder problem pitch.

We lead the first (Sarah Kate) and second (Lizzy) pitches without much trouble. Sarah Kate then lead a mini pitch to the base of the third (1od boulder problem) pitch. Then it was time for the business. A tricky 5.9 section brought Sarah Kate to the base of the 10d section, which was well-protected but a bit airy and mental (as soon as you commit to the pitch you get a lot of space beneath you). After some deep breaths and sequencing, she committed to the moves and sent to the jug and easier ground above to a small belay ledge. I followed, falling once at the crux when my feet kept popping (sadly, just a move below the jug), but then easily figured it out on my second try.

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Higher Cathedral Spire

Rest, water, Shot Bloks, and deep breaths at the belay, before setting off on the crux pitch. The first part was in a small, kind of awkward corner. We both felt the crux came before the “tight hands crux” in the topo, where there was a wide pod we had to thrutch past. But I made it to the start of the roof, rested, and set off into the undercling section. Magically, it did not feel particularly hard (the undercling was a jug and there were some decent feet). The rest of the pitch was fun, wild laybacking to a bolted belay on a nice ledge.

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Looking down at the fourth (5.11a) pitch.

Sarah Kate followed the pitch clean (awesome!) and we high-fived at the belay ledge – the hard climbing was below us! We exchanged gear and she set off on the final pitch to the summit. We ate our lunches huddled behind a rock (it was quite windy) before walking over to the true summit (no summit register 😦   ) to take some photos with El Cap in the background. It is a pretty sweet view from the summit. Two climbergirls, 5 pitches, 5 onsights, 1 fall, 1 gorgeous summit!

We rapped uneventfully and headed down the talus, ready for chips, salsa, and beer. We also chilled with a bunch of climbers at the Stanford Alpine Club campsite and Nina, Jeremy, Adrienne, Jeff, and Kelli, who happened to be camping two sites over.

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Lovely fall colors in the gully

In the morning, we were tired and sore, but still got up at around 8:15. We ate and packed up camp, then headed to curry for coffee/tea and decision-making about what to climb. After long deliberations and considering of soreness, we decided cragging at Reed’s Pinnacle would be a good decision. It was almost lunch time when we actually got there (after stopping in the meadow, then realizing we needed to go back and fill up water) but we were in no rush.

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El Capitan from the summit of Lower Cathedral Spire

We’d hoped to warm up on Ejesta (5.8), but two older dudes said they were planning on doing it. After considering their speed (not particularly fast), we decided to climb a 5.7 nearby. We then headed to the base of Lunatic Fringe (5.10c) to eat lunch and wait for it to get less hot up there in the sun.

Two guys showed up to do the route and I decided to let them go first (I was in no rush to climb in the hot sun), but I didn’t watch (I wanted to onsight it…). I started up the route, trying to conserve my gear (I still ended up backcleaning and leapfrogging some pieces because I hadn’t anticipated the gear size quite right). The last moves were a bit exciting, but luckily I had two yellow aliens, so it was quite well protected. It was Sarah Kate’s turn next and with a little beta and gear advice she was off. She cruised the route (even the top moves), hesitating only at a tricky off fingers section.

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Obligatory summit photo with El Cap

Afterwards, it was getting late in the afternoon and we were both a bit tired and sore, so we decided to call it a weekend and head home via Chipotle.

It was a pretty fantastic weekend. I think we both felt really proud of ourselves for doing South by Southwest together, because I think both of us have previously climbed harder multipitch routes only with guys, who tend to be the ones to lead the hard pitches. Both of us lead our hardest route in the Valley on South by Southwest and I think we really benefited mentally from not having the security blanket of a stronger partner. It was also nice for both of us to relax more on Sunday (especially Sarah Kate, who’d climbed all of Friday, too) because we’re so busy during the week that we don’t always get any time to relax. We were both psyched on sending Lunatic Fringe – definitely a very classic, fantastic route.

Lizzy





Weekends in Yosemite

13 10 2009

One of the perks of living in the Bay Area (other than getting to climb at Planet Granite Sunnyvale, which I love) is that I live within weekend distance of Yosemite now. And that’s pretty sweet.

My main obstacle in taking advantage of my awesome proximity to huge granite walls (and some not so huge ones too) is that I’m pretty intimidated by the idea of Yosemite. There’s so much history there and so many amazing rock climbers that I have a hard time bringing the confidence I have at my favorite playgrounds (Squamish, Smith Rock, etc.) to the Valley with me. Even though I know that I can climb 5.11, I drive into those hallowed grounds and feel afraid of 5.9. And it’s not that there aren’t plenty of great routes under 5.9 in the Valley, but I’m pretty sure it’s silly to let my intimidation limit me to that extent. So that’s what I’ve been working on on these weekend in the Valley.

The first weekend (Oct 3/4) was the weekend of the Yosemite tweetup – 6 twitter friends meeting at a campsite at Crane Flat and doing some climbing together. This weekend was fun, but didn’t actually involve a lot of climbing since I was recovering from a pretty nasty cold/flu/something and it snowed on Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Nevertheless, it was fun to hang out at the crag and see that climbing in Yosemite does not always have to be a huge production involving many many pitches (and often haul bags). This was good for reducing intimidation.

This last weekend (Oct 10/11), Luke and Stein were going to the Valley to start working on Freerider, which they would eventually like to free. I wanted to go too, to get the most out of my week and a half of Luke visiting and to get some climbing in myself. This was my first time climbing outside with my new gym partner (and awesome climber girl) Sarah Kate.

On Saturday we had a slow start due to waiting in line at Camp 4 in the morning, then transferring all our food and tents from the Friday night campsite. We headed to the Five Open Books to try Commitment (5.9) because we wanted to do a multipitch together (this is a short, 3-pitch climb, so a good way to make sure we work well together on a multipitch before trying something harder and/or longer). However, there were lots of parties in front of us and two in line behind us, so we decided to bail and go cragging instead.

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Lizzy on the first pitch of the Salathe (5.10c) with lots of El Cap above.

We thought the El Cap Base cragging looked fun, so we headed to the meadow and hiked to the base. We warmed up with Little John Right (5.8), then intercepted Luke and Stein as they finished rapping down the fixed lines from the Heart Ledges. We had wanted to get on Moby Dick (5.10a), but it was crowded, so someone convinced me to do the first pitch of the Salathe Wall (5.10c). Ok – jumping right into Yosemite 5.10, but this pitch was supposed to be good. I kept expecting it to have awful pin scars and slippery feet, but I reached the anchors before I found any! The pitch was actually really fun and very reasonable for the grade. Take that, intimidation! Moby Dick was STILL crowded, so Sarah Kate took a TR lap on Ahab (5.10b sandbag) and we headed down with the boys to cook dinner in the dark.

The next day, we were up and at ’em a little earlier, so there was only one party ahead of us at Commitment. We waited a little at the base, but not too long. The route was fun and pretty low-key. I can understand why it would be the first 5.9 multipitch for people since it really only has a couple of 5.9 moves (and the 1st pitch 5.8 splitter is awesome!). We headed to the El Cap Meadow to eat our lunches and look up at the climbers, then decided to get on a couple more pitches by doing Jamcrack.

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Sarah Kate on the first pitch of Jamcrack (5.7)

We arrived to Sunnyside Bench to find it nearly deserted – only 2 climbers on their way down from Jamcrack. We were psyched. Sarah Kate led the first pitch and I got the 2nd. I’d done the first pitch before, but the 2nd was new to both of us and it was really fantastic – great, easy jamming and a lot less slippery than the first pitch because the slightly harder rating must keep the crowds off it a bit more. Then we toproped the 5.10s to the left of the first pitch of Jamcrack before calling it a day.

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Lizzy on the second pitch of Jamcrack (5.8)

Overall, it was a great, relaxed weekend and I think we both felt a little less intimidated about climbing in the Valley. Maybe one of these next weekends we’ll get on a harder, longer route like the East Buttress of El Cap (or South by Southwest, which Luke and I didn’t do the weekend before since I was still sick).

But for now, it’s raining (here and in the Valley, I think), so time to get some work done in preparation for the next climbing weekend.

Lizzy





Alone in Tuolumne.

10 09 2008

This past Friday was my day off so I drove up to Bishop to see Lizzy. She was in town for a resupply and we were able to have lunch and chat before she had to return to her field work. It was great to see her and sad when she got back in the CalTech Geology truck and drove off. We crunched lots of talking and hugging into our 4 hours together which was not close to enough. It was defiantly worth the drive to see the smile on her face when I pulled up.

With Lizzy quickly back to work I had decided to take some alone time. A partner hadn’t worked out but I hadn’t really tried that hard. I was looking forward to some personal reflection and a bit more exploration of Bishop and Tuolumne. I had brought along my bouldering pad so I could do a bit of pebble wrestling when I tired of hiking and driving. The 90+ degree forecast (in bishop) was not ideal but I managed two night sessions at Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is located near Tom’s Place about 25 miles north of Bishop on the Sherwin Plateau. Rock Creek is appeal since it is more than a thousand feet higher in elevation than the Buttermilks and is surrounded by shady trees. The boulders are located in canyon cut by the water so they receive shade a bit earlier than else where.

Before heading to Rock Creek on Friday night I drove up to Owens River Gorge and hiked down to see the climbs. I had never been to the gorge before and had been curious about the volcanic rock and feel of the area. There is climbing on both sides of the gorge and there is a road down the middle that provides access to the various power plants in the gorge (Only service vehicles are allowed in). I had a good time running around and checking out the climbs and am anxious to get back with a partner and rope. The climbs are long and vertical and mostly bolt protected. Since the river goes down the middle of the gorge you sometimes have to cross mini bridges to get between areas.

As the light was fading I was making my way around Rock Creek. The guide book showed a few boulders and I was looking for something hard with a nice landing. After exploring the Campground boulder I made my way to the talus boulder. I warmed up on a V2 and started trying One Move Blunder V4. The granite was rough and had some funky knobs. After gaining the crimp rail, on this V4, you were supposed to launch for the top of a huge (3 feet wide by 2 feet tall) feature. This “knob” unfortunately did not stick out much and was directly over a bad rocky landing. I oped for the bail out left option since dynoing without a spotter would not be a good way to start my trip. The Blunder Bus V6 is the bail right option that I did next.  The guide book said move right immediately after reaching the crimp rail. This seemed a bit contrived so I matched the crimp rail, which made the move longer but allowed me to use my feet, and then went right.

Next up was Clearcut a fun looking V7 on the arete that had very directional holds and bad feet. The crux was a standup move into a sharp V-slot with your left hand using a bad right hand crimp. I slowly figured out the beta and was able to do all the moves. I fell many times trying to link from the start and my skin was toast. It was about 8pm and quite dark so I called it a night. Tired from my 6am departure I made my way to my bivy in Tuolumne and ate a bit of dinner before passing out.

The next morning i got up before sunrise so that I could get out to the rocks quickly. I packed up and drove into Yosemite National Park, via the 120, and parked near Tenaya Lake. I was the first car in the parking lot and that meant I would be the first up Tenaya peak. The approach was easy with my small pack of water and climbing shoes. Most importantly I was able to find my way up the assorted Deer Trails and didn’t lose time getting lost. I did get a little confused about where I was supposed to start since there is no base to the southwest face. There are slabs that you are hiking up and at some point you decided you should start “climbing”. Not wanting to find my self in the middle of a tricky slab in my approach shoes I put on my Muiras and got out my chalk bag.

As I steadily went up more 4th class terrain I was worried that I was off route since it was so easy. I wanted to climb, but instead my calves were burning and I was breathing heavy from the altitude. A large band of dikes across the face that matched my topo, I was on the right track! Even though I was excited I couldn’t really pick up the pace since my lungs were suffering, I am not used to being above 9000 feet. The climbing was constantly easy and did not really necessitate a rope. Lizzy had pitched out the climb in her approach shoes and I was happy to be moving quickly.

I took a break on a ledge about half way up and ate some food and took off my climbing shoes. The view was spectacular and I had the whole place to myself! I summited a little over two hours after I left my car. The climbing took a bit more than the approach but it was very mellow. The top section required a bit more attention since the rock got a bit steeper. I got pretty lost on the decent and was more gripped going down loose gullies than climbing the route. It was about 3.5 hours car to car so I still had a full day ahead of me.

I ate lunch and relaxed at Tenaya Lake and gave a ride to a hiker from Murrieta named Bruce who had been in the area for the last few days enjoying the trails with his family. I wandered around Tuolumne and hiked to Drug dome and checked out OZ. I met a nice guy named Dennis who had been out photographing a pair of British climbers on the route. OZ looks spectacular with difficult face climbing followed by a 100+ foot long corner. After watching the couple go up the route I made my way over to Lamb Dome. Lizzy and I are interesting in doing On the Lamb, which traverses the dome, and I wanted to get my bearings. After finding the trails I made my way to the base and found a spectacular wall of knobs.

I went back to the car and grabbed my shoes and returned for a bit of traversing. I figured it would be good training to get used to the Tuolumne crimps and knobs and a fun way to spend my afternoon. I hopped on the wall and made my way most of the way across but was stopped by a reachy crux in the middle. It seemed that climbing higher might be the solution but since I was still along I decided to wait for another day. Exhausting my supertopo book for new places to go I stopped by the store and bought the Falcon guide. Tired of hiking I grabbed a vanilla soft serve and got back on the road. I needed to leave early enough to stop by Bridgeport, about 30 mins north of Tioga Pass, before going back to Rock Creek.

While I was unable to contact the ranger station, since their phone line is bad (according to the main office), I thought it was worth the trip to try and receive my rope. I made good time and luckily the station was still open and they had my rope! Sadly there was a pretty nasty core shot just beyond the middle mark on the rope. It was great that the two guys from Colorado hiked it out and I can still use the pieces once I cut it up.

I arrived at Rock Creek on Saturday night to cooler temperatures than the night before. As well I ran into a Swedish couple at the talus boulder. They were trying an improbable sit start that was not in the guide book. I had looked at it the night before but the holds seemed too poor. After warming up I spent a few minutes brushing the holds on Clearcut. I had found a tooth brush in my car and was very happy to have cleaner holds, better friction! I breathed in, pulled on, and sent first try! I was able to relax in the crux and get my weight over my left foot which allowed me to go statically to the sharp slot. After sending I did a standing jump variation of a V9 to the right. With a bad foot and two bad crimps you lunge to the top. This move was hard from a standing position and I couldn’t figure out how to do it from the sit (for the full points).

To finish off the last bit of daylight I went over to the Boy Named Sue boulder and climbed the Groove Arete, V4. By the time I had worked out the moves it was dark and I was using my headlamp. After I topped out I realized I was very alone and in the dark with no down climb. The climbs, on this boulder, range from V4 to V10 and evidently there is a V2 on one of the aretes. I couldn’t see the moves of the V2 and it did not seem logical to downclimb from 15 feet on an unknown problem with no pad. I tested a few of the near by trees and grabbed the biggest one and shimmeyed down. I bear hugged that tree like no other, palming my way down the smooth bark wishing there were branches. That was by far the scariest part of my weekend, worse than 1000 feet of climbing, harder than V7, down climbing the tree, alone, in the dark pushed my limits.

With my weekend project sent I drove back to Bishop and camped near the Buttermilks and had dinner. I slept like a log with a full day of walking and a bit of climbing behind me. On my way back to Bishop I tried to find the Catacombs where I was planning a morning session. Instead of going over the Dam I took a wrong turn and went 1.3 on a different dirt road. It was pitch black and when I got to the correct distance there was a fork like I expected. Unfortunately the fork was complete overgrown and I did not feel like exploring anymore so I bailed.

The next morning came quickly since I slept quite well but my skin and muscles were pretty trashed. I packed up the tent and headed back to San Diego content with my exploration and bouldering. It was pretty strange to be alone all weekend and I did get a bit used to the solitude. I listened to my Ipod and thought about how much I missed Lizzy. It was a good time for sure but I wont be making a habit of it.

In more exciting news Alex Honnold just Free-Soloed the Regular Route on Half Dome. Via Supertopo The big question in a lot of peoples minds is a free solo of El Cap. In an old supertopo thread there is a bunch of discussion about how many difficult parts of FreeRider are insecure and dangerous. I am glad to see Alex pushing the limits but I want to see him around for many years to come. Hopefully he can put his energy into freeing a new route on El Cap instead of risking death by free soloing it.

Cheers,

Luke





What is Trad?

11 03 2008

In late February Beth Rodden redpointed a new 5.14 in Yosemite. This 70 foot line is called Meltdown and features a thin finger crack that leads to discontinuous seams. Rodden placed all of her gear on lead after a winter of work on the line. Many think this is the hardest “trad” climb done by a woman and is quite an amazing send. The Alpinist has some info but better pictures and history about the route can big found on the BigUP blog. Beth will be featured climbing Meltdown and a few other hard climbs in Dosage V.

A Supertopo thread about Beth spurred a discussion about what is “Trad” and how you relate Trad to the rest of the categories of climbing. Does Trad imply that the ascent is done ground-up or does it just specify the style of gear used to protect a redpoint? While these markers of style are not essential to our sport it is interesting to see how they are interpreted. Does trad mean that there are no bolts on the line that are used for lead protection? I think that the meaning of trad has evolved since the original use of the word. I think that these days trad is most commonly used to mean something that is not a Sport climb. To me a trad climb simply implies you must place your own protection.

This makes me wonder where does mixed climbing falls? I mean mixed protection climbing which is not to be confused with mixed climbing that refers to a combination of rock and ice climbing where ice tools and crampons are used. A mixed route that offers both cams and bolts is some times referred to as a trad route since one must place some of your own protection. A good example of “Trad” climbing where bolts are used is seen in Red Rocks. Many of the climbs in Red Rocks have the ocational bolt when natural protection can not be found. I think of these as trad climbs despite the use of an occasional bolt for protection. These bolts are used when traditional protection can not be found and to keep the routes fairly safe. The safety issue comes in direct contrast to the bold bolt-free climbing style. In Red Rocks there is also an issue with some climbs that have been over bolted so that they are more accessible.

Beyond the type of gear used to protect a climb it is interesting that “Trad” can refer to the style of the ascent. Some say that a major distinction between Sport and Trad is whether the climb is done ground up or top down. “Traditional climbing means starting at the bottom and going to the top, without weighting pro. That, I put forth, is the traditional mindset.” This means that could you could climb a sport route in traditional style by sending ground up as opposed to rappelling it and inspecting it or hangdoging it and then redpointing it later. This seems a bit odd to me but it can make sense in the way climbs were established. A sport climb could have the bolts drilled on lead for a ground up ascent. I believe this was common practice before climbers started bolting on rappel. By establishing a climb top down you would eliminate the adventure by figuring out sequences in advance. I image this is why hang dogging was such heresy back when yo-yoing was the common practice.

Put in perspective of a traditional ground up ethic yo-yoing makes a bit more sense. By having to lower to the ground after a fall you would still have to be onsighting the upper most moves. Hangdoging allowed a climber to start from anywhere on a climb and slighted the ground up style. I can now see why there was so much debate on style and what is acceptable. If you fully believe in the Traditional spirt of climbing ground up without bolts then hangdogging while sport climbing (with bolts) is very much out of the question.

On Supertopo John Bachar goes on to specify the difference between Onsight and Onsight Flash. This was a distinction that I had never heard of and is way old school. In a way it does make sense in a world where when you fall you lower all the way to the ground (Yo-Yo style). Thus even though you have fallen you will eventually Onsight a climb since every move you will have at one point had to do for the first time until your eventual “Redpoint”. This seems strange in the current use of the word that is used to say that you did the climb first try all the way to the top without any beta.

It is odd that the distinction between Onsight and Onsight Flash seen above does not mention beta at all. I think this is a more interesting discussion. At what point do we cross the line from a Onsight to a Flash, in the modern sense of the words. Since climbing is just a type of game it is interesting that different people play by different rules. What I think is important is that you are honest about the style. If you call a send an Onsight but you had someone tell you about the climb then just be honest that your friend told you beta.

Style is important but it is more important to have fun and let everyone make their choices. We do not want to have anyone chipping routes or placing bolts right next to perfect natural protection. What has worked over the years is to allow different areas to feature their own set of rules and style of climbing. This can be a result of both the kind of rock and the mindset of the locals. So try to think outside the box and respect the traditions at the crags you frequent.

– Luke