Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yosemite Report (Part 1 - El Cap)

We didn't send :(

El Cap (the big tower on the left)
Urgg... that was difficult to write. I thought I'd put that up front since this could be a long post. It probably wasn't news to anyone anyway. It was still a memorable climb nevertheless.

Organizing the gear and packing the haul bags
We packed up the haulbags and made our way to El Cap to scope out a potential line. The decision was made quickly. There was a slow-moving soloist on Zodiac, and the topos for Lurking Fear & the Nose were missing. As such... Triple Direct was the target. It was almost absent of climbers at the time, had a trivial 10 minute flat approach, and offered 31 pitches of climbing at moderate aid grades. It follows the first 10 pitches of the Salate' wall, the middle pitches of the Muir wall, and the final pitches of the Nose. It seemed doable and totally classic.

Carrying in heavy loads.

We humped in the loads Sunday afternoon and shortly thereafter Adam was freeing the stout 5.10c first pitch. The aim was simply to have our food and bags hauled to the top of pitch 1 by nightfall, and to sleep back on the ground. It all went well that evening, and we were tucked into our sleeping bags on time ready for an alpine start in the morning.

Sleeping at El Cap is a bit surreal... You really don't sleep; there's simply too many things competing for your attention. All night long your mind wanders and your eyes are drawn to the twinkling lights off in the distance. The lights aren't stars though; rather they are the headlamps of parties far above you moving around sporadically as they set up their ledges, cook their dinners, and in some cases... continue climbing through the night. All the while you are listening to the deep grunts El Cap climbers yell at each other.

'OOoooohh ooh oohhh'  (imagine the sound that you'd get from crossing a bear with a gorilla)

Morning comes at about 4:30 a.m. We get out of our bivi bags, and shake dozens of sliverfish off our clothes (the place was infested|). After a quick breakfast, we're blasted off. I lead pitch 2 fairly quickly leapfrogging big cams up a long fist / offwidth corner. Sometime during that morning we looked down at our campsite to see a good-sized bear roaming through it. Yoikes. The leading went o.k. for the rest of the day but the hauling was another story. The bags, full with 6 days food / water / supplies for the four of us weighed over 300lbs. At that weight, the friction on the slabby pitches meant that 3 people were needed full-time to haul. 2 men counterweighting the pulley and a dedicated 'wrangler' to dislodge them from every crack, mini-roof, and depression that would catch. In the heat the hauling punished us and we weren't able to keep up with the leader.  That day we managed to only make it to the top of pitch 5. We set up the ledges, ate a quick meal, drank what we could, and crashed.

Erick jugging

The heavy bags... 
It seemed like I had just managed to doze off when voices in the dark got closer and woke us up. A minute later a head poked over the ledge. We were being passed in the middle of the night! After asking our permission, the leader clipped a biner and a ropeman to our ledge anchor and took off at light-speed up a difficult looking corner crack. I watched him run it out at least 30' over us while I realize that another voice is getting closer below. The party is simul-climbing at pitch that clocks in somewhere around 5.12 and if either the second or the leader blows it... the leader will crater right through the ledge Erick and I are sleeping on. I decide to put my helmet on (not that it would help).  After a few more long moments the second appears, say's hi, and climbs past us. The remainder of the night goes by as I watch headlamps high above me, as it would be impossible to sleep after that.

That's enough for this post... more later

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