Triple Direct Route (VI, 5.9, A2)
El Capitan, Yosemite Valley
Climbed in 5 days in May 1980 by
The Triple Direct Route on El Capitan is an "easy" 32-pitch route the links the Salathe Wall, the Muir Wall and the Nose. (Is there such thing as an "easy" route up El Capitan?) The Triple Direct Route offers a faster way up El Cap than the Nose but with harder aid.
Some naysayers claim that the Triple Direct avoids the best (classic) pitches of the Salathe Wall, the Muir Wall and the Nose. However, in his book "Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber," Steve Roper writes:
"The upper third of the Nose is one of the most soul-satisfying places in Yosemite. Planes of marble-smooth granite shoot upward toward infinity. The various dihedral walls, dead vertical at this stage, converge in broad, angular facets, and climbing through this magical place is like living inside of a cut diamond."
Triple Direct (pitches 1-10) = Salathe Wall (pitches 1-10).
Triple Direct (pitches 11-17) = Muir Wall (pitches 12-18).
The Triple Direct veers off the Muir Wall and pendulums over to the Nose Route over the course of two independent pitches (Triple Direct pitches 18-19).
Triple Direct (pitches 20-32) = The Nose (pitches 22-34).
Gear SelectionOur gear for a 1980 ascent of El Capitan was mostly pins and nuts. Camming devices were relatively new. In 1978 I saw my first camming device on Washington Column. It was a prototype Friend, hopelessly stuck in a crack. Someone had bashed it into a barely recognizable blob of metal to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Camming devices were also prohibitively expense for Yosemite Park Bums like us who were living out of dumpsters and Volkswagons.
EL CAP GEAR LIST
EB rock shoes (what else?)
White climbing pants (dig it)
5 gallons of water (2 quarts per person, per day)
59 pitons (nail it, baby)
28 wired stoppers
8 Friends (yes, only 8!)
6 ropes (11mm)
Haul bag (canvas mail bag)
Cans of tuna fish
Day 1Up to Mammoth Ledges
Pitches 1 through 10
We heard nightmare stories about hauling the first 10 pitches of Salathe, so Young came up with an alternate plan. He proposed that climbed up to Mammoth Terrace with day packs only and then fix ropes down to the ground from Heart Ledge. Hauling "The Pig" would be relatively easy and straightforward using this approach.
So the first day we climbed with day packs up to Mammoth Ledges. Then we rapped down to the ground from Heart Ledge, fixing ropes on the way down in the dark by head lamp. We slept on soft mattresses and drank cold beer in the Camp 4 campground that night.
Off the ground
the 7th Pitch
the 8th Pitch
Top of Half Dollar
Day 2Mammoth to Grey Ledges
Pitches 11 through 14
On the second day we ascended up our fixed ropes and hauled "The Pig." In those days everyone was wearing T-shirts from Yosemite Mountaineering that read "Go Climb a Rock." So in mockery we inscribed our haul bag: "Go Climb El Cap."
At Heart Ledge we cast off our fixed ropes for our friends to retrieve. (This was back in the days when you didn't have to worry about getting your gear stolen.) We bivouaced on Grey Ledges that night.
Grey Ledges are some small, very uncomfortable ledges at the top of the 14th pitch. If you plan to bivouac here, don't plan on getting any sleep.
Below Grey Ledges
Day 3Grey Ledges to Camp 4
Pitches 15 through 19
Above Grey Ledges there are two very long thin aid pitches (15th and 16th pitches). The 17th pitch climbed an old bolt latter. The bolt hangers were aluminum, L-shaped and most were broken. The L shape meant than when you weighted the hanger there was a levering force to pull the bolt out of the hole. Luckily most of the hangers were broken so I tied off the studs.
The sling belay at the top of the 17th pitch was a scary place. The belay anchor consisted of four old aluminum hangers, two of which were broken. Thus our belay consisted of a sling around the expanding flake and two old, L-shaped aluminum bolts. As Young cleaned the expanding flake, the entire belay shook.
Young lowered me directly off the belay and I pendulumed toward the Nose. After the pendulum, a tension traverse and short unprotected face climb led to the 19th belay station. Another easy pitch and were were at Camp 4 on the Nose Route.
Waking up on
Traversing to Camp 4
Day 4Camp 4 to Camp 6
Pitches 20 through 26
On the fourth day I got to lead the Great Roof, something I had been longing to do ever since I was a young lad. But in order to get to the Great Roof, you have to get through one pitch of really unpleasant black diorite. There were loose blocks of black diorite all over the place, some perched quite precariously. There were climbers all over the Nose Route below us, so I had to take great care not to knock these blocks off onto the climbers below.
We bivouaced at Camp 6 on the Nose Route at the top of the 26th pitch. There was human excrement everywhere. In the heat of the Valley summer it was utterly disgusting.
Day 5Camp 6 to Summit
Pitches 27 through 32 (summit)
The final pitches on the Nose Route are thin and steep. We had a fantastic time aid climbing through the roofs. The 28th and 29th pitches were exceptionally fun. The view down the Nose Route from the final belay below the summit roof was spectacular. It was a long way down to the ground!
We slept on top of The Big Stone and hiked down Eagle Creek the next day.
Long way down
Just below the summit