Time Wave Zero. 23 pitches in a day. A limestone classic!The Video
A one day ascent of Time Wave Zero. We had three days off from work to drive to Mexico, do the climb and then return to Houston.
Our strategy was to travel light, link pitches, simu climb, block lead and start early.
In order to move as expeditiously as possible we carried very little climbing gear, food, clothes and water. (gear list at the end).
Another strategy we used to save time was climbing the 23 pitches as 9. This was accomplished by linking and simultaneously (simu) climbing pitches. On our simu pitches the leader climbed until the full 60 meters of our rope was payed out through the belay device. At that point, we began climbing simultaneously with no belay. Although there was protection between us, if the follower were to fall the force of his fall would have caused the leader to fall. On a few simu sections we skipped clipping bolts. This was to conserve quick draws and lengthen our pitches. A fall by either the follower or the leader in these situations would have resulted in an enormously lengthy and potentially dangerous fall.
Block leading made us much more efficient and saved a lot of time. I block lead pitches 4-14. Ross block lead pitches 1-3 and 15- 23. Therefore, we only had to swap lead twice. Swapping leads every pitch would have meant the follower would have climbed on toprope for 1 pitch and then immediately lead another pitch. This would have meant that each time one of us began climbing we would have had to climb 2 pitches with no break followed by a ridiculously long rest. The other climber would then have to repeat the same process. By block leading the leader climbed 1 pitch and then rested while belaying the follower for 1 pitch of toprope climbing. By the time the follower reached the belay station the block leader was sufficiently rested to again lead climb for 1 pitch. This gave us a much more efficient rest/climb cycle.
In order to accomplish the one day ascent we had to start and finish in the dark.
We missed the turnoff for the 1st pitch and became totally lost in the dark. What should have been a 30 minute hike turned into an hour and a half bushwhack to get back on course. When we arrived at pitch 1 there was already a party in front of us, so we had to wait another half hour to begin climbing.
Pitch 1 = Pitch 1-3 (20 bolts 5.7/5.11/5.9 290 feet)
We began the climb at 6:30 AM in the dark. Ross was leading through one of the crux sections on pitch 2 when suddenly he peeled off the wall. It looked crazy from my perspective, as I was still on the ground and could only see his headlamp. He fell about 30 feet. His heel landed on a small ledge, spraining it very badly. However, he was able to finish leading to the top of pitch 3. When I arrived at the belay station he retrieved the 1st aid kit from the pack. He taped up his foot with his climbing shoe still on. This meant he would not be able to remove his climbing shoe the rest of the day. He would also have to deal with the pain of a sprained ankle while climbing on it for another eight hours.
Pitch 2 = pitch 4-7 (32 bolts 5.9/5.10/5.9/5.7 353 feet)
I lead until there was 60 meters of rope between us and then we began simu climbing. I calculated that I would have to skip 6 bolts if I was going to make it to the top of pitch 7 (we dropped a quick draw on the 1st pitch). I clipped the 3 directional’s instead of wasting a quick draw (I hoped they could take a lead fall). I feel it was a very wise decision not to fall on that pitch. I did not clip a single bolt on pitch 7.
I walked the 100 feet between pitch 7 and 9. Ross limped.
Pitch 3 = Pitch 9-10 (18 bolts 5.9/5.10 200 feet)
The 1st half was moderate to easy face climbing. The second pitch started by traversing right under a small roof and then followed a vertical hand crack. This pitch is significantly easier if you know how to hand jam. I used long slings at the higher bolts on pitch 9 and had no drag problems on pitch 10.
Pitch 4 = Pitch 11-14 (26 bolts 5.9/5.7/5.8/5.9 360 feet)
This was a crazy lead. I skipped 1 bolt on pitch 11 and every bolt on pitch 12 (including the belay stations on pitch 12 and 13) . When I got to pitch 14 I felt like it was harder than 5.9. I was probably just tired. Luckily, I still had some quick draws! While I was leading pitch 14 (5.9) Ross was on the easy pitch 12 (5.7). So he just ran up it. As a result Ross let way too much slack develop. Once he realized what he had done he started giving me a hip belay from the bivy ledge until I finished pitch 14. Thank God I did not fall. It would have been catastrophic! I reached the belay anchors at 10:20 AM.
Pitch 5 = Pitch 15-16 (18 bolts 5.10a/510d 200 feet)
My belay stance at the bottom of pitch 15 was glorious. I sat comfortably on a large palm tree that grew horizontally out of the cliff. This would be our second and final lead swap. As a result I was able to enjoy the comfortable belay station twice as long compared with other belay stations. Ross led it up in style. For me, the fatigue was starting to set in.
Pitch 6 = Pitch 17-18 (17 bolts 5.10a/5.10a 200 feet)
Halfway through the linked pitch Ross stopped climbing for quite some time. I couldn’t tell why. He was completely out of sight and shouting range. None of it made any sense. Ross was a 5.12 climber. This was only a 5.10a pitch. He should have been flying up it. A million things went through my head as to what could be going wrong. However, in the end every scenario turned out to be incorrect. Ross had to go # 2 half way through the pitch. At some peril to himself, Ross climbed off route and into a small cave so as not to pollute the route. I asked him what he used for toilet paper. His response was “A rock”. “AY CARAMBA!!!” I wonder if that’s what cavemen used to use?
Pitch 7 = Pitch 18-19 (16 bolts 5.10a/5.11 190 feet)
I was totally blown out at this point. I began grabbing every other quick draw for a little extra help. As I was approaching the ledge at the beginning of pitch 21 I saw that the party ahead of us was waiting to rappel. That ledge was a godsend! However, the hardest pitch was yet to come.
Pitch 8 = Pitch 21-22 (17 bolts 5.12a/5.10a 190 feet)
Ross almost got the free send on Time Wave Zero . But in the end he grabbed 1 quick draw at the crux on this pitch. He was pissed. I was amazed. How the hell can a person who can hardly walk climb 23 pitches and be disappointed at himself for not being able to pull a 5.12 crux. Talk about being hard on yourself. Jeez! I ascended the crux with Tiblocks. I still think pitch 22 is a 5.10a.
Pitch 9 = Pitch 23 (3 bolts 5.6 100 feet)
VERY, VERY LOOSE!!!!! We arrived at the summit at 3:30 PM.
Rappel and descent
The 22 rappels took 4 hours and were uneventful. When we got to the bottom Ross could hardly walk. He was moving so slowly I asked him if he needed me to carry him. He declined and just gutted it out. I was pretty grateful he did, because I was in no condition to carry anyone.
We finished the rappels at 8:00 PM.
We do not simultaneously rappel anymore . Since this climb we have compared the time it takes us to rappel one at a time verses simultaneous rappelling. We actually rappel significantly faster rappelling one at a time than we do simu rapping and it is a hell of a lot safer.
In order to reduce our chances of getting hurt by whippers in the dark we have switched to stronger headlamps. We also belay closer to the lead climber if it is a difficult section with a chance of hitting a ledge. For instance, I could have belayed from the top of pitch 1 instead of the ground. This would have shortened his fall distance. However, It would have increased the fall factor.
We now simu climb with a grigri. Using this method the follower can much more easily adjust the amount of slack or tension in the rope. This reduces the danger of developing too much slack (as long as the follower is paying attention).
12 quick draws
8 24 inch slings
7 48 inch slings
28 light weight wire gate carabineers
5 small locking carabineers
5 large locking carabineers
2 daisy chains
Beal 9.1 millimeter Rope
2 small sandwiches each
6 ounces of tuna each
4 Accel gels each
2.5 liters of water each
Marmot Precip jacket (12 0z)
1 REI flash pack (weight 9oz)
1st aid kit 5 ounces