After previously completing a few grade V's, Ben & I decided to take it up a notch and attempt the Nose. Here is my account. I took off work early and picked Ben up at about 2pm on Tuesday, June 22nd. After a few quick stops for food & supplies, we headed straight for Yosemite and arrived in the valley at about 11pm. Instead doing the approach with all of our gear/supplies in the morning, we decided to at least hike in our water that evening so we'd have an easier approach in the morning. We got back to the car at about midnight and tried to get a few hours sleep. Despite several suggestions that we fix, haul, and then take a day off to rest and rehydrate, we decided to climb & haul straight through and bivy the first night on Sickle Ledge. At about 5:00 AM on Wednesday, Ben and I arose and began our approach to begin climbing. Both of us had been climbing for barely over 3 years but what we lacked in experience, we made up for in enthusiasm.
The first 4 pitches to Sickle Ledge consists of climbing and hauling on low angle slab (We met Chris McNamara on the first pitch. He and his partner were attempting to set a new speed record for "Grape Race". They would bail later that day but Chris would come back a couple of days later with a new partner and shatter the previous record.). If I had it to do over again, I would have climbed straight through to Sickle and then haul directly from the ground on the steeper section. The slabs are really a pain in the ass to haul. Also, it was no easy task humping our haulbag to the start of the first pitch. After arriving at Sickle, I fixed to pitch 6. As I began rapping back down to Sickle, I slipped and hit a outward pointing rock with my left rib that knocked the wind out of me. Shee-it!! I WAS in pain. What a lousy way to start such a long route. I was sure I'd broken a rib. Ben asked me if I felt good enough to continue and I replied that I thought I could make it. As it turned out, the combination of endorphins, adrenaline, and aspirin did a great job in controlling the pain for the remainder of the route. (As I write this, I have on a rib wrap and I am thoroughly intoxicated with a mixture of Motrin, Vicodin, and Codeine. Subsequent x-rays confirmed that I did in fact break my 6th left rib). The bivy on Sickle was adequate but was bumpy and sloping.
Ben started out the next day leading the pitch up to Dolt hole for the start of the Stovelegs. It was at this time that we crossed paths with another party that was in front of us. After a short discussion, it was decided that to maximize efficiency, we'd climb as a 4 man team up to Dolt Tower and then split up by giving the other team a 2 pitch head start the following day. Neither team wanted anyone barking up their ass the entire climb. And so, we spent the rest of the day working our way up the Stovelegs to Dolt Tower. Getting into the Stovelegs was fairly easy. There was a fixed rope hanging down so all you really had to do was grab it, clip in, and then swing over into the crack. The first two pitches off Dolt Tower are supposed to be 5.9 OW but they looked a hell of a lot harder so Ben combined them together on aid in fairly short order. Then, I took the easy 5.8 free pitch that brought us up to El Cap Tower. Next....The TEXAS FLAKE. Shit, I had no idea that this pitch was going to be as hard as it was. (Ben later noticed that there were a bunch of bolts on the inside of the west side of the flake that essentially protected the climbing. What's up with this?) I'd spent a lot of time on this pitch, it was getting late, and so we decided that we'd fix to the top of the Boot and bivy on El Cap Tower for the night. Great bivy, great view, & lot's of space.
Got up and jugged/hauled to the top of the Boot. Lowered Ben down for the King Swing. Came up a little short. Lowered again. Short again. Lowered a few more feet. Ben ran back and forth a couple of times and nailed it. Great job. We spent the rest of the day getting to Camp 4 and then fixing the pitch below the Great Roof. I freed this at a pretty easy 5.9 and while it wasn't technically difficult, it was a fun pitch with good exposure. We HAD to make Camp VI on this day or we'd be screwed as we were running out of water. I led the Great Roof. Great FUN!! Ben fired off Pancake Flake. Then I took us into Camp 5. (It was at this point that Chris McNamara and his new partner Jose Pereya passed us on their record setting performance on Grape Race). It was Ben's turn and it was getting late. We had to haul ass. Ben stepped up to the plate and cranked the 110' pitch up to the Glowering Spot in 30 minutes. It was now dark and Ben ran the next 2 pitches together to Camp 6. There was a lot of unprotected free climbing on this pitch in the dark and I would have to say that Ben really did a fine job in getting us up to Camp 6. Stellar performance. This was Ben's finest day. The bivy at 6 was OK as far as space was concerned but it was full of garbage. I ran the first two pitches together off Camp 6. Required a bit of back-cleaning/leap-frogging. Ben led the next pitch. And then I ran the next two pitches together that led us up to the final bolt-ladder. As I'm climbing, a rescue helicopter that has been hovering around for the last hour, stops about 100 feet away from the wall and instructs me to stop climbing as there is a rescue that is going on below on the King-Swing (I later found out that a 3 man team of Euros left their 3rd man on the Boot without a lower out line. Instead of using the lead line to lower himself out most of the way, he just tied in short and took a flying LEAP off the Boot!! He flew straight into the dihedral. He got pretty shook up and broke his wrist but was otherwise alright.). After getting the go-ahead to resume climbing from the Yosemite Search & Rescue (YOSAR), Ben led us to the top. Once there, Keith Lober (head ranger for YOSAR) asked us if we'd be willing to help haul Mary Braun up from the King-Swing (she'd been lowered down to bring up the injured Euro). So, Ben & I and several YOSAR personnel (including Scott Burke and Werner Braun) proceeded to haul up Mary on a 1-1 haul. Took us about 40 minutes. Once on top, YOSAR invited us to spend the night and feed us. So after a slow but tenacious ascent of the Nose, spent our last night on El Capitan.
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