By James Herson
There's only one thing better than an El Cap route. Two El Cap routes.
As a special wedding present to Jess I decided to introduce Chan, the man who always gets his way, to the concept of compromise. After back-to-back nerve wrecking weekends of buying bay area real estate (OUCH!) I was in desperate need of some R&R on the big stone. Chan, always eager to take advantage of my emotional vulnerability, insisted we climb the Nose. Any reprieve from the bay area housing market madness was fine with me. I was totally open to any climbing suggestion as long as it was the Salathe. So we compromised. We climbed both.
For the perfect weekend warrior ascent it's important that the night before a climb you spend more time commuting than sleeping. On this we over achieved thanks to bay area traffic... As a sleep deprived new parent I found this annoying.
Up by 3:30am, started the Free Blast at 5:30am, and topped out on the Salathe 8hr 10min later. Although pleased with the warmup, having climbed well while conserving strength, we still made a couple of small, time consuming blunders. No biggie since we were feeling refreshed and amped for the evenings activities. Left skid marks on top, sprinted down the East Ledges, and back to the van by 3pm.
Valley Syndrome has been known to immobilize motivated climbers for entire summers. There's no known cure or preventive measures. When we hit the Valley floor the suffocating heat sucked the life right out of me. All I wanted to do was sleep. Climbing the Nose was a distant second in priorities. However the prospect of negotiating with Chan, who was just going to get his way anyways, seemed overwhelmingly exhausting. In this case the shortest path to my pillow was to just climb El Cap again.
It took us almost 2hrs to repack, munch, and walk to the base. At the base I realized I forgot my sweat shirt, hat, and enough food for the night but didn't have the energy to walk back to the van to grab them. The 4th class approach upto the base of the Nose was desperate and I started dozing off while Chan led the first pitch. An ominous start.
Fortunately we had enough sense to realize we were totally out of it. We opted to skip the fun speed tricks -- no simul or pullup the slack/solo climbing. Instead we did the boring old belay thing which bought us nothing as those silly self locking belay devices make it next to impossible to catch some shut-eye at belays.
We moved slow but steady until sunset. Then, even with a spectacular full moon, we crawled. Progress was so slow we might as well have been down climbing. I didn't bemoan this fact to the rather ragged looking gentlemen who were almost halfway up the Nose on day five of their three day climb...
Eventually the sun reappeared and re-energized us and we gunned it for the top. A 15hr Nose for a 26.5hr somewhat tiring day. I couldn't help but notice that our step lost some of its bounce on the second trip down the East Ledges.
Our disappointing Nose flail fest cost us the prize 24hr ascent and our real goal of linking in Nutcracker for a pitch count greater than our combined age. But nevertheless the 70 pitches of climbing made for a pleasant day of cragging.
Blasted off at first light and 6hr 32min later deployed the landing chutes on top. Chopped an hour off the record(*) but left plenty of fat to still trim. With a full night's sleep, reasonable temperatures, and some remedial rope handling (we got our rope stuck!) we can tidy it up into a respectable time.
It was the most fun morning of climbing ever.
With only 24hrs left of my childhood until a purgatory of weed whacking and grouting (our house closing is today) this trip was to be my El Cap weaning. No more than one climb up the Captain per day. But because we're untrustworthy we tossed in an extra sandwich and headlamp just in case. Sure enough we hadn't coiled the rope before there was a gnawing in the pit of our stomachs from the unfinished business on the Nose linkup. (We had missed the 24hrs.) We psyched up for the linkup as we sprinted down the East Ledges until BOOM!!! Whacked once again by the sizzling heat of the Valley floor. With the memory of heat stroke all too fresh from our linkup three weeks ago we surprised ourselves and did the mature thing. A proper linkup would have to wait for a cooler day. Instead we relaxed and enjoyed the morning's memories. After all, we had already tweaked Greggie and climbing doesn't get any better than that!
(*) We actually climbed (aid, of course) the Free Salathe which varies at P24 and P33 from the original aid line.
|Home/ Mountaineering/ Yosemite Rock information|