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El Capitan, Yosemite


Dihedral Wall , VI A3/5.9


still 24 pitches to go







time :


climbing partner:
















19th – 22nd May 2004

Henry Wurzer (58) -  Munich, Germany

Peter Goerttler (32) - Freiburg/Germany





Contents :


trip report

gear list

pic gallery





Trip report



On the 6th of May I arrived at SFO airport and my climbing friend Peter picked me up as arranged prior. Peter quit his present job in Germany and stayed with his girl-friend Suzy, a nurse at Yosemite Medical Centre, who he fell into love with. He planned to stay in Yosemite for about 6 months – what he actually did. He had the great luck to have a stay in a resident’s home and not in camp4. We climbed together before in 2002 on the Tangerine Trip and on the Prow on W.C. – so we knew each other. Despite Peter’s ambition to go for free climbings (free-rider etc.) he was so nice to agree to a big-wall-climb in the traditional aid climbing style. My choice was this time Dihedral wall. My first El Cap wall was Lurking Fear in 2000 and on hoofing up the loads to the base of Lurking Fear, which is almost more strenuos than the climb itself, I always looked up the huge slab below Horse Chute and this obvious dihedral leading up thru the entire wall. Somehow it impressed me and since Dihedral wall is one of the early classics (3rd wall on El Cap) this wall clung since then to my mind. I believe Paul Brunners’ report of his solo climb on the wall contributed as well to that choice. It is long and not crowded at all and has perhaps 3-5 ascents a year - not a trade route! So Peter had no objections to this choice. I arranged myself at camp4 with no tent and not paying at all, because this year I was financially in a bad situtation and had to watch every Dollar going away. Until end of May it was surprisingly cold, on the valley floor it was quite comfortable but on the wall and especially higher up it was freezing and chilly, the upgoing wind made it even worse. Some german climbers at my site made Triple Direct and after having returned they still shivered for days and wore the downee jackets all day long. Well, this we experienced in fact when we were on the wall. The first 10 days after my arrival Peter was engaged in skiing and other duties with his beloved girl.


Getting started

In camp4 I met a danish guy named Steen, who lived in Canada working for the army, and he agreed to come along and to learn some aid climbing, because I wanted to prepare the first pitches of the Dihedral wall. So we started and at the base we suffered the handicap of the day – the mosquitos. Thanks God 50 feet higher we were relieved. It was already noon and we did 2 pitches. Next day we climbed 2 pitches on Pacific Ocean Wall for a change and the day after that we returned to Dihedral wall. At this time there was Tommy Caldwell working on the free-climbing and fixed ropes were hanging down from high up. But since the route, the dihedral, always leans to the left, the ropes did not bother us on climbing – but we had to get used to it. So on the 3rd day we fixed the next 3 pitches. On these first 5 pitches we placed some pitons (about 8), only sawed offs and 1 copperhead. There was than no hammering anymore on the entire wall. From pitch #5 there are new rapp bolts going down over the huge slab, always 2 after about 180 feet – very fine. The old rap stations down from pitch# 4 are rotten and consists only of 1 bolt – so avoid them. We left our own ropes there – despite the fixed lines of Tommy were hanging. When rapping Steen took one rope with him down and it coiled around the rap rope, so he had troubles to solve the situation as he had to get up again withoud ascenders – we only had 1 pair of ascenders and the first one rapping down took them. He was then somehow upset with aid climbing. After reorganizing at ground I made the mistake to leave in the trees my little red A5 haulbag there with the ascenders, some slings, some biners, leftover water and a cheater stick.  When I came back 2 days later with my big haulbag this little haulbag was cut off, water and all the equipment was stolen  and in a sadistic way the burglars left behind inside 3 empty beer cans and 2 empty Malrboro cigarette packs. The one who did it I whished to hell (and still do it) and hope he received revenge by the karma. Well, my problem was now I had no ascenders, so I had to ask around in camp4 if someone can spare those vital items for a while. I was not lucky, but then in the mountain shop I told this story to a yound dude called “Austin” and he immediately offered me his Petzl ascenders during my stay here. Men, I was lucky and happy – I had not to buy these things ($140), because at home I had 2 more pairs of them.



On the wall

Peter showed up on Monday the 17th of May and we agreed to start on Wednesday. Early in the morning, together with Suzy he brought his haulbag up and we prepared at the base for the jugging and hauling. The sun way already out but at this side it hits the rock only after noon. A young man and a nice girl came by, rigged with a big wall rack. It was Chris McNamara. He was going for Lurking Fear in a day. When we started this day, Tommy Caldwell had already finished this successful attempt to free-climb Dihedral wall, so the wall was empty – only the fixed ropes were still there. And what a surprise, we could almost not believe it – a second team showed up to climb Dihedral. What is this ? I thought, we are on a rarely climbed wall and all of a sudden we should have traffic ? But it resulted that they were fixing and so 3 days behind us. Peter and me, we jugged up our own ropes and on every rap station we hauled our bags. We had 2 bags and 2 haullines. Not an easy task - the bags heavy and friction on the leaning slabs. So about 10:00 we were at belay #5 and organized ourselves for the climbing to come. I took the lead for the next pitch over the roof. Looking up I decided to aid up the new bolts of the free-climbing variation which bypassed the roof on the left side. The bolts were far apart but I think it was the faster choice. When I reached the hanging belay some young guy steamed up the fixed ropes, it was Tommy’s partner. He was going up to get the folded portaledge high above at the Triangle roof. While I was hauling I heard a loud trembling shattering noise and looked up. At Middle Cathedral rock happened a huge rockfall straight in the line of Pillar of Frenzy. It was not a matter of seconds – it was a matter of minutes. I took the camera and made a picture. Hopefully no climbers there and no one dead ! Later I learned only minor injuries occurred. After Peter cleaned and arrived at my belay, the guy was already back with the portaledge ! Peter attempted the next pitch leading to the Black Arch. I cleaned and found he did a good job there. So I asked him to lead the next pitch thru the Black Arch. It turned out that this a beauty on nuts and aliens. Pitch #6, #7 are furnished with free-climbing bolts – so very safe aiding. Pitch#9 follows old rivets straight up over a bulge to good 2 new bolts (the free-climbing goes left) and pitch#10 starts with rivets too until cams can be used, a traverse to the left leads to a comfortable ledge. The sun was already behind the Sierra ridge and it was getting quite chilly now – and the wind always blowing from down up, so we had frozen asses by time. I did feel good until today, as I had caught a week ago a cold at camp4 from a british guy. I thought it was over, but now it showed up again. Reaching the comfortable ledge after pitch #10 I was really tired and somewhat exhausted. The hauling job did not want to come to an end, it warmed me up . We set up the portaledge and I felt for sleep right now, but the stomach cried for hot noodle soup and other goodies. But first I took on my underwear, the stove was ignited and we enjoyed warm meal (Peter always ate warm raviolis) and I was damn happy at crawling into my sleeping bag, getting warm and cozy. Punctually at 20:00 Peter talked via the walkie-talkie with his girl-friend Suzy. Great – to have some communication to ground, it feels good to be high up and to talk to somebody down. A good night followed, for Peter too.



The second day

The daylight came up, Peter was still asleep. I looked around and did not want to get out of my warm bed, but we had too. We brewed hot coffee and ate different breakfasts, Peter his muesli and me bagel with cream cheese. Peter was sneezing and complaining about his health. It seems that he got something from me, me too suffered from a headache. Well, once at action on the ledge we forgot our little problems and prepared for climbing. It was still cold when Peter started with the pitch away from the ledge with a traverse right into the dihedral. Bolts on the right side lead a safe way up. The next pitch lead us below the Triangle Flake pitch. No hammering, we could do pretty well with our Aliens (we had more than 20). The same sort of climbing was now going on for a while. Left-hand placed cams (I am left-handed, so it was very fine for me), no nuts, no pitons. The Triangle Flake, pitch #13, was nice but a bit ponderous – I misplaced a cam under the flake and slipped. The hauling was good since pitch#6, the bags almost did not touch the rock. Another pitch in the same style of this dihedral-climbing. You get used to it and so you get more comfortable and faster. Now we were at belay #14. Here starts the slimy pitch. From time to time the rock secrets some water out of the dihedral’s bottom, no big business except your trousers get wet and dirty. But here we faced more water which was mixed with slime. It looked disgusting. It was Peter’s lead, the cams held perfectly like on the other pitches down. It was mostly C2, sometimes C2+. And in every pitch a few old (but still good) pitons showed up for easy clip in. The right face of the Dihedral was marked with powder streaks from ground to top – Tommy’s marks to place gear. And there we always sank good placements. The pitch up to the Triangle Roof led over a bulge to the belay, hauling was still OK. Looking up the Triangle Roof you see higher up on the left the huge roof where Horst Chute joins in. This roof is so big, that the Triangle Roof appears to be a “baby”. I led up to the roof, a little travers to the right (a broken copperhead to be managed with a bird-beak) and here I was out in the exposed face what reminded me to the steeper routes on El Cap. Juhuuu – what a beautiful sight down the dihedral right to the ground. The crack leading up became steep and the fixed rope (which ended here) was right in front of my nose – so I really thought why am I aiding up here ? The hanging belay there is the most exposed on the wall and harbours 4 bolts. What a sight down and to left to the West Buttress! Now it was already 5:30 pm and the last sunrays warmed me up while hauling the bags. Peter looked up for the next pitch – but there was not much to see since a small roof blocked the sight up. We looked at the topo and off was Peter. We thought on the next belay we arrange our bivy. The rock became a little bit loose in the middle section of this steep pitch and the belay there was not so good – only one bolt and one piton. So we decided to set up our portaledge on belay #16, which was the better choice, because on steep wall the portaledge hangs perfectly. The sun has vanished a while ago behind the rim and the cold came nearer. After arranging a nice bivy, with perfectly placed bags left and right to the portaledge, we started cooking and enjoyed our delis. The dark came in and we crawled into our sleeping bags, enjoying nuts and m+m’s. The cold still had us, we had some headache and we were physically not on the top. Anyway, we knew tomorrow we reach Thanksgiving Ledge and can have a perfect rest. So the night was good for us, both we had deep sleep – but before that Peter had radio communication with his Suzy. His voice then becomes so smooth and tender – that’s one of the things love can do – it is amazing, isn’t it !



The third day

As usual I was awake first. My working on the portaledge, i.e. peeing into a bottle, woke him up and after some time we sat upright and cooked coffee and Peter ate muesli as usual and I enjoyed my bagel with cream cheese. During the day we ate Powerbar and Powergel. After some time consuming work to fold the portaledge and getting ready for jugging, Peter jugged up the fixed line we left the day before and I followed as soon as possible. This climbing day was Peter’s day, since he is the expert for the free stuff. It was still cold, the sky was overcast and the wind came up again and cooled off our asses. The climbing work makes you hot, but the bum still remains frozen. Despite our extra underwear we did not like this gusty windsituation. From this point on, belay #17, the climbing character changes. A long and wide crack system filled with grass and little bushes leads higher up. On the left now the huge roof of Horse Chute. Peter had put on his free-climbing shoes and went on for pitch #18. Placing gear needs some gardening, it is 5.10+/C1. The belay is placed in a sort of a cave with bushes, 1 bolt and cams. From here leads a crack higher up (5.10b) , which turns then into awkward aid. The belay is now exaclty on level of the big roof, 1 bolt and cams. The crack (shallow dihedral) continues (5.10+) and thru grass it leads up to another angular roof, which is passed left. From my belay here I could see, while Peter was searching for a thruway, people rapping the free-rider and climbing up this monster. I yelled, the looked but did not react – perhaps they did not see us. Peter managed his way up, eventually finding pitons hidden behind grassclumps and at least with wide spread legs arrived at the belay. Hauling was not good there. Above us sat in state a chimney with a big roof. Peter stemmed his way up the dihedral to the roof, a rivet and a bolt lead left under it and some aid and free gives way over an leaning back rock. The belay there has 1 bolt and 1 piton, quite OK. Hauling was a problem here, Peter had to wait from time to time until I reached the stuck bags  while cleaning. After some refreshments Peter went off for the last pitch up to Thanksgiving Ledge, it’s a long one (180 ft). Here is no crack or chimney anymore – it is a unconfortable gully. It goes straight up, but it is not fun climbing (5.8). 30 feet below the big ledge, one has to move right into a steep crack (5.10a) which ends on a small pillar. Then it is to climb up 10 ft over 5th class to the ledge, on which one has  to turn 40 feet left to a unsolid tree. No anchor there, just cams. The cleaner has to lower out left from the piton a this pillar until beeing vertically under the tree on the ledge. The hauling must go parallell with the cleaner, the bags tend to stuck from time to time. Ahhhh – this monster gully is behind us and the first time we can walk – what a feeling. It was already 18:00 pm now and we inspected the ledge to the right and to the left. I found some tins of Tuna and opened one. Boy I was hungry. It tasted well. Meanwhile Peter found a good spot for bivying 60 feet left of the tree, there was a terrace and a cave. He arranged himself on the terrace and I prepared the cave. Ahh – it was fine to walk around like on a trail. We looked at the orginal exit and concluded it does not attract us (most probably with a free rack only a good untertaking). After that, we sat together at the terrace and cooked. Meanwhile the dark came up and we watched, as the days before, the car lights down on the road and their pouring out of the Wawona tunnel. 20:00 pm, time for communication! Peter was in the same mode as the days before and proudly he announced our downcoming tomorrow. I only could guess what emotions and thoughts both had in their minds ! But as an elder man I keep my thinking for myself ! Relaxed we enjoyed our stay on this comfortable spot high up and went to sleep without portaledge on solid ground. 



The fourth day

Not as early as the last days we went up and cooked coffee. But we enjoyed very much our breakfast knowing today we will touch ground. We packed our things together and arranged the gear, the portaledge and the haulbags for the big traverse to the left towards the West Buttress / Lurking Fear exit. On some old, stiff ropes  we went down 45 feet and the up again along the narrowing ledge to a better spot. Here we fixed the rope and ferried our loads. While I unfixed this rope, Peter went on and fixed another rope to the exit pitches (big place there) thru the manzanita on the rocky ledge. So after 1 ½  hour of hard logistic work we looked up the exit pitch and were happy that this was an “easy”. The weather was very good now, clear sky but cold, but it was already 11:00 am. Peter free-climbed this second last pitch and we hauled the bags and fixed them at the little tree there. From here leads some 5th class slabby pitch to the last bolts. I took my haulbag on my back and jugged with it up the line.  Both we sweatted a lot. And how could it otherwise be – not the bags but the ropes got stuck on some flakes on the slabs. Meanwhile dark clouds piled up and a chilly wind blew. Looking in the sky we knew, it will rain soon. So we hurried in bringing up the loads in several portions over the slabs until a tree, whereof normal walking is possible. Well, I was already tired from this physical work (it is more like a shipyard job), but Peter did not show any sign of weariness. After munging Powergel and drinking we repacked everything so we could carry down the stuff properly stowed in the pigs. We left our rain gear on top. Peter started off and I followed soon. From the tree one walks up over some other little bushy and tricky slabs and reaches finally the flattening top. It started raining, I took out my rain top and Peter came already back and he helped me bringing up my load. Reaching the top the rain stopped, the sun came out again! Hey nature – what was this for ? It was now 13:30 and all what we had to do is going down ! This sounds so easy but descending with these pigs and some tiredness in your muscles you must watch every footstep ! Rolling off with the pig on your back is not recommandable. Well, eventually we reached the final slabs on the east ledge descent where rapping starts. We took the left rapping what ended in bushy trees. With a dull mind and tired feet and hurting knees I reached the Ranger Rock parking lot. As soon as I dropped the pig I was a different beeing. Peter had arrived ahead of me. I came in time: he had arranged the pick-up at 5:00 pm and I was there at 4:56 pm !  Now everybody thinks this is typically german – I say this was really a lucky hit, had I known I surely had missed the line. Getting into the car, a baby bear strolled by. That’s what Yosemite is for – rock, walls and bears, and we all had it in 4 days. But Peter had a little bit more!




First: many thanks to my partner Peter, who managed all the free climbing and who showed always a good mood. Second about the wall itself: Well, this was a great wall to climb and I really recommend this route to everyone who wants to do a classic big-wall in 3-4 days with almost no nailing and avoiding at the same time much traffic of slow and/or inexperienced climbers. Well, this route seems not to be very attractive for many climbers – since nobody at home knows about Dihedral wall (what they know well and appreciate is Nose & Salathe). What the climbers from abroad come for is to collect sound names and then leave. Dihedral wall offers free climbing, aid climbing and no notorious bolt ladders (except one rivet section), very little fixed gear and the finish is more alpine style. All the free-climbing can be aided (no mandatories). Belay bolts are good, higher up only 1 bolt per station. It is true: it is not as steep as it looks (comparable to the Nose). Looking at the free-climbing on this route it is to admit that Tommy Caldwell did here another outstanding job, even to be more respected since the Huber’s once stated: wan’t go.




As suggested in the Supertopo: fix the lower pitches up to pitch #5 (new rap bolts), try to reach the good ledge after pitch #10. Use the West Buttress /  Lurking Fear exit. If you don’t want to miss the original exit, come back, rap from top and climb it with light free rack (or vice versa).


Linkt to other trip reports :

ElCap, Zodiac               : http://www.terragalleria.com/mountain/info/yosemite/zodiac-wurzer/

ElCap, Tangerine Trip    : http://www.terragalleria.com/mountain/info/yosemite/tangerine-trip-wurzer/




Gear list : What we used (we took more on the climb)


Climbing basics:


1 x 60 m 11,5 lead rope (Supersafe)

1 x 60 m 9 mm haul rope

1 x 60 m 10 mm haul rope

1 x 80 m 6mm zipline

2 x wallhauler Traxion

2 x haulbags (9600 cft midsize) & 2 swivels

1 x A5 portaledge double with fly




1 x grey

2 x violett

3 x orange

4 x red *

7 x green *

6 x yellow *

1 x hybrid green/yellow

1 x hybrid blue/yellow

3 x blue *

2 x black

* = most used all the time


Normal cams:


1 x #4 (purple)

1 x #3,5 (grey)

2 x #3 (blue)

2 x #2,5

2 x #2




2 big angels sawed-off

2 medium angels sawed-off

2 small angels

1 medium, 1 small lost arrow

if you climb original pitch #6 you need more lost arrows



1 set bigger nuts

2 set offset nuts

1 additional set of medium to small nuts on lower pitches






1 medium, 1 small (only on lower pitches)




1 bird-beak, 10 rivet-hangers






Picture gallery


Pitch #2 (Henry cleaning)




pitch # 3 (Steen cleaning)



pitch # 4 (Steen)

severe Rockfall at Middle Cathedral

(watch the dust clouds)



belay after pitch #6 (a relaxed Peter)

(where from the rockfall-pic was taken and whereto leads the 5.14 free-climbing pitch)


Peter approaching the Black Arch



Peter in the Black Arch


Portaledge on the good ledge



Peter on the good ledge (pitch#10)



The Triangle Flake (Henry)

The blue rope is a fixed line from Tommy Caldwell

Henry belaying the “slime pitch”



Peter cleaning Triangle Flake




Peter leading the “slime pitch”

Peter leading over the bulge below the “Triangle Roof”





2nd night above the Triangle Roof  (the most exposed belay on the route)




Peter working up the awkward pitch #19

(first free than aid)


2nd day, last day’s work: fixing pitch #17



Peter free-climbing pitch #20 (5.10+)




Peter stemming the chimney roof (passing to the left)




it looks grim, but is 5.8


A happy Peter doing some “cleaning himself job” on Thanksgiving Ledge


A happy Peter opening his first can of the day on Thanksgiving Ledge




I hope this will inspire you for another great rock adventure …..






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