By Ronnie Miller
This is a report that is mostly beta for the wall. However, short stories are put in where the action got hot or just seemed fun for me to recount. The wall is very reasonable for its grade and it only has a few sections where you don't want to fall. There is quite a bit of expanding on the climb that adds to the thrill factor, especially if you haven't encountered much on other climbs. We did the climb over four days and one of them was a fixing day, so the climb moves rather fast. Hope you enjoy the beta. Ronnie Miller, August 1999
After hiking a few loads to the base of the climb, we decide to hang low and fix a few pitches the following day. No reason to move quickly, we have the time. Morning comes too fast. I hate getting out of a warm bag. We decide to get lunch and beer after we are done fixing, so this sparks me into moving faster out of the comfy portaledge I set up at the base. Pitch 1 starts with easy unprotected free climbing for about 35 feet. Then you transition to aid on small nuts and TCU's. After about 4 placements you have to do a few hook moves to reach a rivet, then another hook or two to get to the penjy bolt. Penjy or tension traverse left to the 5.7 crack. Takes mostly medium and large cams. Good belay--in fact most of the belays are descent bolts, you will need some rivet hangers though.
Pitch 2 is mostly sideways and boy does the A2 get in your face quick. Rivet, rivet, and then it looks like a string of hooks to a slung horn. Glad I am cleaning this pitch, as I hand Tad the rack. Tad starts out on the sharp end and eventually reaches the horn after some really bad sounding expanding flakes over hooks. A tension traverse for about 30 feet to another slung horn/flake. Then a penjy over to a small roof: `Take, lower, stop,' Tad runs back and forth. Snag, he grabs a flake by the roof, `more slack,' he yells. A few seconds later I hear, `ping, ping, ping,' as Tad drives home a Lost Arrow upwards in the crack under the roof. `Ah, casual,' Tad replies. A few seconds later I hear, `green is fixed.' Damn, guess I got to start cleaning this sideways thing now. The beer is sounding better by the minute and I am barely off the ground!
A party is high up on Bad to the Bone as we are fixing the lower pitches. It looks like they are on the A4 hooking pitch, moving slowly and steadily. As I am cleaning we hear, `falling.' I don't look up and continue cleaning the pitch. Then a few seconds after that we hear, `rock, rock, ROCK' with increasing intensity. Now I look up, `OH MY F***ING GOD!!!!!!!!' a portaledge sized flake about a foot thick is twirling through the air. The freaking thing is heading straight for me. No fear, no scream, nothing, the world turned silent as I resigned my life. I AM GOING TO DIE! I sat there waiting peacefully for the flake to wipe me off the wall. I can barely explain the sensation in my psyche. As I think about it now, the only words I can use to explain the situation are--I knew I was dead and I couldn't do a thing about it. I felt nothing, no flash of my life, no pain, no fear, no joy, nothing!!
The flake hit a slabby section/ledge on the wall about 200 feet above me. 15 violent thunderstorms unleashing their power at once. Ping, ping, ping. . .a thousand pieces of rock came cascading down on top of me. After about ten seconds the shower stopped and I WAS STILL ALIVE!
Finally, I look up and see the leader on Bad to the Bone dangling in the air about 25 feet below where the flake had pulled off. I hear him yell at the top of his lungs and then say, `Oh my god I thought I was going to die.' I think, `you thought you were going to die!' Then the entire right side of El Cap erupts into yelps and hollers. Everyone had stopped in their tracks and had a birds eye view of the entire ordeal. The party on Bad to the Bone then called down to see if we were ok. I guess we were.
What happened next? Not too much. We just went back to fixing the next few pitches. It was weird that it didn't shake us up. I guess life threatening risks are just a part of the sport we have decided to pursue and, therefore, must accept in the life of a climber.
OK, enough of the story and back to beta. From the top of pitch two things get a little weird. The climbing is definitely circuitous. With a 60 meter rope you can run pitch 3, 4, and half of five together. It can all be free climbed at 5.8 so leave the aiders at the belay. No 10a or A2 was encountered! Set of cams and nuts is all you need. Belay in the 4th class section above the good ledge. When you get to the good ledge go left and set the belay. Otherwise you will have to haul that nasty corner/chimney of pitch three. (Do not belay on the ledge with one bolt on pitch 3) You will run the rope a FULL 60 meters. You can fix to here the first day. A 60 meter gets you to the ground from the pitch 2 belay.
From the 4th class belay head right for 50 ft. Then up another 60 or so. Gear belay on a small ledge. This is about 50 ft to the right and 10 ft below the black pillar. Nuts and cams for the pitch. Do not haul. Traverse to the black pillar via 5.easy climbing for the next pitch. Haul from here, you will be directly above the 4th class belay The climbing in this section is weird. It seems you could go almost anywhere. Just eye the black pillar and eventually make your way to it.
Pitches will be described using the Reid pitch number. Pitch 7 (black pillar)--Up a small crack to a fixed piece under a roof, tension/penjy left to an expanding crack, small gear leads to some fixed and rivets. Not to bad. KB's, LA's, rivet hangers and all small gear.
Pitch 8 (Seagull)--Fun pitch, but do not fall on the bottom A3 section or suffer the consequences. After the 2 bolts you have to do a really reachy move to gain the crack at the bottom of the seagull. In fact, I had to swing and then jump for the crack and stuff a cam in before it pulled me back. At the top is a blown head, but you can put a KB beside it in a horizontal. KB's, few LA's, Small and medium cams, nuts, hook.
Pitch 9--one of the harder pitches. That bad flake is horrible. Have you ever seen one of those rotten patina flakes at Joshua Tree? It is worse than that!! Don't touch it. We spent the night here with 9 fixed. So, haul from the ground and go here and the trip will be quick. We set up the portaledge before Tad blasted off. (of course this was my idea because I was sick of sitting in the belay seat) I wanted cush surroundings! Tad led off and in minutes he was on hooks looking at that crappy flake and looking up scratching his head. He was stumped and a little bit spooked by his position. The next 30 feet or so looked terrible, he said, I couldn't see since the crack was in a corner. Up, down, up, down this went on for about 20 minutes. `I can't get a piece in, there are two blown out scars that are to big for our sawed off #4's and no cam will stick in this slime', Tad yells down. Solution: another hook. `Shit I am scared', Tad yells down some more. Being the good friend lounging on the portaledge I spew beta for him. . .of course this only makes him more agitated! Finally, he begins to stack, `watch me, watch me' sure dude I got ya (as I put my jacket on laid out on the portaledge). Ah the fun of belaying! Finally Tad raps down from the belay and we gorge ourselves with Indian curry, canned turkey, smoked oysters, and beer. Ah, so funny how one minute your hating life and the next your loving life!
The next morning I clean the pitch and when I get to the hard section, I see three of the nastiest tied off stacks in a row I think I have ever seen!! The damn things pulled out with a minor tug! All above hooks and a crappy flake. Once again I was glad I was belaying! KB's, LA's, Large sawed offs, hooks, and everything small, some fixed up high.
Pitch 10--pretty straight forward. However, the bottom is a little grunty as you have to place gear in the back of this slotty corner. Up high there is a lot of bird and bat shit. Hold your breath!!! Or start gagging by the smell! Nuts, all cams up to a # 4 friend
Pitch 11--Rad pitch!! Up to a fixed piece, a head or something-can't remember. Penjy/tension traverse left into an expanding corner. Up about 50 feet to the KB section. About five or six killer KB's in a row. Then some LA's and gear to the belay. KB's, LA's, nuts, cams-1 bigger cam for the top.
Pitch 12--another Rad pitch! Mostly fixed at the bottom. Bomber rurps until the cables break! Then into the corner, mostly small aliens and HB offsets. LA's at the top behind the expanding flake. As I drove one of the LA's in the entire flake moaned at me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr! Then pebbles started to fall out of the back. First time I heard the rock moan, I had read about it but still was like `what the hell is that' when it started making noises. I realized exactly what it was rather soon. Pretty bomber though, it should stay in place for a long time! Rurps, rivet hangers, LA's, Aliens, offsets.
Pitch 13--some fixed, pretty straight forward, but rather exhilarating! Bring heads in case the fixed ones blow! KB's. LA's, heads, hangers, and all small gear.
We spent the night here. Unfortunately, I had the inside of the ledge and was forced to stare up at the next pitch every time I opened my eyes. Can we say knots in the stomach as I woke up at 3 AM by the moon and was forced to stare at the next pitch. I could see the sequence. Rivet, head, head, old nasty looking stud, hook, head, head, then blank for about 15 feet, then a fixed piece at the bottom of the expanding flake. Thrilling, I barely slept the rest of the night.
Pitch 14--Another rad pitch! Well, I was right about the sequence! First time I left a hook for protection also. Lots of firsts on this wall. The blank section was just what I thought it may be. Old blown out heads in the corner. No crack, just little grooves here and there. I placed a # 3 head in the most shallow groove I have seen, this thing won't hold a small child I thought--bounce, bounce, bounce. Guess its good. Then I had to clean an old head out. It was just a copper blob with frays of cable sticking out. Thankfully it came out pretty easy. Placed a # 2 head--bounce, bounce, bounce. Guess its good. Although it looked like crap! Next was a blown out #1 head. Not even a sign of the cable. I tried for 10 minutes trying to clean that thing, but it was not budging. Damn, 5 more feet and I could clip that fixed piece in the flake. It looked like a good head. Finally, I realized I would have to tap a pecker into the head. Bounce, bounce, bounce--guess it is good. Ease on, oh shit it's holding, reach far left, I thought for sure I was going to pull the pecker straight out as I pulled sideways on it! Clip the fixed head. God damn it!!! Why would someone fix a big head in a perfect LA placement?? This really pissed me off because I knew the head was shit! Stand up high for the next placement-a good LA slot. Ping, ping, pi. .. the head began to come out as the flake expanded. I sat down on the head and looked at the flake, the freaking flake was held on by a 1 foot section at the bottom! What was keeping this thing in place? Now I am a little scared! Stand back up, ping one more time with the hammer, kluplunk the head shifts lower. Ok, that is it, no more blows to the pin. Bounce, bounce, bounce, Guess its good. As I get to about neck level with the pin, POP! Rip, rip, rip, stop! God damn it!!! 20 footer and now I am really pissed. Pissed at whoever placed that head in the pin slot, but more pissed that I have to go back up and replace all the stuff I just ripped out. What held, the # 3 head I thought could only hold body weight. Thank god or I would have ripped to the belay! Fortunately, the pecker ripped out the old dead head most of the way. I was then able to place my own #1 head-another first. The old fixed head was gone thankfully. I could then drive home a thick LA that would expand the flake. Then I nutted and slung the top of the flake and off the pitch I was! When I looked at the fixed head only an 1/8 of the head was pasted. The whole bottom was still rounded. DO NOT PLACE HEADS IN PERFECT PIN SLOTS ON EXPANDING FLAKES, THEY SUCK, AND EVENTUALLY WILL BECOME DEAD HEADS!!!! Hook, heads, LA's, offsets, and small cams for the top.
Pitch 15--Short pitch, maybe 50 feet. Go right, short aid to 5.8 free. 1 LA, small cams, quick draws.
Pitch 16--Rad pitch. Perfect nuts for a long ways. Lots of small nuts. Penjy left into a corner. LA's and small nuts. Medium cams up high. Nuts, LA's, cams.
Pitch 17--short. Go up into a slot with an expanding flake. We dubbed it the ` guillotine' , because if it goes so do you! At the top of the slot go right on improbable terrain, no clear crack. Keep heading right until you see a fixed piece. Penjy right onto 2 hooks, then gear to the belay. Cams, nuts, hooks.
Pitch 18--Another rad pitch. The topo is wrong. This is not a complete rivet ladder. Up on rivets and bolts for 30 feet. Then two small TCU placements to 40 feet of easy unprotected free climbing to the left, clip a bolt and bust out 3 hook moves in a row or free climb if you want--maybe easy 10. Then back to rivets and hooks to the belay. I did about 10 hook moves on this pitch. Really fun as there is a bolt or rivet close behind.
Pitch 19--Short pitch. Slab climb off left, then up and back right until you are over the belay. Belay off a tree. Small and medium cams. I left a lot of water at the top, so enjoy if it is still there!
2-3 each #1,2,3, 5 KB and Bugaboo
1 each #4, 6 Bugaboo
2-3 each #1,2,3 LA
4 rurps or peckers
3 each #1,2,3 head
2 #2 Sawed off angle
2 # 2 angle
2 # 1 angle
1 #3 angle
Double set of friends to #4
Many small Aliens or TCU's
10 rivet hangers
Double set of medium and small nuts
1 set big nuts
1 set brass and aluminum HB offsets
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