The Nose: betaThe Nose of El Capitan, Yosemite, is one of the most long, beautiful, classic, and sought after, rock climb in the world.
This page contains some precise information useful for climbers attempting the Nose route on El Cap. Written by Tuan.
You need three full ropes, and one 30m rope to fix to Sickle Have a friend pick up any ropes you leave below Sickle. Several climbers had their rope stolen before they could pick them up after the climb. The day when we fixed, some guys dropped one pack. Then we saw two climbers asking us if it was ours. After we said no, they seemed to be heading towards the direction of the impact. If you have to leave your rope, it is probably safer not to drop it. Most parties take three ropes, because it is necessary to lower out for the king swing. However, Bill Wright has done The Nose and recommends some interesting strategies. He recommends taking only 2 50m ropes. He said all the traversing pitches are short enough that you can tie the haul bag in short and lower out on the end of the haul line. The advantage of 2 ropes is less chance of them getting all tangled together, stuck under flakes, etc. After the pendulum into the Stovelegs, Bill says the leader should begin leading on the haul line. And on the King Swing(s), Bill recommends tieing the pig in as short as possible, with the second keeping hold of the end. After the bag is hauled, the leader lowers the second on the haul line which is clipped into the anchor at Boot Flake. The second then clips his jumars into the lead line and swings over to it as he is lowered. This method has been found to work very well by George.
Collectively, my partner and me had a considerable alpine experience, and we were used to spending days on mountains and long climbs in a more hostile environment. We have found that the route is extremely sustained, compared to most alpine routes but that there was nevertheless no exceptionnal technical challenge or risk, the main problem being that you tend to be worn by the succession/alternance of hard free and aid, pendulums, traverses, manoeuvers, stuck ropes and haulbags, hauling and jugging, lack of sleep, food, heat and cold, unconfortable stances, etc...
The four first pitches are delicate, in the sense that there are not always good placements and you have to do some free (or french-free) between aid moves. Other than this, the crux aid of the route is the "glowering spot", where you climb a steep and thin crack on small nuts, RP's, and TCU/Aliens. The only part of the route which as to be freed is the Texas Flake at 5.8, but the route would be more enjoyable if you can crack climb at 5.10. Nevertheless you don't need to be a good climber to complete the route. At the time I did it, I was just able to lead 5.8 or 5.9. The free ratings in the guidebook are not very consistent (but most of the time on the severe side). I am not good enough to judge them objectively, but I've been told that those of Lynn Hill (in French magazine Vertical) or of her partner (in Climbing) are more accurate. There are numerous pendulums, but most of them are not difficult. There are no expanding flakes.
In these times, the "crowd factor" is not included. It can take longer if crowded. Often it can be hard to pass and if the climbers ahead of you are slow you may be reduced to their speed it can mean an extra day. George writes: " To get an idea of the crowds, here are our bivuoac sites and the total number of climbers sleeping on them that night (including us): El Cap Tower (7 people), Camp 4 (5 people), Camp 5 (7 people). A party of 3 very slow Japanese ahead of us caused many problems because it took them 6 days to climb the route. Everyone was snarling below them. For example, we reached Camp 4 fairly early, but the Japanese were at the great roof (having started that day from Camp 4!!) and effectively blocked the way ahead. Incidentally, they failed to reach Camp 5 that night and spent (another) night in slings. "
The pendulum to Stovelegs: it is best not to get too high in the crack system before this pendulum, ie use the belay marked with a dashed circled 7 on the Meyers/Reid. This means that when you are at the belay below the "burner" you are already too high. We met two guys who said that the burner is something to avoid. The Stovelegs are first perfect hand size and get wider as you are climbing up (lots of spots to have the rope stuck).
The Texas Flake: a chimney, it is the only part of the route which cannot be aided. I thought (I let my partner led it :-)) that the chimney is not that bad, the tricky part being getting inside. George reports (9/96) that there is a brand new 3/8" bolt two thirds of the way up this chimney, which makes the pitch much safer, BUT he still mananged to fall while leading this pitch. The next pitch is bolt ladder and then a perfect hand crack.
The King Swing:
Under Camp 4 (Pitch 20): you'll find a fixed traversing rope. By daylight, what to do is fairly obvious. Not so by night. For god's sake, DON'T follow this rope until its end (you would find an unpleasant "surprise") but leave it as soon as you get to a vague ledge.
The roof is easy because it is entirely fixed. It is a long pitch. I had just a couple of meters left with a 165 feet (55m) rope. The Pancake flake is nice to climb, but the pitch under camp 5 is nasty.
The death flake at the top of pitch 31 is still there, as of George ascent (9/96), hanging by the same piece of crappy webbing. As Scott Ghiz mentions in his beta, there is another suitcase sized death block on pitch 32. With a 60m rope, he believes it is possible to combine pitches 31 and 32, thus avoiding the "death block belay" (the party behind them did this).
" Got the word that the death block on the Nose is gone. While the park was closed it seems that 2 famous climbers who shall remain nameless rapped in and booted it. Finally, the block that has raised many a tu-tu is gone. Now get up there! Russ Walling, Sat, 29 Mar 1997 "
The last pitch: no difficulty (shiny bolt ladder), beware of rope drag, it can turn the final (easy) slab into an unpleasant experience.
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