By James Herson
As they say you just don't want to know how sausages, laws, and climbing plans are made. Our co-opted democratic system requires dopey pet projects to be funded by tossing pork at the other guy's dopey pet projects. Unfettered by fiscal reality this system has worked just dandy and has given us such elegant documents as the US tax code among other gems. Climbing plans, on the other hand, are much more intricate. But the general principle of negotiating something utterly worthless and irrational by agreeing to something even sillier, while unconstrained by actual fitness, still applies. Thus Peteman and I did a Salathe/Half Dome link-up.
The problem of course was Peter. What Tatjana sees in a man with such poor judgment of route quality is beyond me. That's right -- Peteman didn't want to climb the Salathe?! Weird huh?
Borrowing a page straight out of Greg and Chan's play book I let Pete rant for a few weeks about just how done he was with the Salathe. [Greg and Chan always let Pete, their "nocturnal specialist" carry on for the week before one of their trademark 30+hr marathon climbs about just how done he was with the night shift. Only once his position is clearly stated will he happily cast off with the rack and headlamp.] Pete and I have done the Salathe together three times and rapped in once in the last four years so obviously I couldn't fault his Salathe fatigue. Instead I just ignored him.
That isn't quite true. Pete and I had been toying with the idea of a jugless Nose/Half Dome link-up since Pete hates to jug and I don't know how to jug. So I played the link-up card to dupe him onto the Salathe. [memo to self: get fit before buying off partners with link-ups.] Swapping the Salathe for a jugless Nose was trivial since as we all know Pete ("the man who can't say no") is -- how to put this delicately -- a climbing slut. He loves climbing way too much to turn down the stone.
Of course with a link-up the only goal is to be fast and efficient -- two total non-starters for me. As this was probably my last shot at the Salathe this season I had no intention of passing up the best free climbing in the Valley. Much to Peter's dismay I was bent on doing some good old fashion, anal retentive, time consuming redpointing. Unfortunately Peteman is a sharp one and figured this one out all by himself and placed a firm 10 hour cap on my free climbing nonsense. Darn him!
As I enter my fifth decade the infuriating Friday night traffic/late arrival/no sleep grind seems to have lost it's luster. In fact I refuse to fight it anymore. Instead we enjoyed a casual ride up Saturday afternoon arriving in plenty of time to cook a feast and make it to bed in time for a full six hours of infuriating insomnia. Arrg! Started the Salathe at 5:15am and simul-climbed some to the crux, P19, by 8:30am. Knowing that we had another 20 hours of climbing ahead of us I emptied the reserves trying to redpoint this pup only to blow it once again at the last move. Arrg! I'm tempted to punt on linking the entire pitch and just go back to the original half way anchors. Either that or I need a 4mm cord since the rope drag at the top (130' out) is so irritating. Fortunately the day was rescued a few pitches later when I (finally) redpointed the Teflon Corner. (Note, due to the emotional baggage I didn't pack the magic shoes this trip).
My final goal was to give the Headwall a good go but unfortunately after 8 hours of climbing my arms called it a day. I needed a good hour rest and I didn't have the heart to float the idea since that would definitely have been a non-starter for Peteman. So I pulled through and we topped out in the budgeted 10 hrs.
The turn around from the top of El Cap to the base of Half Dome in full sun was of course the crux. The 1:15 down the East Ledges wasn't bad and the major chow down at the car was yummy. But the 2hr, 10min death slog up the slabs to Half Dome was hell. It was only the fury at this obsessive compulsive case hiking next to me who wouldn't fold and call it a day that kept me going! [memo to self: find a partner who can just say no!]
At the base of Half Dome there were two way-too-peppy in-a-day parties although in our condition, Alan Greenspan would have seemed way-too-spunky They weren't quite sure why we were starting Half Dome at 8:30pm and we were too whipped to explain it. Anyway let's just say Half Dome was slightly less fun and slightly less speedy than our previous ascent but we slugged it out and topped out at 4:20am for a 23hr climbing day. On top we tried to nap until sunrise but it was too cold. We made a slow, painful descent in our climbing shoes back to the base where we took a quick snooze, again got cold, and then hike back to the car for a 28hr car-to-car-to-car day.
And then we committed the unthinkable: we headed home in day light and recovered off company time!? What were we thinking?? And although it's always tragic to rush the magical Salathe I'll confess the 60 jugless, mostly free pitches were a kick.
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