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The Shield (via Lower Muir)
A Trip Report

A Trip Report on The Shield (via lower Muir), El Capitan, 5.10, A3, VI

Pop Tarts For Dinner, High Adventure, and the Meaning of Life, or Is It Cool If We Bail From Pitch 30 Cause 5.7 Slabs Scare Me?

May 13-20, 2001

By Pete Jones © 2001

Warnings – (1) My apologies for the absurd length of this report, feel free to skim.  Pictures can be found in Appendix A.  The short version reads: we climbed it!  (2) This report is rated R for graphic language and what my wife calls "sophomoric attempts at humor."  I edited out a half dozen F words but they are still used with disturbing frequency.  Honestly, I only used them where absolutely no other adjective would work.  Those with genuinely innocent hearts should probably read no further.  The official introduction to my tale begins like this:

It has occurred to me that what the internet really needs to have more of are trip reports on The Shield.  I've seen a few but not enough.  There's already plenty enough pornography to go around but not nearly enough interesting stories on what it is like to climb El Capitan.  Of course, I'm not suggesting that this report will necessarily be interesting, but it will relate to climbing The Shield on El Cap.  So if that sort of thing floats your boat, read on.


Another thing, I don't have much interest in giving detailed pitch by pitch beta.  Truth be told, I can't remember enough of the details to pull off a detailed pitch by pitch report.  I'll report what I remember and skip the rest.  But there is a wealth of information out there on just about everything you need to know anyway, probably ruining the adventure for many of you. 


And one last caveat, it is entirely possible that The Shield is not the hardest route on El Cap and I am not the greatest climber to ever scale it.  But who's to say?  It's all so subjective.  It certainly felt like a challenge to me.  I certainly feel like a crackerjack.


So why am I writing this?  Hmm...good question.  I'll have to give that some thought.  Does it really matter?


This was my second route on El Capitan, having previously climbed Zodiac back in the fall of '98.  In some ways this wall was more rewarding, in some ways it was less.  More rewarding in that it was a longer overall climb that began near the lower base and went up to the higher part of El Cap.  We certainly did it in better style.  More rewarding in that there was far less angst and more enjoyment of the experience, more time spent in the now.  Less rewarding in that I wasn't scared stiff at the thought of being on El Cap this time and knew that barring bad weather, injury, or catastrophic fuck up, I'd get to the top.


Hey, maybe I'm writing this for the simple reason that I had looked forward to this climb for a very long time and it holds a special place in my heart?  Maybe I just want to document the experience so that it never entirely fades from my memory?  For now, we'll go with that.   But here's the real question, why did I choose to climb El Cap again?  Or better yet, why do I climb at all?  I'm afraid that I can't go there cause then we're on the slippery slope to why do I exist and what does it all mean?  Oh my, oh my.


My partner this time was the same as on my previous three walls.  But here's where I come to a dilemma.  Do I name names?  I'm not even sure I want my own name connected with this thing, but what business do I have dragging his name into a report that he won't even be offered the opportunity to edit or revise?  Not that I have a single negative thing to say about him, although his reptile hallucinations may be viewed by some as being indicative of an unstable personality.  For now I'll just refer to him by his initials which for all you know could be completely fabricated.  We'll call him CB.


I pulled into the valley about three hours earlier than I had expected, largely from my inability to find a hotel in Utah the night before that left me camping next to a highway with large earth-shaking trucks driving by at 3 minute intervals.  Fucking trucks!  After about 6 hours of horizontal rest, I couldn't take it anymore and hit the road earlier than planned.  So with three hours to kill until I was to meet CB and his wife (we'll call her M), I roamed around the valley taking in the sights of huge waterfalls, mystic trees, and massive rock formations.  Ah, it was certainly good to be back.  It is indeed a magical place. 


We made a traditional offering to the gods/spirit/boogiemen/whatnot of Yosemite and poured a healthy dose of Jack Daniels into the soil and then into our bellies.  Mmm, I like that first taste of Jack the best.  M then prepared a feast of some sort, maybe spaghetti, and we soon called it a night.  I was exhausted but still had trouble falling asleep as I thought about how happy I was to be there.  I get happy now just thinking about it!


The next day, while all of you were living what I can only guess were perfectly normal and routine lives, I awoke to an extraordinary morning full of near limitless possibilities.  There was good coffee, there was oatmeal, there was a plan of going climbing.  It being a weekend, we opted to head over to the Church Bowl area and just climb whatever wasn't crowded in lieu of getting stuck behind some intolerably slow multi-pitch party.  After a backbreaking approach from the parking lot, we realized that we had made a critical mistake and foolheartedly left the bug spray back in the car.  But I would have none of this lack-of-bug-spray-sour-grapes attitude spoiling our extraordinary day, so I trudged all the way back out and retrieved the spray and all was once again good in the valley. 


CB chose a 5.10ish crack to warm up on that he claimed had the onerous distinction of being known as "the slipperiest crack in the valley."  I was amazed that he thought 5.10ish was a warm up.  Even more amazed that he wanted to warm up on a slippery 5.10ish crack.  Before I could even really begin to explore just how slipperiness could even be measured in any type of controlled environment (I mean, how do you really know that it's the slipperiest?  Is there a scale for that?), he was at the anchors and soon it was my turn to top rope this beast.  Using my great powers of exaggeration, I slithered and snaked my way up this slime filled crack like a well-oiled Tom Cruise body double and soon found myself shouting for all the valley to hear, "I HAVE CONQUERED THE SLIPPERIEST CRACK IN ALL OF YOSEMITE!!!  I AM MIGHTY!!!   FEEL MY POWER!!!"  And then he lowered me. 1


It was my turn to lead something so I opted for something less slippery and all around easier.  I ended up on some 5.8 route that was called Layback Crack or something equally descriptive.  Despite positive holds and ample protection, I would describe this route as a truly desperate gambit only for the brave of heart.  And I'm not the only one who would say that.  After we finished, a guide flew up this route in his hiking boots (fucking hiking boots!) to set up a top rope for a client who wanted to learn to lead.  His client was a bit on the stout side and had a very peculiar rack of shiny new gear that was 90% carabiners and 10% nuts.  Hmm. 


The idea, I guess, was for this guy to practice placing gear while on tope rope.  The guide would then reclimb the route and inspect the placements or something.   About 15 feet out he places his first piece and already his breathing is fast and huffy.  He moves on and the piece falls out.  After another 20 feet he stops in the middle of the 5.8 crux to place his next piece.  Now his breathing sounds like he going into labor or something and he's grunting like a wild boar.  I'm very thankful that he's on top rope cause it's obvious that he's coming off and he has no gear in.  But he struggles on, not gaining any ground, not getting any pro in, just sort of staying stationary for another 30 seconds or so, grunting, groaning, straining. 


Then his feet start to skid out and its oh-so-apparent that he's not gonna last much longer.   He hangs in there for another excruciating (for me anyway) 30 seconds before the inevitable happens and his fingers release.   A blood curdling scream of FALLING!!! For a nano-second I'm like, whoa, that's a bit of an over-reaction for a top rope.  But then I notice that he really is falling.  And as he falls, his fingernails are clawing at the rock and his feet are digging for purchase on the slab.  Oh the humanity!  After 15 feet, the rope starts to come tight and 5 feet further he finally comes to a stop.  The guide just sort of smiles.


Now I'm sure there are two schools of thought on this, but the way I see it, the guide is a fucking dickhead.  Sure, the rope caught him and he wasn't injured, but Jesus Mio, what the hell?  If I take a 20 foot ride while top roping, especially on a slab, somebody's going to get a bloody nose (not that I advocate violence as a solution to anything).  The guy was obviously a beginner, why not keep him a little snugger and let him develop some sort of comfort level?  To his credit, the guy went up again and took two or three more long falls before reaching his limit.  If you ask me, the guy had balls.  He was in over his head and probably a bit of a moron, but he had balls. 


I digress.


 CB next led a very sporty 5.10 face climb that both M and I managed to follow (did I mention that M was climbing with us? She was.).  It was weird, but 5.10 sure seemed harder than in the gym.  Maybe climbing just feels harder when you don't have music blaring?  I mean, how can I climb to the rhythm of my soul if I can't even feel the beat?  Note – I really don't have a clue what I was just thinking mere seconds ago when I wrote that last sentence (but I think I'll leave it!). 


So with the morning now an utter and complete success, we declared victory and made the long trek back to the car.  We went out for pizza in Curry Village to celebrate.  Little did I know what the afternoon had in store for me (this last sentence is a foreshadowing trick I learned from Mrs. Kipling in 10th grade English!).


For our afternoon foray, we chose to hike up the left side of El Cap and do some short climbs.  If Moby Dick was open, we'd fix the first two pitches and do lower Muir as the start to The Shield.  We hiked in past The Nose, which now features a little "take a number/now serving" kiosk at the base to alleviate fist fights over who's on deck.2 Apparently, this is a popular route, maybe we should climb it too?  Nah, if it's so easy that girls can climb it free, we decided we weren't interested.3


As luck would have it, Moby Dick was about 5 minutes away from being open when we arrived.  It looked like an awesome crack.  I was pretty sure that CB was racking up with way too many large cams but I kept my mouth shut.  What do I care if he wants to lug a bunch of extra gear?  I snapped some pictures while M belayed CB through the 5.10 start and was surprised when CB called for a take on the upper 5.9 part of the pitch.  After a short hang he finished off the pitch in short order and it was my turn.


With my belly fully distended from pizza and the associated gas that pepperoni always gives me, I pulled with everything I had and almost got my feet off the ground.  Okay, I must be missing some feet here and backed down to try again.  No, I'm not missing any footholds, there aren't any, at least not of the size I'm hoping for.  I rechalk, pass a little gas, and then pull harder than I think I'm capable of pulling and this time I get my feet off the ground.  This must be the crux, I think. 


On the verge of dislocating my shoulder, I stretch toward the pin-scarred finger locks a little higher and am finally able to move my feet onto something a little bigger.  After this first move, the climb eases up and I slowly progress from fingers into hands and finally, oh my, into fists.  But I'm nowhere near the top and the crack just seems to get wider.  I curse my fortune for being born with such girlish sized hands and prepare to enter the relatively unvisited land of off-width crack climbing. 


I find that if I sink my arm all the way into the crack, I can still barely work a fist jam somewhere back in the bowels of the crack.  This keeps me from peeling off but makes upward progress nearly impossible.  How the hell did CB lead this?  And his gear is spaced 20 feet apart, is he insane?  Okay, suck it up time.  After a brief pause at what looks to be my last decent rest for the next 20 feet, I set off to finish the arm-swallowing crack with a heightened level of motivation, the likes of which I rarely muster. 


Working a semi-arm-bar-knee-jam-wish-I-had-kneepads sort of move I slowly inch upward.  My slow, controlled breathing turns into huff and puff desperate gasps for air.  I can sense that I am making progress and expect to be at the anchors very shortly.  It could not be possible for my body to hurt this much on a 5.9 and not be near the anchors I reason.  But with my arms stuffed so far into the back of this monster, I really can't see much.  I push on, now far past the point of comfort and into the world of exploding forearms, leg cramps, attention deficit disorder and chronic fatigue.  And as if all this weren't enough, I get the telltale sensation in my gut that experience tells me is either extreme flatulence or, dear god no, explosive diarrhea.


 I soon find myself with one foot so far wedged into the crack that it is now hopelessly stuck.  I cannot pull it upward.  I cannot pull it outward.  I cannot even get it to go down any further.  I wonder how long it might take YOSAR to get to me.  Visions of my bone picked skeleton permanently lodged in this horrible crack fill my head.  Perhaps R&I will do a write-up on it, THAT would be cool.  Finally, with sphincter clenched, I yard with all the remaining strength I have left and my foot comes loose.  I am free!  I continue my struggle upward and approximately 3 seconds later my other foot is hopelessly stuck in the crack.  TAKE, I curse, now admitting defeat.  I look down to gauge my progress and am fully disheartened to see that I am only 2 feet above my last rest spot.  Aargh!  From down below, I hear M snicker.


The pressure in my gut is now to the point of irreversible consequences.  I cannot continue onward in this state and before being lowered, I decide to test the waters.  Fucking pizza!  To my great relief, I trumpet out a clean little controlled squeak which is immediately followed by a relaxed and thunderous honk.  I chuckle as I recall one of my favorite 2nd grade jokes, how do you spell relief? F-A-R-T.  Tee hee.


Back to the task at hand and after three or four different failed permutations of various crack techniques, I finally move into layback mode and huff and puff to the top.  When I pull over the final little roof at the top, I feel wrecked.  But after a couple minutes, the desire to puke subsides and I am ready to enjoy the spanking that M is so sure to receive on this pitch. 


Little did CB or I know that sweet little M is a fucking wide crack monster.  The reachy start trips her up a bit but once she's off the ground she's firing on all pistons.  She works through the fingers, starts gaining momentum in the hands, pours it on in the fists, and practically flies up the off-width.  Did I mention that M has no real prior experience on off-width?  There is no doubt about it, M is a wide crack freak.  She now craves them.  For the rest of the trip all she wants to climb are unprotectable gaping off-widths. 


I take the lead on pitch 2 and work up the short but enjoyable 5.8 pitch to an awesome belay on top of a large flat ledge.  Before long, all three of us are on top and we fix a 60M rope down the left side.  Our work for the day is done and it is time to drink Jack Daniels and beer.  We drink the Jack straight from the bottle, the way it's meant to be.  But get this, somebody (not me) had the brilliant foresight to put the JD in the cooler over night.  Just when you think things can't get any better!


I awoke bright and early the next morning and then promptly went back to sleep.  It seems that all that hard climbing on Moby Dick had left me feeling a little under the weather.  But by the time M had finished whipping up a batch of her famous breakfast burritos, I was feeling perky again and we eventually made plans to fix two more pitches on lower Muir.  M had decided to pursue off-widths while CB and I did the wall thing.  We figured that knocking out two pitches would be a piece of cake.  We guessed we'd be done climbing in a couple hours max and then grab a late lunch.  Of course, the pitches were aid pitches, but only C1, so it should still go really quick.  Then again, I'd only led one aid pitch in the last 18 months and that was one more than CB had led.  But really, we know what we're doing, this should be a lay-up we reasoned.  Bank on it.


A couple hours later we triumphantly finished racking and sorting our gear and prepared to head over to get started.  Another hour later and we were at the base of the climb.  45 minutes after that and we're almost ready to start jugging.  Another hour later and we are both finally atop pitch 2 and ready to climb.  Hmm, we seem to be a little behind schedule, but no worries, we'll surely make up time now that we're climbing!


 CB took the first lead of the day and was soon out of view.  We were packing Motorola radios (love them!) and it wasn't long before I received a very somber message from CB.  I was surprised to hear that he thought we might have to bag the climb and retreat.  According to CB, there was a frog in the crack and it was happily sitting where he wanted to place gear.  Fucking frogs!  I started to curse our fate, but quickly realized that CB's distress call was only a lame attempt at humor.  Our climb was not in jeopardy, it would take more than a wayward frog to stop us!  A lot more!  You'd need a hundred frogs.  Mean ones.


I responded in a very concerned voice that he should just take his time and not panic. 

Try not to think about the poor bastard that had his gonads bitten off by Yosemite fanged frogs on this very route just last year.  If you lose a nut and we have to bail, we have to bail. That exchange sort of set the tone for the climb and we pondered bailing over every absurd thing we came across the rest of the climb.  It was a constant source of amusement.4


After a good long eternity, CB finished his lead and I cleaned the pitch.  I can honestly say that I never saw the frog that CB still to this day claims was actually there.  Nor did I see the frog he saw the next day or the blue lizard he claimed to see higher on the wall.  But I'm not calling CB a liar.  I'm sure that he saw them.  As best I can figure, some people just hallucinate reptiles when they get scared.5


It was now my turn to lead and I was ready to show CB what a girly-man he really is by cruising my lead in under 30 minutes.  When I got done, he was going to feel totally inadequate as a man!  So I took note of the time and uncorked the bottled lightning within.  A little under three hours later I arrived at the belay.  Sigh. 


According to my calculations, at our current speed, we would top out sometime in early 2003.  We would definitely need to bring a larger poop tube and I'd have to see how the boss felt about me burning all of my vacation for the next 10 years up front.  That would be a tricky and prolonged negotiation, one I'm not sure I could win.  Plan B called for us to get our shit together and start moving a little faster. 


That night over drinks we talked about ways to speed things up.  First off, there would be no more testing of placements, just plug and play.  Second, we had to stay focused on the changeovers and get the next lead started ASAP.  Third, we had to ignore any reptiles we may encounter and move past them swiftly.  Fourth, we should bring a topo with us so we have a fucking clue (I guess my memory is not as photographic as it used to be).  And finally, we just had to do everything faster. 


The plan for the next day was to get up early and jug to our high point (which really wasn't all that high in the grand scheme of things to come) and then crank out 6 more pitches to get us to Heart Ledges.  If we made it, we would rap down from there and take a rest day before blasting.  If we didn't make it, we would have to improvise some type of plan B.  That was the plan.  To stack the odds in our favor, we limited our Jack Daniels intake to mere sippy-sips that night.


My alarm went off at 5:45am and we were jugging ropes by 7am.  Today we meant business and our level of focus was certainly at the higher end of the scale.  We had one small backpack with storm gear, headlamps and a little food and water.  We trailed two static lines.  If we encountered any missing fixed lines or lines of overly dubious quality on the Heart Ledges rappels, we could afford to fix one or both.  The leader had a go anywhere/do anything sized rack and a three quart Camelback.  The cleaner wore the backpack so that no hauling was required.


I was dripping wet from sweat by the time I jugged to the top of pitch 4.  This turned out to be a familiar theme for the day.  Whether I was leading or cleaning, I was soaked by the time I arrived at every belay.  I think my technique was fairly efficient, but the weather was warm and I was doing my best to bust ass.  We were very conscious of the fact that we had a lot of ground to cover and that time was constantly ticking away on us.  I put CB on belay and started my stop watch to make sure we stayed focused on speed.


If we wanted to finish climbing before dark, we needed to average two hours per pitch for both climbing and cleaning.  This would be a good bit more than an hour faster than we had managed the previous day.  Pitches 5 & 6 both traverse left quite a bit so we knew that cleaning would go a little slow at the start.  If we could stay on pace for these two supposed C2 pitches, we would be in pretty good shape.


CB was definitely more dialed in today and finished pitch 5 in a little under an hour with no frogs sighted!  This was definitely a good start to the day.  20 minutes later I had the pitch cleaned and we worked the first transition in 5 minutes flat.  There wasn't much in the way of small talk, just taking care of business. 


Pitch 6 was mine and memorable only for its horizontal nature.  Almost a full pitch straight left across the face with oodles of fixed gear.  I clocked in with a one hour lead of my own.  I was smoking!  Okay, there was a ton of fixed gear on this pitch but I still felt like I made pretty good time.  CB clip cleaned the pitch in an impressive 30 minutes and our confidence started to rise.  If we could just keep up this pace, we would be eating at the buffet for dinner.  Hot diggity!


Pitch 7 was memorable for the second alleged frog sighting, which CB moved past with poise and determination, and it was also memorable for not having a distinguishable end-point.  We didn't bother to check the topo after our sterling performance on the day's first two pitches, and even if we had, I'm not sure we would have noticed that it doesn't show fixed belay anchors.  An hour and a half into his lead we finally determined that CB had climbed a pitch and a half.  Not sure if our line would stretch to the next anchors, and getting low on gear, CB set up shop right where he was at. 


My next pitch was similar to the last one in that it was a semi-awkward dihedral.  Oh, how we longed to be up on that headwall where the climbing might be more technically difficult but a lot less awkward.  I wondered if we would still feel that way when we were actually up there.  I hit the Pitch 8 anchors in short order and kept on motoring.  I was determined to stretch this pitch to the next anchors if possible.  In places, the climbing was becoming less awkward and I was actually able to top-step a fair amount. 


Eventually I was shut down by a flared section.  I lacked both the motivation and the large gear needed to climb it.  I slammed a bomber 5 point anchor into the corner and had CB on belay again in short order.  It was now 2:30pm and we only had one and a half pitches to go.  But if we made one mistake on this day, it was not bringing a pair of free climbing shoes with us.  CB sure could have used them on his next pitch.  I could have used a steel cage.


Getting through the wide section took a bit of struggling and a tipped out #4 cam, but CB was soon at the pitch 9 anchors and we thought maybe he could stretch it out all the way to Heart Ledges.  Pitch 10 turned out to be grungy and I was soon bombarded by dirt and pebbles.  I looked up at one point only to be greeted by a quarter sized rock smacking me in the mouth.  FUCK!  I checked my front tooth delicately with my tongue to see if it was still there.  It was!  But I'm pretty sure I felt one half of it wiggle a little and concluded it must be cracked. 


CB soon calls down to me that I should be aware that there's a book size rock that might be heading my way soon.  WHAT!?  Book sized?  Doesn't he realize that every fucking thing that he's dislodged so far has funneled down to my exact location?  Doesn't he know that I have a history with falling rocks doing bad things to me?6  What does he mean by might be heading my way soon?  This sucks.  I radio CB for more details.


"What size of book is it?" I ask. 

"Uh, sort of average I guess."

"What does that mean, sort of average?  Is it Communist Manifesto or hardcover
War and Peace?"

"Well it's definitely bigger than Communist Manifesto but I've never read War and Peace.  It's kind of like Sherlock Holmes."

"I haven't read that, paperback or hardcover?"

"Hardcover.  Definitely hardcover."

"Man, you're scaring me.  It sounds like it's somewhere between Boulder Climbs South and paperback Freedom of the Hills.  Is that about right?"

"Yeah, pretty close.  It's like a hardcover Oprah selection."


"Not Oprah, her books.  She has a book club that picks a different book to read each month.  They're all about the same size and all about women that are taken advantage of by men but in the end find salvation."

"You read these things?"

"That's not the point.  The point is, this rock is about the size of those books."

"Man, you're scaring me."


I tell CB that he needs to do all that he can to avoid sending that granite Oprah book my way.  His response, while reassuring, does not sound 100% satisfying that he can avoid dislodging it.  I crawl as far into the corner as I possibly can and try and position as much of my body under my helmet as possible to await my fate.  For the next 45 minutes I nervously wait for the rumbling sound, scream of ROCK, and searing pain to arrive.  I imagine all sorts of horrible outcomes and feel relatively certain that the rock will hit me square in the head with just enough force to snap my neck. 


Thankfully, the realization of my fears never materializes and CB finishes the pitch at the very end of our 200 ft rope without dislodging Oprah or her granite books on me.  In his free climbing shoes, I bet he climbs the last pitch in under 10 minutes.  In aiders, it takes the better part of two hours for us both to arrive at Heart Ledges.  CB checks my tooth for fractures and I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that it is completely intact. It's time to rap down and drink some JD (chilled style)!


We retire my fat red haul line and leave it fixed for the second set of raps.  The only other option was a fuzzy orange rope that looked a little too weathered for my tastes.  The other fixed lines seemed decent enough with only minor core shots here and there.  We were on the ground by 6pm, in the showers by 7pm, in the buffet line by 8pm, and passed out by 10pm.  It was quite the day.


But an even bigger day lay ahead.  A day so big we needed a rest day to prepare for it.  We would shoot for Grey Ledges the day we blasted, which meant hauling two bags up to Heart Ledges and then climbing and hauling 5 more pitches that day.  It meant another day of high focus and high intensity.  It would put us 15 pitches up the route, approximately half way.  From there we would only have to average 5 pitches a day for the next three days, but many of the pitches would be significantly harder than what we had done so far.  Still, it felt doable with our renewed sense of confidence.


Our rest day was filled with pretty normal pre-blast errands.  Final gear sort, calculating food and water requirements, filling water bottles, preparing food supplies, taping up the holes in our haul bags, seam-sealing the rain fly, checking weather forecasts, figuring out how to tie the bags together, packing storm gear, rationing JD, preparing toiletry items, counting out Advil and No-Doz, and pre-positioning all of the above and more at the base of the rap lines to Heart Ledges.  Before this rest day was even over, I was dog tired and ready for the sun to go down.


Strangely enough, I slept like a baby that night and didn't really have anything in the way of pre-wall jitters.  The way we sort of eased into climbing this wall made things pretty easy on the nerves.  We were up and moving at 4:45am sharp and broke out of camp 45 minutes later. 


We arrived at the base and were relieved to see that our haulbags (which do not have cute names) were right where we left them.  As we were stuffing in a few last items, a team of Norwegians came trudging up to the base, quite surprised to see us there.  They asked if we were planning to haul up to Heart Ledges today.  Duh?  They too were headed for The Shield and wondered if we'd mind letting them pass.  Come again?  I told them that if they stayed on our asses up to Heart Ledges, we'd talk then.  By the time they got their bags packed and ready to go, we were hauling up the second pitch.  The last I ever saw of them, they were working a leg haul on the fourth pitch and their bags didn't seem to be moving too good. 


We, on the other hand, were working body hauls and the bags were moving very well.  The second would pretty much follow the bags up and the couple of times they did get stuck, it was only a minor delay.  There was a fixed line going up to Mammoth Terraces but we were having none of that.  We were here to climb.  CB had his free shoes with him today and knocked out the 5.10 pitch 11 in about 10 minutes flat.  The hauling took quite a bit longer but before long we were both wrestling the bags across the ledge.


I borrowed CB's free shoes for pitch 12, but aided through the short but stiff 5.9 section.  Not a lot to say about this pitch, pretty straight forward.  Pitch 13 is also fairly unmemorable and straight forward.  I do remember that the sky was a brilliant shade of blue without a single cloud in sight.  I snapped a few pictures of CB with the headwall looming overhead.


By the time I stepped up to start pitch 14, it was getting to be late in the afternoon.  Our notes showed that 14 could be linked with 15 so I set off to make this the last pitch of the day.  Pitch 14 was the type of aid climbing I enjoy most.  Bomber Leeper cam placements interspersed with RP and brass offset placements.  The left facing dihedral is open enough to allow for easy top-stepping.  Near the top of the pitch you are forced to move to a crack system in a right facing dihedral, and once again, the going becomes awkward.


The last 50 feet of the 15th pitch is a large 5.8 slot with decent protection in the back.  I only had about 3 pieces of gear left that would work so I opted to keep aiding and leap frog placements for the next 40 feet.  It was totally ball busting and slow going as I had to fight for every placement and didn't seem to gain much ground.  I was quite relieved to finally exit the slot and leave some pro in.  Welcome to Gray Ledges!


It was amazing, we had Gray Ledges all to ourselves.  Nobody below us and the entire headwall empty up above us, how nice!  Could this be possible in mid-May on a trade route?  I certainly wasn't expecting it and it definitely made the climb more satisfying.  We quickly set up for the night on the two best ledges and enjoyed a fine meal of Chef Boyardee, fruit cocktail, and mini-Oreos.  The JD, while not chilled, was most refreshing. 


I slept surprisingly well again this night. Due to complete exhaustion, my brain just didn't have the energy required to take note of the fact that its caretaker was sleeping on a two foot wide ledge 1,500 feet off the ground.  Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to get busy again.  Today, we would finally be getting to the start of the "real deal" climbing we had worked so hard for.  


My hands were pretty stiff from all the jugging and hauling the day before so I started off breakfast with a full course of Advil and one coffee.7  That was followed by a half bagel spread thickly with peanut butter and topped off with a generous amount of honey.  We then enjoyed Strawberry Poptarts.  We had allocated 2 Poptarts per person per day.  CB proposed that we only have one each in the morning and then have the other one with dinner.  Hmm, Poptarts for dinner?  I thought it over and reluctantly agreed to his plan.  Breakfast was over. 


Without getting into too much detail, we then moved into the second phase of our morning ritual which involved animal-like noises, plastic bags, toilet paper, a guess-the-weight contest, and finally, the entombment of the unknown soldiers ceremony.  We then brushed the teeth8, sprinkled the boys with a little talcom powder, packed the bags, and it was time to climb.


The first 2 pitches of the day were nothing special C1 type deals that took us to The Shield cutoff point.  I should probably mention that at the end of that day's first pitch we had a "celebrity encounter."  Just as I had finished cleaning the pitch, a voice yelled up at us from Gray ledges, asking if we'd drop the fixed line down.  "Does that make you Tommy Caldwell?"  CB shouted.  He replied in the affirmative and we congratulated him and his partner Nick on recently freeing the Muir.  He was cleaning the last of his fixed lines before heading back to Colorado later that day and wished us a fun time on the rest of the route.


Pitch 18 was the start of the technically harder climbing.  The next 6 pitches would all be A2+ or A3.  This pitch curves sharply to the left and ends just below the roof pitch.  There were a few fixed pieces that allowed CB to save time by using inverted Leeper cams afterwards.  When I cleaned, I could then use the fixed gear as lower out points.  This was probably one of the harder pitches of aid that CB had ever led and things naturally went a little slower.  My cleaning job was going pretty slow as well until I ripped the final two pieces of the traverse and swung across the face, relieved that I didn't have to deal with any more traverse cleaning for awhile.


I was very excited to have the next lead on the roof pitch, although CB would essentially be leading the pitch when he clip cleaned it.  When this pitch was first put up, it must have been a real ball buster.  It starts out very overhanging for the first 15 feet and then shoots straight out horizontally away from the wall below for a good 20 or 30 feet.  And even after you round the corner, it stays overhanging all the way to the anchors.  This is where the exposure starts to get good.


As I worked my way out across the roof, the afternoon thermals began to noticeably increase in intensity and I was soon getting spun around a bit more than I cared for.  Fortunately, the roof is entirely fixed and the placements aren't terribly far apart.  I had to stop for a brief pause just below the lip of the roof and enjoy the moment.  My whole body was just dangling in space with nearly 2,000 feet of air below.  This was the experience I had been dreaming about!  It was absolutely unreal.  It was thrilling.


I moved over the lip of the roof and thought that the remaining 30 feet to the anchor looked like quick work.  But looks were deceiving and it took some fairly tricky placements to make progress.  I think I nailed my first knifeblade of the route here.  Strangely enough, I came across a small racquetball sized rock sitting on a tiny triangular ledge in the corner of the crack system.  How did this get here, I wondered?  Not giving it any more thought I was careful to move by it without disturbing it, but now wish I had picked it up and put it in my pocket.  About two placements above, I pulled up my aiders and they dislodged the rock.  ROCK! ROCK! ROCK! I shouted as my stomach fell.


I have this peculiar habit of projecting myself into falling objects.  I imagine that I am that falling rock hurtling through space with the ground rushing up to greet me.  Every second that I fall increases my speed until I reach terminal velocity.  I try to steer toward something soft to land on but I lack the requisite skydiving skills needed to affect my trajectory and I hopelessly fall wherever the wind and gravity take me, knowing that my time here on earth is almost up.  I am grateful for the few seconds that I know I have for final reflections but also know that by acknowledging my gratefulness I have already wasted most of my time.  And then I'm down to that final second and I panic because I wasn't ready and need more time to think but then it's too late.  SMACK!!! 


I watch as the small stone rockets away from me and I know that if it hits anyone below cleanly, serious injury will be possible.  Two people just arriving on Gray Ledges duck for cover and the rock misses them easily.  I lose track of the stone as it heads for Mammoth Terraces and hope for the best.  There is nothing else I can do but continue climbing.


About the time I knocked the rock loose, I suddenly notice that the crystal blue skies we had been enjoying all day are suddenly gone.  Dark rolling clouds are filling the valley from the east, while everything to the west looks clear.  The sound of distant thunder echoes off the walls and the wind continues to howl from what feels like all directions at once.  I'm guessing it's just an afternoon storm that will pass quickly, but redouble my efforts to complete the pitch and get to my rain jacket.  By the time I reach the anchors, the thunder is not nearly so distant and flashes of lightening are starting to appear.  The guys on Salathe are going apeshit trying to communicate with each other.  CB has stashed his jacket in the Camelback I have on so I let him know he'll need to grab my jacket out of the haul bag if he wants one.  He's had my jacket on for the last half hour already.


By the time I get the bags hauled, the skies have opened up and pea sized hail is shooting down.  The Salathe guys are diving for cover but we are protected by the overhanging nature of the headwall above.  The hail soon turns to big fat raindrops that are absolutely incredible to witness from our perspective.  By the time CB arrives at the anchors, surging waterfalls have sprung up in various locations on the slabs below.  The guys on Salathe look like they are getting pounded.  Our only concern is lightning, over which we have no control and therefore, try not to think about.  The base of The Nose is now covered in a thick creeping mist that is slowly snaking across the valley floor.  Behold mother nature in all her beautiful fury!


We take a short snack break to see what's going to happen with the weather and CB relates the fun he had trying to clean the roof in gale force winds.  He tells me that at one point he unclipped something and just as he did, the wind hit him with such force that he started to spin uncontrollably and almost puked from the helpless sensation.  I got a good chuckle out of his story cause he made all these funny faces while he was telling it. 


After about 10 minutes the rain is still coming down pretty good but we are still completely dry.  CB decides to push on.  The first half of pitch 15 looks to be tricky A2+ through a wet and slimy section of rock that had been dripping long before the storm came in.  There is some concern that this drip may turn into a waterfall at any moment from all the new wet weather but it never does.  Above the wet section, the climbing eases in difficulty and CB makes good time.  As he's arriving at the anchors, the winds stop blowing and the clouds start to clear.


When I release the bags from the anchors, I see that this pitch actually overhangs a good 25 feet.  I have significant difficulty cleaning this pitch.  The drip has soaked the lower half of the rope making it almost impossible for me to get my lower ascender to feed without snagging.  Compounding this problem is the fact that CB backcleaned extensively.  Every time I clean a piece, I find myself staring at another 10 foot free-hanging jug.  With my lower ascender not feeding, my right arm is soon torched.  Why I didn't switch to a Texas prussic midway I do not know. 


Eventually we are both at the anchors and setting up the Fish double wide for the night.  And then it hits me, we are going to have Poptarts for dinner!  CB is a fucking genius!  I'll tell you what, I don't think that Jack Daniels and Poptarts ever tasted as good together as they did that night.  After dinner we just kicked back and enjoyed life.  Our ledge felt like a little oasis in the sky.


The next morning our routine was nearly identical to the morning before.  Only this morning we didn't have the luxury of warm-up pitches so the mood was slightly more tense.  Well, I was more tense anyway.  The Groove pitch was mine.  Only 90 feet, mostly fixed, what could be so bad about that?  It's the quality of the fixed gear that gives it an A3 rating.  As hard as you might try, it is nearly impossible to avoid using ancient copperheads that have only two strands of wire left or tied off rusty rurps that have tattered slings that are ripped halfway through.  You put a couple pieces like this in a row and it all starts to get more interesting.


But don't let my melodrama fool you, it wasn't nearly as scary as the Oprah book belay.  There were at least two or three bomber placements that I knew would catch a fall.  And if I did go for a ride, I wasn't going to hit anything except CB anyway.  The real decision for me was trying to decide which pieces to clip as pro and which not to bother with.  I admit that I did clip a few that I knew were not going to catch me because I needed the psychological protection.  This was not smart climbing because if I did fall, I would likely rip all this gear out and have to replace it.  This would slow us down more than we could afford.  So I just did my best to ooze my way up the pitch and hoped for the best.


Hitting the anchors felt really good and we had the pitch hauled and cleaned in no time.  Next up, the Triple Cracks!  CB looked to be good and nervous so I made sure I was good and comfortable in case this was a long lead.  This pitch is fairly well known for Charlie Porter's first ascent where he placed 35 rurps in a row.  It now takes mainly #3 and #4 sawed off angles with an A3 rating.  You really didn't need the topo to figure out where the route went today.  We were following the only line of weakness in the middle of a sea of blank rock 2,000+ feet off the deck.  I told CB that I thought the headwall felt like high adventure.  He seemed to agree.


CB fiddled with all sorts of gear before finally reaching for the hammer and tapping in a sawed off angle for his first placement.  You can't do much more than tap them in before the eye is up against the rock.  Many are hand placements and the unnerving thing about them is that the pins are mostly angled downward!  It feels like you are defying physics when you expect these things to hold your weight, but somehow they do.  The scariest part is when you move high in your aiders and have to sort of pull out on the piece to hold your upper body in.  It literally feels like you're trying to help the pin pop out. 


Neither CB nor I were very experienced at this type of aid climbing so there was a natural learning curve for both of us (my next pitch was pretty similar in nature, but probably not as hard).  We had 3 each of the #3 and #4 sawed off angles so we put one on each aider and back-cleaned most of the way.  The only thing scarier than being on one of those hand placed downward pointing pins, was being on one of those hand placed downward pointing pins while you hammered out the pin below you.  The hand placed pins below tended to self clean, which was nice, but also a little disconcerting.


So anyway, CB started out slow and I'm pretty sure I detected his hands shaking a little as he placed his first angle, but a few placements later he had his mojo back and made good and steady progress.  My greatest concern belaying was trying to figure out which side I needed to duck to if CB took a whipper.  I didn't expect much of his gear to hold a fall and he was back-cleaning a lot.  But as long as he missed hitting me and the bags, any falls would be pretty clean.  At least in theory.


Near the end of my next pitch, sketched out on a long series of marginal placements, I remember staring at one particularly funky section of crack for well over a minute straight with absolutely no idea which piece of gear to try next.  Total brain freeze.  After trying every size RP and brass offset we had with zero luck, I finally found a thin spot of crack up higher that looked like it might take a knifeblade.  Top-stepping was difficult but not impossible so I moved into position.  Unlike the angles we were tapping in below, I whacked that KB with full on hammer blows and took joy in the sound of each increasingly high pitched ring that signaled the end of any big whipper potential in my immediate future.  It was a satisfying end to a very memorable pitch.


I think these two pitches each took about 2 hours to lead and I'm not sure I could do it much faster.  When the hammer comes out and you start bounce testing all your placements, things just seem to slow down. But our slower speed was okay, it actually gave the belayer some time to look around and take in our incredible setting.  The weather was perfect.  The exposure was grand.  Life was pretty good.  For me, that'll probably be as good as it ever gets.


It was mid-afternoon by the time we finished the 3rd pitch of the day.  We were very confident that we would reach Chickenhead Ledge two pitches higher.  The next pitch was more of the same thin crack for half a pitch and then a bolt ladder to the belay.  By this time, CB was dialed into the hand placed sawed-offs and climbed with speed and confidence. 


My next pitch supposedly had some expando on it but I never saw it.  I think somebody drilled some holes that allowed me to bat hook to the left.  I hit Chickenhead Ledge in close to 30 minutes.  Reaching Chickenhead was the emotional equivalent of topping out.  The hardest climbing was now behind us.  We had a huge ledge that we could walk around on and spread our gear all over the place.  We could relax and let our guard down a little.  So there we were, 2,500 feet in the air on a spacious ledge, doing celebratory chicken dances and feeling like kings as we watched the sun sink into the horizon.  Life was very good!


Not much of the next 5 pitches is worth writing about.  Not after the headwall day.  There is some fun climbing in spots but the exposure is not nearly as dramatic and the line of weakness not nearly as desperate.  We kept a steady pace and topped out in late afternoon with big silly grins on our faces.  We shook hands and I thanked CB for sharing the experience with me and he thanked me as well.  It was really quite a relief.  Physically, I was running on fumes and it felt fucking incredible just to take off all my gear (especially my stinky socks and shoes) and just sit on a rock. 


We decided to enjoy the summit and spend one more night on El Cap. As luck would have it, we had just enough Jack Daniels left over to make emptying the bottle a challenge.  And we sure as hell weren't hiking down with any more weight than we had to (and I wasn't about to pour it out).  I also had a secret stash of celebratory whatnot that added to our festivity as we held an impromptu starving climber's banquet and passed out with Buddha-like bellies.  All was bliss.

The next day we exited stage right via The East Ledges descent.  It pretty much sucked.  So that's about it.  It was a great climb.  I had a great partner.  And now I'm really getting tired of typing so here are my final thoughts which you may now read below:


I like climbing for a variety of reasons.  I like the feeling of movement.  I like the challenge of problem solving.  I like the incredible places it takes me.  I like the gear.  I like the people I meet.  I like overcoming my fears.  I like reading the magazines. I like the lingo.  I like taking off my climbing shoes. But most of all, I like that it helps me appreciate just how damn good it is to be alive.  I think more than anything, that's what drew me back to El Cap. 


I've been fortunate enough to have a couple near-death experiences that sure made the grass look a lot greener when I came out the other side.  Looking back, I think that on some subconscious level I was using El Cap as a mock near-death experience.  I was tricking my brain into thinking my life was in more peril than it truly was. It wasn't the climb I was seeking, it was the feeling of being done with the climb that I was after, the feeling of surviving. No wonder I project myself into falling objects, I think I'm subconsciously trying to remind myself that I'm lucky to be alive!  How ‘bout that?


When I really stop and think about it, there are a lot of times when I'm out climbing and in the heat of doing battle, I'm not having much fun at all.  It's often hard, painful, scary work.  It's when I finish a climb that my brain sort of rewrites history and I think back on the climb as if it were fun.  It's all just a great big gentle reminder that we're lucky to be here.  And I truly think that's what keeps me coming back for more. 


Of course, I could be wrong.  Taking off those climbing shoes sure does feel good!


One world, one peace, go climb something,




THE END (whew!)


1 The truth be told, my top rope ascent of "the slipperiest crack in the valley" did not actually include me yelling anything from the top of the climb.  Also, very little, if any, slithering or snaking was performed.  Finally, my resemblance to a Tom Cruise body double is, alas, more artistic license than objective reporting.

2 While a take a number system might be a nice idea, it is, for now a total fabrication. 

3 This is sarcasm.  Lynn Hill's free ascents of The Nose are very much mind blowing achievements.  Duh.

4  Pitch 7 – Another frog, we really might have to bail this time!

   Pitch 10 – The thought of getting clocked in the head by a granite Oprah book isn't sitting so well with

                    me.  I vote for bailing.  I'm not joking!  I really really mean it!

   Pitch 13 - I've really got some bad gas going on, it might be time to bail so I can get a medical opinion.

   Pitch 15 – What does it all mean? What are we doing here? Is there an afterlife?  Shouldn't we call off

                    this climb until we get these issues settled?

   Pitch 21 – Now that we're past the really overhanging sections, I think it's best that we retreat.

   Pitch 22 - I'm really having trouble getting motivated for the East Ledges descent, don't you agree that

                   we should call this thing off?

   Pitch 25 – We only have enough Advil for 2 more weeks.  I insist that we call this thing off.

   Pitch 30 – 5.7 slabs sort of scare me, do you mind if we bail?

5 Technically speaking, frogs really aren't reptiles.  I think they are amphibians. 

6 In 1995 I had my scapula (shoulder blade) shattered by a car door sized rock pulled off by a free-soloist one pitch above me on the rotten band of the Wind Tower in Eldorado Canyon.  It missed my noggin by mere inches.  That was the last care-free climb I ever did.  Interesting note – I was only climbing a 5.7 route that day so I left my helmet at home.

7 We took to calling our No Doz pills coffee.  It seemed to make the breakfast experience a little more pleasant.

8 We brought 3 sets of every cam ever made, over 70 pounds of food and water, and another 40 pounds of miscellaneous camping items, but shared one toothbrush because we were concerned about the extra weight of a second toothbrush!

Appendix A – Photo Essay

(Left) CB Jugs to top of pitch 4 to start our Heart Ledge push.  The headwall looms ominously overhead.  (Right) CB starts up pitch 13.  He is psyched to be leading something besides a dihedral for a change.

Leading the Shield roof, pitch 19.  Did I say it overhung 20 to 30 feet, maybe 12-15 feet is more like it.

In any event, it felt like 20 to 30 feet but I didn't bring a tape measure or anything.

CB cleaning the roof pitch during an afternoon thunderstorm.  Note the waterfalls over his head streaming down the Heart Ledges rappels.

The mist begins to clear .  Note the yellow ledge is set up where we bivied the night before, Grey Ledges.

(left) Groovin' on the headwall, pitch 21. (right) Triple Cracks belay, pitch 22

CB begs me to take a picture of his ass as he starts up the Triple Cracks.   

When the cameras on him, CB pretends like he's paying attention, pitch 23 belay.

Pitch 23 looking upward as I try and figure out if I'm still on route.  Turns out I was, but for a minute there, I thought we might have to bail!

This picture demonstrates a little maneuver we like to call the haul and clean on pitch 23.  It also allows me to honor my obligations to the good folks at BIKE kneepads who sponsored us with a $65,000 grant to make this trip report possible.  When you need a good kneepad, turn to BIKE!  If you need a $65,000 grant to go and do something stupid, I encourage you to do like we did and fill out an application at the Bike Kneepad website.  They've got so much money that they're just giving it away!

Chickenhead Ledge, Jack Daniels, and Poptarts!

Pitch 29 completed.

Two weary warriers stand atop El Cap with arms guardedly wrapped around each other in such a manner that clearly demonstrates their friendship, but also makes it clear they are not homos.

Appendix B - My Letter to My Insurance Company


To whom it may concern,


Sometime between Memorial Day and Friday, June 1, our property was burglarized, resulting in the loss of nearly $9,000 in property, primarily climbing gear and camping gear.  The amount of money I have invested in this type of equipment surprises even myself.  Until this theft, I really did not have a good understanding of the value of all my gear.  I am writing this note to justify that investment.  I fear that you may suspect, as it is no doubt your job, that I am trying to pull some type of scam and that no one could possibly have a need for as much climbing gear as I had. 


I have climbed extensively with the following individuals who I encourage you to contact.  They can attest to the quantity of climbing gear I owned.

Cxxxx Wxxxx  303-543-xxxx

Jxxxx Wxxxxxx 303-455-xxxx

Cxxxxx Txxxxx 970-724-xxxx


The photos I have faxed over can be mailed to you if you will promise to send them back to me after your investigation concludes.  They show large portions of my climbing gear but even with the color photos, it would be difficult to do any type of inventory without the assistance of the FBI photo experts (if you can get their help, I'm impressed!).  I'm sending these photos to demonstrate the type of climbing that I partake in from time to time.  It is called aid climbing and it usually occurs on Big Walls (loosely defined as over 1,000 feet in height, usually requiring a party to spend a minimum one night on the wall). 


Aid climbing by its very nature is gear intensive.  Instead of using the gear for protection purposes only (a style of climbing called free climbing), you are actually placing the gear and using it to pull yourself up the route because there is no line of weakness adequate for you to climb using just your own hands and feet.  A typical pitch may be 100-150 feet in length.  The crack systems you ascend may be anywhere from the width of a pencil lead to large enough to squeeze your whole body in.  If the crack is the same width for the entire pitch, it necessitates having multiple pieces of gear in the same size range.  In a best case scenario, you can place pieces of gear maybe 5 feet apart.  So for a 150 ft. pitch, you will place a minimum of 30 placements, but usually more like 40 or 50.  It is possible to back clean gear as you go (and if the crack is the same width the entire pitch it is mandatory) but this will increase the length of your fall should any of the gear you place pull out (which happens from time to time).


I had just returned from a climbing trip in Yosemite where we did a route on El Capitan called The Shield.  We spent 4 nights on this 3,000 foot wall and hauled well over 150 pounds of provisions (food, water, sleeping bags, portaledge, storm gear, etc.).  We took practically every piece of gear that I own, as well as a few of my partners.  We typically climbed with 3/4 of the gear, leaving the pieces we knew we didn't need in the haul bag.  If you are not a climber, you probably don't understand why anybody would want to go through this type of endeavor.  All I can tell you is that it is not as insane as it might look and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life.


Anyway, to make a long story short, I recognize that it is your job to assume that I am trying to pull a fast one, but I hope that this explanation makes it easier to understand why anyone would need as much gear as I had.  I purchased approximately 50-60% of my gear at REI and they are going to research what they can.  I'm not sure how long this will take them.  I have also requested that my credit card company send me copies of all invoices and this may take 4-5 weeks.  God only knows why it should take that long.  Unfortunately, I also purchased a large part of my gear (sometimes cash, sometimes credit card) from Neptune Mountaineering and EMS and they do not keep records on who bought what.  I have also bought a substantial amount from various on-line vendors.  I will do my best to assemble whatever records I can.


Thank you for taking the time to read this and please call me if there are additional questions.



Pete Jxxxx



Appendix C – The Meaning of Life, Why We Are Here?


I've put a little thought into what the meaning of life could possibly be and I have arrived at a pleasantly simplistic answer, only two words, which leads me to believe I'm getting close.  The correct answer is no doubt far simpler.  I believe we (all living things) are here for the following reason which I will now share with you.  To create. 


Appendix D – My Review of Russian Aiders and Other Aid Stuff (written prior to Shield trip)


Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Well, this past week my training has been good but certainly not great.  I've developed some type of tendon problem that is making it difficult to pull hard with my right hand.  Even with the problem finger taped up it still feels a little tweaked.  I'm really glad that I got out for some aid practice on Saturday because I was a little rusty and learned something critical about the Russian aider set up that I'm planning to use. 


Russian aiders are fairly unique when compared with traditional American etriers.  On each leg you fasten a cuff around your calf, just below the knee.  The cuff has a small downward pointing hook that protrudes.  Each hook is located just below the inside portion of your kneecap.  There is also a stirrup attached to each cuff that goes under the arch on each foot.  Everything cinches snug so that your foot never comes out of your stirrups.  The other critical part of the Russian aider set up is a strand of webbing with sets of titanium rings sewn in every foot.  You connect this strand to your daisy chain as you would an American etrier.  To make upward progress, you place the cuff hook into the titanium rings and climb up the etrier strand. 


There are three major advantages to this set up.  First, your foot never comes out of the stirrup, which is really nice when jugging (instead of using the hooks you can attach the cuff/stirrup to your etriers with a biner).  Second, because the hooks are located just below the knee, you are much less reliant on your daisy chain to hold you in.  On vertical to less than vertical terrain, you can stand quite comfortably with both hands free without using your daisy at all.  But most importantly, the transition to free climbing is a lot less intimidating because you have a hell of a lot less webbing hanging off you.  The Russian etriers are much more streamlined so they are also a little less prone to snagging and knotting.  The downsides, they are a little pricy and you probably can't get as high above a piece when top stepping.


I found that even though each etrier strand has two titanium rings at each of the upper steps, you really do need to use two etriers per daisy if the aid is awkward, like in a flaring slot.  I tried to climb the second pitch of Country Club Crack with only one etrier per daisy and it was a frustrating experience due to the flaring, overhanging and slanting nature of the pitch.  It was all I could do to get to the third, and occasionally second step with only one cuff hook connected.  The other leg just sort of dangled. 


The problem is that once you weight the strand, the upper rings are now in a fixed position.  It becomes very difficult to get the other cuff hook connected higher on the same strand due to your inability to move the titanium rings into position for your knee.  Instead you have to position your knee to get the cuff hook into the stationary ring, which can be a problem.  Protrusions in the rock face can effectively block you from getting your knee anywhere near the next ring.  I could get around this by taking in slack on the daisy and unweighting the etrier but it slowed things down and still left me standing with only one foot in when I got as high as I could get.  But with two sets of etriers on each daisy, you should be able to cruise.  Ordered them Monday and had them on my doorstep Tuesday night.  Thanks Trango!


I also prefer to use adjustable daisies.  The newest Yates version seem to have much beefier cams and thicker webbing than some of the previous versions. Should wear a little better and be less prone to slippage.  They've also moved the cam buckle so that it is not attached to your harness, but to the end of the daisy that you clip to the gear.  I think this gives you better leverage on overhangs.   I played around with using a Gri-gri as a backup while jugging and this seems to be the way to go.  I still put back-up knots behind the Gri-gri but much less frequently than before. 



Appendix E  - My Training Program  (Boy-oh-boy, you'll read anything, won't you?)


Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Five and a half weeks to go.  Time to get serious about training.  Tonight I'll go for a long run and try and detox my arms from last nights gym climbing.  Tomorrow I'll be bouldering and doing hang boards.  Friday I rest and then I'll try and get outside Saturday and Sunday for a little free climbing, a little aid work, and some more long runs.  I'm pretty much climbing easy 5.11 in the gym but that doesn't mean a whole lot outdoors in the trad world.  I struggled pretty hard last weekend on a 5.8 in Eldo (Chianti) which I'm just going to chalk up to spring jitters. 


Tuesday, May 2, 2001

Wow, I can't believe how busy I've been at work the past few weeks.   I didn't do any type of training what-so-ever the last two weeks of April.  I'm not nearly in the kind of shape I would like to be in.  Oh well, big walls are 90% mental anyway, at least that's what I keep telling myself!





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