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El Cap, Sunkist 5.9, A4

by David Benton (bentondm AT muss.cis.mcmaster.ca)

Pete leading pitch 14.

I did this route with a buddy Pete in May 1997. First of all it's not A4; it's hard enough, but not terribly scarey. Just enough mank to keep things from getting boring. There ain't nothin' run out, and the belays are all beef and solid. Everybody digs gear lists, I think it's because deep down we're all gearheads, hell why else would we be aid climbing. Realistically though most people worry about exactly what to take and too much gear is just more weight drag your ass down through some East Ledges manzinita bushes. I'll tell ya what we brought and, conservatively, what I think you need:

What we took:                                      What you should take:

125 biners (racking and free) , 13 lockers         Can never have enough biners
Aliens; blue (2), green (1), yellow (1)            2 to 3 sets of stuff in the Aliens /TCU sizes
TCU's; #0,1,2                                      Aliens definitely rock harder
Wired Bliss; #1 , Trango #1                       
Camelots; #0.75,2,3,4,4,5                          2 full sets of cams to #3 Camelot/#4 Friend
Big Bro; #1,2,3 (don't ask)                            
Friends (Solid); #2,2,2.5,2.5,3,3.5,4,4            Big Stuff, #4 Camelot and #3 Big Bro.
Friends (Flexible); #0.5,1,1,1.5                   (Optional if you're into offwidth/chimneys)
Tricams; pink, red, brown, purple                  Never used TriCams, but they're light
HB offsets; 1,2,3                                  One set of HB Offsets, one of RPs
RP's; 2 sets                                 
Wall Nuts; 1 set                                   2 sets of nuts
Rocks; 1.5 sets                                    
Hooks; (2) talons, skyhook, fishhook,              Hooks; (2) Sky/Cliffhangers, (1) pointed 
      (2) leeper cam hooks (2) cliffhangers,         Chouinard, Fishhook, (2) Talons, reg.  Choui.   
      pointed Chouinard, flat leeper                   
Rurps; 2                                          2 Rurps
Beaks; 3                                          3 Beaks
Dubloons and Rivet hangers; 20                    Yeah lots are rivet hangers is cool
Heads Mixed; 40                                   20 mixed heads #1 to 4 
Bolt Kit                                          Bolt Kit (optional)                          
Arrows mixed; 15                                  10 Arrows #1,2,3
Blades mixed; 20                                  10 Blades short with 2 long
Angles incl. Sawed offs; 15                       3 ea. 0.5" and 0.75" (2 ea. sawed off)
30 runners, 4 cordelettes                         2 ea. 1" and 1.5" (1 ea. sawed off)
2 wallhaulers                                     2 Wallhaulers
                                                  Tonnes of slings and tie offs

Here's da' juice;

Pitch 1: Step off the Heart side of Mammoth Terraces, some tricky 5.8 involving some gardening winds up then left to a semi-hanging belay. Bring free rack to #3 Camelot.

Pitch 2: A straight forward A1 crack rises up and right to a hanging belay, nothing too big.

Pitch 3: Keep following the crack as it diagonals to the right at a steady but fun A1. You'll use a #4 camelot if you take it but I think you could do without. I hooked the broken angle (skyhook) to reach the hanging belay.

Pitch 4: A2 finishes off the crack then a couple 5.8 moves land you in an easy drainage ramp that runs to the left, watch the rope drag. The pitch ends at a reasonable ledge. A cave formed by a slab of rock makes a neat shelter for one. You could sleep two uncomfortably, but I'd suggest just hangin' the ledge.

Pitch 5: Off the ledge 5.6 ground leads to the top of a pillar. Lower off the fixed clust er of webbing. I ended up getting to the belay by doing some 5.9/5.10 traversing with bad fall potential. If I were smart though I think the ticket is t o lower past the obvious belay on the left and climb up to it. The hauling is interesting as it is totally horizontal. Make sure your lower out lines are long enough.

Pitch 6: A2 up the crack on the left, right is Magic Mushroom I think. Go to a fixed rurp and pendulum. Resist the temptation to go higher as my partner did, unless you want our pin as booty. Going higher only takes you too far right. Pendulum left into an A2+/A3 crack ( climb on two ropes for heaven's sake). Follow the fixed heads near the top to the belay.

Pitch 7: The topo is wrong hear. Start out tending left not right. Adventu rous A2+ hooking and heads lead to a rivet ladder which is interlaced with hook moves th roughout. At the expando after the ancient 1/4" bolt I used a nut whic h slid a bit before stopping. It expands atleast a half inch. Past that is some solid A2+ then grovelling with the fish hook to the belay ledge. Don't get excited the ledge is the size of your ass. Some sweet exposure though.

Pitch 8: Very short pitch. Some small clean gear then some blades in a diagonaling dihedral. Free moves or scarey hook moves will put you on a cool narrow ledge. A great spot to spend the night.

Pitch 9: Walk and down climb to the pins then rivet, at the east end of the ledge. Two hooks to a nut in a crack on the right then some 5.8. A TCU crack (save em) and quick traverse to a hand crack on the left put you at a hanging belay under the chimney.

Pitch 10: Nasty chimney off the belay. #1, 1.5 and 2 friends will get you into the really fat stuff. Squirm up using a #4 Camelot and Big Bro or some good technique. You'll get a rivet on the main wall then some free, nuts and TCUs to the to p. Belay at a sloping ledge that obviously receives massive runoff. Don't sleep here. Take as little gear as possible otherwise you won't fit in the chimney.

Pitch 11: Where the business starts. Climb a thin seam to a fixed piece, pendulum here left. In the next seam do a few head moves to a fixed head and pendulum again. I had to lower past the belay to swing far enough to the left. Have a b lue Alien in hand/clipped to your harness to sink in the crack, it's small. I used everything from small cams to rurps and beaks to get the forty feet to the belay. The longest short pitch I've done.

Pitch 12: The crack out the small roof leads to a used to be A3 part which is now mostly fixed. Bring the rurps and heads though incase you unfix them. A rivet ladder heads up from the end of the crack. The belay is at a sloping ledge w here Jolly Roger heads right. If that's where you're headed your balls (or ovaries) are much bigger than mine.

Pitch 13: Enter the Orange Wall... bathook off the belay to the left to an adventure rivet ladder. I think that's what I'll call the rivet ladders that throw in exciting hook moves every once in a while. There's some A2 crack in the middle then follow the holes to the belay. Fully hanging and fully exposed. This is where you want your picture taken from the highway.

Pitch 14: The famous pitch. Not that hard, A3/A3+, everything up to #3 Camelot. Straight up for 165 feet, enjoy.

Pitch 15: Finish off the crack on small stuff then follow an adventure rivet ladder to the belay. Hope those heads don't blow.

Pitch 16: Don't bounce test those #1 heads. If you use a cheat stick it'll be here. The good head placements are full of old metal and the fixed ones are barely fixed. Blow too many and It'll be A4 again. There's a chicken rivet half way up the arch. Now that it's there might as well use it.

Pitch 17: Fun A2+ leads over the small roof to a set of cracks. Short pitch with nothing bigger than a #1 Camelot. The belay is shared with a family of swifts who seem to shit a lot. I'd spend the night somewhere else.

Pitch 18: Another straight forward A3ish pitch up the dihedral and around the corner. This belay rocks for location and hauling.

Pitch 19: Long pitch for the last hard one. Lots of Arrows, lots. Some hooking on expanding flakes on the way too. Gear to # 2 Camelot. The belay has been moved and beefed up so the hauling is fine.

Pitch 20: Mixed aid and free for the first bit of the ramp to the top. We couldn't find the marked belay so set up a gear one in the run off cracks.

Pitch 21: All free from here. A bit of 5.5 then some 5.9 on the right of the final roof. If you want, or the ramp is a waterfall ( it can happen), the roof goes A1 on the left. Then head for the tree and you'rrrre done baby.

End Note: The final haul as always, sucks. The good news though is that there is a wicked place to bivy about 80m to the east. We left atleast 12 litres of water there in case you're out. Wonderful spot to watch the sunset. Careful on the descent and happy climbing.

David at pitch 14 belay.

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