El Cap - Tangerine Trip-SoloDate:
The seed for this climb was planted last June when I bailed off the first pitch of the east buttress and then walked the SE face to the nose. I ran into a guy who was starting up Zodiac, by himself. I had never really thought about soloing, and it immediately struck me as something I might like to do some day, but definitely not for awhile, and I'd want to climb the captain with a partner first.
Fast forward to the end of last summer, I knew I wanted to climb El Cap, and that I also had to work/go to school. Fall 2012 was out, as I have class to attend, as do all my prospective partners. MSU is awesome in that I gets out around the first of May, so summer starts really early, but unfortunately everyone else is still in school, so I found myself partnerless for El Cap. The thought of soloing slowly crept into my mind, and once there became firmly lodged. I relentlessly emailed Mark Hudon and Pass the Pitons Pete, asking question after question and getting them to explain everything in minute detail. I went up to practice rock at night and solo aided, to the consternation of my mother. I spent all of my money on wall gear, went up and bivied with my roommate on my new double portaledge at the top of a sport climb next to I-90 (I had the same dream over and over that night that a massive avalanche was bearing down on me, I'd start awake, and realize it was just a train lumbering by on the tracks 50 feet away). Over thanksgiving I went to Index and climbed two pitches of town crier in the rain with Curt Haire (he's down for anything) before realizing how unfun 35 degrees and raining is for living in the vertical environment. The point is, everything I thought about led to the culmination of soloing the captain.
School got out May 1st and I took off the second, driving all day and night and making it into the valley around dawn of the third. I shlepped all my hardwear, ropes and portaledge up to the base of virginia and fixed the first two pitches of Virginia. After that I realized that I wasn't really fully functional, that the lack of rest in the previous two days had left me almost in a drunken state. I met and conversed with quite a few people but I don't really remember any specifics. Before passing out I went and carried my heaviest bag, which weighed well over 100 pounds, and got it to the base. I then proceeded to sleep like shit because I was so afraid of the upcoming climb.
I met chris and molly at the bridge and got them to help get the last of my pile of shit up to the base. Super awesome of them! At this point chris needs to break his leg when we're out climbing together so I can drag him back to safely, I'm way in debt to these guys!
Anyway I was so wasted after jugging and hauling the two pitches that I'd fixed all I could do was collapse on my ledge and sleep all afternoon/night. I was certain at that point that I'd bail the next day, but I decided that after all I'd put into the climb already, and sprayed to anyone who'd listen I'd better climb to pitch 4 before tucking tail, as after that point getting back to the ground would be damn near impossible. I wrote in my journal "THIS IS FUN" to reinforce the good vibes and dispel my desire to go down to the valley floor.
I zipped up the 3rd and 4th pitches of Virginia. I was feeling good, so I launched off onto the 5th pitch of Virginia (Pete had told me that TT was a pile and I should do the much less traveled route that meets up with TT midway through the 7th pitch) Anyway, Virginia goes right on a fairly long rivet ladder, there's then a string of fixed copperheads, which I didn't clip, and then I placed and backcleaned two peckers before trying to topstep on a camhook. It took me a few seconds to realize I was falling. I thought "oh shit!" and then heard this zzzziiiipppp sound, the screamer I'd placed on the last rivet on the ladder had fully deployed and I was 10 feet away from the wall, even with the anchor. I'd ballpark it at around 50 feet. That was all I needed to bail off of Virginia onto Tangerine Trip. I downaided the rivet ladder, reset my rope bags, and took off to the left on the long and steeeep 5th pitch of TT. There's a long section of shit fixed gear in the middle section that if any of it pops you'd take a long fall, but totally clean, nothing to hit but the treetops 400 feet below. I dispatched the pitch and let out a few squeals of terror rapping my haul line back to the belay. 60 feet from the wall hanging in space. I put up my fly as there are drips under the roof.
When I woke up the clouds were closing in and dark. I had a text from my dad saying there was a 60% chance of rain. I had my morning cup of coffee and decided to take a storm day, but after an hour or two I was too restless and knew I had to commit to the wall (once you're at the top of P5 there's no real way off besides over the top). I flagged the ledge, cut the bags, and cleaned the pitch, sleeping at the top of P5. I was roused from my beer lassitude by cheerful yells from below. Chris and Molly along with the OGL crew were sitting on the talus below as it stormed. Every time a clap of thunder boomed they'd whoop and cheer.
Climbed pitch 6 and 7. The face was in clouds for much of the day, so that I could only see white and the wall immediately around me, surreal. P6 was a rivet ladder to cams in a expando exfoliating flake and then some hooking on large flakes. I ripped a old head bounce testing and found a placement past it with a tomahawk that I set with a couple light hammer taps. P7 is the Golden Corner, Awkward aiding to start but gets easier as the angle steepens. The skies opened up as I was hauling this pitch but I stayed pretty dry due to the steepness. There's a small ledge here that makes getting the fly on and off much easier.
P8 and 9 are both less than vertical. for the first time I had to take the ledge down. Both were fairly straightforward, and had some free climbing. It rained while I was leading P9, for which the belay is totally exposed, by the time I rapped back to it though the rain had stopped, so I dodged getting soaked. resetting the ledge back up at P9 was a fucking pain.
Tom Started shooting, so I have pictures (My camera was dead when i pulled it out on the first day)
Leading P10, took a 20 foot fall a few moves higher when a large offset cam popped
Starting to clean P10
I linked P12 and 13 because I'd dropped my topo with pitch lengths several days earlier. The supertopo says that these are both 140 feet long, well I strung them together with a 60 and had to use about 10 feet of my haul line. The last part of P13 has free climbing on absolutely rotten rock.
top of P12
Reorganizing before cutting the bags loose and cleaning
Rivet ladders. I climbed and hauled 4 pitches because the last few ropelengths are directly in a watercourse, and any precip would mean a really bad time.
I spent my last night here because the roof overhead provides great shelter from any storms. Swifts have taken advantage of this and many live right above where your ledge hangs. Every time one of them would shit on me they'd cackle and chortle with bird laughter, or maybe I was just going insane from being alone for so long.
Cleaning the same pitch
After getting my bags to the top of the wall I let out a pent up scream, stripped off all my vile clothes, and ran around the summit slabs. That night I consumed my remaining beverages (quite a few) and enjoyed a perfect night with all of the top of el cap to myself.
Sunday, May 12th
Horrific. I emptied my bags to find I still had 22 liters of unconsumed water, temps were cool all week, so I rarely drank more than 2 liters a day. I found that all my kit would not fit into one bag, also that it weighed more than 150 lbs. I carried one big bag down to the top of the raps and then went back for the second. brutal. I rapped with all the pigs, using an ascender and a munter mule to switch from fixed rope to fixed rope. the bags fought and bashed me all the way down. I offered a couple friends lunch if they'd meet me at the base of the raps and assist but the directions I gave them were blatantly wrong. they bushwhacked from the top of manure pile to get my smaller bag and ledge while I slowly plodded down the trail with my big bag. I collapsed in the parking lot utterly and totally spent, but very satisfied. That night I pulled out the big wall guide and began planning my next el cap route. Addicted.