Yosemite El Cap - The Nose in a Push Date:
Twice this year I have made the exit of shame from Yosemite on two failed Nose bids. First world problem, I know. There are much worse dilemmas out there in this barely functional world. Children go to bed hungry, families barely make ends meet. Whole classrooms of 6 year olds get gunned down. I get that. These things help keep climbing in perspective, and keep me from becoming even more self adsorbed than I already am.
But we're climbers and by nature we're goal setters and feel appropriately disappointed when we fall short of achieving them. Which is why I couldn't help but feel sorry for my pathetic self the last couple months on the two Nose defeats.
Nevertheless, lessons were learned, mainly, I never want to haul again. Thus my friend Dustin and I chose to climb The Nose in a push style, with the follower jugging with 30lbs of clothes, food and water. We tried to whittle the pack weight down even further, with me playing the budget cutting republican, but couldn't justify any further austerity measures without compromising our safety. So the 30 lbs stayed as is.
So this is how it went.
Strategy: Start climbing by 10pm on Friday to pass the bottleneck of parties at Sickle, Stovelegs and Dolt as they slept. We also figured we'd go through less water without the sun bearing down on us for the first 1/3 of the route.
Result: Success. We passed three different parties-7 people total-the last of which were on Dolt when it finally got light for us and I took out the camera for the first time. It was smooth sailing after that with a wide open interstate of pure Yosemite granite splitters ahead of us with nary another party in front.
Dustin reaching Boot Flake
The King Swing was a personal triumph for me. I had been kvetching about it most of the climb, mostly about looking like an ass to the voyeurs in the meadows flailing around on the end of the rope as often happens to Nose noobs. But as it turned out, it was all wasted angst as I succeeded in gaining Eagle Ledge first try. I followed all the rules: (1) Wear your climbing shoes; (2) Lower with the rope on the shin of the boot to help propel you towards your goal; (3) Lower so your feet are about even with the second to last bolt in the boot flake bolt ladder; (4) Swing hard left to start out, then way back right; (5) As you swing back towards the arete, be aggressive in clawing and smearing your way to the crack as your swing slows and comes to an end; (6) Heel hook and mantel over the edge of the arete and you're done! Fun stuff.
Tom Evans photo sequence:
We slowed down considerably as we got to the Grey Bands area.
Here Dustin is jugging pitch 21 I think:
Dustin breezed us past the Great Roof, after which we slowed to a crawl as night once again cloaked us and we hit the 24 hour milestone of continuous effort. Dustin crawled up Pancake Flake, and I climbed like molasses up to Camp 5 where we decided to sleep for a few hours before one of us made a stupid mistake. Several times belaying Dustin, I would close my eyes briefly and almost immediately fall into a delicious REM sleep, only to be awakened by a sharp snap of rope being pulled through my gri gri, a disappointing reminder of my current predicament.
As Dustin was jugging the pitch to C5, I fell asleep and woke as he neared after what seemed like hours later, but of course wasn't. But time lapse was irrelevant at this point in the climb. As I opened my eyes from yet another lucid dream, I saw a carousel shaped UFO down near the valley. It was a cake shaped craft with red and yellow rotating lights hovering in place. It eventually drifted off to the West out of sight without a sound. Yeah, we needed to get some sleep obviously.
We were up and moving by 5:30am after a not too bad bivi. Dustin had the funky pinscars of the Glowering Spot for breakfast, while I feasted on the Changing corners pitch and the two pitches after that, which were breathtakingly stunning cracks so high and exposed on the route.
Dustin starting up the Glowering Spot pitch:
Dustin jugging the Changing Corners pitch. This belay stance is unforgettable:
Dustin jugging the Alcove pitch:
D. reaching the Wild Stance belay:
El Cap. Who conquered whom?
Dustin took us home to the top, where we posed for an awkward and ill-timed summit photo. I was too wasted to re-do it, so this is it...
We had abundant light left to descend the East Ledges, which neither of us had done. Frequent cairns marked the easy hike to the raps. We had to wait for a certain, white goatee'd gentleman jugging the EL's fixed ropes with a backpack and two jumars only, seemingly floating up the slick rock in tennis shoes; no harness and no daisies. It takes him about 5 minutes to cover the 600' of rope. He is immediately recognizable to me as, "That one dude who free'd the Muir Wall." He corrects me on his variation, and introduces himself as Rob Miller.
Dustin is antsy to get down, as he has been out of smokes since the Pancake Flake pitch and he's ready to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets if I delay any further. And we want pizza and beer, and get the hell out of our harnesses.
The next day, hanging at the bridge with Tom Evans, we chat with a father/son party who had topped out Zodiac yesterday. Dad's eyes are full of fire, and the son is riding on his own high. Dad says he couldn't have had a better Father's Day present than completing a bigwall with his son.
Dad and son honk and woot as they drive by the bridge on their long drive back to Oregon. Tom yells, "Yer gonna die!" Dad yells back, "We're ALL gonna die someday!" Tom chuckles, "He's got that right." He bends down behind the massive scope attached to his camera and fires off a few more photos, explaining the fine art of big wall climbing to the next group of tourists wandering by on this most perfect of Yosemite days.