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[TR] El Cap - Mescalito- Solo 09/30/2022


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Trip: El Cap - Mescalito- Solo

Trip Date: 09/30/2022

Trip Report:


I figured I'd post a bigwall trip report on here as I have not seen many and thought it would be a fun distraction as we sharpen our ice tools and crampons...
Considering I could write a paragraph on the intricacies of each of the 26 pitches, I’m tried to slim things down to the more salient (read: snafu, or scary) moments. Cuz steppin' up in your Aiders and nothing happenin' is rather borin. Especially being alone, the only conversations are those weird ones bouncing around my noggin.



Is drytooling really just pumpy aid climbing, or is aid climbing just lazy drytooling?

Bing! Then bing! Ah my god that’s a traumatizing thing to hear.
My head is spinning, my mouth dry as the Sahara.
Why do these seemingly good cams keep ripping?
I’ve been getting fried in the sun since sunrise and want, no need, nothing more than to make it up these last few feet to the ledge. Then I can rap down and chug.
It takes a few short lifetimes for my heart rate to settle, not from the double cam ripping fall, but from impeding heatstroke.
I turn on my headlamp, go back up, place bigger cams in the splitter placements, step up confidently again… only to bing! bing! and whip off again.
What the fuck? Anchorage ledge isn’t giving it up easy. At least I finally got to test my lead solo system.
Over it, I free climb off to the right and finally onto my bivy ledge for the night. I rap down fast as I can to my bag, dive bombing into my bag to commence the chug. I cough, half of the water comes bursting out, I wince as my wrung-out stomach struggles to accept the now-foreign juice of life.
Hauling and set up finally over, I put in a Herculean effort to keep down a few bites of salami before calling it a night. It’s clear that I have barely half enough water to make it another 5 days on this wall that roasts from sunup to sundown. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Dawn Wall.
I fix my lead and haul lines the next day, then have to fix my 6mm tag line to hit terra firma. After a brief pit stop in civilization for burritos, chips, and 5 more gallons of water, I’m back staring up at my 6mm. Time to jug! There’s some slippage- unnerving- but I tie in direct periodically to prevent another, quicker trip to the deck.
Back at Anchorage, I’m psyched. I’m armed with all I need for another 6 days. It’s game on. After the previous 24’s tribulations, fixing and reversing the traversing Seagull pitch, now in the shade, is a relaxing endeavor. I eat and drink well that night.


One of countless lower-outs of the bags

The following day is spent entirely following a single, right leaning crack system. Cleaning is a pain as I have to pull myself back in to every directional piece left in the crack. I forget the haul line and have to rap down to get it in the middle of a lead. The last pitch of the day is long and sustained. I feel strung out, exposed, and alone as the sun sets. There are free climbing chalk ticks that seem to rub in my mediocrity as a free, and aid, “climber.”
I close my eyes as I step up on yet another shitty cam, trying to get that horrible bing-bing sound out of my head. A hidden bat hole and shitty heads unlock the day’s finish line. A little over an hour later and I’m sitting in my ledge, which, combined with my headlamp’s short radius, allow me to forget where I am and enjoy my warm mashed potatoes.
I’m up early the next morning, arming myself for battle with the Molar traverse. In my apprehension and eagerness to get the pendulum over with, I lower off a bolt with tat and start swinging around. Many tries and many smacks into the wall later, I realize I’m missing something. I foolishly went for it too early! I jug back up, climb another ten feet, then nail the correct penji first try.


Tom Evans photo of the Molar

Stoked to have that over with, I carry on, only to have my spirits sink immediately as I notice some crackling sound and extra flex in my prosthetic foot. It must have gotten busted on that failed first pendulum. No big deal... if I don’t fall again. I’ve had these feet go flying right off after big whippers, and sure as shit didn’t want to have to watch as my foot sailed down to the base.


The damage

I carried on carefully the rest of the day, and was able to find some peace and flow while navigating old rivets, heads, and thin cracks on one of the route’s cruxes, pitch 15.


Steep rivets, p16 (?)


A fun one to reverse (P17)

I’d planned the next day to be shorter, giving myself time to chill at the palatial Bismarck ledge, marking the end of the fully hanging bivies on the route. I get up to the ledge early in the afternoon, and quickly realize I’m going to have to fix the Bismarck pitch- a long widening C1 corner culminating in a mandatory layback once your biggest cam no longer fits- to get any semblance of rest that night.
I take a deep breath, and without lingering and freaking myself out any further, dispatch it. I let out a holler; the rest of the route will be gravy. I rap back down and enjoy a rare few hours of watching the soft golden light in the valley turn to the fiery colors of sunset. Having skipped dinner the first night, I have a surplus of food, feast like a king and sleep like a baby.


Big gulp


Best room in the house! Bismarck ledge.

More time consuming traverses the following day lead me to two easier pitches, and a surprisingly cruxy penji onto the cool, sloping Ship’s Bow ledge.
Camped here for the night, within touch of the summit, I felt a weird sensation of grief. Grief for the death of this experience, a week whose intensity can never be matched on flat ground. But thoughts of pizza kept the grief from getting too strong.


A wee bit tired, 3 pitches from the top

A 15 foot unprotected lieback off the Ship’s Bow had a similar effect as several cups of coffee, shaking off the latencies of 6 days on the wall. The C1 pitch sounded nice until it turned into a wrestling match reaching for cams deep in the flare. I linked into the penultimate pitch, trying to remember how to climb with bare hands on the cool 5.7 flake traverse.
She didn’t give it up easy; the last pitch consists of hand placed beaks and deadheads off the belay and a mega reachy inverted camhook, then finally a cruiser bolt ladder.


Final morning sunrise.

Mescalito's been on my radar for a while now, as a long, steep, sustained-at-the-grade line up the shining Dawn Wall, a stepping stone into the world of pants-shitting aid. Tracing the route between features back in the Meadow, I felt intensely grateful. Grateful that I'd walked right up to it on my first day in the Valley and gotten that out of my system. But more importantly, for the experience I'd been lucky enough to have up there, and for all the people who'd helped or just shared kind words along the way.

Thanks for reading, keep it fun, keep it fast, and if you can, keep it safe, cheers!

Gear Notes:
standard wall rack, handful of beaks

Approach Notes:
highly strenuous

Edited by ACosta
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5 hours ago, Stefan said:


wtf?  You are missing a foot and you do this stuff?  Damn.


Haha...Adrien is missing more than just a foot.  He is an above the knee amputee and climbs like a boss.  I am not sure how he does it all because when he climbs, he "locks out" his knee in a straight position!  Trying climbing ice, or rock or even aid when you can't bend your knee to step up.  Sorry Adrien but I had to brag on you a bit bud!  

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6 hours ago, mthorman said:

Trying climbing ice, or rock or even aid when you can't bend your knee to step up. 

:crosseye:  uhhhhhhhhhh, WHAT?!!  I didn't even think this would be possible??

Thanks a lot @ACosta for removing all of my lame middle-aged excuses for why I "can't" do hard things. I was way more comfortable before I read this TR.

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