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[TR] Red Rocks, Zion and Yosemite - 9000 feet in two weeks! 4/23/2011

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Trip: Red Rocks, Zion and Yosemite - 9000 feet in two weeks!


Date: 4/23/2011


Trip Report:

I knew that stuff was slowing down at work, but when was I getting the time off. I kept harassing my bosses and finally found out that I had two weeks off starting in a couple days. Yes, exactly what I was hoping for. I bought a plane ticket down to Vegas where I planned to meet my friends Braden and Allie.


It turns out that we did more climbing than I ever thought imaginable. Over the course of two weeks we climbed almost 9000 feet and never climbed a route that was easier than 10d. Here's what the trip looked like


Day 1. Fly to Vegas from Bellingham. Climb Risk Brothers Roof 11a


Risk Brothers Roofs


Day 2. Challeger 4P 10d and the last two pitches of Jupiter 2 10d.

Braden and I climbed this . It was a really exciting climb with 3 pitches of 10d; an awesome roof, a tips corner and an Indian Creek style splitter. I thought this route was really heads up and had one of the most exciting pitches of the trip for me. It had lots of really small gear with some healthy run outs and, for me, a desperate mantel. I committed to it and started to fall only to save myself with a wild hand slap/palm move up against a blank face to my left. Exciting! We were both able to onsight every pitch so it was a good confidence booster.


Braden on the tips corner


Day 3. Cloud Tower 800' 11d.

Braden, Allie and I climbed this. Since this was my third time on this climb I only led the first two 5.8 pitches and let Braden and Allie lead the rest. Allie took the middle block with the 10a crack and 11+ corner. She did great. Since I have only led the corner I was hoping that maybe I would have the gurr to follow it on top rope. Turns out that was not the case. It was still way hard. Braden lead the rest of the climb after the crux corner. He was able to onsight every pitch of the route. Really burly. I fell on the 11+ corner and on the last move of the 11c last pitch.



Braden starting out on the fist crack pitch





Allie enjoying the wide stuff


Day 4. Drive to Zion


Day 5. Shune's Buttress III/IV 5.11+.

All three of us climbed this. My favorite route of the trip. It had everything from tips to chimney. Braden led the first three pitches. I thought the 1st and 2nd pitches were especially burly, with the actually crux being on the second pitch. I led the rest. There were three pitches in a row of hard chimney and offwidth climbing. One of which I will not forget anytime soon. Then there was a funky pitch of 5.11 face climbing that resulted in me doing a sideways and downward dyno out of desperation. It didn't work. On my second try I was determined to do something different but climbed myself into the same situation and was able to stick it. From here I had to face climb around an arete and into a crack that started as tips and eventually widened to .75 through a roof. I somehow made it to the roof and finally pumped out as I was trying to pull the mantel. I was so pumped that I couldn't even close my hands. It took a few minutes for me to get it back and I started up again. I almost fell pulling the roof even when I was fresh, still hard, and continued up tight hands. This was very pumpy climbing separated by mediocre rests. The kind that let you get enough back to keep going, but just barely. I wanted to make it to the chains without falling but it wasn't meant to be. I pumped out before I got there. I was a little surprised that the pitch was so hard when I thought it was 5.10. To my surprise Braden and Allie told me it was actually 5.11+. That made me feel a little better. After this pitch we climbed one more hands pitch and we were on top. What a great climb.



Braden on the first pitch



The crazy offwidth that I wont forget anytime soon. I took this picture off Mountain Project so I don't know who took it or who it is.



The chimneys a little higher



Looking down the beautiful 11+ pitch. I also took this off of Mountain Project.



Braden trying to warm up in a belay nook right before the top.


Day 6. Linkup: Sheer Lunacy V 5.9 C2 and Moonlight Buttress V 5.9 C1 2200 ft.

After Shune's we all went out for pizza. While eating Braden and I started to finalize plans for a linkup. After much deliberation we decided that Sheer Lunacy and Moonlight were the ticket. We got back to camp and packed until a little after 12 and then went to sleep for a few short hours. The next day we were up bright and early and caught the first bus into the canyon at around 7am. Unfortunately, since the river was really flowing we had to do the long approach from the grotto. This added a couple miles along the river, but wasn't too bad. We were able to make it to the base in an hour. Within a few minutes Braden was starting up Sheer Lunacy. He led the entire thing short fixing the whole way and topped out in 6hrs!!!!!! Wow. I was impressed and a little worried about how long it was going to take me to climb Moonlight. Especially considering that the last time I did it we had a 20 hour day even with the first 3 pitches fixed. Oh well, only one way to find out. We hiked to the top of Moonlight and had a small siesta and enjoyed some water that was left on top. After half and hour I started the first rap down moonlight only to find a photographer and a party just about the start the last pitch. I wasn't real excited about this but knew that a free ascent was way more important than our linkup. I waited and watched the dude send the last pitch. Really inspiring. Here are links to the photographers site and the climber's blog. They are worth checking out. After they made it to the top we continued the rap down and got the the base of Moonlight as quick as we could. I took a peek at my watch right as I left the ground and it read 5:40PM. Well this is going to be exciting I thought and took off up the first pitch. I was able to make it most of the way up the first aid pitch before it got dark and then the rest was by headlamp. After 9 hrs of nonstop climbing I made it to the top. We were definitely feeling it and didn't wait around at the top for very long. We made our way to the road and eventually back to our tents for a 20 something hour day. SWEET!



The first 5.12 pitch on Sheer Lunacy



The upper 5.12 pitch on SL



Looking down Moonlight Buttress. You can see the photographer and the free climbers.



Looking down after the first 5.12 pitch on Moonlight. This photo was from the first time I climbed the route a couple years ago.



The awkward corner looms above.


Day 7. Rest day and drive back to Red Rocks.


Day 8. Original Route 12a 1150'.

Me and Braden were still completely pooped at this point but Allie was sick of lounging around and wanted to climb. Since we knew she put up with being our midnight taxi a few nights prior we couldn't deny her what she wanted, Rainbow Wall. We got into the park right as it opened and Allie took off like a bullet while me and Braden dragged ass for hours. After what seemed like a very long time we finally got to the bottom of the climb. I led the first four pitches which clock in at 11c, 11d, 11a, 11b. I pulled on gear liberally to speed things up except for the 11b which I onsighted. I thought my pitches were much more heads up than a lot of the climbing I have done in Red Rocks. Just because there are bolts doesn't mean that the rest of the climbing protects beautifully. There seemed to be lots of mandatory 5.11 climbing. Several times I was sitting there thinking, "Man I wish there was a bolt here" only to look over and see a filled in hole. I think we got the Spicy Original Route. I don't know how often it changes, but I think the climbing would have been much more casual if all those bolt holes had bolts. Allie led the next block through pitch 8 where Braden took over. His lead through the upper dihedrals was proud. Really hard climbing, some of which was over very small or sketchy gear. We all topped out right as it got dark and rapped the entire route in the dark. Then we walked for a very long time and eventually made it back to the car. Somehow we convinced ourselves that a celebration was in order and we cracked open some beers only to discover that one Coors will make you very drunk if you are dehydrated after a long day. Good times.



Looking down the 11d pitch



11a corner



The 11b roof pitch.



Allie sending a 10c



Allie following on easier terrain



Braden starting up the dihedrals



Allie in the dihedrals



Allie pulling the last hard moves of the route


Day 9. Rest. The battery to the truck dies and we have to walk to a Methodist church camp for help. We get invited inside for coffee and join their chair circle. After a few minutes we realize they just wanted to enjoy our company and weren't going to do anything crazy. Great people.


Day 10. Drive to Yosemite


Day 11. Look at the Nose. It's very wet. Rest more.


Day 12. Rest. Watch rock dry and rest.


Day 13. Rest. Get ready for the biggest day of my life.


Day 14. NOSE IN A DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! VI 5.9 C1 2900 ft.

This has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years. I trained all last season for this climb. I went to the valley for a month with the goal of climbing it in a day. When we were there we figured the best way for us to do it in a day would be to climb it over several to get it dialed, it took us four. We topped out excited, but a little more pessimistic about doing it in a day. We just weren't ready. Fast forward 6 months. New plans are hatched and I start training like I never have before. I was in the weight room several days a week, climbing and running hills. I worked my entire body. I put finger strength on the back burner for better overall fitness and endurance. We had a trip planned for the end of May, but I got laid off a month earlier. I didn't feel ready, I was scared. Oh well, I bought the plane ticket and committed.


We climbed like crazy for a week. I couldn't ignore the math. If we can climb 2200' in Zion in 15hrs then we should be able to climb 3000' in 24hrs, right? We decided to go for it.


We woke up at 2am with the intention of climbing by 3. Our plan was for Braden to lead the first half of the route(time wise) to camp 4 at pitch 20 and then for me to lead the remaining 11 pitches. He took off and climbed non stop until sickle ledge. When I got there I checked my watch, an hour and fifty minutes had gone by. We were on pace for a little under 20 hours. He kept leading through the stove legs and onto dolt. Then up the next few wide pitches to the Jardine Traverse. Left and up he went where he got surprised by 30ft of 5 inch lie back, he couldn't protect it so he ran it out. We quickly caught up to a party who slept on El Cap tower. After a few minutes they let us pass and we continued up. A few more pitches and a fall later we made it to camp 4 in 9 hours. Braden had killed it.


Now it was all on my shoulders. We took a very quick break and I was off. The first pitch was soaking wet at the beginning, making for some exciting climbing. Within minutes I was at the belay for the great roof where I had to throw on the brakes. We had caught up to another Nose In a Day (NIAD) party. After somewhere between half an hour and an hour I was able to start climbing. I led the great roof in fifty minutes and shared the belay for the pancake flake with the same guy. I talked about passing, he understood. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. It seems that after every hard pitch there are a couple easier pitches where they would speed up. We would only catch them when their leader was part way up a hard lead. This is how it went. I climbed the pancake flake and the 5.11 above it, just to catch up to them at the glowering spot. I climbed the glowering spot (12d or C1) and another 5.11 pitch and caught up with them at the changing corners. This was when we really slowed down. From the ground it looked like the upper pitches might be wet. Well they were. We watched the other guys grovel up the wetness for an hour as it started to get dark. With motivation at an all time low I took off. I was french freeing in the slimy wet cracks as fast as possible, which wasn't very fast. After what seemed like hours I got to the belay. I was feeling a little demoralized. I gave myself a little pep talk and started short fixing up the next pitch. From here I climbed two wet 10d pitches and finally found cold dry rock. I was beat and not moving very fast, but we were so close. I looked at the 10c perfect crack in front of me and said there was no way I could climb it. I aided. Only one pitch to go. I started up the final bolt ladder. When I climbed it last it felt like I flew up it. This time I was barely strong enough to pull myself up the ladders. I almost took a daisy fall trying to hook my fifi. I was exhausted. I finally pulled the lip and got on easier terrain. Before I knew it I was battling the rope drag and fighting for the top. I fixed the rope at the lip and stumbled to the tree. Before long Braden came over the lip. I looked at my watch right before he got to me. We topped out in 23 hours exactly. We gave each other hugs and started ripping gear off and putting more layers on. After a few minute break to get everything ready for the descent we started down. There was tons of running water up on top and all of it was frozen. It made a miserable descent that much worse. After making our way down the frozen east ledges, bush whacking around steep snow slopes and doing the rappels we finally made it to the Valley as it was getting light. We didn't worry about waking Allie for a ride. We just walked the extra 20 or 30 minutes to camp four arriving around 6 in the morning. We had been moving for 27 hours straight. It was a day that I will never forget.



Braden starting up the Stove Legs



Sunrise on El Cap



A pitch above Dolt tower



The pitch off of Eagle ledge.



The view only gets better



Looking down from around pitch 20



The great roof



Braden following



The view from the great roof



Braden at the roof



The other NIAD team jugging up the pancake flake



The view from camp 5. This was where I spent the third night when I climbed it the first time.



The pitch after the glowering spot. Photo from last fall.



Looking down the changing corners pitch. This was from the first time I climbed it. It was very dark and cold this time around.



The beautiful pitch after the changing corners. Photo from last fall.



The final pitch before the bolt ladder. I was waaaay beat at this point and resorting to aiding. Photo from last fall.


Day 15. Sleep until early afternoon. Pack for home. Go out for pizza. Get dropped off at the Fresno airport where I spent the night and slept for less than one hour before I checked in for my flight at 4am.


I spent the next five days trying to recharge. Oddly my muscles felt fine, but I was exhausted no matter how much I ate or slept. A week and a half later I can say that I am finally back to normal and still trying to comprehend what I pulled off. It still blows my mind what I can accomplish if I broaden my horizons as to what I think is possible.



Edited by swezeyt
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Mad props. Way to crush


I start training like I never have before. I was in the weight room several days a week, climbing and running hills. I worked my entire body. I put finger strength on the back burner for better overall fitness and endurance.


Now that you did it what would you change about this training approach? If you had just climbed as much as possible (as many people argue is the best way to train for climbing) leading up to it do you think you would have succeeded?

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Mad props. Way to crush


I start training like I never have before. I was in the weight room several days a week, climbing and running hills. I worked my entire body. I put finger strength on the back burner for better overall fitness and endurance.


Now that you did it what would you change about this training approach? If you had just climbed as much as possible (as many people argue is the best way to train for climbing) leading up to it do you think you would have succeeded?


Big wall speed climbing is not free climbing.

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I would say that my training was about 50% climbing and 50% cross fit (running and weight lifting). This was something new to me. I have always just trained by climbing as much as possible, but it doesn't seem to work that well for me. What usually happens is I get overuse injuries and plateau. For example, when I was training last season by only climbing I hurt my shoulder. It was alright for a while and then flared up again this winter and has been a bit of a problem ever since. I also read Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight and thought that his approach was probably more appropriate for what I want to accomplish. I needed to be able to move for long periods of time climbing 5.10. This requires finger strength, but not that much. I just needed lots of endurance. Braden had also followed Twight's workout to a tee a few years prior and had amazing results. He had a much more knowledge of training than me and I learned a lot from him. I guess all of these factors contributed to me trying a workout that included more than just climbing. Something that would improve my endurance, strengthen my stabilizer muscles and allow me to go forever.


If my shoulder was better I would have trained my pull muscles a lot more. Instead I tried to get a really good all around workout and avoid heavy sets of pull ups and anything else that hurt my shoulder like dips. If all I had done was just climb a lot there's a possibility that I could have pulled it off, but I think my chances were much better by incorporating weight lifting and cardio.

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Although fitness is important and lays a foundation for success I wanted to mention that you have to have the skills and mental attitude as well. By the time I had started this trip I had done 7 wall climbs. This was enough for me to start to really improve my systems and make them efficient. Braden and I sat around for hours analyzing every aspect of what we were doing. We talked about exactly what steps were to be taken at belays to make them efficient. We climbed without daisies to encourage free climbing and reduce cluster (that is until the overhanging bolt ladder). We made it so that the gri gri would be hands free as we were short fixing.


We both had a go for it attitude as well. That doesn't mean that we were trying to kill ourselves. It means that we were willing to risk not making it to the top as fast as we had hoped. If instead we had made it in 30hrs we wouldn't have died. We would have gotten cold, dehydrated and hungry, but we would have been fine. It would have added to the adventure and given us more knowledge as to how to move faster next time. When I climbed half dome in a day last fall it took 29 hours car to car. I really learned a lot about what to not do from this experience and the Nose wouldn't have been possible without it.

Edited by swezeyt
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Proud trip and great photos, I really enjoyed this TR. I really appreciate your reflection on what it takes to prep for a trip like this. My recent trip to red rocks after a winter in the climbing gym made it clear that sort of thing just doesn't really prep you for long routes - its not necessarily the climbing itself that wears you down, but all the other bits along with the constant focus and keep-it-togetherness that leave you tired out in a way that simple crimp and pull never will.

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Incredible trip Sweez, an inconceivable amount of hard climbing in a relatively short period.


Not to take away from your more recent accomplishments, but...they say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one picture is no exception.


Labeled 'photo from last fall' the climber pictured seems to exude such poise and grace, sort of 'cool under fire' look and display an seemingly intimate knowledge of the goings on of wall climbing I just had to ask you, if you wish, to elaborate on this:






Once again, fine work on one ass-kickin trip!

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If you weren't so positive we could climb the NIAD, i probably wouldn't have even gotten on the 1st pitch. This was the key to getting it done - having faith in ourselves that we could do it. This is something I hope readers take away from this TR - eliminate self limiting attitudes.


Also, I'd like to emphasize how a gradual progression was used to accomplish what was over our heads only 2 weeks before: from a single pitch (risk brothers roof) -> multi pitch free route (challanger wall, cloud tower, shunes buttress)-> multi pitch french free route (rainbow wall)->enchaining a couple grade v's in zion (sheer luncacy to moonlight) in addition to a few walls below our belts... by then walking up to the nose, we knew we could get up it, although we were not sure exactly how long it would take.










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  • 3 weeks later...

insane indeed!... my hands were very sore for about a week after freeing / french freeing most of my block and jugging the crux upper part. To imagine freeing those two routes is unfathomable to me! a different level... or breed of human.

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