Saturday, June 5, 2010

15 hour SEND

I didn't sleep well because I was so anxious. I also kept waking up because of the bear problems or other loud people in camp 4. My alarm went off at 3:30am, and I said to myself "today is going to hurt..." I had never climbed for 24 hours, or nothing even close. After a ton of sleep (four hours) I pumped the fuel bottle on my whisper lite and boiled water for oatmeal.

For speed climbing, we used a method called short fixing. When I get to the anchor, I call off belay, pull up all the extra slack in the line and then fix the rope so Colin can start jugging up the rope. Normally, I would just wait for Colin to get up to me, but instead we are both climbing at the same time. At this point I have two options. I can either put myself on belay with a gri gri, and feed myself out slack, or use the pakistani death loop. If you use the PDL if you fall, you fall until all of the slack is taken in, and you could possibly take a factor two fall on your anchor. The fall could range anywhere between 10 and 50 feet. When I felt really confident, or if the aid was really easy I would use the PDL. If the aid was tricky I would put myself on belay.

We got to the base of el cap and I was climbing by 4:30. For me, the first two pitches are the hardest until pitch 21, the great roof. I'm not good enough to free all of the moves on the first two pitches, so I have to aid through most of it. These two guys passed us on pitch 4. They were trying to climb it in 9 hours. There are a few different pendulums that you have to do on the route. what that means is you have to clip a piece of gear above you, lower, and then swing to get to the next crack system or the next piece of gear. On pitch 4 I clipped a fixed copper head just before the clipping the piece of gear to do the first pendulum. As soon as I put my body weight on it, PING! It popped out and I took a 5 foot fall on my daisy chain that was clipped below me on a bolt. It hurt, but I was fine. We passed a kind soloist on sickle ledge, and kept running up the route. Everything was going perfectly. I led up to dolt tower in only 4 hours. I cut off two hours from our previous time.
When Colin got to the top of Dolt Tower, he yelled "Dude! We're climbing at 16 hour pace!" I was like..... psh yea right...

Colin took over and led the next ten pitches. For the king swing, we decided that it might be slightly slower, but we were both going to do the swing. To have enough slack for Colin to lower far enough down to swing I had to start simul climbing up the bolt ladder off of texas flake as Colin finished leading the boot flake. I lowered Colin, he cleaned all of his gear, and then it was swing time. 1,500 feet off the ground, as Colin started swinging, crowds that were in el cap meadow cheered him on, and he stuck it first try. My turn. I hadn't done the swing before, so I was a little nervous. Colin put me on belay, and then I started swinging. Again the crowds cheered, and adrenaline ran through my body. I made the grab first try and then got to the same ledge as Colin. That was pretty awesome, knowing that our friends were watching rooting for us.
Colin leading up to el cap tower


Colin leading up the boot

Colin sticking the grab. Hell yes. Note the size of my pack in the above picture. That's right, only 16 liters. We brought up 4 liters of water and some food. I brought two big protein bars and two snickers, along with a nutella and peanut butter bagel for both each of us. 

Me sticking the grab. Hell yes.


Colin cleaning the great roof. Look closely, you can see the rope isn't clipped anywhere along the traverse. Huge runout so Colin can do one big lower out. I'm short fixing the next pitch with a PDL


Leading up pancake flake.



We started running out of water. We got lucky, there was cloud cover for a lot of the climb, and we probably would have taken longer if we were getting hit by sun all day. When It was my turn to lead again, I started moving slower because of dehydration. I led up the intimidating great roof, and back cleaned the whole traverse. That was pretty terrifying. Especially because I had to bust out the cam hook which I had barely ever used before. The aid gets hard starting at the great roof, and our pace slowed. I muscled through the pitches and got to the end of my leading block on pitch 26, the base of changing corners, the last hard aid pitch. When I got to camp 6, I can't describe how happy I was because of what I had found. There were about 6 gallons of stashed water that people had left. It turns out that the german kids that we passed 3 days before ended up leaving it, and I graciously thanked them. We passed one more party, and then went onto leading the bolt ladder. You can't make it all the way to the top with one rope length, so we had to simul climb it. I only had one aider, and it made it very difficult. I had lost almost all of the strength in my arms, and struggled with pulling myself up to clip every next bolt. We got to the finish line, the famous tree on top of the captain. 

We got to the summit just under 15 hours. AWESOME!!! I had no idea that we were going to be able climb that fast. I honestly thought that it was going to take about 30 hours. Our goal was to climb it in 24, and climbed it 9 hours faster than that. Our average time per pitch is less than 30 minuets for 31 pitches. We topped out when it was still light. 

I've read from other people that have climbed the nose in a day about all the conditioning and training that they had done. We didn't do any of that... we just tried really really hard. I taught myself how to short fix a few weeks earlier, and Colin taught himself the day before. Again, this is another example of  how determination exceeds physical ability. Just like the first time we climbed the nose, no we were not ready, but our determination got us to the top. 

Tom Evans is the guys that takes all these sick pictures. He is on the bridge in el cap meadow every day taking pictures, and puts up a daily report of all the action on the captain. Colin and I were featured in his report. 
http://elcapreport.com/content/elcap-report-60410 

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