Thursday, June 17, 2010

Regular Northwest Face, Half Dome

After getting of the salathe wall, we got a ton of rest (a day and a half) and decided to go climb half dome. After drinking some beer with Mark Hudon we racked our gear and hiked up the death slabs to the base of the climb. It was a 3-4 hour approach that is notoriously difficult. It took us only two and a half hours, it wasn't too bad. 

When we got to the base, we came to find that these two german kids that we knew (we passed them when they were climbing the nose). They kindly let us know that we could start before them. Sweet. 

This climb is 24 pitches and it is grade VI. Here is the breakdown of the seriousness and commitment level of climbs.

Grade I: 1-3 hours
Grade II: 3-5 hours
Grade III: 5-8 hours
Grade IV: a full day
Grade V: one very long day to two days
Grade VI: at least two days to a week

For example, any el cap route is grade VI. Since we had climbed the nose in a day, we were pretty confident that we would be able to climb it pretty quickly. Normally for any big wall we have done, one person would lead up, and the other person would jug or ascend up the rope instead of actually climbing. For this route, we both climbed each individual pitch. This takes longer, but it was cooler that we both climbed the whole thing. It ended up taking us 11 hours and 45 minutes. We didn't link many pitches, and weren't trying to move super fast. 

The sweeeeeet face.

There is a spring at the base of the climb. The water was soo good.

There is a snowfield at the base, it's been melting very slowly. It comes up about twenty feet from the true base of the rock. Colin used my nut tool as an ice axe. The german kids on the right had fixed a pitch the previous day. The only thing is... they were on the wrong route. That allowed us some time to get ahead of them so we wouldn't be in there way. 

Colin leading up some pitch.. I don't remember. 

This pitch is the first one that got us out of the corner system, and got us out on the exposed face. That definitely affected me mentally. 

Colin starting up the chimneys. 

The climbing went really well. Most of the pitches are 5.9 up until big sandy ledge on pitch 17. The grade gets much harder to 5.11d. I free climbed as much as I could and then went into aid mode. 

The 'thank god ledge'. 1 foot wide, very high up, super exposed. You can either walk it, or crawl. We crawled it haha. It was still scary! 

The cables to get off half dome. I can't believe that tourists actually go up and down this thing.. I just climbed the face of half dome, and I was scared going down! It's really slippery and surprisingly steep. 

I didn't climb as well as I had hoped. I didn't sleep very well the night before, and I'm not sure I had enough rest after climbing salathe. Mentally I wasn't in the best shape either. The second I stepped off the snow to follow up the pitch that Colin had just led, I felt heavy and scared. I wasn't even leading and I was scared a lot of the time. This was our third big wall climb in two weeks, which is a ton for most people. Some of my friends can climb 6 el cap routes in 10 days, and I feel like I should be able to do the same. I tend to jump into things, especially with climbing. It's been getting me ahead for a while, but now it's starting to slow me down. 
The only way I can explain it is I feel like my brain is fried.. melted from the exposure and constantly pushing myself hard.. being scared... a lot..
My trip might end a little bit early. I don't know how much more I can mentally take. Wall climbing is incredible, but for me, it's really hard.
I'm taking a few days off now to recover. It's been good, hanging out with awesome people that I've met, and getting back some of the calories that have I've lost. 

Colin left for home yesterday, so I'm going to climb with a few other people. A few loose plans so far:
Astroman with Ameet (I don't know how to spell his name)
Zodiac, el cap with Ameet??
The shield, el cap with Erik?? Damn that will be scary

P.S. I changed the settings on my page, so now it should allow anyone to comment on my posts. So... go ahead, Say anything! Tell me I need to be trying harder, or I'm being a baby for being so afraid of heights!


  1. the tallest peaks are within the cathedral of your heart..not by power, not by might.. enter into rest as deep as your efforts..let each "experience" trump any wish list.

  2. Fascinating stuff Cheyne. Listen to your instincts, they usually will steer you in the right direction. Now I'm going to brag to my work partners about my nephews accomplishments. Be safe.
    Uncle Steve

  3. INCREDIBLE! I have been keeping up with your blog and have enjoyed reading about all your adventures. What a cool summer you have been having so far.

  4. Cheyne,
    I just read this for the first time. I am absolutely amazed! Keep your chin up, although you are scared this is a feat most people will never even come close to accomplishing in their life time... Wow!

  5. So is this how you climb most of the climbs. You try to climb up using the rock before you start to Aid climb? Then when you get tried, and can not climb any more you start to Aid?

  6. This is a few years after the fact, but may I suggest you remember TM Herbert's advice: "Enjoyment is the keynote." Philbert Desenex, March of Dimes Climbing Team and Recorder Ensemble