Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Salathe Wall, El Capitan

One of my goals for the summer was to climb the salathe wall. Our strategy: pre haul our haul bag up the fixed lines up to heart ledges 11 pitches up, then spend 3 days on the wall. I think it's kind of lame pre hauling using fixed lines... but after climbing free blast, that would have been a nightmare to haul our 100 pound bag through terrain that would ensure that our bag would keep getting terribly stuck the entire way up.


I was nervous about the first 11 pitches rated at 5.11b or c, my limit. I cruised my 10d tricky pro pitch, but pulled on some of the bolts to get through the crux slab pitch. Not trying to make excuses, because I know that I could have just tried harder.. If I was wearing different shoes I probably could have sent the crux. I was wearing my comfy all day shoes that I wear socks in.

Colin pulling through the roof traverse

We got to heart ledges quickly, we weren't trying to climb fast, and got there around 3pm. We had nothing else to do.. we could only fix one pitch ahead of that ledge, so we couldn't climb much further. We sat and baked in the sun and waited for the sun to go down.

Me cleaning the pitch off of heart ledge. 

So the deal when we decided to climb salathe was that we were going to split up the 'wide' pitches. Wide refers to any offwidth or chimney. I'm terrible at this type of climbing. For me it has a whole different rating system. I feel like it is at least two number grades harder. So any 5.9 offwidth feels like 5.11 to me.

I agreed to climb the hollow flake pitch. It is a 5.9 offwidth that you can't protect unless you bring HUGE cams. We only had one, which I had to borrow from my friend Scott. 


This was my entire rack for a 140 foot pitch. One number 6 camalot. You pendulum into the crack and then as you climb, you slowly inch your sorry ass up the wide crack, and bump the cam up. The cam fits in the crack really well about half way up, and then you have a few options. You either leave the cam and put a 10 foot sling on it, put it back on your harness, or bump the cam the whole way up. I decided to go with the last choice. For the second half of the crack, the cam would barely stay in because it was so tipped out. Mentally it made me feel better, knowing that if I fell, there would be a very small chance that the cam wold actually hold, instead of leaving the cam lower and taking a bigger fall. 

This was by far the hardest thing I have ever climbed. Yes, it is 5.9, I dare any of you to go climb it. The pitch completely exhausted me mentally and physically. I definitely thought about my funeral.

Colin leading the next chimney pitch. He's a sick person for liking climbing that kind of stuff.



Photo by Tom Evans. Colin climbing just below the ear.



Photo by Tom Evans. Me leading up pitch 18. Hard. 



A new 6 camalot (worth $130) stuck!!! We couldn't get it. Colin bent my brand new nut tool. Bastard. 


Colin standing on el cap spire, pitch 20. Sweetest bivy ever!! It was a detached 8x8 tower that doesn't touch the wall on any side. We really wanted to top out the next day, so we fixed the next three pitches. It was still my block to lead, but once we got to the spire, I totally bonked. Colin led the pitch off the spire just as it was getting dark, and then I led the next two when it was completely dark out. 

So to get out of having to climb any more wide pitches, I agreed to lead 'the sewer'. It's really called that... WORST PITCH OF CLIMB (see below)



I made Colin get out the camera to take a picture of me so I could remember this haha. It's pretty crazy.. the entire route is dry, and then you get to this one pitch, and it's draining water. There's grass, plants and black shit that you get all over you. I got soaking wet. I can not believe that people actually free climb this pitch... I aided the whole thing. 

Getting higher!



Me leading the roof on pitch 28. SO SWEET.



Photo by Tom Evans



Colin just got done with a hard aid pitch, and was pretty fried. I was ready to lead. So earlier in the day I had the idea that if I led the sewer and the next pitch, that Colin would end up with all of the hard aid. My sneakiness didn't end up working. I'm glad it didn't though. Leading the roof and up through the salathe headwall was incredible. I'm never too psyched on aid climbing, but it was such an incredible place to be. 
Long ledge on pitch 31. I was so happy to be done leading. It was probably the hardest and scariest aid I have ever done. Only 4 more pitches to go. Thank God! 

Score, found these awesome shades. 

Slowly, we inched our way to the top, and finally made it to the last pitch. Colin shouted down "OFF BE-FUCKING-LAY". When the leader gets to the anchor, and secures himself, you yell down to your belayer "off belay", so this was Colin's version.. being exhausted and glad we had no more hard climbing. It was easy 5.6 to the summit. Colin let me lead it. We got to the top around 11pm, and was starving, exhausted, and SO PSYCHED! My third time up el capitan. 


We threw everything off immediately when we got to the top, this is what it ended up looking like haha. There was a really nice two person bivy spot right when you top out. 


We decided to sleep in late (..cough..7:30am) and then slowly packed up our gear to get back on the ground. 

My hands didn't get too beat up this time, my fingers still got swollen though. I was persistent about wearing my fingerless gloves as much as possible. It's called 'wall hands'. From gripping your ascenders, hauling, and continuously pulling yourself up, your hands swell up, and every morning you wake up you can barely make a fist. 

My body is getting used to the abuse that I put it through. I'm not nearly as beat up as the first time I went up the captain. 



The topo of the route. There is one of these for every big route we do. It gives information about how long each pitch is, where you can sleep, and a little information about what gear you need.









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