Friday, May 27, 2011

Lurking Fear, El Capitan

The 5:00AM alarm came too soon as my joints creaked and head filled with nervousness. The cold air nipped at our bare skin as we peeled off our sleeping bags and slid into our puffy jackets.  'We've got business to take care of today..' I thought to myself.  

Known as the easiest aid line on El Cap, Lurking Fear isn't visible from the meadow as it is is on the far left side. 19 pitches, grade VI, 5.13 or 5.7 C2F. 

With only one rope, a 20 liter pack, and minimal amounts of food and water, our strategy was to climb the route in a single day. We were both nervous to try to climb a new El Cap route in this style. Before we attempted to climb The Nose in one day, we climbed the route over four days. This gave us an advantage to strategize how we could climb as fast and efficiently as possible. 

Both Colin and I are leaning towards the style of climbing walls 'in a push' opposed to 'wall style'. Wall style refers to climbing a route in multiple days hauling up bivy gear, tons of extra junk, and all of your food and water for multiple days. 

I forced food and water into my stomach, and we were soon on the approach to the base of the climb. El Cap loomed over us as we skirted around the base, and successfully intimidated me. By the time we reached the base, somehow I untied the knot in my stomach and punched it into overdrive and started leading. 

Me catching up to Eric Sloan on the bolt ladders that get you off the ground.

It's really funny how more times than not we actually know or have met the people that are on route. This makes for friendly exchanges and no conflict. Passing slower teams can be tricky. Insert your reason here __________ why we can't pass you. We're going to slow you down, it's unsafe, we were here first, I'm stubborn, blah blah. Luckily we haven't ever had to deal with this.

I was a bit hesitant to ask Eric to pass. After all, Eric IS one of the guide book authors for the Yosemite Big Walls book... He enthusiastically let me lead right up behind him and let Colin and I try to climb the route as fast as we could. Which is exactly what we did.

Me on one of the bolted traverses. I back cleaned as much as possible to make it easy for Colin to clean the pitch. 

We split the climb up into two sections. I got the first half of the route, and Colin had the second. I ended up with the splitter cracks and awesome free climbing opposed to Colin's somewhat weird pitches that featured wet slots and chimneys. 

The man himself, Eric Sloan leading up the pitch behind us. He said that this was his last big climb before 'father's day', as he is having a kid in two weeks. 

The hard 5.12 cracks offered quick aid placements along with awesome bits of easier free climbing. I was moving steadily up the route, and was using the short fixing technique to its full advantage. I even almost missed one of the bolted anchors. I guess I was moving too fast and having too much fun. 

Four hours later and 9 pitches under our feet, we found ourselves 1000 feet off the deck. I felt the exposure, but it didn't phase me in the slightest. 

Mediocre fixed gear and weird cam hook moves straight off the belay

Looking down the captain, SO sick!!

Getting out of the last bit of tricky aid into 5.10 face climbing.

Colin sewing up the weird flare. I almost thought he was joking... or didn't want to cary as much gear as he had or something.. no, he was just scared.

Colin happy in his aiders moving through the 5.11d offwidth

Aside from the wet sections that slowed us down a bit, we cruised up the route without issue with a time of 10 hours and 32 minutes. I am very satisfied with how well we have been climbing. This was a great route to start climbing on the captain this season.

This was definitely harder than The Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome, but easier than The Nose. I will give wall style teams full credit because of the difficult hauling on the entire second half of the route. Even though it is an easier and shorter wall on El Cap, having to get all of your junk through the 400+ feet of slabs on the top of the route will be very difficult.



  1. great pics & detailed post, thanx!

  2. Good job dudes, how did Sean and Dalton do on Lost Arrow?