Monday, June 27, 2011

Valley Video Recap.

Here are all the short videos I made while I was in the Valley.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Colorado Bound

 After a successful send on The Zodiac (full trip report coming soon!), I have completed all of my goals for the season here in Yosemite. I'm headed out to Lodi in the morning to go skydiving for the first time, and then I'm Colorado bound.

As wall climbers get older, stiffer, and maybe just a little more lazy, they will hire the monkeys to porter the gear either to the base off El Cap, or off the summit.
The going rate to the base is $50-60 and from the top it is $150.
It seems like it's quite a bit of money, but the bags are very heavy, painful, and it's actually a bit dangerous. Descending the East Ledges isn't for someone without climbing experience.

I feel like I've been in the right place and the right time, and I've gotten to carry loads for 5 different teams making almost $500.

 Photo: Mark Hudon

Greg and I being sherpas. I usually just try and get the hike over with as fast as possible, but I took it easy with Mark's heavy load. I planned on doing my big solo the next day and I didn't want to get too worked.

Mark had a successful 8 day solo ascent on Zenyatta Mondatta. I hope I'll be able to get to that point some day. That route was at my mental limit... with two other partners!!

Relaxing in the meadow. I drank some rotten milk the other day.. I felt sick for two days! Fact: just because chocolate milk still smells and tastes good, it doesn't mean that you can let it sit unrefrigerated for 24 hours.

Jugging up the fixed lines on East Ledges to porter another load.

Partners Aaron and Matt psyched to have sent The Shield after 5 days on the wall. 

I love talking to people right when they get off the wall, especially right when they top out. Seeing the relief in their faces and happiness to be done with their adventure is awesome. 

I am in a different place in my life than I was last year when I was here. A lot has happened in my life since then. Instead of leaving burnt out this year, I'm leaving still very psyched. There is still soo much that I want to climb here. 

I trained very hard for this trip, and I sent almost everything that I planned to climb here. Climbing The Zodiac as fast as I did was reassuring to me that all of my hard work has paid off. The trip was not only successful because of my physical performance, but also the mental aspect of it all. 

I have learned how to deal with fear, and the anxieties that I experience in climbing. I also feel like I am getting ahold of everything in my life mentally. I have been able to learn so much about myself. I truly needed these 6 weeks.
I feel better than I have in a very long time. 

So this is me... writing to you for the last time in Yosemite Valley for the season. 

Photo: Uncle Tom

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Zodiac, El Capitan - Solo

On my trip to the valley last spring, local Boulder badass Scott Bennett set out to try to climb The Zodiac by himself in a single push. He sent the route with only one bivy, three pitches from the top on Peanut Ledge. 

"Wow.. that's SO cool," I thought to myself.. "I want to do that."

My regular climbing and suffering partner Colin Simon and I set out to push ourselves a bit further this season, sending a few El Cap routes in less than half a day. We then proceeded to tag on the Regular Route on Half Dome after climbing The Nose, climbing both grade VI routes in a continuous 26 hour push. 

All of the climbing we were doing on the trip served as training for my solo. Over and over, I pictured myself on the climb. I envisioned how I was going to react to every situation I could imagine. I was prepared for not if I was going to bonk, but when. I had my systems so dialed that when I got too exhausted to think I could run on autopilot and still be safe. 

Climbing El Capitan not only solo, but in a day was something that truly inspired me. For the past 6 months, I have been not only training physically to climb El Cap fast, but also mentally. I fine tuned my solo system and got comfortable with my only partner being a gri gri.   

I thought of every advantage I could give myself. I cut corners by bringing a smaller rack, one rope, no bivy gear, minimal water, and no hammer.  

I blasted my ipod to distract me from how unbelievably nervous I was. As soon as my alarm went off at 3:40AM, I got that horrible feeling in my chest that I always get before I start climbing something big.

I cinched up my sport harness, took a deep breath, and completely committed. 

I took the A3 direct start variation instead of the original. All of the drilled hooks, copper heads, and bolts made it the faster but more dangerous option. I watched a rescue take place a few days prior when a Japanese climber decked on the first pitch. I guess it was reasonable to be a little nervous..  

A bit slower than I had hoped, I linked the first two pitches, rapped, cleaned, and jugged in an hour and fifty minutes. "Yikes," I thought, "this is going to be really hard.." To climb the route in one day, I needed to climb each pitch in an hour and a half. I didn't realize that I actually was climbing faster than I thought.. 

I synchronized myself with the climbing, and felt completely in control.   

Starting to pass The Team Extreme Ryders on the black tower pitch at 9am.

I successfully passed the 4 Koreans, rapped, cleaned, and I am now jugging the pitch. You can see that the leader made approximately 5 feet of progress in the time it took me to climb the Black Tower pitch in its entirety.

The Black Tower pitch is notorious for being one of the scariest on the climb. One person I talked to said "oh it's not that bad, I nailed like 6 beaks and it was totally easy.." Well, thanks a ton for the beta.. 
You are definitely in the do not fall zone for about 20 feet until you get your first solid piece of fixed gear, an old rusty angle. I made use of hand placing and leapfrogging sawed off angles and beaks. They were mostly solid placements, but seriously.. don't fall. 

I was feeling unbelievably good. Every chance I got, I was out of my aiders free climbing, back cleaning, and running it out. Armed with a shiny double set of offset cams, along with a bullet proof psyche, I felt unstoppable.   

Leading into the grey circle.

Tricky reach, taking advantage of a dynamic style of aid climbing.

I only a few hundred feet to my left were some guys on Tangerine Trip. I yelled over to them a couple of times, saying what's up. "Yo dude! I'm C3ing the shit out of this pitch!!" I hollered over.

After sitting in the meadow countless hours, staring at the nipple.. I finally got to experience its glory. It was pretty wild. I leap frogged cam hooks for an eternity, finished the pitch, and then had a difficult time cleaning.

A normal wall style soloist would easily be able to rap down their haul line back to the belay. Having only one rope, I would have to unclip a piece of gear along the 30 foot traverse and wildly swing out into space.

Gravity sent me flying sideways as if El Cap was trying to spit me off. The rope connecting me to the anchor whipped and spun me around, causing me to look out over the valley. My whole world was silenced.

I thought to myself "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the entire world right now..."
It's a feeling that I don't too often get, when something inside of me knows that I am supposed to be doing exactly what I am doing.

The climbing slightly eased up, but exhaustion set in. Only one more C3 crux to go on pitch 11. I just kept moving. Place a piece, step up in aiders, clip anchor, fix rope, rap, clean, jug, go! go! go! 

Talking to Neal the night before, he said that he had left a gallon of gatorade on peanut ledge. I didn't count on it, but I sure was happy to see the neon orange liquid! I drank as much as I could and ate the rest of my carefully rationed food. It was time for the final summit push, I had less than two rope lengths to get to the top. 

I leapfrogged my #5 camalots forever up the offwidth and reached the top of pitch 14 as it got dark. The bright moon partnered with my headlamp on full blast illuminated my way to the summit. 

I finally bonked. Linking the last two pitches took me two hours. I moved as fast as I possibly could. Reaching any tricky gear placement would stop me in my tracks. It took all of my mental effort to figure out how to move past them.

Only one more short section of C2 stood in the way of the summit. Top stepping off of a hand placed angle, I froze. Not wanting to clip an ancient copper head, I was stuck for an honest 10 minutes before I figured out how the hell to get past a seemingly blank section of rock. It was something that would have taken me two seconds if I hadn't just climbed 15.9 pitches. I finally reached over the edge to clip the bolts at the very last anchor. I hurled my rack on to the top of El Cap, and rapped back down to clean the pitch.

All of the muscles in my body screamed as I jugged as fast as I physically could. "COME ON CHEYNE!!!! YOU GOT IT, YOU'RE FUCKIN' SENDING!!!!!" I yelled out loud. I threw myself on the summit 19 hours and 7 minutes after I started. I did it.   

This was one of the funnest things I have done in my entire life. I felt completely in my element. Other than dropping a cam (which I later found), it was a completely flawless ascent.

Before I made a serious commitment to do this climb, I had to be completely honest with myself. I realized that the only possible way for me to be successful, was to be only driven internally. I was forced to look at myself and see exactly what my motivating factors were. 
I became aware that trying to make myself badass, add another 'tick' to my list of climbs, or trying to one-up every one else... would result in failure. 
I pictured myself way up in the grey circle being terrified, epicing, and imagining myself thinking "why the hell am I up here, I totally regret doing this." 

I did it for myself. I trained, I learned, and I tried fucking hard. I sent The Zodiac.

The Rack and other notes.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The BIG Recovery

I sat there on Big Sandy Ledge on Half Dome, 50 pitches into our linkup. I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than a few seconds before I would fall asleep, only to wake up moments later and feed Colin slack through my gri gri.
"I'm going to take 5 rest days when I get done with this.." I said to myself.

After topping out, Colin and I opted to take the 8 mile Mist Trail down because it was too dangerous for us to take the Death Slabs descent due to our exhaustion. It seemed as if every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop, eat, sleep, and drink. Every few miles we would stop momentarily to take a break and I would fall asleep with my head in my hands.

Colin's parents met us a mile up the trail from the valley with food and water. I can't express how thankful I am that they did that for us, and how damn good everything tasted!!
Blisters from cramming my feet into my climbing shoes followed by hours of wearing my wet approach shoes led to a painful descent.

Photo: Uncle Tom 

Hanging out at the bridge after getting down. I've been spending almost all of my time here, watching friends climb El Cap, eating, and hydrating.

One of my favorite places ever is the base of El Capitan. I made my usual walk from The Nose up to The Zodiac looking for dropped gear (aka booty).

A Japanese guy had a wire rivet hanger break, fell, popped a few pieces of protection, and hit the ground  from about 30 feet. I witnessed the rescue from only a few hundred feet away. The YOSAR team knows what they're doing.

I helped the fallen climber's partner Daizo bring down their gear and gave him a ride back to Camp 4. It sounds like the injury wasn't serious.

SO.... It's time for my big solo. I'm feeling mostly recovered mentally, and completely recovered physically. I am going to help Mark Hudon bring his gear down from the top of El Cap tomorrow morning, and then I think I'm going to head up on the wall on Saturday.

I'm nervous, but once I start climbing I know I'll be fine.

Difficulties that lie ahead:
Passing a team of 5 Koreans (wtf?!?!)

This team of 5, the "Team Extreme Riders", just topped out today on The Zodiac. Another flock of them is fixed to pitch 4, and will be up on the wall tomorrow.

So I have been sort of stepping outside of my comfort zone, talking to people, and asking for help. I talked to the big man Dave Turner yesterday for a few hours about solo speed climbing. He has climbed El Cap over 40 times, and has done some really gnarly stuff. It's cool, to see what is actually possible as far as big wall climbing goes... Aid climbing, is all about tricks... I got a few cool ones from Dave.

AHHH!!! I'm getting SO psyched. I'm getting that nervous exciting feeling like when you're 10 years old on Christmas... multiplied by million.

The BIG Linkup - Nose (Pt. 2) + Half Dome

20 hours in, some part of me shut off.. exhaustion, dehydration, and .. If I wasn't actively climbing or trying to organize our gear, I would fall asleep. I went far beyond what I thought 'exhausted' meant.

Nose: 8:28
Half Dome: forever
Total: 26 hours
54 pitches

Part of the joy and satisfaction from climbing is constantly pushing myself harder and harder. Our goal was to attempt to climb two grade VI big walls under 24 hours. The Nose on El Capitan and The Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome.
The Nose typically takes people 3-5 days.
The Reg. Route typically takes people 1-3 days.

Some people call it "big wall speed climbing". I think if you have to actually label us, we would be called the "two kids that are sort of good at climbing that try really really hard".

With all of the details and logistics sorted out, we were ready. Because of unknown conditions on Half Dome, we decided to do the linkup in the reverse order. Climbing Half Dome first avoids the Death Slabs approach, and the East Ledges descent off of El Cap, cutting off hours of hiking time.

HD -> Nose
Death Slabs descent (1.5 hours)
Approach Nose (5 minutes)

Nose -> HD
Approach Nose (5 minutes)
East Ledges descent (1.5 hours)
Now you have to approach HD AFTER you climbed El Cap
Death Slabs approach (2 hours)

Because of the huge snow field at the base of Half Dome, no one has started climbing it yet. Our plan was to try to get our personal best time on The Nose, and then if the Regular Route was in climbable, we would do it. We didn't have the logistics in our favor, but we went for it any way.

This time on the nose, we had to actually get up early (bummer). I was insanely nervous. 54 pitches, and a vertical mile of climbing, we had a huge day ahead of us.

I was really stressed, I couldn't help but have doubt and worry fly around in my head.. What if I don't climb as well as I did last week? What if I fall again and get hurt worse this time? What if I just can't do it?

"It's only one pitch at a time Cheyne, you're a good climber, you are ready, you CAN do this." I said to myself..

6AM, we started off. I was so nervous that I climbed the first pitch slower than I had the previous week. After 40 feet of climbing, my insecurities, nervousness, and doubt drained out. I felt strong, focused, and climbed harder than I ever had before on the route.

My first lead block, which puts us up 1000 feet up the route, I only used a gri gri for 10 feet on the second pitch while short fixing. The rest of the pitches I used the PDL (Pakistani Death Loop) method. The PDL puts you into far into the DO NOT FALL ZONE. The only thing stopping you from falling is a huge loop of rope, sometimes up to 100 feet, connecting you to the anchor. (Sometime in the near future I will demonstrate a few of the techniques we use in a blog post)

The Legs. Perfect hands = no need for gear :)

Photo: Uncle Tom
The Great Roof

Photo: Uncle Tom
Congested King Swing

 Headed up the glowering spot pitch. Colin's creative camera angle makes the slightly overhanging pitch look slabby.

We cruised up The Nose, passing 6 teams, and ending up with a time of 8:28. A decent number of the upper pitches slowed us down because of how wet they were.. given the conditions, we are very happy with our time.

Now that we were at the summit of El Cap, we were only half way. Normally people get to the top of their route, and have thoughts of pizza and beer in their minds as they make the slog down the East Ledges descent. Colin's parents were waiting for us in the parking lot to give us a ride to the mirror lake trailhead, along with sandwiches (aka 'sendwiches') and gatorade.

The Death Slabs were brutal. Whatever, it's just hiking. We started up Half Dome, which would later turn out to be one of the hardest things I have ever climbed. Colin and I were completely exhausted, but pushed hard. We were so tired that our plan of simul-climbing and short fixing fell through because of how tired we were, and resorted to pitching everything out, and jugging when possible.

The snow is 50 feet deep where it hits the wall.. 

A few hangups along the way such as tricky route finding and re-leading a pitch because of a stuck rope after a pendulum, we climbed all night. We only stopped to drink our last few drops of water and rack gear.

I checked the time.. 5:59AM.. tick... tick...
24 hours after we started our objective, we found ourselves only a few hundred feet from our second summit.
... tick... tick... 6:00AM.
I exhaled a sigh of disappointment. Only 3 pitches from the top, we didn't make it 'In A Day'.
The sun had come up by now, and we slowly, painfully climbed the end of the route. We finished with the time of 26 hours. 

My throat swelled up from dehydration and I could feel my enlarged epiglottis every time I took a breath. At least I already knew what suffering felt like. Our freezing night on The Scenic Cruise a few months ago prepared me mentally for this.

10 pm the night before we blasted off, I got a call from my friend Zach Parke's number. I had texted him a few hours before, asking if he knew of the conditions on Half Dome.
"Hi, this is Zach's Mom..."
My stomach dropped, I could hear in her voice what she was going to say..
Zach had been hit by a drunk driver on his bike, and died a few days ago. We talked for a few more minutes.
"I want you to know something," Zach's Mom said..
"Whenever you are climbing, you need to know that Zach is a guardian angel protecting you. Whenever you climb, a part of him will always be with you.." 

I didn't know what to think, I didn't know what to say..
The Big linkup was for you Zach. You were an inspiration to me, and you will be deeply missed.

Photo: Becca Skinner
Zach is left of me in the picture.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Nose, El Capitan (Pt. 1)

Colin and I broke our personal record on the nose.
1st time on route: 4.5 days
2nd: 14:56
3rd: 9:17

After carrying down an insanely huge load for Pass The Pitons Pete from a route that he bailed from (which he spent 6 days to climb 6 pitches)... Colin and I decided to climb The Nose the next day.  

(This post isn't complete. There are a few more details that I'm going to add, along with a video. I'm just impatient and wanted to post this.)

Ready... Set... Go!

With our logistics dialed and my technique sharpened, I was off. The first pitch felt hard, it always does. Rated at 5.11d, I think it's supposed to feel that way, especially for a warm up. I confidently short fixed every pitch, and placed the least amount of gear as possible. 

I climbed through the first 4 pitches (some of the hardest on the route) in 36 minutes. When Colin got to Sickle Ledge and reported the time, I didn't believe him.. I thought that maybe he was just trying to make me feel better about myself so I would climb faster. All I could think about was the mistakes I made. I even fucked up and "Z" clipped.... twice! I have never even done that before. 

A few days ago when we made a practice run up to Dolt Tower, I was disappointed that on the last few pitches I was too exhausted to free climb, and ended up french freeing (pulling on gear). I realized that I had wasted energy in several ways. 
This time, I focused on my breathing and concentrated on moving efficiently instead of 'fast'. I mentioned one of my previous posts that I thought that I would be able to knock an hour off of my time of 2:52. Quite disappointed I didn't quite cut an hour off, I climbed the 1000 feet in 1:53 :)
To be honest, I didn't actually think I could do this, but it was just a poor attempt to make myself look badass. 

Leading up the Stove Legs

 Colin up off of Dolt Tower

Colin leading up the boot

Cluster of NIAD's at the boot

The the pegmatite bands, also known as the "Grey Bands" on El Capitan, is where the perfect splitter cracks are intersected by loose shitty rock for a few hundred feet.
"FUCK!!" I yelled as I was spit off because of the mistake I made. I had pulled off a piece of loose rock and lost it. At the mercy of gravity, I fell 20+ feet and slammed into the slab below, hurting both of my ankles.
I sat there hanging in my harness as the pain slowly faded until it was bearable enough to start climbing again.
I got right back up to the same section and committed 100%, not letting my fall take control over me.
"Way to get after it again man!" Colin yelled up to me
Yelling back, "I'm not going to take no for an answer!!!"

Back cleaning the roof traverse

Dalton leading up the roof

Chillin at camp 6

Colin headed up The Changing Corners pitch, the last crux of the route.. sopping wet.

These times are insignificant, and actually don't mean anything. They are just for me personally to sort of watch my improvement. A year and a half ago when I climbed The Nose for the first time, the very first pitch took me approximately the same amount of time it now takes me to climb 1/4 of the entire route.

So, weather has been weird this whole spring, I'm sure that you are sick and tired of me complaining about it. Rain and snow forecasted the next few days, so we left to climb climb at Jail House Rock.

Rainy day at the bridge

Tending to my swollen ankles in the ice cold Merced River. I couldn't stand up for more than 5 minutes without my ankles hurting too much. I hobbled around for the next few days, they're finally feeling mostly better a week later. 

So, I marked this post "Pt. 1" because Colin and I are off to climb it again tomorrow morning. This time we are extending the climb to the base of Half Dome. 54 pitches under 24 hours, wish us luck! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1st

So, part of the reason I wanted to start this whole blog thing was sort of document my journey through life and climbing. Yeah I write about how I climbed _____, it was cool. I went and climbed _____, it was scary. There's so much more to it than I could ever explain. Like how much of a crazy mental game this whole experience is. 
I am human, I do have issues that I constantly work on, and this entire blog is a glimpse at my attempt to figure out my life with climbing.. 

This is my life and it’s ending one minute at a time. Let’s stop fucking wasting it on being worried, being scared (the unhealthy type), and being sad.
I am way too strong and determined to let this take control of me. I am putting my head down as I am getting slammed into the ground. I am being taken advantage by the negativity that relentlessly swarms around my head.

I'm having a very difficult time getting out what is in my head right now... for that reason, this post isn't written neatly formed paragraphs.. 

It is not my personality to be easily irritated or frustrated. I am a loving person who wants to live every moment of life to its greatest capacity.

At least I’m not on some goddamn sunny beach somewhere. This is what makes me live. This is what makes me human. This is what helps me realize how enormous the idea and reality of happiness is.

Appreciate the chaos.. everything is black and white. You either get up a climb or you fall. You succeed or you fail. You're happy or you're sad. 
Appreciate experience of being cold, tired, scared. 
            These are the experiences that will help me truly appreciate life itself.
Think about the abilities I DO have, not what I DON’T have
Make calculated and responsible risks
Delete or diminish unreasonable or phantom fear
When I get scared, intimidated by what I don’t know, go back to why I love climbing
            Think about why I really do this stuff

Why I am motivated:
Wanting to overcome tangible obstacles like I want to overcome obstacles in my life
It’s challenging..
            If it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t be doing it, it wouldn’t be satisfying
            If the Nose was easy, if any El Cap route was easy... it would take away from the legitimacy and craziness of it all..