Sunday, November 13, 2011

First One Day Ascent - Scorched Earth

‘Alright, heads up, I’m getting on this hook!’

Ammon, stepped over onto the talon hook that was barely perched on a fingernail of rock.  He started laughing.  I remember glancing at Sky.

“I can’t believe its holding!” Ammon shouted.

I looked back down at the belay, clipping and organizing things, although I can’t remember what exactly I was doing.  Maybe trying to get Sky onto the belay?  Then I heard it, ping!  The unmistakable sound of a hook popping off its perch.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ammon go flying past the belay.  I looked down over my right arm to watch him fall another thirty feet or more before slamming to the end of the rope.

When we asked Ammon if he was Ok he told he had a rope burn on his arm.  “How bad?” we asked him.  “It’s not to the bone!” he yelled back.

After the fall, I admit, some hesitation and negativity crept in.  The mediocre belay, the bolt hanger that Ammon’s fall bent, the insanely steep wall, they all started creeping into my mind.  Ammon remained psyched, but I think a little 50 footer is not likely to turn Ammon away.  Plus, he had a point, isn’t that all the more reason to push on? 

I'll let the pictures do the talking from here.

About to go

Luckily a passerby warned me that
the first pitch is pretty spicy.

Whats he doing?


Hey Ammon, how's that hook?!

That good, eh?


The Lovetron.

The Big Brother

Steeper than God

Yeah, it's steep.

Jugging. Yay.

The Poison Pill

Son of Poison Pill

Our only ledge.  It was a nice one.

Stayin' comfy

It's still #$@%ing steep!

Sky takes over heading up wondering when
he will get to the Leavitator

Oh we're still psyched!

22:28 - First One Day Ascent of Scorched Earth

We slept here for about an hour.  I kept sliding down
farther and farther, but the rock was warm and felt so nice

We had a little mishap on the Leavitator.  Everything
was ok, but it was a little bit of a scary moment.

The De-Rack

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tribal Rite - A New Speed Record

Tribal Rite follows the yellow line, starting on the
Nose but breaking right at Boot Flake.
Photo: Mark Hudon

I was in the middle of my lunch break from my EMT refresher when Luke came by.  We were hoping for a speed record on Tribal Rite that coming weekend with Skiy Detray.  Looking a little distraught, Luke told me how his bike had just been run over at El Cap meadow.  Coupled with a rain-stormed journey up Lurking Fear, he was ready for new venues. 

I couldn’t blame Luke for wanting to take off.  Hanging out in the Valley without a solid plan or place to stay is, to say the least, difficult.  We had a pretty huge season and were ready for some free living and free climbing.

I knew I couldn’t bail on Skiy, I was committed; so we tracked down another friend, Kevin Prince, for the push on Tribal.  We knew Kevin would be fast and fun to climb with, even late into the night.  When Skiy and I started talking about the best tactics for gunning to Boot Flake with six gallons of water and a haul bag, the level of misery this mission would entail became clear.

The plan was for Kevin to lead us to Boot as fast as possible, Skiy and I jugging behind him with a backpack with three gallons of water each, clothes, food and other things.  This could be over 24 hours of wall climbing push if things didn’t go as hoped. We wanted to be prepared.

It ended up working out pretty much as planned.  We jugged.  The packs were heavy. It sucked.  But we did it.  It was hard, but we got to Boot Flake about half way up the wall (in terms of vertical distance) in about four and a half hours. That left nineteen hours to climb thirteen pitches and break the standing record of 23:33.
Photo: Tom Evans
At the Boot, we shared a stance with two Argentinian climbers headed up the Nose.  They were on their third day of climbing, and had three more days on the wall. We were on our fifth hour and headed to the top.  They seemed more perplexed at our objective than anything else.  Maybe they were wondering the same thing many of us wonder:  What are we doing? Non-stop? Why?!

Skiy took over at the Boot, leading out into some A3 terrain and then into the formerly A4 pitch. He navigated loose rock while Kevin and I chatted on about this and that.  Skiy later remarked about how casual the whole route was.  Not in terms of the climbing, but in terms of our attitudes. Chatting away at belays, laughing and joking, then exploding into a flurry of motion when ropes were fixed and upwards movement required.

Sky coming up on the grey bands

Passing through the grey brands
Photo: Tom Evans

Skiy put away four pitches of climbing quickly and efficiently.  On a nice ledge below the iconic feature dubbed ‘The Carrot’ I geared up to take us into the dark of night and through the next block of climbing.
Things go by in a blur at this point.  On hard pushes, once my block begins on these hard pushes I go into the zone, my eyes always feel like I am holding them open wider than normal.  My mental processing feels accelerated and heightened.  My hands move swiftly from cam to aider to fifi hook, to cam and aider again, up up up.

The pitches run together in my mind, even as I climb and think back to moves I just made I can’t always remember if they were on the previous pitch or the pitch before.  I think this is common for climbers: Many of us become ‘now’ centered machines, taking care of the task at hand, thinking of little else and focusing on quickly moving the team up the wall.  And this feeling, the hyper-focused state, is what I love. The hours of sitting in the harness waiting for my block melt away, and I become more focused than at any other time in my life.  The rhythm that I get into becomes a moving meditation, stilling my mind and that feeling keeps me coming back.

Three pitches from the summit, well into the darkness, Kevin took over for the final push to the summit.  Nineteen hours and forty-eight minutes later we arrived on the summit with a new speed record on El Cap and it felt good.  Sitting on the summit, despite how tired we were, we begin talking about what was next.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Eagle's Way - In Photos

Kevin Prince and I pushed Eagle's Way on September 23, just before the Search and Rescue Season came to an end.  It was only the second time we had roped up together but climbing with the Prince Factor is always exciting, despite forgetting all of our food, and Kevin sprinting back to the car, we spent 11:57 on the route...

Food Recovered, Parke 'Gunnit' Bags loaded.

A long way up...

Kevin quickly mixing the free and aid climbing up

I go now?

Steeper than expected

The Secret Weapons

Classic Kevin!