Scott Deputy and I sat on the porch of his Search and Rescue tent and began the gear sort. These things always take a while, it's meticulous business sorting through every wire nut, light weight carabiner and cam, then haggling over the value of each and why we need it or why we don't.
It was warm on the valley floor while we pounded coconut waters, filled our water jugs with Cytomax and packed up the bags. Scott seemed a bit nervous and we discussed in detail the way that we would carry out all the details, bunny ears to fix the ropes, I jumar like this, you do it like that, I want these, you want those. Finally after several hours the bags were packed with water and gear and at least fifty packs of shot blocks and I headed for a swim.
I slept restlessly all night, feeling abnormally nervous and apprehensive. Carmen reassured me that I would feel fine as soon as we started climbing. But what was it we were getting into? Another good friend of mine had pushed Virginia to Tangerine Trip a couple years ago, it took them 26 hours, Ammon and Gabe McNeely and Ivo Ninov, the best there are, pushed it in '03 in 17 hours 24 minutes for the speed record. I saw us falling somewhere in between, and that's a long day.
I don't know why I love pushing big routes like I do. I have a theory that almost all fun stops after 16 hours. I dread the sunsets, but have learned to embrace the night. I felt prepared for night climbing this time with my new mega headlamp, but there is always the hope you won't have to use it.
In the morning we headed to the base with a not-too-early 5.45 hiking start so we didn't screw our sleep too bad. Carmen helped us carry some gear up which was excellent, lightening our heavy bags. We plopped our stuff on the ground at about 6.40 and started racking up.
At 7.02 I stepped up onto the first piece and the whirlwind began. As I moved up the pitch I felt that the climbing was fairly safe, always seeing what I thought of as a good piece of gear somewhere close below. This let me plug and chug on my pieces, bounce testing things as little as needed, trusting the placements and moving on.
Four and a half hours later I was nearing the end of Virginia, finishing up the last and best pitch of the route and traversing onto the Tangerine Trip. Another 3 pitches and Deputy would swing in, pushing for the summit 800 feet over head. It seems so easy when you look at it like that...
Deputy had seemed a little nervous most of the day, but as he pushed up onto the final pitch of climbing he seemed more comfortable than he had in the morning. The sun set while he was approaching the end of the pitch. I watched the stars come out, flashed my headlamp at people in the meadow, and cheered up at Scott. The line was fixed and I took off jugging the last pitch.
One more quick scramble of free climbing, a scary move I had forgotten about, and another jaunt of scrambling put me at the summit tree. Scott came flying up, grin on his face, I pulled the bags over the edge, he pulled the ropes. I grabbed the watch, 9.00, 13 hours 58 minutes since we started. It felt good to turn El Cap into a day climb...