Tuesday morning, 9 am. Nurse Janet says: “
“Robert, I need to quickly move camp sites. Let’s leave in 15 minutes”.
It’s a brutal 2 1/2 hour hike up. It’s absolutely cooking. We are huffing and puffing up the switchbacks. My toe is throbbing but still attached. We didn’t bring enough water. I am thinking of Janet. A school group of 10 kids and teachers comes past us. Robert hits them up for some water. We are back in business, the day is saved.
30 minutes later we are at the Spire. We are all alone. Not a soul in sight. Great!
We abseil down into the notch. Two minor problems. I forgot to bring down the third rope. Plus our 2nd rope has gotten jammed. While I jumar up to get rope #3 Robert retrieves the stuck rope. Back in business again.
We start the climb. It’s pretty straightforward, this is an aid climb. I am climbing in my Evolv approach shoes as my toe is too sore to handle my Pontas. (Grade of the route is 5.12b or 5.7C2). There are pitons, bolt hangers, bolts, fixed nuts, plus I place the occasional cam or nut in a pin scar to get to the top. By accident I do what Robert now calls the “Ningo variation”. We were supposed to go up this horrible, daunting 5.9 offwidth, instead I climbed around it. All good. 2 hours and 3 pure aid pitches later we arrive at the top. Sandwiches, grilled Chicken, Cliff Bars. Yummie.
Now we have to figure out how to get across on the "Tyrolean Traverse" that this climb is so well-known for. We each had our own theories on how to do this. On the way up Robert trailed the 2 connected abseil ropes fixed to the rim abseil anchor. We eventually decide on a rigging method that should work. Off we go, traversing across the divide. Yihaa! Nice and airy. An hour later both of us are standing safely back on
Check out the full article, photos and video on http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/12/BAC213FROA.DTL
Another phenomenal site: the daily El Cap report. Complete with photos taken with a telescope. I kid you not. http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=696319
We have met: Alex Connold (free soloed the Rostrum and Astroman in a day, as well as Half Dome), Yuji Hirayama from Japan (El Cap speed record holder with Hans Florine); Dean Potter; Timmy O'Neill (the funny guy from return to Sender); Beth Rodden (can't believe how tiny she is); Chris Macnamara (author/owner of the Supertopo, the good topos we have been using). Incidentally, Yuji and Hans are currently working on a new record). Check out the photos, article and video on http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/12/BANN13F038.DTL.
All these famous climbers are in town as part of a Festival called the Yosemite face lift, where all the climbers help cleaning up the place.
We are at the base of El Cap, the first pitch of the Nose. Robert wants to take some photos of me for First Ascent, one of my sponsors. We couldn't find a third person as a belayer today, so we have to improvise in order to not get any "butt-shots". Robert has rope-soloed up the first pitch and abseiled down halfway. It's my turn to rope solo up so that Robert can take some photos of me horizontally. I start off, and about halfway up the pitch I look down to see that my rope is gone "Oh fuck, where's my rope?" I shout out. I must have run out of rope and the end pulled through my Grigri that I was using to self-belay. Luckily the pitch was really easy and Robert's abseil ropes right there.... The photo shows Robert holding the end that I was attached to.
We have been thinking about it for days. Over a cup of tea at 9 pm the green light decision was made. (there was a whisky involved as well). We are going to do The Nose in a day. It's a 3 am start at the house. We are roping up when we hear this huge rock fall. Not on top of us, but still terrifying. It lasts for 15 seconds, but seems to last forever. By 6 am we are climbing. Pitch 1 and 2 flew by. We pass the Norwegians. It’s getting light now. Then we pass the Americans. There is a roped soloist ahead of us. He knows what he is doing because he is motoring. He is climbing it all twice and still we are unable to catch him. We free a lot of it, with the odd french free moves inbetween to maintain speed. We swing leads. And then we did some swinging. We are climbing with Snort’s superskinny 8.1 dental floss ropes, where you have one to top rope/swing off and second rope is for hauling our haul bag (15 kg: 8 liter of water, 4 frozen cokes, duvet jacket for forced bivvy, potato salad, lots of sweets, Clif Bars, lots of Ibuprofen and local anesthetic). I am really psyched when it’s my turn to lead the Stoveleg pitch (Pitch 8/Grade 5.8), it’s an awesome-looking handcrack in a Sea of Granite. I do a full 60m, running it out about 10m because the hand jams are so good and because we were carrying a very light rack so there wasn’t more gear. Snort leads Pitch 9. The American party leader, Zak that we passed catches up to me while I am belaying. I had met Zak in Camp 4 before. He had lead all the pitches up to this point, so he is tired and now it’s his partners turn. Zak is planning on spending three to four days on the wall. We better hurry. Snort finishes his pitch, all the rope gets pulled, Snort shouts “On Belay”. I take my right shoe off the biner and put the shoe on. I then have to sort out some ropes for the hauling. That’s done. Now I reach for my left shoe. It was there. It’s not there. I look on the left side. It’s not there either. I look at Zak. “Can you see my shoe anywhere? I seem to have misplaced it. Are you playing a prank on me?”. Zak now does a hanging belay body search.. He confirms that it is gone. At that point we both simultaneously look down 300m. We both realize in an instant that we not going to see a single lonely climbing shoe at the base of El Cap. With a slightly higher note, Snort now shouts “On belay, you can climb now”. We don’t even have walking shoes so we both realize it’s game over for us. We did a lot of hard work getting to this point and I feel really terrible about this. We abseil off and waiting at the base patiently on top of a nice rock is my left foot Evolv Pontas lace shoe. Somebody saw it falling it out of the sky and didn’t think it was useful booty. All in all a rather embarrassing moment on The Nose.