Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hidden Dragon

Here is a youtbue video filmed by Daniel Folk. The belayer is Matt Thomsen. The route is a OW roof located in the Red River Gorge with a gnarly lip turn and is rated 5.12c.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tangerine Trip VI A2+, El Cap 11/07

Onto the final climb of the year, Tangerine Trip once again with Ivo. The fall weather was still holding and was no excuse to pack up and head elsewhere so Ivo and I decided to huck one more lap on the Trip to see what we could do with our time. Any better than our previous 16 hours and we'd both be happy. Still the goal was 10 hours or so.
This time we would climb the route in 2 blocks. Ivo lead us through the traverse and this time he found a better way to clean it. Ivo put leaver biners on all the pieces so I could just lower off the anchor and not clean it at all. Huge time saver!
Ivo got us to the ledge on 9 in 6 or so hours! So we were on pace to do nearly what we wanted. Everything on my block went well until the start of pitch 12. I short-fixed like normal and put myself on belay with 25-30 feet of slack so I could move quickly. The first move off the anchor was a huge reach to a fixed nut so I top stepped and got it after a little struggling. I raced up my ladders to get the next piece and as I top stepped the piece blew!
I then took a 40 footer onto the anchor with no screamer. Oops. It felt like getting hit by a truck. The rope was behind my arm so when it came to it snapped my shoulder really hard and I was bloody from sliding down the wall as I fell. I screamed like a kicked dog and was sure my arm was broken. Ivo told me to stay put but I awkwardly jugged to the anchor and waited for him. I hate hanging from ropes! At the anchor I self-medicated and thought about what to do. My arm wasn't that bad and adrenaline had me all jacked up.
I declined Ivo offers to lead and set off on the pitch. It took him most of my lead to get the clove hitch I just welded in the fall to come untied. I had to place a head to get where the nut had been and then proceeded to weld a pin its place! My shoulder hurt the more I kept climbing but it was gonna hurt no matter what so I kept going. We finally summited after 13.5 grueling hours. It was dark when we topped out and we then scurried about the summit to find warmth and water. Walking down could wait till morning for sure.

Zodiac again, I know 10/07

I know, I know, there are lots of routes so why repeat one many times? Because it is so damn classic! Once again I team up with my good friend Lance for another crack at the route.
By now I have this thing super dialed and Lance offers to let me lead the whole thing to see how fast we can go. Per usual we hike up and get a restless night's sleep at the base. We wake around 7 am and get going quickly to maximize daylight. We're climbing by 8 am and cruising! Again we take a break on top of the black tower to power up and get our heads straight. Other than that I never see lance! I backclean too much and he has to do some crazy swings but other than that no epics. We cruise the route in 8:30 flat and are on top by 4:30 pm. We scramble to get our shit packed so we can spray to all of our friends in daylight!

Aquarian wall VI A3, El Cap 10/07

This time around I team up with my Canadian friend Alik who I haven't seen in a few years and is also my age. He has similar taste in walls and we quickly decide on the aquarian wall on the southwest face of El Cap. A new route for both us and we're psyked.
We're at the base in no time and doing battle with the ringtail that feels entitled to our food. He can climb better than us so what he grabs is his but I'm bigger and capable of wielding rocks. So we continue the hang at the base despite the rodents and lay out all of our gear for the morning. We get a decently early wake up and slam some yogurt and bagels for a quick breakfast.
We get off to a good start with me leading the first block in no time flat. The climbing is ok but fairly chipped. Lots of chipped heads alongside shiny new bolts. Ok climbing by slab aid standards and pretty easy. Alik gets some awkward free and aid climbing leading us past timbuktu. I take the lead here and get stumped quickly by a blown circlehead. Shitty placement in bad rock and the head won't stick no matter how hard I try. After many failed tries I whack in a shitty blade and quickly get to the fixed pin farther down the feature.
This leads us into the night and some more awkward climbing. Weird water grooves with thin cracks in the back, not really free climbable but not easily aided either. These almost stop us cold. Alik requires 4 hours for one lead but it was warranted as it looked strenuous as hell and it was dark. After this we hit familiar terrain at thanksgiving ledge and climb quickly off the west butt escape. We top out in 26 hours and just a little worse for the wear. Nothing a few days rest won't cure.

Washington Column South Face, 10/07

Corbin is back from work so I have another psyked partner! We want to try the H-dizzle/El Cap linkup but the short days are kinda a buzz kill so we decide on something easier. After mulling it over in the lodge amphitheater one morning we decide to for the south face of the column. Good afternoon climb right?
In our usual slightly cocky style, we neglect headlamps. Its only a grade V though right? We leave the lodge after noon on our bikes headed for the awhanee. We stash our bikes and head up the trail to the column. We bring less than 10 cams, one 30m rope, 1 aider and jugs with aiders, and a liter of water each, that's about it. At least it makes for a light casual hike.
Corbin leads off with me following 100 feet below him on our mega short rope. Trying new things you know? We cruise past easily 7 people on the first 3 pitches, simuling the whole time until we hit dinner ledge. Once again we pass more people on the southern man bypass. At least everyone is willing to let us pass!
Here is the only place our short rope fucks us. We come close of not reaching a belay and that slows us down. After the aid is over its all good again and we're flying again. We cruise the remaining pitches and tag the summy just before dark. 5 hours after starting!
The descent was run at mach speed to beat the darkness but by the end I'm using my cell phone and Corbin a lighter to make sure we don't rush off the edge of a cliff. But it's all good and we're back in time for a lodge store dinner!

Zodiac solo, 9/07

Corbin had to go to the Needle's to work for 10 days so I had to fill my time in another way again. Well whats a wall climber to do when you're bored? Go climb another wall! All year I've wanted to solo the zodiac ridiculously fast. 18 hours is good but I knew I could do better so I tried again.
This time I'm going super light. NO bag just a 2 liter camelbak and what food fit in my pocket, one 9.7 mm 70 m rope and a rack that I kept paring down till it was almost gone. OK, not almost gone its still a nailing route but by now I didn't bring any superfluous pieces. If I don't place it why bring it?
The plan was simple, use the loop belay system. Not the standard continuous loop soloists use. This works more like a rappel when you pull the rope through an anchor but from above. The system works like this-tie into one end of your rope, thread said rope through a rap anchor or leaver biner, tie into other end of rope, climb the pitch backcleaning everything!! and then pull the rope from above, rethread the rope and repeat. I used this method for almost the whole route. By doing so you face a 120 foot fall when you leave the anchor and a 230 factor two fall if you whip near the end of the pitch. Rule number one is don't fuck up and fall.
Again I did the direct start as it is way faster than the original and allowed me to link to the top of the third pitch bolt ladder and build an anchor to rap. I went down cleaning only select pieces on the way down and then jugged up cleaning it all. At the rap anchor I left one oval taped shut on a bolt, threaded the rope and began hooking to the 5.10 free climbing that leads to the 3rd pitch anchor. At this anchor I again pulled the rope from below me and rethreaded it through the rap anchor. I then free climbed the 5.6 traverse and then the arching C1 to the next anchor backcleaning as I went. From there I pulled the rope, rethreaded and repeated it for the next pitch bolt ladder. Then again for the next pitch that leads to the base of the black tower. Here I built an anchor, threw out 40 feet of slack and started free climbing up to the top of the tower. here i started aiding on beaks and angles, reached the anchor and rapped. I continued lead/rap/cleaning all pitches in the grey circle as opposed to the loop belay due to the difficulties. This was problematic on the nipple as I had to do all sorts of trickery to clean the pitch. At the mark of zorro I resumed the loop belay method and used it for the rest of the route using anchors when I could and biners taped shut when I couldn't.
I reached the top in 12:52! I was stoked to chop 5 hours off my time even if I did fall short of my sub 12 hour goal. The route is still waiting for me to try again.

Nose again, El Cap 9/07

Corbin and I were on a roll and we knew it. As soon as we hit pavement after h-dizzle we began hatching more plans. What next? The Nose again of course! This time we took 2 days rest before going again.
Same plan as last time except a 9 mm rope and no rap line, just a 50 ft tag line. We got pretty much the same start as last time around roughly 7 am. Again we scrambled to the start of the route and Corbin took off with the first lead.
This time the first pitch was exciting. I was digging in the bag for something not really belaying well. Corbin was running it out as usual but then screamed falling. I had easily 30 ft of slack out just laying on the ground, oops. My first instinct was to grab the rope with my hand so I did. I held the fall in my left hand on a 9.4 mm rope without ever locking the grigri. It wasn't very hard and i only got burnt a little, Corbin was fine! Pretty fucked up on my part but Corbin was none the wiser until I told him. He said it was a normal fall and thanked me for the catch! Back to the task at hand.
We climbed the same blocks as last time and took the same breaks this time as last but we were much quicker. We were at dolt in 3 hours this time and watched a sunset from the summit! Both of our first daylight ascent of El Cap which is pretty cool although we had to hike down in the dark. At least by now I have the trail dialed! 12 hour ascent this time around, can't wait to hack more time off it or add another route to the day now!

H-Dizzle again, 9/07

After the tempest I didn't rest at all. The day after topping out I went to the base to clean up and retrieve gear as well as accompany Ivo as he started. The day after that I went up top and carried down my second load from the tempest. One days rest and then Corbin and I set off to climb H-Dizzle!
Its cool for me to climb with people my own age as it doesn't happen all that often. Corbin is 2 years younger than me and just as stoked to climb. We decided on half dome since we had just done the nose together.
We didn't leave the cafeteria until almost noon on the day we blasted, coffee has a strong grip on us both. We then rode our bikes to mirror lake. I felt sorry for Corbin who has a homemade low rider chopper bike he made himself. While it looks cool, energy efficiency is not quite the result. We ran up to the base via the death slabs and got ready to go again.
This time I lead the start and got 8 pitches before getting held up by a team and then running out of rack. We stopped and swapped leaders here and kept simuling until big sandy. There we swapped leaders again and I took over to the top. Half Dome's regular route has got to be my favorite route in the world! We summited at dark and ran down by moonlight to the base and our waiting shoes.
At the base we ran into some super cool dudes from the canary islands. Rasta looking dudes and nice as hell. They gave us food and water and then sleeping bags for the night! Awesome guys, they left us early in the am to start the route themselves. After the sun came up and warmed us, we slowly gathered up our stuff and headed down very tired but very happy. 6 hours on route ain't bad either.

Tempest VI A4+, solo 9/07

My bro Bobo shows up in the valley with his mom near the end of August. He has everything ready to go solo a new route on El Cap, or so he thinks. He asks me if I will simul solo a route near him, something we have tried but never completed many times before. Then we run into our good friend Matt from Nevada at the bear boxes. 2 years ago we convinced Matt to solo Lurking Fear for his first wall ever. He borrowed what he needed and seriously stepped up to the plate and sent like a mother fucker! He didn't even know where the east ledges were so he hiked down the falls trail and resigned himself to never climbing el cap again. Every man can lie to himself on such matters, with in a year he was back and soloed Iron Son! We knew we could convince him to join us!
We all began hiking loads together to the base of our respective routes, Dave-Dawn Direct, Matt-Mescalito and myself-tempest. We all started out getting ready at the same pace. Then Dave slowed as usual to accommodate for women and such distractions. Matt and I continued on near identical paces. Then Ivo wanted to solo a route too! Four soloists on the face within spitting distance of each other!
Ivo adopted more of Dave's pace and Matt and I blasted without them. We kept pace the whole time. It was cool to have someone suffering alongside you but still getting to solo. Dave and Ivo would blast as we summited nine days later.
Tempest was beautiful, golden granite, steep as fuck and hard aid nearly every pitch. I adopted a casual pace, not too early to start and never climbing past 3 pm. I really enjoy the time in the portaledge plus it was scorching hot, think climbing on a mirror in the sun all day, fucking gnarly. The climbing was fun and hard. Nothing SUPER-dangerous but still huge fall potential on some pitches.
Only minor epics on the wall. I got off route mid way and climbed one hundred feet off route on hard aid only to have to reverse the whole traversing pitch. I almost shit my pants near the top and proceeded to shit on some of my gear while Spaniards on the summit watched. And worst of all I got sun poisoning. My face and arms blistered so badly I was unrecognizable to my friends. It remained that way for almost 2 months.
The route was great and Matt was great company, ask him about rice and water if you ever meet him. We summited with 10 minutes of each other and hiked down to greet Dave and Ivo right as they began their respective routes!

NIAD 5.9 C1, El Cap 8/07

I'm still super stoked! I happen to run into my buddy Corbin slacklining in Camp 4. Immediately we hatch a plan to climb the nose on El Cap, a route neither of us has ever done. We run to the cars before dark sets in, rack up by headlamp and head for the meadow bear boxes for my pre-big wall favorite meal, mac, cheese and tuna. At 5 am we get moving and hike to the base of the nose's scrambling start. We make sure to grab the essentials for any in a day attempt his nalgene bottle (its real special) and the ipod and speakers. We start off from the ground at 7 am.
Since Corbin is a stronger free climber than I he gets the first half of the route and I get the second half because it is more aid climbing. Corbin flies up the pitches arriving at dolt in less than 5 hours. We decide we deserve a break and eat food and listen to tunes for an hour. Then we saddle up and get climbing again, almost immediately we lose a cam and my half aider. Oh well. Corbin leads past the king swing and stops at the ledge before camp4 to switch and brew up again.
After another nearly hour rest hiding from the sun at camp 4 we get moving. I lead off in high spirits, we're flashing El Cap in a day! The pitches slide by and the climbing feels easy. We stop once more on Camp 6 for awhile to enjoy the last ledge before the top. The only thing slowing us down is the god damn 2 10.5 ropes we brought. We couldn't commit to one rope and neither of us had a smaller line. Whatever, just more coiling and shit at belays. We top out at 2 am and stumble around the summit in bare feet before settling in at the trip for a few hours sleep.
We staggered down the east ledges with no shoes in high spirits. That is until Corbin ripped the front of his toe off on a rock. Oh thats why you bring shoes for the descent, now i get it. No I don't. I still don't bring shoes but maybe Corbin will. 17 hours onsite!

RNWF of H-dizzle, VI 5.9 C1 8/07

Emboldened even more by my successful column solo I decided to solo the reg on h-dizzle in a day. By now I hardly need rest days and take maybe 2 before I packed all my stuff up and hiked the death slabs to Half Dome. I settled into the base and read Hans' book on speed climbing. I didn't bring it, I just found it up there and decided it couldn't hurt right?
There was gnarly rock fall almost hourly coming off the route by late afternoon. I was furious! I yelled, screamed and threatened the culprits though I had no idea who they were. I took cover under the biggest tree I could find, rocks fell randomly across the base. Then out of no where a blood-curdling scream from high above me. It was so long and shrill I expected a body to come down along with it. Then total silence. Way eerie.
4 AM. I hear voices on the wall for the first time since the scream. They are calmly asking for a rescue it seems. So I call up my SAR buddies Scott and Cam on my cell phone to see what's up. They relay the message that a rescue is about to happen and that I should turn and head down. No sense in being under a rescue if I don't need to. Too bad I didn't hear more from those guys as I could have called in a rescue 10 hours earlier! Oh well, I took the SAR advice and headed down just as the voices on the megaphone started. I wasn't done with Half Dome though so i left all my rack and gear up there at the base.
The very same day I ran into my good friend Greg. He was on SAR and knew all about what had happened. We shot the shit for a minute on our bikes near the lodge. He planned on soloing half dome the next day. We decided we had better go to the bar to further discuss our plans.
We settled on a plan to do the route together the next over crown royal and coke. It seemed silly to retrieve my gear without climbing and why would we both solo it on the same day? We would meet in the cafeteria for coffee the next morning and then hike up together.
We rode our bikes from the lodge to mirror lake and crossed not so much as a puddle to get to the death slabs. We smoked up the trail in no time flat arriving at the base to find it empty. Funny how a rescue will clear things out!
We started the first pitch before noon and simul-climbed forever it seemed. I lead with Greg taking the more dangerous job of following. We simuled for 8 pitches before I got any rack back and even then we had maybe 12 pieces for pro. I kept going all the way to big sandy before stopping again. We only short-fixed once entering the chimneys. We swapped roles and Greg took off short-fixing the rest of the route. We ran into a couple 17 year olds after thank god ledge on their first wall. they were happy to let us pass and congratulations flew all around.
The route took us 5 hours. It was amazing to cover that much ground that fast as this was my intro to simuling. We ran back to the base and and then descended the death slabs again. Damn that was fucking fun!

South Face, Washington Column V 5.10 C1, solo 8/07

I had a crazy idea brewing in my head. I told no one and named it the half-man link-up. My goal was to solo the column via the south face and the leaning tower's west face. I began by driving to Bridalveil falls parking lot at 9 PM so I could sleep and start in the morning. Except wait, the parking area has no overnight parking. And the roads are all screwy from construction. That kinda put a hitch in my desire. So I slept in Camp 4, and then slept in too late. Then in my demoralized state I wandered over to the cafeteria with my buddy Rich for coffee. As usual I had way too much caffeine as usual. It gets me mega psyked though.
S0 at 12 pm I set off on my bike towards the awhanee with the goal of still soloing the column as consolation. I ran to the base of the familiar route (my first wall 3 yrs ago almost to the date!) I started up the first pitch with a puny rack and trailing my 70 m rope as I went. I then linked all I could to get going fast, rapping/cleaning every pitch. I took the southern man bypass to avoid the kor roof this time. I didn't know anything about it but took Eric Sloan's advice on it. I don't know if it is better or not. It may be harder to lead but is easier to clean, I'm sure. Once again I entered No-thought and cruised up the remaining pitches in a haze of free and aid climbing. I soloed the final pitch and stopped the clock at the tree.
6:38, fuck yeah! I ran jubilantly down the north dome gully toward certain fame and reward for getting the solo record! Not really, I just emailed Hans and he put it on his website! wink.

Tangerine Trip VI A2+, El Cap 8/07

I was 0n a roll. I couldn't stop, I wouldn't stop. I had a terrible thirst for big wall adventure that I couldn't quench. So once again I hooked up with my best bro Ivo for another run up the Captain. We decided on the Trip so we could try and break the record of 10:58. Nothing like trying to one up our friends Cedar and Ammon, just a bit of friendly competition. We were ready in no time all that was stalling us was our inability to round out our safety kit. We wandered all over the valley in search of the needed supplies. Finally we procured our gear and headed for the base.
After yet another restless night we started up the route. Ivo took the first block and got us through the wandering lower pitches with ease. Ivo did the downward sloping 4th pitch entirely by penjis! Awesome to watch him running on a steep wall to clip tat on pins. Not as awesome for me to follow. Mega-gripped about the quality of the tat and pins, I cautiously backed myself up alot on this pitch, eating up time as Ivo waited to switch leaders at the belay.
Finally arriving at the belay, I took the rack and headed off on the classic 5th pitch. Damn it's good. I lead until the ledge halfway up at pitch 9. The omega link cams were bad ass on these pitches! After another gear swap Ivo once again took over the lead 9 hours after starting.
We now knew it wouldn't be a record ascent but so what we're having fun! Ivo took us above the rotten corner pitch, thank god. I hate that pitch. No fun and rotten free/aid combo. I got the bolt ladders and summit arches. We topped out in a very respectable time of 16 hours. Not bad and my fastest ascent of el cap to date. So we scurried down and Ivo went off to the OR show in SLC for the week. I starting getting ready for another run up a wall!

Zodiac solo twice in one week! 7/07

After resting up from the shield, I was ready for another mission. I wanted to apply what I had learned soloing WFLT in a day to El Cap and the Zodiac seemed the best choice for that. I took the summer heat into account and decided on a 4:20 pm start so as to climb in the dark and top out before the heat of the day. I had tried this strategy 2 summers ago on the trip, zm and scorched earth pushes. It always sucked but for some reason I thought going it alone would be better.
I began hiking loads to the base right away. One my second and final load I drank a beer to calm my nerves while hiking. My mind is always going 1000 mph before something like this and I just wanted the voices of self-doubt to shut the fuck up. I didn't even think about the consequences of drinking a diuretic before starting but more on that later.
I hung with my buddy Skylar at the base while I racked up. He was planning on soloing ZM and it was nice to have company before launching, especially another soloist. Ropes were stacked and the rack was ready nothing to it but to do it. I said goodbye to Skylar and took a deep breath before embarking on a new style, speed-soloing El Cap. I felt strong despite the nagging doubts. Until now I had never climbed El Cap in under 24 hours. I thought it would be great to solo it before doing that feat with partners!
I climbed the direct start and linked everything I could with a 60 m rope. In a mere 4 hours I was at the ledge above the black tower. I decided to stop and smoke for a minute to once again calm my shaken nerves. I felt terrible though. My arms were cramping very badly from leading/rapping/hauling each and every single pitch. I decided it wiser to settle in for the night than risk getting tired in the middle of the gray circle. I've had my share of hanging in a harness all night at an anchor and wisely chose to avoid it. I needed the rest badly anyway. Young Buck and G-unit lulled me to sleep.
In the morning I awoke early and got ready to go again. Ropes both go in the rope bucket/haulbag, rack on the gear sling, helmet on my head and I'm ready to go. By now I know these pitches well and cruise the rest of the route climbing similarly to earlier. Lead/rap/clean/haul every pitch! I feel very good when I arrive at peanut and rush through the final pitches. I am greeted on top again by Ivo and Dean. We talk for a while but I am more interested in getting down to something cold before the stores close. I really hate vending machine dinners after something this intense but all to often it is a reality. Luckily I avoid it this time having climbed the route in 26 hours. But that's not the end...
As happy as I was about my performance I still wanted to speed solo the Cappy in a day, sub 24 hours. So I immediately began preparations to solo the Zod again. I rested two days in El Cap Meadow before hiking another load to the base. This time I committed to a wiser style.
I slept at the base this time and started at 6 am instead of 4 pm. I also linked pitches like a mad man. I tied my two 60 m ropes together end to end and lead 400 foot pitches each time I possibly could. With my pared down rack this involved tons of back cleaning and rope tricks. Only for the gray circle did I not link more than 60 m. I believe I climbed the route in 7 rope lengths.
I fell into a thoughtless state. I just climbed without thinking about it. It was amazing, a synergy of mind and body I had not achieved before. Before I knew it I had arrived at peanut ledge! I went crazy, yelling and screaming and then finally realizing that it ain't over till its over. I calmed down and lead to the top in one pitch. After rapping and cleaning I sat on top with a time of 18 hours! I felt great despite the fact I slept with my legs under the rope and a t-shirt and a rope bag around my upper body for the night. At dawn my good friend Kate called me to ask about carrying a load. I was ecstatic and couldn't contain my pride and joy and spilled out the details of the climb in one run-on sentence! After 17 El Cap routes I had finally summited in a day and all by myself to boot. I literally ran down to revel in the glory of my achievement among all 3 climbers in the park!

Shield VI A2+, El Cap 7/07

Ah, the dog days of summer have settled on the valley. Most of the camp 4 denizens had either gone to Tuolumne or some other fair weather climbing locale. Only those that can't or won't leave remain. While lazing by the river one day Lance and Ted inform they once again have time off. Sweet, another El Cap mission. We've been discussing the plan for some time, we're all hot for the Shield. Mega classic climbing in arguably the best location on El Cap. The plan is roughly the same as the NA climb to a ledge, sleep in your puffy jacket (at most), wake up do it again.
Lance and Ted have done the free blast before but I insist on climbing it anyway. If you jug 1000 feet of a wall then climb 2000 feet you should just climb a smaller wall. Cheating in my book but no one has to follow my book. Ted offers to boot up for the whole free blast as Lance and I jug behind with the bags. Much to our surprise our friends Josh and Ian are doing the exact same plan! They are well ahead of us with a 3 AM start so we just get to follow in their fresh footprints.
The climbing is without incident each pitch flowing into the next. We arrive at mammoth in the heat of the day. The sun has taken quite a toll on Lance so we bed down for the rest of the day hiding from the sun. Turns out Josh and Ian bailed but left water so we drank ourselves water drunk. Such a great bivy, huge and flat with many options for leashless bivying.
In the morning we are woken by a team of well known climbers, George Lowe and Conrad Anker! They were attempting a one day ascent of the salathe but had dropped a jumar and other crucial gear so were bailing but gave us more much needed water. We may have underestimated the left side in summers blazing sun. After chatting with the guys we each go our respective ways. Ted leads us to grey ledges where we swap leaders and Lance takes over until the roof pitch. From here I get the honor of leading the entire headwall at night arriving at chickenhead at 2 AM. Actually it was really fun, great climbing. It had been cleaned a little bit so big peckers worked great on every pitch including the groove and the headwall scars.
We slept peacefully due to the exertion only to be disturbed by me in the middle of the night. I saw lights in the meadow and assumed it was tool patrolling for ob campers and since one of my favorite things to do on a wall is get my aggression out, I began yelling at them for quite some time. Only afterwards did I realize it was the moon reflecting on puddles of water in the meadow. Oops, still got the aggo out of me!
At dawn we rose and began preparations to get off the route. The top out is straight forward and easy where it joins the magic mushroom, so we cruised the final pitches no problem. Amazingly we were greeted on top by Lori, Dean, and Ivo! Its very rare to have that but very welcomed. Its nice to share the El Cap buzz with friends on top! We finished our business of hauling and hung in the sun with our fellow monkeys until the desire for cold beverages overwhelmed our minds. Once again we packed our shit and ran towards the river for a dip and a drink .

West Face of Leaning Tower V C2, 6/07

After all my routes with partners I started to miss my preferred style of climbing, solo. So I set out to solo a moderate wall I had never done. The leaning tower seemed like a good choice as long as it wasn't a gumby conga line. I had attempted it 3 years prior with Matt in our big wall gumby season in 2004. We had gotten to awhanee no problem but I pussied out on the traverse pitch for some reason. I wouldn't get on a black alien or something so I complained about bogus missing fixed gear to save my fragile ego. We bivied and then tucked tail and ran back to camp with tales of exaggerated aid horrors for a beginner route. Ah, the learning curve.
This time, with a little more experience (20 walls) on my side so I decided to solo the route in a day. Because I was flat broke and out of gas I rode by bike from camp 4 to the parking lot. Bad idea, ropes and rack get in the way of the chain really bad if you're careless. After much frustration I arrived at Bridalveil Falls ditched the bike in the woods and began the slog up to the wall. I was way lost the whole time. Cairns are bullshit, only those who are lost build them. If you know where you're going why would you build a cairn? They are a trail of lost people following each other through the woods.
Upon scrambling out the traverse to the start of the route I set up my nights bivy. Sleeping bag, check. Food and water, check. Safety kit, check. Sweet, I had the makings of a nice night out on the ledge 400 feet above the deck. I wasted away the evening listening to Tupac and G-unit until darkness and sleep finally came.
At dawn I readied myself for the days adventure, luckily the rack is tiny and I can carry it on my harness. I stack the ropes in my ghetto blue tarp rope bucket and set off. The first pitches sail by in a familiar sea of bolts and granite. I link the pitches below awhanee into 2 and cruise up to this spectacular location. I hang out eating food and hydrating to avoid the deadly cramps one gets from this amount of exertion. I check my ipod for the time and it has only been 3 hours so I hang out for quite some time soaking up the view.
After rousing myself from the ledge I build an anchor and set off on the traverse, now the new terrain begins. I cruise the pitch on ample if not shitty fixed gear linking again two pitches into one. The route is great, easy aid in a overhanging position with a view not found on other valley walls. The next few hours lead me to the roof and then the ledge near the top.
I again lounge on the ledge for far too long enjoying the day. To my morbid delight I find a ranger doll on a noose hanging from the anchor! Fucking hilarious! After laughing my ass off for quite some time I solo the easy final pitch to the summit. Upon topping out I realize I have no idea where to go. With a mixture of down climbing and rappelling I reach the obvious gully descent. Again with a mixture of rappelling and 4th/5th class down climbing I reach the base of the route. Only 8 hours on route so I'm super stoked. I gather my things and rush back to my bike and pedal my way to the lodge to for an its-it ice cream sandwich and a burrito.

North America Wall VI A2+, El Cap 6/07

My first four routes of the season had taken a huge toll on my body. My hands were a mess and I was forced to rest for two weeks until I could heal up. As soon as I could you better believe I began scrambling for partners once again to feed my big wall granite addiction. I was able to snare Lance and Ted away from their jobs in Yosemite West to join me for another lap on the Cappy by mid-June. We racked up and headed for the base first chance we got. Our plan was to climb as far as possible on day one, bivy and then summit late on day 2. Hopefully hitting the cyclops eye or big sur as a back up.
Lance and I had done the route in 5 days last fall and were psyked to be one a historical mega classic again. It seems most people don't like the NA so much but I believe it to be a great moderate big wall. The difficulties arise more from its wandering nature than the fall potential. It is a logistically challenging route more than anything else.
The first four pitches are some of the most difficult aid climbing on the route but we flew up them no problem. I relinquished the lead at mazatlan to Ted. The next pitches were a mix of aid and free, not too difficult but definitely cool. Then Lance led us to big sur by early afternoon. What now? Rest and then keep climbing into the night or just hang out and enjoy the view?
We had a unique perspective on our friends Pete and Kate on WSR so we decided to chill for the rest of the day. It is surprisingly easy to laze away the day on a 10x20 granite perch a thousand feet in the sky. We milled around on the ledge and scoped the next days climbing until darkness fell and we settled in with only a rasta-bivy bag each to keep us "warm."
Dawn came and the climbing continued through the traverses and penjis to gain the black dihedral. I lead the dihedral and the roof almost all the way to the cyclops eye before mid afternoon. Once again our big wall laze and haze enticed us to spend another night on the wall instead of a grim night suffering summit-ward. Food, water and other essentials were holding out so why not get another hassle-free bivy, a yosemite rarity? No tool to wake us up here.
Again we greeted the day with a wake and bake in the sun and I set out on the traverse out of the eye. After gaining 5.7/c1 climbing we again swapped leads and hurried to the summit. I truly despise the NA summit pitches and was glad to give up the lead. Ted and Lance pushed the rope higher until finally gaining the summit tree in all its glory. We threw gear in bags in a rush as we could hear the cries of the victory beverages in El Cap Meadow.

Zodiac VI A2+, El Cap

For my fourth wall in two weeks I recruited friends Matt and Lance for a run up the Zodiac on El Cap. We planned on crushing the route and only brought minimal supplies, no belay seats and light rations so the hike up wasn't so bad. We crashed at the base at like 2 PM for a siesta before the nights festivities commenced. After much beer and mac and cheese we settled in for a long and apprehensive night.
We awoke to a lightless morning and began the blast off procedures. Bags were packed, racks organized and final flat ground goodbyes said. I took off on the original start as I had done the direct previously. I found good climbing on this pitch heads and cams as well as more than a few pins. Clean climbing has its place but bomber pins sure as hell feel better to me than dodgey nuts especially on a push.
Several pitches later Lance took over the lead until the start of the black tower. At this leader swap we decided to hang out for more than two hours baking in the sun and enjoying our spectacular view. Not exactly speed climbing but enjoyable as hell. The white circle must contain some of the coolest climbing ever and I lead through these pitches in total bliss.
At the nipple I handed the lead back over to Lance, hey i can't have all the money pitches right? All the while Matt had the terrible task of riding the pigs each pitch which personally is more terrifying than any lead. I hate bouncing with the bags over what in my mind are always razor blade edges. Actually last year when climbing this route with some wall-gumby friends of mine we almost lost a member to a cut rope on pitch 8. My then partner Jason went against my advice and just hucked off the ledge above the black tower without lowering out. His 9 mm static rope ran across edges and became lodged behind a flake with a huge core-shot visible only to me. I told him to keep jugging and with more than a whimper he passed the spot. The rope was cut more than half way through. Lower out if you have any doubt.
Well after getting to Peanut ledge, we were all kinda pooped and darkness began to fall. So in our "shove" (as opposed to a push, coined by Tom Evans) style we settled in for another bagless night on a ledge. One of many this year for me! I had the unwelcome honor of leading the next pitch with 2 number 4's. nothing like C1x for breakfast. Another two pitches gained us the summit and our summit beer. Nothing like a little can of luxury after a hard 28 hrs work right?

Dihedral wall VI A3, El Cap

After H-Dizzle I was fully feeling the Valley-psyke and was eager to jump on another route ASAP. So I hooked up with the most psyked climber I've ever met, Ivo Ninov. After tossing around a few ideas for what to do next we settled on a push of the Dihedral wall. Neither of us knew much of the route other than that mega-bad ass Tommy Caldwell recently crushed the route and free climbed it at a stout grade of 14a. We had no intention of freeing the route, we just wanted to blitz another route on the Cappy.
So with much deliberation and consultation of the McTopo we settled on our supplies and hiked up to the base of the dihedral by headlamp with my cousin, Matt. We hung out eating mac and cheese well into the night to put off the sleepless night surely to follow.
Many alarms and reset buttons later we rose well after light. We quickly racked and drew straws to see who led first. Ivo won the first block and scampered up th 5.6 start and the ensuing left leaning dihedrals. I believe we climbed the entire route with left ascender on top to ease the cleaning difficulties caused by the left-leaning nature of the route.
I took over the lead around pitch four and continued several more pitches until the ledge on pitch 9 where we would again swap. We sat down for a casual can of chili and candy bars before Ivo resumed climbing. I sat on the ledge weighing the options of continuing. 16 hours had brought us 9 pitches of elevation so we weren't exactly gonna nail a daylight ascent. Ivo called out lines fixed and i responded with "how bout bivying?" I know, I know sleeping violates the first rule of speed climbing but I foresaw an epic in the making if we continued without sleep. So Ivo consented, rappelled and settled in for a suprisingly comfortable bagless night on the rock. I'm sure the rasta-bivy kit and music helped.
As the sun rose, so did we and soon enough we were pitches above our nights perch. Somewhere along the way I dropped my aider into the forest thousands of feet below which made the route a little more challenging but hey you gotta keep it interesting right? Again darkness began to fall as we neared thanksgiving ledge.
The pitches right below thanksgiving have to be some of the worst groveling on El Cap. Ivo led with multiple headlamps and swear words in many languages to get us to our nights rest. Wide OW, dirt and wandering crack systems gained the glorious ledge where another team was already bivied. They greeted us with praise for going so light and we corrected pointing out our speed or lack there of. All their gear strewn about the ledge spoke of their stay on the wall. That being said, all ascents are equal as long as its all smiles on top! Alex Lowe nailed it with the comment "the best climber is the one having the most fun."
After a fitful few hours of sleep we continued on the west buttress escape instead of the grovely, disgusting finish to the Dihedral wall proper. A few free pitches gained us the summit slabs and we quickly strolled across the summit towards the east ledges and valley floor.

RNWF of Half Dome, 5.12

After a few days rest from the Virginia mission, I hooked up with Lucho Rivera to support him on a free ascent of Half Dome. He was moping around the meadow complaining about a partner bailing so to save the monkeys from his endless whining (kidding dude) I offered to support him on a ground-up free attempt on H-Dizzle. I told myself before arriving to not turn down any good offer to climb this year and having only bailed from 4 pitches up 4 years ago on the route, I was eager to get back on it.
After briefly discussing plans we hurriedly threw a rack together and headed for Happy Isles trailhead. For some unknown reason we hiked the 7 mile trail up to the shoulder of half dome instead of the easier so-called death slabs up the front side. Even with burdensome loads we cruised past dozens of hikers all in awe of our plan. Next time I hike that way I'm putting the rope IN the bag to avoid the unavoidable tourist questions. Y'all goin' repelin'? You climbing the face to the top? Are you crazy?
We arrived at the shoulder mid afternoon and set about procuring a flat rock to BBQ on. Notice a trend? We settled in for a cold and windy night of cooked salmon and hot dogs. Our plan was to rest and hike a load to the base to save ourselves for the climb the day after. So we shouldered our packs and did a quick recon/stashing mission to the base. No one in line for the route and the spring was flowing, just what we wanted! We returned to our bivy at the shoulder and continued with our resting plans for the rest of the day. The day of the climb dawned colder and cloudy, not exactly nice for a day of climbing.
Undeterred we trudged over to the base to begin our long day. The start of the route went well with Lucho freeing all the pitches through the Higbee-hedral. After a quick rest at this ledge he continued onto the 11c/d corner pitch. He lobbed off going for a horn but quickly finished the pitch. After cleaning I arrived at the belay to a decidedly unpsyked look on Lucho's face. After a quick pep talk he decided to rap and top rope the pitch. With nary a word he walked it on tr. Still he wasn't that psyked anymore so I took over the lead.
After sandbagging me on the difficulties and a failed attempt on 5.9 in my approach shoes I switched over to free shoes and continued through to the Robbin's traverse near half height. We bailed on the free variation and took the easier bolt ladder/pendelum as it didn't involve down climbing. Several chimney pitches and a British team later we arrived at Big Sandy.
We got safe, drank some water, munched salmon and then continued up the zig-zags. As I called off belay on top of the second zig-zag Lucho began pleading to stop and rap to Big Sandy for the night. I never would have consented had darkness not been approaching and the fact that our friends had bivy gear stashed on the ledge that we could hunker down in for the night. Thanks Kate and Madeline! Thank god for the Brit's that gave us lemonhead candy, as I had no water and no chance for more until getting down from the summit.
Morning came hardly soon enough and we were on our way. After jugging our 70 m rope and tossing the jugs back down to Lucho we continued up. I had the privilege of belly crawling across Thank God Ledge as I had never done it before. An undignified crawl and a flared OW lead us to the last of the difficulties on H-Dizzle, a slab with hard free in between bolts and a penji to the scramble of a top-out.
We were greeted by the requisite tourist questions of did we really climb the face and if our mothers knew what we did for fun. More importantly though, they offered us food and water! After downing a sandwich and a swig of water we ran back to the cables descent. Employing a standard monkey trick, we ran down outside of the cables to avoid slowing down only to be greeted by a grandmother-type calling us adrenaline-junky assholes! Whatever. Back at our camp we quickly packed and then ran down the trail to certain glory. Well maybe not but ice cream and pizza none the less.

Virginia VI A3, El Cap

Matt and my plan was to jump on the Zodiac as soon as possible so as to get a good lap on the Captain as a warm-up for the grand plans embedded in our heads. Our grandiose plans had to be postponed by at least a day to revel in the glory of El Cap with the monkeys at the epicenter of the center, El Cap bridge. As monkeys will prove time and time again, no plan is solid enough to withstand the many variables of Yosemite. Our crews infectious enthusiasm for climbing changes a plan to quickly to keep up with; routes, partners, ascent-style, and cliff are all interchangeable as long as the stoke is there. After an invite to Dave to join the climb we began discussing route options. Both Dave and myself had climbed the Zodiac before and wanted a new tick on the captain to get the season rolling so we began tossing ideas around. The Trip is okay but I'd done it 2 years ago so Bobo offered up the idea of Virginia instead. A six pitch variation to the start of the Trip, Virginia has steep aid, thin nailing corners and a much more direct start to the upper pitches of Tangerine Trip. A plan was hatched, topos copied and gear hastily strewn about the parking area in a hurried attempt to get on the big stone. Haulbags were packed lickety-split and soon enough Stealth rubber hit the trail in our quest to get a grade VI wall in ASAP. After a sweaty hike under grueling loads we arrived at the El Cap Hilton to commence with base preparations and a tasty base BBQ. I'd love to say our party carried on late into the night but with an alpine-start planned for 5 AM our weary minds and bodies could hardly muster a word after darkness set in. As with all nights before a climb my mind couldn't still itself enough for a second and constantly ran through the variables of the next day. Did we bring enough water? Are my aid skills up to par after a winter free-climbing hiatus? Are we gonna epic massively? The alarm didn't wake me up as I was already there but merely reminded me of what had we had begun. After downing bagels and cream cheese and more water than a stomach can handle, I began the first block of three pitches. The start is a ledgey scramble leading to a tree and rivet to gain the roof and crack system higher up. After watching several parties start this pitch in the past I was able to avoid the common route finding mistakes on this pitch and quickly reached the anchor a mere 40 feet above. I backed up the one bolt anchor with a nest of expanding lost arrows and short-fixed both lead and haul lines. The next three pitches blend into a seamless blur of memories in my mind. After my block Bobo Dave took over the sharp end to push our team higher still. He advanced the rope as I furiously cleaned below him and Matt took the gnarly task of going out on the haul line with the pigs and hauling. One memory that stands out is giving Dave tension to penji over to the Trip corner system. The swing was to b executed from an original Virginia anchor comprised of three rusty 1/4 inchers which I had to talk Dave out of short-fixing from. While swinging wildly to reach the crack system Dave suddenly dropped several feet, a bolt had popped! The hanger spun down the rope and without missing a step Dave swung again and the added distance from the fall was just what he needed to reach a bomber handhold. Good thing we didn't belay there! The hanger remained clipped to its draw as a reminder for the rest of the route. After reaching the Trip proper we continued to the small ledge belay atop pitch 8 to swap leaders. Matt took over here while Dave and I had a joint chiefs of staff meeting to discuss our safety levels. While Matt did battle with the pitch Dave and I enjoyed our stoney view of the valley only to be disturbed by sounds of a rescue. We kept hearing something about a cell phone being yelled on a loud speaker and responded in confusion. Our cries were met by our friends Kate and Mike nearby on Lost in America, they were as confused as us. Eventually we decided the rescuers were yelling at someone on the Nose and we returned to the task at hand. Only after returning to the ground did we learn that a climber had taken a horrific whipper onto eagle ledge and had compound fractures on both legs. An amazing rescue effort between YOSAR and a CHP helicopter were able to save both the injured climber and his partner. Hats off to the crack SAR team here in the valley! After Matt's block I resumed the lead and climbed a few more pitches by headlamp through the many wandering bolt ladders of the Trip headwall. At daybreak Dave took over the lead for the summit pitches and soon enough we had escaped the vertical and were laying one again on flat ground! A hurried divying up of gear and a summit smoke got us on our way towards the east ledges descent. A hop, skip, and 26 hours after beginning we arrived in manure pile to be greeted by the welcome sight of the shuttle bus to carry our beaten but upbeat bodies back to the bridge and all the following glory.

Yosemite 2007, the beginning

The 2007 season began with its most arduous push, the 3000 mile drive form eastern Kentucky. After many Red Bull's, coffee and peanut butter sandwiches Matt Thomsen and myself finally arrived in Yosemite at 1 AM. After cracking our victory beers, we walked to the tree in El Cap meadow to get our first moonlight glimpse of the captain. We cautiously approached a writhing mess of crashpads and sleeping bags. We gave a requisite monkey call to determine friend or foe from the pile of gear and slowly a dirty, bearded face emerged to return the call. Our monkey calls were greeted by no other than Bobo Dave! He clamored out of the cocoon to greet us with a toothy grin only to expose the true reason for the illegal bivouvac, a blonde was hiding under the covers! After introductions all around and quick updates on our whereabouts we sat and watched the glorious moonlight captain until sleep deprivatoin made fools of us all. After quietly 4th-grading his beer, Bobo and his mistress slipped into the darkness for a more secluded view. Drained by our 36 hour adventure, Matt and myself took no more than one sip and we both quickly slipped into sleep, our plans for the season vividly running through our foggy minds.