Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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.

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