Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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!

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