Friday, June 19, 2009

More pointless clock-racing

Another report from the world's most beautiful tourist trap: Yosemite!

Today (Friday) is a rest day, I'm lounging around the employee housing common room (really plush) doing laundy, dishes, and internet nerding. Resting because yesterday was a big one: Half Dome! My partner for this adventure was again Scott E, of Canon City, CO (who you might remember from our speedy ascent of the Nose a few weeks back). Scott had just gotten back in the Valley from SoCal, where he was hanging with friends, wife, and baby, and watching the Lakers win.
Scott and I like to climb fast together, so on his first day back we picked an easy line to get back in the groove. We did The Moratorium (4 pitches, 5.11b) and continued up the East Buttress of El Cap (13 pitches, 5.10). I got the leads on Moratorium, since Scott had already been on it and I wanted the onsight. It was rad! It follows a huge right-facing corner system and is sustained at 5.10 almost the whole way, with one short 5.11 crux. I led it in two pitches, onsight, in just over an hour. The route ends on a big ledge, far on the right margin of El Cap, where it has devolved from the striking 3000' majesty of the Nose to a merely 1000' lower-angled ridge. The East Buttress follows this ridge, and has a short (but tricky) 5.10 crux down low, with mostly 5.5-5.9 climbing up the heavily featured terrain to the top. We led it in two blocks, Scott taking the first one and me simul-climbing behind. Around midway we traded, with me leading, doing a mix of simuling and short-fixing. The route went quickly, with only short delays due to passing a party and climbing slow on the wet rock (nearby Horsetail Falls was getting blown onto the route, making it feel like a water-park ride). We topped out by 3:30, just a little over 4 hours for the entire link-up (17 pitches according to the guidebook). We were stoked, and ready to take on a bigger challenge.

So, Wednesday night we start the hike up to Half Dome. The plan is to sleep at the base of the route and fire it in the morning. We make a hearty meal, try to ignore the persistent mosquitos (who knew they hung out up there), and quickly got to bed. There are a few others bivied there also, and they wake up before us and start the route in the twilight. We take out time making breakfast and racking up, spotting both parties a two pitch lead.
When we're finally ready, I take the lead. I pass both parties without incident within the first four pitches, and I end up leading (with Scott simuling) to around pitch 7. I say "around" because somewhere in there we got off-route, and I ended up climbing some mega-dirty hand crack, and then traversing around for a while on ledges. Scott came up, made fun of my poor sense of direction (it was seriously confusing!), and got us back on route.
Here the route became more well-defined, and we made good progress with Scott in the lead. He took us to the base of the chimney pitches (pitch 12-ish), and I took back over. Here I started short fixing, which meant that I could finish a pitch, pull up the slack, fix the rope, and then continue climbing as Scott ascend the fixed line. I knocked off the next 8 pitches, including the free crux Zig Zag pitches (11d-12a) with a mix of free and aid. Scott wanted to top us out, so he took the lead just before "Thank God" ledge, a really cool feature. It's a narrow sliver of granite that formes a ledge 40' long and just a foot or two wide. You start simply walking along it, but it quickly gets too narrow, so then you crawl for a bit, and then finally end up with your hands on the ledge hand-traversing. Scott then got stuck in the true crux of the route, the narrow 5.8 squeeze chimney. Scott's a built dude, and his manly chest had trouble fitting through the tight slot. Then more delay as Scott gets to the ledge at the end of the pitch and finds another party just starting the next pitch. They had spent a cold night on a ledge about halfway up the route, and now their belay was consuming every possible piece of gear on the ledge, so Scott has no choice but to sit down and wait. 40 minutes later, their leader finally finishes the pitch and after much wrangling, their second managed to clear the belay (I shouldn't give these guys a hard time, they were super nice and it was their first big-wall/aid experience). Scott builds our belay, brings me up, and quickly navigates to their next belay, where they graciously let us pass.
The tourists are in sight now at the top of the wall, and we're motivated to finish up. One last 5.8 pitch and some wandering traversing has Scott clearing the lip and joining the hikers on top. I have to follow, which is complicated by our inability to communicate (with Scott a ways back from the lip hunting for an anchor). Finally I pull up and we're done: 8 hours 40 minutes.
We're pretty happy with our time, considering it was our first time on the route, but we know we can do it way faster if the conditions are right.
Finishing Half Dome in a day was especially gratifying to me, since I listed it as one of my top ten climbing goals this year. On a thread here, I listed my goals for the year, and with the year a little more than half done, I'm a little more than half done with my routes.
Here's the List

In Eldo:
Jules Verne (onsight)
The Evictor (not done, I've put in some effort, but it's really hard)
The Wisdom (not even tried yet, hopefully this Fall)
Doub-Griffith (onsight)
Also in Colorado:
Wunsch's Dihedral (redpoint)
D7 (not done)
Scenic Cruise (not done)
And in the Valley:
Reg NW on Half dome IAD (Heck yeah, 8:40!)
The Nose, IAD (Done, 14:06)
Astroman (Done, onsight)

So I guess I've got some work to do when I get back to Colorado in the fall. The hardest one might be D7, which is on the Diamond of Long's Peak at 13,000'. It won't really be in season by the time I get back, so maybe it'll have to be a winter style aid ascent...

I guess since I'll have bunch of time for climbing over the next few months, I should make some more goals at some of my potetial destinations. Here goes:

In Yosemite:
The Crucifix
Seperate Reality
Tales of Power
The Big Linkup (Nose and Half Dome) in a day
Bachar-Yerian (probably not, since I value my ankles, but we'll see...)

Tons of Stuff in the Sierras:
Positive Vibrations
Red Dihedral
Mt. Russell
Mt. Whitney

In Squamish:
The Grand Wall
The Freeway
The University Wall

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