Well the summer went great. I spent a long time (1 month) in Yosemite after
graduation from the Univ of Nebraska. I was working on a trip report for
it, but just haven't gotten around to finishing it. We did a lot of free
climbing (E Butt Mid Cath 12 hrs C-C no lunch, Royal Arches 8 hours C-C,
many others) and tried to do S Face of Washington Column (V 5.6 C1F) but had
to bail on P5 because we were taking too long.
I am at medical school in Loma Linda, CA. It is 1 hour from Tahquitz and
1.5 hrs from Joshua Tree (near LA). So I have been doing a lot of
climbing. I am leading 5.9's without much hesitation to jump on a 5.9 and
leading 5.8's very comfortably. This is a trip report of the West Face of
Leaning Tower in Yosemite that I did with Len, a buddy from San Diego just
last weekend. It is rated V 5.7 C2F. Leo Houlding freed the upper pitches,
but since I don't free climb at 5.13, we aided it.
Wednesday. I finished my Cell Biology midterm at noon and drove to the
Valley with Len. We pulled in around 10pm and did a little bandit camping
100 yds into the woods away from the Bridalveil Falls parking lot. The
weather was beautiful (50-55 deg at night) and we woke at the first hint of
light. This was Len's first time in the Valley.
Thursday. Time to climb!! Racked and approaching at 7:30am. The approach
is about 30 min of 3rd class boulders then 20 min of 2nd class along the
wall, then we spent like 30-60 min portaging across some exposed 4th class
to get to the start of the route. We had the pig repacked and we started
climbing at 11am. The entire route is overhanging with the exception of
P5-6, so there was much lowering out of the bags.
Pitch 1-2 (62m) Yeah, that's right 62m. I was about 15' from the anchor
when the haul line went tight. Len tied the lower out line to it and had to
climb up 2 bolts to keep me on belay. I set up the anchor and started to
haul for the first real time in my life (I practiced at Devil's Tower but
that royally sucked). The greatest thing about the LT is that it is
overhanging so hauling is a breeze. Our bag was light enough that I could
leg haul it. I also dropped a pair of Yates Aiders ($60) from about 3/4 of
the way up the pitch because they came unclipped from my daisy. I will
ALWAYS clip them to my harness from now on. We didn't recover them. The
pitch took about 1.5 hours to lead since it was totally fixed. As I was
leading, some dudes from Venezuela came up their fixed line. I asked them
if Roberta was with them and they said yes. Roberta is this BEAUTIFUL girl
from Brazil that I met at Tahquitz the weekend before. I never got to see
her this time but she is amazing and a hard climber too (5.11 trad and
climbed in Patagonia (Fitzroy?)). I got a pic with her, but didn't get her
email (or hand in marriage). Too smitten to think right I guess. Ohh well.
One of the dudes she was with was bitching about the traffic on the route
(yeah right) and they decided to bail. He had a bad attitude. It's a gumby
route, there will be traffic. A Japanese guy was soloing above us and we
were the only party between them and the ledge. Whatever.
Pitch 3-4 (50m) These pitches were 1/2 fixed and 1/2 nuts/small cams. I
got up to our bivy ledge around 4pm, fixed the rope, hauled and started to
unload for the night. We were supposed to fix the next two pitches (140' to
ledge), but decided to turn in for the night. I am glad we didn't. See
later. The bivy ledge was about 10x4 and sloped in at about 10 degrees.
Great one for sure. We watched our future buddy from Japan fixing the next
pitch he was doing (Wet Denim Daydream V 5.7 A2 SOLO). We shared a great
ledge with only the 3 of us there. Much better than if we did it in May.
However, it would have been nice to snuggle up to Roberta. Around 11pm, we
heard from the top of the route,
"THE BAG'S STUCK, I REPEAT, THE BAG IS STUCK"
Someone was having a little trouble that I hoped we didn't have to face.
DAY 2 Friday. Pitch 5-6. This pitch traversed out right for 80' then came
back on some 5.7 to a bolt ladder to a totally hanging belay. Eventhough I
bent a cam hook (Josh at Pika Mtn is getting an email about that one) and
almost shit myself going free for 20' in my crappy hiking boots and a full
aid rack hanging off me, what happened next made it all worthwhile.
As I fixed the rope and got ready to haul, Len said there was a dude who
wanted to pass. I told Len to just clean it and we would let him pass at
the belay. Len said, "No dude, this guy is MOVING!!" So when his partner
finished cleaning P3-4, she jugged our haul line, the leader started to
clean my lead, and Len jugged the haul line. I was just hanging out when
this cute Asian girl comes up. I ask her name, and she says, "Julie". I
said, "Are you Julie DeJesus??" She said, "YES!" I said, "I thought you
looked like...yourself." Julie was on Rampage and on the cover of Climbing
so I recognized her pretty quick. This was her first wall with her
boyfriend, Chris, who has done 43 walls and has done the Nose in 14 hours.
Solid for sure. I showed her how to haul and I hauled both bags. Chris
cleaned my lead in like 30 minutes and was there before I got all the ropes
stacked. He handed back our gear and we made a deal that we would haul
their bag too if we could join them and jug a line instead of leading the
last 4 pitches. He said, "Sure." So Julie belayed and I helped her with a
little rope management while Chris lead. Len just got to hang out and enjoy
the view of YosemiteLand. Chris finished the lead, Julie cleaned, and I
jugged our haul line. Len got the ever pleasant job of lowering himself and
the pigs out while on Jumars and not having adjustable daisy chains (Those
are the ticket in my book).
Pitch 9-10: I join Chris and Julie cleans ever so quickly. So there we
are, hanging out on this sloping ledge. Julie on my left sitting in her
nice aider seat, Chris on my right sitting in his nice aider seat, me
quickly making an aider seat to take the pressure off my hips, and Len
jugging the haul line. I put Chris on belay and he starts leading the next
two pitches. Len comes up and hauls. When Chris gets up, he hauls his bag
and our haul line on a 9mm tag line, and Julie starts to clean. We worked
it out so that Len would jug our haul line on belay with their lead line,
then I would jug on our haul line on belay with our lead line. Just to be
backed up since the haul line had previously rubbed on an edge and wasn't
quite so new anymore. As darkness falls, I am still at the belay. I don't
know what's going on above (hard to hear) but Len and I have a plan that we
are going to follow. I start to clean up the anchor when I know the haul
line is fixed just as the light dissappears from the Valley. I am on Jumars
and get ready to lower out. I am not sure just how long our lower out rope
is, but it's for sure at least 60 feet. Well, when I got to the end of the
line (doubled through a sling on a bolt) I just let go and went sailing
another 10-15 feet out over the Valley floor. I sure am glad I wore my
brown shorts!!!. So here I was, 8:30pm pitch black except for the stars and
cars (no moon) jugging a line with a fading head lamp. After an ETERNITY
and a few "Up Rope's" (fortunately I was on belay), I got to the top. Len
commented on how quickly I jummared that last pitch. I said something to
the effect of "Sheer terror coursing through your veins will do that!!"
Yep, that was the most scared I was in my life, for sure. So we went over
to the other great ledge to bivy. Chris and Julie had taken off down the
descent route since he had done it before and they were doing it in a day.
So we were finally at the top. Success sure is nice, but we were tired, and
hungry. After we got the pig up, we started to prepare our home for one
more night. It was another big ledge (6'x15' sloping OUT by 10 degrees). I
wanted to take a leak, but I just couldn't. I went in the morning of Day 2
and again at the last belay (6:00pm) but just couldn't go again. Our
Japanese friend who we could see for most of our route was tinking around
just a few feet below the ledge so we fixed our tag line to the anchors to
help him up. He got his crap up there then said, "See ya in a little bit."
He still had to clean. He was a really fast climber and he cleaned with his
bag hanging on his harness. That's a lot of work, but I guess it's better
than hauling. I don't know. We slept about 6 hours that night and got up
ready to do the descent. Len lead the last pitch of 5.4 (50') and brought
me up on belay with the bag hanging off my harness. If I would have fallen,
I would have pendulumed out into no man's land (no gear in) but I found a
crack that I could traverse. We brought our Japanese buddy Hiro up and
started the descent. Hiro had just done NA Wall and Zodiac, while Len had
never even seen El Cap. When we topped out it was Len's first view of the
Capitan. He was very impressed. It was about 300' of 5.5/raps then 8
single rope raps, then 1 double rope rap to pass a hanging station. We got
back to the car at 1pm ready to hit the sauce. We slammed some water and
Gatorade and stripped our slimy shirts off to reveal to the families of the
Bridalviel Falls parking lot the trim toned dehydrated bodies of Yosemite
hardmen we finally were.
Hiro was just waiting near the pisser so we offered him a ride. I got to
give Len the tour of Camp 4. A frenchie showed us (from the ground) how
Midnight Lightening went. We walked to the Mountain Room Bar and got some
beer, went to shower, then to Curry Village to get some Margaritas and Pizza
(and Beer, and Margaritas). It was getting on 3:30pm so we gave Hiro a ride
back to Camp 4 and I decided to take Len to climb on the Big Stone. Since I
was the more sober of the two of us, I lead Pine Line (1 pitch, 5.7,
Stoppers only) and brought him up. He loved seeing El Cap and hearing my
beta of the Nose (someday!!). I loved doing the approach and climbing on it
again. Although I don't live in the Valley, just being near/on El Cap
brings such warm feelings that have never been matched by any other place.
If you have never been to Yosemite, the first time you do the approach to El
Cap, you just don't want to go too fast, for fear you might miss something.
It is truely massive and is guaranteed to make your jaw drop.
We drove back up to Tuolumne and camped outside the gate. Then on Sunday,
we had Brunch with Julie and Chris in Bishop. He aggreed to give us some
lessons later on (Spring Break?) on aiding. Those two are really cool
people. Drove back to sunny SoCal ready to face Anatomy on Monday.
Aider seat: Clip the ladder style aiders around your butt like a sling to
sit in so you don't have to hang in your harness.
A better strategy would have been to approach leisurely around noon (or at
6am if it is hot), fix Pitch 1-3 and haul as much gear up as you can except
for sleeping bags. Get up on day 2 and jug to high point, then fix 5 and 6
off Ahwanhee ledge (Guano Ledge actually) and get to bed early. Day 3 get
up REALLY early, jug to high point, and finish and descend. Or you could
just get faster and do it right (in 2 days).
On the last 3 raps (when you have to walk over to the right 40' and you see
a 10' ledge 30' below you, rap on 1 rope over ledge to 2' ledge with a bush
anchor. Then do a 180' rap (TWO ropes this time and hang bag from harness)
so you can avoid a hanging station. All the pevious raps can be done with 1
rope but you might want to use 2 for the first chimney rap (hang bag on
harness) to avoid down climbing.
Have a lower out rope. It is nice.
Don't back clean the bolt ladders. It makes it hard to clean. Also don't
leave a tied off block for pro (pitch 5). Chris pointed it out to me that
if I fall, it may go with me. Not good.
I had 1 each of big offset nuts 7,8,9,10,11 but little ones would be nice
like the Supertopo says. You can do it without them, but there are many
placements where they would be nice.
Bring a big Fish hook for a cheater stick. It was helpful on Pitch 5 and 6.
Leave the rack at the belay before going free on Pitch 6. The Supertopo says no cams on pitch. They are right!! Just bring aiders, hauler, 20-30 biners for bolt ladder and some slings, and the fish hook. It says you can place a cam hook but I couldn't find a place for it.
Bring more water than you might need. Although the route was only in the
sun for 4 HOURS out of the day (LUCKY US!!) we were still dehydrated with
about 5-6 gallons total. Again, faster climbing will help.
If you don't want to bring 2 haul bags, you can put all the bulky stuff in
the bag and the rack/ropes in a big padded backpack (Arcteryx 90 is my
choice) for the approach. The descent trail runs right into the approach
trail, so you can pick up your pack easily.
I could go on and on, but as a whole, I think this route, although there is
more aid than S Face of Wash Column, it is more straight forward and more
enjoyable. It is fun, in the shade!!!!!!!, half is fixed, and easy to
haul. The descent is straight forward too, unlike NDG (which I haven't done
yet). Just get there during the week, get there early, and claim the best
spot on Ahwanhee ledge. Ohh yeah, there was a fixed rope between Guano and
Ahwanhee with a cheater sling hanging off it so you don't have to make way
too many 5.6 slab moves to get to the anchors. Len was supposed to lead
that pitch in his 5.10 Guide Almighty's, but wasn't feeling good. Thank
goodness for that sling. Put it back if you move it. It was a fun route
that I would like to do again if it isn't busy.
I hope you enjoyed my TR. I am now trying to work out a girdle traverse of
Tahquitz from Open Book to the top of Whodunnit before it gets too cold up
Paul "Addiroids" Addison
You know you are a TRAD climber when...Your rack is worth more than your car.