Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two Weeks to Go!!

Some of you may already know but for those of you who don't I'm heading back to Yosemite this month. Ever since I've been back from the Valley my psyche has been strong. I've been training all summer to get better shape for my trip. It seems like all of the sudden I look at my calendar and realize I'll be in Yosemite in less than 2 weeks. I'm planning on being there for about a month but it really just depends on how long it takes to get my projects done.

Upcoming Walls:

Nose In A Day (VI 5.9 C2)
Half Dome In A Day (VI 5.9 C1)
Sunkist (VI 5.9 A4), Octopussy (VI 5.9 A3+) or the Shield  (VI 5.8 A3)
Leaning Tower In A Day: Solo (V 5.7 C2)
Salathe Wall (VI 5.9 C2) or Lurking Fear (VI 5.7 C2+)
S. Face of Washington Column: Solo or In-A-Day (V 5.8 C1)

Free Routes (This Trip or Near Future):

Butterballs (5.11c)
Free Blast (5.11)
E. Buttress of El Cap (5.10b)
Royal Arches (5.7 A0)
Serenity Sons (5.10d)
E. Buttress of Middle Cathedral (5.10c)
Snake Dike (5.7 R)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Touchstone Wall, Zion

I've been putting this post off for a while. I did this route with Cheyne during our trip to Zion in March:

We had just topped out on Moonlight Buttress. We ran back down to the car with the haul bag, portaledge, ropes and rack. We dumped everything on the ground, turned on the music, and had a Blue Moon that a friend gave us on the drive out. Our celebration lasted one beer as we were having to put together a rack for Touchstone (V 5.9 C2). Our plan was to start early in the morning so we wanted to have everything racked and ready to go. We finally got everything done well after dark, hopped in the car and went to head out. FUCK. The car is dead. We left the music on and the doors open for clearly too long. With it being almost 9:00 P.M. in the middle of March there was nobody in sight that could jump us. Cheyne and I sat for a tense 20 minutes before trying to start the car again. Thankfully it starts. After a filling dinner we were approached by a very interesting, very hick man from Idaho who was in the area looking for his daughter. After explaining to us how he was saved by Jesus Christ he asks for some beer and weed. We give him a beer and he heads back to his trash barrel fire that had grown to about 6 feet high at this point. We set up our beds in the Jeep and try to get some sleep after our strange encounter. We locked the doors.

Alarm goes off. We go back to bed. We wake up to overcast skies thinking it's still early (again we had another high chance of rain for the day). It's almost 9:00. Alpine start it is. We make a quick breakfast and hop in the car. FUCK. The car is dead. Cheyne heads to look for someone to give us a jump since we are already running late. After another 30 minutes of waiting the car fires up on its own. We're finally off.

We finally start to climb around 11. The days are short in March with the sun setting around 7 so we both feel some pressure to move fast. As we are on the third pitch a team is just starting up the route.

Them: "Are you fixing?"
Me: "No"
"You're going to the summit!?"
"Oh. (A bit surprised since it's past noon) Do you know if we can fix the first three pitches with 2 60 meter ropes?"
"No idea. It's our first time on the route"
"Damn, good luck!"

I'm sure they made guess of how high we would make it before we would bail soon after. We made great time though, making it to the summit in just under 7 Hours.Cheyne and I short-fixed the entire route which was really fun. Normally when climbing, a leader climbs up while clipping his rope into gear he places to protect him from falling all the way to the ground. The whole time he is leading he is being belayed by his partner. Once at the top of a pitch, he builds an anchor, pulls up the slack and belays the lower climbing who cleans the gear as he progresses. This puts both climbers and their gear at their high point. In contrast with short fixing, the leader will lead the pitch placing gear as usual, build an anchor, pull up all the slack in the rope, and then fix, or tie off, the rope to the anchor. Instead of the lower climber being belayed he ascends the rope with handled ascenders or jugs. Meanwhile, the leader can now start to make progress on the next pitch with the slack that he just pulled up. There are two options for the leader now: he can either feed the rope through a device called a Gri-Gri that will shorten the distance of a fall or he can let all the slack loop below him. The latter is called a Pakistani Death Loop (PDL). If you fall while death looping, nothing will stop you until all the slack in taken in during flight. This results in falls anywhere from 10 to usually 50 or 60 ft. but can be much much larger depending on certain factors. The PDL is a lot faster but it's only used when you're not going to fall.

I don't remember too much about the route. I know that it was really splitter the whole way. Perhaps not as much as Moonlight but still the route is sweet. Above the second pitch everything goes at 5.11-. I'm awaiting the chance to go back and free the upper pitches. The weather that day was pretty bad. Gusts of wind would knock me sideways at the belay and often the rope would be floating directly horizontal at eye level due to the wind. It was cold. Good route though, easiest big wall approach ever, and the descent isn't too bad. We chose to go down the gully. It was really easy to find all the rappels even in the dark. Most of them were short with scrambling in between. The last two raps were made from hanging belays and there was no 5th class down climbing as the super topo indicates.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Prow, Washington Column

Psyched as could be that I was back in the Valley, I met up with Cheyne and Colin at El Cap Bridge the night I arrived. After dinner and a few beers we head off into the woods to get some sleep. First thing in the morning Colin says to me, "What do you think about The Prow?" I knew Cheyne and Colin would be out in the Valley but I didn't think I would get to do any walls with them this trip since everything they had set out to do this while they were there was in a day. After having a worthless wall partner on my last trip I was eager to get on a wall. I don't hesitate to say "I'm in". Before I knew it we were racked up hiking along the trail from the Ahwahnee. Finding the climber's trail up to the base of the column is pretty difficult. There is a big sign at the start of the trail but it's located behind a few boulders and impossible to see as you're hiking out. We missed it the first day and ended up scrambling and boulder hopping up to the base of the wall.

Colin and I With the First Load
As we hiked to the base there was a small part of me that was afraid . The route was technically more difficult than any other wall I had done in the past and friends had told me that it was sustained climbing. The logistics of moving as a team of 3 had me concerned too. Cheyne and Colin had done Zenyatta Mondatta in a team of 3 and gave me a 2 minute explanation of how it was done. I reminded myself why I came to the valley in the first place. To push myself. I was there to do routes bigger and harder than I had before. I realized the fear was my comfort level being pushed. Soon enough it began to really motivate me.

Our plan was climb the first 3 pitches of the climb then leave 2 ropes fixed in place in order to regain our high point the next morning with the rest of our gear. We had decided to each take 1 pitch that day. Colin started out with a 10b layback section to tricky C1. As I cleaned, Cheyne speed-jugged the free hanging haul line so he could start leading the next pitch. Cheyne started up what the topo said to be a C3 pitch. He cruised it claiming that it was only C2. He then decided to link pitches 2 and 3. This put us up on Anchorage Ledge. Done for the day, we fixed 2 ropes and headed back to the car.

Cleaning the First Pitch
Cheyne on Pitch 2

Feeling Good on Anchorage Ledge
Back down on the valley floor we packed the haul bag and cooked dinner. Dinner was interrupted by a short but intense rain storm. Within a half hour the gutters were flooded. Thankfully Mark Hudon and his partner John offered us a spot in their campsite in Upper Pines.

Equipped with two double portaledges and a six-pack of Old English Malt Liquor, we started our push to Tapir Terrace (top of pitch 8).

I took the lead first thing in the morning. Pitch 4 starts with a shiny bolt ladder which leads to C2 for the 2nd half of the pitch. There were a bunch of fixed heads on this pitch and a hook placement. Not a whole lot of opportunity for free climbing but I was able to get out of my aiders for 10-15 feet of the pitch. Once I finished Colin came up the haul line and started off on P5. The day before a party had told us there was a blown head on the pitch that forced them to retreat. We had a head to replace it but we managed to tap in a beak to the top of the head instead. There were no features to hook on or clean placements we could have made to make it passed the dead head. Colin gave a loud cheer and a "You have to look at this beak" once he was back on bolts. The beak was extremely shallow and easily came out by hand. The rest of the climbing was easy. We were also now in the shade since the sun hides behind the column after about 1 or 2 p.m. on that route.

Colin Leading Pitch 5

Clouds on Half Dome
As Colin is leading, I'm belaying and Cheyne is hanging out and taking pictures. We decide to get some music going. Cheyne starts to dig through the haul bag to look for the speakers and iPod we have with us. As I glance over I almost say "Make sure my sleeping bag doesn't fall out. It's right on top." I figured it was improbable that something that size would work it's way out of the bag and into the abyss. As I look up at Colin, I hear a loud boom. A quick look over the shoulder leads to the sight of a bright orange sleeping bag falling towards the ground. The boom was the compression sack exploding as it bounced off a ledge. "Dude, a sleeping bag? Really?" Bewildered, Cheyne looks over his shoulder and replies "Shit! Sorry" Too happy that I'm on a wall to give a damn, Cheyne and I laugh about the incident and forget about it.

Pitch 6 With a Floating Haulbag on Re-Animator
Cheyne made it through the "Strange Dihedral" pitch and linked it with the following pitch to Tapir Terrace. The Strange Dihedral was some of the easier C2 on the route. The rope drag was horrendous near the end of the pitch. Cheyne even back cleaned and slung out most of the gear on that pitch. He said once he was actually on Tapir Terrace he had to pull up rope by hand just to be able to move around on the ledge.
We all decided to get two pitches fixed above us while Cheyne stayed and set up the ledges. I took P9 which was rated C1 on the topo but was more like C2. I leapfrogged cam hooks for 3 placements and then moved into some more flaring pin scars. The C2 section was only 40' or so. This gave way to some 5.9 free climbing or really awkward aid. I made the mistake of not wearing climbing shoes on this pitch and took a while to make it through the loose C1 grovel. The anchors for this pitch is two pitons on the right and a really bad bolt out left. Thankfully there are places to plug plenty of pro.

Colin lead the majority of the 10th pitch via head lamp. The 5.10+ or C1 section was soaked an had to be aided. The rest of the pitch is a 5.0 gully which, even at night, Colin was able to move through really quickly.

Our PLUSH Bivy
Colin and I fixed the ropes and rapped down the the SWEETEST bivy. Two side by side portaledges, chilli in the JetBoil and Olde English Malt Liquor. Thanks Cheyne! After chilli-cheese burritos, we all relaxed on the ledge with music and Old E. With Old E weighing in at 7.1% alcohol, we were all unexpectedly drunk on a portaledge that night. Sleeping was even easier than normal that night.

Effects of Olde English Malt Liquor

With two pitches fixed above us and two easy pitches to go we had an easy morning with a great view of half dome. Hauling through the 5.0 gully was a bit of a drag but nothing terrible. We topped out around 11 a.m., polished off the rest of our food and any excess water, and were on our way down North Dome gully.

On the Summit With Plenty of Juice to Spare
This proved to be one of the more miserable descents I've ever done. I must say it probably wouldn't be that bad but with a 2 haul bags, 2 ropes, 2 portaledges, and a rack it was tough. Hiking down always proves to be the hardest part of a wall for me. It may just be the fact that it's the only part I don't enjoy doing or I'm just really out of shape. Either way descents never end soon enough. We were back down at the Ahwhanee around 3:00 with the rest of the afternoon to relax.

I stop to use the bath room at the hotel on our way out. As I wait with a 1000 yard stare I see a man holding his child's hand going from stall to stall getting more and more frustrated after each one. He says something along the lines of "This one's dirty too!" and finally walks into the last one. Moments after I hear him walk out and say "God! $500 a night and no toilet paper! Let's go!" I laugh, leave and think "Thank God I'm not a touron".

Overall the climbing on The Prow was good. The route a a tons of fixed gear that really took away from the route IMHO. Tons of hammered nuts, excess copper heads, etc. I don't think this route can be done with out a portaledge unless you are traveling solo. Even then, the bivys are pretty shitty. Climbing as a team of 3 was way less of a cluster than everybody makes it out to be. Having a person to talk to while belaying made the climb much more fun also (If you're interested or have questions feel free to contact me). I was really confident in my wall systems and with the exposure of a grade V after this climb. I highly recommend this route to anyone wanting to get on bigger routes. The Prow left me feeling ready for El Capitan.

Prow EDIT by Cheyne Lempe

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My First Trip to Yosemite

Tuesday May 10, 2011

It's well past midnight and I'm laying in bed wide awake. My mind won't stop racing. Thoughts are running through my mind at an incomprehensible rate. My heart pounds so hard that I can feel my body jump off my mattress with each beat.  You've been laying here for hours, you need to get some sleep. Okay, deep breaths. Try to relax and listen to the music. I try to talk myself down from the adrenaline overdose only to have my thoughts interrupted. YOU'RE GOING TO FUCKING YOSEMITE VALLEY! My adrenaline spikes again, my breathing shortens and extremities tingle. This state of mind lasts through out the whole night until I am finally able to drift off for 45 minutes of sleep. The alarm goes off way too early and I'm noticing I'm drenched in sweat. It doesn't take long before I realize I had been dreaming of The Captain.

For those of you who don't know, Yosemite Valley is the premier rock climbing destinations of the world. It is a place where everyone can find their limit if they wish to find it. Formations range anywhere from 10ft boulders to 3,500 cliffs with everything in between. More famous and more sought after than any cliff in the world is El Capitan. Guarding the entrance to Yosemite Valley, El Capitan stands as a 3,500 foot cliff of granite looking over the Merced River. El Cap to most climbers is the climax of their entire climbing career. As Tom Evans, a valley resident famous for his photography, often puts it "It is the Superbowl of climbing". To me, it is a formation that had been keeping me up at night and occupying my mind during the day. Nothing had ever excited me so much and struck the same amount of fear in me simultaneously. I couldn't believe I was finally on my way to stand in front of it.

After 22 hours of driving we are at the entrance of the park. The road into the valley is longer than expected but eventually I turn a corner and see a massive piece of granite for a split second before driving into the tunnel. Holy shit. The tunnel seems to take forever. Upon exiting the tunnel I quickly realize that the massive piece of granite I just saw was the upper third of El Cap.

{Tunnel View}

We descend into the valley and immediately went to the meadow. With the evening to kill we went to the alcove swing and sat in awe and excitement drinking King Cobra in El Cap Meadow.

Laying in the Meadow
We decided to head down to Cookie Cliff and Generator Crack the next day. Being really inexperienced in offwidths, Generator crack felt impossible. I would make 25 moves and look down to only be 6 inches higher than before. After being dominated by offwidth we headed back to Camp4 for dinner and beers.

Cheyne on Crack-A-Go-Go
We heard that a storm was going to come through that weekend. It was supposed to be a substantial front with chances of snow. On our third day of climbing, we saw the storm roll in as we were up on Reed's Pinnacle Direct. We got off the climb in the late afternoon half expecting to be soaked by the time we made the quick walk back to the car.

We awoke the next morning to several inches of snow. At breakfast in Curry Village, we decide to head down to Joshua tree for the next few days. 

El Cap as the Storm Clears

I left the valley pretty bummed to have not climbed any walls while I was there. Truth be told, even if the weather had been perfect I wouldn't have climbed any walls that trip. I had been in the valley with a shitty wall partner. His expectations were to climb El Cap for his first wall but didn't know how to aid, haul or jumar. I knew I had the opportunity to spend a month in Yosemite starting in June though so I was optimistic for my next trip.

Leaving a Snowy Valley

After heading down to Joshua Tree, things got worse with the climbing partner. Simple replies such as "belay's off" were no longer being said. Needless to say conversation ceased to exist. After a few hours of climbing with him I dropped him off at camp and left him to head to town, drop by the climbing shop and see if I could find a partner. I wasn't about to let someone else's personal problems and attitude ruin a climbing trip. My plan worked as I ran into some Hungarian friends I met in Yosemite. I spent the afternoon and evening bouldering, hiking, and scoping out climbs I had wanted to do for some time now. I ended up meeting two girls who were rained out of Red Rock and fled to JTree too. They joined the Hungarians and I after dinner for drinks and what turned into a night of wandering around the desert looking for hidden secrets such as petroglyphs, the iron door, the chasm of doom, and the space station. We were able to find one but finding the others will be rest day and evening activities for future trips.

All 7 of us climbed together the following morning and I split to climb with the girls that afternoon. We climbed a lot that day but there were a few ascents that stand out over others.

Lea Before the Crux of Bearded Cabbage

Although I've been to Joshua Tree to climb more than any other national park, I still have only been going there for 2 1/2 years when I'm back home. Josh is where I first learned to crack climb so it's really fun for me to revisit some of the climbs that shut me down the first time. One of those was a route called The Hobbit Roof (5.10d). I had tried the route on top rope when I first started coming to JTree and I couldn't climb it at all. I hadn't tried it since and was able to go back and get the redpoint. Another route that was an early lead for me was Toe Jam (5.7) this felt really hard at the time but I was able to return to the climb the route ropeless with every move feeling beyond easy. I did more classics that day such as Fisticuffs (5.10b), Double-Cross (5.7+), The Aguille de Joshua Tree (5.5x) and The Bong (5.5) which had scared on a free solo attempt only a year prior. In the afternoon we found a bit more of an obscure area in Lost Horse and I led two 5.10d's with tricky pro and a 5.9+.

Joshua Tree Scenery

It was great to climb with some new people and really see how much I had progressed since I first started going out there. It definitely gave me a huge confidence boost as I left. I realized I was climbing really strong mentally and the strongest I have been physically. I was ready to take this back to Boulder with me and apply that same strength to routes I had always wanted to do. Most importantly though, I knew that I was in the perfect place for climbing El Capitan. I couldn't wait to return to El Cap in a few weeks. I was fully committed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Moonlight Buttress

6:00 a.m. St. Patrick's Day 2011. The alarm goes off. "Dude, it's way too early." Blake yells from a patch of dirt outside our tent "Go back to bed." We decide to reset the alarm for 7 o'clock. We drift back to sleep to the sound of  a surprisingly high amount of traffic driving past where we had set up camp. We had arrived in Rockville, UT, a small town just a few miles from the entrance of Zion National Park, half past midnight the night before. Our plan was to camp on BLM land down the road, however the gate was locked. We ended up on a dirt road just off the main highway next to a fence that had a large no trespassing sign. Well, it was late and we're getting up early we reasoned. Although decently hidden from the main road, we were still no more than 100 feet from it. Our plans to leave early were only delayed by an hour. We made breakfast and were on our way into the park. After dropping Blake off at a local motel Cheyne and I found ourselves at the backcountry office ten minutes before they open. Anxious as could be, Cheyne and I could do nothing to pass the time other than watch funny canyoneering videos about "Zien".

At the front desk Cheyne and I inquire about our one night bivy permit for the climb. The ranger told us that there would be a 40% chance of rain. Cheyne and I were expecting 60% chance of rain and had talked about this for ten minutes while watching the canyoneering videos. The conversation was completely inconclusive though. We simply replied "Okay". He clarifies by saying "This means that 40% of the zoned forecasted area will receive a measurable amount of rain." Cheyne and I look at each other some what surprised since this was a 20% drop from what the forecast had read for the past 3 days. We thought well that's less than half which means odds are on our side. We obtained the permit and drove out to Big Bend.

We already had the rack put together and the haul bag packed so there was very little delay at the car. We started off on the hike to the wall. At this point, the only thing that stood in front of us and Moonlight Buttress was just the Virgin River. The flow rate of the river was 240 cubic feet per Second which is not easy with a haul bag since the bottom was full of slimy rocks which made for unsure footing the whole way. As we are crossing Cheyne decides to throw his shoes. First shoe with both of his socks goes flying but comes up short. I find myself standing in the middle of the river laughing as I watch Cheyne run down the river bank to catch up with his shoe. I eventually see Cheyne on the other side of the river with one shoe in hand. Only problem is that the entire rack, both ropes, and the portaledge were still on the side we started on. At this point, I'm on the opposite side with the haul bag trying to warm my feet up from the 40 degree water. Cheyne gets halfway across the river to a small island and says "Shit! I'm pretty sure I left the camera." He certainly did. I decide to cross the river to go get it since Cheyne was on his third crossing. After getting both of ourselves and all the gear to the other side of the river I look at Cheyne and say "I don't care if I get so scared I shit myself going up this climb, I'm not crossing that river again"
"Hahaha. Dude I forgot something in the car."
"You're kidding. What?
"Well you forgot it too."
"What is it?"
"The poop tube"
"It's alright we will just hold it for a few days"
"Well we have the toilet paper right?"
"Haha. Nope. It's in the poop tube."

Cheyne Crossing for the 3rd Time

Off we went. We hadn't even started and things were already looking bad. We had a 40% chance of rain, I was soaked up to my waist, Cheyne up to his chest, we had no poop tube, and Cheyne's shoes and socks were soaked. What else could go wrong? Well, it turns out that both of us had forgotten about the topos in our pockets so turns out those were wet also and we lost one somehow. To be honest the list of obstacles could have been as long as the Bible. It didn't matter. We were PSYCHED!!! We finally started climbing around 9:30 or 10 that morning. I decided to take the first 2 pitches. I had made an attempt at the same climb back in November but due to planning we didn't stand a chance. We had gotten only the 1st pitch done which seemed very sandy and runout. However this time I cruised it as fast as I could and it felt great. It always is rewarding to have a pitch feel casual after having it feel difficult the time before.

Leading the 1st Pitch

Anyway, despite what most people say, hauling was not too bad on this pitch. I start on the second pitch rated C1+. After a few placements I decide to place a black alien. This particular size is not ideal for such a soft type of stone since it is only fractions of an inch wide. I yell "Watch me!" to Cheyne as I bounce test the piece. Cheyne asked what I placed and I inform him with a grin. "Dude! I never place that. Ever." I eye the piece and reply laughing "It's on two lobes. Should be fun." To be honest I only placed it because I knew Cheyne hadn't. I commit to the piece and shortly after it pops. The piece below it held. I was psyched. I took a fall it was no big deal. I knew after that it would be easier having experiencing an aid fall. Hauling on this pitch was relatively a pain (make sure your haul line is far from the crack) but still not too bad.

Top of Pitch 2

Cheyne on Pitch 3 with Spaceshot in the Background

My turn leading for the day is done. Cheyne takes over on the Piton/Bolt ladder on pitch 3. Within no time he is at the top of the pitch. I come up after him and am greeted by the rocker block. This is a wild belay stance which has a 27" TV size block that is attached to the wall by chains. The thing moves too. It's wild but definitely a infamous part of the route. To give you a visual, here is someone's picture of the Rocker Block. The rocker block is the more or less a changing point in the type of rock we are climbing. The rock becomes a little less sandy and a bit harder for the rest of the route. Cheyne does a great job leading the classic dihedral pitch. As I am watching Cheyne climb it starts to rain. Luckily our location at this point remains relatively sheltered but I still get wet while I'm belaying Cheyne. Thank god this was his pitch. It seemed like it should have taken a while to lead but Cheyne can just run up his aiders. Definitely pretty inspiring to see how fast he can move. Before long I'm out of the rain and at the top of the next pitch. This is the final pitch of the day before we get to where we planned to bivy for the night. This is also where I really began to hit my low for the whole climb.

Looking Down the Dihedral

Cheyne About the Enter the Chimney on Pitch 5

As I wait at the hanging belay on top of pitch 4 I begin to lose steam. The whole day I had felt anxious, excited and really scared all at once. As time went by at the belay I begin to lose that anxious and excited feeling leaving my mind full of fear. I tried to focus on the beautiful views from the belay or the fact that what we were doing was probably the most badass thing I'd ever done. Despite all this I still declined. My attempts to excite myself were interrupted by a falling object out of the corner of my eye. I hang there and watch as my chalk bag fell for several seconds from Cheyne's waist without touching rock. I then realized we were getting high. I could tell my body temperature had dropped from the rain by the shivering at the belay. I had also forgotten to eat and drink for the greater part of the day since I was so focused on the climbing. This didn't take a physical toll but my mental strength deteriorated quickly.

The Great White Throne and Angel's Landing from the top of Pitch 4

As I jugged the final pitch for the night I moved at a snail's pace. I was paranoid that I had set up some part of my system wrong. I kept checking every 15 ft. Then I would look up and think "I hope there are no sharp edges to cut the rope up there" and "I hope the rope is fixed properly". I couldn't help but think of how long it took for the chalk bag to hit the ground. My instincts were saying "Get out of here!" but, I kept climbing, optimistic that the morning would be a fresh start. 

St. Patricks Day Guinness on the Portaledge

Cheyne and I woke up sometime around 8:30 which is pretty late for a big wall but we only had 4 pitches to go so time wasn't of the utmost concern. We had bagels and tea while getting psyched and listening to the iPod. I had felt so much better than the night before and was glad that I had remained optimistic. Cheyne had told me several before we started climbing that the most important thing about wall climbing is wanting to be up there. If you are doing it for any other reason you'll want to quit. Looking back at it, the end of day 1 was proof that I really wanted to be up there. I wouldn't have been optimistic if I hadn't and I probably would have talked to Cheyne about bailing. Either way, waking up on the portaledge was the best choice. For whatever reason the exposure seemed to loosen its grip on me when I woke up there. I can't explain why, it just felt normal the second morning.

I decided to get myself into the lead mode first thing in the morning. For me leading is often times is easier than following. I am able to control my mind much better simply because I have to. Granted, it is much more difficult to start leading but I am able to ignore all other fears such as exposure. Leading first thing in the morning really seems to set the tone for the day. The first few moves were scary but as we approached the summit I began to get more and more psyched.

Leading Pitch 7

The head wall on Moonlight didn't disappoint. It is splitter pretty much the entire way and beautifully positioned. I back cleaned 0.5 Black Diamond and #3 Metolius for an entire pitch. I lead pitches 6 and 7. Cheyne took over on pitch 8 and linked 8 and 9 into one seriously rope-stretcher pitch. I was hanging at the belay afraid that he was going to get short-roped by the haul line. There was definitely less than 10 feet left in both lines. The last 20 minutes of that belay definitely seemed closer to an hour.

Jugging the Final Pitch
We estimated our summit to be sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 pm the second day. The route took us 31 hours to complete. Summiting primarily felt great. After all, we made it. There was also a bit of disappointment too though. The whole experience of climbing my first big wall was over. I had a brief moment to realize how much I enjoyed road to get to the summit. Learning all the skills necessary and the uncertainty of whether or not I could make it all come together were suddenly a thing of the past. I thought that climbing a wall was all about summiting. I realized I couldn't have been further from the truth. Standing on the summit seemed as though it accounted for 1% of the joy. The training, planning and climbing is what it's all about. I had just wished the wall would keep going. 

We packed up all the gear and started running down the trail. Yes, running. It was funny to run with a haul bag passed tourists who looked like they were about dead from exhaustion. We just wanted to get back to the car for a celebratory beer and to get our rack together for Touchstone in a push. After all it was the next morning...

Summit of Moonlight

I'd like to say thanks to anyone and everyone who helped us out along the way. Steele Cortes, Colin Simon, Adrienne Jones, Nick Montelli, and Shawn Mitchell for lending us gear. My parents, friends and family for the encouragement and support through this whole thing. Most of all I'd like to thank my partner, Cheyne Lempe. Even after climbing with him before the trip and then for several days straight on the trip I was still blown away by how strong and fast of a climber he is. He stays psyched and funny up there. Kid crushes and made for a good wall partner. Here is a link to his blog: No Way Down. Definitely worth checking out.

Here are the rest of the photos of Moonight Buttress: www.photobucket.com/moonlightbuttress

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wall Basics

Recently I have developed an interest in Big Wall Climbing. A big wall, as considered by the climbing community, is a technical climb that takes the average paced team at least 2 days to climb. I'll clarify here: a technical climb means a vertical wall, not a several day hike up the side of a mountain. Sorry but I get this question all the time. This requires climbers to haul all of their climbing gear, water, and food with them for the duration of the climb and causes them to sleep on natural ledges like this one or on a portaledge. Don't worry we sleep with a harness on so it's pretty safe.

There are many different styles of climbing that are involved in climbing a big wall. It is a combination of traditional climbing, aid climbing, and sport climbing. All of these styles take a fair amount of time to master within themselves which is why climbing a big wall takes a combination of experience and time. One of the biggest appeals to climbing a wall for me is the amount of knowledge it takes to get yourself up the climb. It is the most involved type of climbing in rock climbing which creates scenarios of reasoning, improvisation, and recollection.

Depending on the length of the wall a team can be hauling anywhere from 80-200+ lbs of gear. This will consist of mainly water weight since there is no source of water on the route, food, sleeping bags, clothes, storm gear, emergency supplies, a small stove, a small radio and a few beers. The largest factor is water weight which is directly related to length of route and a team's pace (the more time spent up there the more water a team must take). Of course this extra weight really slows a team down so climbers will typically ration water and take as little reserve as possible with them. Sometimes going light and fast is safer than bringing all the extras along. On top of this a portaledge my also be brought on the climb if the route has no natural ledges to sleep on. This is decided by the team on the ground by studying a topo (a climber's map corresponding to this wall) and gathering information from other parties who have done the same route. A team will also carry a rack of gear (seen below) weighing up to 40 lbs and two two ropes with them: one to climb with and one to haul all of the gear with.

All of this gear is hauled on a separate line (rope) that is specifically chosen for such a job. The line is called a static line meaning it won't stretch. Now maybe I should claim that we do in-fact "carry" this massive amount of weight with us so we look like a group of Greek God but that just simply wouldn't be the truth. As mentioned above we actually haul these loads over a pulley. We clip this pulley into an anchor and run the static line through it, the bags on one side and our body weight on the other. This allows us to use our body weight + a little force to counterweight the bags and haul them to the high point. Just incase one was wondering, teams used static lines for hauling. This way after the pulley has been set up and the rope is weighted it won't stretch an extra 15%. This extra stretch just causes us to haul extra distance. Who wants to haul 3500 ft on a 3000ft climb?

I will add more as it becomes pertinent to the trip reports I add in the future...