Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ten and Change (Nose In A Day)


Confidence was high as I drove to Yosemite Valley for the first time this spring. I had been talking with my partner Cheyne who had been in Yosemite since the beginning of May. I asked him to climb the day I got in so I wouldn’t have to be troubled with finding a partner for the first day I got in. I shot him a text simply saying “Gold wall/ Silent line” a Grade V 5.10 C2 that I knew we could get through in a matter of hours together. Cheyne called back asking if I wanted to climb The Nose. Most teams take 4-5 days to climb the route but we were going to climb the route in a single day: Nose in a Day (NIAD). Being my main goal for Yosemite all season I can’t wait to say yes. I rolled into the valley around 9:30 p.m. After a pizza in the SAR site I began to talk strategy with Cheyne.

He has a project in mind and wanted to get a feel for a few pitches he had never led on the route. Our plan was to have him lead the whole way and I would simul-climb and short-fix our way up the route. I would jumar the other pitches. We decided to go with a valley alpine start at 7:30 a.m. We made it to the base at started the clock at 8:47 a.m. as Cheyne blasted up the first pitch. We passed 3 teams on the way up to Sickle ledge which is the top of the 4th pitch. One of the teams was Pass the Pitons Pete and his infamous freight train of bags at the top of the first pitch. After a re-rack on Sickle Ledge we simul-climb next pitch and Cheyne fixes the rope high above. As Cheyne self belays through a pendelum I top rope solo the tight-hand crack to the anchor. Since Cheyne had lowered down and swung into the next crack system, I have to lower myself out with my end of the rope. Cheyne leaves me some slack to do this but not enough. I find myself 15 ft from the corner containing the crack system and no more slack to lower out on. I hold the end of my rope in my hand, STRETCH as far as I can, and let go. I swung into the corner adrenaline pumping. I look up to see a climber we are passing wide-eyed as I throw my feet in my aiders and run up the fixed rope.

King Swing
Gray Bands
Pitch after pitch goes by and before I know it we are standing on Dolt Tower the ¼ time mark for NIAD. Dolt stands with 1100 ft of the best climbing in the world pouring below it. If it were to stand as it’s own wall it would still be big but on the massive scale of El Capitan Dolt tower is simply a checkpoint. As I flake the rope Cheyne fuels and asks how I feel. “Great. It feels like it’s only been a few pitches. I’m not holding things up am I?” I was a little worried about my efficiency cleaning a few of the lower outs. “No. We are moving well together. We have been climbing for 2 hours and 15 minutes and Pete hasn’t even moved.” We share a good laugh and quickly get back to climbing. After a few pitches Cheyne and I get to by far the most fun pitch of climbing I have done: The legendary King Swing. As the route nears the 1700 ft mark the crack system followed to that point ends. The leader leads The Boot Flake lowers down and starts swinging back and forth to the next crack system. As Cheyne is leading I simul the bolt ladder to the base of the boot. Cheyne lowers and swings over to Eagle Ledge and puts me on belay. I tension the rope, run left, run right and left again to the large arĂȘte that requires a devious move over to eagle. Stuck it first go which felt really good. Cheyne and I blast through the Grey Bands with lots of lower-outs on the 5.10 A0 variation and some top rope soloing. Cheyne cruises The Great Roof and back cleans the traverse of fixed gear. This allows me to just lower out rather than clean the traverse. As I start to clean this pitch my ascenders start to crux out. Suddenly my jugs wouldn’t stick as I slid them up. I would slide up my top jug, go to stand in the aider and the jug would drop two feet before it would snag. I was essentially fall after fall onto devices designed to grip the soft rope with sharp teeth. Something I ALWAYS try to avoid. Jugging became strenuous for a few pitches as the terrain steepens and I would have to lock off my arms and visually make sure my upper ascender was engaged. This definitely slowed us down as Cheyne had to wait for me a few times as I figured out how to solve the problem.

The Great Roof. Team leading up Pancake Flake out right.
Re Rack on Camp VI
Cheyne and I met up on Camp VI. We have a quarter of the way left. I’m starting to feel gassed as I sit down on the nice ledge. I hear “ROPE FIXED!” and psyche myself up to jug again. Unfortunatlely it was a free hanging jug and my legs were starting to feel worked. I try to keep positive as Cheyne does everything he can to turbo through the last few pitches. As I come up to the base of the 3rd to the last pitch I start to feel really really fresh again. As I making my way up that pitch Cheyne had clipped a bunch of gear on a traverse and then back cleaned for a ways (by force, not free will I hope). I have no means to lower out so I pull in as tight as I can to the crack, unclip the piece and “slide into home” across the upper reaches of El Capitan with massive amounts of exposure below. This ended up giving me the perfect shot of adrenaline to charge to the summit. Cheyne and I simul the bolt ladder and I clip the last bolt and start the final free climbing on the route. So close and excited to the official pine tree finish I start to run with everything hanging all over my disorganized body. The clock still ticks until the final climber touches the pine tree finish. I touch the tree at 7:45. We finished in 10 hours and 58 minutes, or 10 and change, and I had climbed El Capitan within 24 hours of arriving in Yosemite Valley. 

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