Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Nose in a Day (Again?!) - Dehydrated in November

I guess I have no imagination. What did I do a few days after climbing The Nose last week? Call up Mark Melvin of course: so, you want to climb the Nose this Friday?

Mark gave me the I am psyched on that idea… but not really response “Well, I guess that would be ok, but if you find someone else, you should go climb it with them.” Nobody else, dude. Its you, me, and the big stone.

Here is the gear we brought

and a close up of the rack

This time we started an hour later at 7:37 to let the rock warm up. I wanted to climb The Nose in just a t shirt in November. On the first pitch I ran into my old friend Brian Biega who I did one of my first El Cap speed ascents with 9 years earlier. He greeted me ”Good to see you chris. Wait didn’t you guys just climb this last week?!”

“Yeah, I know, I know. It’s kinda silly. But it’s the nose, it’s the best route in the world. I just cant help myself ” I replied. He was going to solo The Nose. I imagine the number of people who have soloed the nose in November can be counted on one hand.

We traveled lighter on this ascent than last week. Only 2 candy bars per person, 1 liter of water, no headlamps, not extra clothes, and less biners. When Mark was leading the third pitch, I actually poured out an extra half liter of water to go lighter. Bad move. Ten minutes later we climbed into the sun and realized this was not your typical November day.

Just above sickle ledge we passed a team of two. One of them called down to me, “Hey SuperTopo! Wait, didn’t you guys just climb this last week?!” I know, I know…

Me jugging right after sickle

Mark in The Stovelegs

I knew we were trouble when we reached Dolt Tower and I was already rationing water. This wasn’t just a warm November day, it was a HOT November day. While the valley high was forecasted at 75, on the wall, with no wind and surrounded by baking granite, it felt more like 80.

Mark leading The Boot Flake

Me belaying the boot flake

Last week, The king was a little tricky for me. This time, I figured out the secret: Swing when you are even with the last bolt on the bolt ladder. This seems really low. But it’s hard to go to low on the King Swing.

Mark mid King Swing

Me jugging up to the great roof

When we got to the great roof, I prepared to take over the lead. Normally bring free shoes for The Nose, but this time I just yanked the laces as tight as I could on my approach shoes. I took a swig from my full 10oz waterbottle and managed to down almost all of it without noticing. I now only had a few sips of water to get me to the top and it just seemed to get hotter and hotter. There was still no wind.

Me in the Changing Corners

On the changing corner’s I yelled down to mark, its not warm up here, it’s hot.”

“Yeah, I know”, he replied.

“No, I mean when its 70 it feels warm. But this feels like 80 or more. This is HOT.”

I wanted some reaction like, “Yeah, this is ridiculous!” But he just let out another “yeah.” He didn’t look psyched. I didn’t look psyched. Neither of us were saying much now. And both of our bodies started to feel the effects of dehydration. My legs and arms got a little heavier and my power began to fade. I compensated by leading the last few pitches with only the pieces I knew I would need: 6 cams and 8 quickdraws.

We got to the top and I watched mark take almost a minute to wrestle the watch out of his pocket. We then spent about 5 minutes trying to subtract our starting time from our ending time… we were so dehydrated now our minds were numb. “Wow, we did it is 5:36… anyway, where can we find some water!”

We found some about half way down the descent. It was warm and had thousands of tiny white floaters in it. I thought it looked suspect. Mark thought it looked great. We both took big swigs.

Ten minutes later I was downclimbing 4th class when I slipped, took a five foot fall, and caught myself before going another 15 feet. Yeah, we were so gone now the descent was feeling harder than the route.

We got back to the road and I took this shot of el cap through the trees. We were psyched, but worked.

So Mark, what you doing next week?

PS: A few people have emailed me asking about our techniques:

- yes we run it out, but never on anything harder than 5.9 or C1. Everything else is well protected.

- short fixing is key. After the leader gets to an anchor, he pulls up the remaining rope, fixes it, and keeps climbing. If the terrain is ever harder than 5.9 or C1, then the leader self belay while waiting for the cleaner.

- the main technique is looking at the whole route as a free climb. I would say 80% of the route is 5.10 or easier. On that other 20%, we try to pull on gear rather than bring out the aiders. And for a small fraction you use aiders but no daisy chains. Even when I am aiding, I am using handholds and the crack so that I can top step every single placement. So I am never in “full aid mode” which goes really slow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am planning on a roped solo 09/09. I'm 54 and training hard, but I'm pretty old school and haven't climbed big walls in a long time. I will spend a month or more climbing in Yosemite before I go solo, including the nose. Which of your speed techniques would help a roped-solo climb?

If I try and go light and run somethings out what is the minimal rack you'd advise.

I hope you don't mind the questions. I just liked your article, attitude, and persistence.

Joe Gaber,
Hua Hin, Thailand

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