Monday, November 14, 2005

Nose in a day trip report

After belaying Tommy Caldwell on his Nose/freerider link up, I got inspired to free the nose in a day yesterday.

well, to free about 30% of it anyway.

I teamed up with mark Melvin, the guy who started my el cap addiction by giving me my first fix on The West Face when I was 15. When I was 16, we climbed the nose in 18 hours together. Ten years later, we hoped to knock our time down a little. I announced that I thought we could do it in 7-9 hours. Mark silently thought I was full of crap and was going to be happy if we climbed it in less than 14. He thought it would be really cool if we didn’t have to finish the climb at night.

We met up around 5:30am. El cap meadow was as cold as I have ever experienced it. I briefly considered bailing on the climb and just sitting in front of the car heater.

We started climbing at 6:18, right when the sun hit the high clouds above el cap… creating the cool pink glow in this photo.

Mark is one of the best off-the-couch climbers I know. He led each pitch in 5-10 minutes. Here is mark cruising up the start of the stovelegs. 5.8 hand cracks forever!

Here I am jugging up to Dolt Tower.

Ever wonder what those critters are that eat your foot while your camped 1000’s of feet up el cap? Here you go:

6 or 7 inches long and fat. How does a rat that big get up el cap? And why did it suddenly expire in the middle of dolt tower?

mark Leading above Dolt Tower

And now the main event: The King Swing. For El Cap meadow spectators, this is as entertaining as big wall climbing gets. We doubled the viewing pleasure by using the latest speed double penji technique:

Mark led the boot while I simul-climbed behind him on the bolt ladder. When he got to the top, he threaded his rope through the pendulum point and then lowered and cleaned the pitch. He did the king swing and belayed on Eagle Ledge. Since he cleaned the pitch, I now got to also do the king swing and meet up with him.

He continued blasting up the free pitches to the base of the Great Roof. Here I took over the lead. Usually The Great Roof seriously spooks me. But for the first time, I was too rushed too be scared. After ten nearly painless minutes, I was at the belay. Each pitch after that really cruised by, I think partially because we had a tiny rack and partially because for the first time on the nose, I didn’t use daisy chains. With no daisy chains, you never have to deal with tangles with your aiders and you just get inspired to free climb more.

Here I am leading up the pancake flake.

Above camp 6 we caught up with a cool team of 3 doing their first el cap route. As I led up to them they shouted down “We will have some music ready for you when you get up here!” Clearly, they were doing the route in style.

Passing this team was really easy because they were super cool and they were cleaning the pitch as I was leading it. Toward the end of the pitch, I caught up with the cleaner. She offered to let me pass but I decided it was easier and more courteous to give cleaning tips and help out. I told her “You can keep going and ill clean this stuck yellow alien for you.” And a few piece later, “If I hold the rope, you can slide the yellow ascender down and get the tension off the piece.” She thanked me and said “Wow, its like having my own cleaning fairy... uhm, wait, sorry, I didn’t mean to call you a fairy. Uh, you’re a cleaning angel.”

We passed by and topped out a few minutes later. It was really hard to tell what time it was. It could have been 4pm for all I knew. When mark told me it was only 12:59 I was floored. Wait, we did the route in only 6 hours and 40 minutes. The perfect November climbing day.

Here is a shot from the summit:

PS: here was our rack

8 stoppers
1 purple/blue alien
1 green alien
1 yellow alien
1 yellow/red alien
2 red aliens
2 orange aliens
2 red camlots (#1)
1 gold camalot (#2)
1 blue camalot (#3)
1 gray camalot (#4)


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