Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Twin Falls Hot Air Balloon Delivery

Monday Jan 30 in lodi. cold. about to storm.

Me: man, there is nobody to jump with. its hard to find people as agro as me...
Jimmy H: Yeah, there is only one person more agro than you. and he lives in twin falls. wait, maybe you should call him..

i call Miles D

Miles D: dude, I have a hot air baloon in Truckee, any way you could deliver it?
Me: i am getting in my car right now. cya

4 hours later i have told two chain control people: of course this car is all wheel drive. which bmw coupe is not?

i get a call from Mike V (owner of balloon): so, what kinda car you have? is it big?
me: 2 door hatchback... but it is the cargo van of 2 door hatchbacks.

somehow we get a hot air balloon, two propane tanks, one rig, two snowboards and lots of randon stuff in my car.

me: hey miles, i am driving to twin falls!
miles: nice, bro! you got the bungee cords, right?
me: uhhhhh (turning my car around and driving back to truckee): yeah, i was just about to pick those up.

tal: do you think we can fit all these bungee cords...
me: oh yeah. its not like i HAVE to be able shift

i drive 8 hours through snow,snain, ice. show up in twin falls at 8am.

miles: no way. i can't believe all this fit in your car. wait a minute... these propane tanks are half full. sketch! you were driving a car bomb.

me: yeah, but all that extra weight turned this car into a subaru. it was solid.

The cargo van of 2 door hatchbacks.

Pink... Mike didn't say anything about pink!" - Miles D

The next few days yielded some great weather as well as some more interesting conditions:

I think the bridge is over there somewhere...

I don't know why people don't come to Twin Falls in the winter.

Check out a little movie of the jump:


Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Nose In January

I want to climb El Cap every month this year. On January 24th, I still hadn’t found anyone to climb with. It looked like I was going to have to solo something… which would probably involve suffering and cold temperatures. Not cool.

Lincoln Else saved me from that fate. At 9pm on the night of the 24th, he said he could climb. However, the very next day was the last sunny looking weather for January. I couldn’t leave San Francisco until 11pm so I got to Yosemite at 2:30am and woke up at 6am.

We pulled got to El Cap just after 7am. As we were ready to walk to the base, I realized I didn’t have a harness. I guess after 3.5 hours of sleep, my brain wasn’t fully on. So on the drive back to Link’s house to get a harness, I drank the equivalent of two Red Bulls on top of the two cups of coffee I had had earlier. I might have had a bad caffeine twitch, but at least I was now awake.

We started climbing just after 8am. The sun hit us on Sickle Ledge and for me it would be t-shirt climbing for most of the route. The lighting on El Cap in winter is exceptional. The sun light is much softer—like its perpetually late-afternoon. There was nobody else on the wall. It was a good place to be.

Lincoln also wants to climb El Cap every month this year. Since I had climbed 6 walls in December and was in better wall shape, I would lead this entire climb. Then in December, Lincoln would lead the whole route and I would jug.

The route was mostly dry for the first half. Occasionally I would put my hand in a dry-looking crack to find water running in the back. But, this was the exception, not the rule.

On the King Swing, we could hear our friends in the meadow cheered us on. Thanks Dov, Brandon, Naomi and crew! Its too bad with the belay location, wasn’t able to watch Link do the main part of the King Swing. But I did get to watch the last crux big were suddenly a hand, then another hand, latched onto an arête. Next, Links body slowly and carefully did the delicate “horizontal mantel.” I still have not found a cooler pendulum on El Cap… except maybe on the Pacific Ocean Wall.

Me on the King Swing.

At Camp IV, the summer-like conditions on the route ended abruptly. Water from the Muir Wall dripped down on us. The pitch off Camp 4 was partially soaked because water seeped out of every inch of the Great Roof pitch. I was not happy.

Me on the Great Roof

I took my time on the Great Roof. Not only because I was terrified of the tiny alien placements in wet rock: many of the fixed stoppers looked extremely suspect. This fear was confirmed when I clipped into a few only to have them wiggle out in my hands just before stepping on them. Luckily, the increased fear kept me warm or at least distracted me from the fact that my pants were now soaked (from the water on the rock, not because I was scared).

The next pitch, the Pancake Flake, was dry. Unfortunately, my arms were now locking up from cramps. There was still over 1000 feet of the steepest climbing on the route to go. I got a bit nervous. If my arms kept locking up, was I going to fall unexpectedly in a section I usually runnout? Or were we at least going to move so slowly that we might have to climb at night… in January?

To make things worse, the route seemed to be getting wetter and wetter. The crack below Camp 5 involved jamming a mixture of water, slime and mud. The Glowering Spot pitch was mostly soaked, as was the pitch above the Glowering Spot.

The Glowering Spot

Lincoln definitely helped my psyched shouting up encouragements. He also has the cool habbit of yetting out a cheerful “Yahoo!” scream every time I finished a pitch.

He enjoyed the wet conditions in a different but equally special way. The rope was now soaked and we soon learned a new equation: water + nylon rope = bungee cord. For the rest of the route, the rope would stretch in ways that, well, ropes just shouldn’t. The same principle applied to my aiders. Each time I stepped into them, they sunk down a few inches. Nice.

But the true wet climbing wouldn’t come until above Camp VI. Here, the first 30 of face climbing were drenched by a waterspout in the rock. As I approached this mini-waterfall, I imagined how I would quickly and gracefully climb to the dryer rock above. Of course, as soon as I entered the spicket, I fumbled with the climbing and gear and was soaked in seconds. I was still wearing a t-shirt… but not for long.

Blocking the waterspout with my body.

Somehow, the cramps in my arms worked their way out. instead of topping out at 9pm, as I imagined after finishing the Great Roof, we topped out around 3:30, a little under 7.5 hours after starting. The greatest moment of the climb soon followed as we took inventory of the remaining food: 4 cliff bars, raisins, a granola bar and 9 little squares of chocolate. Big smiles and huge props to Lincoln for such foresight.

The food.

Somehow I envisioned that, even in January, a week of sun would have melted all the snow off the slabs at the edge of El Cap. I could not have been more wrong. Snow was everywhere.

Me starting the descent.

I set up the camera on a log to take a shot of Link and myself. But after setting the self timer and starting to run back over to Link, my foot sunk down three feet into a hole and the following shot resulted.

Anyone who has done the East Ledges descent will appreciate this photo of Lincoln on the slabs between The Nose and Zodiac.

Despite the snow, the descent went quickly. Mainly because Link was going so fast and breaking trail. He managed to find all the big sinkholes like the one in the phot above. Thanks Link! We were back at the car at 5pm, about 9 hours after leaving the Valley. Dov achieved superstar status by picking us up and Manure Pile and driving us back to El Cap Meadow. Here is a final shot of Half Dome I took on the rappels.