Friday, May 3, 2013

Dinner for one, and a snow cone for breakfast

Aw "climbing season" is upon us! Well I guess when you don't stop going to the Valley all year the climbing season is never really over, but I mean longer and warmer days are here. Time to get ready for big walls and long days of climbing!

Another couple days free and it's time to go back to the Valley of course. In typical fashion I have no one to climb with. I make a desperate post on Supertopo looking for a partner and luckily a guy named Robin can climb on Friday. Woohoo! Thursday was still solo, so what to do? I didn't want to go tr solo, it was time to bust out the Silent Partner. Alright I've been talking big game about soloing this year so time to get out and use this thing. I looked at the West Face of Leaning Tower topo and thought about going for the push, but decided I should get a little more practice in, get the roped solo systems dialed, and then go for a wall. So, I decided I would climb to Dinner Ledge on Washington Column via the South Face. I had climbed the route in a day last year (see link) and I knew the first few pitches would be good to warm up on. South Face TR link from 2012

Hello my old friend! On the left is the South Face, and the white line going up and right higher is the Prow

Start of the South Face

It's just you and me pal, let's not screw up!

Seeing as how I just wanted to get in some more practice with the SP I decided to just bring a liter of water and a cliff bar and not haul a bag or wear a backpack.

The first pitch went smoothly, although I immediately realized that consequences would be higher if I fell at certain parts. For example about 10 feet off the ground the crack becomes unprotectable for  about 6 feet. With a good belayer if you blew it here they could probably keep you off the ground. With the Sp I was pretty certain I would hit the ground with the small added time it would need to stop me. Oh well, just be conscious of the situation, but don't let it control me. First pitch is done and I haven't died yet.

After stopping at the first anchor I realized, hey rope drag, what rope drag, so I continued past the first anchor, across the ledge to the start of the second pitch. I know it seems trivial, but the realization that rope drag literally was not an issue really got my mind running, and made me even more stoked on soloing.

Mark Hudon inspired anchor at the start of pitch 2. If you haven't seen this, this is the best big wall anchor ever. The bolt on the right has a butterfly knot with a long loop and the left bolt has a clove hitch. Boom easy to equalize and very clean. I have the end of the rope also clipped to the left bolt, because when you are soling you have to untie (which always feels weird, make sure you are clipped in to something else) and rappel to clean the pitch and jumar back up. It's a lot of work, but it's also a really rewarding and fun way to climb (and can also be scary as hell sometimes!)

Here's an older picture showing the anchor a little more clearly for anyone interested.

 On pitch 2 I opted for the c1 aid corner over the 5.10b free variation, because the point of this practice run was to get my solo aid / wall systems more dialed for my first solo wall later this year.

Looking back down the bottom half of pitch 2 while jugging back up.

I'm having a great time!

And I'm stoked that things are going so smoothly!!!

Pitch 3 went well, except for when my feet slipped out from under me on the 5.7  section. I thought for a second I was going to have to really test this SP today, but luckily my hands were super solid so I was able to hold on and keep climbing. The best part about this pitch was no rope drag at the top! I maniacally laughed as I placed gear and didn't extend it, knowing that the evil rope drag had no power over me!!! MUUUAAHHHAAAAAA! Ok maybe I'm starting to enjoy soloing a little too much.

I rapped, jugged and cleaned three and then I was walking over to dinner ledge. Victory! Yeah it was only three pitches but I was still proud at how smooth it went solo. I was even more proud to look at my watch and see that it had only been two and a half hours since I started. I thought hey I should keep going and just go for the push! Then the logical part of my brain kicked in, I have no water left and only one power bar....yeah maybe next time. Also the wind then cranked up to help me make my decision to stick to the plan and go down even easier.

I don't know if I'll ever learn that chocolate coated power bars melt every time in my pocket....

Looking up at the Kor Roof. RIP Layton

The views of Half Dome never get old!

After relaxing, enjoying a snack, and getting some sunshine on Dinner Ledge I headed back to the ground. I wish I had brought bivy gear I would have loved to just sleep up there. Oh well, still a really successful practice run that left me psyched for my first solo wall soon.

I always like scoping out Astroman on the way down.... some day!!!!

The next day I met up with Robin and we decided to climb Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral. I had to be back home that night and up really early the next morning to guide a backpacking trip, so a classic 5 pitch climb sounded perfect!

Ummmm, dude.... did you bring your ice axe???? 

The first thirty feet of the climb are still under snow. The approach up the ice was a little exciting to say the least. I ended up putting in a cam for the belay because there was a thirty foot drop between the ice and the wall!

The first pitch was know. But then it got classic! I led the second pitch which was sooo good. Although in my opinion the rest of the climb is going to follow that description haha. The 5.8 and 5.9 fingers were continuous and oh so fun!

Robin following the second pitch. You can spot the hole of death at the start of the first pitch.

Looking up the splitter start to the 3rd pitch. The roof looks intimidating but it's not bad. We had a 80m rope so we linked 3 and 4. However, we were trailing a 60m and when Robin made it to the top of the 4th, if I remember correctly the 60 would have made it, but just barely.

The 5.8ow on the 3rd pitch turned to be perfect wide hands and fist for my huge hands. This was again, classic!!!

What dreams are made of!!!!!!

The views of El Cap are spectacular. My buddies Alex and Phillip were climbing The Nose at the same time we were up there. It was cool to look across and see their progress.

On the rap back down we top roped Bircheff-Williams which is a beautiful 5.11b corner that is top ropable from the last rap anchor (with a 80m rope). After a couple falls I got it, but man it was tough!

Robin stemming at the lower 5.10c section.

View from the top. After the 5.11b stemming section is a 5.8 lieback. I tried to do it as an OW but man it was very hard at the entrance. Not wide enough to bridge a foot but too wide for a stack, and all in an awkward corner.

So there you have it, another awesome couple days in the Valley! T-minus 19 days until I graduate from college, and become a full time climbing dirtbag!!! It's going to be a great season :)