|By Parker Kempf
Jun 24, 2010
Gameplan-Salathe Wall-May 2010
My buddy Nathan and I climbed the Nose in May of 2009, next on our list was the Salathe wall, 1 day of fixing to mammoth, sleeping on the ground, then getting up and blasting for the summit after hauling bags to heart ledges on the (hopefully) fixed lines and summiting after 4-5 days.
Gear? We have plenty, but we wanted a few specialty items for all the off-width and chimney’s, so we picked up a #6 BD cam, and big bro’s from sizes 3-5. We were going to protect the hollow flake if at all possible.
We arrive in the valley after driving for 3 days from Atlanta and it rains for the next two days. We run into a party of Brits who had climbed freeblast and were going to use the heart fixed lines to haul, but alas the lines had been chopped 4 days before we arrived and the day after they (the Brits) had climbed FB (we also learned the core was completely rotted out of two of the lines, hooray for rapping on sheath!).
Due to the rain organizing our haul bags was a bit of a pain, but we at least were able to hike all of our water in and stash it at the base of the heart ledges rappel. Also we learned that the Brits knew of a party that was working a free route that goes from heart ledges up some old aid lines and onto new terrain, who had some perma-lines that they were going to fix, the only thing was they didn’t want to lug them up FB since everyone had already done it except for my partner (Nathan) and I. Thus we were appointed the duty of fixing lines from heart ledges to ground with our lines and brit lines so that the heart party could then jug them and fix the perma-lines and leave the other ropes to be gathered by us later. I know this seems complicated now, but it was 10 times worse then.
Finally the weather clears and we head to the base of FB and do the first pitch, as I finish jugging a storm rolls in and we have to hop down and peace out, however as we hike away in the rain a party of Spaniards arrived, who were also planning on doing the Salathe, and they started climbing the route we had just bailed so that they could fix lines higher and take off the next day.
The next day we begin the real stuff, and I’ll give a run down of that now
P1-Striaghtforward 10c fingers, Nathan French freed
P2-Awesome, free it, beautiful hands to beautiful fists to awkward ending (bring small gear to protect the top, there’s a finger crack to the left)
P5-we didn’t have aliens and it KILLED us, the aiding got scary here, but it worked out ok. The free section is tricky but not bad if you’re a slab master like nate
P6-Not bad, I made a cheater stick so I stick clipped all the bolts and bolt laddered to the free section, tensions traverse or bat hook to get into free mode easier.
P7-Straigthfroward fun climbing, definitely wet
P8-super cool feature, gaining the dollar is most certainly the crux, aliens would make it much easier. Also the bolted anchor is not there, there are two bolts, but there about 10 feet apart and 8 feet off the ground.
P9/10-simul for easier going, super fun and cruiser to mammoth
P11 is a rappel down to heart ledges
At the top of mammoth we find another party is up there and had already fixed to the ground, so all the lines we decided to jug with (5) were completely unnecessary. The heart party had already jugged half of this other parties lines and fixed some of there’s. We ran into them on the way down and they were really nice guys who later would supply us with a crucial cordelette when our 7mm 2-1 system line got a core shot and tore in half. That night we hiked the rest of our supplies (ledges, sleeping gear, warm feathers, other misc) to the base and bivied there, woke up and began hauling to heart. During this time we had a cluster of people. There was us, the Spaniards, the Brits, the Heart Party, and the Shield party all jugging and hauling, also there were 2 parties on Muir wall, and 1 party coming down the heart rappel from somewhere else, and a part of aussie/germans who were retrieving some gear left on the hollow flake. Needless to say it sucked. But we were able to get all our stuff up heart ledges and climb pitch 12 and sleep there that night. We each brought our own portaledge so it was awesome to not have the awkward simul-entry and exit of a two person ledge. Yes, we could have slept on the “great bivy” ledges, but I sleep much better in a portaledge and am young and able to lug it around so I paid for good sleep with bad knees coming down, but it was totally worth it.
The next day we take off and halt. The Spaniards had fixed the day before to the top of the hollow flake, as had the brits. However the brits were bailing so as we got ready to lead the infamous pitch they passed us on there fixed line in order to come back down and get off the Captain, and in the middle of that fiasco the Spaniards show up (they had rapped to the ground the night before, and re-jugged the heart lines to take off from the hollow flake ledge to the spire) so we sat there and waited for the dust to settle, when it was all said and done it was just us leading the hollow flake and the Spaniards in front. Now we were totally cool with letting the Spaniards pass us because they were planning on hitting the spire that night and fixing a few pitches, they to the top the next day. Whereas me and nate were just going to take our sweet time because we enjoy aid climbing and don’t free harder than low 10’s. Here is how day 2 on the wall went.
P13-4th class ish, chill
P14-The hollow flake, aided/protected with big bros and #6 camalot
P15-Scary, I was supposed to lead it and only got halfway up. I am not an off width or chimney afficianado, but Nathan has a much better eye. I took a stab at the 5.7 chimney and turned it into a 5.10 offwidth scarefest with no pro (I am not good with big bro’s) so I backed down after placing a tipped out #6 and Nathan took the lead like a champ.
P16- striagthforward aid/free
P18-Again I was up for a lead. But as some of you may have noticed I am a wimp when it comes to chimneys, so after struggling and crying and wanting to just give up on life inside this wretched, smelly, awful, soaked feature that I could not for the life of me see as 5.7 or climbable, came down to let nate do his man thing and pull through. We bivied at the top of the ear in our ledges.
The next day we begin again, I start the leading, but we catch up to the Spaniards and it gets messy again.
P19-fun aid, don’t know about that C1+, lots of fixed too
p-20-nate leads it and when we gain the spire, there is Spaniard gear and trash everywhere, and nate has de harnessed-he has the dreaded “wall hips” and it looks like somebody snuck up behind him and put bloody hamburger meat on his hips where his harness touches him. We sit there contemplating going down because he cannot haul. I haul this pitch (gladly so, I owe him like 10 leads by now anyway) and we sit and deliberate, we decide to keep going and he takes the pain like a champ, and takes the next lead! However, at every anchor form here on out there is a fixed line and gear clogging any spot that one might like to use for belaying/hauling from. Turns out the Spaniards are not taking off from the spire to the top, but are fixing to the spire after a full day of climbing off of it. Now it wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t of clogged every belay with shoes and bags and all kinds of crap, but hey, who am I to judge?
P 21-chimney sucks, use big bros!
P22- straightforward/cruiser. the Spaniards call it a day from halfway up the sewer pitch and rap over us making hauling difficult
P23-some scary fixed pins with blown eyes and tattered mank, but hey, they held nate just fine!
P24/25- nasty, awful, stinking gross, I linked both, the block was super cool, if it wasn’t soaking wet and dark I might have freed it, we bivied on top of the block that night, be careful! there are some death blocks up there
The next day we were heading for the headwall and probably the top (there’s a storm a comin’), but as Nathan started up from the top of the block (we were finally ahead of the Spaniards!) the Spaniards show up, and begin climbing over us. The leader is taking the free variation so I understand that they were thinking that they were out of our way, but they still managed to get all our ropes jumbled, and were just really rude, they didn’t ask, but did succeed in passing us, then immediately slowing down. I know they were probably thinking “these stupid Americans are always in our way!” but sometimes, that’s just the way it is I guess. Luckily when they hit the roof they took an alternate free route and didn’t go for the headwall, we were finally alone on the captain. Luckily it was through some of the must stunning pitches of granite I have ever led
P26- fun lead for nate! He loved it
P26/27-I linked, if you have aliens it is not C2, also the second pitch is mostly fixed bashed in hexes
P28-Nates lead, said it was terrifying and wonderful. Lots of fixed gear under the roof. I will say it was the most horrifying yet enjoyable clean I’ve ever done, and the Salathe headwall is the coolest place I have ever been. Super steep and exposed. It was very quite except for the white-noise esk howl of the wind, flinging my aiders 90 degrees to the right.
P29/30-Most fun ive had on the route, straight forward crack but the exposure is ridiculous, and it is very steep. The C2 section is just awkward brassies and fixed gear. Long ledge is a fantastic view of the valley, and a great bivy, sadly a storm was on the way so instead of another day on the wall finishing the last four pitches, we had to push through the night
P31-Nathan said it was the hardest lead of the climb, that hidden crack is very very small
P32-straigthforward, watch the haul line! It gets stuck in the crack you lead along with the lead line
P34/35-nathan lead these, the sun had set long ago, and as soon as I finished the first pitch his headlamp died, so he could click it and get about 2 seconds of light as he finished the lead, said it was the scariest thing he’s ever done
Topped out around midnight, another romp up the captain complete!