Login with Facebook
 ADVANCED
TR - Tribal Rite, SE Face of El Cap
View Latest Posts in This Forum or All Forums
   Page 1 of 2.  1  2   Next>   Last>>
Follow replies to this topic? Notify me at the top of web site.
1

Email me.
 
 
By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Dec 10, 2007
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex ...
Tribal Rite was my twenty-seventh El Cap route. My partner Tom Kasper and I chose this route partly because it was a cool looking line up a proud part of the Big Stone, and partly because of its moderate rating. There was plenty of A3 to sustain our interest, but only one pitch rated A4, so we got the A4 rating without having to climb more than one pitch of it, an important consideration when you are as lazy and as chickensh*t as me. There was also some more moderate stuff for Tom to have a go at leading.

But I think primarily we wanted this route for its killer bivi ledges, most importantly Lay Lady Ledge which has to be the All Time Plush El Cap Bivi! I hadn’t been there since my ascent of Reticent Wall in 1998, and a return trip was long overdue. On that climb, one of my partners declared that since we were making an alpine style ascent, we would have to move camp from the stellar accommodations of Lay Lady Ledge up to some miserable hanging bivi at the top of the first pitch, a decision he later regretted.

As you will see, Tom and I weren’t about to repeat that mistake! I believe taking your time and enjoying the vertical camping experience to be a fundamental step in the Journey from Young Bull to Old Bull.

It quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to fix all the way to Lay Lady Ledge as we had originally envisioned, as there comes a point when the extra jugging just ain’t worth it. Dave Turner – a young man well underway in his journey to OB – pretty much convinced us when he said, “You guys should be chillin’ up in your ledges drinking coffee instead of jugging.” He had a point.




So we blasted after fixing the first three or four pitches, and spent our first night on the wall here at the top of 3. The route we chose follows the first ten pitches of New Dawn up to Lay Lady Ledge and thence to the ledge just right of the Texas Flake on The Nose. These easier aid pitches were a great warm-up for out-of-shape off-the-couch lard-asses like us. Leo Houlding free climbed this bit, and in one place bolted the hood ornament from an Alfa Romeo onto the rock to make it climbable. From the looks of things, he was making some pretty rad runouts across seemingly blank sections of rock – quite incredible, really. That boy is bad to the bone!

The yellow ledge in front is my trusty Fish Double Crab-O-Ledge, a wall veteran used on most of my 246 nights on El Cap, not counting base or summit bivis. The thing is pretty much indestructible. Behind it is the red Metolius ledge I borrowed from the manufacturer to do my portaledge review for Gripped Magazine.

TR49
TR49


The Metolius ledge uses a clever “open corner” design that makes the thing incredibly easy to set up and take apart, although it requires a spreader bar to snap into place beneath it. It’s a great ledge if you’re tall as it’s quite long. The fly is quite brilliant with a built-in point of attachment, though somehow I managed to get that returned to Gripped. But I hung onto the ledge for the time being.



Lay Lady Ledge is a totally kick-ass bivi ledge – big enough that you can safely unrope and chuck your crap all over the place. You can tell it’s springtime because the grass is still green. That’s my Fish Crab-O-Ledge in the background. My ex-girlfriend painted the picture of my mascot – Wee-Wee the Big Wall Crab – onto a white sheet and then I had the shoe repairman sew it onto the bottom of the ledge. From a distance, it is said to resemble a Hoser flag, but this is purely co-incidental, eh? Look for it up on the Captain, and if you see it, try reaching me on the radio using Channel 2 sub 10.

Check out the duct tape repair job on the toes of Tom’s boots. They were beginning to fall apart, and his efforts to glue the soles back into place were unsuccessful. This in turn gave me a rather diabolical idea, of which you will soon read.



Not only does Lay Lady Ledge collect all the rainfall to water the grass, but it also collects vast amounts of wood washed over the wall during winter- and springtime storms. We were amazed to find all sorts of firewood, a pre-existing firepit, and even a grill that other climbers had left behind.

Since the place was going to be our home for a couple nights while we fixed the pitches above, we figured we might as well be comfortable, so we took a bit of extra time to rig some “clotheslines” to organicize our gear. You must alvays have a vell-organicized bivv.



It's hard to find more stylin’ digs than a bivi seven hundred feet off the deck. Our dwindling firewood supply gave us just enough heat to warm up our canned vegetables, served with our entrée of kolbosa sausages wrapped in aluminum foil.

The Barefoot shiraz comes highly recommended by Dr. Piton. Who says you have to spend more than six bucks for a great bottle of wine? Ah yes, Trader Joe’s – what a bitchin’ place that is! {sigh} If only we could get ‘em up in Canada.

An unfortunate side effect from the consumption of alcoholic beverages – as some of you may be aware – is the impairment of judgement. In Tom’s case, he didn’t realize that it was unwise to casually bump the rather round sack containing all of his storm gear, and he watched as it rolled downslope to tumble off the ledge into oblivion. However another side effect is that he didn’t really care, at least at that moment.



The plastic food bucket hangs on a Catch Line beneath our main load of pigs, and contains our fresh fruit and crushables like crackers to go with our selection of fine wines and cheeses.

Note: do not throw avocado pits off the wall! From three thousand feet up, a direct hit on the noggin would likely kill.

Neither should you drop your raingear. We learned from Dave Turner via radio that Aaron Young had picked up Tom’s beautiful Goretex raingear, and was borrowing it for his solo ascent of South Seas. We later met up with Aaron on the summit – we were the first people he had spoken with in 11 days as he had also managed to drop his radio.

Aaron is a spunky but outspoken Young Bull who recently used his real name in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The reporter spoke of him camping in defiance at the base of El Cap, with various anti-Ranger epithets displayed prominently on his haulbags. One might as well paint a bull’s eye on one’s chest, and stand on a tree stump during target practice. If you don’t find him up on the wall, look for him renting a room in the John Muir Hotel.




Some climbers like to set speed records, and I am no exception. Bet ya didn’t know I had my own page on Hans Florine’s speedclimb.com, eh? In my case I try to set a record for not only the slowest ascent, but also for the most luxurious. It is, after all, a holiday. And Tom and I climb in Full-On Holiday Mode. This requires no climbing be done before noon, and mornings be spent festering on the ledge whilst drinking coffee, shaving in Tom’s case and in mine – working on my suntan.

It's hell on the big wall



Above the pigs you can see the massive Footstool, already looking pretty small. To the right side of the photo and above me and my pasty-white flesh, the Merced River is overflowing its banks at the oxbow, flooding a huge area of the meadow to the south-east of the Zodiac Pullout which is normally dry. As you probably recall, there was extensive flooding this spring in Yosemite Valley.



Unfortunately, the biggest nuisance of Big Wall Camping is the need to actually climb the wall, so we were finally obliged after a couple of nights to move our camp upwards to the next ledge, just right of the Texas Flake on The Nose.

Above you can see Tom getting the pigs ready to take off, with the Catch Lines visible in place. That big red sack to his left is his sleeping bag. Lovely, isn’t it? Aficionados will recognize the slab at the base of Mescalito where we began our climb.



The three pitches above Lay Lady Ledge involve mostly crack-jugging four-inch to six-inch-wide cracks. One wonders how the first ascensionists protected these cracks, or if they just went for it. These pitches probably go free at 5.10 or so if you were so inclined, which I emphatically am not. I retired from free climbing years ago. Hell, I even wrote a song about it. Gimme a beer and a piano, and I’ll sing it for you. Gimme two beers, and I’ll stop singing it for you.

Tom was laughing his ass off while cleaning this pitch when he came upon a nest of four manky pins I whacked into an incipient crack, equalized, and then clipped with a Screamer. “Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!” laughed Tom. “That's what you get for not bringing enough big cams for pro!” Judging by the pinscars, I wasn't the first to do so.



Normally Tom wears his big klunky Scarpa plastic boots on the wall, but as you have seen they were starting to fall apart. I shrewdly loaned him my spare pair of 5.10 wall shoes, which were actually his to begin with. Seems he traded one of his Valley Giant 9” cams to a guy working at 5.10 in exchange for a pair of shoes, which turned out to be a half-size too small for him. Pity, as they fit me perfectly. If you’ve never seen Tom’s big-ass Valley Giant cams, you should have a click on the link above. These things are superbly crafted, and hugely stronger than any commercially made cams on the market. You can order some from the website linked above, unless you want to scare yourself silly running it out up some offwidth.

Since Tom was wearing my new shoes, accordingly I sent him to climb the rather intimidating chimney behind the Texas Flake. Sticky rubber and all. And better him than me, that’s for bloody sure! The chimney is much too wide even for Tom’s legendary twelve-incher, but at least there’s a chicken bolt in behind it now which wasn’t there when my partner climbed it for me in 1988. Strangely enough, nobody has seen fit to chop it. Which is fine by me.

In the late 70’s, George Meyers’ superb picture book Yosemite Climber was found on the coffee table of many an aspirant wall climber, if they happened to own a coffee table. Otherwise you could often find a copy beneath the passenger’s seat of most any VW van parked in Camp 4 [known as Sunnyside back then] – usually well thumbed and quite often drooled upon. In my opinion, this is one of the best climbing books ever published, and if anyone were to produce another, I’d be first in line to buy it. The photos in this book were often copied by climbers – for instance, nearly every day you saw someone taking a picture of the bulletin board on the Camp 4 kiosk. This practice may again return now that David Safanda has published a similar photo in the new McTopo big walls guidebook.



One of the most inspiring and vertiginous photos in Yosemite Climber was that of Richard “Nipper” Harrison stretched out on top of the Texas Flake. But did he have a stomach like mine? Huh? Did he? And check out that pale anemic complexion, earned over the Winter Training Session* in the Great White North, and by spending too much time underground in Roppel Cave, Kentucky. In keeping with our “alpine starts” at the crack of noon, Tom managed to click this photo seconds before the shadow passed over me, and I reached for my jacket. You’d be amazed how cold and windy this area of the Big Stone can get, right on the most exposed buttress of The Nose.

You’ll notice I’m wearing some old school Trango Russian Aiders, which I really love as they reduce the Wank Factor** of dealing with two pairs of aiders. These things are ETS*** on the steep stuff as you can easily topstep to the equivalent height of the second step in regular aiders by dint of the mechanical advantage of the foot-to-knee camming action similar to what you get in a pair of downhill ski boots.

What you can’t see beneath my feet is the rivet ladder that climbs the outside top edge of the flake [the “NW border of Texas” on the “map”] and which you can use to avoid getting scared in the chimney. I was quite amazed to see those things there, because they are invisible from below. To reach them, you need to descend the chimney and move about thirty feet west. You heard it here first.

  • Winter Training Session – to train for climbing is to cheat, and negates the validity of the off-the-couch status of any would-be ascensionist. Acceptable training includes drinking beer whilst ranting on internet forums to all hours of the night, and certain athletic pursuits with your chosen hottie

  • *Wank Factor [a.k.a. Co-Efficient of Wank] – that unitless number, which when multiplied by the total time spent performing a certain function, equals the amount of time lost to unproductive activity [i.e. wanking about]

  • **ETS – Emphatically The Shit



After fixing ropes to the top of Texas Flake, we returned to our camp on the ledge to the right of its base. Not many people camp here because the classic El Cap Towers is immediately beneath, but since we had portaledges, we figured the sporting thing would be to leave El Cap Towers open for any Nose climbers who happened by. It was also a direct 200’ haul to this, the 11th pitch, from 9.

While this part of the ledge is quite pleasant, the bit between our camp and the Flake contained a lot of loose rock that could easily be knocked off. We were just able to reach the top of Boot Flake with our haul lines, so we hauled directly to there. This involved Tom hauling from above, while I tried to walk the pigs across the ledge without knocking anything off.

This worked pretty well, as we only knocked one thing off – ME. I was secured by a separate rope also going to the top of the Boot, and as I was a-wrasslin’ the pigs round the far right outside edge of the ledge, the porcine bastards sent me flying on a terrifying sixty-foot pendulum to the left – fortunately there were no corners to hit! – until I finally ended up plumb somewhere around Brownsville. Scared the snot out me, that. This variation of the King Swing is not recommended by Dr. Piton.



We moved our camp up onto Tribal Rite, knocking off the crux A4 pitch which to me was NTB/NTB+. You’ll find decent placements among the rotten rock, though the route-finding is a bit tricky. It’s not immediately obvious which way to go. One memorable moment occurred near the top of the first pitch, when the flake I was hooking on blew, and I fell onto my knee onto the head I had just placed. [Remember, I’m using Russian Aiders with the hook on the knee]

Beneath us, the floodwaters are just beginning to recede, but the big white boulder in the oxbow is still completely underwater.



This is the third pitch of Tribal Rite, and with its modest rating of A2+ you wouldn’t expect it to be too difficult. It is rather steeper than it appears – check out the angle of the zipline which is hanging plumb. “Watch me, Pete!” Tom yelled down, “these fixed heads don’t look too good….”

Sure enough, twenty feet above the little roof where you see him, a fixed head pulled from the rock and Tom took an upside-down thirty-footer, ripping three more fixed heads [after fully deploying three Scream Aids] and came to a rest, shaken but not stirred, just below this point.

“Holy frig! Are you OK?!” “Yeah, what now? I ripped out all the heads!” “Well, go back up and stick some more in!” “I’ve never placed any heads before!” “Ah, shut up and climb!”



Here Tom follows me up as the stunning panorama above The Nose lies beneath him. Above him in the picture, the Boot Flake lies directly below, and immediately down and climbers’ right of the Boot, the small-looking “crack” is actually the huge chimney behind the Texas Flake. Left in the photo of the Boot Flake and lying in shadow is the ledge we had camped on, and down and climbers’ left of this is El Cap Towers, the ledge that is orange-ish on its eastern end. At the far right of the picture, a little dot of sunshine illuminates Dolt Tower.



Still only halfway up the wall, the camera is finally able to capture both us and the road running alongside El Cap Meadow. Tom makes short work packing away the Metolius ledge. You can see the ring-o-lettes of my Russian Aiders dangling at the bottom of the photo, and that’s a piece of an indispensable Scream Aid at left.



We moved our camp up to the top of 4, which is noted as a “2’ x 12’ sloping ledge” on the McTopo. In fact, it is more like twenty feet long and in places nearly three feet wide, it slopes only gently, and therefore it makes for a superb portaledge-mandatory bivi.

Here at sunset, Tom completes the 4:1 lower-out off of the final rivet in the ladder on Pitch 4, although I created a bit of bother for him when I clipped the lead rope directly into the crab that a previous party had left on this fixed lower-out point. Tom is never one to leave behind booty – he is a master cam extractor, since he makes the things and understands every little movement – but this biner left him a bit befuddled.

Only a Big Wall Theorist would leave behind a carabiner on a fixed 4:1 lower-out point – you just don’t need one. A little bit of tat is perfectly acceptable – you’re not going to melt through it nor damage your rope. What I should have done for him was to have first tied some fixed tat through the gear, and then clipped the crab to that so that Tom was pre-set for the lower-out. But Tom figured it out and solved the problem, as he always does, and added to our rack.

The unusually wet spring had really brought the cliff to life with vibrant flora, and our ledge was adorned with no fewer than four differently coloured flowers.



Believe it or not, there is a sweet little bivi ledge buried under all of our crap. Here Tom works through our morning ritual, with Middle and Lower Cathedral in the background.



Here’s a look-see the other direction. We have finally climbed high enough that Half Dome is visible above the East Buttress of El Cap. Hmmmmm, I’m still a little chunky looking, but at least not so white…..



We had been up on the wall for quite some time, and perhaps someone was wondering how we were doing. We watched as a rescue helicopter descended through the gap between the Leaning Tower and Lower Cathedral – right over top of Bridalveil Fall – and disappeared round the South-West Face of El Cap. Suddenly the thing appeared directly in front us, and I somehow managed to grab my camera fast enough to get the shot! The helicopter is hugely closer than it appears in this rather wide-angle photo. If they were looking for us waving for rescue, they might have been surprised [or amused] to find us instead reaching madly for our cameras.

“Would you like a rescue?”

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”



Here’s another look at our stellar ledge at the top of P4 of Tribal Rite. Beneath us you will recognize the concavity of the South-East Face of El Cap. The wooded area is below the Trip, and the open area extends from between Lost In America and Zed-Em across to Zodiac and the scary bits beyond. I fear I may find myself alone on Born Under A Bad Sign in about a week. Watch for my ledge….. As you can see, Tom stuck a Merrican flag on the bottom of his ledge.



This pitch scared the livin’ bejeepers out of me. I just don’t get how anyone can rate full-on expando as being only A3. To me, it feels so much harder! This is a view down The Carrot from halfway up P5, while Tom remains on the ledge belaying me from the top of 4.

The A3 heads up to The Carrot didn’t seem too bad, and once I reached the thing, I whacked a couple pins up underneath it to open it up. Then I was able to move right around the overhang which you can see. The crux seems to be at the bottom – I made one of those “hammer the pin in as fast as you can while clipped to it with your daisy” tricks and sure enough, the piece I was on – a head – popped out. Frig. Creeps the hell out of me. The damn Carrot is fifteen or twenty stories high and the whole thing freakin’ moves for cryin’ out loud. [Lawsy, lawsy, lawsy…. Why do I climb? Oh yeah, it’s fun. I think. At least it’s fun when you quit….] Once I got a bit higher and relaxed a bit, I gave Tom the OK to replace one of the rusty old bolts above the ledge with a shiny new 3/8-incher.

I tried to finesse my way up, using nuts and heads and long skinny knifeblades in order to not open it any more than absolutely necessary. After completing the pitch, I partially cleaned it on rappel – we fixed back to camp – by removing the un-hammered gear like nuts and Aliens. Removing pins from expanding flakes starting at the bottom and moving up creates a real nightmare for your partner, because as you remove each successive pin, the flake closes in on your cams. In order to remove them, you need to place a pin next to each cam to re-open the flake. Removing the clean gear on rappel made for a much easier cleaning job the next day.

Note the judicious use of Screamers and Scream-Aids. The new Scream-Aid design that Johnny Yates has come up with has four passes of webbing now instead of two, making them twice as absorbent as the old ones. There is a long sling on each that allows you to girth-hitch it directly onto a head, which is handy and saves you a crab. Buy Yates Scream-Aids! You will grow bigger balls [or ovaries] while using them.



Back on our ledge before sunset, we’ve got time to enjoy our beers and the view. I might not appear to get up big walls very fast, but that’s cuz I don’t spend a lot of time actually climbing, either. You won’t see me starting before noon, and it’s very rare to see me climbing by headlamp.



Like, do ya think maybe we’ve been up there on the wall a bit too long? Oh yeah, that’s Tom’s sleeping bag about to be packed into its orange backpack that you see right in front of him, and is the last known photo of the backpack on the wall. Using the binoculars, we later spotted the pack lying at the base of the slab, right where we began. Seems Tom had accidentally left it soloing on his ledge, and “if it ain’t clipped, it’s gone.” It stayed there a few days, was eventually recovered by someone [anybody know who?] and was returned to the Lost & Found. Tom was thrilled to retrieve it down in El Portal after the wall – he was more concerned about his old friend the backpack than the sleeping bag.

And did I mention it was a bit chilly up there on the wall?



Gosh, that’s a lovely sleeping bag, isn’t it? Check out the water still remaining in El Cap Meadow.

The afternoon winds caused by the solar convection are about to whip up, so click here to fasten down your portaledge.



We moved up to climb the next pitch or two, and then return to camp. There was another ledge at the top of P7, and we figured we’d fix to 6 and then climb to 7 and move our camp there. While we were away climbing – yes, we do actually climb rocks from time to time – we had to secure our ledges so they wouldn’t get blown all over the place, because you can see that Wee-Wee has a mind of his own. Our fragrant little “wallflower” has grown quite a few “petals” after twelve days on the wall.



Here Tom jugs up past The Carrot. Check out the redundancy in his jugging system – he has his two Jumars duct-taped together, along with the Petzl Basic he uses in his Frog system. The more I think about it, the better I like a Basic instead of a Croll when using a regular climbing harness – the Basic sits flat against you when turned sideways. The Croll is designed to be used with a D-shaped maillon rapide on an Avanti-like harness, and his setup is pretty sweet. I think I’ll try it on the next wall.

You can see climbers on the west end of El Cap Towers.



Now that we’re higher, we’re getting superb views of Half Dome. Gotta love the purple alpenglow. About this time on the wall, you start figuring out how close you are to the top. The pine trees are at the finish to Zed-Em and Lost In America, and a bit closer, the bush on the ledge [barely visible as the dark splotch] is the top of Tangerine Trip. We’re well above the finishes of all, yet we still have a darn long way to climb to reach the summit.



Here’s a final look up The Carrot to the belay at the top of 5. You can see the lead rack and stuff up and right at 6, a very cool situation out on an arête with a commanding view of the South-East Face.

We are using a hauling technique that Tom and I call the Remote Simul Space Haul. [RSSH] This is a technique Tom came up with, and I am wondering if anyone else uses it? It was probably invented around the time of the construction of the Pyramids, just like the 2:1 Hauling Ratchet. It works really well for a team of at least two climbers [not applicable for soloists] who are hauling at least two very heavy loads [not applicable for single loads or lighter weight loads].

You connect the two haul lines into one continuous loop – the knot is protected by the knot protector which you can see on the right haul line. You put the haul line through the compound pulley hauling device [I prefer the Kong Roll-Block] and then space haul simultaneously. Tom hauls from the top belay, and I haul from the bottom belay a pitch lower. You really need static ropes for this to work best. This permits the two of us to space haul the one load all the way to the anchor, dock the pig [if re-using the hauling device] to switch the ropes over, and then haul the next load. The key is that it allows the lower guy to release the second load.

I really like this method of hauling as it is fast and easy. It’s always faster to make two 1:1 hauls than one 2:1 haul, though I did use the Hauling Ratchet down lower. If you’ve ever tried the RSSH, I’d like to hear from you. But it is a fairly specialized application, so you’d never need it unless you had two or more really heavy loads. We found we could get those two pigs up there lickity-split. Tom Evans probably got a good look at us doing this both on Tribal Rite, and last fall on Son of Heart.



Here Tom lowers out from 5 to begin the long, free-hanging and really quite airy jug up to 6! You can see the sunlight just beginning to hit the Northwest Face of Half Dome, thus proving that we didn’t begin any earlier than noon.

Tom led the seventh pitch up a shallow dihedral rated A2 on the topo, but probably more like A3. He used a bunch of manky nuts and placed three heads before finally reaching the rivet ladder that traverses up and left to the penji onto our next bivi ledge at the top of 7.



The clouds moved in on us and gave us a beautiful sunset view of Half Dome. Firmly ensconced on our little 2’ x 7’ bivi ledge at the top of 7, we settled in for what we figured would be a relaxing night. How wrong we were!

If you’re smarter than me, you’d have taken notice of the clouds and you’ll grab your portaledge fly and clip your ledge beneath it in quick-deploy mode. If you do as I say, and not as I do, then you’ll also have figured out how to get your portaledge inside your fly, and will click here to set up your ledge and fly and move to Page 7 of this ten-page photo essay.

The next day I climbed the eighth pitch, which had some heads-up A3R hooking above a pinnacle. This pitch was fairly spicy, but could have been a lot harder if the first ascensionsists had kept hooking, and not placed a couple extra bolts. But I’m never one to look a gift bolt in the mouth, that’s for sure. I’ve used “tuning forks” to pull out and replace enough of those rusty old quarter-inchers to know that some of them are pretty bomber [when used with a Screamer] while others you can practically pull out with your fingers. Hard to say how good these ones were but probably not bad. Near the top of the pitch is an enormous flake that I didn’t dare cam, but rather hooked along, and then I had to do some careful nailing right over top of a completely detached pinnacle. I left the pitch fixed for Tom to clean it the next morning, then rapped back to camp in time for supper – woo-hoo!!

OK, so now it’s the middle of the night. And it’s like dark, so imagine a black photo. I wake up around 2 a.m. and glance upward to see the stars blotted out by the clouds. Uh-oh…

“Uh, Tom – the clouds are out. I think we’d better set the flies up….” Getting your ledge under your fly as you are settling in for the night is a fairly straightforward procedure, especially in the daylight. You can see, you have your harness on, and your ledge is unloaded without any gear clipped to it. Instead, I awoke in the darkness, an impending sense of doom compounding the urgency. I never sleep wearing my harness – just a daisy girth-hitched round my waist – so the first thing I did was have to get dressed and back in the damn harness. Of course I don’t have any aiders, so I had to strap the Russians back on. Oh yeah, put the damn shoes on. Sheesh.

First I had to unclip the thousand-and-one things I had attached to my ledge, in order to be able to lift the thing, and find somewhere to clip them all without dropping anything. Next I had to find the fly, which was dangling out of sight beneath everything on a Catch Line, and untwist it from the other Catch Lines.

So I got the fly clipped into the anchor, clipped the ledge [carefully!] beneath the fly, and then expected to simply lower the fly around the ledge, no problem, right? KNOTT! Do you think I could figure out how the hell that damn fly went around the ledge?! Not a chance! I was completely flummoxed, and had created this horrendous clusterf*ck for myself in the middle of the night as I cursed and swore a blue streak seemingly at the fly, but really at myself for the unparalleled stupidity of not first figuring out how to get my fly around my ledge!

I mean, you guys have to imagine this – I was really one pathetic pissed-off bastard! If I had a movie of it, you’d be laughing your asses off by now. “Dr. Piton demonstrates the Better Way of completely and hopelessly clusterf*cking his bivi…”

“Tom! Help!”

I swear, I have no frickin’ clue how I ever got my degree in engineering. I’m convinced they passed me just to get rid of me. I was always away caving and climbing, anyway. Fortunately for me, Tom really IS an engineer, and after another half hour of cursing and swearing, twisting and turning, he finally figured out that The North Face ledge fly had a floor, and two doors on either end, and that the ledge has to go right inside the fly by swinging in either of the doors on the end. All I can say is it’s a bloody good thing it didn’t start raining right away or I’d have been buggered. All in all, a two-hour ordeal.



But hey, by morning the rain had let up enough to lift the flies, and we enjoyed our coffee and some dramatic views of the clouds soaring beneath us. The green pile pants in the foreground were on loan to Tom, as was my spare bivi sack, since he had dropped his sleeping bag.



Here’s the view looking the other way out the end door of my ledge, you know, the door that you swing the ledge into when you set the thing up? In the center of the frame you can see the water washing over the shoulder of the crag in the Horsetail Falls area.



Because of the cooler temperatures, our water consumption had dropped dramatically. Even including the coffee, the two of us drank a total of only 24 litres during our final week on the wall, less than two litres per day per person. Since we were now not worried about our water consumption, we decided to take a rest day during the storm. It might have been possible to climb – we saw a few other teams climbing – but most of us were just sitting it out.

Here Wee-Wee the Big Wall Crab joins me for another cup o’ joe. He gets a little crabby before his morning coffee. He’s sitting on my big wall French coffee press, which is wrapped in blue closed-cell foam and duct tape – it keeps the coffee hot for half an hour! To the right is my big wall stove – a large aluminum pot with a small hole cut in the bottom – you screw the burner into the fuel cylinder through the hole, and the water pot sits on top inside the big old pot, which is also serves as a great windbreak. The larger hole in the bottom is so you can reach inside to light the stove and adjust the valve. With the stove fired up, it got toasty-warm inside the fly, that’s for sure. You just have to be sure that the place is properly vented.



Note the attractive serving suggestions on the box of crackers and the aerosol processed cheese product. Wee-Wee favours the big wall method – place crushed crackers in spoon and spray cheese sh*t all over the top. Not exactly Martha Stewart approved, but it works for us. And we’re not in jail, either.



It would appear that Tom’s gloves were in the bag of storm gear that rolled off of Lay Lady Ledge, so here he improvises with a couple socks.



Here’s another shot of the two of us in our little home. You can see the big wall stove assembled as described above.



Beneath us, the Nose team hunkers down on El Cap Towers, while another team [who will follow us up Tribal Rite] is camped out on top of the Boot Flake. The chimney between the two teams is the back of the Texas Flake.



The storm clouds eventually parted, and the golden rays of twilight lit Half Dome. What a spectacular evening it was, and we felt optimistic we’d see some better weather the next day.


As you can see, the morning turned out to be beautiful!



Here Tom cleans the eighth pitch above our camp at 7. Beneath us, The Nose climbers have already left El Cap Towers, but the guys on Boot Flake seem to be taking their time. So here you have documented evidence that I actually started climbing earlier than someone else.

The route hooks and nails up the obvious flakes above the portaledges, and the spicy bit is directly behind Tom’s head.



By the time I started leading the RURP Pitch, which is P9, the clouds had rolled in and it soon began raining again. I tried a few of the new-style Vermin gear – their version of a Birdbeak and a RURP – and found them to be a nice complement to the traditional designs. Vermin’s beak is a little bit thicker than the A5 beaks, and feels a bit more secure in slightly wider placements. Vermin’s RURP has a clever point of attachment for the cable that reduces the bending moment and makes it a bit more secure in certain placements. Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of the things on the internet anywhere, or I’d hotlink it in. If anyone can get me a link, that would be swell.

A bit higher, the RURP and beak placements give way to heads, and I immediately felt more secure. For a guy whose nickname is “Pass the Pitons” Pete, my nailing is probably my poorest wall skill. I’m much better with heading and hooking. I don’t have tons of experience with beaks and RURPs, and I’ll confess I find it a bit freaky when you can remove a beak placement using nothing more than your fingers! But the things are solid, and it was good practice for me to place a bunch of them in a row. Yates Screamers and Scream-Aids are Emphatically The Sh|t!

Near the top of the pitch just where the angle begins to ease back towards the summit, it started raining, and naturally I had not bothered to bring up my rain gear because the sun was shining. So I had to finish the pitch with water running over all the placements – a trifle aqueous. Sheesh. Strangely, though, the smell of the wet lichen on granite was comforting – it reminded me of my canoeing and fishing trip in Ontario’s Algonquin Park a few weeks previously. I closed my eyes and imagined I was paddling my canoe next to a lichen-covered rock as the waves splashed round me.



Leaving the pitch fixed, we returned to camp, and watched as the clouds dispersed once again in readiness for a gorgeous Half Dome sunset.



With views like these, who's in a rush to reach the summit? Not us, that's for sure.



Ya just gotta love the view, eh?

The tenth pitch begins as a bolt ladder, and traverses up and a long way to the right over rather low-angled rock. There are a few fun hooking moves along the way. Eventually you reach a ledge system, and have to make some tricky and annoying moves beneath a big bollard of rock. The topo says “go low” but I went right up under the thing, after first trying to go low and right without success.

I worked my way to the right, and aided across the huge corner where Wall of Early Morning Light comes up. The photo beneath is taken at the sidewalk-width bivi ledge below the crux pitch of Reticent Wall. Looking up at it, I had not the slightest desire to climb it. No thanks, mate!

The hauling to this point was quite problematical, moving around a low-angle bulge with all sorts of projections for the ropes to hang up on. In fact, the zipline became hopelessly stuck partway along, and I had to horizontally reverse half the pitch to free it, a monumental pain in the ass. Fortunately, the very long lower-out went OK, despite the pigs taking an enormous pendulum at the end after running out of lower-out line. It’s a good thing there was no corner for them to crash into!



Hey, at least I’m finally looking a bit skinnier…..

I was hoping that the final pitches of WOEML would be a bit more trivial, but they had me thinking. The pitch above this bivi requires a substantial number of sawed-offs, and I found myself in the crux A3 section on crappy gear and short of the only piece that would fit, which I had placed lower. I had no choice but to start equalizing gear and down-aiding until I had a decent enough anchor to butterfly into and rappel from. This is better than being lowered off by your belayer, because it doesn’t double the force on the anchor. I returned to the high point using a Body Hoist, whereby you use your Grigri as an ascender, and pass the free end of the rope through a crab on your jug. This way if your anchor fails, you fall onto your Grigri, and not onto the toothed cams of your ascenders.

On the first ascent, Warren Harding must have been fed up with being on the wall for so long because he bolted straight up the face instead of traversing ten feet right to the obvious crack system, and then coming back left.



I managed to reach the summit with just a bit of daylight remaining, and there is a bolted anchor on this superb ledge right at the briny brink. That’s the view past my Russian Aiders cuffs. When Tom cleaned this pitch, he found that the last piece – an inch-and-a-half sawed-off – to be almost hopelessly stuck. Much cursing and funking later, he joined me on the ledge. We unloaded the pigs at this point, and shuttled the gear to the summit bivi.



I’m a bit jealous of guys like Tom who can fall asleep anywhere – be it in the front seat of his Rolls Rover, or sitting on a cramped bivi ledge. Here he demonstrates his prowess on the summit of El Cap. The morning sunlight woke me, and revealed Tom still sound asleep in his pig, his head perfectly yet impossibly balanced on the point of this boulder, a full twelve inches above the ground! Amazing.



So as you can see, we reached the summit with food, water, beer and coffee remaining! The yellow cup I’m using is an old friend I remember taking on a caving trip to Belize in 1979, but is probably older.

Anyway, I hope y’all enjoyed the show! Thanks for stickin’ it out for the full ten pitches, er, pages. My portaledge is always open, and I’ll be in the Valley through much of September and probably til mid-October or so. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the neighbourhood, and join me for a coffee or a beer, depending on whether it is before or after Changeover Time.

So like, have a beauty day, eh? Please if you liked the show, please leave your comments and messages HERE. If I get enough positive feedback, then maybe I’ll make you up a few more photo essays. And if you didn’t like it, then like, take off, eh?

Cheers,

"Pass the Pitons" Pete a.k.a. Dr. Piton

FLAG
By YDPL8S
From Santa Monica, Ca.
Dec 10, 2007
Bouldering at right side of Sun Deck
What a great read! Warren Harding incarnate!!

FLAG
By Luke Hanley
From Boulder, CO
Dec 10, 2007
That's fantastic!!..I love the story and pics...it almost makes me think that Big Walling is fun...and not an exercise in "cluster-F*** management"... with a strong emphasis on pain in the ass. I would have liked some pics of you guys hiking all that tasty brew up to the base.
All that being said, please keep it coming!!

FLAG
By Jordan Ramey
From Calgary, Alberta
Dec 10, 2007
What was left of the rack when I topped out on the...
It's always a pleasure to read all your tales from the comfort of my armchair! As a weekend warrior, I pride myself on living vicariously. Keep 'em coming!

FLAG
By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Dec 10, 2007
Artist Tears P3
Pete,

When are you going to do a TR of Wyoming Sheep Ranch....

Cheers

john

FLAG
By Kaner
From Eagle
Dec 10, 2007
Leading an unknown route.  Photo credit: Sam Lange...
fun read, i'm always a fan of the TRs and you did a damn fine one! not much into big walls but i really enjoyed the laid back pace of your experience. your story-telling ability is great; you'd be an asset at any campfire. also, the definitions from the other day were fun. how long were you guys actually on the wall?

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 23, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
One of the best Big Wall TRs ever!

FLAG
By andy dorais
Feb 24, 2010
Loved it! More please.

FLAG
 
By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Feb 24, 2010
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex ...
I had forgotten John had gone to all the work of transposing this post over here from McTopo. Back then, I had split the post into about eight pages, so as not to put too many photos on one page, so the guys on dial-up would be able to download. These days, I don't think many are still on dialup, and it's really nice to see all the photos on a single page, without having to click links.

I made the photos 700 pixels wide in their original size, which is what appeared on McTopo, although I see they are resized a bit smaller here. You can click the photos to see them in full size, but unfortunately that requires two clicks and extra windows, far too much work.

I could certainly put together similar trip reports for more recent cool and obscure routes. Besides the Ranch, I could do Bad Seed, Born Under A Bad Sign, and KAOS. I suppose I could also do Octopussy and Virginia as well. But it's a HUGE amount of work, to photoshop the photos, write the text, upload the pics and then hotlink them into the forum. I think what you see above took me at least 20 hours.

John, what's the biggest width photo that would fit in this forum, without it being resized? Is there a way to defeat the resizing? It would look a lot better with photos 700 pixels wide.

Cheers, guys. Need to hear some positive feedback, as these things are a huge amount of work. And thanks to John for copying it into this forum, also a huge amount of work. Thanks for the bump, Mark - looking forward to seeing your photos after your coming ascent this spring!

FLAG
By Jordan Ramey
From Calgary, Alberta
Feb 24, 2010
What was left of the rack when I topped out on the...
I'm always psyched to read your trip reports Pete! Especially the obscure routes that never get anything written up about them. Cheers and thanks for the hard work.

-j

FLAG
By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Feb 24, 2010
Awesome report. Thanks for sharing. Always wanted to do that after reading an old Mountain mag blurb about its FA, which incorrectly called it Rosenthal's Tribal Rite, after one of the FA'ers Walter Rosenthal. Always looked awesome way up on that side of El Cap, but until Supertopo or unless you knew someone who worked in rescue in Camp 4, you could never find out any info.

FLAG
By Brad Brandewie
Feb 24, 2010
Maya's first trip to RMNP.
A great read Pete... Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

246 nights on El Cap?
WOW!!!!

Nice work,
Brad

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 24, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
Yes, I'm sure it's a ton of work but, I for one, really appreciate it. I'd like to hear about Wyoming Sheep Ranch and KAOS.

FLAG
By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Feb 24, 2010
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex ...
Actually, Brad - the Tribal Rite trip report is a few years old. Since then I've upped my route count to 39 different El Cap routes, and a total of 401 nights on the side of the Big Stone, not counting base and summit bivis. I am far more of a big wall camper than I am a climber.

Gee, Mark - you really seem to like Tribal Rite. You should go solo it or something. ;)

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 24, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
Okay, okay,

I, MARK HUDON, PLAN TO SOLO GRAPE RACE TO TRIBAL RITE, THIS SPRING, 2010.
I PLAN TO START UP SOMETIME IN THE SECOND WEEK OF JUNE!

How's that?

FLAG
By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Feb 24, 2010
Artist Tears P3
Pete,

There is a way I can insert the full size pics. Check out the one of Half dome as a comparison. It just takes me a little bit longer.

If you want to post up any other trip reports I'd be happy to help out.

Cheers

John.

PS: Mark, looking forward to your TR!

FLAG
 
By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Feb 25, 2010
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex ...
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!! Attaboy, Mark! Mark Hugedong is going for the full-on Big Wall Camping style, and has worked out a system to have COLD BEER on the wall.

John - the way you have changed the Half Dome photo is PERFECT.

So I will make you a deal - if you redo all the photos in this trip report, to make them big like the Half Dome photo, then this will make this trip report really look fantastic, and the way I wanted it to look.

THEN - I will do you guys up at least one photo trip report of the route of your choice. I would suggest either Wyoming Sheep Ranch, KAOS, Born Under A Bad Sign, or Bad Seed. You guys can cast your votes for which one you'd like to see first. I can't promise you quite the same diversity of photos in the above, as I did all four of those routes with Kate, who doesn't have a camera. However the trade-off benefit is that she is rather better looking than Tom!

I really did get a lot of good feedback over at McTopo for the Tribal Rite photo essay you see here [that John "copied over"] and I prefer the format and look in this forum as a better place to show stuff.

John - I have a couple caving trip reports I have to write first, so I probably can't begin this new project for a week or two, but maybe I could get started doing the photos for you to upload?

It really looks ten times better with the bigger photos, thanks!!

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 25, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
I should add to my announcement that I have received tons of help and tips from both Pete and John McNamee, and a haul bag full of gear from Mark Herndon over at SuperTopo.

FLAG
By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Feb 25, 2010
Artist Tears P3
Pete,

I'll fix up your photos over the weekend. No rush on the photo uploads.

Cheers

john

FLAG
By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Feb 25, 2010
Mark Hudon wrote:
Okay, okay, I, MARK HUDON, PLAN TO SOLO GRAPE RACE TO TRIBAL RITE, THIS SPRING, 2010. I PLAN TO START UP SOMETIME IN THE SECOND WEEK OF JUNE! How's that?


Wow. That's a serious time investment. Nothing like soloing some thirty odd pitches. Good on ya.

FLAG
By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Feb 25, 2010
Artist Tears P3
I have a feeling that once Mark gets into the swing of things he will be going pretty damn fast.

PS: 1 vote for Wyoming Sheep Ranch.

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 25, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
Thanks, I'm trying to emulate Pete and his big wall camping ethic. I'm planning 3 pitches a day on Grape Race, and two a day on Tribal Rite. I don't want to race up the route at all, in fact, I'm planning on spending a whole day doing noting atop Tribal Rite's 8th pitch. 10 or 11 days total on the route depending if I fix and then blast or just blast.
I don't know how many El Cap routes I have left in this life so I'm planning on enjoying them all.

FLAG
By Jordan Ramey
From Calgary, Alberta
Feb 25, 2010
What was left of the rack when I topped out on the...
I'm throwing a vote out for the sheep ranch!

FLAG
By Mark Hudon
Feb 25, 2010
On the North America Wall in 1977.
KAOS or Sheep Ranch for me.

FLAG
 
By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Feb 26, 2010
Artist Tears P3
okay, I've edited the photos so they're now full size!

FLAG
By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Feb 27, 2010
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex ...
Hey John,

Huge thanks for fiddling with this. Unfortunately, I only see about three or four photos resized. What you did on the original Half Dome photo fix was perfect.

I have cleared my browser caches and temporary internet files, and reloaded the trip report in both Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, but the problem persists.

The easiest way to tell which photos are resized, and which are not, is to run your cursor down the trip report and over top of each photo. When the cursor appears over a photo as a hand with a finger pointed, then the photo is not resized. When the cursor appears as just an arrow, then it's done correctly. It appears only about three or four of the photos are working properly.

I think your vote counts a lot more, so the Ranch it shall be.

FLAG


Follow replies to this topic? Notify me at the top of web site.
1

Email me.
Page 1 of 2.  1  2   Next>   Last>>