Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Return to The Nose, 5.8 C2

I thought I'd include this story, for the sake of those who have been unable to move on with their lives since hearing the news three years ago that I retreated from The Nose.

I went with Alex to the Valley on Tuesday night in the middle of a rainstorm. We slept below El Capitan in the car. In the morning, as the sun worked on the rock, we packed a backpack with a gallon and a half of water and 25 energy bars and laid seige to the rock.

We only had one rope, which meant we could only travel in one direction. We were heading for the Harding bolt ladder on the summit headwall, no matter what.

Hans Florine, a climber well-known for his El Cap exploits, happened to be getting on the route when we arrived. We graciously let him go first, then spent the rest of the day chasing him. He was dragging a friend up the rock, so we were able to stay with him for the first 20 pitches or so. At one point, as Alex and I executed a Florine-style simul-climbing speed maneuver on the pendulum pitches, Hans got stoked and filmed us. I'm not sure he was as approving of the old-school body belay I gave Alex at the end of the traverse.

We used Hans, a famous climber, as our ambassador. With each team that we had to pass on the wall, he gained permission and we all sped by. As darkness fell he pulled away and we were left to struggle up the steep, final third of the wall alone, in a totally pathetic state.

The night passed as in a dream, with us swinging leads in altered states of consciousness. Alex had a poop attack while on lead on pitch 28. He stuck in a piece, leaned back, and managed somehow to get his pants down while still wearing his harness before proceeding to crap all over the pitch. Later, as I jugged the pitch by the light of a Petzl Tikka, I noticed the stench before noticing there was a mound of doogy piled up on top of my jumar on the rope. I looked down and found that it was all over the wall. My knees were in it. It was on my shoes. We pressed on.

Alex nicely gave me the lead on the overhanging final pitch. I zombied onto the summit and turned on my phone. I expected midnight, maybe 1 a.m., but the clock clearly read 5:30. We had climbed through the entire night. I made a couple summit calls as the sun washed away the Macbethean memories of the night. I got off a couple off before by phone died and we were left to descend the East gully alone. But the crispness of the morning air gave us a second wind, and we were stoked to have done the route in under 24 hours, which got us down to the truck, and into our sleeping bags where we slept the rest of the day.

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