Dispatch 3: Leaning Tower, West Face

Watched videos of Katie Brown and Lynn Hill free climb this steep big wall is just mind blowing. Loads of 11ish – 12c free and steep climbing and that is like few hundred ft off the ground. That’s something which I think I might try to do in my future trips to Yosemite, perhaps not free climb the whole thing but at least some of the classic pitches on the West Face.

Mission 1, Leaning Tower!
Mission 1, Leaning Tower!

This is the first big wall Kelly and I got on since we arrived in Yosemite 2 months ago. We have been taking our time exploring, hiking, climbing and working. Generally just taking our time to see Yosemite than to just come here with a massive tick list and go on wall after wall rampage. Kelly is feeling more confident on climbing, leading and aiding and I’m starting to get more confidence in harder climbs and freeing moves on the big wall with my 5.10 approach shoes.

The pigs ate too much..
The pigs ate too much..

The wall is typically 3 days climbing with most parties hiking their loads to the base and shuttle equipment and bags across the class 4 on the first day, climb to Ahwahnee Ledge on the 2nd and top on the 3rd day. West Face is 11 pitches and the start is 400 ft above the ground. We decided to climb it in 2 days and bring 3 days worth of stuff in case we have to bivy at the top for one more night.

Kelly with her Fav pig named Donald
Kelly with her Fav pig named Donald

First day, we woke up at 5.30am at Patrick’s place in Fish camp, as usual we snooze for about 30mins because it was cold and its hard to get out of the sleeping bags. We had a huge breakfast and drove into the valley arriving at Bridalveil Fall car park at about 8am. We slowly packed our stuff and started the hike at 9am to the base, instead of taking 2 trips to hike loads to the base Kelly and I were feeling garang and took 2 huge haul bags with all water and equipment to the base in 1 trip. The bags were about 25kg each and we took many breaks to get the the bivy spot before the 4th class catwalk.

That's the bivy spot, we split the loads into half and harness up for the 4th class which feels more like exposed 5.5 climbing
That’s the bivy spot, we split the loads into half and harness up for the 4th class which feels more like exposed 5.5 climbing
Carrying those bags on the 4th class can be hard work
Carrying those bags on the 4th class can be hard work
IMG_5772
Look at the exposure, its a long way down. Clipping in is a good idea.

Once we got to the base of the climb, it was 1130am and time for lunch! We sat around the base discussing who takes the first pitch, ate cookies, drink loads of water and chill out for a while in the cloudy afternoon.

All the stuff up and ready to chillax..
All the stuff up and ready to chillax..
Kelly gets the bolt ladder pitch
Kelly gets the bolt ladder pitch

Kelly gets the first 2 pitch of bolt ladders, it was her first aid lead and she’s not the tallest climber around. Even with her feet at the top step of the aiders, she was having problem before and during the C2F. Trashed her nice climbing shoes in the process, she backed off the pitch and got down upset. =(

My turn to fire 1 and 2 with no time to waste..
My turn to fire 1 and 2 with no time to waste..
Look how steep the wall is..
Look how steep the wall is..

So it was my turn to get up and aid the hell out of West Face. The plan is to link pitch 1 & 2, 3 & 4 and get to Ahwahnee Ledge with the bags and hopefully still have time to do 5 & 6 before whipping out the headlamps. I was on fire and 1 – 4 pitch went pretty quickly, taking one fall at pitch 3 with my right foot in the aider. Luck was on my side and I did not hurt myself.

Ahwahnee Ledged, with Haulbags up and Kelly almost to Guano Ledge
Ahwahnee Ledged, with Haulbags up and Kelly almost to Guano Ledge. Oh yes I love my Arcteryx Accerlo Comp SS T-shirt, drys up almost instantly after I sweat!

On Ahwahnee Ledge, we rested, ate some more biscuits and drink more water while waiting for the afternoon sun to blaze a little less. Started 5 & 6 at about 715pm knowing that I should have about 1.5hours of daylight and moving quickly would be useful. However I was quickly shut down at pitch 5 when I tried to do the free version after the pendulum, the moves off the ledge is far without foot holes and 0 gear. I down climbed that and went back to the ramp and started aiding with my BD C3 leap frogging size 0 and 1 for about 20 foot section before placing a good cam behind a flake. IMHO that could be the hardest section of aid climb in the whole route and once I got to the top of the pitch I saw the sun already down and behind the valley. However the climbing ahead was easy free section followed by bolt ladders so I asked Kelly to shine her head lamp on me while linked 5 & 6 and fixed the ropes to Guano Ledge.

Probably the only time the second's feet is touching the wall when jugging.
Probably the only time the second’s feet is touching the wall when jugging.

Descent to Ahwahnee Ledge and had a great dinner with a ziplock bagged of rice and black diced beans with fish can food!  Followed by pineapple tarts from Ranch 99 and drank like 2 litres of water.

Food box opens and we get to enjoy the most luxurious Big wall we have done so far
Food box opens and we get to enjoy the most luxurious Big wall we have done so far
IMG_5803
Its good to eat what you like on the wall and this replenish those sodium you have lost during the day.. =D
Really? Did we bring food for a week?
Really? Did we bring food for a week?

Knowing that I fixed to pitch 6, I knew we would top on that day so we climbed at a leisure pace, eating a big breakfast, photo whoring, and just fooling around on the wall.

The Snooze monster hits the wall
The Snooze monster hits the wall
Engine cannot start.. too cold (Thank god for the Gamma MX hoody)
Engine cannot start.. too cold (Thank god for the Gamma MX hoody)
Mama Noodles from Thailand!!
Mama Noodles from Thailand!!
Have to post this photo, the box is from Brian Anthony Thomas. It was during one of those course platoon green missions that you wanted to throw away this lock and lock box and I kept it till now. Still serving me well after 10 years!
Have to post this photo, the box is from Brian Anthony Thomas. It was during one of those course platoon green missions that you wanted to throw away this lock and lock box and I kept it till now. Still serving me well after 10 years!
After every good breakfast must shit la. This is the best toilet you can get in your life. As you get to pack your shit out like a packet of Nasi Lemak.
After every good breakfast must shit la. This is the best toilet you can get in your life. As you get to pack your shit out like a packet of Nasi Lemak.

I climbed pitch 7 and linked 8 & 9 and climbed 10. Kelly took the summit pitch 11 and we topped out Leaning Tower via West Face at 4pm the following day. I shuttled the haul bags on pitch 11 and we make ourselves some coffee and Tuna with Mayo before the chimney descent.

Jugging up to the last high point after the shit
Jugging up to the last high point after the shit
Pitch 7 Belay
Pitch 7 Belay
Busting some free moves in between aiding
Busting some free moves in between aiding
Cam whoring
Cam whoring
You gotta love the hauling when the bags hangs like that.
You gotta love the hauling when the bags hangs like that.
Jugging the pitch 10
Jugging the pitch 10
The 12c roof which I think it would be possible to free
The 12c roof which I think it would be possible to free
Summit Glory pitch for Kelly
Summit Glory pitch for Kelly
Shuttling the haul bags to the summit
Shuttling the haul bags to the summit

It was 9 pitches of low angle abseil with our still heavy haul bags and we took about 3.5hour from the top to the car. Arriving at our car at 830pm. In total we spent less than 36 hours on the wall and we were not trying to move fast at any section of the climb. The ease of hauling and 2 months spent climbing in Yosemite must have helped a lot and the body feels like its ready to crush again after 1 day of good rest.

Summit high tea!
Summit high tea!
Watch out for those loose rocks. Belay loops break, loose rocks fall and people slip. Descent is the final phase of your climb but you want to the extra careful!
Watch out for those loose rocks. Belay loops break, loose rocks fall and people slip. Descent is the final phase of your climb but you want to the extra careful!

Kelly and I are now in Starbucks looking at the guide book for our new adventure before picking Amanda up for her 7 days of adventures in Yosemite ! Stay tune for more updates!

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