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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. =(
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!