To climb a big wall in a day or free climb as many pitches as possible is always something Kelly and I have been thinking about for a long time. We have been looking at the big walls of Yosemite and been thinking hard what do we want to do next something that really suit our time frame.
One day during one of those Patrick kitchen moments, I asked Jessica “Hey what do you think of Liberty Cap?” Knowing that this bad ass couples have climbed some really good stuff, I should get some good beta or recommendations at least.
Jessica : “Its great, we climbed it sometime ago and there is loads of free climbing on the route. But.. there is a 11a R first pitch where you should watch out for.”
Me: ” Hmm…”
When you hear from Yosemite veteran that you should watch out, being a rookie, you should really be carefully and not be garang or gung ho. It just doesn’t work with lock harder or don’t let go mindset. Btw Patrick and Jessica worked for YOSAR for ages and we can trust their advice.
Kelly and I decided that the free climbing on Liberty Cap is the most manageable among the walls we wanted to do mostly in the 10s – 11s range which is about the max we can free climb pitch after pitch. We also decided that hauling would be a bitch on this route and if we could do it in a day or with a short bivy in the middle of the wall it would be great and most enjoyable.
We planned and packed our bags for bivy under the route on the 1st day making just the approach up Mist trail, fix and free pitch 1 and 2 and gather water at Nevada Falls.
The plan was to wake up late on Sunday, since the body is a little sore from climbing the day before from cragging at cookie cliff. Pack our bags, cook some rice to be brought to the base of the route and drive to Happy Isles trailhead just slightly after lunch.
The approach was uneventful and warm. Carrying those gears for the climb and bivy was not fun and we have to stop 2 times to make it to the base of Liberty Cap.
After, we drop our packs at the bivy site, we took our gears and make our way to the base of the route. Approach is straight forward without dramas mamas. I finally saw what Jessica meant about the bit that we have to watch out for. The first 5m of the climb is the crux and the gears are tiny, most people who fall rip their gear out and land on the belay ledge. It will be painful to deck on the first pitch of our first in a day route. I took some offset TCUs and buried that thing deep into the pin scar just below the crux.
And I fall. The good thing is I did not deck and that tiny piece of Blue/purple offset held me.
After a few tries from the ground, I finally got the good holds and make it up the layback. I gotta say its one of those one move wonder =) and I’m not complaining about it. At least I did not have to work very hard for the sent and it was not my turn to deck.
Second pitch is a great finger to hand crack. I really enjoyed the climb and the best part was gear is good and the route is kinda long. I could actually feel my calfs starting to burn as I move into the 10c tight hands. Sent that pitch onsight with the bats behind the cracks cheering for me. =D
We fixed the ropes and head down to our bivy spot for the night and some in wild facebooking. Shamelessly spraying about the 11a sent since I was really happy about it. We knew the next day was going to be long, tiring and painful, so we load up on carbs and slept early.
Alarm came on at 5am, snooze monster sat on us till about 5.30am and finally left bivy site at 630 and started jugging at 7am. That’s where all the nobs mistakes start coming in. We brought 1 pair of jugs and when I got to the top of pitch 2 on our fixed ropes, the ropes were hanging too far out and I couldn’t get it back to Kelly. Bummer, now I have to descend and pass her the jugs while i prussic my way back up to pitch 2. Exactly the kinda things that you do not want to do when you are trying to climb a big wall in a day.
Pitch 3 was a 70ft short pitch, which I quickly blast through and wanted to to make it all the way across to link up pitch 4 only to find out I went off route and ran out of gears. So I went down to pitch 3 and belayed Kelly up before racking up for the last bit of the 5.9 hidden hands crack on pitch 4. The 5.9 went free and fast when I have my 2 X BD size 2 camalot.
Pitch 5 was bolt ladders and the steepest part of the climb, little did I know there were only a few bolts and many fixed rivet in between bolts. Well I had no rivet hangars so I used nuts in place of hangars and had no problems except for some reaching clipping. Free the moves on the C2+/A1 crux to avoid hooking.
By the time you get to start of pitch 6 the whole of Nevada falls can be seen and that view is amazing! Enjoyed the view and starting to feel the effects of the big wall taking a toll on me. I started off with pitch 6 which I think would be a incredible climb but a little too hard and I was fatigue. I aid climb most of it before free climbing the squeeze. Did not encounter the death block during the climb that people talked about.
Pitch 7 is uneventful and when we finally get to the bivy ledge, there was no fix gear there and it was almost 4.30pm. We were behind schedule and I was feeling tired and the thoughts of sleeping on the ledge occur to us since we were really tired. I threw the idea out of the when we started with pitch 8 chimney. It was wide and there was a wind tunnel inside that is constantly blowing at you, giving you that airy feeling. I’m still not such a great chimney climber and it took me loads of effort to haul my ass up.
PItch 9 was a maze to navigate through the bushes. Not pleasant at all. Pitch 10 and 11 are pretty quick as its all getting dark and there was no time for photos, all that was in my mind is ‘I do not want to climb the 5.8R pitch 11 in the dark’ So we did get to the top just before the sun set behind Half Dome and the other walls to our left. There was a sign of relief and no celebration when we got to the top. All Kelly said to me when she got to the top was, “I cannot make it already”
Its a long day and for sure we did not make the 10hrs Liberty Cap for 18hrs Nose but it was still a great experience to climb a big wall in a day and free climbing almost 50% of it was kinda a big deal for me.
Got off the wall, and tried to drive to Patrick’s house that night but couldn’t make it at all, so we slept by the road for an hour before zig zagging our way down the highway to Fish Clamp.
All I know is I probably will not climb a big wall in a day for sometime. We were so trashed the following day when we crawled our sorry ass out of the sleeping bag.
Climbed the wall with the following gears if you are interested.
-80m Sterling 9.8 Velocity
-Doubles C4 up to size 3 and 1 X size 4 and 5
– 2 X large Cam hooks
– 8 X quickdraws
– 4 TCUs, 1 is offset blue/purple
– Grigri and Juma 3:1 set up for second