After 2 big walls in a week, we are feeling pretty tired from all the long days on the wall and hiking. With 3 more groups visiting Yosemite to climb with us, we have to streamline our plans for the next big wall.
Both Salathe wall and Mount Watkins did not fit the bill as they usually take about 4 days(our speed) either on the wall or hiking. Looking at our tight time frame we have 1/2 day to hike our loads and maybe 2.5 days to climb something. That seems pretty tight and leave us with a few options, Lurking Fear on El Cap – 19 pitches of aid and little free climbing, Southern Man on Washington Column – 11 pitches of mostly free climbing and Lost Arrow Spire Direct – 15 pitches of mixture of climbing.
Kelly suggested that we should climb on a new face in Yosemite and that will make things more interesting. I thought that was a good idea and we could probably try our luck at getting someone to drop the ropes from the rim so we can setup a high line to walk back to the rim.
Drove back to Fist Clamp bivy HQ in the morning to sort out the gears and pump water from the tap. Off we went, hiking the first loads of water up the 2 hours hike from Village store to the base of LAS.
The following day was suppose to be an early day for so we could do the climb in 2 days but somehow the temperatures dropped to a low of 42F that morning and it was super cold and very hard to get that early start we needed for a 2 day push on the wall. So we ended up starting late and lazy after all the running around for the whole week of guiding and driving.
We got to the base at about noon and hang around a little for lunch and a couple of hot chocolate. Knowing that the plan have changed and we will be climbing to First Error (pitch 4) and fix 2 pitch above, the day was much more relax and the climbing became much enjoyable instead of the usual big wall mad rush.
PItch 1 and 2 came easy and fast since they are short and mainly free climbing with a occasional hook move or a short bolt ladder.
The highlight of the day was pitch 3 which I was reading about and gives me mix feelings about it as it was a 10b offwidth with mandatory free climbing. However as soon as we go into the offwidth, things became automated and it was a lot of pushing, shuffling and pulling on gears. But I have to say it was much more graceful than most of the offwidth I have done so far in the Valley.
The plans went well. We fix to pitch 6 and sat on First error with an hour of day light to spare. It was nice to sit down on the ledge look at the beautiful scenery and plan for what to have for dinner!
That night we experience the famous howling of the wind on LAS and for sure it doesn’t stop! Kelly and I did not sleep much and spend the night shivering and waiting for the wind to die down. But the wind did not stop, it went on and on till the sun came out and it was still blowing hard. I cannot imagine how the wind would be when the Yosemite Falls is running.
Day 2 was a big push, we had to jug Pitch 5 & 6 and climb all the way to the notch which is pitch 12 + 1 pitch of 5.6 (which turned out to be relatively serious 5..6 on rotten rocks).
Pitch 9 was some serious aiding, with a easy bolt ladder in the beginning and ending up with some rivets without heads and bolt whole for the Talon to hook. The final moves to the ledge looks like some serious hooking but could be free climbed out with a calm mind. I would seriously recommend climbing shoes for this pitch after my epic climb out with approach shoes.
We got to pitch 12 pretty late in the day at about 1930hrs and super tired. There is a few error in the super topo on this pitch and I was a little confused. I began starting up on free climbing out of the pitch followed by aiding a few moves and came to this pin scar with I managed to pull through. Just as I though I was about climb out of this section I was stopped by my daisy chains which was clipped about 1 meter below me. I wanted to down climb to remove it but was a little too tired. Put a blind placement and down aid to the daisy and suddenly the blind placement pulled! The fall was short but super abrupt, I jab my knee in the wall and felt my back gave a cracking sound like those Thai Massage you get in Tonsai. For a while, I thought I broke something as it hurt so much, hung on the wall for a while try to feel my toes and fingers.
Thought to myself, ‘good everything is moving without pain or numbness’. Rested for a few minutes before blasting off the next 2 pitch and getting to the notch.
The notch is a huge place but with a small bivy spot that is kinda sheltered by loose rocks everywhere. We were hoping to get a good sleeping that night since It was a long day and we kinda did not sleep the night before.
Day 3, we woke up feeling a little disappointed with the sleep. The wind was strong that night and we were still pretty cold. However we got a little sleep since we were so tired. There was still 2 pitches to the top and a long descent ahead of us. So we got our lazy ass out of our sleeping bag and started making hot drinks to start the day. Our drinks did not get very hot since the gas ran out just a while after we started using it.
I could still feel my back from the fall on Day 2 so I was super careful on the last 2 pitches especially on the bolt ladders on before the summit.
LAS was a great climb, we had enough water, food and good ledges to sleep on. However the wind on those nights is just a killer, I would strongly advice a good bivy sack or some super wind proof material for those nights.
Since no one drop the ropes to us on the notch there as no highline exit/ tylorean traverse out for the spire to the rim. We photo whore for like 30 mins on the summit and rap back to the notch, descending the way we climbed while back clipping our ways to the last anchor.
In total, Kelly and I have climbed 6 big walls together and we are super happy we have done so many different face in Yosemite. The big projects still lies ahead but we have to leave soon and the next destination will be Italy, Dolomites!
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