Note: This is just a report not really for entertaining purposes. The dates may or may not be exact.
Also note: this trip report has not been edited.
I arrived in the Valley on Memorial Day. I go to Camp4 parking lot and rack up. Next day June 1, I find a few friends and borrow a few pulleys (I thought i would have to 2:1 haul, but 1:1 hauling was easy)and buy some rivet hangers. Later in the day, I drive to El Cap meadow and hike all my Hardware up to the base of the Trip. Come back down and reload with another haulbag of 6 gallons of water and some software and bivy gear….NO Food yet. I believe Bear number 48 is being extremely aggresive this year. It’s a girl, Brown in color and weighs in at about 500lbs. I had to scare it away a few times and throw rocks at it. I hope it chills out so she doesn’t get shot by the rangers. 3 strikes and u are out for “Park” bears. That night I bivy in the cave on top of the 3rd class terrian where the trip begins. Very splendid night indeed.
June 2, I hike down go get breakfest at the cafeteria and take a rest day. I again Bivy on top of the 3rd class terrian. I feel i am not breaking the rules since i gotta tie in to keep from falling down the 3rd class terrian. Sweet Bivy, but sleeping on the ground would be more comfortable.
Next day June 3, i once again hike down and eat at the Caf. After that i go to the Mountain shop and buy 4 pins, the only ones i bring on the route. (1 pecker, 1 small knife blade thin, 1 stubby 1/2 inch angle, 1 rurp oh yeah and a medium short Lost Arrow…I bootyied the knife blade). I hike back up to the base of the Trip and find out that the Bear drank a gallon of my water..oh well. Two years ago it use to just bite into the bottles now it actually twists the tops off and drinks the water. It gets smarter and more effeicent every year. This trip i bring all the food and anything else i forgot the last 2 trips. I elevate my bag off the ground not really getting it high enough (I still could touch the bags standing on my tippy toes) but i got lucky and the bear didn’t touch my bags, Probably because i maked the area really good with my piss. I think he kind of liked my and respected my stuff. That’s what i like to think anyways. I am using 2 grade IV bags. One Black diamond, One Moab (Pagan) haulbag.
I think it’s June 5 now…time warp…..in the Valley???? I go up and fix and haul the first pitch of Lost in America…A very fine moderate pitch. I nail a lost arrow 20 feet off the ground. The only pin i nail while on El Cap this time around. Don’t have to worry about the clean accent anymore. Hauling is easy. 1:1 hauling works great. The bags probably weigh in at maybe 60 or 70 lbs. No lighter then 50lbs. The pitch ends on a beautiful 21/2 X 6 foot, perfectly flat ledge. I rap and clean. My ideal ground up solo no fixing still applys since a soloist has to rap to the ground once to clean the pitch. Ok i rap to the ground twice, but will accept the style anyways.
Is it now June 7??? I am out of shape so i am trying to recover much as possible..so i don’t have to fix anymore and i can just blast without having to come down again. June 7, i jug my lines and continue. I make a few free moves left off of the ledge and up a right facing diehdral to join the second pitch of Virgina. I continue past the anchors all the way to the top of the 3rd pitch of Virgina for one long 160++ foot pitch. This lead does not go all so well. The actual climbing is not hard but managing the ropes and always wondering whats going on at the anchor really worries me. What really killed me is 20 feet from the top of the pitch and my rope gets stuck in the fucking rope bag. I have to equalize 3 fixed #2 and #3 heads and repell to get the rope unstucked. The rope knoted in the fabric of the rope bag. Make sure u use a thick stiff kind of fabric rope bag while soloing. Then i have to jug a over hanging line back to the fixed heads. I am bounce testing the hell out of these heads while juging. If they blow i am going for a long ride. Below the equalized heads is 2 hook moves, a small offset rp, and a C3 red alien placement. I finish the jugging get back on lead and make it to the anchor. I am COOKED!!! And Frazzled…I make the worst anchor of my life and reppel back to the top of lost in america. I have a portaledge, but all i can do is lie down on the nice ledge and fall asleep.
I wake up the next morning and clean the pitch. Hey i actually feel ok now. But i look down and see my pigs still anchored. My orginal plan was to clean, fix, and go back to the ground and regroup. So, i stick to the orginal plan.
I go to the Valley floor and find a partner. I find out maybe i am not much of a bigwall soloist. And i find Holly. Holly is kind of trying to solo a bigwall to. So, Hey we make a perfect team. The next day Holly and I hike up to the Trip and jug to one pitch below the roof. Holly sees my horrific anchor and takes along time to figure stuff out. She yells down to me and says she might not continue climbing with me. I suck up my Ego and 16 years of experience and just listen to what she has to say and agree to listen and make anchors exactlly the way she likes them. Anchors are not a issue the rest of the climb. I take off and lead the last short pitch of Virgina to the roof where the classic pitch 5 of the Trip begins. Holly takes pitch 5. A very heads up and exciting lead for Holly. I believe this pitch to be the crux. She even got to do some nailing, damn her! (She brought some of her pins with her..I don’t remember what she placed but it was all small and maybe 3 or 5 placements max. I took over pitch 6…easy climbing. Holly cleaned. And then something happens that will make the trip up EL Cap very special or very not special.
I DROP the Portaledge.
I have a diasy gith hitched to the top of my bag running to the portaledge wich is attached to the bottom of the haulbag. so normally i reach under the haulbag unclip the portaledge, let it hang from the daisy, climb back up from under the haulbags and pull up the portaledge with the daisy chain. Some how the biner came unclip from the diasy chain and i watched my dreams of climbing the Trip go down the toilet. Maybe next time i will use a locking biner. Well good thing the Trip is so overhanging and its a process to bail from once u get past pitch 5. You definitley have to down nail half of the traversing pitch 5 to a intermediate anchor and then repeal into space from there. With a 8 foot or longer cheat stick we could easly retreat. But, Hey will don’t carry no friggin cheat stick.
So, we look at eachother, after i say Fuck for the 5th time and smile. After that, I knew we where going to Send with a ledge or without a ledge. We look at the topo and see that it reads “Ledge” top of pitch 7. This is where Virgina runs into the Trip and ends. So, I take off and lead easy C1 terrian to the top of 7. This ledge is more of a stance then an actually ledge. Luckly the Moab haul bag i borrowed from my boss in Boulder comes with a belay seat!!! Holly uses this and puts her legs in the haulbag for support. And i just deal with what i have. That night we emptied half of our water and half of the food. I think i had enough water for a 2 person 8 day send for how cold it was. Looks like we will have to speed up our climb from a very leisure pace of 5 days…perfect for my fat out of shape ass…to a normal 3 day pace.
We wake up the next day and i take off on pitch 8. (After this bivy is my toe on my right leg is still numb!) I woke up couple times that night and my whole lower extremites where numb to the point of not being able to move my legs. Pitch 8 was fun with a little penji to a easy hook move, to a couple of free moves, to a C2 travese with a few hook moves. Alot of rope drag…long slings work here. Holly leads pitch 9. Pitch 9 is kind of weird and loose and u don’t wanna fall to far if u fuck up because u will hit a ramp. There’s a some free climbing on this pitch and what looks like a exciting finish to our next “Bivy ledge”. Never been so psyched for such a small ledge before! We haul and dock the pigs here. I lead pitch 10. Pitch 10 is a closed right facing dihedral. It requires good technique or some thrashing. I did the later. I would have to call it C2 since i didn;t back clean. I always back clean C1. It pulls over a steep roof and requires that u trust some not so good fixed heads. C3F. Becareful here!!! There’s more then one way to go but there’s a loose block on the left. (Hope i am not giving to much beta.) i finish the pitch and Holly cleans. This is where Holly steps up to the plate and hits a home run by fixing and linking pitches 11 and 12 together. I clean these pitches in style. Holly is happy she only had to wait 15 minutes for me to clean these pitches. We reppell avoiding the death flake which would easlly give us the big Chop, back to our little bivy hotel. This night is better…kind of….I wake up with sore knees.
We both seem to have very short memories and the next day of climbing seems normal and there’s nothing weird about our whole situation of not having a portaledges. So, the next morning, Holly jugs first and I ride the pigs and jug. Holly hauls and i sit there being useless. I jug the next pitch and haul. Holly follows. I lead pitch 13. Holly leads pitch 14….I am losing a pitch some where here???? Anyways, Holly leads another crux pitch which does a crecent moon, arching left which is seeping wet. She is glad we have sooo many Hybrid aliens for this pitch. I guess this pitch would be the pitch after the mother of all bolt ladders up the headwall. I lead pitch 17. A very fun pitch!!!! I wont give any beta for this pitch but use long slings at the beginnig so u don’t have rope drag for the free moves and last C1 section. We are rewarded with a nice place where we can untie take off our harness. We crack open the celebration, 64oz of tasty King Cobra and eat a very nice meal.
The next morning we wake up 7am to some snow flakes. I scramble up the last slab to the top. We haul and finish the route to some ominous looking weather.
I think i consumed more Vitamin I on this wall then all the walls i have climbed in the pass. I just might have to come back in Setember without a belly and climb Mescalito
I knew them when they were children. Well, children to me. Not that I was old, but I was older and I had been a regular fixture around the Yosemite scene for over ten years. Along with Mark Klemens, Jim Pettigrew and a few others, I had dominion over bagging new routes, more or less at will, ever since my predecessors had bequeathed the kingdom to me in the late sixties. Of the new generation, a 17-year-old John Long was the first to show up and make known his intention to take the Valley by storm.
One morning Jim Donini strolled over to my camp site located by the generator. He brought news of a recent arrival I had to meet. John Long was his name and climbing was his game. John was brash and outspoken with a precocious appetite for the most difficult routes– of which he had a familiar list. Produced by Peter Haan, this catalog recorded only hard Yosemite routes done in the past two years. John entertained me with his contagious enthusiasm as I inspected the list. Immediately I could see that the record of climbs offered complications for the Yosemite neophyte: Cream, Steppin’ Out, Basket Case and other climbs on the scroll were offsized large cracks involving the dreaded ‘offwidth’ technique, a style of climbing nearly unique to Yosemite. I understood John was from the greater Los Angeles area, a Tahquitz regular and doubtless an excellent face climber. “Have you done many awful-width cracks?”
“No,” he admitted, but blustered on. “But they can’t…and I can…..
“Hmmm, uh-huh,” I intoned, suspicious of such uninitiated pronouncements. These smooth, featureless fissures were, at best, difficult to protect. Wishing to humble and not to harm, I offered to usher the lad up an easy, though exemplary route: the left side of Reed’s Pinnacle. John eagerly agreed and next morning we were tooling down the road toward Reed’s in my ’56 Ford. As we drove, John extolled his abilities, naming the many test piece face climbs he had mastered. I listened as I wheeled the old Ford through the series of turns, knowing that in all probability he would find this route very different fare.
At the base, John announced his desire to lead the first pitch, a chimney of confining dimensions. I thought, Good enough–it would be hard to fall out due to John’s already sturdy stature. Off he charged like bull at the cape. With a display of power, if not grace, he soon found himself at the belay. I followed using the practiced technique of a Yosemite regular, and quickly arrived at his side.
With little hesitation I picked through the hardware and selected one nut (knowing the necessary size) and two carabiners, then started off. John looked bewildered, but said nothing, perhaps out of respect. I climbed up, clipped and moved past the bolt–purposely neglecting the rest spot. An interior crack on one side of the main fissure occasionally accepted the chosen nut. But then again, sometimes it didn’t. This time it didn’t and the nut slid uninhibited and unhindered down to the bolt. John’s alarmed voice warned me of the mishap while I moved through the crux section. I replied casually that I was aware of the fallen protection and that it didn’t matter. Actually, I had soloed the route several times and felt solid, but certainly didn’t want to let on to John and thus ruin the effect of my cool composure.
After dispatching the rest of the pitch, I prepared to belay the lad. He started with robust ease, using his face climbing skills on the large edges that garnished one side of the crack. But the edges vanished at the bolt and the climb became more typical of Yosemite; in a word– smooth. John attacked the crack with force. His muscles bulged and his veins popped. He neared the polished six- inch-wide vertical crux section with little left but courage. Lactic acid crescendoed as panic replaced what little technique he had. He tried to slump onto the rope for a cheater’s rest but I was having none of it and paid out slack in kind. If he made it up, I wanted him to know he had done it on his own. His face flushed with effort, his once powerful arms quivered, but his heart wouldn’t quit until the synapse collapsed. Just then I took pity and divulged the secret rest hold he hadn’t seen behind his back. John’s hand shot to it like a chameleon’s tongue. Saved! Air flooded into his lungs in great vacuum-cleaner rushes. After a short rest he swam his way to the top and my congratulations.
That evening at camp a friend, Phil Gleason, stopped by and suggested that I have a try at a new route he’d been working on. Fed up with it himself, he offered me the route. As we talked, I could see the keen interest in John’s eyes, so suggested that he might come along with Mark Klemens, my usual partner, and me–if he wanted. Without hesitation he grabbed at the chance. The next morning I was awakened by the drumming xf John’s pacing feet outside my tent. We threw some gear into a pack and walked to the coffee shop. We were too lazy to make something for ourselves, it was free because the waitress lusted for me as I did for her. After breakfast John still looked confused about the payment of the bill as we rode the shuttle bus toward the climb. The bus took us to the Ahwahnee Hotel, only a short walk from the route. Within a few minutes we stood at the base. As foretold, the flake arched above, leaning and overhanging. We drew stones and Klemens won the lead.
Mark’s skills in flaring, overhanging offwidths were beyond reproach and John watched with awe at each precise movement. The flake leaned increasingly until the last eight feet, where it shot out horizontally. A young John Long sat next to me, totally confused as to a solution to this final bit. I’d analyzing the problem since our arrival and had come up with the answer but merely said to John, “You’ll see.” Klemens showed incredible control while working hard to place protection. John fidgeted nervously. Mark tried again and again to get something in before the crux. A bong would be his preference as he disdained the new fangled nuts, as yet in their evolutionary infancy. He reached to the rack, selected a large l-beam-shaped contraption and announced with typical Klemens’ cynicism, “You know I’m desperate now.” After using considerable energy fiddling with it, to no avail, he threw it to the ground, cursing. Nearly spent, Mark finally managed to secure a bong, but without the strength to carry on, he lowered to the deck.
My turn. Mark had set it up for me, having done all the hard work of placing the protection. All I had to do was climb and clip. I climbed up to the high point at the crux. John made the mistake of looking away as I slipped quickly through the tricky sequence. I’d gotten two reasonable fist jams, swung down, reached out and pinched the edge of the flake, pulled into a lieback and was resting before the boy from So. Cal. looked up again.
John was outspoken, to say the least but only because he could usually back up his words with action. He started using the pure brute strength of his powerful arms, his feet flailing for purchase. Through the echo chamber of the flake, I could hear his locomotive breathing, amplified. Once again he was desperate, but his great heart and the desire of his ego kept him afloat. He’d thrashed and struggled to the crux, but now hadn’t a clue. His life signs ebbed as I shouted down instructions which he followed to the letter. A hand flashed to the finned edge of the flake and his head and torso popped into view, gasping for air. A few power pulls and he’d done it.
“Good job, man!”
John would affectionately become known as Largo to his friends, and he and I would share many great adventures–the Nose in a day, the crossing of Borneo and others–but I’ll never forget those first two days. There were others I met when they first came; Ron Kauk, Werner Braun, Lynn Hill, Maria Cranor and many more. They were children when I first knew them.