The Nose-in–a-perfect November morning – trip report


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 15, 2005 - 01:56am PT
After belaying Tommy Caldwell on his Nose/freerider link up, I got inspired to free the nose in a day yesterday.

well, to free about 30% of it anyway.

I teamed up with mark Melvin, the guy who started my el cap addiction by giving me my first fix on The West Face when I was 15. When I was 16, we climbed the nose in 18 hours together. Ten years later, we hoped to knock our time down a little. I announced that I thought we could do it in 7-9 hours. Mark silently thought I was full of crap and was going to be happy if we climbed it in less than 14. He thought it would be really cool if we didn’t have to finish the climb at night.

We met up around 5:30am. El cap meadow was as cold as I have ever experienced it. I briefly considered bailing on the climb and just sitting in front of the car heater.

We started climbing at 6:18, right when the sun hit the high clouds above el cap… creating the cool pink glow in this photo.

Mark is one of the best off-the-couch climbers I know. He led each pitch in 5-10 minutes. Here is mark cruising up the start of the stovelegs. 5.8 hand cracks forever!

Here I am jugging up to Dolt Tower.

Ever wonder what those critters are that eat your foot while your camped 1000’s of feet up el cap? Here you go:

6 or 7 inches long and fat. How does a rat that big get up el cap? And why did it suddenly expire in the middle of dolt tower?

mark Leading above Dolt Tower

And now the main event: The King Swing. For El Cap meadow spectators, this is as entertaining as big wall climbing gets. We doubled the viewing pleasure by using the latest speed double penji technique:

Mark led the boot while I simul-climbed behind him on the bolt ladder. When he got to the top, he threaded his rope through the pendulum point and then lowered and cleaned the pitch. He did the king swing and belayed on Eagle Ledge. Since he cleaned the pitch, I now got to also do the king swing and meet up with him.

He continued blasting up the free pitches to the base of the Great Roof. Here I took over the lead. Usually The Great Roof seriously spooks me. But for the first time, I was too rushed too be scared. After ten nearly painless minutes, I was at the belay. Each pitch after that really cruised by, I think partially because we had a tiny rack and partially because for the first time on the nose, I didn’t use daisy chains. With no daisy chains, you never have to deal with tangles with your aiders and you just get inspired to free climb more.

Here I am leading up the pancake flake.

Above camp 6 we caught up with a cool team of 3 doing their first el cap route. As I led up to them they shouted down “We will have some music ready for you when you get up here!” Clearly, they were doing the route in style.

Passing this team was really easy because they were super cool and they were cleaning the pitch as I was leading it. Toward the end of the pitch, I caught up with the cleaner. She offered to let me pass but I decided it was easier and more courteous to give cleaning tips and help out. I told her “You can keep going and ill clean this stuck yellow alien for you.” And a few piece later, “If I hold the rope, you can slide the yellow ascender down and get the tension off the piece.” She thanked me and said “Wow, its like having my own cleaning fairy... uhm, wait, sorry, I didn’t mean to call you a fairy. Uh, you’re a cleaning angel.”

We passed by and topped out a few minutes later. It was really hard to tell what time it was. It could have been 4pm for all I knew. When mark told me it was only 12:59 I was floored. Wait, we did the route in only 6 hours and 40 minutes. The perfect November climbing day.

Here is a shot from the summit:

PS: here was our rack

8 stoppers
1 purple/blue alien
1 green alien
1 yellow alien
1 yellow/red alien
2 red aliens
2 orange aliens
2 red camlots (#1)
1 gold camalot (#2)
1 blue camalot (#3)
1 gray camalot (#4)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 15, 2005 - 02:23am PT
Props to you Chris, very cool... and inspirational.

What was the date of your ascent?
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 15, 2005 - 09:01am PT
Hey CCA (Chris the Cleaning Angel),

Great write up and pictures. The "Rosy fingered dawn" picture is very cool.

Trad climber
Mariposa Ca.
Nov 15, 2005 - 09:46am PT
I was hiking at the base and saw you enter the stove legs.
I was amazed to find you had topped out as I was hiking out.
way to go!!

Trad climber
auburn, california
Nov 15, 2005 - 11:44am PT
hey chris, that's impressive man. thanks for sharing. having done the NIAD, but taking almost the full 24, i'm curious what else you guys took? seems like maybe we were too loaded down and could have been lighter and faster. how much water, bars, etc? you guys bring shoes for the descent? how many ropes? just 1 60m or 70m? you take a gri-gri? looks like the 2nd carried a small pack? again, nice work! -patrick

Trad climber
Denver, CO
Nov 15, 2005 - 12:27pm PT
I know chris has done the descent without shoes - in his socks... this is where I would lose the "fast and light" competition. I would at least bring flip flops.

I would also bring a haul bag, poop-tube - perhaps a port-a-ledge... 16 gallons of water, 10 pounds of food and beer ... and probably take about 5 days.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 15, 2005 - 03:00pm PT
Saw you reaching Sickle Sunday morning at around 7am - looking super smooth! Nice job on reducing your time! :-)

Big Wall climber
Northern Mexico
Nov 15, 2005 - 03:18pm PT
Next Spring will be the year.

Everyday I am getting leaner and meaner.

Still will take me three days.

Live Every Breath!

David Nelson

San Francisco
Nov 15, 2005 - 03:31pm PT
Chris, wonderful trip report. I hope you are like Peter Pan and never grow old! Or cocky. The little bit about the Cleaning Fairy was wonderful. Nice job.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 15, 2005 - 08:26pm PT
Congratulations! You're [url=""]tied for 20th place![/url]

Middle California
Nov 15, 2005 - 08:43pm PT
Why did the rat die - he bit a climber of course.

Great TR too!!!!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 15, 2005 - 11:51pm PT
thanks for the comments everyone

bob marley: here are the answers:

how much water, bars, etc? 1 liter, 3 candy bars per person

you guys bring shoes for the descent? yep. but next time will do it in just free shoes that are one size too big

how many ropes? 1 60m 10mm and one 50 foot 5mm for the lower outs and for pulling up gear while short fixing

you take a gri-gri? 1 gri gri

yep the second carried a pack full of all the clothes we just wore for the first pitch... next time we will start a little later when its warmer and then the second wont have to have a pack

NOT Fresno
Nov 16, 2005 - 12:09am PT
That's it, I'm psyched. I'm f*#king getting on that route again next year.

But I'm taking doubles.

Trad climber
on a rock or mountain out west
Nov 16, 2005 - 12:55am PT
Impressive way to spend a morning. Congrats and great pics.

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Nov 16, 2005 - 03:05am PT
I think on Saturday we met the mother of the team you passed.
Nice lady. She had a rad spotting scope and we watched them do a belay change over.

That same day my gal did her first El Cap route. Pine Line. Styled it. :) Also, a guy from North Coast of Cali did his first lead on gear, that happened to be in the Valley. Pine Line. He styled it too!!

What good weather on that face in the afternoon too!!!


Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Nov 16, 2005 - 03:11pm PT
Nice TR Chris!

but geez...

How am I supposed to brag about my amazing heartstopping 4 day ascent when you guys polish the thing off in 6 hrs? ;-)

Social climber
The West
Nov 16, 2005 - 03:41pm PT
Cool stuff. I did niad, if you only count climbing time. On the other hand I think time spend on cool bivvies in unlikely places doesn't count on the age clock, it actually makes you younger.

"Usually The Great Roof seriously spooks me."
That's the only place (belay at the end of the pitch) that I ever felt the whole weight of what I'd done, where I was, and how scary this sh#t truly is.-You can, seemingly, see every move below, from there.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Nov 17, 2005 - 03:32am PT

Nice one Chris.

Saw you pull up in the morning.... was actually looking for a good partner for the last few weeks. Don't have your new number.

Give me a shout.

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