How many people get up El Cap on their first attempt?


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Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
Nov 12, 2012 - 12:56am PT
...gloved his ring finger...

I'm afraid to even ask wtf that means, but the image is freighting.

re: Donini.
"sigh" :::rolleyes:::
The Larry

Moab, UT
Nov 12, 2012 - 01:11am PT
El Cap is light duty for Donini. Real climbers aren't afraid to spoon.
Andrew Barnes

Ice climber
Albany, NY
Nov 12, 2012 - 01:37am PT
I agree with almost everything you say about the prep and staging effort for a big wall ascent. It takes a lot of effort (for most people, except the ultra hardcore and super talented ones) to carry the kit, fix pitches,
haul up the fixed pitches and get established on the wall. Underestimating this, or underestimating other things (e.g. water needed, time needed, effort for hauling) can easily lead to a bail.

The one thing I prefer to do differently is the following: Instead of carrying the water to the wall first, I prefer to carry a rope and the rack for pitch 1 first, so I can climb pitch 1 before hauling water. If pitch 1 goes badly and I'm going to bail, I haven't wasted all the effort of carrying all that water up.

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
Nov 12, 2012 - 01:56am PT
El Cap was my first big wall and made it on my first go. Thanks to Riley Wyna who is strong like bull. Took my first whip in 2 years of climbing.

One of the best moments of my life - both of us summiting El Cap together for the first time.

Wurd. Cheers to that!

Las Vegas,Nevada
Nov 12, 2012 - 10:26pm PT
dee ee,
That would be 1994
mr p

Big Wall climber
eastside ca
Nov 14, 2012 - 11:39am PT
zodiac 83

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Nov 14, 2012 - 11:46am PT
Scored on my first attempt. Nose 1978, all clean, no hammer.
2.5 days.
Not bad for 1978.

But then I had served a pretty good apprenticeship on other walls.
People that try El Cap for their first wall are the ones that have a big psychological row to how.....
Cheang Qx

Sport climber
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:08pm PT
First attempt on the nose leading all pitches with my wife. Great partner is the key.. Our first big wall trip to Yosemite Valley..

Big Wall climber
Peak District, UK
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:11pm PT
First time success on the Nose (with total "Big Wall" experience amounting to about an hour jugging in my local quarry) followed by success on Zodiac; Lurking Fear & The Shield before bailing off Sunkist (team of 3 without the right system) and doing The Trip as a consolation prize.

Key attributes for success: Learn quickly, don't bail and have a good partner.


Trad climber
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:21pm PT
'84, after the Prow (my first wall), went and lead every pitch on the Nose with an inexperienced partner. Fun times. Over the next few years ticked off Salathe', Leaning Tower, Reg Route Half Dome, Shield, then topped it off with solo of Zodiac in '87; a real life changer for me.

Only bail was on my first attempt of Salathe due to injury half way up.
In my late 40's I tried a speed attempt up the Nose and got hosed; a reality check on my aging body. Now I grab a beer and belay my son.

Nice video QX, wish we had HD back in the day!

Nov 14, 2012 - 12:25pm PT
1st & 2nd time up the big stone in 1979: w/Rick Harlin on the Nasal passage, Zodiac with Barbella and Karl McConachie. No prior "attempts" - though after Zodiac Barbella and Karl and I tried Mescalito and got absolutely cooked by the heat (June) and bailed after a few pitches.

Also, I've always tried to live by don't "attempt" something, go do it!!

Hi Dave;)
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:30pm PT
Seems like the key for a lot of first timer summiters (summiteers?) is a more experienced partner. Every time I've climbed the Captain I climbed with someone who had never climbed it before (which I guess would include me on my first route)--all good climber but had never done anything more than your average Grade V. Just knowing I had done it, could do it again, and what to do when the inevitable clusterf$%@ arose got us through those rough patches everyone hits at some point on their climb.

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:35pm PT
I got to Sickle ledge on my first attempt before realizing walls and cocaine don't mix well. My next try was The Trip in winter and had a hell of an epic but still managed to send. There was something about "snow" that held a certain fascination. I'm better now.

Big Wall climber
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:41pm PT
i managed to climb el cap 9 times out of 9 attempts, before i hit excalibur on easter week and got stormed off. ss

Social climber
Nov 14, 2012 - 12:48pm PT
Judging by how much less crowded it is after sickle ledge and especially after the stovelegs, I'd say about 30% max, but that doesn't separate first timers from repeat offenders. So I'd bet < 1/3

My own record, scared off and didn't come back for 10 years. But then it's been about 60% success, and never again went down out of fear.
Flip Flop

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 01:00pm PT
November 1992. We made it to the top of the Nose in 6 (short) days. Nathan, 18 but trained by C. Fowler and me, 23, 3rd year climbing. Nathan's first wall and he freed Pancake Flake like it was 5.9. My second wall after NW Face in October.
The Wall was incredible. I grew up in California camping in Yosemite. For me El Capitan was as inevitable as skiing the Palisades at Squaw or learning to Surf. We climbed to Sickle Ledge and then rappelled and hauled and slept on Sickle. We woke up to Dave Shultz running past us. For two pitches we could hear him screaming at his partner "You're Too Fat!" Awesome!
Then we ran into Mr. El Cap, Mike Corbett, on his 48 th El Cap ascent. He couldn't have been cooler and more casual. He shared great stories that night on El Cap Tower and was amazed to learn that Nathan's Great Grandfather was none other than Yosemites first Big Wall aid climber and the man who put the cables on Half Dome in 1875, Mr. George G Anderson.
So that's my story. We did false start on some thing left of the rappel until after the haul pins shifted, Nathan had cleaned a ton of shrubs and dirt and some guy yelled up to ask "Are you guys putting up a new route?" We skulked off, went to the store for a #3 Camalot, and got it right in the morning.
The hour or two that I spent on the Glowering Spot, stands out as a perfect moment in time.

Big Wall climber
Nov 14, 2012 - 01:05pm PT
I got up on my first try on El Cap, via the Nose route. It was also my first big wall and we did it during a 4 day weather window in late winter. To be exact, it was late February 2002, and we were up on the wall when the great Warren Harding passed away. My partner and I were the only people on the entire Big Stone (that we could see or hear) - washed clean by the winter rains. I can't say I felt the presence of the man himself (I didn't find out about it until we got down), but lets just say it was epic. Mad props to Mark V. for coaching, cajoling, and cursing me to the summit!
Horsein' Around. Winter ascent of the Nose, Feb 2002.
Horsein' Around. Winter ascent of the Nose, Feb 2002.
Credit: VW
The air up there. Winter ascent of the Nose, Feb. 2002.
The air up there. Winter ascent of the Nose, Feb. 2002.
Credit: VW
Bill Sherman

Mountain climber
Culver City, CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 01:33pm PT
I am 2 for 2 on El Cap. The first route I tried was Zodiac. I thought I was going to have to bail on it after the first pitch. I was linking 1 and 2 and took about a 12' fall back down onto the ledge at the bottom of 2. I had just had my leg crushed by a 2000 lb rock 9 weeks prior while attempting Castle Rock Spire in Sequoia. After 20 minutes of sitting on the ledge I got back into the aiders and worked through the pain until it disappeared. We spent 5 days on the route.

This past summer I went up with the same partner as on Zodiac. We had a 3rd that slowed us down and would have probably kept us from completing the route had he continued. He bailed from Sickle and we kept going. It took us a total of 5 days on the Nose as well. I am glad I got my partner up there as he had failed on 3 prior attempts on The Nose.

dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 14, 2012 - 02:52pm PT
I'm surprised by how many get it on first go! Maybe were getting a skewed sample though.

Big Wall climber
Huntington Beach, CA
Nov 14, 2012 - 03:20pm PT
First time two years ago, but I only led one easy pitch at the bottom below sickle ledge and cleaned the rest. Does that count?
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