West Face El Cap


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Trad climber
auburn, california
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 13, 2007 - 05:08pm PT
i did this route back in 2005 and i'm getting ready to go for it again. a classic route with a lot of history, and simply a fun climb with a lot of demanding pitches to a proud summit.

who's done it? what's your beta? stories? epics? pics? i'd like to hear about it.

1 thing i DO remember that i was wondering about is that gnarly tat anchor on pitch 6 or 7. the first 11c pitch. what is the story behind that anchor? it's right in the middle of the crux!?

here's a couple pics from 2005:

brian leading the 1st pitch. what a GNARLY crimp slab move right from the get-go. my fingers were numb for about an hour after seconding.

2nd pitch. excellent but demanding.

me going into the 1st crux pitch 6/7 with the tat anchor at the crux.

the excellent 11c roof pitch 7/8.

doing the crazy traverse at pitch 9.

the excellent 10d pitch before thanksgiving ledge.

last pitch to thanksgiving ledge. after this pitch it's a cakewalk!


Jun 13, 2007 - 05:22pm PT
Cool pictures!

I gotta get up there and do this thing!

Hey junior, where are you?

right here, right now
Jun 13, 2007 - 05:26pm PT
nice lil' tr!

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jun 13, 2007 - 05:27pm PT
did that route with john wason in '88. a most excellent adventure. took us about 10 hours and we were pretty fried when we got to the top. the trick for skipping the mank anchor on the 11c thin crack pitch is setting up a hanging belay about 40' below it in the hand crack before it starts to narrow to fingers. that lets you go all the way to the good ledge about 30 - 40' past the hangerless bolt.

are those ratings you gave on the latest topo? buncha pitches musta been upgraded since the first blue ('86?) meyer's guide...
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jun 13, 2007 - 05:35pm PT
Nice route. The first time I did it was with Corbett in a long day back in 1982, or so. I had worked until almost midnight and met him in the bar. We planned on Sentinel but when I arrived, he said, let's go for El Cap! My eyes got wide. We woke up a friend and borrowed some gear, and I hiked off with him, having not slept.

We started in the dark and the first two pitches weren't fixed like they are now. It was pretty stiff aid such that when Corbett cleaned my lead on pitch 2, I watched his headlamp light skip across the face as just the weight him jugging the rope zippered a few pieces.

I got my thrill on the next pitch when I cleaned two cams behind a tv sized block. The block came off in my hands and I aikidoed it past me but it sailed right toward the loop in the rope where I tied in short for jugging. I yelled "Holy Shit!!" and then there was silence until the block barely missed the rope and make a tremendous crashing sound when it disintegrated at the base. Finally yelled up to Mike that I was OK. Everything went fine until we hit the top about 7 and decided our chances of survival would be enhanced by walking down the falls trail instead of the East Ledges.

There was still snow on the rim, we got separated and Mike had both headlamps. I caught up with him just as it became pitch dark. I think we basically rescued a couple T-Shirt and Shorts folks crawling down the falls trail with no moon and no light but lots of mist!

Good times that I wouldn't care to repeat.

But I did repeat the route years later leading in blocks with a 17 year old kid. WAY faster than the first time. (helps not having to nail for starters)


Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 13, 2007 - 05:49pm PT


san diego, ca
Jun 13, 2007 - 06:22pm PT
Climbed it in 2002 or so with my Russian friend. We took off in the morning after fixing the first two pitches the day before. He had pitch 2 and took a whipper after going high over the left traversing undercling and started up the blank face after the fixed pin, going and going he began to realize that he was screwed and starting to try and down climb. Way out from the pin and having only 1 piece between the pin and I made me a little nervous, he fell and flipped upside down and slammed against the face. The pin held, I finished the lead and we slept. The next morning he gets up and has major pain in his side, we go anyways. We do the climb and in his typical style he runs out of his 16 oz. of water and is mooching from me and does not bring shoes for the descent but wears his slippers. On pitch 2 stay in the undercling to its end where you can naturally go up. Cool climb, just don't break a rib on the second pitch as he did.

Social climber
The internet
Jun 13, 2007 - 06:33pm PT
Nice pix. Brings back memories, as many photos here do, especially for climbs where I have none of my own. Excellent stuff.

I recall leading those first 2 pitches early one AM. If I had seen your photos first, I would have tried to get my partner to agree to leading them, as they look thin and scary.

I recall an extremely high quality climb. I also thought it was a more demanding climb than Half Dome Regular route, and took us a little longer to do.


Jun 13, 2007 - 10:06pm PT
One of the best routes on El Cap. A super free climb.

I did not look at the topo nor took one when me and Merry did it.

Got lost once, but loved having to figure out where to go.

We did not take any aid ladders or jumars. We climbed it like a free climb and the second followed the pitches.

The steep crack (5.11 c) pitch was a blast.

Do it .......


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 13, 2007 - 11:00pm PT
In 1976, Dale Bard and I on-sighted this route in five hours. This was the second one-day ascent of El Cap but none of us really considered this since the West Face, though a great route, is not on the main wall and is really a high-angled slab. I was really upset that we didn't see the free climbing possibilities because we both could have free climbed the thing back then. I went back, I think in 1980 with Dwight Brooks and thought as so far as leading goes, the 2nd pitch was he crux. That's a great old-style trad route.

An interesting note is that when Dale and I climbed this route I'm almost cerain that we got off route and bypassed the .11c pitch via a horrific run out slab (only 5.10a but almost no pro). We got to the top before the sun hit the wall.

Darryl Cramer

Social climber
Jun 14, 2007 - 01:32am PT
I climbed it in the early 80s and the second pitch was by far the hardest to lead. I know it's not fashionable but we spent the night out on the ledge right after the traverse and had a short second day. Slept in our shorts and a sweatshirt. We didn't see or hear another climber the entire time. Good times. Although we did have minor route finding problems right after the traverse.

Since I didn't take any pictures, I am loving the ones posted here.

Barcelona, Spain
Jun 14, 2007 - 04:20am PT
I did that route back in '89 or so. We made the big mistake of planning to bivvy on the route. The second carried a pack and jumared, which was worse than regular hauling. If I were to do it again, which I'd love to, I would fix the first 2 pitches and then go for it, with some powerbars, electrolytes and a little water. It'd be a lot more fun that way. Another time I tried to do the N Face of Middle Cathedral, also with a pack and planning to bivvy. When I explained that adventure to Walt S. he bugged his eyes out and said something like "you hauled on the N. Face?! I don't believe it!" (but in a much more entertaining way). The stupidity of our plan was obvious to Walt, and it's probably obvious to the youngsters now, but back in the day, grade VI was intimidating to the weekend warrior.

Man, I remember some incredibly featured rock with jugs all over. Great climbing!

Jun 14, 2007 - 04:38am PT
I just did it in May....

use a 70m rope....makes linking pitches on that route cake....and turns the first 11c into one big 67m pitch(ledge to ledge)....I think we did the part below the Thanksgiving ledge in 12 pitches swinging leads...after thanksgiving we took off the rope and gear and soloed out. Nothing bigger than a #3 camalot is needed and take only one of those.

WBraun is right, it's one of the best free routes in the Valley! We started in the light and were back to the car well before dark....Man! Some of those easier chckenheaded pitches are great!

A must do for sure! Yeehaa!

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Jun 14, 2007 - 08:49pm PT
We did the West Face back in September, 1972, in the days of knickers, knee socks and PAs. When it was VI 5.9 A4. Someone in C4 told us it might have been the fourth ascent, and because we had a certified French guide (Dominic Thomas) in our party, he also claimed the first French ascent. Along with Dennis Bird and Jim Hoagland, we had a wonderful time--although the old-school hammock bivouac was a long night to forget.

My clearest recollections of that route are of the SUPERB rock quality--very much like the best of Tahquitz. Anyone have a photo of that pitch with all the huge quartz crystals?

I dug out some of the old slides... Here are a few:


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jun 14, 2007 - 09:49pm PT
hey robs, is jim hoagland any relation to john hoagland, long time wasatch-cache NF employee in salt lake city? i worked with john a lot and understood he had some family climber connections....

Trad climber
bay area
Jun 15, 2007 - 02:35am PT
Did it 2 years ago and had a blast. One of the best climbs and most memorable days for me. Took longer to get to the base then we anticipated but still got to the top by sunset. Would have topped out sooner but there was a party in front of us that was a little slower. Did the east ledges in the dark which wasn't very fun.
Combining pitches with a 70m rope is the way to go. We used a 60m and ended up doing a little simul. from time to time trying to stretch pitches. And as above, on the .11c pitch with the tat anchor, you can set up a belay at the end of hand/beginning of finger section or just combine the two if using a 70m.
Loved the fun, easy and exposed face/crack climbing up high.

Trad climber
Jun 15, 2007 - 01:07pm PT
We climbed the West Face April 1. Some wetness made for a spicy 3rd pitch. We couldn't believe the route doesn't get 3/3 stars in the guide.

The rock is fantastic and uncharacteristically featured for El Cap.

We thought this traverse was super fun.

Rmuir, a picture of the crystal pitch. Amazing feature!

I went too far to the right after the crystals and wound up having to go across this slab to get back on route. Turned out it was easy and fun.

The top out was amazing! That El Cap summit buzz is hard to beat.
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Jun 15, 2007 - 01:46pm PT
I would really like to climb that route, if for no other reason than in memory of Peter Barton, who I was going to do the route with in June 1975.

Peter went up to do it with Dale and unfortunately there was a tragedy on the approach gully. Peter was a very, very nice guy. RIP Peter.

And I am going to do that route someday.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Jun 15, 2007 - 01:51pm PT
Great pics, climbingbuzz! That makes me want to get up there. Too bad it's out of my league! :-(

Social climber
Joshua Tree, CA
Jun 16, 2007 - 03:25am PT
I had the great priviledge of doing this fine route with the eminent "E" Eric Erickson in the early 80's and at the time it was a fun stroll! As we hiked it and had a blast!!!
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