Gold Wall tr 3/08


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Erik Sloan

Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 27, 2008 - 02:11pm PT
My buddy Micah and I climbed Gold Wall in the spring of ’04 and I’ve itching to get back up there since. As the South Face is known for perfect finger cracks/stopper placements the Gold Wall is parallel, hand to fist crack glory. I was also anxious to revisit the climb because when we climbed it last we topped out and descended the bush choked gully on the west side of the formation which was heinous and not that safe. So when I wrote the Strategy section for the Big Walls book I recommended people rap the route even though I hadn’t talked to anyone who had rapped from the summit. My theory was it could hardly be worse to reverse a route that you at least knew compared to rapping off small bushes down a long gully, especially at the end of a long day as the route is taxingly physical.

Logan was psyched for a big wall warm up where we could push ourselves to free climb. The South Face of the Column is a great warm up with good 5.8/5.9 free climbing and a deluxe ledge. Gold Wall is more a fix and blast route with sustained 5.9/5.10(or C1) climbing. We were training for El Cap so we chose the 5.10. Arrrgh(slaps thigh).

We had to park in front of middle Cathedral because of construction on the Northside drive. Here are a couple approach shots:

Here’s a shot of the furthest you can drive on the Big Oak Flat rd(when there’s no construction).

This is the same picture a little further back that includes the boulder behind which the approach trail starts:

here’s the same picture looking back down the road toward El Cap. There is a good parking space right before the boulder as you drive up the road.

Walk behind the boulder and head through the trees behind Logan up the trail:

The first part of the trail parallels and is in a dry drainage next to Ribbon Creek which you don’t see until half way up the approach when you’re right along side. Get your first water at that point(about 20-25 minutes from the car) and maybe some extra is you plan on fixing and don’t want to spend time going over to the creek in the amphitheater once you’re up at the wall(a 20 minute sojourn).

The weather was perfect all weekend, almost a chill at the belay in a tshirt and just perfect leading temps. There was still a trace of winter at the base of the wall:

While the Gold Wall and the South Face of the Column might be similar in length and technical difficulty of the aid climbing the free climbing on the Gold Wall was a brutal wake up from the winter laze. The 5.9 start kicked my feet in a sling or two before whimpering across the face traverse(there is some good gear out there once you commit) and up into the glorious Sun.

Logan took the second pitch which is steep 5.11 to 5.10. He aided it like a champ! I was impressed with how the placements had cleaned up on this pitch compared to my previous ascent--C1 with a an offset cam or two if a little awkward with a crack in the back of a goove at times. Gold Wall teaches the classic Yosemite lesson: climb 5.10 or grovel. Day one was all groveling for us so we headed back down as I had to go to work.

I rapped to the ground from the second anchor with our new 60m 9.7 dynamic rope but the 60m static second rope we brought was 20’ off the deck. Them ropes are stretchy!

I had to work so Logan went back up the next day and fixed the 3rd pitch and replaced the old free climbing anchor.

Monday morning we started jugging around 10am after sleeping in a little and dragging on the hike. Once we were in the Sun our psyche soared.

When we climbed Gold Wall in ’04 this 4th pitch of Silent Line was so choked with grass we were glad to be over on the aid line. Now I would recommend folks do these free pitches even if you’re planning on aiding them as they are easier and more direct.

Logan and I both need some work on our crack technique. Luckily we brought our good friends, Hand and Jammie.

The view was pretty nice too:

I was giving Logan the pitches I led last time so after a break for lunch he headed up the super splitter 8th pitch.

As I followed up the pitch I was psyched with how our ascent was going. We would be able to get to the top and fix up a couple belays on our descent no problem. I was interested to see what kind of rap anchor was at the top of the 8th pitch as I rememberd a small ledge with a big, very aging tree from last time. As I neared the end of the pitch I struggled with a gold camalot under a block.
“Obviously that’s not my cam,” Logan said, “it’s way stuck.”
I unclipped the cam and thrutched for the last holds, the rounded lip of the block.
“Whoa, this is a good hold I said grabbing the juggy lip of the block”
I mantled over the block into a gap between the it and the dirt cloded tree roots of the ledge.
“Dude, that thing is moving,” I said trying to fathom what i had just climbed over.

“Yeah, it looks like it’s pinched against the rock at he bottom and held by that tree branch,” Logan stated the ridiculously obvious.

“That’s insane,” I tried to get a better look down at the gold camalot beneath the block.
(here’s a later photo--now you understand why I posted that this must have happened recently as the webbing is very, very bright new).

Suddenly our climbing plans changed. Neither of us wanted to have to rappel beneath the block, which appeared ready to go at any moment and a sure bet to take out some of the lower angled beginning of the route. Climbing to the top and doing the gully descent was an option but we had left our backpack with our shoes, jugs, aiders, food, ect. a pitch below, as well as all of our personal stuff at the base. We were worried that if that block went the beginning of the route might be messed up and climbing back up to our stuff would be epic, not to mention that we would have to warn everyone not to climb the route until the block had fallen.

Logan wanted to leave the block like it was and rap and get out of there. I was either going to the summit and walking away from my stuff or trundling it. An hour discussion, interspersed with reappraising of our anchor and adding more cams, re-checking them., led to fifteen minutes of maneuvering and the block was airborne.

We watched in horror as it fell right toward the base of the climb, glancing off the rock fifteen feet below before falling more or less unimpeded to the ground. What a plumb line when something dropped from the top of the 8th pitch lands right at the base.

After all the excitement we didn’t feel like finishing the climb. It was getting later and we figured rapping down in the dark didn’t sound like fun. So down we went happy to be unscathed from the block, hoping our food and bivy gear at the base was still with us.

The block landed right at the base of the route. Luckily our gear was a ways back from the wall and was unhurt.

we found the cam down next to the pieces of the block, a little munched:

I had to work again and Logan was booked so we had to pack it up for this trip.

Silent Line/Gold Wall beta:
offset micro nuts: 1ea
regular nuts: 1ea
1 set Offset Aliens or C3s
1 set Alien or other small cams
3 ea fingers to #1 camalot
4 each #2-3 camalot
2 ea #4 camalot
1 ea #5 camalot
no hooks, cam hooks or other aid stuff

Pitch 3 is 100’
Pitch 6 & 7 have 2 bolts/chains

the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Mar 27, 2008 - 02:21pm PT
Send that cam to BD, saying "all I did was aid on it and look what happened" so you'll get a new free one. ;-)

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Mar 27, 2008 - 02:32pm PT
stellar post!

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Mar 27, 2008 - 02:40pm PT
Very cool TR.

So how did the cam get there? Was the block in that spot, but precarious, and someone placed the cam under it? Then the block shifted and the cam got stuck, and crushed?
scuffy b

up the coast from Woodson
Mar 27, 2008 - 02:47pm PT
Nice report. Thanks for that, as well as thanks for the trundle.

Trad climber
Mar 27, 2008 - 02:51pm PT
great post! always wondered about that climb. thank you!
Erik Sloan

Topic Author's Reply - Mar 27, 2008 - 02:51pm PT
Good question Spyork, my take:

person leads 8th pitch, goes to mantle onto the ledge at the end of the pitch and pulls the block away from the wall(which pinched the cam). Can't say for sure if the person fell or just immediately lowered down 20' to where he/she could build an anchor and be lowered to the belay from. The person was obviously pretty scared, or fell, because they left their new Trango wiregate on the cam and a couple more where they made the anchor from a stopper and an old friend.......scary stuff for sure, but hard for me to believe that the person owns new gear but doesn't use the internet or feel like warning folks.

Crestline CA
Mar 27, 2008 - 03:35pm PT
Nice report guys...
See you in May ... Tom

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Mar 27, 2008 - 03:42pm PT
Nice TR, and good call on the trundle. Couldn't help but notice that you turned around just short of the 5.10 ow pitch. Any recollections of that pitch from your '04 ascent?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 27, 2008 - 03:49pm PT
Thanks for the nice report. Good work on trundling the death block before it took somebody out. Nice on the anchor replacement, too!
Erik Sloan

Topic Author's Reply - Mar 27, 2008 - 03:57pm PT
We called the OW pitch 5.9+ in '04, as neither me or my partner climbed 5.10 then and he led and I followed it. The start traverses a big flake that would take really big gear to protect, but is only has one 5.9 move on it in like 15 feet. Then you climb up into a twin crack corner that is more fist and liebacking but good varied pro between the two cracks. Every pitch on the route is kinda burly sustained so by pitch 9 nothing feels different, just hard.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Mar 27, 2008 - 05:47pm PT
That looks like a great line. And probably no line at the base, either. Thanks for the work E.

right here, right now
Mar 27, 2008 - 07:38pm PT
Thanks for the TR!
Despite the tribulations with the block, it looks like you guys enjoyed yourselves out there.

It's been a long while for me, but I remember topping out and heading diagonally a bit to the west, meaning left,
and using a dual piton anchor which marked the top of the rappels.

The descent went pretty quickly as we had no bags; I cannot remember if there was any down climbing/scrambling.
I wouldn't be surprised if your bushes were involved...

Mar 27, 2008 - 08:08pm PT
Ok now I see where that block was.

Yikes! Big ass scary looking thing.

Never moved on me though and I've done the route 3 times.

Trad climber
Toyota, CA
Mar 27, 2008 - 09:22pm PT
Thanks for putting the TR together, Erik!
The Gold Wall is a super cool place, the rock has a different feel to it, and the views are new. Nothing like solid Valley 5.10 to start the season off! I was not stoked to have to hike to El Cap meadow due to the road construction at first, but later on, when we were chillin' in the middle of the bridge, with no cars or tourists.......Very nice! The Captain was empty except for some crazy monkeys on Chaos, Horsetail was soaking the East Buttress, and the moon was big! When the the death-block moved after jamming under it, and mantleing over it, Yowza! Hearing and feeling that thing hit the deck was wild and good, knowing that it wouldn't clobber other monkeys. All in all, a great intro to the best season ever!


Trad climber
Mar 28, 2008 - 08:46pm PT
Thanks for the Report. I want to get up there soon.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 28, 2008 - 11:01pm PT
Rob Lesher did that route with Jim Hebner in 78 right before we did the Nose. Robbie fell in a fist crack up high I think. His foot stuck and he ended up hanging upside down by his foot. It took him a half hour to figure out how to do the contortionist ascent of his leg and get his foot out of the crack! The descriptions were terrifying! Nice TR dudes!

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Apr 7, 2008 - 09:53pm PT
Nice TR, Nanook.

Trad climber
Apr 7, 2008 - 10:43pm PT
Ewwwww Spider Mits! Great TR guys! I always wanted to go do that thing. Glad someone is!

Social climber
On my way to Boulder
Apr 7, 2008 - 10:51pm PT
Excellent break from threads on politics and global warming. :)
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