The Shield, Photo Trip Report June 2008


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Big Wall climber
Yosemite, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 20, 2008 - 07:37pm PT
(Due to closure of SuperTopo I plan to move trip reports to , however this site does not exist yest as of the June 1, 2019 closure)

Sorry for the delay on this one folks! Hopefully I can still remember the tale...

A version with no embedded photos is posted here for dialup folks

So, after our climb of the New Dawn(; we came down to almost a week of bad weather. Perfect for recuperating, celebrating Memorial Day at Res 4, buying a house in El Portal (Holly) and another El Cap rescue (Lorna-lucky dog). The bad weather broke just in time for SAR Days and Coiler's wedding.

Here's a favorite shot of mine from the wedding...(the careful eye will catch some El Cap legends in this photo)...and Dagen didn't actually eat any cake, but I was worried!

Fresh from our rest and post-climb adventures, we hauled our stuff up to Mammoth one fine morning (after I locked myself out of my car at Camp 4 and had Werner trying valiantly to break in at 6:30 in the morning until I finally called AAA)

Here is Lorna with our bags, ready to go - Monday June 2nd.

Hauling was fun as usual, and we got down for a short day and a day off...Lorna got to do a day of work and I helped my friend George Whitmore with the monthly water collection at Vernal Falls.

We blasted early on Wednesday morning, but not early enough! We had two parties in front of us. Lucho and Andreas were sending proud in the front, and some Belgians were right in front of us and sharing every belay. El Cap and the Freeblast was a big foggy and ominous that morning.

We were anxious to get going, but we knew we would send the Freeblast in quick time even with traffic, so we tried to relax. Lorna was feeling strong and led the entire Freeblast! Nice job Illingworth!! 5.8 grass is fun!

We spent a lot of time being really happy that we were not climbing the Salathe! That thing was packed. I had fun taking pictures of the cluster. These guys are on Lung,waiting for their turn to pray not to be spit out by the Hollow Flake and I am at Mammoth or something like that.

After the familiar Freeblast, we headed up the Muir route towards Grey Ledges, our chosen path to the Shield. Here is me leading C1. C1 is fun!

We made it to Grey Ledges and decided not to fix any pitches that night. We always set pretty high goals for ourselves, and I had been hoping to fix one or two above Grey, but when we got there, we were ready to take a break. So, we set up Camp, had a great dinner and continued to watch the Salathe cluster.

So, the next morning, we were up bright and early. I promptly dropped my sunscreen!! Oops, so much for saying I never drop stuff. I had mostly sunscreened up for the day, so that meant I would have two more days to share Lorna's sunscreen sparingly and try not to fry. Lorna led the first two pitches of the day on Day 2, starting with a French free of the 5.11 pitch.

It seemed like we had just barely gotten on this route, and already we were headed to the Shield Roof!!

I was a little nervous. Years ago when I was selling heads in Camp 4 these Italians told me their story of the Shield and taking a big whipper out of the Shield Roof, ending up even with the belay. Scary! I kept repeating the SuperTopo description of the Shield...."Steep, clean and outrageously exposed, the Shield Headwall may be the most spectacular place on El Capitan", making sure to try to sound like Lober every time I said El Cap-i-TAN.

Here I am leading up to the Shield Roof...

Lorna following the pitches leading up to the Shield roof--looking styly as usual...and as you can see, we have already busted out the pins...

As we look around and down, we can see more people coming up the Freeblast. This was quite the zone of activity those two days, but then it was empty the next day.

Leading the Shield Roof itself was not technically difficult. I wonder what happened to those Italians long ago? Maybe they broke some old tat. The hard part was disengaging my adjustable fi-fi. That was extremely strenuous. Note to self- use a Yates adjustable daisy on this pitch next time.

And, finally, we are around the roof!!

I have gotten a lot of inquiries about what the placements are like when you come around the roof. You can see them all here. I went pin, pin, red/grey alien, tat, ...

At this point, we are really blissed out. The Shield is an amazing place. Fresh off another ascent, I didn't feel any of the normal high-altitude jitters that I might normally feel so high and exposed on El Cap. I just felt totally at home and super happy to be in exactly that place. The old El Cap feeling that I had actually been missing for awhile now was starting to come over me. Pure bliss, almost like my first El Cap ascent. A little challenge to make it feel spicy and a whole lot of appreciation for the beauty and magic of the place around me.

I think Lorna was feeling the bliss too as she fired up the next pitch, leading up to the Groove. We had a great day and we were firmly established on the most spectacular place on El Capitan.

The next day, we woke up extra early, since we had taken an early night the night before. We ate the Groove for breakfast.

These folks on the Salathe enjoyed their beauty rest, even after we had already led and hauled our first pitch, which was by no means a fast and easy one!

The Groove was full of dead rurps, and I tried not to place anything that would get stuck. It was a great rurp and beak crack for placing, but not for cleaning. I used the full bag of tricks.

I looked ahead to the spectacular Triple Cracks.

Lorna cleans the Groove

The Triple Cracks were super- better than the Groove because I could place whatever I wanted and not be afraid that the closing in of the Groove would make it hard to clean. Then, Lorna worked on the next headwall pitch--the last one that was a full pitch of just headwall. We had a small injury on that pitch-cam in the lips, pulled when testing, makes for a fat lip.

Lorna got cleaned up and finished the pitch like a good monkey.

While she did that, I watched these guys on the Nose work unusually hard and long to climb and haul to Camp 4. I tried to talk to them, but they were in their own world.

That night, we did not make it to Chickenhead. A little disappointing, but we did get in one more pitch to bivy just below Chickenhead and do four stiff pitches that day.

In the morning, we blasted to Chickenhead in a proud 22 minutes. I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of the ledge itself. I did take these pics of folks sleeping on NeverNeverLand. (I think)

Lorna led off Chickenhead ledge. We could tell that the summit was close. This climb was just going too fast. We were loving all of it and surprised that it was almost over. But, we were on goal...this was Day 4 and we planned to spend Night 4 on top. Here is Lorna leading off Chickenhead.

Lorna still has a sense of humor even with a fat lip-- posing for the camera...

After all, by now, a little nailing isn't scary, so its fun to pretend to be scared. Its all comfortable fun in the sun now.

I linked the next two pitches which were stellar and came up to the base of an awesome roof. Kind of better than the Shield roof as far as how it loomed over us with long clean cracks.

Next, the unthinkable happened! I put on my freeclimbing shoes! The last time this happened when Lorna and I were climbing El Cap together was a few routes ago or more! I almost stopped bringing them. Anyway, I wore free shoes, half freed the next pitch, and fully freed the pitch to the summit.

It wasn't that great off a top out, but not the worst either. A lot of drag and a real rope stretcher was the worst of it. Once I had the haul setup, it was an easier than horrible summit haul. :)

The next morning, we checked out more climbers on El Cap. It was fun to zoom in on them with my camera. I even talked to the Aurora soloist before he topped out, but never saw him!

Here is the soloist on Mescalito, climbing above the Bismark (the second best ledge on El Cap, after Chickenhead, and my favorite route on El Cap, just BARELY before the Shield!)

And here are some people on the sloping ledge on Mescalito at P 23, close to topping out. They were here FOREVER!

And finally, the girls on top--Team IllingBeck checks off another route on El Cap, one of the best I have ever climbed!!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that on our night on top, we camped with Pass the Piton's Pete at the top of Zodiac. Pete was kind enough to share his feast with us on top and we chowed down like only Pete does on El Cap. Including but not limited to: Smoked Trout, pepper roasted Triskets, Parmesan Cheese crunchy swirls from TJ's and of course BEER!

Stay tuned for our next adventure. I promise to bring a camera, even if its a push!

Jun 20, 2008 - 07:48pm PT
Right On!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 20, 2008 - 08:06pm PT
First of all Holly, congrats. Well done.

There were far too many photos to load on dial up, and most just got that thingy, but I did see that one of the triple cracks. What are the scars like?
Maybe some day I'll dig out some slides from the seventh ascent and learn how to post them; could make an interesting comparison.

A rubber raft in a sea of sharp teeth...
Jun 20, 2008 - 08:12pm PT

This has to be one of the best TRs of the Shield I've ever seen, Holly! Your photos were simply incredible...and from someone actually climbing the route, that's quite an achievement.

Really well done, gals! I keep hearing how difficult the Shield is...didn't look like it with the two of you.

Lorna--lucky you only got a botox lip from that cam...knocking out a couple of teeth along with it would've been a royal pain.

Again--really nice job!

Big Wall climber
Yosemite, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2008 - 08:12pm PT
The Triple Cracks take all sizes of pins. They still take small beaks and could take some rurps, but I much prefer beaking. There were still some heads as well. I also placed arrows, knifeblades, and many sawed angles. Big beaks were also a favorite. There was definitely "virgin crack" available, and I might have used it once or twice with beaks.

I posted another non-photo report version with links to the photos, so that you can read on dialup, just for you Ron!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 20, 2008 - 08:48pm PT
great photos! thx for the share.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 20, 2008 - 08:58pm PT
Don't want to piss in the punchbowl, but how long can they last?
Glad to hear they are resilient and all, but I sure wish somebody would come out with a pocket cam that equals or even exceeds the confidence people get from whacking stuff in. Its a cool place (did it twice), but I wouldn't want to have the karma of knowingly degrading it now that it has been done clean.

Maybe we have the technology.
It would be nice if a millennia from now people are still climbing it.

Just my $.02. Hope you had a blast.

Social climber
down south
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:00pm PT
WOW. Awesome.

I drink your milkshake!
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:09pm PT
Alright Ronaldo, I got a big problem with you and your mouth.

And the problem this time is...

...I agree with you.

Great TR!
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:13pm PT
The Shield, nice....damn cool tr.

Big Wall climber
Yosemite, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2008 - 09:16pm PT
After being up there, I really don't believe this has gone "clean". I don't think it is possible, AT ALL. I know that one particular "clean" ascent was pre fixed. I am all for preserving it. I think that it is sad enough that it isn't the same now as it was in the beginning. But, I don't buy it for one second that it goes clean.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:25pm PT
Maybe we need to define terms in order to understand each other.

By clean I mean without further hammering.
Sure it uses scars, fixed gear even.
But isn't that a small price to pay to make this beauty last?

The REAL problem is that now that the bar has been raised (and it HAS. Please don't call my dead friend a liar.) other people don't want to climb at that level and so continue to subtly alter the route.
What is more, much of our culture validates such actions, while at the same time hypcritically proclaiming a conservative ethic.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:36pm PT
sorry about the coupons.
Fact is, I already designed such a pocket cam but Trango wasn't interested.

Handjam Belay

Gym climber
expat from the truth
Jun 20, 2008 - 09:50pm PT
Sick TR!

Some really great photos. Y'all make it look like so much fun.

Doesn't Duece troll these waters? Wasnt he involved with Charlie's clean film project?

Crestline CA
Jun 20, 2008 - 11:04pm PT
Yo Holly.. another great report! I just love your photos! Just like being there! Thanks for writing it and posting the photos, I know that it takes some serious time and effort to do such a good job.... not to mention doing a great job on the climbing!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 20, 2008 - 11:14pm PT

Thanks for sharing your great photos and report.

I admire your confidence in sharing the photos of the places where you had to nail. Many people would have tried to sweep that under the rug. I think it can be a positive thing for climbing the route as clean as possible - people can in some cases see exactly where you had to nail, and then see if they can do it clean. (They can also see where you did not nail, and the fixed gear you used). More information gives people a more detailed standard of performance to judge their own climbing. The beaking sounds like a good way to minimize impact.

I wonder if Deuce's trip up there with Charlie for the video has some similar photos or detailed records of what gear was fixed, including what gear was placed and left fixed by the party leading ahead of Charlie.

When I did Dorn Direct to Shield in spring 1987, the Dorn bypassed the standard p17 to the base of the Shield Roof. On the parallel Dorn p16 I placed a long knifeblade and a couple of #0 heads to connect to the base of the Shield Roof. I used my hammer to reset a couple of loose "fixed" heads on the Groove pitch; the crux move on that pitch was threading a fixed RURP with a thin cable from an RP. My partner nailed quite a bit on the Triple Cracks. We bivvied there. The next day on the second long A2 pitch (p23), I lowered to backclean twice, but ran out of gear a third time and used a pin or two to speed things up when I could have lowered and done it clean.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 20, 2008 - 11:17pm PT
great report, and really inspirational...
...makes me want to get up there!

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
Jun 20, 2008 - 11:26pm PT
Wow. great job and really nice TR, Thanks.

As my daughter would say...
"Girls Rule, Boys Drool!"
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jun 20, 2008 - 11:56pm PT
Nice work, "Hottieclimber". [Hee-hee, just kidding!] So how many hours did it take you to produce that en-tahr thang? Remind me not to take a leak on the wall if I know you and your long-ass lens are lurking nearby - sheesh. And what's with this getting up early stuff, and taking pictures of people still dossed out in their ledges? Trying to make the rest of us look bad??? [I climbed before noon ... once]

Ron - I have a *REALLY* hard time with alleged so-called "clean" ascents of proud aid routes like The Shield. For the most part, I consider such claims to be a heap of choss, for they are ENTIRELY dependent on the fixed gear that happens to be in place.

How do you climb a nailing route "clean"? What are the possibilities?

1. You get incredibly lucky. All the fixed RURPs and heads happen to be in place, and they hold your weight.

2. You climb the route beforehand, and fix the nailed gear that needs to be in place so that you can claim your "clean" ascent.

3. You cheat. Cheatsticks are great tools for claiming clean ascents of nailing routes - the longer the better!

4. You lie. This method is particularly effective.

Now, this is not to say you should not minimize your impact on the rock, and refrain from nailing whenever possible. I have not yet climbed The Shield, and I understand that the motivated and brave can hand-place sawed-offs which will actually work, although personally I would be tempted to tap the things a bit. And I suppose if you are prepared to fiddle-fart with cam hooks and micro-stoppers and micro-cams you might be able to avoid a few nailing placements, but how worthwhile is this to do on a nailing route? Should we purposely risk long and potentially dangerous falls to climb clean? Perhaps we should, which doesn't mean that I would, because I am old and smart and I don't want to get hurt. Maybe that makes me a pussy, I don't know. [I don't much care, either]

But I have a REAL problem with claims of climbing nailing routes clean, because of the dependence of fixed gear. Cuz if it ain't there, and you need it, then you ain't climbing it clean.

[And what about those bolt ladders, eh?]

Thanks for another great report, Holly! And a very special thanks for returning Wee-Wee to me - he is pretty psyched to be getting back on the wall.


Trad climber
Jun 21, 2008 - 12:25am PT
A freakin' superb TR!!!!
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