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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!)
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!