TR - Steck Salathe 7/26/08


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Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 27, 2008 - 10:31pm PT
TR - Steck Salathe 7/26/08, with Scuffy B.
(note: images throughout are lifted from the web, we took no camera)

Late 90’s, Camp 4

It’s my first time in the Valley after learning to climb on steep southeastern sandstone. We think we’re solid 5.10- climbers, but are getting bouted by “easy” routes and belay changeovers since we’ve never done anything over 3 pitches, nor anything on granite, nor any cracks that you can't cheat around on face holds. Royal Arches is a dawn to dusk affair thanks to our superb efficiency, but after a few weeks things start to click and we’re firing off the easy classics. After ticking a bunch of 3-star routes, we’re sitting around the fire, swilling cheap malt liquor and wondering what to do as our last route before we have to leave.

“Hey, you guys should go do the Steak and Salad,” Matt (a semi-local) offers.
“The what? How hard is it?”
“Steak n Salad, the Full Meal Deal, Steck Salathe on the Sentinel. It’s only 5.9,” he says, barely suppresing a snicker. The rest of the crew heartily supports his suggestion. “It’s one of the 50 Classics, you gotta do it!”

Thankfully, we were feeling strong and opted for the “harder” Serenity-Sons.

At some point in the next couple of years I realized that almost all long classics involve at least some token wide climbing. After a religious experience leading p3 on the Kor-Ingalls, and a headfirst backwards 20 foot dive out of the crux of Reeds Direct, I resolve to learn how to climb this stuff, to keep the brushes with death down if nothing else.


Ask a group of climbers to describe it, and the word you’ll hear most often is “burly”. The Steck Salathe carries a bigger aura than perhaps any free climb of its rating in the country. “Major sandbag”. “Mandatory on the aspiring hardman circuit” “More demanding than Astroman.” “The hardest thing I’ve ever done” are all tossed out. The number of benighted parties is legion and as the route has changed over the years due to rockfall or things breaking off, the rating became a bigger and bigger sandbag.

Are you ready?

At some point, as I climbed more wide stuff, the SS became a goal. I knew it would take a lot of work to get my skills in order since I was about a 5.8 wide guy on the sharp end. Luckily, I moved to Josh and hooked up with the Fish. Over the next two winters, he drug me up wide stuff all over the monument. I belayed and watched, asked questions, and then moaned my way up them. Living in the valley in the summer, I paid dues on the 5.10 wide circuit, spent a month in Vedauwoo and got to climb with guys who are both exceptionally talented and love the Jaybro and Grug.

After a February Wide Fest in Josh, I saw Scuffy come within a few inches of choking down the Throbbing Gristle.

I casually asked if he would be interested in doing the route this summer. “Yeah, I’ll do it with ya”. Uh oh. We agreed on sometime in July. Unfortunately I started working again in April , blew a finger pulley right after, and had climbed exactly zero pitches of trad since March. Instead I did crossfit stuff, road biked, and bouldered on plastic. Not the best training to say the least. I kept asking myself: Are You Ready? The list of wide climbs I’d done in the last 18 months gave me some comfort, but I’d find out soon enough.

The Day of Reckoning

I left Redlands Friday morning, and was sitting in El Cap meadow eating pizza by early afternoon. Rendezvous with Scuffy was set for around 10:00 at Hardin Flat. He pops in, we set the alarms for 4:20am and hit the sack. Normally I get a little apprehensive before a big climb, but I feel calm and sleep easily. We both climb enough wide stuff that I figure we’ll move faster than average parties, but we still want an early start to avoid any other parties on the route.

We take a single 60m rope, 1.5 liters of water each (somehow I dropped a half-liter on the approach and only had 1 liter for the route), headlamps, a half-set of wires, double cams from blue tcu to 3 camalot and a 4 and 4.5 camalot. Our bivy gear consisted of a bic lighter and nothing else. We both wore pants and a light weight long sleeved shirt. I wore thin neoprene knee pads under my pants, Scuffy went true hardman style with no kneepads. Neither of us wore helmets.

We stride up the 4 Mile Trail at an easy pace and reach the base in about an hour. Ro-sham for the choice of leads, I win. I choose evens thinking that will give me the Narrows lead. At about 7:00 Scuff starts up the first pitch.

He’s smooth and although the topo says left side in, he goes right side and floats on up. I follow left side in and get a rude surprise at the difficulty of this “5.8” pitch. Damn, this thing is going to live up to the hype. We had planned to link 1 & 2, but I’m not sure if we really did. Either way, I planned to run the next pitch to the base of the Wilson Overhang. I then got off route, back on route, and hosed myself with rope drag. I ended up stopping on a big ledge with a couple of fixed pins mid way up ST p3. The views were already fantastic. I tell Scuffy I've been listening to the hardest, heaviest, meanest music I own for the last several days so that when I get in one of those tough spots, that will be running through my head. And it's true...a steady stream of Motorhead, Ministry, Metallica, Iggy and the Stooges, Tool, etc were my internal soundtrack on this thing.

Scuffy started up the first real obstacle of the route, the Wilson Overhang. After a false start or two trying to decide which side in, he dispatched it with a little heavy breathing. It looked hard. Flaring and overhanging, but at least with gear in the back.

As I followed this pitch I realized that it can be done a couple of ways...either staying on the outside, with no gear at about 5.8+, or crammed haflway back in the flare at 5.10-. If I had been smart, I would have climbed up, cleaned the gear, down climbed and then went up the outside. Instead I grunted through in the back. I thought the “5.8” squeeze section at the end of the overhang harder than the actual flare/overhang itself.10a? Ok.

Next up was the option of an unprotected 5.8 flake, or a 5.9 squeeze that I’ve heard many claim as the true crux of the route. I was planning for the flake.

As I reached a spot about 6’ under the squeeze I looked out at a horrendously sloping foot ramp that looked improbable as a place to traverse to the flake, which is out of sight. So I continued up. Next thing I know, I’m committed to the squeeze, left side in. Everything is going ok until I can’t fit my chest through the squeeze. I try to exhale and move, no dice. I look right and see the flake and that the sloping foot shelf was indeed the move. “This is becoming a comedy of errors on my part” I think. I take tension, swing out right and latch the flake. “Unproteced"? Bullsh#t. The flake is slightly flaring, but does take gear and is easy for 5.8. Scuffy is forced to follow my jingus action since I had gear in just below the crux of the squeeze and then nearly the same level in the flake. I’d hosed him and he had to climb up part of the squeeze, slide back down, and then do the flake. So far, I’m not holding up my end of the partnership. I’ve had the easy pitches and still f*#ked them up.

Scuffy runs the next pitch through the 5.8+ ow, about 4”, which is not too bad with some good footholds on the face next to the crack. The next couple pitches to the top of the buttress are unmemorable rambling up discountinunous cracks and jumbled blocks. We stayed to the left. The ST topo shows a 5.6 squeeze just prior to the tunnel through. We see what looks like 5.6 squeeze above and Scuffy heads up, soon topping out on the flying buttress itself....As I follow and reach the tunnel through spot, I realize our mistake. I recognize the tunnel from a pic I’d seen somewhere and continue to the top of the buttress. We rap down to the bivy ledge and pull the rope. The bivy ledge is pretty deluxe. Then we look down the last 10 feet to the start of the next pitch, DOH! We f*#ked up again. Make sure you rap to the bolts at the start of the next pitch. Luckily there was a passage/tunnel off the ledge that traversed sloping loose dirt with a slip guaranteeing a quick trip to the base of the Sentinel, that led to the base of the pitch. Here it is just behind the climber, and again from below (both from Zander’s excellent TR)

At this point, we were already feeling incredibly worked. I had been rationing water since after the Wilson and knew it was going to be a big issue for me since I couldn’t eat/fuel without something to wash it down.The way we’d pitched it out was different from what I’d imagined when choosing odds or evens when I won the ro-sham-bo. Instead, I would get this pitch , Scuffy the slab, me the supposed crux, Scuffy the narrows. “Hmm, this is probably actually better for me,” I thought, since slabs are not my strong point. I peeked at the topo...5.9 fist and lieback, stance, 5.8 lieback, casual. I bust through the “5.9” and it seems light duty, but cool climbing with gear about anywhere you want it. Then I reach the “5.8” lieback. Looking back now, this was probably the technical crux of the route for me. I found it an incredibly insecure couple of moves groping and trying to pull into a lieback off a flake/ear feature way above my head and pasting feet onto blank vertical granite, above bad gear. I came fairly close to pitching off. As Scuffy is coming up I sense he is at that spot since he stops to puzzle out the move for a second. Next thing I know “WHoa!” jingle jangle wham. Damn, he pitched. But in 20 seconds he’s already pulled back on and finished the pitch without further ado.

Our belay is just below this overlap, so as Scuffy leads out on the slab I can’t see anything.

Soon he’s finished the pitch and I start following.

Not too bad at first, then I unclip the last pro before the move to the hole. I’m looking at a longish penji fall if I blow this, so nervously smear with no hands to step into the hole. Thankfully everything sticks. The rest goes easily enough with a smeary move at the 5.9 crux that is typical for the grade...pure faith in your feet with little or no handholds. This pitch probably protects better for the leader than the follower...something to consider if one of your team is weak on slab.

I look up at the next pitch, the supposed crux, and decide it doesn’t really look too bad. Getting a little bit of a second wind, I start up. A tcu goes in a seam, the 4.5 just above, and I commit to the flaring squeeze. It’s hard and slow work, but not too technical or awkward. After about 20 feet you get a nice respite when you can cram your ass in and rest. Just above is the first of the hangerless “bolts”. I don’t know what the f*#k this particular piece of hardware is, but it ain't a bolt. Looks almost like a slightly larger star-dryvin type nail in a sleeve. This one is very confidence inspiring since the “nail” part of the thing sticks out about an inch from the end of the sleeve , the sleeve is split, and the whole thing slopes downward about 20 degrees.
If anything could use an upgrade, it’s this museum piece timebomb. Sliding a nut over it, I started to sense the seriousness of my situation. “Just concentrate on moving upward” I chanted inside my head. One move at a time, keep your breathing in check, and always Rule #1 (don’t thrash). The pitch looks like this:

Another 15 feet or so higher is the second hangerless rivet thingy. It also sticks out out of the sleeve a bit, but looks much much better. I’m psyched to clip it. The pitch soon eases off in difficulty, if not in effort required. By now, my throat is completely raw and my uvula is swelling, touching my tongue and making me feel like there is something caught in my throat and that I have to swallow continuously. It sucks, but as I keep saying to Scuffy “I’m getting what I came for...a first class ass kicking”. Scuffy follows smoothly and steadily. Next up, the fearsome Narrows.

Everyone has seen the pics of people getting into this hole/squeeze, so here’s one looking up into it:

Scuff places the 4.5 at the lip, moves up as high as possible in the back-foot , places the 4 a little higher, and commits. The next few feet are rough. After struggling for a good 5 minutes and making and subsequently losing about 6” of progress several times, he questions if he can actually climb it. I try to encourage him but I know his abilities and if he is having problems, it doesn’t bode well for me either, and I know he can sense that in my voice. I tell him to just yard on the 4, but it is too far to the side to really do any good. After much struggling and a little cursing, he’s in the beast and motors to the top. In my state of fatigue I figure I only have one shot to get this done without resorting to aid. I get my torso in and recall Yo’s advice “be solid on arm bars, it’s like arm bar campusing without feet for a few moves”. And that’s just about what I did, a few alternating arm bars and then you get a decent edge that’s hard to use. I manage to go from pulling down on the edge to rotating into a chickewing with a palm on it and further turning it over until I’m almost mantling it from a chickenwing. A heel toe goes in and I’m in there for good. The only problem is after moving up a few feet I can’t turn my head and can’t fit through. It all looks the same width to me so I yell up...”which way at the tighest spot, left or right?”. So I move over a foot or so and squeeze through.

Now, whoever rated the bit after you exit the squeeze until the end of the pitch is a sadistic bastard. Topo says 5.7. Ummm, yeah. BULLSH#T. Felt like insecure 5.9 to me and I was on TR. At this point I’m destroyed. Just f*#king wrecked. I’ve only felt this way once in my life and that was trying to get October Light in Vedauwoo clean on TR after Grug onsighted it like it was 5.8. My face was numb and tingling, I was sort of giggling, dizzy, and felt like I’d taken about a half-tab of acid and some narotics.

It was a welcome feeling knowing the worst was behind us, but looking out at the valley it seemed like it we were losing light quicker than I expected. In reality, the valley has filled with smoke during the day having been clear that morning. The sun was just a barely visible red orb amidst the smoke. The next pitch is another long assed, runout but very easy 5.7 chimney where you squeeze behind a couple of chockstones and belay on the top one. When I called off belay at the top of this one, I just wanted it to be over, wanted my mommy, a blanky, and a nap.

As Scuffy joined me, I thought we had a 50/50 chance of finishing this thing in the dayliight. Since everyone says don’t try the descent for the first time at night, and since we were both completely out of water and suffering from it, I really wanted off this bitch NOW. I knew the next two pitches would link and told Scuffy “go all the way to the tree”. He blasted through the 5.7 mantle pitch, only slowed down slightly at the 5.9 flakes seen here:

And was soon at the base of the last 20ft or so of 5.7 double cracks leading to the tree ledge. And then time stood still. What I didn’t realize was there were two different sets of double cracks about 5’ apart and Scuffy had basically no gear for either set and didn’t know which was correct. After a while it was basically dark and I started yelling at him to get moving, aid it if you have to, etc...little did I know what he was actually facing up gear, dark, horrendous rope drag, etc. I follow and keep right on going up the last pitch.

Right as Scuffy joins me on top and we untie, I start dry-heaving from the dehydration. It’s a horrible feeling, wretching and writhing and knowing there isn’t a damn thing in my stomach to throw up. “We gotta get down to the creek, I can’t stay up here like this” I tell him. “You ok with that?”. He’s game and we soon start down the the dark...first time for both of us. I have to stop every 10min and sit for a couple minutes to keep from dry heaving more and to get some juice back in my legs. The descent is actually very easy since I’d read several different descriptions of it and knew more or less where we were supposed to be going. We reached the creek after about an hour. Now with water, we rested a bit, I choked down a gel and continued. A couple of well placed cairns made the slabby section no problem and in another hour and change we were back at the 4 Mile. I spent the next two hours sitting in the Lodge lobby sipping down 3.5 liters of diluted powerade until I finally had saliva in my mouth and urinated for the first time in about 12 hours. It was physcially the hardest day of my life by a wide, wide margin. Go get some.

Big Thanks To: Scuffy for being a great partner on this route, Fish for dragging my ass up a stack of wide stuff, Big Wall Kate for whipping me back into shape after 3 years on the couch in Alaska and styling me out with kneepads, and all the Bay Area Wide Crew for inspiration and comraderie.

Here are most of the wide pitches I did in preparation over the last 18 mo, if the ratings look funky it should reflect the wide section of the climb...i.e. Jumping Jack Crack is 11a, but the wide is onky about 5.8:

Swan Slab Squeeze (osfs) 6
Doggie Deviations (osfs) 7
Trial By Fire 8
Braille Book 8
Bishops Terrace 8 x10?
Central Pilllar Frenzy 9
Sacherer Cracker 9
Moby Dick Center 9
Reeds Direct 10a x2
Doggie Do 10a x2
Ahab 10b (horrendous sandbag)
Generator Crack 10c x4
1096 10d
Bad Ass Mamma (failed x 2) 11d

Other Side 8
Robbins 9+
Manual Labor v0+ FA
Recreational Struggling v3 FA
Cedar Eater v5
Cedar Crack v5

Linda’s Crack 3 (osfs) huge sandbag
Filch 5 (osfs)
Middle Peyote 6 (osfs)
High Strung 7
Beginners Two (osfs) 7 (another giant sandbag at “5.2”)
The Flake 8 4x?
Comic Book 8
Jumping Jack Crack 8
Boot n Rally 8+
Tumbling Rainbow 9
Wise Crack 9
The Answer 9
Orphan 9
Jumar of Flesh 9
Championship Wrestling 9
This Ain’t No Party 9
La Bella Kachina 9
Theraputic Tyranny 9
Couldn’t Wait 10a
Modern Warfare 10a
Two Blind Mice 10a
Stains of the Stars 10a
Frostline 10a
Between a Rock and a Hard Place (x2) 10b
Fisticuffs 10b
Six Pack Crack 10b
Flared Bare 10b
Left Baskerville Crack 10b
Kamikaze 10c
Point of No Return 10c
One Armed Giant 10d
Centurion 10d
Ipecac 10+
Rubberfat Syndrome 11a
Comfortably Numb (failed) 11-
Throbbing Gristle (failed x 2 trips) 12a

Hobbit Hole V0

Edwards Crack 7
TM Chimney 7+
Satterfields Crack 8
Fantasia 9
Finally 9
Middle Parallel Space 9
Mainstreet 10a
Upper Slot Right 10-
October Light 11-
Spin to Win V3
Desiderata V5 x3
Life Without Parole V5 (failed)

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 27, 2008 - 10:47pm PT
You guys rock!
Great story, great send for the both of you!

Hardly Visible

Port Angeles
Jul 27, 2008 - 10:48pm PT
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Jul 27, 2008 - 10:51pm PT
I need a drink now.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:02pm PT
giddyup! - great TR
goatboy smellz

Jul 27, 2008 - 11:07pm PT
Hot damn!
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:36pm PT
What a sufferfest. Good job. Fun to read though I kept reaching for something to drink.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:36pm PT
If you'll excuse the expression, it seems to have been an adventure of the sort that'll drive a fella to drink. Good work, and report!

Did you do anything like the northeast buttress of Higher Cathedral, or East Buttress of El Capitan, for training?

Oakland: what's not to love?
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:39pm PT

Ooooooh-ho-ho-ho yes.

18 mo's of crossfit and you still dry-heaved. Doesn't bode well for me when I try it.

Great, great TR.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 27, 2008 - 11:56pm PT
Mighty, yeah I've done both of those routes, but several years ago. They are way light duty compared to this rig.

And not 18mo of crossfit, more like a few months on an irregular schedule. 18mo of by the book crossfit would probably be excellent training for the route. It was the dehydration more than the effort (not to downplay the effort involved).

My's not hot on the route even with 95+ temps on the valley floor, in fact it was very comfortable and probably only in the 70s, but still take 2 liters each.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:58pm PT
so thirsty!

well done!!


Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Jul 27, 2008 - 11:59pm PT
Good job getting through it and down safely, Scuffy and ECIYA, and thanks for the TR.

I may never try now!

Jul 28, 2008 - 12:15am PT
That thing looks horrendous.

You climbers are not in your right minds .....
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Jul 28, 2008 - 12:46am PT
Wicked boss!!!!

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Jul 28, 2008 - 03:01am PT
Hmm, knowing how well you guys climb, thats just nutz!

Awesome job!

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
Jul 28, 2008 - 03:34am PT
I'm worked from reading about it. Nice job!


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:59am PT
Great job, guys!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Jul 28, 2008 - 08:24am PT
Great story! Advemture, it's what it's all about.

Jul 28, 2008 - 08:32am PT
Yeah Will, that's some damn good writing there. Glad it was you up there dehydrating though, it's a hell of a lot easier to read about it than to go through that suffer fest.

right here, right now
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:03am PT
Jeepers, just look at that prep list will you!
Ya'll may have been overtrained...

How sweeeeeet it is!!!

Social climber
My Inner Nut
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:12am PT
Awesome TR, Will. Way to get after the classics! Very impressive! Yowza!


Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:21am PT

A great tr! Recommend sticky rubber wet suit hood for Narrows pitch+ welder glovery.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:26am PT
Nice job guys!!!

Reliving the memory of being beat by that monster...ugh.

Trad climber
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:52am PT
Wow, thanks for the TR. So much enjoyed suffering.
Thanks for the list of preparation climbs too -- not that I'll ever have your goal in mind...
Dingus Milktoast

Jul 28, 2008 - 11:10am PT
Great story thanks

Gary Carpenter

SF Bay Area
Jul 28, 2008 - 11:51am PT
Steve & Will;

We were thinking about you Saturday. Trying to send positive energy your way. Glad you were successful!!


Jul 28, 2008 - 12:24pm PT
Cool rundown, thanks Azz. You guys are badass. Great accomplishment. What a route!

Still never heard of anyone doing the outside of the Narrows. I can't imagine it being as bad as that tunnel; it's reasonable back-foot into a stem and up, maybe a move or two of .9. Scary even to follow, which I did twice.

P1 is quite the eye opener. I know a 5.10 ripper who couldn't get it and had to bail when his partner couldn't either.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 28, 2008 - 12:54pm PT
Mike - I did the outside of the Narrows, albeit on TR after Brutus led it and chucked a rope down outside the chockstone. No way my widebody was going up that slot! Pretty wild, but doable. Salathe's bolts were out there going up the outside arete.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 28, 2008 - 01:00pm PT
Nice report - thanks for sharing. We did the Chouinard-Herbert on Thursday/Friday with 6 liters of water and were still glad to get down and drink from the stream!

Links for the photos you lifted:

Steph Abegg's report:

Zander's report:

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2008 - 01:29pm PT
Thanks dudes and thanks Clint for linking that.

BTW: Went I went up to retrieve my pack from the base of the approach ramps on Sunday, it was gone. If anyone knows anything please contact me. It's a charcoal and black Lowe Mountain Attack 50, pretty abused. There wasn't anything in it, except Scuff's windshirt and some random junk in the top lid like sunscreen and some webbing. No food in there so I can't imagine an animal dragged it away (I also had put a big block on top of it, so it would have taken a good size critter).

The best TR I've read for this route was Yo's Father-Son account buried halfway down in this thread

It's hilarious, don't miss it.

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Jul 28, 2008 - 01:35pm PT
"My face was numb and tingling, I was sort of giggling, dizzy, and felt like I’d taken about a half-tab of acid and some narotics."

Nice work on the description. great TR.

scuffy b

Zeno's Paradise
Jul 28, 2008 - 01:48pm PT
How bad can it be?
Thanks, Will.
Big route, ass well kicked. Being intimidated for years by this
is understandable in hindsight.

As usual, I have been trying to figure out what I did wrong.
1) get some sleep before attempting this climb. My reserves
felt low, but, you bad can it be?
2) I wasted an incredible amount of energy trying the wrong
things at the Wilson Overhang. I think by the time we were
both up this pitch, our fates were sealed.
3) I was really, really, SUTPID in the Narrows. I didn't just
trail everything from the get-go. I paid for this big time in
wasted energy, Will paid for this in the time I wasted, I'll
have to wear long pants for the next couple weeks to keep
from grossing out my co workers.

Will was solid, the descent was fine.
Under 20 hours car to car, swam in Tenaya the next day.

Dancing beneath a Full Moon on the Edge of Forever
Jul 28, 2008 - 02:05pm PT
Dang Will,

Excellent TR! Great writing--I could really feel all the joy and all that pain, too...(although maybe that was me feeling the joy of not ever having to do what was causing you all that pain--the Narrows gave me claustrophobia just looking at the photo you posted).

Congrats to you and Scuffy for getting up that thing, especially without H2O. Amazing effort.

(And I loved the way you guys kept changed your clothing, hair, even your bodies during the climb...kind of like we girls do...only better.) ;-)

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 28, 2008 - 02:10pm PT
I'd still have to give Brutus' game plan for the SS the big vote. Hike up the back way the day before, drop off bags, food, water. Then when you top out, have a nice comfy bivy and hike down the next morning.

Okay boyz... if you're ticking the list, sounds like Yosemite Point Buttress is next up to bat. :-)

Jul 28, 2008 - 02:33pm PT
But when somebody swipes your cache?...Ouch, babe.

Aye, steelm, you took the easy way = ) Which I would do every time there. The outside was rumored to be an aid variation as I recall. It's actually fun, eh? The Narrows proper does not really look like fun to me. I wonder what the bolts look like today, they were creepy 16 years ago as I recall.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 28, 2008 - 02:46pm PT
Mike - it was doable on TOPROPE. Don't recall enough about it to have any opinion on how it would be on lead. At this point, I don't even recall if I hung on it or not. I remember this cool funky pirouette stemming move coming out of the chimney proper and I remember the bolts sort of hanging out tinkling in the breeze. But I was too trashed to be concentrating on much more than getting to the top at that point.

There was NO way I was getting up the Narrows. No way, no how.

Largo has a barrel chest... did he ever go up that thing?

Edit: Here's the paragraph on that section from the trip report I did back in June of '95 after doing the route.

"When my turn came, I swallowed and began chimney out to the outside face. The chimneying was very solid on the way out there. The exposure of exiting this slot near the top of the north face was pretty huge. I continued chimneying out and was able to brace off an unseen offset shelf on the outside of the slot, which made things actually doable. I got up a little higher and then turned around in the slot and started chicken-wings, stemming and knee-slots to get up the wide crack (5.9+). Considering the nature of the climbing, it went surprisingly well. Lots of little footholds on the outside wall helped, as I wiggled my way past the four historical bolts, placed during the first ascent by John Salathe. I got past the chockstone and was soon at the belay."

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 28, 2008 - 02:58pm PT
Excellent Excellent! That's what it's all about!
Congrats Will and Steve!
We were in the meadows this weekend, wondering if you were on it, sent vibes.

Too bad we missed you yesterday, we even swam in Tenaya lake Too!

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Jul 28, 2008 - 03:31pm PT
"Al, if I could only have a little orange juice..."

Best TR in a long time and adds a lot of fuel to the fire. Plus, some good beta/advice that I hadn't heard elsewhere. I've been very eager to get on this one, and likewise trying to gobble up as much wide practice as I can get. Afraid it will have to wait another year, but I guess that's more time to get my wide down and my fitness up (assuming my ankle ever heals). ECIYA, you got some pretty rugged routes in your training list. Just curious, but did you lead all those? I get thirsty on long climbs, to the point that it affects my performance a lot. But chimneying with a bunch of crap dangling is no fun, so I've been wondering about how I'll rectify that. Long tethers I suppose. Anyway, awesome TR and congrats on baggin' a coveted classic!

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2008 - 03:57pm PT

No, I didn't lead all the stuff in that list, probably led or free soloed 2/3 of it and TR'd or followed the rest. Led all the valley stuff except 1096 and BAM. Russ led the harder stuff in Josh like Point of No Return, One Armed Giant, etc.

The hardest ones (for me) that I led were probably Generator and Ahab. I'd TR'd Generator a few times before leading it, and got shut down on Ahab the first time and came back with a 6 friend and got it done. There is nothing remotely as hard as either of those on the SS, it's just the cumulative effects. Lots of people recommend Entrance Exam as a good practice pitch that is similar to the crux, but I've never done it...never climbed at Arch for that matter, usually way too hot down there.

For water it won't get in your way too much until the upper half of the route. You'll probably end up trailing junk in a couple of spots, so I'd take thin crushable bottles and by the time you get to the great chimney you'll have drank and flattened half of them. I could have easily drank 3 liters on the route.

I only dangled stuff on the Narrows, just clipped my gear sling with part of the rack, shoes, water bottle to the end of my daisy so it hung about 3' below my feet.
scuffy b

Zeno's Paradise
Jul 28, 2008 - 04:30pm PT
I had an overall impression of impending doom, especially
after my shenanigans in the Wilson Overhang nearly cost us
our job descriptions.
I kept thinking, "O No, we don't have it. we're... we're...

Flat Out Not Good Enough!!"

But whenever I looked down, we were indisputably higher than
before, so onward...

Also, in the back (sometimes front) of my mind was a story I
heard way back when I was young. Maybe Bruno remembers this.
Story was, a guy fell out of his hand jams almost at the top of
the climb, his foot got stuck, he hit his head and fell onto
the ledge and died. I really, really didn't want to lead the
last 5.9 pitch.
So after my supremely time-burning final lead, when Will finally
got up to me, headlamp going, I asked (please, O please) if
that pitch might have included the 5.9 hands.
When Will told me that the last 5.9 was below us, that's when
I knew we probably wouldn't die.

Social climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Jul 28, 2008 - 04:35pm PT
Sweaty palms just reading that. Did you do it before or after reading Yo's account? This route sounds like a real man-eater.

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 28, 2008 - 04:50pm PT
Team Steck Salad in Vedauwoo august '07

Friday night, Daphne actually ate a steak salad, down to the Mobil™, all part of the vibes, I guess.

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2008 - 04:55pm PT
Congrats Scuffy! Nice going on the TR too, you two.

PS. I always go for the 5.8 "unprotected" flake, after having done that 5.9 squeeze once ;-)
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 28, 2008 - 05:05pm PT
Other Steck-Salathe threads:
scuffy b

Zeno's Paradise
Jul 28, 2008 - 05:35pm PT
Thanks, k-man.
It's certainly a load off my mind.
I've avoided big climbs for a long while.
I've never really been a fast climber, and I've always
been worried about forcing an unplanned bivi on an
innocent partner.
I climbed the Red Dihedral two weeks ago, and thought it
would be good prep and a confidence booster.
Yes, but...
The big difference: on the Red, nothing slowed me down. I frickin hauled ass.
On Steck-Salathe, EVERYTHING slowed me down.

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jul 28, 2008 - 06:25pm PT
That's the way I heard the story too Scuffy, though I don't know who it was or from who I heard it(edit'72?): but yea, it sure did add to the aura, thinking how it was proven you could get permanently snubbed out right at the last. And with the Narrows pitch shredding all confidence as to expectabilities, well, that route did have psych power all the way up. What a great accomplishment for you guys to face it down! I am hoping to regain my long lost and seldom practised chimney skills. WAY TO GO!

Trad climber
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:17pm PT
Allright Will!
Great trip report. That thing is a hell of a climb!
I've never been more beat up than at the end of it.

scuffy b says
"I knew we probably wouldn't die."
You gotta love that realization!

Way to go guys,
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Yonder (out in the sagebrush)
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:30pm PT
Heavy duty!!...Cool TR, guys. Nicely done!

Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:33pm PT
...that's when I knew we probably wouldn't die

Zander beat me to it... that was my favorite quote about this route so far!

Nice job Scuffy and ECIYA!

One day it will be my turn. I love and loathe that day. Or days.
scuffy b

Zeno's Paradise
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:49pm PT
Another thing---blah, blah, blah, then..

While this was going on, the last third or so, anyway, my thoughts were along the lines of "at least I don't have to do
this again" and "there's no way I could recommend this to
anybody" and "all this climb has going for it is that it is
so ass-kicking"
as early as lunchtime the next day--it's o that wouldn't be
so bad with some sleep
or maybe if you didn't take four
tries in the Wilson Overhang
or if you trailed your
crap in the Narrows and took 10 minutes instead of an hour

I'm so delusional sometimes...
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
Yonder (out in the sagebrush)
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:50pm PT
No worries, Scuffy, We ALL are(sometimes).....

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 28, 2008 - 07:51pm PT
Who knows? I'm contemplating a round #3.
susan peplow

Jul 28, 2008 - 09:29pm PT
I'm so glad you two hit the summit and made it down safely. Somehow I suspect that was a "one time only" kinda route.

I've taken comfort in knowing that I'd never have to hump it up there to do this route. Now after reading how brutal it is, my climbing partner thinks maybe we should.

Damn you boys... damn you!


Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 28, 2008 - 09:36pm PT
You kids'll love it!

Oakland: what's not to love?
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:23pm PT

as early as lunchtime the next day--it's o that wouldn't be
so bad with some sleep or maybe if you didn't take four
tries in the Wilson Overhang or if you trailed your
crap in the Narrows and took 10 minutes instead of an hour

I'm so delusional sometimes... "

So f'ing true of me and many of the climbers I know! You nailed it. Self-delusion leads to audacity. Audacity leads to mass suffering and fear. Mass suffering and fear require more self-delusion. More self-delusion leads to greater audacity...

This cycle is the in the DNA of climbing for me, god I love it.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 28, 2008 - 10:58pm PT
Sooze - surely your climbing partner sent that thing sometime in the murky past?

That rock rules!

Hands the next morning...
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Jul 29, 2008 - 12:55am PT
I've heard you can link it with Mental Block instead of whatever hiking trail leads to the base..... seems like the way to go.

Social climber
wuz real!
Jul 29, 2008 - 03:10am PT
Yeah, you can do it that way, but mental block just sorta takes it down to it's own, light, level. hyuck

Jul 29, 2008 - 07:54am PT
tremendous -- you know you're climbing when the uvula swells! thanks for writing this up and sharing!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Jul 29, 2008 - 09:39am PT
Hmmm, I count 5 hands and they all look like they could be in a commercial for ivory soap.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 29, 2008 - 10:18am PT
Sorry man, I didn't have an extra hand to snap the shot... :-)

Dishwashing liquid?
You're soaking in it.

An Oil Field
Jul 29, 2008 - 11:26am PT
I love that route. It is a lot like alpine routes.

Kind of grovelly and broken up here and there. No real crux, pretty sustained. I like it a lot better than East Butt or DNB, which are a lot cleaner.... if that makes any sense. Those are more like straight rock climbs. SS feels just like a lot of rock routes in the alps.

The regular route on HD also has that alpine feel to it, other than the zig zags.

And yeah, don't touch those old bolts. They are history.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 29, 2008 - 12:28pm PT
True enough, I was thinking it felt more like an alpine rock route than a long valley route.

"And yeah, don't touch those old bolts. They are history"

You fall on that mank and you might be history too. I never comprehend advocates for preserving the mank...they were solid for the guys who placed em. If you want to preserve them, do it under glass in Ken's museum.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jul 29, 2008 - 01:40pm PT
"Largo has a barrel chest... did he ever go up that thing?"

Numerous times, but I never climbed the Narrows on the inside, but clawed around on the outside.

Great trip report.


Trad climber
Jul 29, 2008 - 01:43pm PT
One pitch, just below the narrows, if I remember right, the chimney extends so deeply into the face that I found myself over 20' inside the monolith. Gazing back into the darkness it looked like the crack might extend in forever as the end was not visible. I had gone in deeper to find a wider portion, then came back out as it was wider further out, and found myself over the narrow part with the fear that if I fell (no pro was to be had) I would be wedged forever in the narrow crack. Has anybody else gone in deep? How deep in does the chimney go? Has anybody fallen and gotten wedged in some narrow section?

I set up the belay right next to the start of the narrows. My partner asks it he can step on my head. OK I say but don't twist your foot. He enters easily. At least someone made good use of my head that day.
big wall paul

Trad climber
tahoe, CA
Jul 29, 2008 - 11:35pm PT
Nice job and great TR. I did the SS about 10 years ago. Ended up bivying 3 pitches from the top, on a narrow ledge just above the Narrows. We had one space blanket, which we traded back and forth. Long cold night.
Nice work for you guys on a tough route!

Trad climber
Aug 1, 2008 - 06:29pm PT
thanks for the great TR & pics, it really took me back. I remember running out of water, slipping a nut on that old star drive- but I think it was still horizontal back in the mid 90's. I remember the view down the narrows pitch, and I remember botching the descent with my headlamp dying.

Trad climber
Aug 1, 2008 - 06:54pm PT
Largo- this is PA's friend- Mark;
Do you claw your way up the outside of the Harding Slot as well?

Social climber
wuz real!
Feb 25, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
Bump for the pump!
Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Feb 25, 2009 - 09:18pm PT
bump for the best all stolen pics "forgot my camera" TR ever!

Gym climber
a greasy pinscar near you
Jul 7, 2009 - 01:25pm PT
I wrote a story about this one once. I only remember the first sentence:

"Sean was about to cry."

This remains the hardest thing I have ever climbed in my life.


Berkeley, CA
Jul 7, 2009 - 02:19pm PT
And the siren song tortures.... come hither

Social climber
Jul 7, 2009 - 02:52pm PT
Nice Will!

You forgot the F.A. of "Blow The Scro" in your list.

Let's car pool to the Veedauwoo wide Fest.

Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
Jul 7, 2009 - 11:18pm PT
I'm a night owl.
I rarely make it to my bivy across the Valley from Sentinel before about midnight.
Two great yet simple pleasures often cap off my day. Late at night, alone, fully relaxed, enveloped in the clear Sierra air, I stare up into the sky clustered heavy and traced with evanescent shooting stars, their decisive trajectory like a chalk line drawn across a blackboard for emphasis. Silence.
It is unusual for a count of thirty to pass without that sudden motion in the sky. Eventually my gaze lowers. Across the Valley I watch tiny, weak, tragic headlamps in the dead hours grasping on Sentinel. There are a few variations on the theme but usually it entails headlamps desperately sweeping back and forth, up and down, some ground covered, lots of stopping, and eventually the lights extinguish. Silence.
Like a king, weary supine bones cush in my sleeping bag, eyes sated with the ancient spectacle of Valley and sky, and suffused with the simple pleasure derived from the suffering of unknown others, I drift to sleep with a smile on my face.


Mountain climber
Jul 8, 2009 - 12:03am PT

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jul 8, 2009 - 05:23pm PT
Woo Hoo!!!!

What a send, guys!!!!
AWESOME! Those narrows look worse than frightening!
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
way, WAY out there....(OMG)
Jul 8, 2009 - 06:25pm PT
Nice, LoveGas....I've lost count of how many epics I've watched up there, from afar.....We always say the same thing.
"Those poor bastards are STILL at it."

A hard right down Big Tujunga Canyon
Jul 8, 2009 - 06:34pm PT
Missed this the first time..

YIKES!!!!!! I knew there was a reason I've never done this route besides the fact that I could never fit in the thing.

Great TR, dry heaves and all.........

Trad climber
May 13, 2012 - 01:50am PT
great TR! just stumbled across it.


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 13, 2012 - 02:30am PT

Thanks for the original post and for the bump. Really good TR.

If Elcapinyoazz and ScuffyB got a little worked ;-) by this route, I'll have to dial back my fantasies a bit. I never did it, but it's one that I just maybe hoped I would somehow get back to do. Now I don't think so. What about doing it as a grade VI? Boombox, gallons of water, cobras ...? Just kidding!

ScuffyB must have done it back in the day?

scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
May 14, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
No, Darwin, I never did the climb in the old days, back when I "should
have." I have always been intimidated by big climbs, because I seem to
be a slow climber. Over the years I've talked to many climbers who, on some
level, I didn't consider to be all to impressive, but who have done big
impressive climbs that I wouldn't even consider.
Really, over the decades, I've done very few of the must-do all-day climbs
that EVERYONE does. So, I don't have much practice at the grind-it-out
kind of thing.

As I said in an earlier post, though, having a good night's sleep before
the climb would make a big difference. I made some costly mistakes on the
climb, too, which made me feel pretty inexperienced.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 14, 2012 - 02:59pm PT
Thanks for bumping this thread. That was one fine TR, El Cap, and a fine effort in July. A very belated congrats to you and Steve for both the effort, and the reporting.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 14, 2012 - 03:01pm PT
Quintessential Yosemite....high in the grade for caloric expenditure.

Social climber
Truckee, CA
May 6, 2014 - 02:57am PT
Dehydrated and worked with a sense of impending doom BUMP!
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