Munge Pops His El Cap Cherry!


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KP Ariza

May 30, 2009 - 03:08am PT
Not a damn thing...such a gorgeous crack, it's been over 20 years since I've seen the thing in person. She looks even better now than she did then. It's not often one can say that. Good work Mungey

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 30, 2009 - 03:33am PT
aye, true if only freeing it, but how do you haul the stuff up?

heh, well you tag down an end and pull up the haul line.

posted much of the TR on, but the formatting needs work. I'll get to it tomorrow.


Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
May 30, 2009 - 07:18am PT
hahaha, you forgot your haul line. How'd you get aroun that?


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 30, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
I'll reformat this later. Posting up here first for now if anyone is desperate for some trip reporting on the big stone.

Lurking Fear – El Capitan – First ‘El Cap’ Big Wall
I’m not even sure how to start this TR. The after-effects of getting up and over the big stone seem to have carried a great haze that hasn’t lifted. One thing I do remember is yelling “OH SH#T” when the monster rock slide cut loose up above and to the left of us. It started as what we thought was thunder. Then massive boulders the size of appliances were falling, possibly over Mr. Midwest route, and a dust cloud that looked like a Patagonian Escoba de dios---right then it occurred to me, since I’m alive get pics, get pics!

That was up high on the route, but the adventure and full value El Cap route starts on Friday the 29th where I still haven’t packed or left the Grey Area and Gomz is already carrying loads in the Valley. The man is a saint and has the patience to back it up. Even prior to this I had been up 6 on Half Dome, tried SFWC in a push, a few pitches on Freak Show in Kings, and a single pitch on Gold Wall. Scene of one of the quitting incidents.
I’m to meet on Saturday and we can start fixing or just blast. While getting ready we met Kia and friend, saw Tom briefly. Ivo was hanging about too.
Fortunately, also, the water was running up in the gully and Gomz didn’t have to carry up extra water. We just treated with micropur. Probably not real good on the kidneys, but who wants to carry another load?
But whether packed or not, this thing was going to happen. Hell the forecast even said rain and I didn’t balk.

“I had already decided not to abandon the quest for the lurking fear, for in my rash ignorance it seemed to me that uncertainty was worse than enlightenment, however terrible the latter might prove to be.”

A couple other things conspired against us as it would turn out. An adolescent bear was roaming that side of El Cap and we would have to guard our stuff and hang it.

Then there were two guys ahead of us at the top of pitch 2 on Saturday when I carried up my load of personal gear and food. But no matter, I took the first pitch when offered to me and started by using the crack start. We broke it into 2 mini pitches where Gomz could belay in the corner in the shade and rope wouldn’t zee drag. The technical aiding didn’t seem hard. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Each move sure seemed tenuous, but I tried to go fast so that I couldn’t think about it too much. It did feel good to finally be moving upward and not thinking about work.
Gomz did pitch 2 fast. He’s a veteran wall climber you see and big beefy bolts are like candy to clip into for him. As I’m cleaning, the party above us who borrowed Gomz’s Grigri, were letting us pass and would return on Monday to come back up to their gear. They were really cool and didn’t want to have us chasing them up the wall. They said it best “It’s supposed to be fun.”
We were getting to twilight at the top of 2, so we just dropped back to the cars again for some burritos and hiked back up to sleep en route.
Sunday dawned early for us. Neither of us sleeping well and the bear rummaging around had us moving early. We pretty much swapped leads, but to save time Gomz followed the worse of the traverses/lower outs.
Window Pane Flake was me, and staying low in the ladders unless you could actually chimney the move a little, was the way to go. Many slip and slide moves eventually got me to the pendo point. I got the pendo on the first swing since I had seen the 2 guys the day before do it from a particular point below the roof. Good sign really. I ran it out to within 4’ of the top of the pitch by leap frogging cams. Apparently I didn’t have to go that far. Key beta, use the bolt off to the right for the second to jug up on. It will keep the rope out of the crack.
At this point maybe my retelling is getting stale and I should clarify that I had a cautious optimistic approach at this point. Well, maybe it was more like mere trepidation that would leave me til higher up.
As all who climb Big Walls know, there is a visceral response the body goes through. An overwhelming urge to “go down” that must be negotiated. At that moment much is decided.

“The terror which brought me to the scene was a sudden and portentous confirmation of the mountaineers' wildest legends.”

The urge wasn’t really there like it was 10+ years ago on my last successful Wall. Having quit twice, maybe the expectation wasn’t as bad. I don’t know. Maybe the confidence and good vibes from Gomz was keeping us rolling.
Pitches 4, 5 and 6 have really nice cracks. So nice that we forgot to give Gomz the haul line on pitch 6.

The sport hooking pitch was kind of fun, at least until the end, where the blocks below the anchor won’t hold gear, so I had to very hesitantly bust out some free moves with Gomz getting anxious as the sun went down.

We bivy’d here just below the pitch 8 offwidth. 2 hauling pitches, and 5 lead pitches meant we were doing pretty good for Sunday.

“First I fastened side by side to the ledge of the large window three rope ladders which I had brought with me.”

We tried to sleep in a bit, but really I don’t think either of us slept. My mind kept racing with how to tackle various aspects of the wall. With the later start we only got 4 pitches in on Monday. For me it was easy to say we did ok overall. I was still impressed with the 60’ run out Gomz had yet to do on pitch 8.

But in reality I was climbing slower and like I was coming off the couch, which I pretty much was except for a little bit of training.
Pitch 11 was bit funky but Gomz thought it had a new bolt from his recollection. I still thought it was tough with negotiating the loose block. All heads were in place as far as I could tell. We bivy’d at the top of 11.

The hooking on the traversing pitch fell to me the next morning with Gomz now the lower out expert. Some reachy hook moves on the ‘hook var’ section got me to easy free moves. Technically one of the more memorable sections of the wall for me. Not sure why.
Gomz fired the 13th and made good time by freeing the upper ramp quickly.

Now it was Ned’s mantle area where I took the ‘better way’ as recommended. It scared the piss out of me as a block is loose, and I carried all my rack with me like a dumbass. The free moves by themselves aren’t that bad, but with gear on and add the squeezey groove you aid up and out of, and you got yourself a bit of an awk section. Just to get out of one part of the groove I had to use a hook on the left to bypass another apparent free move. This pitch was much longer than as described. Save a #4 for above the bush, then as you go left I got a funky hybrid placement. I aided and slowly got to the anchor with hideous rope drag. I had to bring extra slings as they weren’t originally planned, but clearly, several slings help with drag.
As soon as I clip in and come off belay. I hear what I think is thunder. The clouds are building up, so it makes sense, but it’s too consistent.

“and we heard the rumble of a thunderstorm gathering over Tempest Mountain.”

In an instant, I saw it up and left from us. I asked myself “is it coming toward me?” The answer is no, but we were still petrifried. I still managed to get an early shot of it anyways. The [url=]rock slide was sending debris down and out and bouncing all around[/url].

“Never before had the presence of evil so poignantly oppressed me.”

Did I mention full value? Before you answer, there is more. The storm clouds brewing decided to actually thunder this time, and started sprinkling as Gomz started up 15. Down he came. Then it stopped. We propped up the porta ledge on the ledge and lashed her down. Once the basics were done Gomz went back up to finish the pitch that had some free climbing on it. I was able to take a constitutional right at the moment Gomz had to get some gear tagged up. Good stuff. I got a bag lined up under my ass and he wants me up there pulling gear for him. Uh, wait a sec please. Later I cleaned, but we didn’t get another pitch above that fixed before it started to come down again. Either it was the gear at the belay we had the ledge hanging on or the sheer randomness of the rockfall that got to us. At this point it was getting heavier and starting to come down the corners so we grabbed the essentials in the drizzle and then waited in the porta ledge. It rained for several hours up there. Tom described barely any rain on the ground.

[insert pics]

“If heaven is merciful, it will some day efface from my consciousness the sight that I saw, and let me live my last years in peace. I cannot sleep at night now, and have to take opiates when it thunders.”

Luckily for us we both fell asleep early after eating and drinking. Even though it was colder and wetter than before I think we both slept pretty good. Key beta, if it’s raining enough to set up your ledge, it’s going to be wet enough to make sure you bring your bivy sack. All in all we stayed pretty dry and warm that night. We drank beer, listened to tunes, and the sound of the rain.
We got up early the next day to try and make the top. Again, Gomz got some free climbing in the corners to some unaesthetic gully to the next anchor. I took us from there thru the next OW section hanging on 2 #5s and leap froggin. It’s a short section but still scary due to ledge possibility. There is a loose block right above the belay you can make a .75 cam move right from to avoid it. Above that is a move out of your aiders. Not my favorite, but once I figured out I could stem on the crack on the right, it wasn’t bad when I followed Gomz suggestion to step out of a sling and top step and then only have to undo the one aider. It worked, but then there was no pro to another OW crack with a chockstone. Again a sidepull and opposition got me over that. The last 10-13 feet are steep, but juggy. The anchors on the outside face are good for hauling and we didn’t knock any loose rocks around doing it from those. Recommended.
By now the weather was our biggest concern given that we didn’t know what the slabs would be like. Gomz got the last steep/aid pitch and offered to hustle us up the 5.3 as well. It went fast that way even though I was just about bonked and put off by the weather. It never did actually rain on us that day.
It was another pitch to the next real slab that starts with the mantel boulder move. From the start of the boulder mantel there are 4 more slabby 200’ pitches. ST is off by some distance.
The mantel boulder move is kewl. We saw a fixed line in the distance off to the right, but it didn’t appear to go anywhere. The slabs were a serious drag. We got beat up by those.

“It was the ultimate product of mammalian degeneration”

We still had daylight and by now the urge to get off the rock was pretty high. It was day 4 and we were pretty knackered. We hustled down without finding or looking for an obvious trail. We got to the East Ledges raps just as the sun went dark. I’m glad it was dark. The third class sections would have been heady with the pigs on, but for the enclosing darkness. By far the worst part of the route is coming down. I bonked hard near the Manure Pile trail. The energy was drained at that point. We got back to the gate and an El Portal local picked up Gomz for a lift back to our trucks. We rolled into camp about 11:30 pm.
The next night around the campfire we start looking at books at what is next. Crazy! But the rock is sooo good…

“I could sleep a little after they had done this, but true rest will never come as long as I remember that nameless secret of the lurking fear. The thing will haunt me, for who can say the extermination is complete, and that analogous phenomena do not exist all over the world?”

I’m just not sure what to make of it. It seemed so essential to have this experience for my own curiosity, yet now that I look back memories of it are fading. But for pics and notes the very next morning after coming down I would have forgotten a lot of it. It’s not so different from a Grade 5, yet it is entirely different. I’ve no immediate interest in going back up since my hands are still like sausages….

Yet I returned after swearing it off entirely and selling all my old gear.
Now that I’ve done it, with the fits and starts and other attempts, would any other wall feel the same as the first time as one’s first El Cap route? Or is the experience that unique?

[center]i seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet i can't seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, i wish i'd seen the place
but no one's ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
i swear i recognize your breath
memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
me, you wouldn't recall, for i'm not my former
it's hard when, you're stuck upon the shelf
i changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
perhaps that's what no one wants to see
i just want to scream...hello...
my god its been so long, never dreamed you'd return
but now here you are, and here i am
hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
hearts and thoughts they fade...
-Pearl Jam[/center]

I’ll post more later as images are uploaded. I’ve got images from a disposable to develop tomorrow too which I’ll add even later.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 30, 2009 - 03:55pm PT
That's the real shyt, as well as I've ever seen it described, thanks and congrats, Rob!

Trad climber
sf ca
May 30, 2009 - 07:08pm PT
Yeah Munge! way to go bro! Sounds like it was an adventure

Congradulations on your 1st.

Trad climber
The Great North these days......
May 30, 2009 - 09:19pm PT
Rob, congrats!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 31, 2009 - 12:34am PT
thx all. been some cool words. much appreciated.

I just want to be clear, Gomz was a huge positive force in getting us up. And though we both melted down at some point to a certain extent with certain profanities being uttered at various pieces of gear, it is no less credit to him for getting up this thing even though he's been up other El Cap routes before.

for a late 30s climber who is running on the heavy side for 6' it was cool.

Pain and Suffering Update:

outside of each foot at the midsole/arch area.
fingers - hard to make a tight fist, can't feel index finger tip
quads - hard to walk down stairs
shoulders - achy
cuticles - better
hip bruises - tender still
calves - still tight

Photo Update:

day after, and after the rains stopped for awhile.

Descent Addendum:

Coming down the East Ledges in the dark was 'eye opening' and such a long

going backward in time on the route...

the first of the slabs...


the last steep and aid pitch...

thanksgiving ledge...

Gomz pitch 16

Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
May 31, 2009 - 12:55am PT
PDC and A Super Terrific Thread. Write a book Dude. You have the tools to make it happen. Really Great !!!! Peace, lynne

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 31, 2009 - 01:03am PT
hah! book.

"A Punter's Guide to Taking Multiple Years to Get up El Cap"

By Munge E. Climber

Chapter 1

How to bail multiple times.

Chapter 2

How to work too much so you have a ready made excuse not to go up.

Chapter 3

Schooling - the other way of avoidance

Chapter 4

Saying "Fuk it" and doing something about it

Chapter 5

Take a week off, not a couple days around a weekend

Chapter 6

If you hate being thirsty, think hard about suffering

Chapter 7

Be real good at lower outs before going up, not just merely technically proficient

Chapter 8

Be ready for the crap, and the crap weather

Chapter 9

Advanced Beer Packing Technique

Chapter 10

Have fun, plan to have fun, mean it that all of it is part of the process whatever stage you are at. Know that you'll never be as bad ass the Robbins Bircheffs Frosts Largos Bridwells Dennys, etc. Those that go before allow you to reach up.


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 31, 2009 - 01:54am PT
added beta to the routes section of the taco. Gomz will have to speak for his pitches mostly/authoritatively.


May 31, 2009 - 03:31am PT
Munge! cool.

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
May 31, 2009 - 05:37am PT
Congrats on your success. That's gotta feel good. Nice TR, too.


Trad climber
Eastern Sierra
May 31, 2009 - 04:55pm PT
Wow!! What a great TR Munge! You are a fantastic writer, makes me feel like I was right there with you!! ;-)

What can I say, it was a tough route for both of us coming OTC, but we both hung in there and mostly kept it together.

Munge is a fantastic wall partner who put up with my set in my wayedness and just kept on going even when we were totally knackered. I am honored to have been his climbing partner on his first El Cap route.

Can't wait to see the rest of the photos from the other camera.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 31, 2009 - 05:16pm PT
pretty sweet, Munge, congrats!

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
May 31, 2009 - 05:44pm PT
Nice TR Munge.


Boulder climber
May 31, 2009 - 06:21pm PT
im thinkin, "man, i like these pics, rightous angles, then i realize, thats your Only angle, doh!

Congrats! Sore quads?
I thought you were a mtn biker ?

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 1, 2009 - 12:04am PT
mtn bike?

not enough clearly.


Gomz, I'll get the rest of pics back end of the week. I'll post em here.

btw, what's with the cattle rustling on 120 on Friday the 29th?...


Big Wall climber
Typewriters and Ledges
Sep 2, 2014 - 02:31am PT
This one was hard to find! Bump!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Sep 2, 2014 - 08:51am PT
never saw this one before- nice morning smile!
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