Aquarian Wall- Trip Report June/July 2009


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Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 19, 2009 - 10:04pm PT
Aquarian Wall- Trip Report June/July 2009

I soloed Aquarian Wall “clean” this summer in 6 nights plus one night on top (without fixing). To do it clean you will need offset aliens. It was an awesome route, and I think more people should do it. It is a much more secluded experience than many other el cap routes and definitely has an adventurous feel. The aiding is pretty moderate the whole way up; there are several pitches of A2 but I did not nail on any of them (save one attempt at placing a head on pitch 10 which failed and I had to engage in some trickery to get around this). It should go clean in the future unless a few key fixed pins or heads are missing. I would call it C3F right now.

The drawbacks to the route are sun exposure, grassiness (much improved after I did a lot of gardening), wetness, and a so-so top out. With regard to the sun exposure, I drank 2+ gallons of water per day for the entire route and was still dehydrated. But I was also on it in July so I was asking for trouble. The grassiness is only an issue on about 4 pitches, and would quickly improve if a few more people did the route. The wetness would be an issue in the rain because the middle of the route is in a water shoot. The route tops out on the far side of Thanksgiving ledge, which I guess some people don’t like. I actually found it to be pretty interesting because I had never been on that side of the ledge. Shuttling the gear the length of Thanksgiving ledge to the Lurking Fear top out was a bit annoying, but with two people it would go pretty fast.

I had a couple crazy experiences on the wall, including an ant crawling in my ear that made me realize what it is like to be schizophrenic as the damn thing wiggled around and the noise echoed in my head. I also had a bolt break at pitch 17 which was scary. Bring a bolt kit to replace it (sorry, I didn’t have one) or set up an elaborate extended anchor to haul at pitch 17.

Pitch 1: Pretty moderate 5.7. Don’t go too far left.
Pitch 2: I did a pendulum about 1/3 the way through the pitch, which seemed much faster, but you could also aid straight through. Goes clean with hooks and TCU’s in pin scars. Haul from the top of pitch 2 (110m to ground with an intermediate bolt anchor).
Pitch 3: Quick and easy. I slept my first night here after hiking all my loads in the morning. I got attacked by ants at 4am and was woken up when one ant crawled inside my left ear. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to get the damned thing out. I eventually used a match to fish him out. So I would suggest against bivvying at this pitch.
Pitch 4: The 6” piece described in the Supertopos guide is unnecessary.
Pitch 5: After the pendulum, the “5.6R” part takes medium-sized cams.
Pitch 6: A 1” piece helps near the end
Pitch 7: Keep right at near Timbuktu for easier free climbing. I slept at Timbuktu my second night, and it was awesome. Room for multiple ledges and room to walk around. I found about 6 gallons of water here that I helped myself to (it was unlabeled and looked about 1 year old). Thanks to whoever left it, you saved my butt.
Pitch 8 & 9: Where Supertopos says to anchor at the top of pitch 8 would be a very poor place in my opinion. I actually linked these two pitches, but it was a serious rope-stretcher. I had to back-clean almost all of pitch 9 after the long traverse. The top of pitch 9 would be a nice bivvy for 2. I hauled from the left side of the ledge.
Pitch 10: the crux, in my opinion. The first part is loose, sharp free climbing, followed by tenuous C3 above jagged rocks (offset aliens mandatory). I took multiple falls here and came about 6 inches from landing my butt on a sharp rock once when a perfect-looking cam pulled out because the rock busted. The last part of the pitch, the “A2” 8-foot traverse, was tough and took me a long time to figure out. I tried for about 45 minutes to place a head in the seam under the roof but just couldn’t get it. The rock quality sucked. Took 3 falls. Finally I got a red-yellow offset alien in the crack off to the right, clipped the rope in, lowered down, flipped upside down, started swinging back and forth under the roof, and managed to place a diving inverted cam hook. I landed on it, it held, and then I clipped the fixed head on the left side. After that the anchor was maybe one or two easy moves away. I bivvy’d here and really enjoyed it. The ledge was free-hanging off the wall all night.
Pitch 11: Quick
Pitch 12: I had to do a decent-sized pendo to the left in the middle of the pitch. The beginning of the pitch is somewhat awkward and is dependent on fixed heads. You need a 4” piece after the pendo. I bivvy’d here early with pitch 13 fixed because it looked like it was going to rain. It didn’t rain, but I put the ledge fly up to keep the run-off out. It was a fine bivvy but expect to use the ledge fly if you stay here.
Pitch 13: The bolts/rivets around the wet, grassy part do not have hangers but are bent up so you can put a nut or rivet hanger on them. Bring a 4” piece.
Pitch 14: The 5.9 chimney is aidable with 4.5 camalots.
Pitch 15: Longer than supertopo says, more like 170 feet. I bivvy’d here and liked it. Could sleep 1 or 2. The “bivvy for 1” on supertopo off to the left would be pretty poor.
Pitch 16: A pair of old bolts 1/3 the way up. Haul in the 4” crack immediately before the big ledge (there is nowhere up there to haul from, trust me, I spent an hour at night looking around for somewhere to haul). The ledge itself would be a great bivvy if you traverse 20 feet to the right, in the middle of what Supertopo calls pitch 17.
Pitch 17: Much longer than Supertopo says, more like 120 feet. There is one old, bad bolt at the top. There used to be two, but the better-looking one broke as soon as I started to haul (scary). There is a 4” crack at the base of the ledge that you could haul from if you extended it 15 feet up and over the big block sitting on the ledge. The next person to do this route should just replace the bolts at the anchor. The ledge is pretty cool and would be a good bivvy.
Pitch 18: You need a 4.5 camalot to get around the annoying bush 35 feet up. The pitch is about 120 feet. Haul from 2 bolts on the right side of a large ledge. I slept here and liked it, but the ledge set-up was a bit awkward. I did one more 150 foot pitch that starts out 5.3 and then turns 4th class. Haul from a natural belay up near the big cave. I found the hauling to be surprisingly easy and much more appealing than trying to shuttle gear up the easy 5th and 4th class stuff.

I have some sweet pictures but can't figure out how to post them...


Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Sep 19, 2009 - 10:13pm PT
Load the pics up to a account and just copy/paste the image code (starts w/ IMG.) into the reply box on ST. easy cheezy.

Stoked to see some pics.

edit: forgot to say- Nice Job!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 19, 2009 - 10:25pm PT

this is cool. all kinds of good climbing content coming out the woodwork today.

Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Sep 19, 2009 - 10:47pm PT
Nice job in the heat!

What do you call that upside down pendulum diving to inverted cam hook maneuver?

It could be called 'the Hassinger hang'..... or 'the Peyton penji'

Boulder climber
Sep 19, 2009 - 10:54pm PT
dang, we were right down the street at castle rock, why didn't you stop by?

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Sep 20, 2009 - 12:08am PT
AWESOME Peyton!!!!

Pictures, please!!!!
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 20, 2009 - 12:49am PT
Bump for Peyton Pics.......Hey, Dude. Didja figure out the process, or bail?
Just wonderin'.......

Trad climber
Bay area
Sep 20, 2009 - 02:28am PT
The dude clearly sent! 2+ gallons per day is gnarly.

Nice work, Peyton!
Stanley Hassinger

Eastern US
Sep 20, 2009 - 08:57am PT
Awesome job, bro (literally, he's my brother)! Now we just need to get those pictures up.


Crestline CA
Sep 20, 2009 - 11:55am PT
Yo... nice climb bro... you really hung it out in that awful heat.. nothing worse on the cap than blistering heat... good job.
Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 12:45pm PT
Here are the pictures, if it works... The first four are courtesy of Tom Evans.

on timbuktu chugging water

hauling pitch 8&9 (linked)

starting up the C3 part of pitch 10 where i took a couple falls

Chillin at pitch 12 with the ledge fly up

reading a john grisham book and watching the weather (it looked like it was going to rain)

thanksgiving ledge

topped out on the mantle boulder

the hard part of pitch 10 where i had to do the diving inverted cam hook



Sep 20, 2009 - 12:55pm PT
Nice, great effort and thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
New England
Sep 20, 2009 - 02:01pm PT
Great job!

Social climber
Ventura, California
Sep 20, 2009 - 03:12pm PT

I soloed this route once, seems like eons ago.

seeing your photos make it feel like yesterday...


Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Sep 20, 2009 - 03:18pm PT
Thanks for sharing. I did this route in '82 and we had a great time. There was a fixed inverted cowhead underneath the 10th pitch roof which scared the hell out of me. This brings back good memories.

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
Sep 20, 2009 - 05:46pm PT
Nice work!

Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2009 - 05:50pm PT
seems like a lot of people solo this route... I wonder why? I picked it because i was looking for something moderate that I could do by myself in under a week. I had already done the other routes on el cap that fit that description, so this was the obvious choice. i would suggest doing it with two people because with two people the hauling would be much easier... but the flip side is that the route is so secluded it makes for a nice solo experience.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 20, 2009 - 07:58pm PT
Nice pics!....Those kick asss.

Big Wall climber
Yosemite, CA
Sep 20, 2009 - 09:51pm PT
Hi Peyton-
Nice solo, way to go.

Consider posting your beta on the route page of supertopo, that way it will be accessible to people once this thread isn't active.

I guess another way that people do the cam hook move that you are describing is to put a black alien or similar small cam in with only two lobes and take multiple whippers on it until they make the next move. I remember the next move being a fixed pin, but maybe there is a copperhead there now.

Thanks for sharing...
David Wilson

Sep 20, 2009 - 09:58pm PT
nice TR - thanks for posting
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 20, 2009 - 10:05pm PT
Good Peyton. High quality images, coverage! It's true, the heat is daunting. I remember when this route was established. Bridwell and Schmitz actually hated it and had procrastinated a bunch getting it done. There were a number of assaults on it by them you see, prior to the actual completion of the line.

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
Sep 21, 2009 - 01:02pm PT
bump for a great TR and pics!
Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 21, 2009 - 01:24pm PT
i put it up on the route beta page

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Sep 21, 2009 - 01:28pm PT
Nice job,

so I am curious, it still counts as a clean ascent because your head didn't stick?

nice climb!

Trad climber
Sep 21, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
Bump for You.

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
Sep 21, 2009 - 02:04pm PT
Right on!

So would you have had to bail, do you think, without happening across that sweet water cache?

Anyways, great accomplishment, Peyton!
Russ Walling

Gym climber
Poofter's Froth, Wyoming
Sep 21, 2009 - 02:06pm PT
Good stuff!

East Coast US
Sep 21, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
Way cool and thanks for posting.

A wall partner of mine had an ant crawl into his ear in the valley and had to go to the medical clinic to get the thing out. He said it was the worst feeling he has ever had.

You're from NC and I have a question: I just spent two weeks on business in the Smokey's, near Highlands/Whitesides. Does it ever stop raining? It rained every day for the past two weeks.

Post more pix, if you have them.


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Sep 21, 2009 - 02:45pm PT
Nice job!!!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 21, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
more pics please
Stanley Hassinger

Eastern US
Sep 21, 2009 - 06:49pm PT
Pman - everyone clearly wants more pictures. If you would, please do throw us a bone.

And I'm sure everyone (me included) would love to hear the details of the bolt-breaking incident. I still haven't heard that story!

Do tell.

Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 21, 2009 - 09:48pm PT
Answering a few people's questions at once:

No I guess that technically it doesn't count as a free ascent since i tried to place a head that pulled out. I don't think it really matters what you call it, but the point is that there shouldn't be too much nailing on this route in the future. If you bring offset aliens and are willing to engage in some creative, albeit difficult, climbing, you can do this without nailing. There are, however, a few fixed heads and maybe 2 fixed pins that are required and would have to be replaced if they pulled. I would suggest future parties bring 5-10 heads and a handful of pins just in case.

I've never bailed on an el cap route before despite running out of food and water, so I would have continued even if I didn't find the sweet water cache. I could have gotten by on a bit less, I just would have been light-headed and tired all day.

Yes, having an ant in your ear is freaking psychotic. I slept with tissue paper ear plugs for the rest of the route!

Yes, it does stop raining in NC and the climbing there is actually pretty awesome. Looking glass is like a mini el cap with 7-9 pitch routes, many of which are pretty stout. I'm actually in school in minnesota now so I haven't experienced a NC summer in a while.

The bolt/dowel breaking incident at pitch 17 was pretty scary. I had the bad-looking bolts backed up to the 4" crack about 8 feet down and to the right. The problem was that hauling from that crack would have been a pain (would have had to extend all the way up and over the big block). So I figured I'd just haul off the bad bolts and avoid complete demise by backing them up to a #4 camalot. I made the anchor, rapped down, lowered out my bags, cleaned the pitch, then started to haul. As soon as I leaned back, the better of the two bolts broke and loaded the other one (I equalized them with a shoulder length sling). I immediately unclipped from the whole system (it was a big ledge) and began backing up with more cams (4 total, I think). The problem was that the haul was already loading the one crappy bolt/dowel, so I had to keep on hauling off of it. Every time I leaned back I was just waiting for it to break and shock load the cams. Unpleasant. It also gave me a huge blood blister from pulling up on the haul line to keep from having to lean on the anchor so hard (I don't wear gloves, but at that moment I was wishing I did).

I'll work on more pictures later, but I actually didn't take much more. All of them are ledge pictures because I was too tired during the day to get the camera out.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Sep 21, 2009 - 10:51pm PT
No matter, dude....we got the gist.
Awesome route & good times......
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