Tribal Rite Photo Essay - Part 1 of 10

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'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 8, 2005 - 02:00am PT
This is Page 1 of a ten-part post, and is the beginning of the Tribal Rite photo essay.

If you have somehow arrived at this point without quite knowing how, please click here to return to the beginning.

As per the instructions linked above, may I request that you please do not reply to this post! Instead, would you please make all your replies and comments here. Like thanks, eh?




Tribal Rite was my twenty-seventh El Cap route. I'm up to 39 different routes now at the time of this edit to fix the links. My partner Tom Kasper and I chose this route partly because it was a cool looking line up a proud part of the Big Stone, and partly because of its moderate rating. There was plenty of A3 to sustain our interest, but only one pitch rated A4, so we got the A4 rating without having to climb more than one pitch of it, an important consideration when you are as lazy and as chickensh*t as me. There was also some more moderate stuff for Tom to have a go at leading.

But I think primarily we wanted this route for its killer bivi ledges, most importantly Lay Lady Ledge which has to be the All Time Plush El Cap Bivi! I hadn’t been there since my ascent of Reticent Wall in 1998, and a return trip was long overdue. On that climb, one of my partners declared that since we were making an alpine style ascent, we would have to move camp from the stellar accommodations of Lay Lady Ledge up to some miserable hanging bivi at the top of the first pitch, a decision he later regretted.

Incidentally, if you enjoy my photo essays, please click on the Reticent Wall link above, and follow the link to return to the beginning of that photo essay. Cheers.

As you will see, Tom and I weren’t about to repeat that mistake! I believe taking your time and enjoying the vertical camping experience to be a fundamental step in the Journey from Young Bull to Old Bull.

It quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to fix all the way to Lay Lady Ledge as we had originally envisioned, as there comes a point when the extra jugging just ain’t worth it. Dave Turner – a young man well underway in his journey to OB – pretty much convinced us when he said, “You guys should be chillin’ up in your ledges drinking coffee instead of jugging.” He had a point.



So we blasted after fixing the first three or four pitches, and spent our first night on the wall here at the top of 3. The route we chose follows the first ten pitches of New Dawn up to Lay Lady Ledge and thence to the ledge just right of the Texas Flake on The Nose. These easier aid pitches were a great warm-up for out-of-shape off-the-couch lard-asses like us. Leo Houlding free climbed this bit, and in one place bolted the hood ornament from an Alfa Romeo onto the rock to make it climbable. From the looks of things, he was making some pretty rad runouts across seemingly blank sections of rock – quite incredible, really. That boy is bad to the bone!

The yellow ledge in front is my trusty Fish Double Crab-O-Ledge, a wall veteran used on most of my 246 nights on El Cap, not counting base or summit bivis. The thing is pretty much indestructible. Behind it is the red Metolius ledge I borrowed from the manufacturer to do my portaledge review for Gripped Magazine.



The Metolius ledge uses a clever “open corner” design that makes the thing incredibly easy to set up and take apart, although it requires a spreader bar to snap into place beneath it. It’s a great ledge if you’re tall as it’s quite long. The fly is quite brilliant with a built-in point of attachment, though somehow I managed to get that returned to Gripped. But I hung onto the ledge for the time being.



Lay Lady Ledge is a totally kick-ass bivi ledge – big enough that you can safely unrope and chuck your crap all over the place. You can tell it’s springtime because the grass is still green. That’s my Fish Crab-O-Ledge in the background. My ex-girlfriend painted the picture of my mascot – Wee-Wee the Big Wall Crab – onto a white sheet and then I had the shoe repairman sew it onto the bottom of the ledge. From a distance, it is said to resemble a Hoser flag, but this is purely co-incidental, eh? Look for it up on the Captain, and if you see it, try reaching me on the radio using Channel 1 sub 10. I used to be on Channel 2 Sub 10, but everyone else started using it because it's "half" of 4-20. Plus one of my radios really sucks, and got stuck on 1-10 and I couldn't change the frequency.

Check out the duct tape repair job on the toes of Tom’s boots. They were beginning to fall apart, and his efforts to glue the soles back into place were unsuccessful. This in turn gave me a rather diabolical idea, of which you will soon read.



Not only does Lay Lady Ledge collect all the rainfall to water the grass, but it also collects vast amounts of wood washed over the wall during winter- and springtime storms. We were amazed to find all sorts of firewood, a pre-existing firepit, and even a grill that other climbers had left behind.

Since the place was going to be our home for a couple nights while we fixed the pitches above, we figured we might as well be comfortable, so we took a bit of extra time to rig some “clotheslines” to organicize our gear. You must alvays have a vell-organicized bivi….



It’s hard to find more stylin’ digs than a bivi seven hundred feet off the deck. Our dwindling firewood supply gave us just enough heat to warm up our canned vegetables, served with our entrée of kolbosa sausages wrapped in aluminum foil.

The Barefoot shiraz comes highly recommended by Dr. Piton. Who says you have to spend more than six bucks for a great bottle of wine? Ah yes, Trader Joe’s – what a bitchin’ place that is! {sigh} If only we could get ‘em up in Canada…

An unfortunate side effect from the consumption of alcoholic beverages – as some of you may be aware – is the impairment of judgement. In Tom’s case, he didn’t realize that it was unwise to casually bump the rather round sack containing all of his storm gear, and he watched as it rolled downslope to tumble off the ledge into oblivion. However another side effect is that he didn’t really care, at least at that moment.



The plastic food bucket hangs on a Catch Line beneath our main load of pigs, and contains our fresh fruit and crushables like crackers to go with our selection of fine wines and cheeses.

Note: do not throw avocado pits off the wall! From three thousand feet up, a direct hit on the noggin would likely kill.

Neither should you drop your raingear. We learned from Dave Turner via radio that Aaron Young had picked up Tom’s beautiful Goretex raingear, and was borrowing it for his solo ascent of South Seas. We later met up with Aaron on the summit – we were the first people he had spoken with in 11 days as he had also managed to drop his radio.

Aaron is a spunky but outspoken Young Bull who recently used his real name in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The reporter spoke of him camping in defiance at the base of El Cap, with various anti-Ranger epithets displayed prominently on his haulbags. One might as well paint a bull’s eye on one’s chest, and stand on a tree stump during target practice. If you don’t find him up on the wall, look for him renting a room in the John Muir Hotel.

Please click here to move to Page 2 of the Tribal Rite photo essay.

If you have somehow arrived at this point without quite knowing how, please click here to return to the beginning.

In order to reduce clusterf*ckage and to keep everything together, may I request that you please do not reply to this post, and instead leave your comments here. Thanks, eh?
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