Lurking Fear, El Capitan C2F 5.7
Yosemite Valley, California USA
Avg time to climb route: 4 days
Approach time: 1 hour
Descent time: 5 hours
Number of pitches: 19
Height of route: 2000'
OverviewLurking Fear is the easiest aid line on El Cap. The lower pitches are beautiful, exposed and straightforward, while the upper part of the route involves wandering, lower-angle free climbing of lesser quality. The hauling on the last seven pitches is bad and punishes parties that bring too much.
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First ascent history
Dave Bircheff, Phil Bircheff, and Jim Pettigrew made the ﬁrst ascent in 1976. Though Jim and Dave were enthusiastic about the route, Phil had to be tricked into it. As Jim recalls, “We told Phil, ‘Come on out and do some free climbing with us in the Valley.’Next it was, ‘Help us carry loads to the base of El Cap.’ The game continued until Phil had gone from not wanting to climb to leading every third pitch on an El Cap Grade VI ﬁrst ascent.”
On the ﬁrst attempt the team was stopped by a long four-inch crack on Pitch 8. They had the option of leap-frogging bongs up the crack and placing bolts, but in an act of ethical purity they chose to retreat to the ground for the necessary free-climbing hardware. Feeling it not sporting to leave their ropes and gear on the route, the team decided to bring everything down as quickly as possible. After rigging a crude parachute from the team’s three butt bags, the team chucked their haulbag. Their plan didn’t quite work. Instead of gliding like a feather, the team’s brand new haulbag rocketed to the ground and exploded on impact.
After buying a new haulbag the team reclimbed to their high point, this time armed with an arsenal of tube chocks and large hexes. Pettigrew freed the pitch, a 5.10, on-sight without placing a bolt. On the next pitch, the team counted on climbing to a ledge that looked plush from the ground. Unfortunately, the ledge turned out to be small and consequently was dubbed The Pillar of Despair.
The team summited after spending three and a half days on the climb. The name Lurking Fear came from the title of a spooky short story by H.P. Lovecraft. Says Pettigrew: “In the story, the Lurking Fear represents the fear that is always in the back of your mind.”
Other historyIn 1994, Steve Schneider made a 95 percent free ascent of the route with Alan Lester and Jeff Schoen, leading all but three short face sections and using gear pre-placed on aid. In 2000, Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden made the first free ascent of the climb. The crux pitches feature desperately thin moves and dynos over blank sections.
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