I have done Ahab three times at least, dating back to the late sixties and on into the mid seventies. It is a magnificient climb and in a sense, exceeds its one pitch “being” in so many ways. It’s kind of monumental, I guess.
The hardest part is the beginning as the squeeze chimney is a bit bombay to begin with, but actually just off the ground. The bombay problem means you don’t have good feet/lower body and it forces you to find methods to improve on what would have been normal technique. This first part is fairly powerful and for a ways, the squeeze is pretty tough still.
As with all offwidth climbing, you have to resist any tendency to start swimming and instead make every single move strictly productive only--- no getting sloppy, no pawing. Otherwise, you enter isometric hell and you won’t make it, simple as that. Be happy with 1/2” moves even, but never let yourself “try” to move up---each foot/knee position has to offer progress, if only fractions of an inch. Footstacking is effective for many. I also remember getting horizontal in the squeeze, meaning that my feet were to the side of me at times, getting great heel-and-toes when below me they wouldn't have been able to. And the stiffer and higher your shoes, the better--- no slippers please.
It’s pretty cardio. I can imagine a male or female climber being incredibly fit cardiovacularly but actually not very physically strong, making this climb.
Also it relents above the first squeeze, gives up some rests, has hand jams in the imposing flare up there and generally has variety. It is also fairly safe and the rock is some of the best in the world, actually. I really recommend this climb.
Is it a chimney or an off-width? Big respect to Sacherer and the dudes of yore whose only protection was themselves. High-placed chicken wings and chimney technique for the lower body gets me through the business. #6 camalot (old #5 is too small), green and blue bigbros are useful.
There is a pic in the Zak/Huber book "Yosemite" of Chapman demonstrating the technique.
here is a good old story. It was 1974 and living not so far from the valley went up to bolder on my own. I ran into Ray Jardine (I had no idea who he was) at swan slab and he asked if I wanted to go climbing. Mind you I was 17 and the only 5.10 I had done was to tr generator crack a few times. Ray took me to the base of el cap and he easily led moby dick center and I dutifully followed. We rapped off and he asked if I wanted to lead Ahab. He had never done it. Not knowing any better and wanting to impress this burly looking dude I agreed. I led the damm thing with runouts and a few small stoppers stuffed way back in the crack. Ray was impressed and I went home with a great story to all of my fellow partners.
I finally got around to top roping this thing. I don't know if I'll ever have the desire to learn this type of climbing well enough to lead OW at this grade. I learned a lot from this climb. It is worth the struggle and has made the 5.8-5.9 wide stuff on the multi-pitch routes I've been climbing seem much more casual.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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