Aquarian Wall, El Capitan A3 5.7

 
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Yosemite Valley, California USA

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Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
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   Sep 20, 2009 - 11:36pm
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.


starting up the C3 part of pitch 10 where i took a couple falls (picture courtesy of Tom Evans)



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

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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Sep 20, 2009 - 09:13am
 
some good beta here
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=963512
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Llewelyn Moss

Big Wall climber
LZ Loon
May 28, 2009 - 08:53pm
 
Notes from a May 2007 ascent.

-All bolts through pitch 10 have been replaced by the ASCA, thankyou. Not sure about pitch 11 bolts but I think they are dowels. Pitch 13 has old dowels (which are still OK) right off the belay.
-All bolted anchors are bomber except for pitch top of pitch 17 (no bolts indicated on topo but there is one bad dowel and a bent over 5/16" rivet). A natural belay is easy to get on this huge deluxe ledge.
-Some of the pitch lengths seem to be off on the Supertopo. Pitch 17 is 120+'? and pitch 18 is closer to 200'?
-Pitch 18 starts with a splitter (not a corner) to the right of the killer ledge. Look for a bush 30-40' up. Go through it.
-There are only a few pitches of not too bad gardening starting on pitch 13. I suspect the route has cleaned up a little more since it has become more popular.
-The chimneys are quality and always interesting. Fun fun fun. Wear your Carharts.
-The route is about as hard as the Muir but more fresh and adventurous. A very nice route overall with many great belay ledges and stances.
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hollyclimber

Big Wall climber
North Rim, AZ
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   Aug 17, 2008 - 11:28am
I climbed this route with Lorna Illingworth in June of 2007. The route gets a fair number of ascents per season, not the zero that most people expect. Overall, it is the grassiest route I have climbed on El Cap, including being grassier than the West Buttress overall. I had a constant ooze of dirt and nasty eye boogers coming out of my eyes as they worked double time to get it all back out.

Here are the detailed notes from my topo that I thought were worth posting:

P1- Length is 150+

P2- I didn't see a 5.6 way to climb when I did this, but when we did NNL, I think Lorna did find something. But, it goes just fine at A1 with no down climbing to 5.6.

P3-Is reachy (please note I am 5'2")

P4- says 6" piece or C3. There is NO C3, no matter what. I have in my notes "#5 (old green one, which we used both times) not really needed for aid, but good for pro as it is C2+/A2+ after the #5". The second half of the pitch is reachy.

P6- No free climbing where indicated and "ok, not reachy". Save 2 #1 cams for the end as it is #1 cam size for last 20+ feet. I used the #5 cam (or Friend 6 that we took in place of it on NNL) twice on this pitch, if you are trying to decide whether to take one. Also, note that I dislike this pitch, and after having led it twice I will try to give it away if I get it again.

P9- Top of Pitch 9 is a nice bivy for 2. If you wanted to climb this route without a ledge you could fix above P9 and probably make it to Kahuna Kahuna at pitch 16 (bivies at 15 look poor).

P10- Used the #5 on this pitch.

P12- 3 bolts at the anchor, used an old #4 at the top of this pitch.

P13- Dowels on this pitch. Used both a new and old #4 on this pitch.

P14- I would lower out kind of low, maybe off a fixed nut in the crack if there is still one there. The lower out point on the topo is a dowel (yucky).

P16- Huge and PLUSH bivy for 4 on Kahuna Kahuna ledge. Best bivy on the route, one of the best bivies I have ever had on El Cap. Huge and flat, this bivy lacks the great views of El Cap Tower and the Bismark but beats them hands down for sprawling and spacious flat sleeping space.

P18- #5 cam was helpful. We topped out on Thanksgiving much closer to the Dihedral Wall than I expected. I recommend leading another pitch from the good bolts at the top of 18 up to Thanksgiving, setting an anchor and doing one more haul there, as the terrain is steep and its not a good place to arrange a shuttle. We did this and it was fine. The second will probably have to work the bag up for the hauler, but its safer and easier than shuttling.

For the rack, the main comment I would make is that I note we took 2 #3s, which was fine, 2 new #4s which was critical, one old four (purple) and one old five (green).
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hollyclimber

Big Wall climber
North Rim, AZ
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   Jul 3, 2008 - 04:09pm
Please note that two of the links below are not really related to Aquarian Route and the third mentions it but provides NO BETA. One link below has some discussion on NeverNeverLand (which does share the first 7 pitches with Aquarian) and one discusses a pitch on Horse Chute. I have done all three of these routes, and welcome specific beta inquiries by email.

Some day I might get some route notes up on the Aquarian from the detailed topo I made.

Overall comments: Liked the route, was a bit dirty, more than a bit grassy. Absolutely KILLER ledge not on topo (Kahuna Kahuna ledge). A little nailing. NeverNeverland is a bit better. Top out on Aquarian is more closer than the Dihedral Wall topout to Thanksgiving but about as equally as lame. NNL topout is stellar (to Thanksgiving).

Holly
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Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 10, 2006 - 04:01pm
 
more postings...

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=187770&msg=200425#msg200425
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Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 10, 2006 - 03:59pm
 
about the wetness factor...

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=238183&msg=238403#msg238403
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Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 10, 2006 - 03:56pm
 
Good read on Aquarian Wall experience...

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=261099&msg=261966#msg261966
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El Capitan - Aquarian Wall A3 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Chris McNamara
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