Flight of the Albatross, El Capitan A3 5.8

 
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Yosemite Valley, California USA

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 (3.0)
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'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
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   Nov 26, 2010 - 09:29am
"And PTPP, there is no way in h-ll that pitch is ever going to be C2+F if you place heads, most heads will be the smallest, and fragile, ones available..."

Well ... couldn't the same be said for most of the fixed head pitches on former hard nailups that have become trade routes because of repeated nailing which eventually became beat out which eventually turned into fixed heads? Many of these pitches have turned into A0 clipups because all of the heads are fixed.

My point is simply this - if you plant to climb this pitch above the canoe, plan to do so in good ethical form, which is to gently nail your way with small and tenuous beaks. Make sure you have the skill to climb this way, and don't "dumb down the pitch" by using heads.
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Pierre

Big Wall climber
Sweden
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   Nov 26, 2010 - 04:43am
I think what "YO" wrote in is trip report five years ago still is enough said about the Albatross:

//"Whipper Will felt right on at A3+ (with two distinct cruxes as marked on the ST) and the Canoe was beyond that. To me it felt harder than any pitch currently on ZM. Iím trying not to whine too much so Iíll say this: I donít care what that pitch is graded but it is in DFU territory and you BETTER know what youíre doing with a beak."
//
And PTPP, there is no way in h-ll that pitch is ever going to be C2+F if you place heads, most heads will be the smallest, and fragile, ones available...

I had to stack beaks aswell during our climb in 2009 (we decided to bring 15 beaks after reading "YO's" tripreport) - thin and flared tips, just a great A4 pitch!
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'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
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   Nov 25, 2010 - 01:45pm
This is actually a really good route, and I would definitely recommend it! I suggest you climb the Mushroom/Sunkist to Grey Ledges from Mammoth, rather than the far more devious Muir/Shield which involves a big lower-out.

The pitches above Cast Away Matey Pinnacle are really sweet, although one has some pretty loose and potentially dangerous rock that had me a bit scared - NTB but DFU.

I was more than a little confused when I got on the route, as I used quite a few medium and large peckers, yet Kevin/Bulldog had said he soloed it without using "pins". I didn't realize until reading his post, linked by Hoipoilli below, that Kevin meant he didn't use [m]any LA's and KB's. Me neither - I have pretty much completely replaced that type of pin with the big peckers. You should, too.

Several times on the route, I was thinking, "man, this is hard, I'd sure hate to be soloing now!" Mostly this was on Whipper Will, and the pitch above the Canoe, which is what I wanted to ask you guys about.

John Middendorf writes, in reference to the pitch above the Canoe, "One never knows how these kind of pitches evolve." I can tell you what it's like now.

That pitch is pretty full on, and I would consider it to be harder than NTB+, at least PDH-. There is some big time fall potential on this pitch if you blow it. I had to lower off on the bolts to backclean small peckers to reuse them above. I am thinking that the big new 3/8" bolt, which sits across from an old 1/4-incher, was added. I don't know why anyone wouldn't reuse the hole, seems silly.
By the time you reach the bolt, there is a decent placement in the crack, and the next few above are quite bomber. If I didn't know the first ascensionist knew what he was doing, I might question that original bolt being there.

Anyway, tell me if you guys agree with this - in the evolution of this particular aid pitch, the pecker scars are of course being slowly beaten out. What you now find are these little pods that are about the size of a kidney bean, which will no longer squeeze the end of the pecker. The pods are way too small to accept a medium or large pecker, only the smallest size. [Were I to lead this pitch again, I would bring a dozen small peckers!] The small pecker barely holds in this pod, and feels very tenuous to say the least. In a couple places, I had to stack two side by side - yikes. There's real fall potential here, and this pitch stacks up very well against a number of A4 pitches I have led on things like Bad Sign, Bad Seed, KAOS, Ranch, etc.

I believe this pitch has gotten harder since the first ascent, because of the shape in which these shallow pods have formed. I think the route is at the point in its evolution where it is at its hardest. It was scary, for sure, and it took me no small amount of willpower - and a bit of extra polish on the ol' brassies - to complete it using only peckers. It was tempting to whack a head into these little bean pods, which would bring the pitch down to C2+F, using the McTopo rating. This is sure to happen on subsequent ascents, the only question is when.

So what do you recent ascensionists think of this pitch? A4? I do.

Anyway, if you plan on climbing this route, DON'T place heads above the Canoe! Bring extra small peckers, expect to stack them, expect them to be very tenuous, expect to lower off of bolts to backclean them, expect to be scared. Great pitch, that.

Cheers, eh?
Pete
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Wad

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Nov 24, 2010 - 04:54pm
 
Took a fall on that beaks pitch above the canoe. I was topstepping after a string of about 12 beaks to clip a fixed head. Not thinking I just clipped it and got on it to have it rip and subsequently rip the 1/2 inch web on all the peckers I placed. Ripped a couple scream aids as well before I was caught by the large fixed head above the anchor. Did not hit the canoe luckily. Was nice to just be able to go back up and restring all the peckers that remained in place for the second go.
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hoipolloi

climber
A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Nov 16, 2009 - 09:16am
 
Saw this today, a copy to here seems relevant and important.


http://supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1011776/The_Albatrosse_Leave_the_pins_at_home
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yo

climber
Mudcat Spire
Aug 18, 2006 - 09:03am
 
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=238594&f=70&b=0
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Chris McNamara

Advanced climber
Mudcat Spire
Jan 23, 2002 - 06:18pm
 
hey john!

yeah, That canoe is one of the most outrageous features on el cap. definitely worth a rest day just sitting on it in the middle of one of the steepest clean faces on el cap. maybe I should add a few crash pads for the rack so that you pad the ledge in case of fall?
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John Middendorf

Novice climber
Mudcat Spire
Dec 15, 2001 - 05:15pm
 
Good to hear Hans speak of pitch 13 being stout. I remember debating about placing a bolt about 25 feet up on the first ascent, after a string of tiny heads and beaks that only went in about 3/16", asking Will to pad the canoe ledge with the haulbags, fearing the crater fall. I could have finagled a few more mashed head placements in the crackless corner, perhaps, but it seemed out of character to the overall route to push it harder than A3+. After the bolt it got technical but safer. One never knows how these kind of pitches evolve. Still amazed the canoe (boat) is still there-25 tons of rock perched on an overhanging wall.

Cheers
John Middendorf
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Hans Florine

Advanced climber
Mudcat Spire
Jul 19, 2001 - 09:53am
 
some beta from my recent speed ascent:

-We used NO angles on the whole route.
-NO #1 LA. only 1 ea # 2,#3. and NO #4,#5
-NO #4.5 Cam ( I used a #4 a few times, but didn't "need" it, only placed it because we had it.)
-we suggest 20 rivet hangers, not 10.
 there's a nice bolted anchor 35 ft below Cast Away Mateys Pinnacle on the Gray Ledges side that is great to use when you come up from MM or Sunkist. It makes pitch #7 175 ft long. ( we didn't do the oringinal first 6 pitches)
-used small TCU's near the end of pitch 11, which might be why we needed NO angles and so few LAs.
 pitch 13 was Stout!
-I'd lower the C rating on pitch 14 as someone drilled a rivet right next to the expanding flake. ( I think it's been there a while.) I did make an easy hook move but never had to bother with the flake.
-I managed to use an HB offset and cam hooks to avoid placing the 1 1/4 sawed off right above Chicken Head ledge-maybe put a note on the topo : "turn page(to 57), and see the topo from chicken head ledge up".

That's it, Thanks for the good beta, now it will be great! Course it may change as the route gets traveled. Hard to believe we passed someone at the canoe!
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El Capitan - Flight of the Albatross A3 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Flight of the Albatross is route number 6.
Photo: Tom Frost
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