I had been aid climbing for a short time and I was hooked. I loved it. Stony point bolt ladder, Rocky Peak roof, & Riverside Quarry were my frequent aid climbing practice areas. My friend David Gerwe was looking for a partner to do a Big Wall. To myself I thought, I had been climbing for literally thirty years, but I had never been up El Cap. In fact I had never been up any big wall. What was I waiting for? So I stepped up and made the commitment. Then I found out he had a date with the Zodiac!
Too late to back out, I put my self on an intense schedule of Aid Climbing and Big Wall internet forum lurking. Lot's and lot's of time reading and learning and practicing out on the rock.
As the date drew near for our first attempt, I found myself prepared, calm and ready. People asked if I was nervous, and I did not know what they were talking about. Well after getting up to the 4th pitch and then having to bail due to the impending storm. I learned a few things. I learned that I did not have what it takes to get this route done. At the first sign of weather we bailed. WTF?
And through it all was the behind the scenes terror of what might happen. What if the weather changes? What if that next fixed piece blows? What if that flake I'm hooking peals off and Frisbees down and causes some death or dismemberment. What if that rockfall we heard the first night was on our route? What if that haul bag that was pitched from the top on the second night caught a little more air and drifted into us instead of just flying by? These and many many other questions were better left unsaid. But just thinking about this stuff could make you lose your nerve, your courage. Worse, they could make you bail.
Thankfully none of that happened. There was a small thunder and lightning event somewhere above us, but we were in the sheltered steep section of the route and hardly noticed. No fixed gear pulled. A few times one of my pieces blew and I took the ride. But I was able to shake it off and keep climbing. I mean what are you going to do? Right?
As the days came and went we became better at our jobs. Belaying while sleeping or reading a book no longer seemed wrong. Drinking as much water as I could while telling David we needed to conserve became second nature. Later I realized he was doing the same to me. (He actually won in that department. As I found out back at the car when we weighed our bags. Well done sir. )
We also learned to just pour out a little from the pee bottle, then you watch and see if the wind is kind to those below you on the route before you dump the rest.
The higher we climbed on the route the more we could feel the pull of the summit. The moving up kit duties seemed to get easier. 2 x1 hauling became 1x1 as we ate and drank through our supplies.
But the long days of climbing were taking a toll on me. Both my legs painfully cramped up and I asked David "What causes this?" His reply, "Big Walling."
When my hands stopped working I really started to worry. Next was my arms. But at this point I had no doubt we would get to the summit. We had come too far to back down now.
Also it was looking like we would reach the top on my Birthday!
Pretty cool birthday summit I think. :)
Thanks Ingrid and kids for letting me go on this adventure even though it was my B-day and Fathers day weekend. Thanks to David's family for the same reason. David thanks for being an awesome climbing partner and friend.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you enjoyed it. It was like fun but different.
Also thanks to all who posted information over the years on "how to big wall", big wall route beta or answered questions from big wall n00bs like me. You all rock!