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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
A rookie’s solo ascent of the Zodiac - Oct 2012
Sunday October 21, 2012 8:17pm
"Living proof that big wall climbing is 100% persistence.” - Joe Simonsen

Day 1… I forgot my pants.

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In 2008, I had the privilege of meeting Steve Muse, aka the Museman, when he climbed the Zodiac route of El Capitan with Tommy Thompson and Dave Lane. I played a minor role in the descent team, helping to set up some extra rappel lines along the east ledges descent. From the meadows, I watched as Steve, a paraplegic, ascend the big rock with a special rig conjured up for the climb. What they were doing seemed unreal and unimaginable. It left a definitive impression in my mind.

A year later, my good friend Jeremy Roop soloed the Muir in 7 days and again, I was astounded. These incredible feats of physical and mental stamina amazed and inspired me, and for a while, I wondered if I could ever be so bold.

Years past, and I did a few big walls. Always partnered, I had climbed routes on Leaning Tower, Washington Column and El Cap. The Nose was the only route on the Captain that I had done, and I always wanted to get back on that stone. So, after having had a few rough years on the personal front, I decided I wanted to do something for myself.

And hence, the quest to rope solo the Zodiac was born.

Climbing the Captain alone was not an easy feat for this 115 lb imposter. I knew nothing about rope soloing and so I spent a lot of time on the web reading what people did, and several weekends practicing a self belay, working on my aid/hauling skills, and learning to set up my ledge from a hanging anchor. Regardless of the preparation, I made many MANY mistakes during my climb that cost me a lot of time and energy – two things that one does NOT want to waste when climbing a big wall in the midst of a heat wave.

In the end, I spent a total of 7.5 days on the wall and put in 3 days preparing (fixing, hauling, etc), and extra time after carrying the rest of my kit back down to the valley floor. Because of the heat, my memory blurred moments together for the first few days and I had to refer back to my text messages, pictures and Tom’s El Cap Report to reconstruct the experience. Here is a recount of the ascent as best as I can remember. Type 2 fun which came in the manner of pure suffering in its rawest form.

Enjoy.

Day 1: September 27th, 2012
Emergency stash day
My plan was to ferry 3 liters of water and a bear canister of food up the east ledges as emergency water/food for the summit. An early start was thwarted by the cursed missing climbing pants fiasco, so by the time procurement was made, it was 2pm. To continue in this state of brilliance, I marched up the Manure Pile descent route instead of the East Ledges descent route so I had to cross country through sloppy terrain to get to the base of the rappels. Fortunately, I still managed to stash my food up near the summit of the Zodiac, and made it down before dark.

Text msg to loved ones: Day 1: everything goes as planned. Dropped off my emergency stash at the tippy top of my climb. Tired! Still hot in the valley. Snafu #1: forgot pants. Haha. Had to buy a pair. Boy size 14 on sale! Score!

Image of the route on El Cap <br/>
Credit: Supertopo
Image of the route on El Cap
Credit: Supertopo
Credit: yellow mzungu
food and water stashed up top!
food and water stashed up top!
Credit: yellow mzungu
rapping down the east ledges descent.
rapping down the east ledges descent.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 2: September 28th, 2012
Fixing Day
I carried my ropes, a gallon of water, and my rack to the base of Zodiac with grand plans of fixing the first 3 pitches of the route. I decided to head up the traditional left start and towards the top, one of my pieces blew and I took a 35 foot fall. My grigri didn’t engage, but the backup knot caught me. THAT was exciting. A 35 foot fall gives one just enough time to have maybe 1.5 thoughts, and I believe my exact thoughts were – ‘ohshitohshitohsh#t, I hope my system works… catchmecatchmecatchmecatchme.’

I was climbing in the middle of a heat wave, and the temps cooked my brain. I was slow, I stared at my knots and didn’t trust them, and I guzzled my water feverishly. In the end, I was only able to fix 2 pitches, and decided it was good enough for me. I left the rack at the top of P2, and the ropes up for the haul the following day. I was so eager to leave the heat that I decided I didn’t want to carry anything down and left it all behind – including my headlamp and cell phone (oops). But with the heat, I didn’t really care! There was a full moon and who’s gonna call me anyway??

rappelling down after fixing to P2.
rappelling down after fixing to P2.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 3: September 29th, 2012
Hauling day
Early text msg to loved ones: Sorry no update last night. Left phone at the base of el cap. Fixed lines up to top of 2 yesterday. Hauling loads up today.

Continuing on in the heat, I started early and made 3 trips to the base of Zodiac with loads of water (8 gallons), gear and food. There was a Spanish couple who also started that day and headed up in the heat. I decided to wait until it got cooler before I jugged my lines for the haul.

Just then, Mark Hudon and his nephew Paul appeared out of the trees like bad asses through a hazy desert mirage. We talked a bunch and Mark dispensed some very good last minute advice for my climb. We exchanged numbers and I was grateful for Mark’s advice and Paul’s enthusiasm. I was reenergized the climb, and shortly after, I hauled the gear. The Spanish couple continued to climb to the 4th pitch.

Late text msg to loved ones: Hey! Spent the day hauling all 8 gals of water, food and more gear to the base and hauled it all up the wall. Sorta on schedule. :) Blasting off tomorrow! Mistake of the day, realized my rain fly was not seamed sealed so did that at 3pm at the base today. haha

Mark dispensing valuable advice at the base of Zodiac. <br/>
Photo credit:...
Mark dispensing valuable advice at the base of Zodiac.
Photo credit: Paul Tyler
Credit: yellow mzungu
Jugging up the lines for the haul. Note the freshly seam-sealed Fish p...
Jugging up the lines for the haul. Note the freshly seam-sealed Fish porta-fly in the foreground. Photo credit: Mark Hudon
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 4: September 30th, 2012
Blast off! Errr… Ummm… Houston, we have a problem.
Jugging the lines up to my kit was pretty straight forward. As I began to lead up P3, I saw 2 people approach the base – another party. Ahead of me was the Spanish couple had already taken down their ledge. Heading up P3, I took my main line and haul line with me. It was a bolt ladder for the most part with a few hook placements here and there. It was pretty straight forward, until a piece blew on the C2 section and clocked me in the face just above my left eye. I bled a lot from my cut, but a picture of the injury proved it to be trivial, so I wiped off the blood and continued to climb. Then, I hit the “big reach” section high up on the pitch and immediately regretted not making a stiff draw. Top stepping and extending my fifi on a draw didn’t give me enough reach… Meanwhile the heat was intense, and I could only attempt a clip ever minute or so. In between reaches, I slumped forward with my head between my hands and tried to breathe slowly and cool myself down. I tried to eat. I couldn’t.

the head bleeds, even when the cut is small.
the head bleeds, even when the cut is small.
Credit: yellow mzungu
exciting hooking!
exciting hooking!
Credit: yellow mzungu

A thought! I took one of my draws and shoved a wrapper into the gate’s hinge so that the gate remained open. Another two attempts and there was success! I completed the rest of P3 and was elated to be at the anchors. I fixed my lines and rapped down the haul line back to my haul bag, aptly named Henri Le Cochon. There I am greeted by the party coming up behind me – not a party of 2 as I thought, but another soloist – Korean. We exchange pleasantries, and I took a small break to rehydrate and cool off.

energy wrapper in the hinge seemed to do the trick!
energy wrapper in the hinge seemed to do the trick!
Credit: yellow mzungu

After the break, I cleaned P3 and rested from the heat again. I sorted out my ropes and considered what I needed to do next. I was very slow and had trouble concentrating. I decided just to climb to the top of P4 and bivy there for the night. Already, I had been through a gallon of water (my allowance for the day) so I was getting nervous about whether or not I’d have enough to make it through the entire climb.

In retrospect, Pitch 4 was painless compared to the other pitches, but I didn’t think so at the time. I was faked out by an anchor on the right which required a very tricky and committing mantel. After trying and failing a few times, I looked at the topo and realized the correct anchor was higher and on the left. When I reached the bolts, they were also difficult to reach! After anchoring in, I fixed and backed up my main line and fixed my haul line for hauling… wait a minute… it’s JUST the haul line…. Oh no. where was the protraxion? Ohhhhhhh nooooooo. What possessed me to remove the protraxion from the haul line? What was I thinking??? It’s clear… I wasn’t thinking at all.

I calmed down and walked myself through what I needed to do. I’d have to do is go down and get protraction, re-jug the lines, rig the haul, rap down again, release the pig, then clean and haul. Sucks, but lesson learned… move on.

So I began rapping down the haul line and then, about 25 feet down, I looked up at the anchor, and ohhhhhhhhhhh nooooooooooo. My ascenders. They were clipped in neatly next to rack at the anchors.

I was hating myself at this point. I was definitely dehydrated, and likely suffering from heat exhaustion, AND I was jumar-less.

What could I do at this point aside from curse at myself??
Out came the prusiks.

I began to prusik up the lines and climbed all of 5 feet when the Korean soloist saw me ascending the ropes. He called up to me (from P2), “Alice, do you need aiders?!” YES! “I will send them up to you!” OK, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

So I happily rapped down to P3, and he attached the gear to his fix line for me to pull up. But once it reached me, I realized he only sent up aiders, but no ascenders, and I was now a full pitch down. I thought to myself – Tom (Evans) must be having a blast watching this sh#t-show.

The Korean soloist started coming up so I assumed he just released his kit and was coming up to haul. So I decided to wait for him to see if he would lend me his ascenders. He did, and graciously offered to help release Henri to save me the trip back down. What a gentleman! So, I cleaned P4 and lowered his jumars back to him. With Henri released, I hauled my kit to the top of P4 and set up the portaledge for the evening. As I clean the blood off my face from the earlier fall, I watch the Korean soloist complete his haul to P3 and then descend for the night.

Myself and the Korean soloist
Myself and the Korean soloist
Credit: yellow mzungu



Day 5: October 1st, 2012
Misery
Morning text msg to my loved ones: Hey there, made it up to 4 last night, heading up to 6 today and maybe 7… Slept on my ledge last night, was scared this morning from the exposure.

I got up early and was determined to make it up to P6 and possibly fix P7. The Spanish couple was already on the move and I could see the Korean soloist jugging up his lines. I felt pressure, but after a good meal last night and a hearty breakfast this morning, I felt somewhat prepared.

By the time I started climbing, the wall was just getting sun exposure. I cursed at myself for taking too long with breakfast and breakdown. Before I knew it, it was blazing hot again. I finished P5 and was very dehydrated. So I decided that instead of linking up P6, I should go back down to get water. When I began to rappel, the Spanish couple announced that, despite finishing P7 (Black Tower), they will descend because of heat and lack of water. They told me they left 2.5 gallons up on top of P7 for me for which I thanked them profusely. I then rapped down to Henri for water and a short rest. After what seemed like an hour, I jugged back to P5 and began leading P6. Just shy of the P6 anchors, I took a short fall and a piton catches me. *phew* Let me just say this… I do not like gear popping out – especially when I’m top stepping.

Spanish couple rappelling.
Spanish couple rappelling.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Spanish couple rappelling
Spanish couple rappelling
Credit: yellow mzungu

The heat was making things very difficult. By now, I was drinking a gallon and a half a day and I couldn’t eat during the day. Every attempt to put something in my mouth caused me to dry heave and I nearly threw up several times. (High probability that this was the early signs of heat exhaustion, wouldn’t you say?) Having allotted a gallon of water a day, the Spaniard’s 2.5 gallons of water was a huge relief. Still, at this rate of consumption, it would not provide me the means to make any additional time-consuming mistakes.

After setting the anchor at P6, I rapped down to P4 to release Henri. The Korean soloist had just reached the P4 anchors and we exchanged greetings. I told him I almost threw up a few times from the heat. He told me he actually DID throw up!! We rested at P4 together for a little bit and he finally said that he was going to descend and come back in the night to climb when it was cooler. It was just too hot during the day… and he strongly encouraged me to do the same.

It sounded like a good idea, but I was worried that I wouldn’t want to come back up. It has been so hard already, and sleeping on the ground seemed to give too much of a temptation to just stay down… so I told him I was going to go up and just set up for the evening and rest. And so he rapped back down to the ground and I cleaned the pitch and hauled Henri up to the top of P6 to set up for the evening. It is still early (around 3pm), but I didn’t want to muster the energy to go any further.

While I sorted out my ledge, the light part of the headlamp got caught in the webbing, and POP, it came right off. I hadn’t even realized that I climbed with it on all day so at first I didn’t know what was falling down the wall… Then, it hit me… The band was STILL on my helmet and the light piece was gone – gone straight down to the base of the climb.

I didn’t have a spare light.
I just sat there for a bit trying to get my head around the gravity of the situation. I was spent and the heat amplified my emotions.

So hot.
So frustrated.
So dehydrated.
And feeling so very alone.

The pity party went on for about 5 minutes, and then I decided I needed to descend and retrieve my light. There was no way I could climb without it. I knew that with the short days, I would undoubtedly climb in the dark at least some of the time, whether it’d be morning or night and the lack of light would make it that much harder.

In frustration, I texted Mark.

Me: Crap!!! Dropped headlamp!!! Gotta descend. Bummer!!!
Mark: Really? Descend? The pull of the ground is strong!
Me: No just to retrieve. I have no other light and would kill my evening climbing. No? Can you think of alternative?
Mark: Well, that other soloist left ropes to the ground. When is he coming back?
Me: Tonight. You can see that???
Mark: Sure, we can see you. We’re going up there in a little while. We tie your headlamp to his ropes. I’ll bring an extra in case we can’t find yours.
Me: Awesome. You’re a star.
Me: He’s fixed into bolts below. I don’t know where it landed and it’s just the lamp part. It popped off the webbing. Stupid design. Dunno if it’s functional.
Mark: Do you have his contact info to tell him to bring it up? I’ll leave a note on it.
Me: Nope… he doesn’t speak English very well. Korean soloist.
Mark: Hmmm….
Me: It’s ok. I go down and look. If I can’t find it, may I borrow ur spare? (if that’s ok?)
Mark: Sure, we’re leaving now. I’m bringing you a sun shade for your helmet also.
Me: K

Me: headlamp smashed to bits. :(
Mark: We’re almost there! No prob. Go get in the shade.

I had descended down from the 6th pitch, first on my ropes to P4, then on the Korean soloist’s ropes from P4 to the ground. I recovered only bits of my headlamp and just 1 of 3 AAA batteries. It was completely destroyed… It goes to show how much heat affects your brain function. How could I have believed there was any chance of it working from falling such a distance??

It was sweltering at the base. I stripped my gear off as I fumbled towards the shade. At the first shaded flat rock, I collapsed and promptly fell asleep. I was OUT well before Mark and Paul arrived and being awoken by their fresh faces made me feel a whole lot better. Mark brought a headlamp (exact same Black Diamond headlamp that popped off!), and he brought me a categorically unattractive, but amazingly practical Da-Brim shade cover for my helmet. It was bright yellow, and against my purple helmet, made me look like a first class dork. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Mark suggested I stay down off the wall and away from the heat that radiated off the rock. He suggested I go get a shower, sleep soundly, and then get up early to jug the lines and start climbing again. And had I a vehicle, I might have taken his advice. But I lent my car to a friend while I was on the wall and Henri had my sleeping bag. Mostly, I was still worried that the temptation to stay grounded would be too strong.

I decided to go back up. Mark generously filled up my water bladder, sent me off with a headlamp and helmet shade and I jugged the lines that late afternoon with the intentions of an early start the next day. That evening, as the sun set, I took out his headlamp and attached it to my helmet. But when I hit the button, it didn’t turn on. Hmmm… I tried it a few more times…. no dice. No worries – it must be the batteries, and I had spare batteries. But after installing… it still didn’t work.

At this point, I started to laugh.
Are ya kidding me?!

I was finally finding the humor in the complete disarray that was my first solo, and it felt good. I started to calculate how many hours of daylight I had, how many pitches I thought I could realistically push in a day, and what time the moon rose at night. And then it dawned on me… in my “oh shit” kit, I had an emergency light. A single LED keychain light that could turn on when squeezed! I found it and saw that it also had a tiny switch that could keep the light on without squeezing it.

YES!

And so, I duct taped the 1 LED wonderlight to my helmet.
There.
It’ll have to do…

Text msg to my loved ones: Made a ton of stupid mistakes!! They were silly and extremely frustrating. Heat is taking its toll. Almost threw up twice today. Spaniards bailed today and left 10 liters of water behind. Happy about that.

That night, I saw the unmistakable headlamp of the Korean soloist walking up the steep scree field. It was close to midnight, and he stood there at the base for about 30 minutes looking up. Finally, he turned away and walked back down the hill.

In the darkness, I felt his abandonment.

Side note:
That same evening, I witnessed something frightening. A HUGE mass went flying off the summit of El Cap with what appeared to be a parachute. The noise was terrifying, and I yelled “ROCK” several times to try and warn people either on the ground or on the wall. When the mass landed, the sound of the impact sent off a vibration into the air that crept into my bones, I was shaken. I later learned that a haul bag was thrown off the top of El Cap intentionally. SO not cool.

1 LED wonderlight, skewed
1 LED wonderlight, skewed
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 6: October 2nd, 2012
Black Tower Day
Everyone says “Don’t fall” on the Black Tower pitch. I’m thinking – I don’t really want to fall on any pitch! But the beta has me worried, and I decide to heed Mark’s advice and forget about breaking down and just get started on the climb in the cool morning. Cursing my cumbersome aid gear, I free climb the 5.8 section of the route. The business was above the tower and there, my HB offsets shined like Jacob’s ladders from the heavens. I LOVE those little brass boogers. I also place my first tomahawk on this pitch. VERY scary! So, what would be the reward for completing the pitch? A glorious 2.5 gallons of agua courtesy of the Spaniards which I desperately opened as soon as I reached the top.

Finishing the Black Tower to the jug of water on the top of P7. <br/>
Phot...
Finishing the Black Tower to the jug of water on the top of P7.
Photo Credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu

Early text msg to loved ones: Slept on 6 last night. Made it up to 7 this morning. Gonna haul and try to set up fixed ropes for 8 and maybe 9. Dropped headlamp! Good thing it’s a fullish moon!

On the way down back to Henri, I can see the Korean soloist is at the top of P4 again. He calls out to me “Alice, are you ok?!” YES, I’M OK!!! And that was the last I heard from him. My comrade decided to bail and was taking down his lines. With him leaving and the Spanish couple gone, I suddenly felt the size of the wall…

After cleaning my gear, I took a look at the ledge on P7 and decided that it’s big enough to sleep on without assembling the portaledge and it would save me some time getting myself sorted in the morning. Heat had returned pretty early in the day, so I relaxed a little in the middle of the day at P7 and awaited some late afternoon relief. I still had my sights set on fixing to P8. Only fix, Alice and start early again tomorrow. Your bed is sorted for the night and you have water. (Yeah, I started talking to myself).

P7 bed/ledge.
P7 bed/ledge.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Climbing P8 was probably a 3/10 on the painful scale, but waiting until late afternoon to climb meant that I would be using the wonderlight at the end of the pitch. Halfway through the climb, the sun started to set, and dozens of swifts flew and dive-bombed around in the evening sky. I stopped to enjoy the peacefulness of it all and finally embraced the quietness of being alone on the wall. I knew night was coming, but I no longer panicked. And when I started climbing, I was amused to realize I had duct taped the wonderlight slightly skewed – so in order to look at my placements, I had to rotate my head left and stare through the corner of my eye. I couldn’t be bothered to fix it, and it was kind of stimulating when the aiding requires hooks. I finished up around 9pm, rapped to my kit and hunkered down for the night on the granite.

Sunset on the way to P8.
Sunset on the way to P8.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 7: October 3rd, 2012
Bring on the Nipple
I felt more relaxed. It was still warm, but the higher elevation brought on a breeze. I got up early and eat a hearty breakfast, packed my lunch and started cleaning P8. It went smoothly and before I knew it, I was hauling. While hauling, I noticed a very fast party coming up the wall. A party of 3 and so I yell out to them “HELLO!” The response: “Hey! Do you need a headlamp??” HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT? “Mark told us!”

I was feeling a lot of love for Mark right then and there. :)

I started up P9, and the C3 section was intimidating. A couple of cam hooks and beaks took me through the lower half, but as I switched across cracks, I took a fall. The weight of the gear flipped me upside down, and I swung for a bit before I righted myself. I stared at the dislodged offset cam accusingly, “YOU BLEW ON ME?!” It had nothing to say.

Area in P9 where I took a fall. <br/>
Photo Credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport...
Area in P9 where I took a fall.
Photo Credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu

I carried on, finished off P9, hauled, and now was staring at the intimidating traverse of P10, the Nipple pitch. Beta on the Supertopo said inverted cams, WILD! Haha – BRING IT.

It was late afternoon, and I saw the party of 3 stop at P7 for their evening bivy. I felt I had enough time to do the Nipple, and would probably be hauling in the dark. I was feeling marginally stronger and just slightly more confident and wanted to get it done!

The traverse WAS wild and I was grateful for the fixed gear when it came. Getting around the awkward Nipple bit at the bolt was challenging. The weight of the rack pulled me down, and I was basically horizontal while trying to get around the tip. Definitely Type 2 fun. But with all that groveling, I felt the crux of the pitch to be high up. Evening was fast approaching so I did much of the pitch in the dark with the wonderlight. Hooking and micronuts were essential and the hauling was done in the dark. Fortunately, the bivy was FILLED with bolts, so Henri was high up and easy to access. Tomorrow, Alice, you will take it easy. After all, is going to be your birthday.

Finishing P9 just below the Nipple pitch. <br/>
Photo credit: Tom Evans, e...
Finishing P9 just below the Nipple pitch.
Photo credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu
Looking back at the Nipple pitch where multiple inverted cams were use...
Looking back at the Nipple pitch where multiple inverted cams were used between fixed gear.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Henri on his way up...
Henri on his way up...
Credit: yellow mzungu

Late text msg to loved ones: Up on 10 today. Working thru my water like it’s my job. Good thing I walked some up. Trying for 2 pitches a day. Today was a hard day!

Day 8: October 4th, 2012
Party at the Zorro!
It was a luxurious morning on the ledge. I slept in, stretched, made some hot chocolate, ate a slow breakfast, and laid out in the sun as I watched the party of three climb up. My intention was to let them pass and then start my climbing. Judging by their speed, I thought I could get in a single pitch in the afternoon.

From P7, the threesome reached me at P10 just after noon and climbed efficiently past me. Drew, Jack and Matt… really nice guys who gave me the BEST birthday present ever, a headlamp to borrow. (Jack, you are the MAN). As I watched, I thought to myself – party of three! Now THAT’S the way to do it!I also observed some really good beta, top stepping combined with climbing vs. using just your aiders, and BACK CLEANING! Of course! Why haven’t I been doing that?

Drew leading up past the Nipple towards the Mark of Zorro.
Drew leading up past the Nipple towards the Mark of Zorro.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Jack lowering out and preparing for his jug.
Jack lowering out and preparing for his jug.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Following close behind these guys was a party of two, Ryan and Josh that were climbing the Zodiac in a DAY. It was my 5th day on the wall, and these guys were flying up in just a day. They were climbing in blocks and I let them pass as well. Ryan climbed above and went out of site when he cried out and took a pretty big fall, his piece blew. Josh and I looked at each other and Josh said, “You probably didn’t need to see that”. Haha – he was right. Before leaving, they told me there was another soloist coming up the route but I couldn’t see him.

Ryan quickly following the party of 3
Ryan quickly following the party of 3
Credit: yellow mzungu

As soon as Josh took off, I mobilized. I started climbing and felt that it went efficiently and smoothly. No falls, some hooks, some reachy moves, but overall, not bad at all. However, winds had picked up in the afternoon, and my ropes were flying all over the place. The updrafts brought the end of my rope eye level with me, and that was quite unnerving. But as the afternoon passed and evening settled in, the winds calmed. The Mark of Zorro was a steep pitch, so I flagged my ledge, cleaned (back cleaning made this an easy clean) and hauled a deceptively light Henri up to the top of P11, my home for the evening.

Wind messing with my ropes.
Wind messing with my ropes.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Late night txt to loved ones (after hearing that Tom was writing about me): Soooooo tired!! I’m curious to read the report when I get back. P.S. the yellow is a brim that someone gave to me that goes over the helmet. Ok. Second battery dying. Wish my solar charger worked. Bummer. K ttyl.

That night, El Cap hosted a party. Mark Hudon yelled “Happy Birthday, Alice!!!” from Lost in America, and Ben and Dave from the Reticent put on “disco” lights and I lit sparklers on my ledge. There was a lot of hooting, hollering, Tarzan calls, coyote howls, and other various animal noises from all over. I toasted the evening with hot chocolate and bourbon (thanks Rob!), and opened up the little prezzies my friends sent up with me. With the Milky Way above and me wrapped up in my sleeping bag, I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. It was the best, most unique birthday ever.

Side Note: That evening, I heard that same sound of something falling off the rock. It was much further from me than the one 2 days before, but the sound is unmistakably large. I don’t understand why people would risk injuring others and throw their belongings off El Cap. It seems like an incredibly selfish way to behave and reflects poorly on a community that needs to coexist with the park. I feel that in doing this, they jeopardize the future of the sport in Yosemite, and that is just shameful.

Day 9: October 5th, 2012
Peanut Ledge
I was feeling much better after resting for half a day. The sun was hidden behind clouds, and cooler temps actually made it a bit chilly. Heading up P12 was fun, but oh mah gawd, the hooking! I took a fall when one of my hooks popped and decided that the inverted hooks on the Nipple weren’t so bad after all! As the morning progressed, the wind picked up and after releasing my kit, my flagged portaledge was spinning in circles above Henri. I was worried about trashing my ledge and decided to haul from a lower position and guide the ledge up. It worked and I collapsed it when it reached the anchor.

Tomahawk placement!
Tomahawk placement!
Credit: yellow mzungu
Falling on P12.
Falling on P12.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Flagged portaledge over Henri. Note the portaledge bag being blown hor...
Flagged portaledge over Henri. Note the portaledge bag being blown horizontally.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Lunch break. By now, I had my sights set on the summit and the next pitch (P13) to Peanut ledge was the longest one on the route. A bivy there meant that I’d only have 3 shorter pitches left to climb and that sounded very appealing to me. I was motivated and there was still plenty of daylight. With just one tricky section, this pitch was probably one of the easier pitches on the route. I reached Peanut ledge while it was still light, and stopped in mid-clean to watch the most beautiful, crimson sunset. The break meant hauling in the dark again, but I didn’t care. I planned to sleep directly on Peanut ledge as I did on P7 so there was little to set up.

Bivy on Peanut ledge.
Bivy on Peanut ledge.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Evening text msg to loved ones: One peanut ledge now. Today got coooold. Dammit! Something in the middle, pleeeeease?? Gotta make supper. Can summit tomorrow night, but prefer daytime summit so one more night on the wall.

Day 10: October 6th, 2012
Kinky Henri
Waking up on Peanut ledge is very exciting, only 3 more pitches!! And it seems that I had gone through the hardest of the aiding. I was feeling very happy. AND it wasn’t boiling hot. Life was good.

Looking up at P13, the run out pitch of #5's
Looking up at P13, the run out pitch of #5's
Credit: yellow mzungu
Jack's headlamp... It was put away every morning.
Jack's headlamp... It was put away every morning.
Credit: yellow mzungu

The pitch above Peanut ledge was a long run out flake of #5 cams followed by an airy traverse to the next anchor. The C1 section was long, but the placements were bomber. (At this point, I was very happy that my friend Robin Liu convinced me to borrow her second #5!!!)

Leading up the wide section just above Peanut Ledge. <br/>
Photo credit: T...
Leading up the wide section just above Peanut Ledge.
Photo credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu

The wind was whipping around and my ropes were blown out of their buckets and flying everywhere… Once I finished, hauled and was about to clean, I noticed my main line was wrapping around the haul line. This happened before on a previous pitch but I was able to undo it when I pulled my lines up. This time, there was no undoing it from the top. My main line wouldn’t let go. I had a choice of either hauling Henri and sorting the ropes out as he got close or rappelling down to the kit and managing the ropes where they were at that moment.

I opted to rappel down to Henri because I knew what I was dealing with at that point. Had I pulled the pig up, there might have been some issue that I wasn’t seeing just yet. At least that was my logic.

So 100 feet down, in free air, Henri and I swung and spun around as I straddled him and unwrapped the main rope from him. It turns out the rope was wrapped around the pig, the piglets, the far end hauler, the rotor, ALL of it. Henri! Ah PUTAIN!! It’s good to know you like getting tied up, but could you pick a better time to share this with me?

Once the ropes were sorted, I jugged back my main line and brought Henri up. This debacle cost me quite a bit of time, and resulted in a giant heap of spaghetti ropes which required several flakes to untwist.

Looking down at the Peanut ledge with 3 pieces of pro between myself a...
Looking down at the Peanut ledge with 3 pieces of pro between myself and the anchor.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Henri and I negotiating the ropes. <br/>
Photo credit: Tom Evans, elcaprep...
Henri and I negotiating the ropes.
Photo credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu

And now… the penultimate pitch. A wandering C2 pitch with a fun 5.7 traverse on an alarmingly thin flake. After running out the previous pitch, I didn’t have any problems back cleaning this one leaving a big run out between myself and the last piece. And finally, at the anchors and sloping ledge on the top of P15, I stared up at the summit. I could SEE it. I had already planned to summit the next day, but summit fever was coursing through my veins and I was tempted to just go for it. It was just 90 feet away and it would save me a haul! But then I thought again… I have a ton of water and food leftover, I am finally enjoying the climb, and I preferred to be less than exhausted when I reached the top. So, I unpacked the ledge, and waited patiently for daytime…

Looking up towards the summit from my bivy on P15.
Looking up towards the summit from my bivy on P15.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Another beautiful sunset on the Captain.
Another beautiful sunset on the Captain.
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 11: October 7th, 2012
Summit day!
I woke up to someone yawning. I looked up and there wasn’t anyone at the summit. It must be below me. And indeed, Luis, the solo climber below me had caught up and was camped out on Peanut ledge. Impressive!

I enjoyed a hot breakfast and gathered myself together for the last pitch. I moved slowly, deliberately, and was a little melancholic. I reflected on all the build-up leading to this climb and the constant self-doubt I experienced along the way. And there I was, 90 feet from the summit!!! Well, Alice, you’re not exactly on the summit yet. AHHHHH, shaddup.

As it turned out, this last pitch was the scariest pitch of all for me. I never felt the need to hammer on the climb, but this C2F pitch had no F at the crux, and I almost considered going down to get the brass I hauled up. It was scary, awkward and there was definitely decking potential. In fact, while at the crux, Luis came into view below me and I asked him to verify that I was on route. Surely this blank corner was not it! But after confirming the piton with him, I knew it was time sack up (thanks for teaching me that phrase, Blake).

A series of shallow hooks, a rocking beak, and high stepping brought me to the fixed piton and thankfully, the rest of the pitch was pretty straight forward.

And then… I was at the top. Holy bi-polar, I threw my hands up in the air and cheered, and then was completely overwhelmed with emotion and wept. The climb was so demanding and spanned so many days… I couldn’t believe I actually made it.

Text msg to loved ones: Summited and cried like a little girl. Tell everyone (except for the crying part).

And then Henri. There was still a haul. So, with a tear streamed face, I lowered to my kit and was greeted by a smiling Luis who just reached the top of P15. He gave me a congratulatory hug and we chatted briefly before we returned to business of topping out. I hauled my final haul, and had to take the portaledge, personal haul bag, and porta-fly off the bottom so I could lift Henri over the edge.

Luis joined me shortly thereafter, and we enjoyed lunch (the food I left at the top on Day 1) and a toast of bourbon at the top. It was amazing that we both topped out at the same time and it only seemed perfect that we would share this moment together as we both just did the same thing (well – he in 3.5 days and me SLIGHTLY longer). We organized our belongings, showered with our remaining water, and lingered at the top to savor the sweet taste of success (or was that the bourbon?) We were greeted by Ben and Dave (the guys on Reticent with the disco lights!) and congratulations went all around. After our chat, Luis and I started the long hike down. Amazingly, Luis carried all his gear down in one trip. I, on the other hand, carried only some of my kit and planned to return for the rest later.

View of the summit from my portaledge. So close!!
View of the summit from my portaledge. So close!!
Credit: yellow mzungu
View from the summit.
View from the summit.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Luis at the top!
Luis at the top!
Credit: yellow mzungu
Reaching the summit with Luis starting up P15. <br/>
Photo credit: Tom Eva...
Reaching the summit with Luis starting up P15.
Photo credit: Tom Evans, elcapreport.com
Credit: yellow mzungu

Day 12: October 8th, 2012
The tradition of a solo
During the climb, Mark Hudon and a few friends told me that Tom Evans posted a bunch of pictures of me on the El Cap Report. I was slightly mortified because I was struggling so much and had made the most god-awful mistakes. But then I was also so touched by the interest people had in seeing me to the end. Many offers came to help shuttle my load back down from the top and many sent me congratulatory notes. I never imagined that a rookie like me would gain such attention. It was very humbling.

I deeply appreciated all the offers of help, but in the end, I wanted to respect the tradition of a solo and do it by myself. I almost looked at this part as the opposite of the walk of shame. It’s the walk of unshame! And so, up the east ledges I went, and brought everything down (after cleaning up an awful mess left by crows – thanks Roger and Robin for the zippies).

Final thoughts
The Zodiac was my first rope solo and the hardest aid route I’ve ever attempted. Despite the research and practice, I made many rookie mistakes. I’ve never spent that much time on a wall before, and it was the most physically exhausting and mentally taxing thing I have ever done. I had to push through some pretty high temperatures, and often times, I couldn’t concentrate past 1 or 2 steps. The only thing I did ensure was that I was always safe (Alice, if I take this out, what’s holding you in the wall?) and that I backed up everything (sometimes 2 or 3 backups because I didn’t trust myself to recognize that I’ve covered all the possible failures of my system). At times, I simply didn’t think I could physically make it as I wasn’t eating. In the end, I lost approximately 6 lbs.

Fortunately, I had guardian angels watching over me. Mark Hudon and his nephew Paul texted me almost every day to check in (Mark was climbing Lost in America so I didn’t feel so alone on the wall). My dear friend and emergency contact Jill Greenblatt helped liason my text msgs back to my loved ones. Jeremy Roop, one of my inspirations for climbing El Cap, would send encouraging messages to keep me going… Joe Simonsen, who lent me some gear, told the whole world I was going to do this so that I couldn’t back out. All my buddies checked in from time to time. And of course Tom Evans and his posts that encouraged strangers to care.

There are a million thank you’s to send out to many for their support which I will do in private. However, it would be impossible to say that I could have done any of this without Robin Liu and Erick Davidson. They generously lent me SO MUCH of their expensive gear and if it wasn’t for them, this climb would have been impossible for me to do. THANK YOU GUYS!!!

One final note… it is a special thing to be able to climb El Capitan. There is so much spray about it that I think it becomes just another rock for people to conquer. But for me, it was about feeling the rhythm of one’s body and finding its balance and flow on the rock… an active meditation of the vertical kind. It was about the swifts that soared in the evening sky, the fiery sunsets, the powerful updraft of the wind that lifts one’s portaledge, the little El Cap wall frogs, one’s own personal Milky Way, and the hyper-focus of one’s mind. I thought I would feel empowered after finishing the route, but not so much… I’m profoundly humbled. I struggled greatly through this climb, and was lucky on many incidences.

People have asked me if I would ever solo again… My response has been “Ask me in a month”. However, one thing is certain, if there ever is a next time, I will NOT forget my pants.

Lucky pants found in Yosemite village!
Lucky pants found in Yosemite village!
Credit: yellow mzungu
The most awesome Da-Brim visor one can ask for.
The most awesome Da-Brim visor one can ask for.
Credit: yellow mzungu
Did I mention I forgot my spoon? Used the toothbrush to stir the hot c...
Did I mention I forgot my spoon? Used the toothbrush to stir the hot chocolate (and other things that needed stirring).
Credit: yellow mzungu
Super psyched!!!
Super psyched!!!
Credit: yellow mzungu

  Trip Report Views: 7,170
yellow mzungu
About the Author
yellow mzungu is a trad climber from berkeley, ca.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
  Oct 21, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
Wow... I am impressed!
zBrown

Ice climber
Brujò de la Playa
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:49pm PT
^me too - most impressive

I especially like your "final note"

and thanks for assisting in Steve Muse's accomplishment




Paul Brennan

Trad climber
Ireland
  Oct 21, 2012 - 08:43pm PT
Truly inspiring effort and great write up. Well done Alice!
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Oct 21, 2012 - 08:45pm PT
DaBrim Radnesss!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111111111111
JoeSimo

Trad climber
Bay Area, CA
  Oct 21, 2012 - 08:51pm PT
Thanks for the shout out Alice. You still inspire me and I'm really happy I can call you my friend!! As I told you before, I would've quit day 1 in the heat. But you didn't because you are such a badass!!! Look at all you've accomplished with those tiny wrists.... no one else here knows what that means, but we do!
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:08pm PT
So awesome! Thanks for bringing us along! Your writing is terrific, too!
SofCookay

climber
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:14pm PT
Well done - thank you so much for sharing your journey!
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:31pm PT
I saw your start from the meadow. Was totally impressed with your determination to take on the heat. Big grats. Great TR!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:31pm PT
Alice, you are badass and earned every inch of that route. Dang Well Done!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Oct 21, 2012 - 09:50pm PT
Wow! Way to hang in there.

I'm going to go drink a bunch of water now and then soak in the bathtub.

Thanks for the great report!
briham89

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Oct 21, 2012 - 10:08pm PT
As others have already said......WOW! Freaking proud. Thanks for sharing. It was fun watching your progress on Tom's report and now reading your story. TFPU!
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Oct 21, 2012 - 10:40pm PT
Best Goddam TR ever.(well, pretty frickin' good, anyway) Layin' it out there.
I can dig it, in a major manner. TFPU.
Jumpingfish

Social climber
  Oct 21, 2012 - 10:59pm PT
Wow I never cried while reading a trip report before.
Gagner

climber
Boulder
  Oct 21, 2012 - 11:01pm PT
Awesome TR, and way to stay focused and committed. The pull of the ground is indeed great, but your commitment to getting it done out did gravity - way to go!!

Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Oct 22, 2012 - 07:24pm PT
Thanks for the great report! I think we saw you ferrying loads on Saturday, September 29th. Ed, Audrey and I were at/on the way to the right side of the Footstool. Later we saw Mark and Paul. It sure was hot, but you looked very determined, and were!

ps What's a mzungu?
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
  Oct 22, 2012 - 12:18am PT
Good work.
m_jones

Trad climber
Carson City, NV
  Oct 22, 2012 - 12:33am PT
Great story Alice! Nice to have met you.

Way to be tougher than most.

Very proud ascent!

You rock!!!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 22, 2012 - 12:44am PT
a beautiful ascent

But for me, it was about feeling the rhythm of one’s body and finding its balance and flow on the rock… an active meditation of the vertical kind. It was about the swifts that soared in the evening sky, the fiery sunsets, the powerful updraft of the wind that lifts one’s portaledge, the little El Cap wall frogs, one’s own personal Milky Way, and the hyper-focus of one’s mind. I thought I would feel empowered after finishing the route, but not so much… I’m profoundly humbled


I felt some of that heat on the ground while you were cooking. Such perserverance. You dug deep, finding what makes a person, a person.

It's just another wall for some, but it's your climb done your way, and that makes it monumental.

Thank you for sharing all that. Inspiring.
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Oct 22, 2012 - 01:29am PT
Way to go, Alice! You are truly a badass!

It was a pleasure to meet you on your way back up to get your gear. I hope to see you again around The Captain!

-Roger
Andrew Barnes

Ice climber
Albany, NY
  Oct 22, 2012 - 02:10am PT
Great job, congratulations. That was a great climb and a great trip report.
I started up P9, and the C3 section was intimidating. A couple of cam hooks and beaks took me through the lower half, but as I switched across cracks, I took a fall. The weight of the gear flipped me upside down, and I swung for a bit before I righted myself. I stared at the offset cam that popped and asked accusingly, “YOU BLEW ON ME?!” It had nothing to say.
I know exactly what you are talking about here. It's called the "Flying Buttress" for good reason. A few years ago I also took a whipper somewhere there when I placed an offset cam and it blew.

Going up the East Ledges a second time to get the last load without help - I'm impressed by your commitment. Excellent job, excellent trip report.
LMo

climber
San Diego
  Oct 22, 2012 - 02:36am PT
Inspiring trip report! Thanks for sharing, loved it.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 22, 2012 - 08:41am PT
Way to "Sac-up" Alice!!!
Cool report,
Tad
Prod

Trad climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 11:00am PT
Hi Alice,

What a great trip report!!! That was my first and only wall so far. I do have a solo in my future.... Thanks for stoking that fire some more.

I also lead the nipple pitch. You mentioned a bolt at the nipple? Is that new or did I just not see it? I recall using 2 big cams to get through that part?

Cheers,

Prod.
Barbarian

climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 11:46am PT
In your report, you keep mentioning all the mistakes you made. It is the mistake you didn't make that impresses me more: The lure of the ground is strong, and you resisted it's call!

Congrats on an awesome climb!!!
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Oct 22, 2012 - 12:27pm PT
Way to persevere! I saw you through the binocs from the meadow at one point and couldn't believe I was really seeing a DaBrim in action.

Maybe you should do your next wall with NoPantsBen?
Bargainhunter

climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 12:28pm PT
Proud.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Oct 22, 2012 - 01:07pm PT
thank you very much for sharing that was inspiring.
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Oct 22, 2012 - 01:23pm PT
been waiting for this TR since following the ascent on ECR!

Kudos! very inspiring, hopefully your next wall is soon : )
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Oct 22, 2012 - 01:32pm PT
OMG Alice, this was just astounding. And that smile on your face! DaBrim and a toothbrush....you know how to live the good life! Although I didn't see any holes drilled in that brush....makin' your load a little too heavy? !!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to make such a great TR.

Susan
10b4me

climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 02:07pm PT
very impressive and inspiring.
great job
museman

Big Wall climber
Poway, Ca
  Oct 22, 2012 - 02:10pm PT
Alice,

It is refreshing to read a trip report like as this one. Telling your story in such a way that reminds us all about the early climbing experiences we all had. Making mistakes and working past them to push on, shows your determination and spirit. I loved the make shift headlamp tape job with you having to turn your head to see your placements... made me laugh! Thank you for sharing your first solo big wall and thank you for helping me with my last!

Your pal,

Steve
mareko

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Oct 22, 2012 - 02:14pm PT
NOW THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZING TR. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET

Mark
J.R.

Big Wall climber
Bend, OR
  Oct 22, 2012 - 04:03pm PT
Inspiring! Thanks for the report.
Silver

Gym climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 04:12pm PT
Awesome stuff here way to go.

If you like I can arrange for you to toss a bag at Fox when you like.
Spanky

Social climber
boulder co
  Oct 22, 2012 - 04:49pm PT
Sweet TR. It was great to read about how hard you had to fight to get it done, and how you stuck with it even when things went wrong. So many people would have bailed after you dropped the headlamp but you didn't and that feeling of the accomplishment that you have now will be there forever. Proud send!
grover

climber
Northern Mexico
  Oct 22, 2012 - 06:15pm PT
WOOT!!!!!!!!


TFPU!!!!!!!!!

Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Oct 22, 2012 - 06:28pm PT
Wow, what a great TR. Im blown away, just excellent.
yellow mzungu

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 22, 2012 - 07:16pm PT
thanks to everyone for the nice comments.

@ Mark and Max: It was a sweet celebratory dinner with you guys at the Mountain Room! Thanks again for inviting me.

@ Prod: Yes, there was a bolt right at the turn of the nipple. It’s in Supertopo’s Yosemite Big Walls – Second Edition, printed in 2005, so it’s been there for at least that long.

@ yocap: believe it, the DaBrim saved me and I’m almost afraid to ask about NoPantsBen.

@ Silver: Toss a bag at Fox? It’s gonna have to be my handbag cuz I can’t lift Henri to save my life. :)
Zander

climber
  Oct 22, 2012 - 07:21pm PT
Woo hoo! Great Job on the climb and the TR. Thanks for both.
Zander
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Oct 22, 2012 - 08:36pm PT
Awesome job on the climb, Alice! You've got an incredible amount of perseverance! How many aid whippers was it? I lost the count. 4?

Vlad
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Oct 22, 2012 - 09:37pm PT

Alice, you're an inspiration!!!!!
Congratulations on your dream!!!!!
yellow mzungu

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 22, 2012 - 10:08pm PT
Hey Vlad! Thanks! I did fall 4 times, but only once did my grigri get caught all the business and didn't engage. BACK-UP knots. so happy that i remembered THOSE in the heat.
Chugach

Trad climber
Vermont
  Oct 22, 2012 - 10:17pm PT
So farking Cool! You RULE!
fat-n-sassy

Social climber
San Francity, CA
  Oct 22, 2012 - 11:35pm PT
YES!
Raafie

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:40am PT
Just read your report for the second time. . . . Wow! You earned it--big time. So cool.
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:46am PT
Alice! You rock!

I don’t know where it landed and it’s just the lamp part. It popped off the webbing. Stupid design. Dunno if it’s functional.

Ha. Black Diamond. Been there. Ask Marek about that. A little bit o' clear packing tape across the tabs will keep the strap from slipping through.

Kent
cmclean

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Oct 23, 2012 - 03:21am PT
Congratulations and thanks for a great TR! We met briefly as you were shuttling loads up the first weekend and then I saw you topping out from the bridge the next weekend. An amazing accomplishment. Way to persevere in the heat!
Silver

Gym climber
  Oct 23, 2012 - 09:07am PT
Why do you call the bag Henri?

It would be fun to watch you beat the crap out of Fox and Pete with a hand bag.
YetAnotherDave

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:00pm PT
Nice work! And thanks to you and Mark for the DaBrim beta - gotta get me one o' them!

Would you recommend the standard or the foldable version?

Have you been down long enough to start thinking about your next wall?
C4/1971

Trad climber
Depends on the day...
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
One of the best trip reports I have ever read! Well done.
roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:44pm PT
A great trip, and a great trip report. Congratulations (and belated happy birthday).
Cheers, Roy
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:47pm PT
That is just a sh#t ton of iron resolve and bulletproof determination. So impressive.

That much heat, that many problems, that much near-retching, that many falls, that many bails happening around you, that many invitations to rap and come back... and you kept after it? Your wrists may be thin but it's the titanium running through the veins that matters.

May every EC climber turn her/his thoughts to this TR when they start to feel the pull of the ground. If gravity and fear start dragging us down, Alice's story ought to be able to make us float up! There ought to be songs sung in rhyme about this send at every saloon between Escalon and Yos Village!

Ha ha, maybe I'm overdoing it, but loved the TR. Well done. My guess? 80% of contenders would have bailed after the big fall on p1, 90% after the heat-retching, and 99.99999% after the Spaniards, the Korean, and the headlamp abandoned you :)
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Oct 23, 2012 - 01:58pm PT
+10 to what le_bruce said!
ninjah

Big Wall climber
a van down by the river
  Oct 23, 2012 - 03:09pm PT
WoW!! great job! I loved every bit of your TR! Totally going to try to solo this route also. Thanks for the stoke!
khanom

Trad climber
Greeley Hill
  Oct 23, 2012 - 03:25pm PT
Well, like many I found your TR inspiring and motivational.

Very well written!

Thanks so much for posting it.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Oct 23, 2012 - 03:46pm PT
Way to go. If you don't give up, you'll make it.
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Oct 23, 2012 - 04:01pm PT
YOU ARE FABULOUS ALICE !!!!!!!! YEAHHH!!!!!!



p/s I love the handle "yellow mzungu". Way to play it naughty
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Oct 23, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
Read this again with my wife, and she was reminded of a quote we heard from a true guerrillero down in South America once:

La única lucha que se pierde es la que se abandona.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Oct 23, 2012 - 11:58pm PT
I am not worthy . . .
MisterE

climber
Bishop, CA
  Oct 24, 2012 - 12:15am PT
Amazing TR!

Mark, how about a bump for Da Thread...
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
  Oct 24, 2012 - 01:02am PT
Wow just wow.

I'm blown away Alice. This is truly one of the best TR's ever posted here.

Viva da power of da brim!
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
  Oct 24, 2012 - 01:07am PT
Hands down best f*#king trip report EVER!!!!

Alice is the bomb!!!!

Congratulations on the rookie solo and much appreciated the story to go with it (it's like I went with you without all the torture of heat and pain)


WOW!!!!


Awesome
yellow mzungu

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 24, 2012 - 03:58am PT
Silver: Why do you call the bag Henri?
I was climbing with my friend, Flint a few weeks earlier, and I said that I need to name my pig. He suggested Henri! So my girlfriend’s daughter drew a pig on Henri, and my friend Claudia wrote “Henri le cochon” on the side. It was so excellent that I started naming a lot of my gear. For example, I had a set of offset Aliens that I borrowed from Jeremy which I dubbed “The Fantastic Four”. They always got back cleaned since any one of those 4 could fit into just about everything on the climb(except, of course, the hooking sections).

As for beating Pete and Fox with my handbag, it looks like they have already gotten reamed on ST. think I oughta leave that one alone.

YetAnotherDave: Would you recommend the standard or the foldable version? Have you been down long enough to start thinking about your next wall?

This was the first time I used the DaBrim, so I can’t really recommend one over the other. But I’m pretty sure Mark gave me the climbing mini. :)
As for the next wall, I’m trying to get used to the idea of me summiting this one, so nope, haven’t given it much thought yet.


Le_Bruce: WOW. That is some serious accolades. It’s going to be hard for me to get off this couch without tipping over from this over-inflated head right now.

@ Ninjah: Good luck with the solo! Lemme know if you want some bad beta. ;)
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Oct 24, 2012 - 06:43pm PT
Awesome job, congratulations! Thanks for the great TR and all the wonderful pics.

Wes
Nanook

climber
  Oct 24, 2012 - 07:38pm PT
Congrats! Awesome Tr
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Oct 24, 2012 - 08:59pm PT
excelent share,,love those little details,,now you know to see spray or not,,for me ,on 3rd try,seeing the poof of feathers then dark streak of the falcon taking a swift lunch up high on the route will always remind of the many levels of exsistence,,peaceandlove,,
bajaandy

climber
Escondido, CA
  Oct 24, 2012 - 09:38pm PT
Holy Smokes! Fantastic TR, and PROUD send! You are a stud(ette).
froodish

Social climber
Portland, Oregon
  Oct 24, 2012 - 10:15pm PT
Incredible TR, very well done....rather than bring us through the mechanical journey up the Captain you brought us your mental journey, and THAT, my friends, makes a great trip report. Thank you!

Agreed. What a terrific trip report. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing in such authentic and personal voice and congrats on summitting!
Gunkie

Trad climber
East Coast US
  Oct 25, 2012 - 08:58am PT
Nice effort. I would have retreated from around the toe of the Nose. Well done.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 26, 2012 - 09:51pm PT
Probably the best TR of the YEAR!!!

You have a passion and a gift for writing.

Strong work girl!!!!!!!
Manza

Big Wall climber
Spain
  Oct 29, 2012 - 07:53am PT
Congratulations Aliceee!!!

I have enjoyed by reading your experience :) even tough you told me parts of it before.Simply GREAT!!!

Luis
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Oct 29, 2012 - 01:05pm PT
NIce job Alice. Perseverance is your new name.

Solo is a whole different game. Way to stick it out.
helterskelter

Trad climber
san francisco,ca
  Nov 1, 2012 - 02:25pm PT
Inspiring & well-written. Thank you for sharing your adventure!
rocknicenut

climber
Everett, WA
  Nov 1, 2012 - 07:30pm PT
Awesome TR!

I've wanted to solo a wall for awhile but haven't managed to sack up yet. Maybe I can turn this TR into my inspriation to actually do it.
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Nov 2, 2012 - 03:21pm PT
Wow! Totally awesome read! Thanks for sharing :-)
indtefertirosal

Ice climber
The five Street NewYork NewYork USA 10001
  Nov 2, 2012 - 11:31pm PT
moosedrool

climber
lost, far away from Poland
  Nov 3, 2012 - 12:43am PT
Thank you for this very well written report, and congratulations on your achievement!

Andrzej
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
  Nov 3, 2012 - 03:30am PT
Wonderful!

Thank you!
nah000

climber
canuckistan
  Nov 3, 2012 - 05:39am PT
trip reports of this length often result in my skimming through the pics, as the written portions quickly lose my interest.

thanks for taking the time to craft something that kept me reading all of the way to the end!

sbwyliedog

Trad climber
Santa Barbara, CA
  Nov 3, 2012 - 05:43pm PT
Nice!
elcap-pics

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  Nov 3, 2012 - 08:36pm PT
Great Report Alice... you were really an inspiration to all those that watched from below... hell, even the Tourons came back day after day asking how you were doing. It was a pleasure meeting you and watching you climb. I loved your report too...
congratulations kid... you earned it!
Tom
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Nov 3, 2012 - 09:39pm PT
That was very cool, great job! Thanks.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Nov 3, 2012 - 09:58pm PT
sweet!
Nohea

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  Nov 4, 2012 - 06:54pm PT
Bravo! A brilliant report on a great adventure. Many challenges thanks for bringing us along.

Mahalo,
Will
Thorgon

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
  Nov 12, 2012 - 02:30pm PT
Stellar report! I finally got to read it through without distractions. I am also thrilled at your fortitude, it is amazing that other parties were bailing all around you, and yet you made the choice to continue in the heat! Mark is a great guy to have on your side and I loved the contrast for the yellow brim & the purple helmet. Congratulations on a hard fought battle, and in the end you realized what a humbling experience it was to solo El Capitan. This kind of approach is so refreshing, afterall the wall is merely on loan to us for the brief time we adorn her side!

Thanks for your honest and open report, it was fantastic to journey with you up the wall.

THOR
canyoncat

Social climber
SoCal
  Nov 12, 2012 - 03:17pm PT
I'm well past the age of my ever climbing El Cap. Thank you for your courage to get it done, and for taking me up there with you for the few moments it took to read your report.

You rule, you really do. So proud.
couchmaster

climber
  Nov 12, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
Awesome, you've got some serious drive and willpower. Congrats!
hoipolloi

climber
A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Nov 12, 2012 - 04:59pm PT
Nice writing Alice. And real good work up there!


We met on the summit as you were carrying your second load down, Ben and I had a dance party for your birthday from the Dawn Wall.


I really liked the description of the transformation and all the things you become a part of up there (mungeclimber quoted it up above). Great stuff, I share this feeling so much.
dave

climber
Earth
  Nov 12, 2012 - 05:02pm PT
Nice work Alice, from Dave of the 'Steve Muse Team'
Brian

climber
California
  Nov 12, 2012 - 05:55pm PT
So...

fecking...

awesome!

Missed this the first time around. Inspirational. I soloed the Zodiac as my third El Cap route, when I was younger and without that insane heat (the heat kills me, and I'm really impressed you persevered).

I've always said that the best thing to have on a wall is stubbornness. You're hard as nails, and whoever said above that 99.9% of people would have bailed was certainly right. All that suffering is gonna leave a mark... of the very best kind.

Stellar TR. Thanks.

Brian
yellow mzungu

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Author's Reply  Nov 15, 2012 - 04:52pm PT
thanks to everyone for the really kind remarks...

the wall is merely on loan to us for the brief time we adorn her side!

indeed it is.

i was really blessed with spectacularly clear nights while climbing. the moon was waning, and every night i had a little more milky way to enjoy. i imagined what yosemite was like before humans discovered it, before roads were built and before man climbed its walls. in the stillness of the night, i pretended that none of us existed, and caught a glimpse of what it must have been like thousands of years ago.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Nov 15, 2012 - 04:50pm PT
I have reread your TR several times. I really enjoy it and get more insights from it each time I read it. Really, truly. WAY TO GO!



Susan
Chugach

Trad climber
Vermont
  Dec 1, 2012 - 08:47pm PT
Just totally awesome. And inspiring.

Wow, super cool and so awesome for you! Way to go and congrats. Very inspiring. Thanks!
Stewart Johnson

climber
lake forest
  Dec 1, 2012 - 10:59pm PT
top notch!
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
  Dec 1, 2012 - 11:51pm PT
Bravo!
Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
  Dec 2, 2012 - 05:16pm PT
Your voice is so accessible and personal. Still there is no lack of technical detail. And no lack of persistence and heart. Congratulations on the climb. Thanks for the great TR.
Anastasia

climber
Home
  Dec 2, 2012 - 05:22pm PT
Awesome, awesome, awesome!
Easy Wind

Trad climber
Oakland, California
  Dec 5, 2012 - 11:45am PT
Absolutely incredible. Way to go!
superbueno

Trad climber
Denver
  Apr 4, 2014 - 04:13pm PT
I just came across your TR while searching for some info on Zodiac. I had to register to say how inspired I am. I've been pretty intimidated by El Cap since I first saw it, but your journey just made it feel a lot more within reach. Cheers!
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Apr 4, 2014 - 05:42pm PT
Nice!
j-tree

Big Wall climber
Typewriters and Ledges
  Apr 4, 2014 - 10:30pm PT
I can't believe I missed this the first time around. Great trip report. I plan on using the wrapper-shoved-in-the-cam-gate trick in the future.

I tried to climb Zodiac in June of the same year. With the heat at that time and a miscalculation of how much water we had, we bailed from pitch 3. I still remember my partner dry-heaving at the belay while I was dizzy and flailing on lead. These memories make your ascent that much more prowd from my perspective.

After finally climbing zodiac in a heat wave with Mungeclimber, his Dabrim was a better choice than my handkerchief under the helmet style. Maybe I should get one finally...
Flip Flop

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
  Apr 4, 2014 - 07:09pm PT
You rule the universe. Your story was so compelling. Very moving and inspiring.
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Apr 4, 2014 - 07:16pm PT
Wow, great work! Sorry I missed this one the first time. Taking those falls solo and carrying on after all the setbacks is the real deal.
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Apr 4, 2014 - 07:24pm PT
Missed this one, glad it made it's way back. Way to go!!!
Sanskara

climber
  Apr 5, 2014 - 01:20am PT
Great late night pre bed read.

Thanks..
Trusty Rusty

climber
Tahoe Area
  Apr 5, 2014 - 02:56am PT
Glad this was bumped . . great read and photos. . .you're awesome.
irene+

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
  Apr 5, 2014 - 03:06am PT
This is the best of the best ST threads - glad to see it making the 'headlines' again!
Lorenzo

Trad climber
Oregon
  Apr 5, 2014 - 04:21am PT
^^^^^ This.

Wow, way to go!
overwatch

climber
  Apr 5, 2014 - 12:56pm PT
Good bump. I remember this one, very impressive perseverance
Sanskara

climber
  Apr 5, 2014 - 01:42pm PT
Yeah this make me think in a Waterboy kinda way with right set on my first big wall solo, "you can do it"!
clockclimb

Trad climber
Orem, Utah
  Apr 7, 2014 - 01:46am PT
I also missed this the first time round. Thanks for the bump. One of the best trip reports ever! I felt like I went up the wall with you.
Bad Climber

climber
  Apr 7, 2014 - 09:09am PT
BAdAss! So well written. Thanks for the bump.

I am AMAZED at how crowded all these routes on El Cap seem to be these days. I've only done The Captain once, back in 1980 via the West Face (free and aid), and even then the Salathe--our preferred route--had something like five parties on it during that Sept. period we wanted to do a wall. A bloke who'd just rapped from Heart Ledge commented on the crowds and recommended the West Face. We had a blast! Still one of my best climbs ever. Ron Fawcett and Jill Kent free blasted past us about mid-way on the route. Impressive.

Yeah, this is one of the best TR's ever.

BAd
budmiller

Trad climber
California
  Apr 7, 2014 - 09:42am PT
Good times!
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Apr 7, 2014 - 08:41pm PT
solid-gate ovals??? Christ, do they still make those??
whitemeat

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Apr 7, 2014 - 11:23pm PT
best trip report I have read... like ever! sounded epic and hard but great to see you overcame the whole thing. inspires me to solo my own el cap route this season! great report!!!!!!!!
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Apr 8, 2014 - 01:35am PT
Just read this again.


Sick!!



Wes
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Apr 8, 2014 - 02:00am PT
What a great story. The Dabrim and all. Persistence.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
  Apr 8, 2014 - 10:05am PT
best TR ever!! Makes me want to dust off the hardware and get back in the aiders. thanks for posting
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El Capitan - Zodiac A2 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
1800' of fantastic climbing.
Photo: Chris McNamara
Other Routes on El Capitan
El Capitan - The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Nose, 5.14a or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
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The Nose—the best rock climb in the world!
El Capitan - Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Salathe Wall, 5.13b or 5.9 C2
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The Salathé Wall ascends the most natural line up El Cap.
El Capitan - Lurking Fear C2F 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Lurking Fear, C2F 5.7
El Capitan
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Lurking Fear is route number 1.
El Capitan - East Buttress 5.10b - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
East Buttress, 5.10b
El Capitan
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East Buttress with top of The Nose on left.
El Capitan - The Shield A3 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Shield, A3 5.8
El Capitan
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The Shield is route number 7.
More routes on El Capitan