Trip Report
Continental Drifting
Sunday October 23, 2011 6:04pm
Psyched after a successful ascent of Zenyatta Mondatta, Callum and I decided to try something a bit more challenging. Continental Drift was first climbed in 1997 by three hardcore superhumans and has remained unrepeated ever since. We both knew the climb would be way too hard, but neither of us would admit weakness to the other.

Credit: Neil Chelton

A few days later I was sunbathing at the base watching Callum balanced precariously 100 feet above the ground, nervously placing a copperhead for the first time ever. Having placed about 3 heads on previous climbs, I shouted up instructions, "Just melt it in 'til it won't move". Later that day I cleaned the pitch to join Callum at the belay. His emotionless blank gaze and visibly receeding hairline suggested that it had perhaps been a tough lead.

The following pitch involved a lot of 'duck taped hook on hammer' reachy moves through seemingly smooth rock that honestly made my hair turn gray. This route must have been put up by giants with balls of steel. We fixed our ropes from the 2nd anchor and descended just in time to avoid an unexpectedly destructive thunderstorm.

We teamed up with 'Pass the Pitons Pete' and returned to the base with 150 liters of water, umpteen small mystery bags and an anti-socially loud ghetto blaster. A whole day was then spent hauling the junkshow up our fixed lines. Callum and I had a rest day while Pete led half of the following pitch, declaring it as "the hardest hooking you'll find anywhere". It became apparent that this climb would take longer than expected, so that night Callum and I descended to resupply with whipped cream, beer and other essentials.

Standard belay cluster
Standard belay cluster
Credit: Neil Chelton

I've heard that climbing as a team of 3 can be very efficient, with each person always either cleaning, leading or hauling. We decided it was time to put this theory into practise. Callum took over Pete's lead, finishing faster than I could finish my cup of tea. I jugged up and began soloing the 4th pitch while Pete cleaned the 3rd and Callum hauled. At this rate, we were going to set a speed record.

But then the inevitable clusterf*#k set in. Half of the haul bags were stuck under a small roof, somehow becoming incomprehensibly auto-clipped into Petes portaledge on the other haul line. Meanwhile, I had used up all my slings and carabiners, the rest were still being cleaned on the pitch below. Impatiently, I continued up getting stuck in the middle of a free move, my aiders wrapped around unreachable flakes beneath my feet. With a cam wavering in my mouth and unable to let go of some crimps, I tried without success to dislodge myself from this predicament. Rope suddenly zipped through my gri-gri, dangerously creating 50 feet of unwanted slack in the system. The wind angrily blew all 5 of our ropes into a single unfastenble knot and the noise of clattering portaledges made it impossible to communicate. I heard Callum muttering words of complaint as he attempted to haul 2 loads, retrieve gear from Pete, pass gear to me, stack ropes and eat a bagel simultaneously. I had a quiet chuckle to myself, watching Callum and Pete unravelling a tragically windblown free-hanging epic of biblical proportions.

And then it went dark. This is when we learned that small items such as headlamps quite easily find their way into the bottom of haulbags. I was only 10 feet away from a potential belay but for some reason I couldn't move. Shouts from below indicated that I had reached the end of our 60 meter lead rope. The situation was soon resolved and I returned down to a massive detached flake upon which hung a 20x30 foot monster vertical belay disaster. Callum emerged from a haulbag brandishing a flattened square chocolate cake and we celebrated my birthday.

Credit: Neil Chelton

Callum casually scrambled pitch 5, hands in pockets. A short while later, a concerned voice shouted down "I think I'm at the belay, can you pass me some beaks, blades and duck tape?" A particularly intricate and exfoliating anchor was then constructed with equalised half-in pitons randomly connected to each other with bits of 7mm cord, all of which seemed to be dependant on our smallest beak.

A strange 'sssssss' noise was emitting from a haulbag. Later investigation proved it was a can of whipped cream that had self-dispensed into our spare clothes. Our humous and 'french vanilla' creamer, cleverly padded by sleeping bags, had also exploded into it's surroundings.

Credit: Neil Chelton

An enjoyable 5.8 pitch led up to a perfect sunbathing ledge, where I watched Callum cautiously navigate through a series of razor sharp, dangerously loose blocks. A mattress-sized rock was improbably held to the wall 50 feet directly above the belay. I extended my tie-in rope, planning to superman dive off the ledge as Callum placed cams behind the mammoth block and mantled onto it. Pete opened another beer. Numerous dinner plates of rock crashed down but the teetering block miraculously remained unaffected by gravity. Named 'Trailhead', this pitch was exactly that. Simply the start to what would become an all-time outrageous adventure.

The next morning, we decided it was time to send a personal message to our friend Adam. On a commiting climb like this, it is important not to take life too seriously. We blasted ACDC on the stereo and unfurled the banner, knowing that Adam would eventually see it on the El Cap Report.

Adam Gill: Lord of the gays
Adam Gill: Lord of the gays
Credit: Neil Chelton

Classic childish humour at it's best, we were congratulated by hundreds of British climbers. A surprisingly large amount of Americans, however, took the message literally. They became angry, offended and mistakenly blamed Pete, which I thought made it even more hilarious. We cracked open a coconut which had somehow made it's way into our haulbag and Pete set off leading pitch 8.

Towards the end of a 2 day-long lead, we heard frightened shouts through the darkness above, " Ohhhh f*#k, I don't even know how, I don't even know how it's holding, ohhh fuuucccc...." followed by a sudden jingle of gear as Pete fell off, ripping gear and expensively zippering 3 screamers on a large plummet into the void below. He got straight back on and finished the pitch, more carefully this time.

On pitch 9, I encountered a large, unco-operative finger of rock, apparently held to the wall by a lack of gravitational pull in that precise area. My inexperienced mind couldn't figure out how to handle this beast. Everything I tried made the flake wobble and expand. Eventually, I stuffed an alumi-head into the back of it and pressed the loose feature into the wall with my hands, and then knees as I moved up. Keeping a constant pressure with my knees on the flake, I tapped a tiny beak into a seam above, which then fell out under the weight of a carabiner. I tried a few other places but with no success. Ignoring the sand which was pouring out of the finger flake, I equalized 3 micro-beaks, closing my eyes as I applied bodyweight. They flexed and squeaked against the rock, all 3 of them symbolically chirping in unison. Is this why they're called Birdbeaks? It was a wonderful yet disturbing sound. I had to keep moving. Seemingly endless sick hook moves led to a point where I was able to tap in a knifeblade halfway, tie it off and relax.

Credit: Neil Chelton

Callum did a great lead up to 'The Gorak', welding in a long series of heads and beaks. Upon reaching an expando nailing section, he shouted down for advice, having never climbed such a feature before. "Just clip into the next pin as you nail it" I responded, using my experience of climbing only one expanding flake ever. Callum was in danger of taking a huge fall if this was handled incorrectly. I was greatly concerned that this could cause me to spill my beer. As expected, the previous pin fell out as the next was being nailed in, he stayed attached to the wall and my beer remained in it's can. Later that day, I was half-way through a bathroom break when a terrific updraft of wind announced it's presence. A sparkling yellow stream of urine blew above the belay. Pete and I watched in horror as the event unfolded in slow motion. We frantically searched for cover but it was too late. We were drenched. Luckily, a quick 30-minute torrential thunderstorm came by, giving us a refreshing wash.

Credit: Neil Chelton

'Half a pitch Pete' climbed half of the following pitch while Callum and I drank tea and repaired our broken portaledge. At one point, faced with the perplexing dilemma of endless blank rock, Pete duck-taped a hook to the end of our comically flimsy portaledge pole, hooked a far away edge and committed to an uncertain future. We shouted up words of encouragement, "You're gonna die!".

Credit: Neil Chelton

The crux pitch 'Extraordinary Alien' loomed above. I fumbled around with a paper bag, off-loading the definition of a fear sh#t. Forgetting to eat any breakfast, I shakily racked up and began climbing.

Credit: Neil Chelton

After 10 hours of constant wide-eyed terror, I finished the pitch and returned down to the belay looking like a faded picture. If any more was said about this pitch, it would spoil the surprise for future ascentionists...

Pete uncorked a fine bottle of Chardonnay to celebrate the end of the difficulties. Callum zoomed up the final 2 pitches and we stumbled onto the summit, dehydrated, malnourished and having lost all sense of balance.
Credit: Neil Chelton

  Trip Report Views: 13,957
Neil Chelton
About the Author
Neil Chelton is from England, likes to drink tea and eat beans on toast with melted cheese. He dislikes working, paying bills and obeying rules. He still thinks that climbing big walls is a great way to meet young attractive women, but so far he has failed to prove this theory to be true. He currently lives in Boulder Colorado where the tea just isn't quite as good.


  Oct 23, 2011 - 06:11pm PT
Duct tape hook move bump!

Trad climber
Phoenix, AZ
  Oct 23, 2011 - 06:55pm PT
Great stuff! Love that you guys brought a coconut and whipped cream.

Trad climber
  Oct 23, 2011 - 08:37pm PT
Classis TR! Thanks, I needed to have a good chuckle, and I remember when Tom mentioned the banner on the El Cap report, not politically correct but still very funny.

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  Oct 23, 2011 - 08:58pm PT
Dang! Way to go after it!

and thank you for sharing.


Social climber
  Oct 23, 2011 - 09:18pm PT
hey there say, neil... whewwwww... man oh man... what a report...


say, as to this quote:

Callum emerged from a haulbag brandishing a flattened square chocolate cake and we celebrated my birthday.

thanks for the great share...

say, what part of england are you from...

haha, i know some folks from on the "moors" :)
right near the bronte area...

god bless, thanks again...
hope to see the pics, later...

black hills, south dakota
  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:01pm PT

Great report Neil!

Sounds like you guys got really scared and had fun doing it....or had fun and got really scared in the process....or something like that.....
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:07pm PT
Wonderful TR,
Thanks, I loved the description of the whipped cream can bursting in your bag!

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:08pm PT
here is a fan of your ascent.

  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:35pm PT
proud send

dark places
  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:40pm PT
Bloody brill, mate!

  Oct 23, 2011 - 10:53pm PT
Yeah Neil.... do you have "Extraordinary Alien" on your resident card? Kevin Thaw had this as his in for the green card. Climbing was his extraordinary skill. Nice job and thanks for sharing your adventure.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Oct 24, 2011 - 12:46am PT

Big Wall climber
The Bear State
  Oct 24, 2011 - 03:16am PT
Neil, You seriously deserve climber of the season award this year in the Valley. WAY TO GO!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 24, 2011 - 09:42am PT
A bunch of pussies, using duct tape on your hooks...

Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Oct 24, 2011 - 10:28am PT
As usual the Brits lead the world in humor and wit! Thanks tons!

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Oct 24, 2011 - 10:47am PT
Good work Boys. But, since nobody is going up there for the 3rd, as there is no glory in a 3rd ascent, tell us about the crux pitch!
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Oct 24, 2011 - 10:49am PT
Nice to hear the inside story after watching the climb through Tom's pics. Congrats to all for getting up a tough one.

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  Oct 24, 2011 - 11:24am PT
I sat at the bridge and watched you make exactly one move in an hour. All Tom could say was, Neil is fast, that must be hard. Props to you guys for a bold second ascent.

  Oct 24, 2011 - 12:30pm PT
Nice man...
super funny tr.

la la land
  Oct 24, 2011 - 01:13pm PT
Great TR Niel! I remember your Shortest Straw one, I was really laughing. I think you said there was no bomber cams on the Straw till Zodiac... which made me think you must have been scared out of your mind and pushing yourself! Sounds like you really pushed yourself this time!!!!

Keep the crux a secret... it's best that way. I like that reading your report I really don't know anything about it other than... sounds entertaining!

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Oct 24, 2011 - 02:06pm PT
How can a report be so hilarious and terrifying at the same time?!?!! Bravo to you and your crew. Glad you are all intact.
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Oct 24, 2011 - 02:20pm PT
Well done Gents!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 24, 2011 - 02:25pm PT
Great send. Great TR. TFPU.

Trad climber
  Oct 24, 2011 - 03:24pm PT
Reading something like this reminds me why we keep letting brits into this country.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 26, 2011 - 09:43am PT
Sorry, I shouldn't call Brits "pussies."

I believe the correct term is "soft cocks"

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Oct 24, 2011 - 09:19pm PT
Best thing to come out of England since Harry Potter. Brilliant TR! Can't wait to read about Reticent.
Neil Chelton

Author's Reply  Oct 25, 2011 - 12:14am PT
Conrad- Thanks for putting up an awesome route. It deserves more attention.

Indeed a am a true 'soft cock' mincer.

Reticent TR coming soon.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 25, 2011 - 01:08am PT
Great one, Neil!

Funniest ever TR - laughing to the point of tears, over and over!
Way to balance the absurdities of big walling, and nice job on the second ascent!

Cardiff by the sea
  Oct 25, 2011 - 09:38am PT
Brilliant trip report. Your fun and youthful persona shines through as much in your writing as it does in real life.

It was fun to meet and hang with you and Callum the week we climbed next to each other on the Dawn wall. I hope we cross paths again.
I look forword to your report on the Reticent.

My best Regards to both you and Callum
Tommy Thompson

Oakland, CA
  Oct 25, 2011 - 01:17pm PT
Belly-ache grade laughing - thanks much. Another vote for a description of the crux pitch.

Love the bit about cleverly packing your sleeping bags around the hummus and french vanilla creamer? Strength and heart aren't enough on walls - one really does have to be clever...

(I remember cleverly deciding to throw my pack off the top of a two pitch climb down in Chile, figuring why rap with all that weight? As soon as it left my fingertips, I instantly and cleverly recalled that I had my camera, my friend's camera, my friend's phone, two bottles of beer, and three avocados in it. Clever.)

la la land
  Oct 25, 2011 - 02:24pm PT
Why do you people need to hear about the crux pitch? Leave the mystery!!!

  Oct 25, 2011 - 02:27pm PT
yeah don't say anything about the crux pitch Neil!!!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 25, 2011 - 04:26pm PT
I'll never climb that crux pitch, tell me about it!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Oct 25, 2011 - 09:43pm PT
Excellent, Neil! I'm scared just reading about it! Nice meeting you atop El Cap the other day.
neither a lord nor gay

  Oct 29, 2011 - 05:57am PT
I think everyone needs to remember here, whilst simultaneously licking Neil's arse and tickling Callum's gooch, the disgracefully overlooked number one moral of this story. Namely that, whilst his so called compadres bask in the glory of their misplaced pseudo-bravery (and Neil's practically unintelligable dyslexic ramblings), back in the UK, one man now lives every moment of every day under the shadow of an entirely unfounded and undeserved label, forced upon him for the sake of a few cheap laughs and at the expense of the reputation and standing in society that he has worked for so long to achieve. Remember Callum and Neil, that infamy comes much cheaper than real fame. Also remember, every single one of you, that while you all bang on about how scary it is to spend 14 days hours mooching about in hammocks, shitting in each others mouths, and hammering and drilling the living sh#t out of one of the world's great natural wonders, that in the strictest possible meaning of the word (and with the greatest of respect) aid climbing is just not REAL climbing. And you're all a bunch of benders.
Big Mike

Trad climber
  Oct 29, 2011 - 06:51am PT
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ I think you pissed him off??

Nice TR well written, I was following your ascent on tom's report and I remember mention of that sign. Can't wait for the next one!

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Oct 29, 2011 - 05:34pm PT
Lord gay-

Maybe "Lord of the Poofter's" would have been more appropriate whilst climbing the cap?
Honest question.

Trad climber
  Nov 12, 2011 - 04:01pm PT
Trailer for a vid we are making....altho never having made a video before it could be interesting :)

Big Wall climber
The Bear State
  Nov 12, 2011 - 04:59pm PT
After seeing the last scene of the video I'm not sure i want to see the whole thing...

Big Wall climber
Peak District, UK
  Nov 14, 2011 - 04:34am PT
Hey boys - nice one!

Bill and I are very proud of you - looks like you were paying attention during Mike's whisky-fuelled hooking rant.

Big Walls - Big Balls [possible title for the Vimeo - by the way, the turd in the box is particularly classy; I trust we'll have more in the final cut;-) - very Quentin Tarrentino]

What's next - looking forward to hearing the full story when you get back home.

Best regards to Hidalgo - never knew he had it in him!



Big Wall climber
El Portal, CA
  Nov 14, 2011 - 11:05am PT
Holy Crap! Awesome chirping bird beaks and been defending your banner here in the Valley for awhile now, but it doesn't work - I do try. I did find a whip cream can at the base of El Cap (a bit in the woods as I hiked the base) last week though!! Seemed odd at the time and I hope you accounted for the rest of them!

Super report, super climbing. Very inspiring. Way to GO! And way to not give the beta on the 10 hour pitch.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Nov 14, 2011 - 11:29am PT
hook hook free move

Great TR, thank you for sharing your experience!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Nov 8, 2014 - 10:10pm PT
It was great fun climbing with Neil and Callum - good times for sure.

Cluster? What cluster?

See what I had to put up with?

I remember watching the first ascent of this wall in 1997, and thinking what a rad position it was in, heading "north-east" right through the diorite of the NA Wall and finishing up in No Man's Land. Accordingly I really wanted that pitch, called Appalachia.

Here we are lounging somewhere high above the diorite, while Neil takes the sharp end for another desperate puckerfest.

Little did I imagine the route would go fourteen years without a repeat, and that I would be part of the second ascent team.

Cheers for a great wall, lads!
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  Nov 9, 2014 - 12:26am PT
Wow, missed this one! Badazzzzzzz......
What an excellent adventure and fun read-thanks!!!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Nov 9, 2014 - 04:22am PT
The classic trip report where the legend of "Half a pitch Pete" was born!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Dec 14, 2014 - 04:24pm PT
Oh dude,

It is neither legend, nor was it born as late as that. ;)
complimentary hits

Social climber
  Dec 14, 2014 - 08:52pm PT
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 1, 2015 - 02:13pm PT
Those two wankers never bothered to tell us all that they completed their video - great fun!!!


Be sure to have a look, eh? And like, Happy New Year!

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Jan 2, 2015 - 07:53pm PT
rad rad rad

Trad climber
the Box
  Apr 10, 2017 - 08:08pm PT
...completely missed this gem the first time around. Thanks to Clint for the link from the other thread.

The best I've read and gotten to enjoy in a while!! Absolutely brilliant, SO funny and very entertaining...!!!!!

That picture of the duct tape on the hooks cracked me up...

...really enjoy your TRs and all the graphics/cartoons.

Thanks for sharing, and more, please!


Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Apr 10, 2017 - 04:35pm PT
That was a bit of all right. TFPU!