Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2
Trip ReportFreeblast 11b or C2
Last May Rich and I were working our way through Road to the Nose. We climbed Snake Dike Easily, and had fun fun on Serenity Crack. So we bought aiders and decided to get after it. We played around on some aid for half a day and planned my first trip to El Cap to climb Freeblast.
I'm not sure why Chris Mac puts Freeblast at the top of the free climbing section, but I definitely think it belongs at the bottom of a section. Unless you climb 11b, which I probably will never do, it will be mixed free and aid. I'm sure that is great practice for going fast on the Nose, since you need to get out of the aiders as often as possible, but for beginning aid climbers, it was a disaster.
The route is very busy. We were the second ones on it at 7am, and the parties behind us were dismayed to see me pull out aiders and jug the 10c second pitch. I was under the impression that many people don't climb 10c with a rather heavy pack on, and that aiders were commonplace on the Captain, but the party behind us rode me all morning for aiding the only route on El Cap with "Free" in its name.
After a few hours, I couldn't take the stress of watching parties arrive at the base, watch us struggle for half an hour and leave. We just weren't prepared either mentally or physically for the climb. Later in the summer, we checked East Buttress of El Cap off our list, and repeated Serenity Crack clean (We confess to French Freeing the crux the first time). We're planning South Face of Washington Column in a few weeks, when our schedules and weather align.
[Click to View YouTube Video]
1. Be Tough. If you got up at five while other climbers were sleeping, you deserve your spot on the rock. If they are fast enough, let them pass, otherwise don't let them rain on your parade. They'll go home writing "1. Wake up earlier."
2. Be prepared. If you read the How to Big Wall project on this site, it recommends endless hours of aid practice, I mean hundreds of hours practicing aid. We had like five hours practicing aid when we got on the climb. That would have been fine if we climbed 11a free, but we don't. Rich climbs 10c and I climb 10a, and ratings on the Captain run hard.
3. Plan properly. I would put Freeblast at the bottom of the free climbing section in Road to the Nose, or even in a "mini big wall" section of its own. We considered it much more difficult than East Buttress. While getting up early earns you your spot on the rock, clogging up the busiest route on the best rock in the world sucks for everyone.
4. Plan your Revenge! Keep getting after it.
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Other Routes on El Capitan