A week after the South Face of Watkins with Tommy Caldwell, i called up my longest-known climbing partner Mark Melvin. Mark is the guy who first took me up the West Face of El Capitan when i was 15 after i decided to give him all my Little League money (snack shack, umpire and groundskeeper) to invest in Touchstone Climbing. It was that ascent of the West Face that made me addicted to walls. After transferring that addiction to BASE jumping for three years, looks like the transfer back to walls is back.
We were looking for something neither of us had done that could be done in daylight... Gold Wall!! We were not sure if the route would be wet from the falls, but that just keeps the crouds off, right?
First crux was getting through the mud on the wood lot road. Test the subi for sure.
Mark led off. Temps were just above freezing. So he couldn't feel the holds well. The first pitch is one of the only ones with route-finding and tricky placements. From there on out you just follow the endless flared crack.
From here, i'll let the photo captions do most of the story tellin.
Pitch 5 climbs through the very intimidating looking roof. This is one of the more unique pitches on any big wall anywhere. You climbing up into a massive gaping chimney... then climb out through hole. Awesome! And awkward. But mostly awesome.
After this pitch, i took over the lead. I was scared because I had not led Yosemite cracks in years... but I had the new La Sportiva TC Pro shoes on my side. It was actually the first time i used them. In a word awesome: loved the ankle protection.
The next two pitches were steep and bottomless 5.10 hand cracks with a few short wide sections.
Then Mark generously took the lead on pitch 8 (he linked with 9). I was really glad he did. The 5.9 chimney was running with water. Nasty.
I got my own punishment on the next pitch (the last). It was another 5.9 chimney that was wet. Nasty. I get the sense that very few people do these last pitches. Most people rap from pitch 8 in the SuperTopo. It's hard to recommend the last pitches on a quality basis. However, it does feel really good to get them done and top out.
There were no rap slings on the last pitch. So we did two 100 foot rappels by rapping the lead rope around trees. Then we got to this anchor on pitch 10. Three things that all were suspect: a skinny flexing tree, a slung boulder we could have trundled and a piece of rock barely slung. Not ideal. But it held!
After the climb, Mark drove back in search of the elusive 24 hour bay area to bay area time. He got it! 23.5 hours from the time he left his house to the time he got back.
I headed to El Cap Meadow to see how the Moses Tomahawk worked as a bottle opener... it works awesome!
Overall thoughts on the route:
This route is for 5.10 climbers that like flared cracks. It is awkward to aid after pitch 1. It makes great training for a route like The Nose or Salathe. The rock is awesome but the cracks are flared. So it's a good but not mega classic route. That said, the location is awesome. So overall a very rad climb.
Also, the original route is not as good as the silent line variation (even if you are aiding). The original route looks much slower, involves more tricky aid wanders.
RACK WE BROUGHT
1 set CCH Aliens
2 sets Black Diamond Camalot C4 to 4.5" (most folks will want extra 1.5-3")
1 set Black Diamond Stoppers (didn't place any)
1 set DMM Brass Offsets (only used on first 2 pitches)
2 of the bigger sizes of Omega Pacific Link Cam (didn't place much)
10mm x 60mm Rope
8mm x 60m rope for rappelling
10 Black Diamond Oz Quickdraws
10 Black Diamond Oz extra biners
6 Black Diamond Dynex Runners
10 Metolius FS Mini
Metolius Adjustable Gear Sling
Wells Lamont Leather Work Glove
CAMP Quartz CR3 Harness
La Sportiva TC Pro
Patagonia R1 Hoody
Five Ten Chase
Patagonia Traverse Pant
Wild Country Alpine Shield Helmet