Gold Wall C2 5.9
Trip ReportGold Wall tr 3/08
My buddy Micah and I climbed Gold Wall in the spring of ’04 and I’ve itching to get back up there since. As the South Face is known for perfect finger cracks/stopper placements the Gold Wall is parallel, hand to fist crack glory. I was also anxious to revisit the climb because when we climbed it last we topped out and descended the bush choked gully on the west side of the formation which was heinous and not that safe. So when I wrote the Strategy section for the Big Walls book I recommended people rap the route even though I hadn’t talked to anyone who had rapped from the summit. My theory was it could hardly be worse to reverse a route that you at least knew compared to rapping off small bushes down a long gully, especially at the end of a long day as the route is taxingly physical.
Logan was psyched for a big wall warm up where we could push ourselves to free climb. The South Face of the Column is a great warm up with good 5.8/5.9 free climbing and a deluxe ledge. Gold Wall is more a fix and blast route with sustained 5.9/5.10(or C1) climbing. We were training for El Cap so we chose the 5.10. Arrrgh(slaps thigh).
We had to park in front of middle Cathedral because of construction on the Northside drive. Here are a couple approach shots:
Here’s a shot of the furthest you can drive on the Big Oak Flat rd(when there’s no construction).
This is the same picture a little further back that includes the boulder behind which the approach trail starts:
here’s the same picture looking back down the road toward El Cap. There is a good parking space right before the boulder as you drive up the road.
Walk behind the boulder and head through the trees behind Logan up the trail:
The first part of the trail parallels and is in a dry drainage next to Ribbon Creek which you don’t see until half way up the approach when you’re right along side. Get your first water at that point(about 20-25 minutes from the car) and maybe some extra is you plan on fixing and don’t want to spend time going over to the creek in the amphitheater once you’re up at the wall(a 20 minute sojourn).
The weather was perfect all weekend, almost a chill at the belay in a tshirt and just perfect leading temps. There was still a trace of winter at the base of the wall:
While the Gold Wall and the South Face of the Column might be similar in length and technical difficulty of the aid climbing the free climbing on the Gold Wall was a brutal wake up from the winter laze. The 5.9 start kicked my feet in a sling or two before whimpering across the face traverse(there is some good gear out there once you commit) and up into the glorious Sun.
Logan took the second pitch which is steep 5.11 to 5.10. He aided it like a champ! I was impressed with how the placements had cleaned up on this pitch compared to my previous ascent--C1 with a an offset cam or two if a little awkward with a crack in the back of a goove at times. Gold Wall teaches the classic Yosemite lesson: climb 5.10 or grovel. Day one was all groveling for us so we headed back down as I had to go to work.
I rapped to the ground from the second anchor with our new 60m 9.7 dynamic rope but the 60m static second rope we brought was 20’ off the deck. Them ropes are stretchy!
I had to work so Logan went back up the next day and fixed the 3rd pitch and replaced the old free climbing anchor.
Monday morning we started jugging around 10am after sleeping in a little and dragging on the hike. Once we were in the Sun our psyche soared.
When we climbed Gold Wall in ’04 this 4th pitch of Silent Line was so choked with grass we were glad to be over on the aid line. Now I would recommend folks do these free pitches even if you’re planning on aiding them as they are easier and more direct.
Logan and I both need some work on our crack technique. Luckily we brought our good friends, Hand and Jammie.
The view was pretty nice too:
I was giving Logan the pitches I led last time so after a break for lunch he headed up the super splitter 8th pitch.
As I followed up the pitch I was psyched with how our ascent was going. We would be able to get to the top and fix up a couple belays on our descent no problem. I was interested to see what kind of rap anchor was at the top of the 8th pitch as I rememberd a small ledge with a big, very aging tree from last time. As I neared the end of the pitch I struggled with a gold camalot under a block.
“Obviously that’s not my cam,” Logan said, “it’s way stuck.”
I unclipped the cam and thrutched for the last holds, the rounded lip of the block.
“Whoa, this is a good hold I said grabbing the juggy lip of the block”
I mantled over the block into a gap between the it and the dirt cloded tree roots of the ledge.
“Dude, that thing is moving,” I said trying to fathom what i had just climbed over.
“Yeah, it looks like it’s pinched against the rock at he bottom and held by that tree branch,” Logan stated the ridiculously obvious.
“That’s insane,” I tried to get a better look down at the gold camalot beneath the block.
(here’s a later photo--now you understand why I posted that this must have happened recently as the webbing is very, very bright new).
Suddenly our climbing plans changed. Neither of us wanted to have to rappel beneath the block, which appeared ready to go at any moment and a sure bet to take out some of the lower angled beginning of the route. Climbing to the top and doing the gully descent was an option but we had left our backpack with our shoes, jugs, aiders, food, ect. a pitch below, as well as all of our personal stuff at the base. We were worried that if that block went the beginning of the route might be messed up and climbing back up to our stuff would be epic, not to mention that we would have to warn everyone not to climb the route until the block had fallen.
Logan wanted to leave the block like it was and rap and get out of there. I was either going to the summit and walking away from my stuff or trundling it. An hour discussion, interspersed with reappraising of our anchor and adding more cams, re-checking them., led to fifteen minutes of maneuvering and the block was airborne.
We watched in horror as it fell right toward the base of the climb, glancing off the rock fifteen feet below before falling more or less unimpeded to the ground. What a plumb line when something dropped from the top of the 8th pitch lands right at the base.
After all the excitement we didn’t feel like finishing the climb. It was getting later and we figured rapping down in the dark didn’t sound like fun. So down we went happy to be unscathed from the block, hoping our food and bivy gear at the base was still with us.
The block landed right at the base of the route. Luckily our gear was a ways back from the wall and was unhurt.
we found the cam down next to the pieces of the block, a little munched:
I had to work again and Logan was booked so we had to pack it up for this trip.
Silent Line/Gold Wall beta:
offset micro nuts: 1ea
regular nuts: 1ea
1 set Offset Aliens or C3s
1 set Alien or other small cams
3 ea fingers to #1 camalot
4 each #2-3 camalot
2 ea #4 camalot
1 ea #5 camalot
no hooks, cam hooks or other aid stuff
Pitch 3 is 100’
Pitch 6 & 7 have 2 bolts/chains
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