The speed climbing beta spray continued. I nod my head like I know what the hell these bridge rats are talking about and take a mental note to google words like, “Pakistani Death Knot” and “How to Speed Climb for Dummies”. I know. SOME THINGS SHOULD NOT BE DONE BY DUMMIES. True.
2pm Saturday: I short fix myself to the back of a Sprinter, toss the rope over a tree branch and jump off the roof of my car. The modified grigri was, in fact, up to the task of catching 125 pounds of moron. Neat! From here our troubles began.
“So what’s your guys’ strategy?”
“We will start climbing at 4pm.”
“Hahaha. No and, huh? Well, then. Good luck. Remember, you just have to commit.”
Cranking our necks up at the giant choss pile that lay before us, we start to get cold feet.
Saturday night: The Hungarian and I set off to the base a few hours behind schedule. Through the stormy spring of 2011, we bonded over our shared love of logistical improvisation and extreme self-flagellation. With fairy tales fornicating in our heads, we romanticize about trying to climb the NIAD. Yes! WE CAN DO IT! It, you know, seemed reasonable at the time.
Here I am climbing the first four pitches. We were, albeit foolishly, inspired to start at night to avoid the now blazing summer heat. Our revised strategy: take intermittent Benjamin Franklin style naps, charge in the daylight, come down with headlamps, fly back to San Francisco on my magic carpet and be back in time for work, showered, shaved and cleanly dressed 9am Monday morning. Again, Seemed. Reasonable. At. The. Time.
I was calmer knowingly starting in the dark. It didn’t matter. Even with the familiarity of having climbed these pitches the week prior in daylight, they proved difficult. And while this might come as a huge surprise, I was exhausted. Cold feet prevailed and we decided to come down from Sickle, get some rest, add more water to the haul bag, bring the poop tube and start the next morning.
Sunday 6am: Jugging the fixed lines back to Sickle was a breeze. Aid climbing is like sex. It’s exhilarating yet awkward at the get go, but the more you do it the better you get. And once you get married and have babies, I hear it’s typically the first thing that goes out the window.
At Sickle, we intersect a real NIAD party and let them run along. Pigless parties go first. Nice guys from Tahoe. It was also their first time on the Nose, but unlike us, they were committed, prepared and from the looks of it, climbed without any struggle.
Stovelegs Part 1: Jugging past 120’ of splitter 5.8 hands. I’m on cleaning duty. Like a poor man in a strip club, I ogle, but can’t touch. Next time you find yourself climbing an amazingly fun or horrendously long pitch, consider giving your belayer a warm, appreciative hug. They are left to do a lot of the dirty work with none of the glory, tending rope and providing encouragement while you play and live to see another day. Sometimes I think it’s more fun to watch a Chia Pet grow fur. No wonder the Silent Partner retails at $240. Human labor is cheap.
Stovelegs Part 2: JamjamMEEP. Two beady eyes stare back at me in equal disbelief. Crikey. I just socked a baby bird in the face. There’s a sign outside a church near my home that reads, "God doesn't care if you wear jeans." While that might be true, I’m betting The Big Guy in the Sky has a problem with people assaulting cute animals. The tenth circle of hell is home to serial bird punchers, baby seal clubbers and long standing members of PETA. Little known fact. Don’t believe me? Check Wikipedia in 2 hours. Not wanting to add insult to injury, I refrain from flashing my camera at his poor face.
My partner takes over and swiftly gets us to Dolt. We chow and nap. Speed climbers, indeed! From Dolt, we run to the base of Texas Flake. RAAA! GO-GO-GADGET-CAM-HANDS! I whip out both #4s and crack jumar my way to our first bivy and we continue up to fix to the top of TF.
Pitch 15, The Texas Flake: This is as easy as they get in Yosemite. Even the most unskilled can wiggle up this thing. That said, I still clip the chicken bolt and also protect up higher with a perfect .5 placement. The Hungarian continues on, fixes up to the top of Boot Flake, raps and cleans. We were ready to swing the next day.
Night #1: One word: ghetto. I crawl into a 40L haul bag and wrap a space blanket around my head. I consider this training for when I’m 65, 401K less and robbed of all Social Security benefits. Future Queen Hobo in the making.
The monkeys were definitely not sending, but were pretty okay with the circumstances. We accepted the realization of our non-speed climbing abilities and were happy that we hauled up plenty of water. Good news, we were hydrated. Bad news, I was so going to get fired.
Monday morning: we crawl to the start of the King Swing. Too low, my partner still sticks a huge pendulum 15’ below Eagle Ledge. Me? I limp along like a wet dishrag in slippery sneakers. He tosses the rope. I batman my way toward the anchor.
We are met with an NIAD team. Nice pair from Los Angeles that helped extricate our pig from Texas Flake. We were grateful. One hadn’t climbed in a year. They were “out of shape” and “working out”. Seriously, where were all the bailing wall style sufferfesters to make us feel better about ourselves? Oh right, we were it. Team Ego Boost! We all make our way toward The Great Roof, but we had more haul bag issues, so they sped away.
At the roof we were passed by another pair of NIADers who had also never climbed The Nose. Two of us were cleaning the roof. I encountered brain freeze with a stuck jumar and botched their attempts at a smooth pass. It’s times like these when you know you have a truly great partner. He never once yelled. Silently he waited for me to figure things out for myself while I publicly demonstrated my inability to problem solve in a timely manner. Profusely apologizing doesn’t bring back lost time, so I stop and we high-five to me MacGyvering my way out of my own mess and continue onward.
From there, I go. Since I have roughly the same sized bladder as a Keebler Elf, I go fast. On a wall with lady parts, I am at an even more considerable disadvantage. Seriously, boys, we conceive babies; we make less money with the same title; we lose our last name; we pay to have our ass crack waxed; we menstruate; we are deceived by mechanics; we are forced to hold our bladders while we watch you stand comfortably in the middle of a climb and urinate in cursive. At least we outlive you, can multi-task and don’t have to worry about boners. But still. I’m jealous about the peeing. I barely make it to Camp 5 before liberally urinating for what I think was a personal record. We fix to the Glowering Spot and bivy below for Night #2.
Tuesday morning, we run to Camp 6. Unlike most people I know, I quite enjoy pooing on a wall. I mean, look at the view. Sure beats the hell outta staring at sheetrock and back copies of Rock & Ice. I drop anchor while my partner takes on the Changing Corners and then I scamper along to pitch 28 and link to the freezing cold alcove.
For my hand size, THIS was the Angelina Jolie of pitches. 200’ of #1s. The Hungarian jugs toward me. I greet him with a goofy smile and a giant bear hug. That pitch rocked my world.
On the last day we finally have good rhythm and figure out our systems just as the pig was getting light and the summit was nearing. My partner takes us through the bolt ladder and after 60 hours into our 24-hour attempt, we make it to the top.
We take our summit shot from a distance since we looked about as bad as we smelled and were unable to smile with our sunburnt lips. We rejoiced and frowned with laughter. We lay there comatose until storm clouds start to form and make threats to pour.
Two hours later we’re back at the bridge. I drive like a mad woman to the pizza deck, booty leftovers, heat it all up on my engine block and return back to camp. The 2 pack of rock hard abdominal muscles I carved on the Nose was quickly lost to 7 slices of pizza, 3 bowls of pasta, a slice of chocolate crème pie and 12 Ikea meatballs. Finding something you're really good at, if you haven't already done so by your mid-20s, is difficult. Definitely not a speed climber, but now considering the competitive eating circuit. You think I'm joking? If you are my mother, than yes I am.
Dumb and full I stare intently at a fortune cookie someone taped to a bear box. “Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.”
Hmm. I have regrets. I don't mull over any of them for too long, but I have them and luckily don't have to harbor any like having to give up illegitimate children, buying a home or passing up a free sex change. I do, however, regret punching what I hope wasn’t a baby Peregrine. And I do regret that we didn’t commit- commit to going wall style. We had the goods to go slower, but felt this urgency to climb with speed.
Wall style climbing is underrated. We were too busy getting away from each other speed climbing that we never really got to hang out and have the fun we really could have had. We regret not having a Jetboil, no music blazing dance parties. We regret hauling no beer. These are things you have to sacrifice if you want to go light and fast. Since we weren’t going fast, we should have gone heavier. While a bit tough on the hauling, The Nose is an easy route and one that we would have really enjoyed if we savored it. We didn’t commit to a style and for that we suffered.
That night, it dumps rain all over the valley.
The next morning with the magic carpet nowhere to be found, we make our way back to San Francisco in a car. We giggle endlessly over our ridiculous ascent. We had enough of Yosemite to last us until fall.
The Captain and I are on trial separation. Time to rebound with the Incredible Hulk.