Son of Heart A3+ 5.8

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Interview With First Ascentionist Rick Sylvester about Mt Asgard, BASE and Son of Heart on El Capitan
Sunday February 13, 2011 10:41am
Here are some rough notes from an interview i did with Rick Sylvestor on the phone in 1/4/99. Him in Squaw Valley and me in Mill Valley, California.

First Ski Off El Cap
He made the 3rd BASE jump off El Cap (before the term BASE had been invented) and the first ski BASE jump ever. He ended up doing the feat three times to get camera footage. At the time the “Paracommander” parachute was most advanced rig but Sylvester was not experienced enough to use it. Instead he used a “Thunderbow”

He remembers launching off way away from the wall – at least 200 feet. He remembers the first time it took him a little while to get his skis off. He became a little concerned when he saw El Cap tower go by and opened up so late that he had to aim for the clearing in front of the nose. His chute got caught in a tree. The second time was more routine but the third time, while approaching a landing in the meadow, his chute hit a 160 tall tree and collapsed. He started accelerating towards the ground, breaking branches and luckily the chute snagged a branch before he impacted.


Mt. Asgard
I was always surprised when I asked him if he wanted to join forces and he said yes. He had done all the work to get all his stuff out there alone and it seemed that he would want to do the route alone. Maybe he was just getting lonely.

He was doing most of the leading. An amazing climb. A seam crack with four or five rotten placements and then the seam would open up for an A1 placement. After eight pitches it looked like the aid climbing was ending. I wanted to push on and he wanted to go down. I am not sure why he wanted to go down. My girlfriend and I didn’t have enough provisions for another attempt so we had to go back to the village to get more supplies. Charlie continued up.

The route has been called one of the great big wall achievements but I have never been sure if the route was actually done. Porter was to throw off the fixed ropes as he committed to the summit. When I returned to the base of the route to retrieve the ropes I found them lying in a way which did not suggest that they had been thrown off. I looked up and couldn’t find any sign of him on the route. That said, it is more likely than not that he did the route. I just have my doubts.

At the same time that I was retrieving the ropes I also found a note accusing me of stealing some of his Tigers Milk bars. It still pisses my off that he accused me of being a thief.

The route looked exceptional and I have thought about returning to climb it.

Misc. Routes
Pitch 9 on the Zodiac took Charlie Porter ten-hour lead which was unheard of at the time. Pretty revolutionary for those days. Same thing happened to Rosenthal on the solo second ascent.

My first ascent of Son of Heart was the first route where somebody (me) led all the pitches. When you look at El Cap by moonlight Son of heart is one of the most obvious lines on El Cap. I though it was going to be a real test piece but then routes like the Shield and Zodiac were climbed that were much harder.

Made the first ascent of the Waterfall Route with Chauncey Parker. There was a story written up in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tower to the people may have fell off the heart route.

  Trip Report Views: 3,371
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan – an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that asks the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He is the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced more than 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA and the Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated adventure journal, maintains BASEjumpingmovies.com, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business.

Comments
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hoipolloi

climber
A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Feb 13, 2011 - 12:20pm PT
At the same time that I was retrieving the ropes I also found a note accusing me of stealing some of his Tigers Milk bars. It still pisses my off that he accused me of being a thief.

Classic. The little things that stick with us.
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
  Feb 13, 2011 - 12:26pm PT
Rick is a cool guy. When I met him at Indian rock some fifteen to twenty years ago, he told me that using the shoe laces as prusik knots in the Bond flick For Your Eyes Only was his idea.

Let's also hear it for his essay "The Douche."
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Feb 13, 2011 - 06:49pm PT
This is what Rick skied off. And what CP solo'd (or not).

Over 4,000 ft from summit to snow
Over 4,000 ft from summit to snow
Credit: Ghost
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 13, 2011 - 09:28pm PT
Love these interviews!
Really adds flavor to the mix.

As you indicate these are excerpts, "rough notes", where do the full versions debut?
couchmaster

climber
pdx
  Feb 13, 2011 - 09:29pm PT
Great shot of it Ghost. Damned impressive!
Fish_Products

Big Wall climber
FishProducts.com
  Feb 13, 2011 - 09:31pm PT
These are great and all... but c'mon, clean them up a bit and add some context.

"I was always surprised when I asked him if he wanted to join forces and he said yes."

Who was surprised? Was it you? Was it a frog in his pocket? A little background or at least a playlist will really help this out.
Bad Climber

climber
  May 14, 2011 - 07:19am PT
Thanks, Chris. I got to meet Rick once. Great guy. And for a host of reasons, "The Douche" is one of the greatest climbing-themed stories out there.

"That night. In Snell's field. Blessed, blessed, blessed."

I'm quoting from memory, so the punctuation may be off--but not the gist of it! Stinkin' brilliant.

BAd
BJ

climber
  May 14, 2011 - 09:10am PT
Interesting, and a little weird. I had never heard doubts about Charlie Porters Asgard ascent before, and I thought that the second ascent of the Zodiac was by Burton and Sutton. Maybe he meant "second solo ascent" instead of "solo second ascent"
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El Capitan - Son of Heart A3+ 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Up the right side of The Heart.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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