Iron Hawk A4 5.10

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Iron Hawk - Solo*
Monday July 30, 2012 11:57pm
Credit: Mark Hudon

*Almost.

I was more exhausted than I can remember ever being. Not only was I physically beaten, but my self- confidence had become severely shaken. I had taken too many falls, made too many mistakes, had too many things go wrong. I didn’t trust myself any more. The crazy confidence in myself that had previously gotten me up so many routes over the years, had simply evaporated.

I looked up at the 5.9 slab above me, the overhanging wall looming above that, the summit beyond and I knew in my heart that I could never climb there.

There was only one thing I could do.


I chose Iron Hawk simply because it ascends a part of El Cap I had never climbed. I’d done the North America Wall and the Tangerine Trip way back in the day, but nothing in between those two routes. The Knifeblade [KB] Traverse looked cool to me, the Spoon above it looked awesome, and the runout 5.9 pitches near the top added a perverse attraction. Additionally, the route didn’t seem to get much traffic, and I was eager to get off the “trade routes” and onto more challenging territory.

My spring plan is always to leave Hood River, Oregon on the Friday before Memorial day, stop for the night a few hours from Yosemite, and then drive the rest of the way the next morning, I then jump out of the car, grab my gear, hump to the base and fix a pitch or two.


I had some interesting weather on my drive down.

This year I stayed at Max Jones’ house in Carson City, and then we drove to the Valley together the next morning. I was going to help Roger Putnam with his geological survey of El Capitan, and to return the favor Roger agreed to help me by carrying some of my loads to the base. Skot Richards and Paul Souza were also there and ready to carry loads as thanks for the various big wall techniques I had taught them through dozens of emails over the winter and early spring.


The load carrying crew, me, Paul Souza, Max Jones, Roger Putnam, Skot Richards. Photo by Tom Evans

Max was going to come along with me for the ride as I climbed the start of the route to the El Cap Tree, but he was under strict orders not to touch anything - I wasn’t about to allow my solo ascent to be tainted! Accordingly, I fixed the lead line, and Max would climb the pitch, belaying himself with a Mini-Traxion and an ascender. Then I would rap the haul line and clean as normal while he waited for me to return.

Probably the first mistake I made was deciding to drag a pack with all the hardware up the traversing and blocky pitches to El Cap Tree. It really proved to be a waste of time and strength, as it was they wouldn’t have added that much weight to my haul bags when I eventually hauled them directly up the two steep pitches to El Cap Tree later in the day.

Max and I arrived at the top of the 5th pitch - right at the base of the Tree - and from here, we fixed two ropes down to the ground. Along the way, I rebelayed on the bolts partway down in order to avoid passing a knot. Back on the ground I packed my bags, said good bye to Max, and then jugged back up the first rope and hauled to my rebelay anchor. Conservatively I had at least 250 pounds of gear, food, and water, but hauling is never too difficult when using my 2:1 hauling system.

Since I was alone, there would be no one to release the bags from the first anchor when I was ready to haul them up to the second anchor. I didn’t want to have to jug the second pitch twice so I worked out a way to hang the bags on a fifi hook so that I could haul them right off the anchor. I’m usually someone who pays excessive attention to every detail but as I left the first anchor I noticed the haul line was running between the bags and the rock. I figured it would pull through and thought nothing of it at the time until the haul line came tight and I was unable to move, barely 10 feet from the second anchor. I rapped back down, fixed the mess, and jugged the line again... just what I didn’t want to do. Maybe a better way would have been to have skipped the rebelay and its attendant cluster, and simply hauled to El Cap Tree all in one go. It’s no big deal to pass a knot joining two haul lines when using my 2:1 system.

I spent a wonderful night on my ledge in the company of the El Cap Tree. Sadly the Tree is dying if not dead and has probably 200 feet of Christmas lights hanging from its dead branches. The Tree deserves more dignity than that and some Good Samaritan should go up there and cut them off.

The next day when it was time to start climbing, I was faced with the first of many similar situations, which were the pitches that traverse, overhang, or zig-zag through roofs. But I say “situations” and not “problems”, because when you’re rope soloing, you don’t have to worry about rope drag. This is because when you’re soloing, the lead rope doesn’t move like it does when you are climbing with a partner. You fix one end of the lead rope to your lower anchor, and then the rope stays in place as you climb the pitch, feeding the slack through the self-belay device you wear on your harness. The benefit is that when soloing, rope drag is never a problem, because the rope is stationary. This allows you to climb crazy diagonals and roofs with impunity, since you never have to worry about being hosed by rope drag. This allows you to link pitches, which you probably couldn’t link when climbing with a partner, since the rope drag would be impossible. You just have to make sure you bring enough gear to link the pitches. As well, you have to be careful not to backclean too much if at all on traverses, otherwise it will be very difficult to clean.

The topo shows the 6th pitch of Iron Hawk as being 110 feet long and the next one - the one that goes out the roof - as being only 50 feet. (It actually shows 150 feet, but it’s incorrect.) My plan was to link those two pitches, to save time and also to save a second haul.

At the start of the pitch I mucked around on some grassy ledges before climbing into a shallow corner that could easily have gone free if I had had a belayer, and hadn’t been weighed down by a ton of aid gear. I placed a few cams and then a beak; bounce tested it a little, and then got on it. I was searching for the next piece when the beak pulled, flinging me sideways out of the corner. I felt a bit shaken since I was so close to various ledges and blocks where a more serious fall could easily result in a twist or break of some fundamental body part. But I shook it off and continued on.

The topo shows A3R and “Fragile Hooks” but I found that merely looking around and being smart tamed the pitch. The last few feet to the anchor were easy, and I tagged up my gear bag to the anchor directly under the roof.

Climbing the roof was a journey in itself! It looks like a hanging garden that has a rock climb going through it. I thought of Ron Kauk and Dale Bard climbing out this thing years ago, gardening along the way, exhausted and covered in mud at the end. The whole roof is now fixed but you have to find the pins or slings hidden in the moss and then you have to be able to do the gymnastic moves to clip them!


The Iron Hawk Roof (a five photo pano)

I was quite happy and relieved to reach the vertical rock above the lip.

Once above the roof, a copperhead didn’t pass the bounce test - and I found myself having to place my first head in 35 years. I grabbed a head off my rack that looked like it might fit, reshaped it to match the taper of the placement, and then using the end of a blunt Lost Arrow, I pasted it into the crack. It survived a rather violent bounce test so I climbed up onto it. Further up, I was bummed to find my first useless head a few inches above an obvious and bomber cam placement. “I hope this route doesn’t degenerate into more of that,” I thought, remembering back to last year on Zenyatta Mondatta where I pulled out a least a dozen fixed heads from easy nut and cam cracks.


Bomber cam, useless head

I use a clever but complicated system of solo tagging when I climb. What this means is that I don’t have to wear my entire rack when soloing a pitch, but rather I leave some of it behind in my “tag bag,” which is the bag I can later pull up behind me a once or twice per pitch. This bag is carefully hung from a fifi hook initially at the lower anchor. The bag contains some food, water, and all the gear I’m not carrying on the rack, along with the bag containing the rest of my lead rope. This helps me lighten my load, and should I run out of gear, I would then pull up the bag, grab the gear and continue on, leaving the tag bag hanging from a fifi mid-pitch. The Tag Bag is tied to the “top” end of the lead rope, which is the opposite end of the rope to that tied at the lower anchor. One thing about soloing that is different than climbing with a partner is that you are seldom if ever actually tied into the end of the rope - you are merely sliding the middle of the rope through your self-belay device. The only knot per se that attaches you to the rope is the backup knot, immediately downstream of the solo belay device.

In order to allow tagging on very long pitches, where my tag back is hanging far below me, I have lengthened my system by adding a 40-foot hunk of 8 mil cord which is tied to the end of the lead line and to the tag bag. My lead line is a 70-meter rope, which is 230 feet. Adding the extension I have 270 feet of useable rope and can climb as far as 135 feet before having to tag. The tag bags hangs on a fifi hook, safetied with a “slippery overhand knot”.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwWnye2RxbI);

When I need to pull the bag up, I set up a makeshift anchor, pull up the rope, pull the slippery knot out and pull the bag off the piece it is hanging on and up to me. Get it?

To finish off the system, I have the top of my haul line tied to the bottom of the tag bag. This means that I don’t have to climb with the weight of the haul line hanging off of my harness. I do the final tag up to the anchor, set up my belay, and then I rappel the haul line back to the lower anchor to release the pigs onto the haul line where they hang in space while I clean the pitch. Then I reach the top, and haul the load.

The anchor for the next pitch is only a few feet above the lip of the roof but I had a hell of a time trying to pull my tag bag off the lower anchor. I pulled and pulled and nothing happened. It was completely stuck, but from above the roof, I had know way of knowing what the problem was, let alone how to solve it.

I really didn’t want to rap down past the roof and jug back up to the anchor. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was the tag line going so horizontal that it wasn’t rotating the hook off the anchor? I gave it one more pull and it released and swung out from the roof. I rapped back down, cut my pigs free, then jugged back up to clean the pitch. Fortunately, cleaning the roof was a little less strenuous, and I was happily ensconced on the smooth clean rock of the headwall.

The next pitch, marked on the topo as A3+, seemed pretty casual and I climbed it quickly, cutting off the half-inch webbing slings someone had left on each rivet. By the time I reached the anchor, my tat collection had doubled, and I could see more than a dozen lower-out slings on the KB Traverse. I can never understand why people leave slings all over the place on climbs. To me, it’s a sign of an unthinking climber, which baffles me since wall climbing is such a thinking person’s game.

That evening, while setting up my ledge and anchor, I made what turned out to be my biggest mistake of the climb - I dropped my only Grigri. What happened was that I was moving the bags up a little on the anchor by creating a 2:1 mini-lift with the Micro-Traxion on top of the haul bags and a Revolver biner [the one with the little built-in pulley wheel] at the anchor, when a loop of rope I was holding fell out of my hand. This caused the full weight of the free hanging rope to hit my other hand, which was holding the Grigri. I cursed as I watched it fall to the trees below, but wasn’t too worried. I was using a Silent Partner as my solo belay device and used the Grigri only for rappelling my haul line when returning back to the lower anchor after having led the pitch. I figured I could use a biner brake to rappel with and it would be no big deal.

It turned out to be a bigger deal than I realized.


After dropping my Gri-gri, I got freaked out and tied tether cords to everything.

The Knifeblade Traverse is one of the money pitches of Iron Hawk, and the Spoon also qualifies. The KB Traverse has been described as a “horizontal Groove (on the Shield) pitch,” and so I expected loads of fixed junk. I was pleasantly surprised to find fun pin placements for the first few moves. As I continued on, however, fixed copperheads with lower out slings became the norm. I had my butter knives ready to clean out any useless head I could find and I was kept busy removing deadheads and tat. A previous cleaner had left a lower out sling on almost every piece on the pitch - didn’t this person know he could have simply climbed the pitch on aiders, belayed with his jugs, using a back up knot as a safety, in order to clean it? Doing it that way would have been at least as fast as lowering out from every piece. I removed them all, along with any head within a foot of another head. As I left it, the pitch still contains quite a bit of fixed gear but it’s all usable, and the pitch is quite a bit cleaner than it was.


Starting the KB Traverse. Photo by Tom Evans

About halfway across I saw a place I could use my “meat hook,” a large Pika hook. It easily spanned the rounded hump of a flake, and I was able to make a far reach to clip a bolt. I figured I could make my cleaning easier if I could place a cam behind the flake, but when I used the flake as a handhold it easily moved two whole inches, I changed my mind! I wasn’t using my usual tag bag set up on this pitch; rather I was tagging just my rope bag across it. I pulled the bag off the anchor, set the tag bag’s fifi hook onto the bolt, and fed the rope into the bag, ready for when I reached the pitch’s end. My plan was to clean the KB Traverse, then lead and clean the Spoon, and then rap back down and spend another night at the start of the Traverse.


Two things of beauty!

At the end of the Traverse, I pulled on my tag bag line. It didn’t move. Not again! I pulled again, harder, and again and again and again. No go, it wouldn’t move. “What the f*#k!” Things were not working out on this route. How in hell was I going to get back to the middle of the pitch, fix the problem and then get back to this anchor? It wasn’t like I was on a vertical section, and could simply rappel down to my bag. This was virtually a dead horizontal pitch.

I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t really want to do it. I set up a carabiner brake, rapped down my tag line till I was as the bottom of the loop, and then jugged up to the tag bags, only at the last moment seeing why the bag was stuck and what was securing the rope I was jugging on. The rope, as I had pulled it, had clipped itself into a biner on the next piece, and I was jugging on a rope anchored by a fifi hook being pulled sideways on a bolt and nothing more! I calmly clipped one of my daisies into the bolt and into the next piece and reset the hook.

To get back to the anchor, I tied a knot into the rope I had rappelled on from the top anchor, and clipped it to my belay loop with a locking biner. My haul line was attached to the tag bag so I grabbed it, then pulled it till it was tight to the lower anchor, almost horizontal with me. Then I put my ‘biner brake setup on it. I stepped out of my aiders, and was now suspended between the upper and lower anchors and was able to lower myself back down until I was below the upper anchor, at which point I could jug back up. What an ordeal!


A fun pin stack

It hadn’t taken much time but I still had to clean the KB Traverse and then lead and clean the 160-foot Spoon above me. I rapped back down the rope but this time on the haul line - its other end was attached to the start of the Traverse. Then I cleaned it without incident, removing a few more heads and an old RURP.

The trick of cleaning traverses is to be able to get up high and close to your jugs. This puts you up at the same level as the leader. If the leader can lean one way to place gear, then the cleaner can easily lean back to clean gear. I use my adjustable fifi, hooked to my ascender handle to quickly move up higher on my cleaning set up.


Safe traverse cleaning. I just noticed that the cam on the upper jug is not in its clipped shut position. I must have taken the photo before I did that. I was very conscious about hearing that "click". I don't put biners in the top hole because they take too long and make moving the ascenders difficult. I do make it a point to have a biner at the bottom of the top jug clipped to the rope to make that jug more in-line with the rope. Of course, I tie safety knots to my harness every thirty feet or so.

The Spoon starts off a bit scary since the first few moves off the anchor are sketchy and a Factor Two fall onto the anchor is a real possibility. Originally, I thought I’d use a Screamer and a Gri-gri to help mitigate that problem, but now without a Gri-gri, I couldn’t think of a fast and easy way to do it. I hung a Screamer off the highest bolt at the anchor and hoped that would be good enough.


The KB Traverse and the Spoon. Photo by Tom Evans

The Spoon went on forever and the last seventy feet of the pitch takes all the same size gear. I leapfrogged pieces for a dozen feet, leaving a piece and continuing on as best I could. My last piece before the anchor was a cam with only two of the four lobes in the crack. It was freaky, but it held.


Nice cam!

Getting back to the start of the pitch was a special treat since my haul line was anchored down at the start of the KB Traverse and not the bottom of the Spoon. I had to rappel on my carabiner brake and continuously pull myself to the right over on the lead line since the Spoon leans to the left. It sure would have been nice to have had my Grigri!

But everything went well. I passed the knot between the lead line and haul line, and after a fair amount of work, was back at the bottom of the Spoon. It was getting late. I had had a hard day of work, but I still had the 160-foot Spoon to clean. I resolved to clean it in 30 minutes but took 35. After that it was a nice, clean and airy 190-foot free-hanging rap back down to my ledge.


Ah, Home Sweet Home!

The next day I slept in and didn’t get an early start since this was to be sort of a rest day. All I had planned to do was jumar and haul the 190-foot rope I had fixed, and then climb one 80-foot A2 pitch. I packed the bags, flagged my ledge, lowered them out on the haul line from the anchor, then ran and jumped off the sloping ledge and jugged the free-hanging pitch on the lead rope. It was quite a swing!


My tat collection at the top of the Spoon.

The worst thing about hauling for me is that it merely takes time. I have my 2:1 hauling system perfected, and to haul a 250-pound bag 200 feet in free space requires only the strength to do 400 squats!

The wind came up a bit, as I was getting ready to lead off on my 80-foot “rest day” pitch. Soon, my ledge was swinging all over the place. Before I had reached the next anchor, the wind had tangled the ledge in the ropes and slings at the lower anchor along with my tag line. My haul line is always attached to my tag bag so that I don’t have to lead with it hanging from my waist. Without being able to pull up my tag bag, I would not have the haul line and would therefore have to rap the pitch on the remaining length of lead line, fight the wind while taking apart my ledge and stuffing it in its bag and then jug the line again merely to get the haul line to the upper anchor! I would then have to rap down again to release the haul bags and clean the pitch.

So much for my rest day!

I spent the remainder of the day organizing my gear, trying to streamline my setup, and hopefully avoid any more tangles, mistakes and stuck tag bags.


Bivy above the Spoon. Photo by Tom Evans

The anchor at the top of the 13th pitch was a mess of one 3/8” bolt and four ¼” bolts. It wasn’t unsafe, but the route deserved better and I had the time and the equipment to fix it. I pulled one quarter-incher and, using the same hole, replaced it with a 3/8” bolt. I then pulled two others, filling one hole with epoxy and the other with a 3/8” bolt.


A bunch of crappy bolts.

Climbing El Cap seems like such a privilege to me that I feel bad if I can’t give back and try to leave the cliff in better shape than I found it. It shows respect to the next climbers up the route. I don’t feel they deserve to wade through my tat and useless fixed gear. I figure they are just like me, wanting to experience the route as much like the first ascent as they can.


Remodeled

There is no arguing that Iron Hawk is, after the Girdle Traverse, the most traversing route on all of El Cap and at times, two 130-foot pitches will gain you only 150 vertical feet. In three or four places on the route you could, if you set it up correctly, climb two pitches but haul only one.

I had originally planned to link the next two pitches but was getting gun shy about doing anything out of the ordinary. That day ended up being the only day where nothing went wrong, where everything went according to plan.

It didn’t last.


This actually held a fall and then fell out on its own later.

The 14th pitch starts out with a rivet ladder to some dirty, grassy, wide, loose, and awkward corners. I was trying to avoid a loose flake when a cam pulled and caused my first upside-down fall. I was a bit shaken, and had ripped a large chunk of skin off of my left hand little finger. And then, on another attempt to avoid the flakes, a hook skated off an edge and sent me for another fall. At this point I started to get rattled. I tried to regain my composure, tried to tell myself that this was what I was up here for - the challenge, the not knowing, and the getting close to the edge. But I still felt gripped and was even getting a bit depressed. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard! Or was it?

Too many things had gone wrong. My solos weren’t usually like this; my planning usually paid off. I was losing confidence in myself, and my body was slowly getting beat up from wrestling portaledges in the wind, pulling tangled and stuck tag lines, and rapping horizontal pitches.


A Swallow in a crack

At least the swallows in the crack kept me company for half of that pitch, so I didn’t feel entirely alone. They were chirping and squawking, and at one point, I watched a swallow chimney up the crack, its wings folded back and touching one side of the crack while its body bridged across to the other side. It quickly darted into a smaller crack and squawked at me. From this point, the pitch continues awkwardly just above an overlap to another poorly designed anchor.


A photo for Roger’s survey and a note from me.

The “Sky Traverse” was the next pitch. When I had climbed twenty feet or so above the anchor I could see that the topo had hosed me by mistakenly showing many .5 to 4.5” pieces on the pitch below where nothing wide was needed. I stared up into a 4- to 5-inch crack with nothing larger than a 2-inch piece on my rack. If I hadn’t dropped my Gri-gri, I could have immediately stepped out of my aiders and rapped down to the anchor to get some larger gear. But with only a carabiner brake, the task wasn’t as easy, so I forced myself to make do with what gear I had, placing small pieces in the cracks at the back of the wider one.

The actual Sky Traverse rivets on the slightly-less-than-vertical wall were a welcome relief from the awkward overhanging cracks I had been climbing all day. The Sky Traverse ends in the middle of a blank face and you have to lower down and swing over to a thin crack leading to the next anchor. Lowering down with a Silent Partner is possible, but it’s not a one-handed job. I would not be able to let go of the rope to grab holds or clip fixed gear. I ended up using a carabiner brake above the Silent Partner to awkwardly perform a task that a Gri-gri would have done easily. I had to yard myself a bunch of rope, rappel on the biner brake, settle into the Silent Partner, swing over, and try to grab something. If that didn’t work I had to pull some slack through the Silent Partner, drop down a bit and try again.


We don’t need no stinkin’ Gri-gris!

When I finally caught something to hang onto, I was too busy trying to stay attached to the rock to take the biner brake off the rope. It was a tug of war that now on Day 6 of my most difficult solo I was slowly losing. I didn’t realize at the time the cumulative toll the whole affair was taking on me.

I had planned to climb only one pitch on my 7th day, which turned out to be a smart idea. I couldn’t have guessed that Iron Hawk was about to turn the dial up to 11.

The topo didn’t show a length for my pitch of the day and rated it only A2, and it was also described as “loose”. But I could see most of it, and it didn’t look too bad. There is a wide section at the beginning, so I loaded up with big gear.


The wide section

Somewhere along the early part of the pitch a cam pulled, probably because on this seldom traveled route the cracks are filled with small flakes and the cam simply skated out with a few of them. I later figured I should have bounce tested the cam just a bit, to test the brittle flakes and fracture them first before I fully committed to the piece. I ended up falling fifteen feet or so, swinging quite harshly to the right. Later, while taking a photo of the beak placement I was standing on, the beak pulled and I pitched off backwards. The sound of my helmet scraping against the rock was disconcerting, and finding myself hanging upside-down didn’t make me any happier. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse, and fast.

After righting myself and climbing back up to my last piece, I noticed blood all over my pants and on the rock. I looked around and discovered that my elbow was bleeding quite freely. The gash was at the very tip of my elbow, and therefore I couldn’t get a clear view of it. I had a Band-Aid in my pocket and slapped it on where I thought the blood was coming from.

A few minutes later on the same pitch while I was searching for a piece on my rack, I heard a soft “ping”. I looked around; looked up at the piece I was on and didn’t notice anything different. Not anything different, except things were sort of blurry. I tried to focus and noticed that my glasses frame was open and that I had lost a prescription lens.


Just another thing

Oh, great, I thought. Isn’t this just the cat’s ass? Why now? But then again, why the f*#k not? I mean, could anything else go wrong? Maybe I could get dive-bombed by a crazed raven or get bit by a rabid bat! I know, a mouse could chew through my ropes causing me to fall to my death!

I was ranting.

Wait a minute - how ‘bout I get the f*#king Hanta Virus! Go ahead, bring it on. What the hell else can go wrong?

I didn’t have an extra pair of glasses with me, but fortunately I had prescription sunglasses in the haul bag. The rest of the pitch was a blur, both figuratively and actually.


More crappy bolts

The anchor at the top of the 15th pitch was another bolt disaster. I pulled four crappy 1/4” bolts and replaced them with a 3/8” bolt. I then got my ledge set up, and tried to take a photo of my elbow so that I could see how bad it was. After a few attempts I got a good shot of it, and determined how best to tape it up. I was already beat, and I was getting even more beat up with every passing pitch. I contemplated retreat, but it would have been very difficult if not impossible because of the overhanging and traversing nature of the pitches I had already climbed, and I determined that going to the top would be the easiest solution.

“I’m Mark Hudon, and I’m badass,” I said to myself, and almost started crying.


Additionally, I must have chipped a bone, I’ll be going to have a doctor look at this soon.

I started climbing early the next day, my 8th day on the route. I wanted to get two pitches done, because I wanted to get the hell off this route. I had had enough, and I just wanted it to end.


Start of day 8. Photo by Tom Evans

The next pitch looked to be about eighty feet long and the topo shows it to be only A2. I took all the pins I had, and placed one any time it took me longer than about ten seconds to find a clean placement. I hammered them extra hard, too. I was done with falling; I just couldn’t take it anymore.

It was finally dawning on me that my general attitude toward the route was contributing to my problems. My first solo - Grape Race to Tribal Rite - was far more of a trade route than Iron Hawk, and although it was nominally rated A4, I would consider its rating to be more of a “trade route level A4”. On my solo ascent, I had climbed its “A4” pitch cleanly, at mild C3, and I had hammered only fifteen pieces in the entire route. My second solo, Zenyatta Mondatta - another trade route and another supposed A4 route - went clean for me aside from fifteen beaks and the dozens of welded heads on the “A4” pitches. Climbing A4 pitches on ZM is merely clipping a ladder of fixed heads, and what climbing isn’t on heads is instead on cams and nuts.

But Iron Hawk is a different caliber of climb. The route is rarely climbed, is only lightly scarred, and has no history of clean ascents. My mistake was being more clean climbing-oriented and thinking that Iron Hawk’s A3 pitches should only be about as hard as the “A3” pitches on Grape Race/Tribal Rite and ZM, which I had mistakenly assumed translated roughly into C3.

At any rate, the pitch went well for a change, and I continued on to another anchor 60 feet farther. This is where Iron Hawk joins the New Jersey Turnpike and there are a few anchors very close to each other for some reason. The anchor I chose to stop at, yet again, was an ugly affair of bolts and rivets. I only had one bolt remaining so I left the anchor for a future party to fix.


An anchor on the New Jersey Turnpike.

After an overhanging wall, the topo shows an A2 ramp to a rivet ladder. Halfway up the ladder, I could see a flake had fallen out and someone had placed a head, but it had cheater slings hanging down from it. Without even thinking about it I clipped the sling and move onto them. I was casually hanging from the slings having just stepped off a hook when the wire on the head broke and I dropped down fifteen feet or so, caught by a rivet. It was a casual little fall. I just dropped straight down, no big deal, but somehow I managed to jam the middle finger on my right hand, which started to swell immediately. Well, that’s about par for the course, I thought. Pretty stupid of me not to have tested that head first. Oh well, it wouldn’t kill me; it was just another little thing, just one more of the Thousand Cuts.

For once, my tag bag pulled off the lower anchor without a problem and I thought I was going to have a day free from any major problems.

I rapped down to the lower anchor and was happily cleaning away when I noticed that the haul line had snagged on a rivet and that it was running at about a 45-degree angle to the anchor, 40 feet away. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another, I thought as I approached the snag. I tied a Klemheist knot to the line below the rivet and tried to fashion a 2:1 with whatever slings and cords I could muster. I was down and to the side of the snag and couldn’t get much leverage on it; plus, I didn’t want the rope to drag me with it when it finally released. After a whole hell of a lot of pulling and prying, the rope popped off the rivet and snapped towards the anchor, severely pinching my hand between the slings and cords of the 2:1 system I had concocted. Predictably.


The rivet core shot my haul line

The rivets end right at the anchor, which consists of two 3/8” bolts. It would have made a better anchor to have added a third bolt, and even though it was still a few hours before my usual quitting time, I was so wasted that all I could do was set up my ledge and get into my sleeping bag. I was too tired to even make dinner. In fact, by this point I didn’t even care if I ate dinner or not. I ate a couple power and fruit bars and called it good.

Since NOAA Weather was forecasting a rain storm for the afternoon of the next day, I got up early and climbed a 5.9 pitch to the next anchor which was at an uneven, sloping ledge about six feet long and four wide. I thought I could get set up better and be drier there when the rain hit. I was well encamped on my ledge and under my fly when the rain arrived a few hours later. Everything looked good so I took a nap.


The 5.9 pitch to where I spent the rainy afternoon. Photo by Tom Evans

Two hours later in that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness, I heard the rain, but it seemed far more consistent and rhythmic than rain should be. I was lying in an awkward position and I was feeling sort of hot, but I was enjoying my slumber too much to wake myself up. Eventually I did, which was a good thing, since I discovered I had pitched my camp under a runoff and that water was fairly streaming in through the door of my fly. Perfect. I grabbed my Big Wall Sponge and started mopping things up as best I could, then I put my sleeping bag away into its dry sack and made sure my clothes were also in their waterproof bags. I then arranged my rain jacket to catch the leak from the door and regained control of the situation. So far, so good.


Staying dry

The storm continued on but I remained mostly dry. It wasn’t forecast to last very long and sure enough, by eight that night, the sky began to clear. I made dinner and fell asleep before it was even dark.


The storm clearing

The next morning I woke up to find that I had not moved at all during the night, since I had awakened in the same position in which I had fallen asleep. I rolled over and slept for two more hours.

Despite claiming in my videos that “I really want to get off this route,” Tom Evans has photos of me only just leaving the ledge at 1:30 in the afternoon. The weather forecast for the day was clear and 65 degrees, but I was wearing almost all the clothes I had brought with me, and I was still not feeling very warm. I later found photos of myself still wearing my rack four hours later. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I had pretty much reached my physical limit of endurance, and was now running on fumes only.


I was wearing almost all the clothes I took on the climb but was still cold.

I was barely able to close my hands, and my left hand pinky finger was very sore for some reason, so much so I could barely bend it. Meanwhile the middle finger on my right hand was still swollen and hard to move. I wondered if either was broken. My right shoulder was simply killing me and I could hardly lift the rope with it. I had long ago gobbled the last of my ibuprofen so I was going to have to live with the pain.

I set up camp that night, hanging next to a long thin ledge, below the two runout 5.9 pitches. I was hoping beyond hope that I could climb them quickly and maybe even get to the top the next day.



It didn’t look like the opening moves of the first runout 5.9 pitch went free, or at least it didn’t look like it would go free by me. I aided up to a point where I thought I could free climb, and then lowered down, leaving my aiders clipped end to end to my high point. I returned to my ledge, put on my free climbing shoes and “Batmanned” up my aiders, and started to free climb. I was scattered and not confident but figured if I could make a few free moves I’d be able to pull up onto a ledge. I started to lieback a rounded edge but it didn’t feel right, I smeared my foot onto a sloping hold but I was already shaking. I tried to move up but my hand melted off a good hold and I pitched off backwards and head first, coming to a stop thirty feet lower, slamming my back into the wall, miraculously missing a ledge. Strangely, I wasn’t too freaked out. I was beyond caring. I had survived, so what? I checked my pulse and it wasn’t racing, but I didn’t know if that was a good sign or not.

I sat there for a few minutes and then went up again. This time I placed some gear and got past the move that had thrown me off. I moved up onto the slab and was relieved to see a 3/8” bolt about 25 feet away.

I moved towards the bolt but when I grabbed a flake or hold I could feel that there was no strength behind my grip. I stood as well as I ever have on sloping footholds, but never felt the confidence that I wouldn’t slip and fall. I tried to convince myself that I could “technique the sh#t out of it,” but I couldn’t. I managed to clip the first bolt and then started looking for a second, which I spotted thirty feet up and just as far off to the right. I climbed cautiously and calmly but never confidently. I never felt strong, I never felt safe, I questioned every handhold and every foothold and never trusted the answer. I managed to clip the second bolt and finally the anchor, praying that the second supposedly “5.9” pitch wouldn’t be much worse. That I could, in fact, somehow “technique the sh#t out of it.”

But looking up at it, I immediately knew I couldn’t. I was in trouble.

After my “success” - if only barely - on the first 5.9 pitch, I figured I ought to get on the second one right away. I tightened my shoes, chalked my hands, and sized up my situation. Not great, but maybe OK. Straight up looked promising, a square-ish hold above a small ramp 25 feet above the anchor looked decent, and a traverse out left and up looked like it might be the way to go.

I wandered left, reached a high undercling with one hand and a sloping knob with the other, and tried to convince myself to pull up. Nothing happened. I moved my feet up and back down, a little dance, but I didn’t have the confidence in my strength or myself to commit to the move. I felt that once I moved up, it would be impossible for me to safely retreat. I really didn’t have the confidence in my ability to keep myself calm should the next move above be impossible and I would need to climb back down.

So I moved back to the anchor and tried going straight up. Same deal. I was really stuck, and I was feeling the desperation begin to set in. This really wasn’t good. I wandered far out left but questioned my every move, every handhold, and every foothold. I retreated back to the anchor feeling quite gripped. I tried each route twice more, each time with the same negative result. It was starting to dawn on me that I might not be able to climb the last 5.9 pitch, and that for me, this would be the end.

Then I thought that I might go up there and try to aid it on hook's but that would still leave me looking at a big fall with very frazzled nerves. I wasn’t sure I could keep it together. Placing a bolt never even crossed my mind. I instead thought that maybe I should haul my bags up to this, my high point, spend the night there, try to recover, and maybe give it another try the next day. Maybe my strength would come back? But on a pitch like this next one, I knew I would also need every bit of my confidence. And I had to face the fact that my confidence wasn’t coming back anytime soon.

What I really needed was time to heal - I needed to get off the wall and get away from it all. It might take days; it might take weeks; it might take forever. I was simply too beat, I had made too many mistakes, and I had taken too many falls. I was physically and mentally empty.

I was done.

I was more finished than if I had been on top. After ten days of the hardest work of my life, I was virtually paralyzed. Quite simply, I could do nothing. If the pitch had been rated 5.5 R, it wouldn’t have mattered, because I wouldn’t have been able to climb it.

I had come to the awful realization that I was completely and utterly spent, with no other option but to call for rescue. Rescue?! I could barely form the word in my mind, let alone put it into action. Not only was it impossible for me to move upwards, but it was equally impossible to move downwards. There was no way I could have bailed - I didn’t trust myself to move or even clip and unclip gear, let alone attempt to rappel more than two thousand feet down an overhanging and traversing wall with hundreds of pounds of gear.

I rapped down my haul line, dug out my cell phone, and set it in the sun hoping to coax some life into it. It was down to 2% power and I had to make it all count. As I sat there, I fully collapsed and cried for an hour.

I invest a lot of time, effort, and emotion into my El Cap climbs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my first ascent of El Cap in 1974 changed my life. I moved out west from New Hampshire to be closer to Yosemite and fashioned my work life to include plenty of time for climbing. I carefully plan my climbs, the water, the food, the pitches per day, the linking of pitches, the rack, any of it and all of it. I train all winter; I lift weights and ride a stationary bike. I watch the weather reports months in advance (although I know it does no good) and have my bags packed and ready to go at least a month ahead of time. I have to convince myself to wait till I get to Yosemite to fill my water bottles.

I certainly don’t plan on failure and certainly not on a 5.9 pitch. 5.9 pitches usually don’t even enter my consciousness when I’m climbing; I haven’t failed on a 5.9 pitch in 38 years. I don’t know what it was, but on Iron Hawk I was snakebit from the very first day. I don’t know if I was complacent or beyond my depth or merely experiencing a low biorhythm month. Whatever the reason, it was truly a Death by a Thousand Cuts, the bags getting stuck, my dropping the Gri-gri, the countless falls I took, even the lens falling out of my glasses. It had all added up, it had all taken its toll.

It all added up to this - here I was, sitting on a ledge way up on El Cap with nothing more than a 5.9 pitch between me and certain success. A 5.9 pitch that I didn’t have the strength or the nerves to climb.

There was only one thing I could do.

I sent Cheyne Lempe a text, asking him to come up to the summit and drop me a rope so that I could jug out. I explained that he needed to find some porters to help carry my stuff down, and that I wouldn’t even be able to help him haul my gear to the top. I couldn’t help with anything, because I had nothing left.


Coincidentally, Tom took this photo at the instant I was texting Cheyne. Photo by Tom Evans

Watching Cheyne’s rope snake down from the top the next morning was quite emotional. I thought that maybe I could have him belay me on the pitch, maybe I could toprope it, but when I discovered that I didn’t even have enough hand strength to stuff my sleeping bag into its sack, I began to worry more about if I could even hold onto my ascenders long enough to jug to the top!

When Cheyne asked me what he could do to help, I replied simply, “Everything.”

Cheyne helped me pack up my gear, and he and Alik Berg hauled it off. As I jugged off I tried to see where I might have climbed. Straight up? Far left? Out right? I couldn’t see anything that I could have climbed in my shattered mental and physical state.


Cheyne and Alik hauling my gear

John Fine was also on top and I thanked everyone profusely but was unable to help in any way. I could barely untie knots or lift anything heavy.


I was a bit shell shocked on top.

I packed myself a small bag for the hike down but couldn’t lift it. I had to ask for help lifting it onto my back, and struggled downwards, more than a bit embarrassed by how little I was carrying compared to the others. At the East Ledges raps, I asked for a Gri-gri since I didn’t trust my grip. I felt like the walking dead. Each step took an effort and all my concentration. I tried not to think too much, to just keep moving.

Upon finally reaching the ground and the parking lot, I went off to take a shower and with my phone plugged in, read the comments of the people following me on SuperTopo. Sitting in my car at Housekeeping Camp, I started crying all over again.

It was over, I was done, I had escaped.

I took Cheyne, his girlfriend, Jess, Alik and John out for dinner at the Mountain Room that night and a few days later drove to Reno and flew home for my daughter Ellen’s 8th grade graduation.

It was good that I left the Valley right away. I wanted to forget, I wanted it to be different, I didn’t want to face the reality. At least at home, I didn’t have to look at the thing in the face every day.

It felt surreal being home. I was dead tired; often taking naps in the afternoon, and eating like a pig, breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week. I don’t know what Peggy and Ellen thought of my plan to go back to Yosemite to climb another El Cap route. I had been planning it for months and they both know my love for El Cap. They must have thought I was crazy and to tell you the truth, I was a little bit worried myself. My fingers were peeling, my hands still hurt, and I had not stopped feeling tired.

After a week at home I flew back down to Reno, drove to Yosemite and was fixing ropes on The Shortest Straw with Cheyne the day after I arrived.

It was very hot and I was feeling tired and sick. I didn’t know if I had recovered enough from Iron Hawk or if I was truly sick, or if my body and mind were simply recoiling at the thought of another El Cap route. I leaned my head against the wall and thought, “No, you can’t not do it. You have to do it. You can do it.”

Climbing an El Cap route solo and climbing one with Cheyne - a young and talented climber who has notched three one-day solos of El Cap - are far different experiences. Not only did I have to perform only half the work, Cheyne’s good nature and enthusiasm are contagious.


Cheyne Lempe

On our last morning on the wall after we had completed our quick and uneventful ascent of the Straw, I was cleaning the 5.10 pitch above Peanut ledge on Zodiac just above where the Straw joins it. Cheyne, who had soloed Zodiac last year in 19 hours, had raced up the pitch. I was feeling tired and although the final pitch was supposed to be my lead, I asked Cheyne to lead it, to take me to the top once again. I was tired, really tired, although I hadn’t reached the catatonic state I did on Iron Hawk. But I think after spending 17 of the last 26 days climbing El Cap, I had earned the right to be tired.

As I watched Cheyne work his way up the last pitch I realized what had happened. I had asked Cheyne to lead it; I had given away a pitch, something I’d never done before. But it was all right. It was fine. I was still climbing El Cap.

And then I started crying again.



El Cap Route Panoramas are available at www.elcappanos.com

I must thank Pete Zabrok for his work editing this TR for me. Pete easily spent five hours working on it. At times I wanted to strangle him but it all worked out for the best.

Additionally, Scott Jett and my neighbor here in Hood River, Dave Bronson made some corrections and suggestions.

As usual, the TR might have been good without editing, but it is most certainly better with it.

Thank you all,

Mark

More photos HERE
More vids HERE

  Trip Report Views: 11,171
Mark Hudon
About the Author
Mark Hudon is a climber from Hood River, OR.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:11am PT
Saving this for my dawn thirty reading....CAN'T WAIT!!!!!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:26am PT
^^ Dean - there is something just inherently wrong about how you like to get up so early all the time.

Mark:

Wow! I guess it has to be a good sign when after working on this thing for so long, that when I saw it posted for the first time with the photos, I laughed out loud at the beginning!

It really comes to life with the photos, buddy. Superb job.
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:35am PT
Mark, great TR, perhaps your best yet. Sometimes a magnificent defeat is far prouder than token victory.

As for the safeness of jugging on a traverse: I assume you are tied into the rope (below the jumars, out of view).
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:48am PT
Juevos Grande man....Its the elcap version of "fear and loathing" !
Nate101

Trad climber
Aliso Viejo, CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:53am PT
Great job Mark! I really enjoyed following your climb in real time. Bad Ass!

Nate
QITNL

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:58am PT
Breaking news: climbing!

Awesome.
shipoopoi

Big Wall climber
oakland
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:03am PT
wow, from somebody who wears glasses, that has felt the hurt and pain of soloing a hard el cap route near the age of 50, that has to be the greatest tr of all freaking time. i'll bring extra glasses, stacks of advil and other pain relievers, and 2 gri-gris on my next big solo, if i ever do that again. cheers to you mark for pushing towards your limits, steve
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:14am PT
Has the feel of one of those TVWOY write-ups. Bookworthy stuff for sure.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:52am PT
Death by 1000 cuts.. no not exactly.

Some times everything adds up and errors accumulate..ending in something much worse than calling friends to lend a hand. Nice decision.
Too many are no longer with us. Really glad you are.

For those of us that have been waiting to read this TR, man does it deliver!! More than I can digest in one reading. So much great info built into a gripping narrative!

WOW
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:29am PT
I can dig it. Pete, yer a Lazy boy. The A of M are The Golden Times. Craggy is Wise.
I bet Mark gets up early, most days. Or what, eh?
Oh, BTW, LUV Yer Shades. Or, er...Shade.
;-)
Skot433

Big Wall climber
Corona CA.
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:30am PT
my hero...


Im in awe...

You are the man Mark, the definition of my aspirations
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:26am PT
What a TR~ Keep firing it up Mark!
but I think Theodore Roosevelt said it best.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked with failure...than to take rank with those poor souls who neither risk much nor loose much, because they live in that gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:00am PT
Cool man. Always enjoy your placement pics.
A fine TR and props for realizing and accepting your situation.
skywalker

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:28am PT
Thanks, I will return. I think of a friend that runs 100 mile races.

It sounds emotional.

Inspires me.

Thanks!

S...
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:33am PT
Inspiration is a Grand Thing, huh?
PAUL SOUZA

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:49am PT
WOW!! Well done my friend! Truly inspiring!
Cole

Trad climber
los angeles
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:50am PT
Holy sh#t man that was intense! Fabulous TR and great inspiration.
QITNL

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:11am PT
First world problem:

Damn, it takes a long time to find the bump button!
QITNL

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 06:16am PT
Why are Republicans Wrong about Everything?

Bump.
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jul 31, 2012 - 07:50am PT
you bunch of mountain freaks
are good company.

it takes a man of courage
to voluntarily seek his physical and mental thresholds.

bravo, mark.
it's good to know you.
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
  Jul 31, 2012 - 07:56am PT

As usual, inspiring and impressive. Thanks for all of it!.

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Jul 31, 2012 - 09:13am PT
Wow. That's a helluva well told, not to mention instructional, TR!
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Jul 31, 2012 - 09:27am PT
Spectacular read Mark! You need to start publishing these things in a coffee table book or something!

Cheers!
-Roger
Rankin

Social climber
Greensboro, North Carolina
  Jul 31, 2012 - 10:18am PT
Right up to the edge. Awesome job Mark!
BASE1361

climber
Yosemite Valley National Park
  Jul 31, 2012 - 10:25am PT
Holy Sphincterballs!!!!

Well done Mark. Inspirational to the end.

You give a very raw and genuine account of an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:00am PT
And the Supertopo TR Lifetime Achievement Award goes to.......

I'm thinking about writing a Trip Report about reading your Trip Report. Reading this thing is an emotional ride man. You have done yourself, your journey, the climbing community, the route and the Captain proud with this one. Great writing, photos so crip you can feel the exposure and an openness about your experience. An "editor's" dream.

Thank you for all you do for this "sport."


I love this photo by the way.
Credit: Hudon
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:14am PT
An "editor's" dream.

Funny you should mention that. After working on this thing for so long, I actually had a dream last night I was up climbing on some mountain with Mark. It was cold and snowy, however. Definitely more of a nightmare for the likes of me, the Penguin Who Hates the Cold.

The ability to inspire is a gift, but it takes a ton of work, too. Thanks for putting in the huge effort this trip report had to require, Mark.
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:16am PT
Thanks for the gripping TR Mark!
NA_Kid

Big Wall climber
The Bear State
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:51am PT
Great report Mark! Does your topo reflect the grades YOU thought the climb was? Or are those the rating from the supertopo?
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:06pm PT
Fantastic TR, Mark! That was a truly gripping read, and your writing is most excellent. My guess is that most of us would want to have the bragging rights about having done all but the last two pitches, rather than lament that we were too spent to do them. Really impressive climb, and thanks for bringing us along!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:27pm PT
Thank you for all your kind comments!

Jordan, those are the ST Guide ratings. I have no idea what the aid rating system is doing these days.
Tribal Rite, the South Seas, ZM, Iron Hawk and Native Son are all rated A4 but are all vastly different. It's a rating system that is truely broken and worthless.
I'd rate Iron Hawk A3+. I haven't done it but Native Son would stay at A4 and the other routes I mentioned would be C3f. Shortest Straw would be A3+. That would align the ratings back to the old school ratings I learned in the 70s.
10b4me

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:24pm PT
Excellent as always
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:42pm PT
Hard to say what the real rating is, as it's been so long since I did it. But what makes Iron Hawk a big step upwards from anything Mark had climbed before is two things - its traversing/overhanging nature, and its length.

I think Mark did a great job of self-analysis and retrospection. In reading it, I saw a few things he could have improved upon, and he and I have spoken of this.

I think he really needs to bounce-test better - harder, and more consistently. Trust nothing. You can get away with this on popular routes that see several ascents per year if not per season, because someone has probably tested the fixed gear/mank ahead of you recently. I don't recall the last time I saw Iron Hawk climbed, let alone soloed. Proper bounce-testing would have cut his number of falls in half, I'm guessing, based on what he has described so well above.

You need to bring a nailing mentality to a nailing route. With a name like "Iron Hawk" there could be a clue there. Don't be afraid to use your iron. Big peckers will especially bring down the rating of an aid pitch. You really need to know when to say when. Sure, you should climb as clean as possible whenever reasonably possible, but there comes a time where the consequences of a fall are more severe. Know when to nail, and do it. Know when to climb clean, and do it. Know the difference, and don't be afraid to nail when you have to. I would personally not risk a fall on a hard route by trying to climb it too cleanly.

I also think Mark burned himself out a lot more than he realized at the time by doing his 'public service' of replacing bolts. It's one thing to replace a single bolt when you need to, it's another to do two or more at a single belay. Bolt removal and drilling is HARD work - it trashes your hands. Ultimately, it was Mark's hands which failed, although certainly it was a synergistic effect of these concerns and others he has spoken of. It was awesome that Mark replaced so many bolts, and future parties ought to thank him. Unfortunately, there was a significant cost involved to him.

The solo tag rack is a benefit and a drawback - it's not for everyone, but I really like it. But it's dangerous and complicated. I'm not sure if Mark was plagued by bad luck in this department, or if he just wasn't careful enough each time setting up the tag rack. If you're really lucky, you can solo a wall and not bugger up any tags, but it usually happens to you at least once.

Another reason this is a great trip report is because you can learn a lot of stuff from it!
david r

Social climber
Seattle now NY then
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:46pm PT
Not only one of the best trip reports, but one of the best articles about a wall ever.
Thanks for the inspiration and the brutal honesty Mark.
Plaidman

Trad climber
South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:48pm PT
Nice job Mark! Great TR with lots of details about how to overcome "the problems" when aid climbing. The details are like gold. How to stay out of getting cluster f*cked when aid climbing is the biggest trick. Learning what not to do is almost as important as learning what do to do. Thanks for not holding back and sharing all the gory details. These details are not small or meritless to this aspiring big wall climber.
Double D

climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 12:56pm PT
Epic story Mark, thanks for the TR.
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Aurora Colorado
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:04pm PT
A great story but ... I have no desire to do this route. Hidden in it is the detail that you took 4 or 5 pretty good falls. Including one upside down fall, and those are scary. Not easy to mentally recover. I also wonder if you were hypothermic after the storm, wearing all your clothes and still feeling cold. Not a good sign. Finally, I also wonder what the psychological effect is of having that runout pitch as the last one, it seems like torture, since it is only that one short pitch between you and the top. If it were lower down on the route, it might not have seemed so imposing.

chappy

Social climber
ventura
  Jul 31, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
Mark,
Great story and a great effort. I was supposed to get out the door right away today and get some projects done but your journey had me mesmerized. I just couldn't leave without knowing how it ended. Take a rest! Now to my projects...
Chappy
wayne burleson

climber
Amherst, MA
  Aug 1, 2012 - 09:26am PT
Great report and climb! as we have come to expect from Mr. Hudon. I always wondered what 5.9r high on ElCap by the likes of Bard/Kauk might be like... I think we learned how fatigue, injury and just being alone can so completely change the game. And it is a good heads-up to others about this next level of El Cap routes, even though put up long ago. It seems like the traversing nature of the route made it a particularly hard solo. The video was perfectly placed in the story. Although I've seen Mr H. on video before, it was good to see and hear you. I'll be thinking about this TR for many days to come...
David D.

Trad climber
California
  Jul 31, 2012 - 02:19pm PT
Mark, this TR is phenomenal, and it's all because of your willingness to open yourself up and put it all out there: your planning, your passion, your mistakes, your failures, your anguish and heartbreak at the end. Thanks for dreaming big and taking us along with you.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 31, 2012 - 03:02pm PT
This is a beautiful TR. One of the best I have ever read.

It is a great to see someone go so hard that they literally do not have anything left in the tank. A lot of respect to you, and thank you for posting your experience.

That picture with a wall flower and a hook is beautiful too.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 31, 2012 - 03:30pm PT
QUESTION:
What is that green moco stuff on the hook?

Credit: micronut

a. A nasal discharge (snot rocket) from a unilateral sinus infection.

b. Alien slime

c. Spinach residue from a MountainHouse wall dinner, yacked up durin a sketchy pitch.

d. Apple flavored GU. 120 calories right there son. Eat that stuff!

e. A bit of Mark's mojo, spilled from one of his numerous falls.
BASE1361

climber
Yosemite Valley National Park
  Jul 31, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
I just noticed this little nugget:

The first photo really captures the story your about to read......

Morgan

Trad climber
East Coast
  Jul 31, 2012 - 03:51pm PT
Bravo!
briham89

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Jul 31, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
Freakin' sweet
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:02pm PT
Yellow epoxie to mark my gear.
Regan

Big Wall climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:18pm PT
Great TR. Very honest and authentic...
You showed your character and style by coming back on El Cap. Congrats, Mark.
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
mark,
how did you carry the slack end of your lead
line, upstream of the silent partner?
Magic Ed

Trad climber
Nuevo Leon, Mexico
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:34pm PT
Mark, perhaps it's time to come clip bolts in the Potrero Chico with the rest of us old-timers. Imagine climbing big walls (not quite El Cap big but still big)with a single rope and a dozen draws!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:36pm PT
Wow! I feel like every trip report I've read this month has been outstanding, but this one tops them all. It was well worth the wait. Thank you for your willingness to share so much of yourself and your experience.

John
slodog

Trad climber
ontario canada
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:36pm PT
totally amazing trip report-lots of lessons here -tagging traverses seems problamatic-great stuff Mark-you are definatly badass
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Jul 31, 2012 - 04:44pm PT
Epic!
Well done.
Wow.
S.Leeper

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  Jul 31, 2012 - 05:18pm PT
oh my god what a great and heartfelt TR! You expressed feelings so many of us have felt before(except for the EL Cap part for me.)
elcap-pics

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 05:42pm PT
I'm with all you guys on this one.... great report and climb too! I watched the entire climb and was getting a little worried when the pitch count sunk to one a day higher up. I figured Mark was in deep sh#t after the storm and was really pleased to hear from Cheyne that he and Alik were going up to help Mark off. Now that was a great call Mark! There is a lot to be said for placing your life above your passions! We have lost many a good climber who did the opposite.
Anyway thanks for the great report Mark and to you too Pete for the editing, never an easy task when done properly!!!!
Matt Thomsen

Big Wall climber
Places
  Jul 31, 2012 - 05:49pm PT
I could not think of a harder el cap route to solo... There is so much traversing!

Good effort and TR!
Gagner

climber
Boulder
  Jul 31, 2012 - 06:52pm PT
Sweet TR Mark. Your story telling and honesty about how you were feeling is refreshing. Good decision too.

WOOT!!

Paul
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
  Jul 31, 2012 - 07:15pm PT
It's an emotional roller coaster just reading this great TR, let alone doing the actual work. Great job Mark, your truly an inspiration.
BrassNuts

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Jul 31, 2012 - 07:26pm PT
Great TR! Real, raw, honest and gripping. Great job - monster effort!
JSpencerV

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Jul 31, 2012 - 10:32pm PT
You are an inspiration man. So vivid, so honest - you put it all out there.
Silver

Gym climber
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:17pm PT
Mark I have always respected your climbing ability with Donner being my home crag, and climbing on routes you put up with Max is always a humbling experience.

This TR however is raw unadulterated Hudon at its best. We finally get to see the man behind the mask and he is human. You're not only one tough climber but you're one of the smartest and that combo will keep you in the game for many years to come.

Great stuff and proud send.



guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jul 31, 2012 - 11:20pm PT
Thanks Mark, for digging deep and opening up the internal workings of a most awesome guy. Proud to have met you and shared this tale. Dam, you are human after all.
Vegasclimber

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
  Aug 1, 2012 - 01:50am PT
By far the best TR I have read...I had to read it again, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything as my eyes skated from fall to fall.

Your reports are always an inspiration to me, and this one is no different. Thank you for so blatantly showing us your true core. I can honestly say that I would have packed it in long before you did..which shows me how far I still have to go in my glacially slow pace of trying to learn aid and the systems to attempt my own big wall adventures.

You inspire many, and regardless of what happened on this trip, you are still Mark Hudon and you are still badass. Keep climbing man.

roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Aug 1, 2012 - 03:26am PT
A really great trip report Mark. An amazing climb too, going right to you limits.

Cheers, Roy
ulybaZZa

Trad climber
Bonn, Germany
  Aug 1, 2012 - 04:36am PT
Wow! What an epic. Probably the most emotionally involved supertopo TR for me. I was mentally cheering for you all the way, almost down and out in the middle, then after you decided to continue, hoping that you would still make it. Smiling at the monitor when Cheyne arrived from the top. I must admit that part had a bit of Deus ex machina feeling to it :)
Thanks for sharing this awesome story, and more awesome climbs to you.
ulybaZZa

Trad climber
Bonn, Germany
  Aug 1, 2012 - 08:21am PT
And BTW, your elbow injury looks exactly the same as the one I got some weeks ago while climbing a not so big wall in Arco. I looked rather bloody and I also suspected a broken toe, so we bailed right away. You're really bad ass for keeping going despite all the problems, especially being solo.

This is me on the ledge where we slept that night before bailing.
This is me on the ledge where we slept that night before bailing.
Credit: ulybaZZa
Anonym Astmatiker

Ice climber
Trondheim, Norway
  Aug 1, 2012 - 07:45am PT
Great TR. Been crying on a wall a few times myself too.
cowpoke

climber
  Aug 1, 2012 - 07:51am PT
Such a great read and inspiration. Wow.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Aug 1, 2012 - 08:09am PT
Awesome story and great gear pictures.

“I’m Mark Hudon, and I’m badass,” I said to myself, and almost started crying.

That's badass writing the soft way!
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Aug 1, 2012 - 08:15am PT
Epic, and beautiful, Mark.
icegang

Big Wall climber
Seoul,Korea
  Aug 1, 2012 - 09:06am PT
Awesome...Mark....You are the great...
WyoRockMan

climber
Flank of the Big Horns
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:30am PT
Absolutely inspiring.

A good friend always says, "Let's be sure to pack an extra ration of humble pie, just in case.", prior to our alpine adventures. It rings true in this TR. I hope you view this climb as a success, if nothing else, it is motivation for an untold number to get off the couch and do something.

Wow.
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Aug 1, 2012 - 01:57pm PT
Great TR Mark! Thanks for all the on topic stuff you contribute and the inspiration you give.
donald perry

Trad climber
kearny, NJ
  Aug 1, 2012 - 06:28pm PT
Dear Mark,

My son and I just finished the Salathe, we did about 2 pitches a day but we could have done more. The hardest part mentally was first dealing with the prospective of hauling 50 gallons / 400 pounds of water and then physically lugging down the 200 pounds of gear. We ran out of water [intentionally on the last day just to see what it was like] at the base of the ledges. I have a hip injury I am trying to recover from over the last two years, so I called for some hired help to help carry down the loads the rest of the way. I think that was a good idea. Originally I was planning on having people carry everything, so I actually achieved more than I thought I was able to do.

You can see our videos here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYan14FCeLY numbers 1-14. Or do a search under redirectionalism.

I feel I have no business giving you advice, but you seem to be looking for feedback, so, foremost if I was you I would not give up.

First I would advise you to go to naturalnews.com and examine your diet. For example are you drinking fluoridated water?, it's poison. Root canals can be very unhealthy too, do a search on naturalnews.com.

Second, now that you have gone this far you know what gear you need, and how you should be feeling as you get back up to your high point. You’re a lot further along than you think.

Third, I would cheat a little here so you don’t waste any more time, go back to the top when you are feeling better and FIRST do those last pitches.

Fourth, develop your endurance and strength until you get back there again, keep a record and note your progress.

Eat right, and keep exercising, if you do that I have confidence that your next trip will be with more energy and you should make it to the top. What do you think? [Before you answer please do some thinking about your diet and check out that naturalnew.com website I mentioned.]

Good luck and God bless you,

DJP


Silver

Gym climber
  Aug 1, 2012 - 06:29pm PT
Yeah Mark

More Slim Jims and less water and you would have made it no problem.

There is no doubt you should have done that coffee enema at pitch 4 for a powerful clean colon finish to this route.

All kidding aside this Euro has a point. Nutrition or lack there of can really make a fine tuned machine sputter and when it does its game over.

I think Mark is probably in better shape than 95% of us and if anything he over trains and doesn't get enough rest.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:12pm PT
"Not only one of the best trip reports, but one of the best articles about a wall ever.
Thanks for the inspiration and the brutal honesty Mark. "


Yes sir.


edit. Dude, that was a long story but I couldn't stop reading and I'm supposed to be packing for a backpacking trip tomorrow. OK, back to work.
Nick

climber
portland, Oregon
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:19pm PT
Nice Mark. You set the standard for good judgement in a tough situation.
BooYah

Social climber
Ely, Nv
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:19pm PT
Nice Trip report.
I must say, though the birds are (mostly) NOT SWALLOWS. They are swifts.
Swifts, sir. Ask your local birdMan. Not a big deal.

Again, Nice trip. Kudos.
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:37pm PT
Thanks Mark

Waited for this TR and you did not disappoint! What a great read. I laughed, I cried, even learned a bunch! Keep up the fine work.

Thanks again for your inspiring words.

Wes
klaus

Big Wall climber
Pacif*#ka Muthaf*#ka
  Aug 1, 2012 - 11:58pm PT
Good effort bro. Solo walls are never easy, even if the ratings say so.

one question: why didn't you just clean all the pieces from the whole kb traverse?
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Aug 2, 2012 - 12:14am PT
Thank you again for all your kind comments.

Klaus, for me to do that I'd have to do it on the lead, and then if I did that I'd have to take them all out when cleaning, leaving the pitch totally naked. I can't imagine all the grief I'd get.

One of these days though... I'm toying with the idea of doing that on Lost in America this fall.
cornel

climber
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Aug 2, 2012 - 03:44pm PT
Thank you Mark for an inspiring dose of reality. Yes sir soloing on the big stone will strip you right down to your core. Never soloed but I have done a couple of A5s on El Cap and as you clarify the rating system is flawed. There are significant differences in many routes with the same rating, absolute fact. Love to do a climb as clean as possible but when you hit the A4 zone it is pretty hard to get it clean without a huge cheater stick which is in fact cheating. I agree with Pass the Pitons Pete it is all about the bounce test too especially on fixed gear. Got to bounce on those placements fairly hard absolutely on heads. Thanx too for replacing those bolts. That was above and beyond the call of duty...Great report and good judgement in calling for help. I had to call for help about 12 years ago on Salathe. . Verglas from a storm about 6 inches deep plastered on the last 2 pitches made it impossible to climb, so I asked for a rescue. Knowing when to say when is as crucial as any other skill in this crazy game. Again thanx for laying it all out there. Really enjoy your writings...
cornel

climber
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Aug 2, 2012 - 12:00pm PT
Oh yes, another thing you might appreciate Mark is something I discovered a few years ago that really facilitates a faster recovery from big walls. It is a Chinese medicinal supplement called Super Jing when taken in conjunction with Accupuncture treatments. The synergistic effect accelerates recovery big time. It is one thing to fatigue the body but quite another to exhaust the body as big walls do. Sustained exhaustion renders the body into a dangerous state where disease can enter. Kind of like being on A4+ and not knowing it. I really appreciate Super Jing now that I am well into my 60's. ...There is always a way one simply must find the way. Keep Cranking' !!
DerekCl

Trad climber
Altanta
  Aug 2, 2012 - 01:45pm PT
Thanks for another awesome trip report Mark! I am relatively new to aid climbing and you are a real inspiration and wealth of information. Whenever I have a question about best practices I like to ask myself WWMD. The trip reports/videos/pictures you post have been a great place to study different techniques, and skills.

Thanks!

Sidenote: Why does this comment thread sound a lot like a herbal remedy infomercial?

Mark have you tried C8H10N4O2? I hear it is great for big walls...
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Aug 2, 2012 - 01:50pm PT
does not it just completely suck
and totally kill buzzes

when you get to the top,
one way or the other,
and your realize with emotional pain

that your ascent is insignificant
and nothing matters,
beyond the end of the pitch.

six could be nine,
no matter.

smiles smash tragically against realities everywhere,

time and reality march on.

kudo's mark though you have none influence on spirtual concessions.

neither do i, and i still try.

my, is endangered. so is, is.
m_jones

Trad climber
Carson City, NV
  Aug 3, 2012 - 01:27am PT
and nothing matters,
beyond the end of the pitch.

Exactly.

How often does one get to be where nothing else matters.

How many tell the tale so well.

Thanks Mark!
gonzo chemist

climber
the east coast, for now.
  Aug 3, 2012 - 01:53am PT
Credit: gonzo chemist

Mr. Hudon,
Outstanding TR. The emotionally raw nature of it cuts to the very heart of climbing experiences. Iron Hawk sounds like a route to be reckoned with.

I'm just a nobody, but I respect your TRs.

RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Aug 3, 2012 - 11:06am PT
BTW...that pic of everyone on the approach is a commercial for 5.10 guides!
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Aug 3, 2012 - 11:24am PT
Really awesome TR.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Aug 3, 2012 - 11:57am PT
I noticed that also, Roger.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Aug 3, 2012 - 12:12pm PT
Perfect epic on El Cap is when you just barely have enough juice to get to the top. It hardly matters that you were a few feet off one way or another, you found the limit and touched the "death state" from which you are reborn in some way

and you and PTPP should simul-solo two routes next to each other sometime. I dunno why

Great tr

Peace

karl
cornel

climber
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Aug 3, 2012 - 09:00pm PT
One other tip - when nailing any A4 or A5 pitch never clip the junk to the lead line. If a placement is body weight or only slightly better never clip it. If it blows and you have clipped a string of body weight placements you are simply going to have to redo all that work. Had you not clipped them to the lead line you would only have to redo a single placement. . A traverse is the only exception.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Aug 3, 2012 - 07:45pm PT
Thanks for this Mark. Inspiring as always!
irene+

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
  Aug 3, 2012 - 09:36pm PT
Incredibly amazing mental feat - Congratulations!!!
And thanks for writing up the story and sharing.
Scott McNamara

climber
Tucson, Arizona
  Aug 3, 2012 - 10:08pm PT
Amazing adventure! Well told. It is the rare teller that allows the reader to feel the saga.

Thanks!

P.S.

I am hoping for a double feature—The Thriller in Manilla, The Rumble in the Jungle. You and Max---Hootin’ Hudon and Hawk--—Saturday Night at the Movies, where an older John Wayne teams up with his buddy and cleans up.....Iron Hawk.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Aug 3, 2012 - 10:31pm PT
Scott, Ha! just today I was texting with Max and told him that the New Jersey Turnpike was in our future!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 3, 2012 - 11:55pm PT
One of you best ever Mark, Thanks MUCH!!!

Awesome soul-searching writing!!!
Hummerchine

Trad climber
East Wenatchee, WA
  Aug 5, 2012 - 08:51pm PT
THAT was TRULY the best TR I have EVER read!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Aug 6, 2012 - 11:58pm PT
Cornel - are you knott familiar with John Yates' amazing invention known as the Scream Aid? These little load limiting slings deploy at a constant force of only 285 pounds, and allow marginal pieces of fixed mank to actually stop a decent fall.

If you were as much of a pussy as me, and afraid to fall like me, you would knott only know about these things, but you would have plenty of them on your aid rack, like I do.

I clip every damn piece of crap I can.
Hummerchine

Trad climber
East Wenatchee, WA
  Aug 7, 2012 - 12:52am PT
I'm sure many of you have already read it, but this TR is a close tie...

http://www.fishproducts.com/topos/nativeTR/nativeTR.html

(I'd forgotten about it)

Wicked rad epic Mark! I can certainly relate to bad karma stacking up against you, and after a fair bit of solo climbing myself how it feels to be alone up there!
John Fine

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Aug 17, 2012 - 11:15am PT
What makes this particular report such better literature than the others is that in here you are experiencing the universal human condition of "meeting your match", coming to the end of something (not wall climbing altogether, but hard solo wall climbing). The other reports, however well written, are primarily of interest to other wall climbers. This one is literature - it will be of interest to the general population.

When you cried for an hour after giving a pitch away for the first time ever, I cried (well, at least in my mind) remembering how I couldn't get up Lovin' Arms with you (for the first time ever); remembering every wall bail; remembering when I could climb 5.12.

Everyone will cry remembering something they have lost, forever....
moosedrool

climber
lost, far away from Poland
  Oct 29, 2012 - 12:54pm PT
photo not found
Missing photo ID#270812
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Oct 29, 2012 - 01:12pm PT
Credit: mouse from merced

Only kidding, Mark, since I was JUST BUMPING YOUR FABULOUS TRIP REPORT! :O)
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Oct 29, 2012 - 07:11pm PT
Wow! Super heavy double duty Mark, awesome! Inspirational, you have twice the determination of the heaviest of hitters. Thanks for this TR, amazing!
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:08pm PT
aid climbing seems dangerous....
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Jul 9, 2013 - 01:15pm PT
No joke, I'm going on a month long free climbing trip to Colorado this September to get in physical and mental shape to lead that 5.9 pitch when Max and I get up to it via the AO Wall this October. It still scares me that much!
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Aurora Colorado
  Jul 9, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
You're going back up to finish the last pitch? I'll put it on my calendar to tune in to supertopo for the live feed.

Not sure how you plan to train for a runout slab, isn't that what it was? Better off on the glacier point apron. There's run out climbing in Eldo and the rock can be kind of slick, but its really just a crag. You'd like the Diamond, it's not el Cap but has serious mountain weather and a great adventure even on the casual route.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Author's Reply  Jul 9, 2013 - 01:24pm PT
Just basically climbing, climbing and more climbing is going to do it for me.

If all goes to plan, we'll be starting around the end of Sept, early October.
Brock

Trad climber
RENO, NV
  Jul 9, 2013 - 01:39pm PT
Proud of ya Mark!

I'm going through the years of being a father with two young girls and have some of my climbing goals on hold. I have been following your post and love them.

Hope to climb with ya someday, either here in Truckee/Donner or Yosemite.

Cheers!
couchmaster

climber
  Jul 9, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
This TR goes past 11. 2nd read here, maybe goes to 12. But ratings are worthless, it speaks for itself. Fantastic job on it. Great read. Good luck on the 2nd lap on the 5.9. I'm sure you'll be laughing and flying up it this time.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jul 9, 2013 - 03:00pm PT
Awesome efforts and TR! Nice to see it bumped.
Noff

Big Wall climber
Nashville, TN
  Jul 15, 2013 - 04:08pm PT
Great read, and great photos. Can't wait to get to Yosemite in May!
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 15, 2013 - 05:02pm PT
Amazing!
bbbeans

Trad climber
  Feb 14, 2014 - 01:12pm PT
Bumpity bump bump for one of my favorite trip reports.
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
  Feb 15, 2014 - 10:03pm PT
Holy $hit!
Awesome TR.

Thanks,
Doug
ShawnInPaso

climber
Paso Robles, CA
  Feb 15, 2014 - 11:14pm PT
While I've never met Mark Hudon, I can honestly say I have more respect for him then 99% of the people I know. He is one true bad ass.

PS. Excellent TR.
Trusty Rusty

climber
Tahoe Area
  Mar 12, 2014 - 01:19am PT
Awesome tenacity and TR Mark, bump worthy.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
  Mar 12, 2014 - 02:51am PT
Dear Mark,

My son and I just finished the Salathe, we did about 2 pitches a day but we could have done more. The hardest part mentally was first dealing with the prospective of hauling 50 gallons / 400 pounds of water and then physically lugging down the 200 pounds of gear. We ran out of water [intentionally on the last day just to see what it was like] at the base of the ledges.

...


I feel I have no business giving you advice, but you seem to be looking for feedback, so, foremost if I was you I would not give up.

First I would advise you to go to naturalnews.com and examine your diet. For example are you drinking fluoridated water?, it's poison. Root canals can be very unhealthy too, do a search on naturalnews.com.

Second, now that you have gone this far you know what gear you need, and how you should be feeling as you get back up to your high point. You’re a lot further along than you think.

Third, I would cheat a little here so you don’t waste any more time, go back to the top when you are feeling better and FIRST do those last pitches.

Fourth, develop your endurance and strength until you get back there again, keep a record and note your progress.

Eat right, and keep exercising, if you do that I have confidence that your next trip will be with more energy and you should make it to the top. What do you think? [Before you answer please do some thinking about your diet and check out that naturalnew.com website I mentioned.]

Good luck and God bless you,

DJP



I'm just going to leave this here.






10b4me

climber
  Mar 12, 2014 - 10:31am PT
Bump
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El Capitan - Iron Hawk A4 5.10 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Iron Hawl is route number 22.
Photo: Galen Rowell
Other Routes on El Capitan
El Capitan - The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Nose, 5.14a or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
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The Nose—the best rock climb in the world!
El Capitan - Zodiac A2 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Zodiac, A2 5.7
El Capitan
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1800' of fantastic climbing.
El Capitan - Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Salathe Wall, 5.13b or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
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The Salathé Wall ascends the most natural line up El Cap.
El Capitan - Lurking Fear C2F 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Lurking Fear, C2F 5.7
El Capitan
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Lurking Fear is route number 1.
El Capitan - East Buttress 5.10b - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
East Buttress, 5.10b
El Capitan
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East Buttress with top of The Nose on left.
More routes on El Capitan