Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2

 
  • Currently 5.0/5
Search
Go

El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Just a Couple Guys from Colorado on The Salathe Wall
Wednesday December 26, 2012 10:16pm
I wrote this a couple months ago, and printed it out for my family to read over the holidays. Figured I'd post it up.

It’s amazing that climbing El Capitan in Yosemite is no big deal for a lot of people: routes that originally took parties days, even months to climb, can be done in just a few hours by elite climbers. For yours truly and my partner Dave Ahrens climbing El Capitan was a big deal, a life goal that would take all the knowledge we had about climbing, and then some.

Before the stone is touched the climb is a dream. Dave and I had talked on the phone for months prior, finalizing details of how to borrow aid gear, who was going to buy offset nuts and cams, and where we could get our hands on a poop tube. We had all the details down, and we both openly expressed our nervousness. Neither of us are aid climbers, and this would be the crowning achievement for our climbing careers. We were ‘just a couple guys from Colorado’ testing our mettle on The Big Stone. Here’s some highlights from the most memorable pitches:

Pitch 1: We decide to hop on El Cap our first morning after arriving to Yosemite thinking that we won’t spend too much time staring at the monolith, and therefore won’t be able to talk ourselves out of it. We arrive at the base of the route at the same time as another party. We converse diplomatically; they are working a free variation to the route, Freerider, and insist we go ahead of them; knowing we will be slower we insist they go ahead. A refreshing start and a good omen that we’ll share belay ledges with these friendly, strong climbers.

Pitch 11: We’ve successfully climbed the first part of the wall, The Freeblast, and everything goes smoothly. Dave takes a decent fall (about 15 feet) on the crux slab pitch, but all is well. We leave our rack of cams, nuts, and slings at Heart Ledges where we will haul all our gear up to the following day. We rappel fix ropes back to the ground, and just like that we are committed to the route.

Hauling is difficult, exhausting and frustrating like it always is. We haul to Heart Ledges efficiently though, and bask in the glory of a comfortable ledge. There is free water left by another party, that we help ourselves to. We lead one pitch from Heart Ledges, and then fall asleep with the cosmos, happy to be on the rock of our dreams, El Cap.

Pitch 13, The Hollow Flake. Of all the pitches on the route I was the most nervous about this one, an off-width that you have to pendulum into, and supposedly had little protection from falls. It was the hardest pitch, most emotional pitch of the route without a doubt. I swung over into the off-width, climbed up with my left shoulder in the crack, and my left hoot in the heel-toe formation. Soon I wondered if it would be better if I was facing the other way so I down climbed and put the right side of my body in. The whole time I was trying to keep my #6 camalot in the crack, the only piece of gear keeping me from a massive fall. Finally I realized left side in was the way to go, and I kept inching upwards, with prayer that I wouldn’t fall. Fifty feet up now the crack was bigger which makes the #6 useless, but by then I had the entire left side of my body in the crack, and both of my feet were heel-toeing. I kept looking up to the anchors, my savior of life. When I reached them I felt a wave of relief and happiness as I looked down to the Hollow Flake, and put it into my bank of scary climbing memories.

Hollow Flake. photo by Tom Evans
Hollow Flake. photo by Tom Evans
Credit: CBclimber

Pitch 19: We climb into the darkness to reach our bivouac. Dave aids an off-width crack to an oasis called The Alcove, where the climbers we met at pitch one are staying. Luckily they have a portaledge, and there is room for the two of us to comfortably sleep. Exhausted, we talk with our new friends; they have been successful thus far and have free climbed every pitch. We are happy for them, and they are stoked for us; the true spirit of rock climbing is evident, and we realize we are more than halfway up the climb of our dreams!

Pitch 20: Dave is a great climbing partner because we are so similar in so many ways. We are exhausted in the morning, so we’re lazy and drink coffee; a favorite pastime we share. We have food and water for four days, so we decide to take it easy and not rush the climb. Our lazy morning in the vertical is rewarded with this shot that Tom Evans took from below, with Dave at the El Cap Spire in the perfect light.

photo by Tom Evans
photo by Tom Evans
Credit: CBclimber

Pitch 23: Dave leads up a pitch known as The Sewer, labeled as the worst pitch of the route on the topo. In late September though The Sewer is completely dry, and the climbing is enjoyable. We thank the heavens for our luck, and climb up to our bivy for the night, at The Block, an uncomfortable place to be, as it is a sloping ledge not really suited for sleeping, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Credit: CBclimber

Pitch 29: The Salathe Headwall is an unforgettable place to be. Our haulbag is feeling light, and we are near the top of the wall. The trees below are tiny specks, and the exposure puts a knot in my stomach. The pitch is relatively straightforward with excellent gear placements. I am climbing on my last energy reserves, and we are relieved the summit is near.

Pitch 31: Exhausted and dehydrated there is still more climbing, it feels like this route will never end. As I embark on this lead Dave makes a remark about our dear friend Adam Lawton, who died in an avalanche earlier in the year, and how he would be proud of us. Soon after he says that I come across a fixed pink tri-cam, which was a piece of gear Adam carried with him everywhere. For me it is a divine sign, and I feel his presence with us near the top of El Cap. Though I am exhausted and have a headache from dehydration I feel sublime.

Pitch 35: Dave leads us to the summit. The sunset is unreal, deep fire red and orange, the sunset of a climber’s dreams. We hoot and holler like we have been unchained from El Capitan, which we have. Somehow Dave digs up two packages of tuna from the haulbag, which taste better than tuna ever has or ever will. I think of the people closest to me, my friends and family, and I couldn’t be happier to be alive and on the top of El Cap with my homey Dave. We have a restless night of sleep on top, and walk down in the morning. When we get back to the car the climb seems surreal, and we bask in the relief of what we have done.

Credit: CBclimber

Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine.

  Trip Report Views: 1,413
CBclimber
About the Author
Luke Mehall is a freelance writer living in Durango, Colorado. He is the publisher of The Climbing Zine.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Dec 26, 2012 - 10:47pm PT


Very nicely done and written. I like the "sparse matrix" style of the TR, and here's to you two and your lost friend Adam.
weezy

climber
  Dec 26, 2012 - 11:10pm PT
that shot of the spire is gangbusters
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Dec 27, 2012 - 05:34am PT
TWO cans of tuna! On top of all that?

You earned them! Happy New Year!
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Dec 27, 2012 - 05:42am PT
Dave makes a remark about our dear friend Adam Lawton, who died in an avalanche earlier in the year, and how he would be proud of us. Soon after he says that I come across a fixed pink tri-cam, which was a piece of gear Adam carried with him everywhere. For me it is a divine sign, and I feel his presence with us near the top of El Cap.
Nice that you pay attention to things like this, some people don't. Moments like those are special.
I like your TR and there are some stunning shots from Evans.
Good job!
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Dec 27, 2012 - 07:57am PT
Nice Luke! That spire shot is worthy.

You shoulda looked me up before you got to yos....

Mucci
Burchey

Mountain climber
San Diego
  Dec 27, 2012 - 07:59am PT
Good stuff! TFPU!
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Dec 27, 2012 - 08:27am PT
I'd love to get a copy of that shot of you on top of El Cap Tower ("in perfect light") to use in a book Peter Croft and I am doing on trad climbing.

Happy Holidays,

John Long
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
  Dec 27, 2012 - 08:50am PT
Luke, man that was a great TR post up. It was fantastic that you ColRADo rat punks managed to readily realize your Big Stone dreams. Kudos and congratulations. I loved the connecting to and communing with your 3rd team mate through the pink TriCam. Poignant for me for sure.
TFPU!
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
  Dec 27, 2012 - 08:51am PT
^^^^^
Edited to add to Largo.
John that certainly is a stellar shot. Luke is really good guy who is working to make it as a climbing writer. Check out his Climbing Zine. Good stuff.
But I have to admit I am glad and more than a little surprised that the pain med haze has cleared enough for you to focus on a computer screen and a keyboard. Glad you are on the mend. Keep looking up.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Dec 27, 2012 - 09:00am PT
Nice send and tr! My first El Cap climb.
thekidcormier

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
  Dec 27, 2012 - 09:41am PT
Amazing. Thanks for sharing
Nohea

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  Dec 27, 2012 - 10:01am PT
That's a nice route,
Well done and mahalo for sharing!

Aloha,
Will
Prod

Trad climber
  Dec 27, 2012 - 11:18am PT
Very nice TR. Especially like Tom Evans pic and the bit about your pal with the pink TriCam.

Cheers,

Prod.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 27, 2012 - 06:41pm PT
Stellar photography, thanks!!!!!
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Dec 27, 2012 - 06:44pm PT
Cool! Thanks!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Dec 27, 2012 - 06:50pm PT
Thanks for the TR!

That is one of the best shots I've seen from Tom. Legendary luck for your partner to be the one in it.

Finally I realized left side in was the way to go, and I kept inching upwards, with prayer that I wouldn’t fall.


Left side in? So your back on the steeper side (the flake itself) and your chest on the lower angle side (El Cap proper)? I can't imagine that working well for me. I wonder if many others have done it left side in...
CBclimber

Trad climber
Durango, Colorado
Author's Reply  Dec 27, 2012 - 07:26pm PT
Thanks for the kind words everyone!

John: I can definitely send you that photo. We'll just have to clear it with Tom Evans. I still need to chat with you about writing that blurb for my book. My email is lukemehall@gmail.com

peace,
Luke
Captain...or Skully

climber
  Dec 27, 2012 - 07:29pm PT
Dude, I love Wall TR's.
I wish more folks would post them on Deucey's site, though.
I dug your TR, Dudes. WooT!
CBclimber

Trad climber
Durango, Colorado
Author's Reply  Dec 27, 2012 - 07:29pm PT
Mucci: Next time for sure buddy. I'll be out there in June again, maybe we can get a beer if you're in the Valley.

Luke
ImplicitD

Trad climber
Boise
  Dec 30, 2012 - 06:30pm PT
Sweet trip report...the storied hollow flake. Proud. Sounds like it took forever to get to the top. A common thing for us mortals.
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go
El Capitan - Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The Salathé Wall ascends the most natural line up El Cap.
Photo: Mark Kroese
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
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

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
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

1800' of fantastic climbing.
El Capitan - Lurking Fear C2F 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Lurking Fear, C2F 5.7
El Capitan
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

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
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

East Buttress with top of The Nose on left.
El Capitan - The Shield A3 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Shield, A3 5.8
El Capitan
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The Shield is route number 7.
More routes on El Capitan