The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Keep The Nose Clean in 2013: A Winter 1 Day Ascent With Lobster Claws
Tuesday March 5, 2013 1:15am
I'll share a secret just with you guys: you can find summer-like conditions on El Cap even in the middle of winter… as long as you are in the sun.

I saw a forecast of 63 in Yosemite for March 1 and called up Mark Melvin. Mark took me up my first wall when I was 15, and let me use his rack and portaledge for my first Yosemite summer. Those two events were the only way I got to climb El Cap so young, drop out of college and start Supertopo/ASCA and basically avoid ever getting a real job. Thanks Mark! Fast forward 20 years… (yikes, 20 years!!!) and it was time to get the band back together.

What inspired me to call Mark was my trip down the Grand Canyon five years go. No, not the part where I got busted for BASE jumping. That process was not inspiring. But it did give me some much needed street cred. What was inspiring was just how clean the Grand Canyon was considering how many people go down it. No trash anywhere. I thought, "Why can't The Nose, the most badass route in the world, be that clean?"

So I've had that question in the back of my mind for five years trying to think of a solution and all I can come up with is this: everyone just has to leave the route a little cleaner than they found it. Over 100+ ascents over 2013 the route could be spotless (except for a mild urine smell)… and more importantly, stay that way. I know, not earth-shaking stuff. Any kindergardner could tell you that. But thats the best I can come up with.

So I figure, on what might be the first ascent of the route in 2013, we will climb the route in a day, bring up some extra trash, spray about it on the internet, and then hopefully every team who climbs this route will do the same. By the time 2014 rolls around, the route will look like it did for Harding. Or as close to that clean as is possible.

Marke Melvin getting ready to start up The Nose 3.1.13
Marke Melvin getting ready to start up The Nose 3.1.13
Credit: Chris McNamara

We started at 7:14. Not exactly an alpine start but we felt it important to burn an hour of daylight sitting in El Cap meadow drinking coffee. Actually, we were just a little slow and overconfident. The last time we did the route was in 5:36 so we figured we would have plenty of time. Oh were we wrong!

Our first mistake was bringing too big a rack. I was a little too excited to test a bunch of different cams for OGL which meant we brought about double the small cams as I normally do. To neutralize this disadvantage, Mark had his belay card.

Good think Mark brought his credential.
Good think Mark brought his credential.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Temps at the car were in the 40's. Mark asked a time or two… "So you really think it will be warm today?" Sure enough, as soon as the sun hit us on pitch two it got warm. And by pitch 4, it was borderline hot. Not the 100 degree August hot. But the "It's the middle of winter, why am I so thirsty and having to shed every single layer?" type of hot. And it just got warmer.

Mark Melvin on Pitch 4 of The Nose 3.1.13
Mark Melvin on Pitch 4 of The Nose 3.1.13
Credit: Chris McNamara

Mark Melvin in the Stovelegs. Good thing Tom Evans was not in the Mead...
Mark Melvin in the Stovelegs. Good thing Tom Evans was not in the Meadow. He would have yelled at me for letting Mark climb in perfect camouflage. Even his TC Pros matched the color of the rock!
Credit: Chris McNamara

Photo below is by Micronut who was climbing the first few pitches. We are in the middle of the photo all the way to the right on the second Stoveleg Pitch.
You guys were a little faster than us. We also got off at sunset.  Aft...
You guys were a little faster than us. We also got off at sunset. After finishing pitch one. Twice.
Credit: micronut

Mark cruised up the lower pitches. In a few hours we were at Dolt. Not as fast as we normally climb but not too slow for our planned 8 hour ascent. But what surprised us is just how tired and thirsy were were. I was already cramping up in ways I never had on El Cap. My hands would seize up and contort into lobster claws. Not ideal for handling gear or say... climbing. And I hadnt even led a pitch yet! Mark reported some of the same which made my ego feel better but meant the team was now composed of not one but two semi-struggling off-the-couchers.

And it just kept getting warmer. I kept thinking to myself, if its this warm in winter, how does anyone climb the route in spring, fall or… summer!?

We burned through water and I tried to make every juggin motion as efficient as possible.


We sat here for 30 minutes just to get the perfect contrail in the bac...
We sat here for 30 minutes just to get the perfect contrail in the background.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Mark Melvin leading up to the Boot Flake.
Mark Melvin leading up to the Boot Flake.
Credit: Chris McNamara

By the time we got to the Great Roof and it was my time to lead, it was not a question of how fast are we going to climb this… but are we even going to get off in daylight? My lobster claws were not getting any better. But, luckily, they were not getting any worse. I didnt even bother putting on free climbing shoes because I knew there would be little free climbing with seizing-up limbs. The glass half full outlook was.. "Sweet, I get to wear comfy approach shoes the whole way to the summit." The glass half empty side was "You loser, you are actually going to aid every inch of the Pancake Flake?"

Lobster Claw gear handoff at the bottom of the great roof.
Lobster Claw gear handoff at the bottom of the great roof.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Wait, lets go back to Great Roof. Actually, lets go back to Camp 4. SAFETY ALERT: No, not that kind of safety. Really, I almost sent a giant diorite block down the whole face. Mark ran out the section off of Camp 4 which meant I lowered out into terrain seldom lowered out on. I was a little too casual and almost sent basketball-sized rocks onto the teams at the base of Salathe… so even on the most popular route on El Cap you still need to be really careful with loose rock. And everyone should always wear a helmet at the base of El Cap, even when just hanging out between climbs.

Chris Mac approaching his least favorite 40 feet on The Nose, Great Ro...
Chris Mac approaching his least favorite 40 feet on The Nose, Great Roof.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Ok, back to the Great Roof. I really dont like this pitch. I know I am not supposed to say that considering its one of the most famous pitches in… well all of rock climbing. But those last 40 feet to the belay are always creepy, dark, and a little wet. This time was no different. But this time all i could think about was Alex Honnold on the Triple going through that section with daisies and no rope (?!). I got a little sick when I was there and I just got a little sick writing this.

You need exposure? Great Roof's got you covered.
You need exposure? Great Roof's got you covered.
Credit: Chris McNamara

The rest of the route went great. And somehow, as always happens, I got really psyched at Camp 6. The cramps faded, the pace picked up a little, and we topped out 10.5 hours after starting to a perfect Sierra sunset. The upside to winter top outs is the warm soft light that makes everything look perfect. The downside is that soft warmness is quickly replaced with a hard chill. Oh yeah, its winter! As I said in the first line, it's only summer-like on a winter ascent in the Sun.

Sad that my hand looks like this... happy to be speeding up on the way...
Sad that my hand looks like this... happy to be speeding up on the way to the summit!
Credit: Chris McNamara

Mark looking down two pitches above Camp 6. Soft winter light = glory!
Mark looking down two pitches above Camp 6. Soft winter light = glory!
Credit: Chris McNamara

Mark Melvin topping out on The Nose.
Mark Melvin topping out on The Nose.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Sunset near The Nose Top out with Half Dome in the background.
Sunset near The Nose Top out with Half Dome in the background.
Credit: Chris McNamara

The whole point of the climb was to bring you a High Sierra snow repor...
The whole point of the climb was to bring you a High Sierra snow report ; )
Credit: Chris McNamara

Sadly, I was not able to grab any trash. I was just too cooked on the route. My mindset on about pitch 7 went from idealism to survival. I just wanted to get to the top. I was a little sad as that was half the inspiration for the whole climb (the other half being getting to claim a winter ascent while climbing in what felt like 70 degree temps).

But as we collected our gear for the descent, Mark said "We'll it's not much, but i did grab a dozen pieces of trash and cram them where i could in in the pack." Luckily, as per usual, Mark had more mojo. While I led the upper part of the route, he pulled wrapper and cans out of cracks. It wasn't a lot, but that was the whole point: It doesn't have to be much as long as everyone does it.

Mark surprises me with his Camp 5 dumpster.... err crack diving.
Mark surprises me with his Camp 5 dumpster.... err crack diving.
Credit: Chris McNamara

We made it to the east ledges before pulling out the headlamp. We only had one and it was one of the ones I got 3 for $9 at Costco. The irony of co-owning a gear review company is often all your best gear gets sent out to other testers… and I actually end up with the worst stuff. But we stumbled down and were back at the car at a reasonable hour. The last great thing about a winter ascent, and perhaps most importantly, your beer stays cold even without a cooler!

Cold winter nights = cold beers!
Cold winter nights = cold beers!
Credit: Chris McNamara

Gear We Brought and Gear Notes
 Mainly Brought the rack on my Ultimate Yosemite Big Wall Rack (just the rack for all clean routes)
 Pack - Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 30
 Second Rope 50-foot piece of 4mm cord to send the gear back and forth. Also, because I was so tired I used it to pull myself sideways over to Eagle Ledge when redoing the King Swing
 Two Gri Gri's so the leader could self belay when short fixing
 I used the one narrow cam hook a LOT on the Great Roof.
 We stopped at every belay shown in the SuperTopo and used short-fixing the entire route except the pitch off Sickle where we simul-climbed a little
 the yellow/red hybrid alien was was the most popular piece on the upper half of the route


Two weeks later
The adventures of Nose Cleaning continue: here is my trip report from two weeks later with Sean Leary http://www.supertopo.com/tr/The-Nose-with-a-Hacksaw-and-Rope-Gun-King-Swing-Video-as-well/t11878n.html

  Trip Report Views: 4,732
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on Earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan – an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

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

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:23am PT
Cool.

I mean, hot!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Wasn't this a school day? My silence is negotiable.
10b4me

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:33am PT
Nice. At least you got on the Stone
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:42am PT
Nice!
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:04am PT
Great way to spend a Friday. Thanks for posting and raising the stoke for spring! Err, I guess, any season since it's California
briham89

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:07am PT
Nice send!

I was watching from the East Butt and waiting for you guys to do the king swing. I finish up pitch 8 and my buddy says, "did you see them send the king swing?!" I looked away and I missed it haha!!!

I like your clean up idea. That would be awesome if everyone did a little every time. I'm on board
sac

Trad climber
Sun Coast B.C.
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:47am PT
Thanks for the TR, and worthy effort to leave less trace!

Great "exposure" exposure. What a shot!

A.
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:53am PT
nice & inspired day!
QITNL

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:01am PT
Bitchin!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:07am PT
roger on the clean up. will try and snag some as I go up this year.
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:19am PT
Way to make a triumph sound like a failure!
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
  Mar 5, 2013 - 05:03am PT
There really doesn't need to be a pee smell up there either. If teams would take a pee bottle(s) and empty it in space away from the rock, or in the case of multiple day teams empty them on top.

I know, I'm dreaming...
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
  Mar 5, 2013 - 07:29am PT

Great job, again!
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
Good shtuff as always, Chris. It HAS been 20 years, huh?

Diggin' it. And grabbing a bit of trash on the way. LOBSTER CLAWS!!!5!!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Mar 5, 2013 - 09:36am PT

lobster claws...for those of you with kids or otherwise Sponge Bob fans yourself then you'll know that to be "like Larry" is to be a wild and crazy guy....which is pretty much what's going on here!

I dig your litter removal objectives.

couchmaster

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 09:51am PT
ha ha! Lobster Claws!!!
"To neutralize this disadvantage, Mark had his belay card."

Inspiring, engaging and funny TR, really good writing - thanks!!!! BTW, the Lobster Claws seem to come easier as one gets older I've noticed, don't know what Hudon does to stave them off.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Mar 5, 2013 - 09:59am PT
A little facelift on every ascent of the Nose. Should be as important an ethic as not using a hammer.

Shhh on the good weather thing.. Its a secret.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:30am PT
Jugging is an art too I guess. Since I did not do any in like 4-5 month I also had Lobster Claws haha. Well done!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:42am PT
Stellar report.
Your idealism is rock solid. The Nose could (should) be clean.
Thanks for your positive influence on rock climbing.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:43am PT
loved the TR , great writing style , and most important: Great pictures .
Double D

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 11:56am PT
Awesome and inspiring!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
One other angle on the trash: those of us who take a few days and haul a pig ought to have a much easier time pulling trash, and waaaay less of an excuse not to put in some effort yanking and hauling out the accumulated crud of decades. (You could also say that we are the ones as a group who tend to leave the most trash - just for our sheer numbers, but also how many IAD'ers are bringing tin cans of ravioli clipped to their harnesses?)

This logic holds true for both the middle to upper pitches (pig has more empty space as water bottles are crushed) and the middle to lower pitches (the legion of bailing teams!)

See also:

The Nose Wipe from '09 (check the nasty photos in this link, not reco'd if you're eating)



Nose Rescue and Camp VI Cleanup from '10 - can you say hazmat?


Michelle

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:21pm PT
And here I thought you were going to tote up big fake lobster claws! Good read either way.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 01:41pm PT
I was actually dreaming I was doing the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral in winter last night. Maybe I was just thinking about your winter NIAD.

Thanks for the excellent trip report.

John
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
Well done...and great message!
10b4me

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:15pm PT
BTW, the Lobster Claws seem to come easier as one gets older I've noticed, don't know what Hudon does to stave them off.

ice water
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:28pm PT
I have really good circulation in my hands, they rarely get cold.

Great job, Chris and Mark. Thanks for doing a little bit of clean up. IMHO, hauling everything you took up there including your bodily waste, is the only measure of a successful ascent.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:28pm PT
Nice project fellas.

We were below you, trying to just get to Sickle. Thanks for not trundling on us!

Here's a plug for your book and a couple shots of you guys.

Great day out!

Credit: micronut

You guys were a little faster than us. We also got off at sunset.  Aft...
You guys were a little faster than us. We also got off at sunset. After finishing pitch one. Twice.
Credit: micronut

top of first pitch of The Nose.  No Clab Craw here!
top of first pitch of The Nose. No Clab Craw here!
Credit: micronut

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 5, 2013 - 03:49pm PT
Great shots, Micronut! So cool that there were a handful of teams on El Cap that day and they are all on this thread. I added your photo into my TR.
S.Leeper

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  Mar 5, 2013 - 04:47pm PT
still badass 10.5 hr ascent!

yep, I know all about the lobster claw...
Gunkie

Trad climber
East Coast US
  Mar 5, 2013 - 05:10pm PT
This doesn't help the suckiness of my job. Thanks.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Mar 5, 2013 - 05:32pm PT
Nice report, nice to create a vision for leaving it cleaner than you found it. I picked up that habit in the boy scouts as a kid and still try to practice it.
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Mar 5, 2013 - 06:04pm PT
Great TR. Thanks !!!
this just in

climber
north fork
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:08pm PT
Thanks for the TR. great pics and write up.
bmacd

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:12pm PT
Wow !
moacman

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:33pm PT
Nice report and good climbing lads. The clean up thing no one can dispute. Thanx for sharing....Gets people revved up to get after it....

Stevo
Some Random Guy

climber
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:36pm PT
inspiring!

yeah real jobs suck

climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Mar 5, 2013 - 10:53pm PT
^^Is that Pellucid?

I mean Cmac does a pretty solid TR here with bonus ethics points...

But ain't nobody beat Wombats crazy stuff.
MisterE

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 11:08pm PT
Mmmm...Lobster claws...

Great TR and important message, CMac.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Mar 6, 2013 - 10:08pm PT
Great writing Chris. Thanks for taking the time to write that up and I hope your idea works.
The Call Of K2 Lou

Mountain climber
North Shore, BC
  Mar 7, 2013 - 12:16am PT
We made it to the east ledges before pulling out the headlamp. We only had one and it was one of the ones I got 3 for $9 at Costco.

Couldn't help but laugh at that; I gave an old BD Xenix to my dad on the weekend after he bought the same ones as you. Two of them wouldn't even hold batteries (lid kept popping off).

Great TR Chris, and good on ya for the intention of the climb. I always try to take away a bunch of the crap people leave on their horizontal journeys in the wilderness. If everyone does slightly more than their fair share...
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 7, 2013 - 11:07pm PT
Nice. Way Proud!!!
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Mar 15, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
Good stuff.

Great endeavor. I will do my part.

Thanks for the cool TR.

Wes
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 18, 2013 - 01:15pm PT
The adventures of Nose Cleaning continue: here is my trip report from two weeks later with Sean Leary http://www.supertopo.com/tr/The-Nose-with-a-Hacksaw-and-Rope-Gun-King-Swing-Video-as-well/t11878n.html
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