South Face C1 5.8

 
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Washington Column


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Layton Kor's account of the First Ascent South Face in AAJ 1965
Sunday March 6, 2011 2:34pm
South Face of Washington Column
Layton Kor AAJ 1965, p329

AS SMOOTH and beautiful as the great rock faces which surround it, Yosemite’s Washington Column rises sheer from the valley floor to its tree-covered rim, 1500 feet above. After several attempts, in July of 1959 two superb climbers, Warren Harding and Chuck Pratt, succeeded in surmounting the great east face. Their ascent required days of difficult vertical climbing. However, the south face, a great barrier of polished slabs with its obscure connecting crack system, remained untouched with the exception of Dinner Ledge, a popular climb up the lower 450 feet.

Chris Fredricks and I arose at 4:30 A.M. on a warm and clear mid-September morning. We were slow getting under way not only because of our inner feelings about potential route problems but also because an animal had eaten most of our bivouac food during the night. After two hours of toe-stubbing and wandering in the dark, we finally crossed the top of a huge scree slide and stood at the base of the wall. We changed gear from packs to the hauling bag and began the climb. Well trained in Yosemite methods, Chris moved quickly and soon disappeared from sight. A few minutes later, the hauling bag with its repetitious scraping followed and at last I too was on my way, Two rope-lengths of 5th and 6th class climbing carried us to a large tree 350 feet up the wall. From here a diagonal traverse of 80 feet put us on Dinner Ledge at half past ten in the morning, Since the main problems were just beginning, I draped myself with 30 pitons and started up the high-angle slab directly above the ledge. On shaky knife-blades, I led to a blank spot and surmounted it with two bolts.

After a long reach to a hidden diagonal crack, which we nailed for 45 feet, we got to a belay in slings. The next lead turned out to be the most complicated but finest of the climb. Roofs interspersed with blank spots which required bolts ended at an overhanging arch, where we pitoned for 35 feet to the left, From this point a 25.foot pendulum swung us lelft to a different crack system where our final bolt secured another sling belay, Little by little, the wall’s defenses opened up to US and our indecision turned to sheer joy, The day’s approaching end confronted us with the choice of rappelling to Dinner Ledge or pushing for a bivouac spot higher up, possibly in a small broken area 140 feet above us. We decided on the latter. Another overhanging arch and a vertical crack above it led us to a tiny dent in the rock. While Chris belayed, I used the last rays of the sun to complete still another 70 feet of nailing. When darkness put an end to our progress, I anchored the rope and rappelled down to Chris. Together we two spent the night in a place where there was hardly room enough for one person.

The night passed slowly, but we made up for our discomfort by having our fill of food and water. After hours of changing from one cramped position to another, we finally greeted the morning by prusiking up the rope left the night before. Route finding was no longer a problem, since the single crack system showed the way. Higher, the cracks widened and we climbed free for a full rope-length, an enjoyable lead which ended in a narrow gully 500 feet below the summit. The next pitch followed a bushy groove filled with loose blocks. After setting up a belay in a tight chimney, I pulled up the hauling bag, which spewed loose rocks down the wall. Luckily Chris was safely hidden under an overhang, which hardly stemmed the flow of choice words he had for me. The frightening five-inch crack above turned out to be the crux of the climb. We handled this grim section with the well-known technique of struggling. After a short rest and some much needed water, we pushed on. Above a 50-foot vertical crack, we diagonaled left past large flakes to a ledge shaded by a big tree. The last lead of the climb went up the rotten chimney over our heads. At noon on the second day, we unroped. A five-minute hike took us to the summit register of Washington Column after one of the most enjoyable and challenging climbs of the season.

Summary of Statistics.
AREA: Yosemite Valley, California.
ASCENT: First ascent of South Face of Washington Column by Christopher
Fredricks and Layton Kor, September 20 and 21, 1964.
TECHNICAL DATA: NCCS V, F9, A3. 5 expansion bolts, 175 pitons

  Trip Report Views: 1,738
Chris McNamara
About the Author

Comments
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Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Mar 6, 2011 - 03:35pm PT
I took Layton and others out to dinner last monday.

He still doesn't want to believe that I reached his bolts!
Not long before the half century mark on this megaclassic.
ec

climber
ca
  Mar 6, 2011 - 04:31pm PT
I recall the first time being on Dinner Ledge, looking up at the hangers on the bolts fluttering in the breeze almost like propellers on the bolts on the roof...yikes!....great & fun climb!

 ec
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Mar 6, 2011 - 09:19pm PT
My first big wall ever!
The Larry

climber
Moab, UT
  Mar 6, 2011 - 09:37pm PT
Great story. My first climb in the ditch. KOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
  Mar 6, 2011 - 10:29pm PT
interesting they were using prussiks rather than Jumars; which were still in short supply that summer.

don't recall if they asked me for this climb, as both had used mine before. i may have been off on another climb
Ropeboy

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 7, 2011 - 08:11pm PT
That was my first grade V also, in 1969. I knew only that Kor had a reputation for a long reach and that he climbed fast. The Kor roof helped confirm the reach. "Who is this guy?" Later I spent two and a half days on the Gold Wall, another of his grade V routes. To a young climber like me a Kor route implied a notch up in difficulty above what the book said. But they were great routes!
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Mar 7, 2011 - 10:10pm PT
hey there say, chris... wow, nice to hear from you here... thanks for the great share....

:)
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
  Mar 8, 2011 - 02:22am PT
That's a strange description, doesn't seem to mention the big roof
above Dinner Ledge... or are my eyes failing again? And the crux
is just above the roof, as I recall, really, and after that
totally straightforward moderate, aesthetic and beautiful. I did
it in June 1967 with Larry Dalke and my young friend Tom Ruwitch,
in about five hours of mostly relaxed climbing... perhaps but for
that one long reach under the roof... and the little flaky thing
above the roof... I don't recall any pendulums... and certainly not
an offwidth. But love that line by Layton, "We did this grim section by the well known technique of struggling" (or however he wrote it). Nice.

Good writing by good Layton...
miwuksurfer

Social climber
Mi-Wuk
  Feb 11, 2012 - 10:11am PT
Awesome.
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Washington Column - South Face C1 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The South Face of Washington Column.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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Astroman takes a brilliant steep and clean line.
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The line follows a series of small features.
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Skull Queen.
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The steepest route on the Column.
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A series of steep corners lead to an exposed face.
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