Trip Report
Lurking Fear, September 2012 : Be careful who you befriend or someday you might find yourself climbing your first big wall alone.
Thursday February 14, 2013 7:07pm
Day 9/ Day 4 on the wall, 9:30pm:
At this particular point in the process when obstacles arose I couldn’t afford to waste any time or energy getting frustrated or upset. I just sang along a little louder to the C.C.R. blasting from my haul bag impossibly wedged on the tiniest pebble somewhere in the darkness below. My mind had entered a new and unfamiliar state of exhaustion. The haul bag must have gotten stuck at least ten times on that pitch alone. Up and down, up and down. It was only a matter of time and persistence until I would reach the top of pitch fourteen, my goal for that day. My anticipation and excitement mounted, with the reward of my first natural bivy ledge in sight. It was the first place to sleep relatively comfortably and sort all of my belongings out in four days. Finally I reached my goal and managed to heave my maxed out haul bag onto the two tiered ledge. “It feels so good when you stop.” This was my most productive day on the wall. I gorged myself with pasta and cheese, breaking out the stove for the first time on the climb. I sat and laughed at the over enthusiasm and naivety of my, self designed hanging stove, which I was too terrified to even consider using. It never left the haul bag, and my helmet didn’t come off once in the first four days on the wall. Slurping and finger blasting cold cans of soup and chili, at the first few bivies I didn’t even bother going to the bathroom let alone finding a spoon. When I had mustered up the courage to take my first wall piss, It was urgent and therefore poorly planned. As a result my haul bag and thermarest received a fragrantly dehydrated dousing. On the other end of it, thankfully I “bagged” the on sight of my first hanging wall sh#t.
Credit: Joe Shultz

Thank god there were no more traverse pitches. I’m not sure whether it was more frightening to lead or follow those pitches. On pitch seven after making the first few hook moves off the belay, my rope began to leap and bound uncontrollably out of my neatly stacked rope bag. As I begged and pleaded out loud for it to stop it only accelerated until all four hundred plus feet of rope had escaped. I decided to try to finish the lead anyway, praying it wouldn’t get stuck before I reached the anchors about a hundred feet above. Luckily, I managed to make it to the top of the pitch only to have the haul line get stuck. After having no luck compulsively flicking the rope, I rapped down to discover that it was barely stuck on the hangers of the anchor a pitch below. This was a very time and energy consuming pitch for me. By the end of the day, after completing only two pitches serious doubt was starting to set in. I knew I needed to quicken my pace if I was to finish the route. On pitch twelve, seeking the security of the bolts I ended up on the 5.12d free variation. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience aid climbing at that point only a handful more than eleven pitches and I could barely climb 5.10, but the improbably inverted shallow cam hooking technique I was using felt much more intricate than the c1 alternative. Based upon fear and over all lack of experience my routinely slow pace began to quicken, and my systems were getting more and more dialed. I started focusing on the task at hand and not much else.
Credit: Joe Shultz

After finally reaching my much needed natural bivy ledge a top pitch fourteen, I fell asleep with the idea that I had enough food, water, and strength to complete the climb. That is assuming I didn’t drop anything essential or make any other amateur mistakes. This thought was barely comforting. I slept well that night even with the constant pestering of rodents and insects. When I awoke the pain in my hands and feet was unimaginable. My fingers were numb with pain, and only recently today have they regained feeling. It felt as though they were in tightening vices all night along. I couldn’t possibly force myself to make a closed fist. I had slept cross armed on my back like Dracula in his coffin. Comparatively, the pain had to have been just as bad the previous mornings. I told myself it would go away after I started climbing again and it would.

The goal for the day was thanksgiving ledge, only three pitches a way. A must do. There was absolutely no way I was going to spend another night in my decrepit fifteen dollar one point hammock. It now seemed more like some type of medieval torture device which slowly ground your shoulders and hips into granite, than an option for a decent night’s sleep. I had a much needed very through washing with baby wipes and hand sanitizer, organized my massive cluster of belongings, took a much valued standing sh#t, and started up the pitch.
massive cluster of belongings
massive cluster of belongings
Credit: Joe Shultz
My body immediately felt weak and broken, my head was all over the place, and it seemed to get worse the farther I distanced myself from the security of the natural bivy. Thanksgiving ledge seemed so far away in the state I was in. My past few fear breakfast and lunches of jerky, cliff bars and G.U. were finally catching up to me. I was running on empty. I had hit a “wall”. Halfway through the pitch I retreated back to the ledge below. My body needed to recover, I was fried. I tried to stay calm and convince myself that after a day of rest everything would be restored. “You can’t rush these things.” In and out of consciousness most of the day, I had vivid day dreams of old friends I’m not in contact with anymore, and haven’t thought of in years. People I have met and those I have yet to meet. The places I have been and where I am headed. Time ceased to exist.
Time ceasing to exist.
Time ceasing to exist.
Credit: Joe Shultz
I reflected on the past few days and how much work and fear I overcame to get where I was.
Credit: Joe Shultz
It’s even surprising to me that we made it the eleven hundred miles to the valley without getting lost, our road map and directions from boulder hand drawn “to scale.” The time, the money, the effort invested in this climb.
Credit: Joe Shultz
At all times at least one of my extremities had fallen asleep. “Is my body shutting down? What do I need water, salt, sugar, protein…? Will I make it?” “Only those who are willing to go too far can possibly know how far they can go.”

I barely slept that night waking up to fend off the seemingly constant visits from the “haunta” mouse attempting to nibble at my food. “How the hell did this mouse learn to climb 5.13?” I also awoke a few times to ants I think, crawling on my face. Regularly I would turn on my headlamp to sweep them away from the area of granite surrounding my head. I consider myself a peaceful person. I make a valid effort not to kill any living creatures, but late that evening I had to draw the line. I went on an ant killing rampage. Shortly after wards, It started to drizzle and I could no longer see the comfort of the clear night sky. I scrambled to unearth my flaky nick-waxed 1980’s hammock fly. I was sure this was some sort of instant karma for the massacre which had taken place moments before. These were the first and only drops of rain that fell for almost the entire month. Fortunately the rain never amounted to more than a brief drizzle. I slept off and on until the sun came up.

I succeeded in reaching thanksgiving ledge the next day.
on my way to thanksgiving ledge
on my way to thanksgiving ledge
Credit: Joe Shultz
My gloves and the top half of my fingers were stained black with filth. Remnants of the largest blisters I have ever seen, even with years of gymnastics, climbing, and construction work, were now dried into deep painful bloody crevices. I felt really close to the top, but I had no idea how far away I was from drinking a victory beer in camp four. After finishing the last two guide book pitches, I began to feel kind of lost.
at the last anchors
at the last anchors
Credit: Joe Shultz
I was unsure about which direction I should head to reach safe ground the quickest. The sun was going down. I headed for a rather large tree I had spotted. I will never forget the beautiful sunset I stopped to admire as I shuttled my loads to the tree. There was as amazing bivy spot there. This was the first time my harness came off in seven days. It would go back on the next morning to shuttle my gear another few hundred feet to where it would come off for good.

As I was approaching the summit, I saw people, other climbers. I waived they waived back. It was my first human contact in a week. It felt so good. I was finally at the summit. It was over, but not really. This being my first el cap routes I opted to hike the falls trail since I didn't know exactly where the east ledges were. I also knew that after the longest climb of my life. I would probably enjoy being done with all of the technical aspects at the summit. The hike started out fine, but the last four miles almost killed me. With my enormous pack I waddled down the switchbacks of polished granite stopping every five hundred feet where I sighted a waist high boulder to plop down on and balance my load.
precariously balanced pack
precariously balanced pack
Credit: Joe Shultz
If I fell over or set it on the ground there was absolutely no way I would have been able to lift it again. People ask me, “ How heavy was it?” In all honesty I have no idea. I was so exhausted at that point it could have been twenty pounds, but it felt like two hundred. If it was any heavier I couldn't have carried it down. I finally got back to camp four just in time to see the last shuttle departing for el cap bridge where my van/ home resided for the week. I decided to start hitch hiking only putting my thumb out for pick up trucks. I didn't want to subject anyone to my horrific stench. After about five passed me by, to my luck two attractive women pull over in a shiny new sedan. They barely spoke any English. I threw my pack into their back seats and climbed on top. They laughed as I tried to explain how I was typically a little more hygienic. I think they understood, but they obviously had no idea that inside my bag there was a black tube containing a weeks worth of feces. It was really refreshing to run into such generous strangers on my way back to society. It was finally over after a week of hiking, fixing, and hauling, a week on the wall, and a day to hike down. My adventure had finally come to an end. I feel blessed to have had the truly enlightening opportunity of having such a popular el cap route all to myself, and to have had the proper motivation, encouragement, and guidance of a much admired climbing partner. I definitely found a taste of what I have been searching for on my first trip to the valley, and hope to be back very soon.
Credit: Joe Shultz

  Trip Report Views: 4,602
Joe Shultz
About the Author
Joe Shultz is a van dweller originally from Pennsylvania.

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  Feb 14, 2013 - 07:55pm PT



P.S. Impressive first post!


Trad climber
under the sea
  Feb 14, 2013 - 08:00pm PT
fux yeah way to get it done!!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 14, 2013 - 08:02pm PT
What a cool route eh?

Nice work dood!

Trad climber
  Feb 14, 2013 - 08:17pm PT

Thanks for the TR!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Feb 14, 2013 - 08:17pm PT
Holy frig. What an epic! Way to stick it out.

Did you really repeatedly rap down to a stuck pig to free it? Were you knott familiar with the Far End Hauling system? It's a way that you can haul the pig while you're beside it, kind of winch it up the haul line.

You can find a bunch of posts here, and I probably have old photos on

I bet you'll never hike the Falls Trail again, eh? You'd have been down in 1/3 the time following the East Ledges.

Great send. Coming back in the spring?
Some Random Guy

  Feb 14, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
ur adventure rings familiarity in the back of my cranium. way to push it!

Social climber
granada hills
  Feb 14, 2013 - 11:11pm PT
lol! Nice TR. Way to go congrats.


  Feb 15, 2013 - 12:26am PT
why did you pack your poo down with you?

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 15, 2013 - 01:48am PT
mind bender! way to get it done!

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Feb 15, 2013 - 03:04am PT
Great TR. Good to see a climbing thread on the front page.
I'm unclear though. Did you intend to go solo or your partner fizzled out on you?
Neil Chelton

  Feb 15, 2013 - 04:17am PT
This is truly f*#king amazing.

I especially like the photo of "time ceasing to exist".

Be careful though. Soloing walls gets addictive..

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:09am PT
"I had slept cross armed on my back like Dracula in his coffin." - Hilariously awesome line that I can relate to 100%!

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:22am PT
Impressive! Stellar!
Great trip report.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:25am PT

Trad climber
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:33am PT
Great post.

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:41am PT
Well done!

30 mins. from suicide USA
  Feb 15, 2013 - 11:42am PT
damn fine adventure...
Kurt Ettinger

Trad climber
Martinez, CA
  Feb 15, 2013 - 11:51am PT

  Feb 15, 2013 - 12:40pm PT
Nice one! Way to fight, cool report. Super funny poop tube comments. Well done.
oli warlow

Trad climber
  Feb 15, 2013 - 02:01pm PT
Nice report Joe!

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Feb 15, 2013 - 02:23pm PT
Great job - really pushing the limits there.

Cheers, Roy

Oakland, CA
  Feb 15, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
Captures it.

Liked the tightening vices on the hands part.

Can only imagine how bad you and your stuff must have smelled inside of that sedan... Hilarious to picture the conversation the two of them must have had after you got out. They will probably never romanticize climbers again.

Did you dump your pig at the van and immediately jump into the Merced? Best feeling ever.
Don Paul

Social climber
Denver CO
  Feb 15, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
I barely slept that night waking up to fend off the seemingly constant visits from the “haunta” mouse attempting to nibble at my food.

It's named after the hanta virus or vice versa. Hope you didn't get that.

Great TR, but where's the first part? I guess your partner bailed on you?
Joe Shultz

Gym climber
Author's Reply  Feb 15, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
Thanks everyone for all of the congratulatory remarks.

Absolutely. I have heard of this far end hauling system, and I have also read threw some of your notes online. I found the information pretty useful seeing as how there isn't exactly a large amount of literature on all of the processes involved. Eventhough it may have saved me time and energy, I preferred keeping things as simple as possible. Im sure just about everything I did could have been done more efficiently. That being said I will never hike the falls trail again. There's a good chance ill be back in May.

I guess it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Intended solo from the start.

Don Paul*
Sorry if things are unclear, but I just wanted to right an account that was interesting enough that people would want to read the entire piece. It was a solo from the beginning, and I think I probably could have kept on writting for ever about this experience. So I guess it was hard for me to figure out where to draw the line between too much and not enough.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Feb 15, 2013 - 06:43pm PT
Great write-up! From the title I just figured you went climbing with thekidcormier :)

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
  Feb 15, 2013 - 07:15pm PT
Owch, LC. Hahah!

Really nice write up, I enjoyed your writing style and it really made me feel like I was there feeling all of your emotions. Congrats, and if I happen to be in the Ditch in May, you've earned a beer for your fine prose.

Way to go!

Social climber
boulder co
  Feb 15, 2013 - 08:28pm PT
Nice TR! proud effort to solo for your first route! I too walked the falls trail after my first route and it was definitely one of the worst decisions i can remember making. I think it took us 7 hours to walk down with the pigs.
Thanks for posting

Trad climber
  Feb 15, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
Love It!

You need to change it from gym climber to wall climber.

  Feb 16, 2013 - 02:49am PT

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
  Feb 16, 2013 - 05:23pm PT
Way 2 go Joe!

Nice work on the wall dump OnSight! I named a route in honour of my first wall poo

Limping crab- thanks for the shout out!!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Feb 17, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
Gads, crab - I laughed out loud at that!

Before I started climbing walls, I would sit on the can five or ten minutes in the morning, reading the paper or a climbing mag or something. Knott any more. Be it into paper, or be it into ceramic, these days the job is completed in about 45 seconds.

The photo of the pig sitting on the Falls Trail makes my back and legs hurt.

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
  Feb 17, 2013 - 09:10pm PT
The photo of the pig sitting on the Falls Trail makes my back and legs hurt.

Hence the tossing habit, eh Pete. :)

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Feb 18, 2013 - 10:51am PT
Hands in vices- check.
Sleeping like Dracula- check.
Time ceasing to exist- check.
Visits from people who aren't actually there- check.

You gotta love wall soloing. Sounds like you got your money's worth. Way to tough it out. And to take that rest day.

Thanks for bringing it all back .

[And pete, for fukksakes- must you chime in every time with some kind of "I can't believe you did X' , as if the poor guy's efforts were just a tedious preamble to the further trumpeting of your vast experience? We were all new at something once. Back the f*#k off. ]
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 19, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
Way to go Joe, a fantastic Job and write up, THANK YOU!!!!

Trad climber
San Diego CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
Great story...that was also my first solo, and I got a similar spanking.
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  Mar 5, 2013 - 05:25pm PT
Awesome man, sounds like one of those adventures that end up shaping the person you become, thanks for the write up and pics, enjoyed them.

  Mar 5, 2013 - 11:47pm PT
Yesss! Inspiring, well done.
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