Lurking Fear C2F 5.7
Trip ReportLurking Fear in a day
More photos in my blog.
The first winter storm normally hits the valley sometime around October, this year it happened on the 5th. With snow on Half Dome there wouldn't be a chance of climbing it for quite some time. It was still relatively cool, but the sun would be enough to melt the snow on El Cap and make within the short window that we had left of our trip.
Our 4 week trip to the Valley was coming to an end and after several successful climbs we were willing to get out the comfort zone, a climb with a bit more suffering potential was in order. We had almost 6 months of darkness in Finland ahead of us so we might as well end this trip in style. A route on El Cap in a push would definitely do the trick. We had done the Niad last trip, so LFiad would be "logical progression" (don't you just love that cliché). What if we're slow aiding, it rains, we can't pass, too much gear, too little gear, we might have to bail. The "what ifs" would always be there, so if the forecast is not offering any great excuses, we might as well give it a shot. Olli wasn't too keen with the whole aiding thing but after throwing down some reasoning he was all go, we decided to commit and start preparing.
We used the following day to eat loads, sort our rack, pack up stuff and hike up the base of El Cap to bivy at the start of LF. We left our bikes by the meadows around 6pm and as we passed the base of Salathe, friends told us we wouldn't be the only ones on Lurking Fear, a team of two had walked up with heavy loads. No surprise since Lurking Fear is definitely one of the trade routes of the big stone.
We had been at the base a week ago and seen several parties bailing and leaving water at the base, so we decided to count on finding a couple of gallons at the base.
After hiking up to the base 45 minutes later we found the team getting ready for the night. They had driven down from Tahoe in the morning and fixed the first 3 pitches and with no intentions to start hauling before sunrise the next day, this meant we wouldn't have to make any changes to our 5 o´clock start and we would be well on our way by the time they were up their ropes.
They were psyched to hear we were going for a push in a day, but mentioned that another team was in a ledge under the 8th pitch. They had been cool and cooperative so we wouldn't be facing any awkward situations.
Since the best bivy spots a little lower down were taken, we settled for decent spots in the bushes below the route. After eating a sandwich for dinner and putting aside 2 gallons of water we were sure were abandoned, we hit the sack. The crickets and the anxiety from the climb made falling asleep hard. After 6 hours of sleep only interrupted by a moment to build and stuff toilet paper earplugs in my ears, I was ready to turn of the mobile's alarm at 4 am.
After eating a sandwich and a banana we packed up the bag to leave behind, racked our gear, fixed our headlamps to our helmets and filled up our water packs.
I took the first block up to pitch 8 and started leading the first pitch at 5.05 a.m. The first two pitches were bolt ladders where the bolts were pretty spaced and of course when ever there was a possibility of a hook/free move the bolts had been left out. High stepping from bolts or hooks was the name of the game, but I tried to do free moves where ever possible. On the 3rd pitch I took the free variation at 5.10 A0, it was reachy and required a couple really stiff free moves, make sure your shoes aren't too big. This avoided the Window Pane Flake so it definitely saved time. After the bolts came nice 5.9 free climbing to the 3rd anchor.
Pitch 4 started with a traverse and a high step off a #3 cam behind an expanding flake which I would have rated pretty dicey if I hadn't been on such a traveled route. The top of the pitch took wide stuff so taking it along was a good call. Short fixing off every anchor, we made pretty good progress, I was at the 4th anchor in 3 hours. The 4th, 5th and the 6th pitches were clean beautiful mid 5.12 cracks which I would definitely like to come back to try to free climb.
The traverse on pitch 7 went nicely, no rivet hangers necessary on the shiny bolts there these days. I led it pretty quick and caught up with the team who'd stayed the night in a portaledge at the end of the traverse. The leader was just finishing the 8th and was climbing the 80 foot 4" wide ending as I approached the second. As anticipated they were more than willing to let us pass by just climbing over, but since the traverse was slow to second we decided to stick to the original plan and changed blocks.
Olli took over the lead and soon got into lead mode, despite of being pretty tired from having the bag hanging on the belay loop while doing the traverse. Having 2 of 4" cams on the 8th helped, Olli just leapfrogged up the wide part. Jumaring with the pack hanging off the loop sucked big time, but having it on your back probably wouldn't have been any easier. That's what you get when playing safe and carrying plenty of water and an 8mm pro cord to have the bail option. I had lost a bit of water from the pack while refilling Olli's reservoir during the change over but the bag still seemed to weigh a ton and in the midday sun I was definitely feeling the strain.
By pitch 10 we caught up with the team ahead of us again, but they moved fast so there wouldn't be possibilities to pass while the climbing was at it's hardest. Fixed heads were missing on the 11th, so Olli's close to 6´3" frame came in handy while reaching over the missing copperheads. He also placed several of the Metolius Offset "money pieces" we had with us.
Pitch 12 must have been one of our slowest, it was an absolute pain to second and took forever. Our aid climbing experience was limited to the Leaning Tower this trip and my lack of aid climbing experience was revealed when I had a few extra pieces between the fixed pieces to clean and didn't know how to efficiently jug and clean the roof traverse. The learning curve steep and I soon got the hang of it. Olli had short fixed of the 12th anchor so I hadn't luckily wasted too much of our precious daylight time.
By the time I was at the 13th belay it was pitch black and after racking quickly Olli was on his way. We were averaging over an hour per pitch at this point, so the angle kicking back was a nice change. From here we would be doing much more free climbing albeit in the dark and tired after 15 hours of climbing.
When I got to the 14th belay I was greeted with an "El Cap in a day!!!! aaaall the way to the top" cheer and handed a Cobra, compliments of the team who had set camp on the ledge. The music was playing and for a moment we started celebrating the topout and forgot about the 5 pitches still ahead in the dark.
Pitch 15 didn´t look long in the topo, but went on for ages. The 16th was a slightly dirty dihedral that exited into a gully to the right.
At the base of the 17th we changed blocks again and I scraped up all the motivation I had left after jugging and headed off on the last awkward pitch which went up through an overhanging offwidth. For this we had lugged up a #5 camalot which proved useful, but I guess you could have got away with a #4 and a bit of muscle, more than I could flex at this stage.
After climbing over the smaller ledges to the the Thanksgiving Ledge anchor I got a feeling that we were almost there. The ledge would have made great bivy and while moving right on the ledge we passed a fireplace that would have had awesome views over the valley if there only had been light.
After moving to the where we thought the 18th pitch started, I started leading up the corner as described in the topo. The cracks after the traverse left looked harder and more committing than I had expected, but after a quick look at the topo I headed up the 4" crack and moved left into a steep crack which quickly topped out at a tree. I pulled the rope up, fixed it and led off with the slack. After running out of rope high up on the pitch I threw a couple of 1" cams in and waited for Olli to start belaying. After another 60 feet I was at the last anchor. At this point it was 00.40 and we had been climbing for almost 20 hours.
It was nearly full moon and we had been enjoying a lot of moon light since exiting the dihedrals and landing on the Thanksgiving. I carried on dragging the rope from the last anchors to the Mantel boulder and soon Olli was there to join me. We were psyched to have made it in a day and under 20 hours taking just a little over an hour per pitch.
After celebrating with drink, sandwiches and energy bars, we divided the gear, did the mantel and started the ass workout up the slabs. We wondered a little too far left away from the main face of El Cap, but after going over the top came back towards the Zodiac topout, where we saw a row of snoring sleeping bags.
We found the East Ledges raps quickly and about 3,5 hours after topping out, we were at the Manure Pile Buttress car park, pretty worn out at this point. We kept walking and were at our site at Camp IV about 24h after starting climbing. We heated up food we found in the bear box (thanks Alex), gobbled it and went to bed, which in this case was a sleeping mat and an airline blanket. With bikes were at the base of El Cap and gear at the base of the climb, we had our rest day laid out.
Again the hardest part was to commit to go for it.
Photos in my blog
Gear we took on the climb
Camalots - 2 sets #.4-4, 1 set #5
BD C3: 1 purple, 2 green, 2 red, 1 yellow (1 purple and green not needed)
Offset Mastercams: 2 sets #1 & #2 and 1 set #3
Aliens: 2 green, 1 red
DMM offset brass nuts: 1 set
DMM big offset stoppers: 1 set
1 medium cam hook
1 large cam hook
1 Grappling hook, dropped it on the 5th pitch :)
1 Cliffhanger hook
1 Metolius gear sling
19 DMM Phantom quickdraws ( 14 normal, 2 revolver, 2 alpine)
4 slings 120cm
9 screw gates
Beal Booster III 9.7mm 60m (a bit strechy for jugging)
Pro cord 8mm 60m
Petzl ascension ascenders
1 set Yates Speed Wall Ladders for leader
1 pair of Yates Speed Aiders for jugger
Metolius Express Haulpack 39L
Mobile + first aid kit
Light Camelbak pack for the leader
La Sportiva TC Pro rock shoes
5.10 guide tennies (for jugging)
Metolius Easy Daisys
Petzl Meteor helmet
BD Icon headlamp
Camelbak 2,5 L reservoir
Synthetic jacket or vest
Water 6 + 2,5 + 2,5 = 11 liters (1l left back at camp 4)
GU brew tablets
Gutzy energy bars
All together 10 packs each
Cheese and salami sandwich and a pack
of chocolate raisins for celebrations at the top
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