Trip ReportMonkey on the Trip; Tangerine Trip. October 2009.
My bags, and planes, and buses, and trains, and roads, and people asking “ quo Vadis?” ("Whither goest thou?")...Yes, I like to travel alone.I never rent a car and I always sleep my first and the last night at the San Francisco Airport. You can see me there checking the weight of my bags (damn limits), eating the best hamburgers in the world (Join Burger), taking a photo of the art wall, sleeping on chairs, smiling to the past and dreaming about the future...
The man always on the way with bags full of dreams...
There are two ways how you can see El Cap upside down – when you take a first head fall or when you are in quiet day on the bridge early in a morning...
Tangerine Trip is a steep wall. That’s why I choose this route – no problem with hauling, protected from the rain (except the last two pitches), good for practise how to do traverses and you can enjoy a hammerless climbing...
El Cap is wrong place, if you want to be alone. You can climb solo, but you can’t be alone...this is one of reasons, why I enjoy to be on the wall in stormy days. In stormy days, stone monkeys go away on Camp IV and this is only chance to be alone... Just after my first pitch, at night, I heard raindrops falling on a fly. All the next day, 40 meters above the ground, I ate sardines with onion bagels, I wrote some daily notes, I drunk a coffee and I practiced my monkey calls( yes, from time to time, somebody called me from the bridge, so I responded)... Let me make a digression – When I came first time to the Valley (4 years ago) I tried to do the monkey call, but my voice was like baby ape’s...I tried so hard, but nothing change until the moment, when the right monkey call just came to me in the middle of South Seas one year later. I understood, that the real voice can be given by the Big Stone only (doesn’t matter how long you climb in other mountains)...Now; I really enjoy shouting – hua! and listening responses – hua!, hua!...
Tom gave me this picture signed as: “Regan – first storm”.
To be honest, in that day quietly I sang some known song...:
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm...
After the storm always come the Sun and monkeys are on the wall.
Next morning, I said “hello” to Matt called Lambone and Grover – they did Lost in America direct start to T. Trip(Lambone was testing some heads and fortunately stopped 2 m above the ground...).
Pitch 4 is pretty wild if you don’t have some small cams (better don’t be as stupid as me). On the last penji I had to grab Lambone's rope (shame on me).
Above the roof is the best pitch on the T. Trip. Long traverse (max C3), where you need a lot of cams and some hybrids.
The pitch 5 made me really happy and I enjoy my bivy on the top belay. Usually, every morning I do 3 main things: I drink a coffee, I write something in my note book, and I taste a breakfast fruits with granola. No rush, just enjoy the wall...
Pitch 6 is nice and steep. You can clip, and clip, and clip, and...
The crux of T.Trip is on the pitch 8. It was not my favourite pitch. I need to mention, that some free shoes and cam hooks are useful. All the area is very hot, so take off your dawn jacket and a balaclava - just put your new bikini and flip-flops on...:)
In the middle of El Cap, I met some Korean climbers (team of four). They passed me, they shared some food with me and they sung some mountain song, so I was fully entertained.
This is the belay 11and the beginning of one of the best pitch on Tangerine Trip. Just look at this:
When I climb alone, I really enjoy free hanging on raps. I like to swing and to take some pictures, and look at the bridge, and shout the monkey call. Simply, I like to feel open air and unlimited freedom...
On the rope, I remembered one of my first day on the bridge in this Fall season. It was lazy afternoon in the first days of October:
Come back on the wall and look at the typical bolt ladder. Sorry, I can’t remember the number of the pitch.
Look at the pitch 14, which is beginning of the end of T. Trip. Just remember that pitch 13 is rotten and on the15th is a nice traverse:
Above picture was 12th of October 2009 in the morning. I spent a night on belay 15. Location od all what happened next is marked on the topo:
The sky was a little cloudy, but I had only two easy pitches to the top. On the wall was so quiet and even my monkey call was hanging in the air without any response. I couldn’t see any evening head torch lights or hear any sounds of crushing cans. OK, I put my fly on the portaledge I started to follow my dreams about the second coffee in the Cafeteria. I planned to be on the top in the next midday and enjoy my dinner with monkeys in the Caf. Yea, but behind my me, the scenario for myself was written in different way.
A few days later, I met Wes. He was in the last party, which escaped from El Capitan. Listen to Wes:
I called my mom from the Camp 4 bivi at the end of day 2, to let her know that I was alive. She had been following our progress on www.elcapreport.com and was starting to learn the lingo from days of reading Tom’s report. “There is a storm coming tomorrow. You need to hurry and finish”, she said. I sarcastically replied, “Thank you mother, we are well aware of the forecast and are moving as quickly as we safely can.” She continued, “Have you heard of a guy named Piton Pete or something like that? He is climbing alone on another route to the right and they said that he has no idea about the in-coming storm. Tom said that everyone else should be safe by the time it comes in, but he is continuing upward because he doesn’t know.”After I hung up the phone, I laughed and thought, “What the hell kind of name is Piton Pete? She mixed that one up. Whatever his name is, I hope that dude doesn’t get screwed.
Monday October 12th…
Fast forward to Camp 6. Our party sat on the ledge as the continuous cover of black clouds creeped up the valley from the west. We all sat there in silence, scared as hell, knowing what was coming. Humberto was talking on the walky-talky with his girlfriend, as he had been every 10 minutes during the entire climb. Leo and I thought it was funny as well. “Aww sh#t. We gotta go guys. My girl say that it’s bad storm coming. Really bad”, he said. I asked the crew if they had ever heard of Piton Pete and explained what my mother’s news. Humberto’s girlfriend was at the bridge, and he said that it was a Polish guy who was rope soloing Tangerine Trip and didn’t know about the weather.
The storm is here! We gonna die if you don’t HURRY! I don’t wanna be stuck up here like the guy on Tangerine Trip now!” I patted him on the shoulder and said, “Humberto, chill. Freaking out does nothing to help. Everything will be cool.” His girlfriend came in over the walkie-talkie and she told me that she could see out 3 lights. The only other headlight left on the wall was on Tangerine Trip//
Everything started to change very fast. Because, I begun earlier than usually, I was on the end of bolts just before 8 o’clock. The wind started to blow, and rain started to fall. Suddenly, the wall turned in to the hell. The last two pitches were directly in a water course, so I was in the middle of a “river”. Yes, all cracks were covered by running water. I couldn’t see any sizes and I couldn’t place any cams. I hammered a beak just in some place under a running water, then I started some hooking, trying to find flakes and holes. My hands were cold and toes were frozen. Shoes full of water. I couldn’t belive in reality. I grabbed the camera and I took some photo:
All that happend just 50 m before the top. I finished leading the pitch 16th, I rapeled, I cleaned the pitch and I hauled the bags. It was about the midday, when I was trumbling, totally wet in the middle of the strongest storm in my life. I tried to get the top which was no more than 30 m above me ( the last pitch). I was aiding on some crack rated 5.6 and I gave up. On the top of the small dihedral hail and mad wind hit my face and exhausted body. I abseiled to some ledge (with a tree) and I dragged my bags from the belay. I put the fly on my head and I stood covered just for 15 minutes for the rest from a rain and mad wind, than I started to set the portaledge.
In my bag, I had one Cobra and one tangerine...
All day and night were cold, noisy, windy, rainy, hopeless...
Next day morning, Wes took the picture:
This my ledge and the gear after the storm:
This is the end of the story, but...but I know, that I can’t really describe what happened 13th of October. In a fact, the storm will stay with me and I can share only a few details and some impressions with you...
When I got down, the bridge was empty and nobody want to stop and drop me to the village except...some young Ranger. Thank you so much!!!
This is photo taken just after arriving to Curry Village
Home, sweet home – Camp IV...
In the Caf I enjoyed my second morning coffee in company of the known residents....
I put on the table all my things from the wet wallet and from my bag full of holes, and I started to dry them – the return train ticket, some over 20 years old jots, lyrics of What a Wonderful World, and all memories from the storm ...
Lyrics and music came to me just in seconds...:
Davenports and kettle drums
And swallow tail coats
Table cloths and patent leather shoes
Bathing suits and bowling balls
And clarinets and rings
And all this radio really
Needs is a fuse
A tinker, a tailor
A soldier’s things
His rifle, his boots full of rocks
And this one is for bravery
And this one is for me
And everything's a dollar
In this box
(Soldier’s Things, Tom Waits)
Somebody was asking me: Why do you climb alone? , Since when? Before I was answering, some memories came to me straight from my first winter solo climb:
During the day, in some shop, I read the newspaper:
...and in the evening, I came to the Cafeteria. Let’s listen to Wes:
I got up from the table to refill my coffee mug again. The crowd inside the Yosemite Lodge Cafeteria started to dwindle. Some guy walked over and sat down next to me. He introduced himself and I couldn’t figure out the accent. I said, “Did anyone hear if that guy on Tangerine Trip got off safely? The small guy next to me swallowed his bite of hamburger and excitedly said, “That’s me!” We exchanged introductions and and I was surprised to find that his name was Regan, not Pete. We picked his brain for the remainder of the night as he told each little detail from the epic. As he laughed and told us about having to eat orange peels due to lack of any food during the last 2 days, I noticed how skinny he looked. As I sipped my coffee and listened I thought, “Big Wall climbers aren’t right. These guys are freaks. I love it.”
Sometimes one picture can say more than hundred words. I know, that everyone can do some different collage than this one, but look at my personal El Cap pic from this trip. Some inspirations, thoughts, memories, influences...all come from different places, people, moods and trips. Just before I set off from home, I was listening to John Coltrane with unbelievable Elvin Jones on drums (Live at the Village Vanguard), Miles, Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Waits...When I was in the storm some music came to me from a middle of nowhere – The Survivors Suite by Keith Jarrett...
In the next day, I had to go on the top of El Cap for my haul bags, which I left. I that sunny and hot day , I was thinking about the storm, limits and balancing on the edge...At the evening, I was talking with Tom and we agreed, that the real power, strength and true happiness come from the balance. We must to find the balance, then nothing can break us:
Fully recovered, I had some Cobra on the bridge...
My way back home was full of memories. Specifically, one day...
Somewhere on the way, I was thinking, that in the fact, maybe we can do only that walls, which are already written in us? Maybe we just let them free by climbing? Or...Maybe, also we are already written in the walls and by the climbing we can find ourselves...? I don’t know yet, but I will try to find the answer again, so see you in the Valley...
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