Prow C2F 5.6
Trip ReportMy Second Wall, My First Solo ( The Prow)
It had been a restless August. I spent each passing day with an increasingly feverish agitation. After graduating high school and watching my friends ship out to school one by one, this summer had been a particularly difficult one to endure. The hot days trickled by like molasses and my motivation to do anything other than get silly dreams about big walls was nil.
Earlier this year I climbed the Nose over the course of six spectacular days with my good friend Eli in May. I had been itching to get back to the valley to get back off the ground and the idea of soloing something had been niggling around in my head for quite some time. I spent many days in my room thumbing through the Yosemite Big Walls book and figuring out what route I wanted to do the most. The Prow stuck out to me right away, although I was a bit intimidated by its steepness and the fact that I had never soloed before or led any aid harder than the easy C2 on the Nose. However once I know what I want to do it is as if a fire has been set under me. And so I found myself driving up to Yosemite with the haul bag packed with four days of food and water and all of my gear with me.
After hiking two loads to the base of the Prow in the balmy heat and doubting myself while looking up at the route, I led my first ever pitch of rope solo aid. I had a vague idea of what I was doing as I had spent a great deal of time studying Andy Kirkpatrick's book on soloing and had worked out the system a bit but it had mostly been all in my head. On my way up the corner to the right of Jo-Jo, I neglected to tie back up knots as I focused on figuring out the best way to feed slack through a Gri-Gri with one hand. Getting to the intermediate anchor on pitch one after a very slow lead I decided to rap down to clean some of the cams since I had placed far too many in my nervousness. Finally back at the bolts I reset the belay and headed up the rest of the C1. This section was very thin and scary for me, I had not been in aiders since May and hadn't really had to do any aid climbing on gear this small. Micro offset cams and cam hooks got me to the anchor after a lot of bounce testing and singing. Once I got to the anchor almost three hours after starting the lead I decided that I had had enough, considering that this pitch was only C1 and I hadn't even gotten to the head wall. Realizing I had left my ATC in the haul bag and not wanting to fix the rope to rappel, ascend, and rappel again, I used four carabiners to make an ATC and cleaned my gear with my tail between my legs. Throwing everything in the bag I staggered to the car in one load what had taken two loads to get to the base. Deciding I would never be able to rope solo a big wall and that I had been damned foolish I drove all the way back to the bay area trying to assure myself that I should just stick to climbing with a partner.
The very next day I was sitting in my room, staring at all of the water bottles and food I had packed sitting by the door. I was deeply disappointed. I thought I was probably capable of leading everything on the Prow and I should have just left my rope fixed and hauled the next morning. A week later I hitch a ride up to the valley with my sister and her friend who was visiting from England. Two loads up to the route once again, this time I dropped everything at the base and used the haul bag to take up the second load which made everything easier to carry. I was at the base two hours earlier in the day than the last time I had been there and my plans were to fix a rope on the first pitch and sleep at the base. I forced myself to lower my expectations and just try for a couple pitches a day and come down once I had enough. This time I had my back up knots figured out and everything was running smoothly. I opted for Jo-Jo's crack, leap frogging with Link Cams and getting redemption on the thin section with cam hooks. Back at the anchor with more time left in the day, I decided to clean and haul. After hauling I was stacking the ropes and organizing the belay and I realized I was having a jolly good time! For some reason I have always taken great pleasure in keeping my belays all neat and tidy and being alone allowed me to organize everything just how I pleased.
With the realization that I had my solo system mostly figured out, I headed up the second pitch with the hopes of making it to Anchorage Ledge before nightfall. Pitch two was thin and I climbed with trepidation. I passed the roof without issue and made it to Anchorage ledge after a spicy mantle, linking pitches two and three together. Back down to clean and haul one more time. It was especially rewarding going through the entire system instead of returning to the ground. After setting up the ledge alone with relative ease, I organized all my stuff sacks, laid back and contentedly called home. I was feeling pretty good about myself, and had a blast listening to the Stones, drinking wine and signalling climbers on Half Dome with my headlamp. Ah, the Valley never fails to put me at ease with the world!
Started getting pretty scared as thick clouds rolled into the valley and loud thunder rumbled around in the high country. Feeling droplets of rain, I raced up pitch ten. I had read that you might want two number fours here but I had only brought one so I was somewhat worried. However, I ended up having loads of fun on this pitch and even free climbed most of it - you totally don't need to bring number fours - one is enough though you can definitely just pull on number threes after the bolt at the start of the wide part. The slab anchor at the top of pitch ten is horrendous. I had brought knee pads but only used them on pitch one because it was so warm and I don't like getting so sweaty behind the knees. This was the worst hauling on the route because of the awkward position of the anchor. Hauling in tiny spurts I finally got the bag to the anchor, stacked the ropes and gunned it for the top. The last pitch is easy with a head, a bolt, and a number three to get over the lip and then fun scrambling to the trees. The rope drag was a real devil here but the summit was absolutely incredible! It was awesome transitioning from looking at Half Dome for three days and then topping out and seeing the sun going down behind El Capitan. Absolutely beautiful! The sky even cleared for me and the sun's rays were igniting the clouds in an orange fury. Hauling off the two dead spindly trees was scary but fine, I had re-lead the pitch to avoid weighting the trees without having them in sight. After getting my bag to the summit, I got everything organized for spending the night and hung everything smelly up in a tree, keeping bears in mind. With the sun still melting on the horizon I made my calls home and let the stoke hit me. I soloed the Prow in three days - hell yeah! Sleeping on top of the column is fantastic - not having a wall block out half of the sky means double the stars. Nodded off to sleep very contentedly.
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