We may have set a new record to Sickle Ledge last weekend. Not sure what the old record was, but if we didn't beat it, we must have been right on it. All times are in standard Greenwich Mean Time, official clock start at Car and finish at Car. Giving what we like to refer to in the speed climbing world a "Car to Car" time. Or CTC if you are Rad like us.
3:15am Making my patented HudonSuperSpecialBreakfastShake by Shakeology. One scoop shakeology mix, one cup soy milk, one banana, one dollop Adam's All Natural peanut butter, 6oz of radness. Add ice. Blend.
3:30am Pick up Macronut at the corner of Shaw and Hwy 41. He's fired up. Today is a big training day for our first El Cap route this spring. The goal. Sickle Ledge. SLAFAWC. Sickle Ledge As Fast As We Can.
6:10am We hit the tunnel with Mumford And Sons blaring and our bowels nice and light after a pitch black stop at the restrooms by the Glacier Point turn off.
6:40am Racked and jacked in The Meadow.
Three weeks ago we saw Chris Mac and Sean "Stanley" (We call him Stanley cause we shook hands once and we're all speed climbers and stuff...)Leary racking up right in front of us on their way to a speedy NIAD. We shook hands and wished them well. I wonder how long it took them to get to Sickle that day? One last peek at the Guidebook and we're off into the woods like a Fox hearing a trumpet during a hunt.
7:30am 4th Class Approach pitch. We will simul. Because we are Rad and I read on Supertopo that simuling is for speed teams and that it's totally safe.
We stuff some unused gear, two shells, some approach shoes, a Nagene Bottle and our wedding bands into a tiny REI knapsack and hang it in the "Start Tree." There's no way a bear can reach that. Ready...nGO!
8:00am Micronut starts the business proper.
Highstepping, sidestepping, yarding, yanking and cranking his way up the awkward, flaring first pitch. He struggles a bit, finding that four aiders on daisies keep getting twistified into a tangle-rama while he's sucked up into the leaning corner. He busts a free move or three and aids the last 20 feet, clipping the belay at 10:25.
10:50am Macrount arrives at the belay and gear is quickly and efficiently sorted.
That pitch took a bit of time but Macrout is feelin' fast so off he goes with bloody knuckles and a need for speed.
He keeps the aiders clipped to his harness. Free like Tom Petty, Free like OJ after the car chase, he's only stopping here and there to get in touch with his French side by grabbin' some gear here and there. He climbs the second pitch in style and we are makin' back some time as a team below us starts to catch up to us at the base of the third pitch. I use the Patented HudonAnti-Tat line to swiftly clean the pitch 2 penji and jug quickly up to Adam, staying ahead of the free team below us. Our anchor is clean and so is our conscience. We are makin' time now.
I reach the belay at 11:40, and within two minutes Macronut is freeing the 5.9 section above.
Robbie, the guy below us and I chat a bit while Macro send the next pitch quickly. I hear Robbie's partner from below..."Why are they taking so long!!" Robbie's a cool dude and well before his buddy gets up to us I'm off, jugging fast. I hear screams of "take!!" and "tension!!" and "take take take!!!"
from Robbie's partner as I reach the belay for Pitch 4, my lead.
We organize quickly, Robbie comes up, and for a few minutes there are three of us at the belay. They are going to Sickle too. I wonder if they are after our record. It is 1:30pm. I look down to the base and see a chubby momma bear waddling around near the base. I holler "Hey yall, thar's a bar down thar"....to some grateful climbers heading toward Pine Line, then it's back into speed mode.
I free like Croft up the 5.8 section, but am slowed a bit by the 5.9 pin scars, so out come the hooks and aiders. I use a sweet BD Grappling hook on a left incut edge, stand up and place two offset lobes of a Metolius offset into a shallow scar, highstep and grab some tat. I feel like a million bucks. "so this is C2....ain't so bad. Ain't so bad..." I think as I near the penji point. From below I hear from Robbie's partner again. "Why is he aiding?!!!" and "You guys are aiding the whole pitch? Dude just free that move. Grab that edge, you aren't gonna do both penji's are you? Dude, why you in your second to top step?!"
I call down....only slightly sarcastic...."Cause we aren't as rad as you are bro."
(I do give an apology for being pretty slow, but there is tons of daylight and we are almost to Sickle. They bail, one pitch short of their goal, Robbie's partner whining the whole way down. (ok, I'm kind of exxaggerating, they were both cool dudes) Macronut helps them from above with a snarlfest on their rappels. Maybe they are grateful for his help. Maybe they'll just badmouth us as gumbies jammin' up their sick send to Sickle back in camp. Who knows.)
I reach Sickle Ledge at 2:30 on the dot.
It feels really good. I've always wanted to be in this place. The sun is shining, the wind has calmed down. There's not another soul around. Elapsed time. 7hs 4min 33sec. Like I said, I'm not sure what the old speed record was, but that has to be close. Minus my slow start on pitch one, we pretty much moved non stop, had smooth changeovers, didn't slow down for any reason, and arrived safe and sound with daylight to spare. If anybody knows the actual time to beat (if ours isn't the one) please let us know.
We rap uneventfully......wait....no we don't.
Halfway down the wind blows one of our ropes, the skinny purple one, about 50 feet out of reach, and it has a knot in the end of it. Thus, we cannot pull it through the rings. Before Macronut can offer a solution, I realize the gravity of the situation. The purple end is still below us, so I collect 50 feet of the existing yellow rope, tie on a BD Talon, a Grapplinghook and a Skyhook and we start making lasso attepts. On the fourth one, Macro threads the needle, the hooks slide down the escapee rope, and we hand over hand the free line back to us. We are on the ground after two more full length raps.
Now. About that little green pack in the tree.
"Yo Micro....total yardsale bro!" Is all I hear as I'm coiling ropes. Macro finds the shredded REI pack, my torn Pattaguchi Nanopuff Hoodie, our wedding bands, and this Nalgene with a "bullet hole" in it.
I feel bad for leaving the pack and responsible that the bear toyed around with our stuff. There was no food in the pack, but the base of EC is regularly patrolled by larger mammals than us, so it was my bad all around.
After returning to the vehicle, taking some photos of Sickle from The Meadow and standing around clanking our gear near tourists to garner their adoration and awe, we slip off to the Pizza Deck for a victory slice and a cold one. While there, a handsome dude taps me on the shoulder and says..."I'd never not recognize that mug! You're Micronut from Supertopo aren't you?!"
Its LeBruce from here on the Taco. We chat for a while, he's there with his lovely wife and is planning on some action up on The Hourglass with Ed Hartouni the next day. He wishes us luck on Lurking Fear this spring and we tell him of our send and the record on Sickle today. He looks a bit puzzled but says congrats and we wish him a non epic on The Hourglass.
So all in all, a great day out. Not bad for a quick day trip from Fresno. We leave, El Cap looming above us, a big ol hunk of pretty rock for sure.
And I know, I know, we didn't even really scratch the surface, but being up there in the wind and sun and pinscars was good training for a couple of punters like us.
One last glance on the way out, and you know, for the first time ever, the thing doesn't look all that big. See you in a matter of weeks darlin'....we'll be back...this time with a summit in mind.
You know, I love being all self depricatin' and all. Its a fun way to write. But I feel like we're really comin along toward our first time up El Cap this Spring/Summer. We had a good run at The Column last year, and over the past month or so have done a couple training days where we did the first few pitches of Lurking Fear and a trip to Sickle with little fanfare. We're learning on how to be more efficient, how to set up and tear down wall belays quickly. We have penji's and cleaning traverses pretty dialed and we have been climbing for 20 years. We may not be fast, but we are fit, well trained and full of stoke. Can't wait to send that Mother and let yall know how it goes. Until then,