South Face C1 5.8

 
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Washington Column


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Noob Solo, partial South Face of Washington Column
Monday February 18, 2019 11:02am
Iíve been a bit obsessed with training to climb The Nose for the past year. Bought Chris Macís book, aid climbed a tree in the backyard, did a bunch of solo aid top ropes, and worked my way up to climbing 10b in the Valley. A great weather window showed up on the weekend of January 26th, 2019, and for some strange reason everyone I knew wanted to go take advantage of the fresh snow and bluebird day in Tahoe instead of very slowly moving up a tall rock. Doesnít make much sense, I know, but I was either going to climb alone or not climb at all. So I decided my one day of previous rope soloing was enough training and Iíd learn on the job by soloing the South Face of Washington Column.

I had a dry bag instead of a real big wall bag, but it worked well for hiking in. Made it to the base of the climb just after another 2 man team that was getting set up to climb The Prow. I talked to them a bit and they gave me some advice to sleep near the wall under the Kor Roof to avoid rockfall at Dinner Ledge.
Climbers on The Prow
Climbers on The Prow
Credit: aerocooper

My solo setup: The lead rope is fixed with a figure-eight to the anchor. I put a Grigri on the rope with the climber strand towards the anchor, and then my first piece is clipped between the anchor and the Grigri. On the brake hand side, I take out 5 feet of slack and tie an overhand-on-a-bight to serve as a catastrophe knot if the Grigri doesnít engage. I set an upwards-facing anchor at the base of the 5.8 pitch 1 and clipped my haul bag into the climber strand above the anchor to give myself a soft-ish catch if I fell. The 5.8 about halfway up the first crack was probably the most technically difficult free climbing I did on the whole route. The hand jams were pretty great, but fiddling with solo setup with one hand to get a little more slack while cruxing was not ideal. I climbed into the sun, pulled off my jacket, and made it to the anchor in a few minutes. I had only brought the lead line up on this pitch, so I fixed that rope and rappelled down on a single strand with my Grigri, cleaning the mostly vertical pitch as I went. Iíve read that the hauling on pitch 1 is terrible, so I just put the haul bag on my back and jugged up the low angle pitch that way. I took a quick snack break on the nice ledge at the top of pitch 1, then hand carried everything across to the base of pitch 2 with the help of a via ferrata that I set up.


The ants were crazy at the bottom of pitch 2, and theyíd prove to get even worse when I started up. I was attempting to get around the corner onto the 5.10a crack, but the ants started swarming me as soon as I got on the pitch. In my ant-fueled terror, I missed the 5.10a crack and went too far left to an off-route crack. I thought maybe I was just being a wimp on this supposed 10a, and ended up aiding the whole thing. I got near the top, realized I was off route, and attempted a face climbing traverse over to the 10a crack. Bad idea, ended up trapped on a tiny, wet foothold for 15 minutes while trying to psych myself up to make a sketch move to a better position. There was a tiny crack that might have taken a cam hook, but I left my hooks with the haul bag, since this was supposed to be a free climb pitch, or at the very worst C1. I even tried throwing a rope lasso to pull up on a big horn 5 feet above me (which was desperate and didnít work). Finally, I was able to barely slot a micro nut into the cam hook crack and briefly use my aider as a foothold to stand up and grab the horn. I quickly made it to the anchor after that and swore off sketchy solo face climbing for AT LEAST the next 24 hours. Lesson: Donít set off on sketchy free traverses when itís blatantly doable to just continue aiding up and lowering off the obvious sling.

On the pitch 2 ledge after rapping down to clean the anchor (Pride...
On the pitch 2 ledge after rapping down to clean the anchor (Pride wheat t-shirt on proud display)
Credit: aerocooper

I fixed both ropes and rapped down on my Grigri. I swung over to clean the top two pieces since I didnít want to deal with swinging over on the way up. When I got to the P2 ledge, I realized rapping down the free side of the lead line and not tying a stopper knot in it was a bad call. Even though I got to the ledge before rapping off the edge of the line, thatís just because this pitch was under 30 meters (although I did confirm that I was at the halfway mark in the rope when I rapped from the top of P2). I jugged up from the bottom, cleaning protection on the way and started hauling. The haul bag promptly got stuck on the horizontal fixed line on the ledge below. I rapped down to an intermediate ledge and was able to swing the bag out far enough to haul it up. Got the bag up, and then started up pitch 3, which was all fairly easy free climbing with some fun moves. Made it to Dinner Ledge by 3 PM, and jugged up with the bag on my back to avoid what looked like terrible hauling (and found a bunch of booty on a grassy ledge below Dinner ledge!).
I had a snack and some water on Dinner Ledge, and then set up on the Kor Roof pitch. The sun was going down as I started, and it got fully dark by the time I mantled over the roof itself. I started up the long diagonal crack and discovered that it took gray and green C4s for the entire length. Unfortunately, I didnít have 5 each gray and green C4s and had to back clean / get desperate for the final half of the crack. Near the end of the crack, it was basically a historical graveyard/museum of climbing gear. One 10 foot stretch of crack had a broken piton, a giant block of a nut that must have been from the 60s, a stuck tricam, and an exploded link cam all one right after another. I made it to the anchors and decided to clean on the way down so I wouldnít have to clean in the morning. Getting the pieces out from way out left on the Kor Roof was tricky, it went easier once I tied in to a fixed sling and then lowered out into space. It was pretty crazy floating in the middle of all that blackness with the lights of the valley below me.

Under the Kor Roof as sunset approaches. Cool rock in background.
Under the Kor Roof as sunset approaches. Cool rock in background.
Credit: aerocooper

I had some dinner on Dinner Ledge, texted some friends, listened to Mr. Blue Sky by Weezer, and then fell asleep with my gear hanging over my head to shield me from the shower of rocks that everyone kept warning me about (but never materialized).

Dinner Ledge at sunrise. It was surprisingly warm, I was sleeping half...
Dinner Ledge at sunrise. It was surprisingly warm, I was sleeping half out of my sleeping bag for part of the night.
Credit: aerocooper

Jugging up in the morning was exhausting. It got easier when I placed a biner on the bottom of the ascender to pulley myself up with the Grigri. Guess I need to learn this whole ďfrog methodĒ of jugging. I started aiding up pitch 5. The third move was a huge top step to a horizontal crack, pretty tough. After that, it was fun traversing under a roof that led to an awesome pendulum. I lowered 8-10 feet, got swinging, and stuck the free hold out to the left on the third try or so. So cool. I clambered up on a platform and finished aiding up to the anchor. I rapped down on the haul line and then pulled myself over / lowered out to reach the Pitch 4 anchor way out to the right. Then jugged and cleaned, with the three separate lower outs to clean the traverse and pendulum.

Looking back at the pitch 6 traverse
Looking back at the pitch 6 traverse
Credit: aerocooper

Pitch 6 started off as more traversing under the roof. It ended with a wet section which I was scared would make my cams slip out. They held though, and I pulled up onto the roof. I didnít want to leave too many pieces way out left since that would make cleaning more difficult. I ended up back cleaning a bit much though and was relying on a single blue totem to prevent a 30 foot fall for a few seconds. Made it through though. I reached the final 5.7 mandatory face traverse and was completely out of the right size of cams to complete the final aid move. I ended up placing two tricams and equalizing them. I shifted my weight over, bounced a little, and then committed to them. They held, so I started moving up the ladder in an attempt to get my feet high enough to transfer to a face foothold. Suddenly, the top tricam popped and I dropped ~1 foot before the bottom one caught me. I cursed, thanked the sweet baby Jesus, reclipped the top part of the tricam with my other ladder, stepped up, and then stepped off onto the face. It was a little tricky, but I made it up to the anchor pretty quickly.

There's that cool rock again.
There's that cool rock again.
Credit: aerocooper
Looking back down the valley. It's kind of a neat place, I guess.
Looking back down the valley. It's kind of a neat place, I guess.
Credit: aerocooper

It was 2 PM at that point, and I decided another pitch would for sure put me rapping down in the dark. I figured Iíd had enough fun for the weekend and getting back to the ground by dark would be nice, so I slid the lead rope through to the mid point and rapped down on just that, cleaning as I went. The right traversing roof was too far to swing over, so I down aided on ďtop ropeĒ for that section. I rapped down from the Pitch 5 anchor to Dinner Ledge and met Quinn, another soloist who was setting up his camp for the night. We talked for an hour or two while I had lunch and prepped my haul bag to descend. I was able to rap from the top of pitch 3 to the top of pitch 1 with a 60m + 70m tied together. I started rapping off pitch 1 as the sun was going down. After a brief and desperate moment of attempting to pull the rap line in the wrong direction, I got the ropes down, shuttled gear in two trips past the 4th class downclimb, and then hiked back to the car. I got there around 7:30 and then picked up some delicious pizza for the drive back. Woo!

Sunset on Cool Rock. c. 2019
Sunset on Cool Rock. c. 2019
Credit: aerocooper

Overall, it was a really awesome time. It was more of a vertical camping trip than a big wall climb, since I didnít make it to the top, but hanging out on Dinner Ledge by myself and singing along to Weezer while sipping some of the finest Trader Joeís whiskey money can buy was pure bliss. Just gotta speed up my aiding so I can make it to the top next time, but Iím really happy with how this trip turned out.

  Trip Report Views: 1,276
aerocooper
About the Author
Brian Cooper is just this guy, ya know?

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Feb 18, 2019 - 11:25am PT
Nice work kid. Way to get out there and find an adventure!

Scott
E Robinson

Trad climber
Salinas, CA
  Feb 18, 2019 - 11:54am PT
Right on!
ground_up

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
  Feb 18, 2019 - 01:00pm PT
Nice ! enjoyed the stoke. as others say , keep it safe.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 18, 2019 - 03:15pm PT
solid. And what a treat to not have a cluster of humanity up there at the same time! winter ascents can be so sweet.
Mike.

climber
  Feb 18, 2019 - 05:11pm PT
Good work, thanks for the reportage.

Nice to not be up there with a mob. Have fun on your path to El Cap.
johntp

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
  Feb 18, 2019 - 05:25pm PT
January first time to solo a wall? Ya got some big huevos kid.
Zoo

climber
Fremont, CA
  Feb 19, 2019 - 09:19am PT
Enjoyed the report and pictures. Thanks for posting. Good luck on your goals.
aerocooper

Social climber
Sunnyvale, CA
Author's Reply  Feb 19, 2019 - 06:50pm PT
Thanks all, and well noted on the number of "stay safe" comments!
dgbryan

Mountain climber
Hong Kong
  Feb 19, 2019 - 07:35pm PT
I thought that was excellent! A full value weekend. & as others have said - some nads!
JeffreyJ

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
  Feb 21, 2019 - 04:19pm PT
Totally fun to read! Thanks for sharing. And don't forget to post when you've made it to the top. Then the Nose . . . . then Salathe . . . . then . . . .
Jason A Graves

Trad climber
Carlsbad, CA Anchoredman.com
  Feb 21, 2019 - 08:15pm PT
Very nice. I remember only making it to the same place as a team of two on our first wall. Thanks for sharing!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Feb 21, 2019 - 09:00pm PT
Keep truckin' on the stone steep grade.
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Washington Column - South Face C1 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The South Face of Washington Column.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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Astroman takes a brilliant steep and clean line.
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The steepest route on the Column.
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