Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1
Trip ReportRNWF 8/6/11 - First Big Wall
We were a party of 3, with a haul bag. 1 had climbed the route before, and was fairly experienced on walls. 2 of us were not - both competent moderate trad climbers, and I had a solid background in rigging, hauling systems, jugging etc (I've worked as a rigger professionally).
We did the Death Slabs approach at first light on Wed, and it took us WAY longer than expected (like 6 hours). Part of this was having a friend as sherpa who wasn't a climber, and part was getting a bit lost on the slabs - but the approach was much longer and steeper than any of us expected. With heavy packs/haul bag, we found the approach pretty tiring and long. Still maybe better than hiking around - but not the easiest approach either.
Due to the long approach - we only ended up fixing the first 3 pitches (we had hoped for the first 5). 2 60m ropes did the trick. Both springs were running solid - so we pumped water for a while - about 33 liters total for the climb. We started up the fixed ropes just at sunrise - and had 2 BASE jumpers in squirrel suits surprise us overhead - pretty cool.
We were moving SLOW - largely due to hauling issues, and sorting out some rope management issues with the 3 of us. We hadn't really thought through good systems with the 3rd - so it was a mix of jugging the haul line, lowering out the bag/3rd at times, 2nd cleaning and re-clipping pieces etc. We learned some systems quick - but still only made it to Pitch 11 late for a bivy. Pitch 11 will fit 3 people, but isn't the coziest bivy ledge.
The next day, we had lots of hauling issues on the Chimneys and some traverses. Even slower moving than the day before, and we hit Pitch 16 at nightfall - getting ourselves a bit off-route. The Supertopo shows the top of pitch 16 as having a horn, with a single bolt below and right (correct belay), or a pair of bolts above and left (incorrect belay). We only saw one bolt on the left, so assumed that was the right spot. WRONG. We headed up right from, and a HUGE house-sized flake is extremely loose. The giant thing flexed under the weight of an aid move on a large (#3?) cam, and is a serious disaster waiting to happen. It spit the cam back out at us, scaring the pants of us, especially given the late hour. We eventually realized we were off route - and downclimbed to the correct belay, and made it to Big Sandy way, way, late (like 2am).
Big Sandy was a great, but short sleep, and we headed off in the am. We were moving better, but still hauling was slow and tedious. The chimney after Thank God Ledge seemed more trouble than it was worth, so we traversed further and aided around the left of the chimney. I cleaned TGL, and took a little tumble when the ledge tapers in and becomes narrower. The final pitch was trickier than 5.7 I felt - especially having to clean the traverse. On the final pendulum before heading up right on the 5.5 finish I had a cam pull - so ended up taking quite the scraper across the slab.
We topped out around 7:15pm - enough time for a bite to eat, some re-packing, and to get down the cables/steps before nightfall. A long hike back to the car, and we hit the Curry Village showers at 1am.
Booty call? We lost a Link-Cam somewhere in the middle (can't remember the pitch), our 3rd dropped a smaller BD cam at one point, and a #4 C4 should be stuck near the end of Thank God Ledge (none of them were placed by me, thank you very much!).
Great experience, I realize I probably should have trained more for it (endurance, jugging etc), and we needed to work out our rope management and systems better. But all in all, super glad I did it. And now happy to go back to some more moderate multi-pitch stuff for a while.
Recent Trip Reports
Other Routes on Half Dome