Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1
Trip ReportRegular Northwest Face of Half Dome
I’ve wanted to climb Half Dome for a long time now. My partner Holden could have done the route five years ago off the couch (read: super strong with Titanium balls). I was holding up the show. My head was not going to let me near the route until I’d cleared up some unknowns and knocked down some hard climbs. Sleeping on a wall, aid climbing, big exposure...
I’m probably not the only climber with a good case of OCD when it comes to preparing for a climb. Luckily, my wife is very patient. I spent the last year training, sleeping on small ledges, and climbing some great lines: East Buttress of El Cap, Touchstone, Moonlight Buttress, Epinephrine, the Pirate at Suicide.
We showed up in the Valley Thursday morning psyched and ready. We picked up a bear can, a back country permit, and we were off.
We took the death slabs approach. Very strenuous, but no death.
We free climbed up to about 10c. The Metolius alpine aiders came out on pitch 4 for the 5.11 and the bolt ladder.
We left our back pack with four quarts of water and our descent shoes at the top of P5. We fixed the 8.9mm 60m lead line to the top of P3, an 8mm 60m static to the top of P1, and another 8mm 60m static to the ground. Try not to drop the iPhone.
The bivy spots at the base are great, but I didn’t sleep a wink. No dread or other bad thoughts, just anticipation. I woke up Holden at 3:45 am to the sound of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blasting on the iPhone. We were jugging lines by 4:30. Right on schedule.
Holden led pitches 6,7, and half of 8. He took the awesome 5.9 hand crack on pitch 8. Sure he was off route. We prefer to call it “extra credit”.
I took over and led through the Robbins Traverse. Holden led P11.
I was back on the sharp end for P12. Our plan was to take the 11c/aid line, but I didn’t see an easy way to step across. I wound up going into the 5.9 squeeze and out the hole onto the face. There is a nice crack that goes up for a bit. Getting back left to the belay across the face proved to be the crux of the route for me. I placed a hook on a nice one inch ledge, climbed to the top step of the aider, but couldn’t reach the rail. I lost my balance and was soon hanging upside down by my daisy. I repeated this one or two more times. My memory is a little foggy, but the hook was solid. I finally stuck a dyno off the hook and was able to hand rail over to the belay. Holden free climbed the pitch and didn’t mention any trouble getting across the face...
I should note that at some point in the middle of the route both of my forearms were cramping. All of the training didn't quite prepare me for the 560 feet of jugging and hours of climbing.
I linked P13,14, and most of 15 with the 60m. I ran out of slings and setup a belay with about 30 feet of chimney remaining.
Holden led the rest of P15, 16, and 17 and we were on Big Sandy by 11:45 AM. He found some wide extra credit somewhere on P17. We were both glad to have the #4 and #5.
I aided the zig zags and took us up to Thank God Ledge.
Holden led across the ledge and up the squeeze in good style.
I led the bolt ladder on P22. A Metolius Orange/Yellow offset came in handy here.
One last easy pitch and we were on top!
I want to thank my partner Holden for being super patient these last few years as I trained and got my head together. A big thanks also to my wife Kristin, who made brownies for us to eat on the summit! She understands my love of the rock. Although she did give me a hard time today for watching videos and reading trip reports of the Nose!
Thanks also to Al Moreno, Chris Wittwer, Larry Beausoleil, Stan Wolosik, Olin Burrow, Greg Howland, and Mash Alexander for helping me train and sending good vibes. I couldn’t have done it without you!
Recent Trip Reports
Other Routes on Half Dome