Trip ReportReticent Wall - June 1999
A new climbing season begins...
I'm back again to share my experience on Reticent Wall climbed in 1999. Many photos and small text...
Reticent Wall May-june 1999
Valerio Folco - Tom McMillan
from my notes…
Ehi Valerio! Wake-up, six in the mornig;
I sat up in a hurry without that my eyes were opened. They were swollen and sticky and I could hardly see the place where I was and the person who talking to me. After e few seconds all things was clear. Tom and I were on top of El Capitan. We had just climbed Reticent Wall.
19 days earlier
Beep-beep… beep-beep!!! 4 am… I turn around, still under the covers, hug my wife and give her a kiss, Bye bye My Love… see you soon.
3 hours later I’m in Milan airport sitting on a dirty plastic chair… alone. The flight passes quickly. How amazing the world seen from the plane. I think of all the people who are there… 30.000 feet under me. How many different people that we are… linked all together by a common thing to everyone… existence!!!
HEY TOM! I'm here… I shake my arms like a crazy and finally Tom McMillan see me… he fast approaching me almost overwhelming a group of Eastern people and with a smile like a Cow-Boy he screams… “Ciao Valerio are you ready for Reticent Wall?”
Tom is out to get a new job in SF… I'm in her house to check the climbing gear. Tom's wife Linda offer me a delicious breakfast. Around noon Tom is back from SF with a new job and we load the bags on the car. Two hours later we are driving on the "120" to Yosemite.
Every time I see El Cap it makes me a great impression. I have always a sense of respect and lack of consideration about my chances to succeed on a wall so huge. Finally we get our hands on the granite. Knee pads, harness, several pounds in climbing gear and lots of patience. We begin on the first seven pitches of New Dawn to Lay Lady Ledge where start the fourteen long pitches of Reticent Wall. On this first part the climbing does not exceed the old A3 that seems to us hard enough for start. We climb p1 and p2.
Load and carry our heavy bags to El Cap base. Tom climb p3 protected only by heads… 100 feet down I enjoy the sun lying on a small ledge in company of small frogs that come out from the wet cracks looking for a meal. I climb p4 in one of those afternoons where everything is perfectly radiant.
We pull up our bags. Tom climb p5 in the classic upward wind used by the Falcons to be shoot to the top of El Capitan in no time. The weather is perfect.
May 30 to 31
Some video and photo on the route by QT Luong and relax. We spend a lot of time going around in circles with our minds up there on Reticent wall.
We must leave behind a part of us and without thinking too much we start jumaring up to the portaledge where we spend the first night and where tomorrow we leave. We climb p6 and p7.
5 am… breakfast… a bit of rain greets us on the p1 of Reticent. At that time our topo marks A2 but the climbing was very hard and technical… a happy entry into Reticent world. After 5 hours I finish the pitch. Tom cleans under a heavy rain. We spend the rest of the day in our rain fly trying to stay dry.
It rained and snowed all night. Tom exit in the night to waterproof tent’s seams… I love him for that. At 8 in the morning we look out as the situation evolves. Nothing good… the clouds persist even today. Pieces of ice, fall from the wall above us. I have doubts about the success of this climb… my plane leaves june 16, and we are still here with more than 2000 feet of climbing wall. Video and photo cameras are frozen and its doesn’t works… at 1 pm begins to rain again.
Tom is a little sick… he take a few aspirin. At 8 pm we hear by radio that the weather will remain bad.
Cloudy cold weather. Tom climb p2 (A4) and takes all day to reach the belay. I use more than two hours to clean this pitch due to complicated rope work.
“Good job Tom”… At 9 pm I have my feet on the portaledge… I’m tired, hungry and frozen. At 10 pm the Mexican Chili is hot, steaming and ready.
Very good weather. The two blind hooks moves on p3 (A3) have been hard. I don’t see how the hook works and I can’t feel the feature with my finger. The uncertainty is very high. If I do something wrong I’ll have a long fall. Load the hook and I get up gently on my aiders ... now I can’t go back and I don’t know if the hook will hold me. After 5 hours I finish this 190 feet pitch on an amazing granite wall.
At 1 pm Tom start p4 (A4) and he climb it like a proud. He finished in the dark with a headlamp. On my jumar I take a look at the ridiculous features that Tom hooked and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. At 11:30 pm after solving a problem of a stucked bag 90 feet below us, we throw inside our sleeping bags with just one desire… cook a dinner and go to sleep quickly.
5 am as usual… nice breakfast and we are still ready for our climbing day on Reticent.
I climb p5 (A3).The flake in the middle pitch is very thin and partial detached… it "sounds" really bad… and must be climbed with hooks.
5 pm Tom start p6 (A2) and ends as usual with headlamp after some troubles with
an expanding flake just before the belay. He come back down where I am. Tonight the menu is meat stew with potatoes.
Sixth Day on the wall. We are on Wino Tower. We find an empty wine bottle stuck in a crack. Today I crushed a finger and now it's swollen and it makes me a terrible pain.
Tom climb p8 the first crux pitch (A4) and ends as usual in the dark. “Hey Tom I think you like climbing in the dark”. I lost my headlamp. We bivy at wino tower.
"The Hawk" radio and thoughts are the only mates for those who remain all day at the bealy. The alarm clock is at 5 am… I start to hate it… the wake up is happy and we laughs a lot but I don’t remember why. I cleans p8 and continue for p9 (A3), which turns out to be very difficult and very long (200 feet). Ten hours of hard climbing with expanding heads, bad flakes and potential bad falls.
A terrible scream end my brief moment of relax... I take off from my portaledge and landing hard against the rock ... I look up and I see Tom hanging upside down in the middle of a small dust cloud. Shit! Tom fell at least 50 feet and tries to regain control of the situation… without losing heart he climbs the rope with his jumars to the rivet that miraculously stopped his fall. A “TV” size block that had hooked blow up and he fell down and the block cutting off part of his rope. When reach the belay I find Tom still a little shaked... he's fine, but this fall will weigh on his following days.
I'm leaving for the p11 (A3)… after a few hours and 90 feet of climbing comes the dark. I climb a little more with the headlamp but after an hour I decide that I've seen enough for today… connect between four unsafe blades and rappel down into a completely black void. Tom waiting me with dinner already hot... we eat in silence. We bivy on “The Irie”.
A typical day: wake up… breakfast… finish p11 climbing on very poor protections and on a very hard section on small heads just before the belay… pull the bags…Tom cleans the pitch.
Tom on p12 (A2) climb on a hooks section saying all the Italian bad words that I taught him… after a small pendulum he reaches the belay.
I start the A5 pitch… I'm worried. QT Luong shoot pictures and video hanging on a static line from the top.
After 10 hours of hard moves I’m at the end of these 180 feet. Hanging to the belay I have no emotions… I just scream out my tension… in a few days I'm going to enjoy my small magical moment… not now. Now I have to organize the belay, pull the bags and keep climbing.
The exit on the top as always in the dark, but finally… this is no longer a problem.
Most photos are by Quang Tuan Luong
Reticent Wall video:
Reticent part 1
Reticent part 2
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