Our trip started out after Tim gave an inspiring graduation speech at his high school. He puts in 60-80 hr weeks teaching and managing the Palmdale High School Health Career Academy, where the students get to work side by side with doctors and nurses. Students going through Tim’s program have a 100% acceptance rate to college compared to the 24% average for the non-academy students at the school.
Since Tim was at graduation, his wife JJ graciously offered to pick me up in Burbank allowing me to get the direct flight from Colorado where my day started at 3AM California time. Since I had a couple of hours to kill, I picked up Tim’s honey-do-list which had me landscaping his yard and fixing things such as broken sprinklers. Deciding I had done enough damage, JJ suggested she take me to Starbucks in Palmdale where Tim met me after work. We bolted for Oakhurst.
Plans for Saturday’s climbing were discussed. Inspired for some time by our role model’s link up of the Salathe and the Nose in 25 hours, we wondered if we had put in the training.
Tim’s typical rock climbing training schedule in between Yosemite trips is 100% consistent. Consistently nothing that is, because there is no local climbing gym, crag, or boulder. He does do a few pull-ups though.
But on the drive to Oakhurst, Tim informed me that his training schedule in the last few weeks consisted of two trips to the climbing gym, which he squeezed between meetings at out-of-town conferences. And during his last 2 hour sprint at the gym, his belayer made the comment “with a little more training you will make a great outdoor climber someday,” as she taught Tim how to tie in and belay properly.
This information might normally send chills down the spine of a climber that pays close attention. But all I heard was “two trips to the climbing gym” and “great outdoor climber.” Plus the weather forecast was splitter. Plans were set.
Boosting our confidence were our January ascents of the Nose and the Salathe over two separate Saturdays. The Nose was bone dry. Even more amazing, the Salathe was too, except for a couple drops of water on Sewer pitch. For both trips, temps were perfect in the mid 50s, and we had the entire Valley to ourselves with Curry Village closed for one of these trips!
As we approached Oakhurst, thoughts turned to our only sponsorship deal, which consists of discounted food items at Raley’s grocery store. Since we present the deli staff with a gleaming pre-EC ascent smile that is hard to miss, the price is negotiable. Competition was on between Tim and I, as last time Tim was only able to pull off a 10% discount. We knew things were rolling this trip when I walked out with two triple meat sandwiches for the price of one, scoring on a 50% discount.
The half-off discount reminded us of the encouraging words of a Half Dome hiker last summer. We had just climbed Quarter Dome and had to pass up the link with the Reg on Half Dome due to lightning.
Hiker: “What did you guys do?”
Tim: “Quarter Dome, it was fun.”
Hiker: “Half a Half Dome, you’ll get it next time!”
This topped the quizzical looks of some dudes that had just climbed Snake Dike who couldn’t quite figure out why we would need gear to make it up Quarter Dome as they had just climbed the entire Half Dome with a few draws and cams.
We rolled into our Wawona campsite in YNP at 7pm. Our luck had definitely changed. It was serene. Birds were chirping and the sound of the rushing river was in the background. No other noises, nor neighbors. It was too peaceful for a Yosemite campground. Something was wrong.
Fortunately, soon after setting up the tent and climbing into our sleeping bags, the music blared from a Mercedes SUV, bear boxes were slammed and Girl Scout troop 401 pulled in with an arsenal of junior high age, first time camping activists who quickly established a campfire, commune, and fully stocked bathroom in 4 hours flat.
Note that we didn’t have our camera for these routes, but I added some pictures from other times we have been on the routes.
The alarm sounded at 4:00am. Coffee brewed, food prepared and the tent packed, we hopped in the car at 4:20. We jumped on the Salathe at 5:45, Freeblast was behind us in under 1:45, whooping, hollering and short fixing the whole way. Things were definitely on a roll, going smoothly and feeling easy. Upon pulling into Heart, a way cool party of 3 told us that TC and Honnold had already gone up to do FR on their way to the triple link up of El Cap, HD and Watkins. Headlamps were tracking quickly near the summit of the Salathe/Free Rider on our approach to the base of El Cap around 5:30am and we had wondered who it was. Yeah!
Courage was summoned to lieback the entire Hollow Flake, but that plan fizzled soon after it was hatched. The easy way was taken on the next pitch, the 5.7 chimney, by staying on the outside, exposed part of the chimney and stepping out early and well before the chockstone. There is a bombproof #0.3 Camalot where you should move left. The alternative, which you might think I have only heard about and never experienced, is to grovel deep inside this chimney, turning it into a 5.10 squeeze. At this point, tunnel vision is assured and instead of stepping out early, one climbs the whole thing, including past the lose chockstone, which is tempting to grab since at that point you still have no gear and are 40’ above the shark tooth talus. A couple more super fun 5.10 pitches and we arrived at the base of P19.
Now P19 is so dang hard that the only person recorded to have sent the pitch without breaking it in two just so happens to be the same person that took his 12 year old daughter up the Regular Route on Half Dome in the winter. Both seem equally unattainable. So the sharp end quickly goes to Tim for this pitch, because to quote Tim, watching me try to put my feet in aiders is like watching a cow trying to cross a cattle grate. Tim scampered up the pitch, we changed leaders again and the 5.10 OW was dispatched, but this time it felt 5.7, which was nice because there is no dependable gear for this short OW unless you bring a #5 or #6 Camalot.
The psych high and feeling fresh, we arrived at the top of the Spire, or guidebook pitch 20, in 3:45. Temps were perfect and we were going to remain in the shade for a while. Tim took over the lead and crushed it to the base of the Sewer where I took over for the next three guide book pitches. The sewer pitch was super fun this time and linked with the next one that leads to the block. It turns out that without gear where the roof ends above the sewer pitch, there is no rope drag and the splitter section to the block is as fun as it looks. The pitch above the block is one of the scariest on the climb, but this time it went down without the typical whinging. Making this experience especially sweet were multiple prior ascents of this pitch that always seemed to have me cramping and so run-out I thought surely I would to take a 60’ fall.
Tim took over the lead again at the picture book dihedral, short fixing all the way to Long Ledge. I’m guessing Tim has the record time on this section done aid style, or dang close to it. In usual style, he flew up this section. The bolted pitch above Long Ledge was finally redpointed. A couple years ago I took a 40’ fall trying to climb this pitch for the first time and in the dark. It turns out that there are a couple small cam placements (a blue metolious TCU or #0.3 camalot) before that first far-away bolt if you want them.
The final two pitches went quickly, and before we knew it we were standing on top grinning ear to ear, 9:10hrs after starting the route. The temps were perfect with highs in the mid 70s in the Valley; we didn't get sun until two pitches below the headwall. It was even chilly in a perfect way on Long.
An hour later and we were back at the car around 4:00pm. Dinner was delicious: the usual tortillas, chips and salsa, canned fish, peanut butter and honey sandwiches and Starbucks in a can. We changed clothes and hit the river. Made a couple sandwiches and re-racked for the Nose. I think some fatigue was setting in because it took me a long time to put the rack back on my harness.
At 5:15pm or so we set off for the base of the Nose. At the base, we met up with Cheyne Lempe, who gave us some hoots as we climbed and he 4th classed the first four pitches of the Nose, rope solo.
We started the Nose at 5:43pm, and it felt hard this time for me, but I was having so much fun that it took me a minute to realize why. Oh yeah, we just climbed the Salathe! Tim, of course, was his typical “100%!” We savored the golden evening light, perfect temps and splitter, calm weather. There can be an edge to the first route of a link up, but the second route feels downright serene.
Tim and I met up for the first time since the ground after the swing toward the Stovelegs where I pulled the rope through the lower out point while Tim re-racked me. Near the top of Dolt we caught up with some cool guys practicing for NIAD. They offered the pass, but I hung back chatting with them for a bit in the now gorgeous evening light. We reached the top of Dolt in 2hrs, where we paused for a snack and fluids and I got all the gear from Tim for the second time, knowing I wouldn’t meet up with him again until the base of the great roof.
Darkness fell as I was leading up the Boot, which has one of the best 5.10 handcracks anywhere. Though the Jardine variation that bypasses the Boot is quite fun, with a finger crack in a dihedral. Really, you can’t go wrong either way. The King Swing went down on the first or second try and I proceeded to climb back to near level with the top of the boot where I short fixed and continued using the remaining 20’ of rope. Tim quickly jugged to the top of the boot and then nearly horizontally to the belay where he pulled the rope. I was off again, doing the bolted traverse at 5.10 A0 and running the rope over to the ledge below C4. Tim followed with flawless rope management, which is quite difficult on this section. At the ledge below C4 we met three super cool guys eating their dinner. I think they were more psyched for us than we were. Their cheers definitely helped.
I ran out of rope right at the time Tim arrived at the ledge/anchor to provide more rope. Things were going smoothly. Tim arrived with me at the base of the GR and it had been 4.5hrs or so since we started.
Tim took over the lead and dispatched the great roof in under 30min, leaving a couple pieces for me to clean. By the time I got to the next belay, Tim was past the pancake flake and ready for more rope. Tim kept short fixing and was flying. But when I got to camp 5, he was standing under the 5.12 pitch on the ledge. He had popped a nut and taken a digger, hitting the ledge, tearing a flapper on one finger and dislocating another. This of course meant it was my turn for the sharp end, but before I could protest twice, Tim led up the next three pitches faster than I could have with my un-injured hands. I don't know how he did it, but knowing that we could probably come in well under our 24 hour goal probably helped.
We topped out on the Nose in 10:02 hrs at 3:45am. We were completely worked, but satisfied and very psyched. It had been 22 hrs from the start of SW to top of Nose. We descended in the growing light and watched the sun rise on El Cap as we walked and weaved our way back to the car, waving our thumbs at passing cars.
Successful in our thumb waving efforts, we got back to the car at 6am and jetted to Wawona for a quick shower and the 5.5hr drive to BUR, with a Starbucks stop. Tim had to make it to Orange County for a wedding and I the only nonstop to Denver at 1235. I offered to take the first shift and didn't understand why Tim declined until I remembered the last double EC when my first shift lasted 4 minutes. At the Burbank airport I jumped out of the car and Tim punched it for Orange County, where he cruised the trip crux: borrowing shoes, pants and a shirt from three different people to make it on time to the wedding! I was home in time for dinner with Jen, my daughter Mia and Jen's parents to round out another stellar weekend with not one minute wasted.
Rope and Rack:
70m Petzl Fuse
offset nuts: red, orange, yellow, green (x2), blue
purple C3 camalot
Metolious offset purple/blue (great on p2 of the Nose), yellow/blue (x2), yellow/orange
#0.3, #0.4, #0.5, #0.75 (x2 for Nose, x3 for Salathe), #1 (x3 for Nose, x2 for Salathe), #2 (x2), #3, #4 camalots