South Face C1 5.8
Trip ReportSouth Face of Washington Column Solo in a Day
The last time I was on Washington Column, I bailed from Anchorage Ledge, three pitches up on The Prow, in perfect weather, in the middle of summer, at noon, after five hours of climbing. I could've finished my solo in a day attempt in under twenty four hours, but instead I bailed for no reason other than I was sure I was going to die up there by myself.
Now, I was on the Column again. This time, I was bailing from pitch 8 of The South Face. Most of the difficulties were behind me. I had just finished the 5.8 chimney on pitch 8, a scary pitch due to the difficulties of self belaying in a squeeze chimney, and there were only three more real pitches before the scramble to the summit.
But I was tired, hungry, and my feet were killing me. It was 4:15 PM when I rapped down to the pitch 7 anchor to clean the pitch. I had left the car at 5:04 AM and had been climbing since 6:25 AM. It took me about ten hours to climb eight pitches. With three more, I would surely be topping out in the dark, and while it was a balmy February day in the sixties. I was worried that the temperatures would plummet when the sun dropped below the top of El Cap.
So I drank the rest of my Gatorade, ate a bar and started cleaning pitch eight without my pack, planning to retrieve it while I bailed. Halfway up the pitch, after getting a little sugar to my brain, I guess things began to seem less scary. I figured I shouldn't waste the ten hours of effort I'd made to get this high. So I rapped the hundred feet to retrieve my bag and finished cleaning the pitch.
I linked the next two pitches and started cleaning right after sunset. It was fully dark by the time I finished cleaning. I climbed the last 5.6 pitch in my guide tennies because my feet were in too much pain to put my climbing shoes back on. I made it to the top of the column at about 8:30, I'm not sure what time I finished the last pitch, but I guess I climbed the route in something like 13.5 hours.
I'd descended the North Dome Gully about a dozen times before, but it was always in the daytime with just a light rack or nothing but a water bottle after climbing the Royal Arches. In the dark, with a wall rack and two ropes, it was a little more eventful than usual. I was too far right down low in the gully. One time, with my friend Taylor, we got cliffed out in the same area and had to rappel. I somehow managed to pick my way through the cliffs below the East Face of the Column without resorting to the rope. Nonetheless, it took me two and a half hours to get back to the Ahwahnee parking lot.
The route was fun, I aid climbed two and a half pitches, starting from the Kor Roof. Even on these pitches, I was busting free and french-free moves out of the aiders. I french-freed most of the route, often free climbing, then placing a piece when I needed to manage the grigri self belay. Organizing the ropes for rope soloing on every pitch took a huge amount of time. I'd guess around 4 to 5 hours total. I brought two ropes, I had the rappel rope tied to the end of the lead rope with an EDK so I didn't have to trail an extra rope. I didn't tie into the end of the rope while leading, I just used the grigri and a backup knot. I need to figure out a more efficient rope system to save me that 4 hours.
Stats: South Face of Washington Column, V 5.8 C1. Solo ~13.5 hrs on route, 18 hours car to car. February 26.
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