Lurking Fear C2F 5.7

  • Currently 4.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Suffering alone in the vertical desert
Tuesday May 3, 2011 11:09pm
After reading Andy Kirkpatricks book 'Psychovertical' i decided that maybe i could also solo El Cap. He had soloed one of the hardest routes up there, so surely i could do the easiest. Or so i thought. The seed was planted in my mind, there was no going back now.

A few months later i found myself struggling up to the base of Lurking Fear armed with a haulbag full of shiny gear and a strong belief that i could climb this alone. My overwhelming level of psyche slowly diminished as i inched up the easy first pitch, sweating profusely in the intense August heat. I then discovered that hauling up my stuff required the use of all the swear words in my vocabulary. Eventually the haulbag joined the massive clusterf*#k at the belay and i felt satisfied, even though this simple pitch had taken an entire day.

Credit: Neil Chelton

It would be so easy to bail from here. So easy. Was i a climber or just a dreamer? I didnt want to be one of those guys who knows everything about a route but has never actually climbed it. I felt like i had something to prove to myself. Lurking Fear is an easy and technically straightforward climb but 2 more pitches still took another whole day. Maybe it was because i had eaten a lot the day before, or maybe it was the fear but somehow i'd already maxed out my poop-tube.

Each day i picked up speed, dropped less gear and learned things that i'd never really thought about before. I learned that topstepping a hook causes it to pull in a slightly different direction. This resulted in a short but trouser-filling fall as i discovered to my surprise that my method of self belaying also worked.

Standard issue belay clusterf*ck
Standard issue belay clusterf*ck
Credit: Neil Chelton

Sometimes i would start climbing before sunrise, then seek shade behind my hammock during the hottest part of the day, drifting in and out of a restless sleep. In the evenings i would either continue laboring up the wall or settle down in my broken hammock, burn tuna noodles in a jetboil, spill the majority in my sleeping bag and then have the worlds most uncomfortable sleep. I dreamed about placing gear, i dreamed about my childhood, i dreamed about pizza. I would often wake up wondering where i was. Dreams merged into reality and it became hard to differentiate between the two.

Home-made rope bags. The duck-tape which holds them together would mel...
Home-made rope bags. The duck-tape which holds them together would melt in the heat every afternoon. Combining this with afternoon winds is a great way to get your ropes stuck on random flakes 100 feet away.
Credit: Neil Chelton

I encountered some sort of tanglef*#ked rope or stuck haulbag on most pitches. One time in particular i made a great error: The haulbag had got stuck under a small roof so i abseiled down the other side of the haul line to free it. To save time i did not back myself up on the lead line.. I freed the bag and as i let go i thought "huh, the bag only contains my sleeping stuff and half a gallon of water, its probably way too light to use this method". I was right. The haulbag rocketed exponentially up towards the belay as i fell equally as fast in the opposite direction. I was only falling for about 4 seconds but it felt like i wasn't going to stop. I hit a ledge, flipped upside down and crashed arse-first into a ramp, a red camalot becoming lodged in my mouth as the haulbag jammed itself into the mini traction. Not the most efficient way to haul.

Credit: Neil Chelton

I topped out the next afternoon relieved but proud that i had accomplished this goal, but i also felt a huge sadness that it was all over. I spent a night on the summit completely exhausted and dehydrated. I made a promise to myself that i would never solo anything quite so big ever again.

Credit: Neil Chelton

But the next day i changed my mind..

  Trip Report Views: 8,369
Neil Chelton
About the Author
Neil Chelton is from England, likes to drink tea and eat beans on toast with melted cheese. He dislikes working, paying bills and obeying rules. He still thinks that climbing big walls is a great way to meet young attractive women, but so far he has failed to prove this theory to be true. He currently lives in Boulder Colorado where the tea just isn't quite as good.


Gym climber
sawatch choss
  May 3, 2011 - 11:21pm PT
Bad-ass. Some things you just gotta learn the hard way. Are you sure you're British? This sounds like a more eastern-bloc type approach.

I think there are slabbier walls to solo, but I can't think of any right now.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  May 3, 2011 - 11:40pm PT
Good job -- and fine TR. Thanks much for posting.


Mountain climber
Range of Light
  May 3, 2011 - 11:41pm PT
Killer trip report. Laughed my fecking ass off! way to go! woohoo!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  May 3, 2011 - 11:49pm PT
great TR - congratulations on the climb! Really outstanding accomplishment.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
  May 3, 2011 - 11:51pm PT
nice work neil.
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 3, 2011 - 11:56pm PT
You must be mad, sir. MAD! Hehehe, I can dig it.
Good TR. Love the pics! TFPU!!!

Social climber
Durango CO
  May 4, 2011 - 12:04am PT
Nice trip report. Some people only dream about doing what you did.


dark places
  May 4, 2011 - 12:04am PT
Nice work mate... I foresee more solo walls in your future- whether you think you want to right now or not!

Castlegar BC
  May 4, 2011 - 12:09am PT
Well done Sir!

Beans on toast meh.

Real men eat bacon-beans on toast.

Well done TR, I laughed, cried then wet myself in laughter!

Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
  May 4, 2011 - 12:16am PT
You, Mon, have captured what the adventure of life is all about. Thanks for an awesome TR that is so down to earth rich, soul food to the heart and challenges the heck out of me. Cheers, lynne

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  May 4, 2011 - 12:19am PT
Good job! Nice honest writing. Sounds like the haul bag elevator ride was pretty exciting! Cheers and good luck on your next EC solo! I've always been able to find a bunch of excuses why I can't make it happen :-)

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  May 4, 2011 - 12:27am PT
Really excellent. So happy you shared your thoughts and the photos. I look forward to your next wall. :)

Mudcat Spire
  May 4, 2011 - 12:28am PT
Love it.

Captured it perfectly. And way to haul dude, lol.

Trad climber
Northern California
  May 4, 2011 - 12:45am PT
love, love, love this trip report
seth kovar

Reno, NV
  May 4, 2011 - 01:05am PT
Yeeee-ha, good shit!!!!!! tfpu
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  May 4, 2011 - 01:12am PT
Thanks! I've always (well, not always but lately) wanted to do Lurking Fear.

Nice Report Congrats


Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  May 4, 2011 - 01:20am PT
That was a cool trip idea, awesome that you executed it!!! Good job.
Bad Acronym

Little Death Hollow
  May 4, 2011 - 01:36am PT
Sweet little nail-biter of a trip report! Congrats!
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  May 4, 2011 - 01:37am PT
"Maybe it was because i had eaten a lot the day before, or maybe it was the fear but somehow i'd already maxed out my poop-tube."

Thanks for the TR, and good job!


A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  May 4, 2011 - 01:45am PT
A great TR. Others should seriously reflect on some of the lessons learned here. The haul bag thing could have very easily killed you...

I love your writing, but worry aboutthese stories sometimes! I just ran into a gal soloing the west face of the tower, she didn't really know how to dock her bags and was running some horrifying belay set ups... So while it's awesome she is soloing a wall, it will not be awesome when her lack of experience gets her killed.

I am glad you have survived though, as you are now smarter and wiser and can return for another (smarter, wiser, safer) adventure!

Thanks for sharing and best regards.

Edit: had someone seen me on my first solo, I have no doubt they would have been horrified at the way I did things. But alas I survived and learned!

  May 4, 2011 - 07:42am PT
+1 stopping to take a pic while on the talon hook.

And your haul ride - YIKES!

Stay safe. Post another TR.

  May 4, 2011 - 08:22am PT
One of the best trip reports I have ever read. Absolutely awesome
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 4, 2011 - 08:25am PT
Listen to HoiPolloi. He makes some damn good points. Remember, we like you better when you're alive. I've done someting like your unintended speed haul, but I was backed up. Back yourself up. Sometimes you're all you've got out there. Cheers!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 4, 2011 - 12:58pm PT
Frigging Awesome Neal, thanks for sharing, you got the TR thing down!

Trad climber
Hustle City
  May 4, 2011 - 01:02pm PT

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  May 4, 2011 - 01:09pm PT
a real journey upon you.
great. just great.

and congratulations for standing up to the floggings.

  May 4, 2011 - 01:14pm PT
Very nice adventure and report. I enjoy your 'the beatings will continue until morale improves' writing style.


Oakland, CA
  May 4, 2011 - 09:48pm PT
"Each day i picked up speed, dropped less gear and learned things that i'd never really thought about before."

Yeah baby, that's a good way to live life, too. Great TR -

  May 4, 2011 - 10:34pm PT
Thank you. Nicely written. Fun read. And actually interests me in doing a wall solo.

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  May 4, 2011 - 11:49pm PT
Nice job!

Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
  May 5, 2011 - 12:07am PT
Really enjoyable trip report and good writing too; funny, brilliant.
Thanks for posting.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  May 5, 2011 - 12:21am PT
Well, I wouldn't go up there solo, so my humble hat's off to you! Very nicely done. I probably would have bailed as soon as the poop tube overflowed...

And I too am concerned about you not backing up. British understatement is cool. But staying alive to enjoy your climbing (and to impress chicks) is even cooler.

Cheers, Mate!
Neil Chelton

Author's Reply  May 8, 2011 - 11:14am PT
Well i didn't think anyone would ever read this. In response to your comments:

 Yes i am from Northern England. Lancashire. Where the biggest rock climb is about 3 feet high.

 What does TFPU mean?

 I always back myself up, except that one time when the haulbag got stuck. Ironically this was the only time i've ever needed a backup! Dehydration, exhaustion, frustration, sunstroke and lonelyness probably contributed to me not thinking clearly at the time. It's important to identify problems before they become a problem. One thing leads to another and suddenly you're falling off a big wall. Learn from my mistakes.

 For those of you that want to solo a wall; Do it. Choose an easy route and practice in a safe environment. If you can solo a 2 pitch route, you can solo a big wall. I'm not an expert, in fact I'm a terrible climber who can't even get up 5.10 sport routes on top-rope. So if i can solo El Cap I'm sure anyone could.

 Feel free to email me any questions

 And don't forget to back yourself up!

Neil Chelton


  May 8, 2011 - 11:51am PT
so good Neil... fun read!
on wednesday we filmed until late and stayed at haydens place in carbondale becuase getting to boulder seemed like way too much driving...
see you soon!

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  May 11, 2011 - 09:24pm PT
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  May 11, 2011 - 09:31pm PT
Good one dude, enjoyed your sense of humour!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  May 13, 2011 - 01:05pm PT

One problem Neil.....


Dear lord, save us from: wow really?

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  May 13, 2011 - 01:16pm PT
TR's like this are the reason I come to the Taco. Just when I think I'm over the spew wars, political rants, and psyco-babbling knuckleheads, something like this comes along and just totally inspires. Thanks Neil.

Social climber
London, Paris, WV & CA
  May 13, 2011 - 11:32pm PT
This is the most awesome trip report. Beans on toast ? what about Mushy Peas?
One day I hope to be soloing a wall and I'll probably be cursing your name, or wanting to buy you a pint of the landlords best bitter.
cheers mate

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  May 14, 2011 - 12:15am PT
Geez, you never mentioned you had written this trip report - great stuff. Funny, your Brit accent didn't come through on your emails.

See you in a few weeks, mate - great job on Lurking Fear and the trip report. How many nights were you up there anyway?

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 14, 2011 - 12:36am PT
diggin it

glad you got out alive

Swami Jr.

Trad climber
Bath, NY
  May 14, 2011 - 11:39pm PT
well done sir, well done.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
  May 14, 2011 - 11:49pm PT
Your climb and your telling of it were both great. Congrats!
El Capitan - Lurking Fear C2F 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Lurking Fear is route number 1.
Photo: Tom Frost
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