For this attempt I took a Monday and Tuesday off of work in early February so we'd be more likely to have the wall to ourselves. Ironically, the only other party on the wall was a friend of ours, Jared Vagy, who was soloing. Here's his TR.
Tara picked me up early Sunday morning and we did the good drive through the desert to Utah. We got to the park, got our bivy permit (the rangers are much more accommodating of climbers in the winter than in high season), and drove out to Big Bend to find Jared high on the route (his ledge was setup atop pitch 5). We snapped a few photos, honked the horn and waved, and headed to the campground to sort gear and practice setting up the ledge.
We listened to a couple classic episodes of This American Life in the car then called it a night. We slept well and were up at 6am.
After some coffee and breakfast at Oscars in Springdale we headed to Big Bend. While en route we realized we'd left our ropes sitting on a rock in the campsite. Back to the site to retrieve these necessities and back out to Big Bend and we're moving towards the wall.
Across the frigid water of the Virgin River (it was only about knee deep) and up the short approach and we were at the base.
The topo says to leave the haul bag below the first pitch anchor on what's called the "pedestal". We left it on what we thought was the pedestal and headed further left to the starting ramp. The climbing on pitch one is not too difficult but the protection is not great. The frozen toes did't help. I led through, trying to swing the haul line plumb with the bag as I went up. This is pretty difficult with the rope snagging bushes as I moved along. About 30' from the anchor Tara yells up to me that the haul line is not going to make it. Frustrated and looking at my watch I build a two-piece anchor and tie off so Tara can sort the hauling problem. To make a long story short she brought the bag up the third class ramp, jugged the pitch while tagging the haul line (that I'd dropped down to her), and we got the bag up with a two-person body haul. Pitch one had taken us much longer than expected.
Pitch two is the start of the aid climbing. Tara led up and right to a small roof and right facing corner. Her first aid piece was a red slider nut (the only slider we had). Funny that the first aid placement of the route was the slider nut because we had been joking that niether of us would be able to spot a slider nut placement if we were looking right at one.
She finished the pitch and I came up along with the haul bag. Pitch three was Tara's lead also and went quickly as it's mostly a bolt ladder with a few free moves.
This put us on the Rocker Block and below the start of the steeper dihedral pitches. Pitch four is quite intimidating from below. It's a steep corner with a crack that seems not to change size the whole way. This was my lead (and my first aid lead aside from single pitch practice runs) so I headed up and reached the anchor after 180' of leapfrogging Black Diamond 0.3 and 0.4s over and over.
I brought the bag up while Tara cleaned. She got to the hanging belay as we the last bit of sunlight left the canyon. Having more aid climbing experience than me, Tara assured me that aiding in the dark isn't much different than in the day. So I clicked my headlamp on and headed up towards the roof on pitch five. I got through the first 30' and clipped a draw to the chain just below the chimney. From there I went left in to the chimney that goes at "awkward 5.8" or "C1+ grovel". I guess I did a bit of both as I aided my way in to the chimney, freed for a few moves to clip the bolt, and went back to aiding. The "awkward flare" above the chimney looked awkward and flared. I plugged in a purple C4 and moved up with some aid / free movement (chimneying with the outer leg while in the aider with the inner leg). Looking up the flare I could see no end for the purple C4 size so I crack jumarred cams many times and placed a few large offset nuts for protection. I guess this was intro to crack jumaring. I got through my way up, plugging in nuts for pro where I could. After a short section of 5.6 I found myself at the ledge that we'd call home for the night. Tara came up, we set up the ledge, and boiled water for our Nalgene bottles and backbacker dinners. The cold wind was howling.
Because the forecast was clear we chose not to bring the fly for the portaledge. This made for a really cold and windy night. I laid feet into the wind and it felt like the bottom of my bag was pushed against an air conditioner all night. I got pretty much no sleep and Tara only slightly more.
We were up around 8:30am with numb toes, a steady cold breeze, and the sun shrouded in light clouds. Tara headed up pitch six which is 80' straight up the next anchor. We'd read of people linking pitches six and seven but were hesitant as the topo says eight and nine link with a 60m rope but makes no mention of doing this for six and seven. Tara pitched six and seven out as the weather deteriorated a bit. The cold night killed my camera so I have no pictures of Tara leading on day two.
I was pretty concerned as brief sprinklings of sleet bounced off my jacket. I headed up pitch eight intending to link it with nine. I got to the anchor after 80' and told Tara I was going to bring her up rather than linking. She took me off belay and after a few seconds of thought told her to put me back on and I kept going. Pitch nine was interesting with more aid / free sections and the final 5.7 slab. Other than the rope drag the slab moves weren't too difficult.
I set up at the anchor and brought up the bag while Tara jugged. The last haul is a pain because of the bulges where the bag snags and the low angle slab section. We dragged the bag up and over the edge, broke down the rack, and packed for the descent.
The 2.5 mile descent hike to the Grotto was pretty rough with the haul bag and ledge on my back. Tara took the ropes and the rack. I missed it but she took a face first fall somewhere along the trail. What a nice way to finish the route! We made it to the bridge and I slept on the haul bag while Tara jogged up canyon to Big Bend to get the car. We expected she'd get a ride before the time she reached the car [showing leg, cleavage, etc.] but not a single car came or went after she'd left. 30 minutes later we were shoving the haul bag and everything else in to her Corolla and heading out.
With Tara having more wall and aid climbing experience (she's done a couple Grade Vs and The Nose in late 2011) she had said to expect a lot of work. So with her warning I was prepared for how sore and worked I'd feel. During the descent I had thoughts of strength training, sport climbing, and never doing another wall. But now sitting here at my office I'm psyched and looking up beta for Touchstone Wall, Spaceshot, Prodigal Sun, The Nose, and Lurking Fear....
We over-racked for this thing:
[-] Red Ballnut, some rivet hangers (not used), a hook (not used)
[2 sets] BD Stoppers #1-12 (too many small and large, used lots of mediums)
[1 set] BD brassie offset nuts (rarely used)
[1 set] DMM brassie offset nuts (rarely used)
[1 set] DMM alloy offset nuts (MVP!)
[1 set] Metolius Offset Mastercams (MVP!)
[5 ea] BD 0.3 (or equivalent)
[5 ea] BD 0.4 (or equivalent)
[5 ea] BD 0.5 (MVP!)
[triple] BD #0.75 - #2
[single] BD #3 and #4
I thought the brassie nuts were unnecessary (I think I placed one). The hook and the rivet hangers were not needed. We also had a mess of mismashed cams - aliens, TCUs, mastercams, old micro Camalots, etc - many of which just weren't used. I plugged the black and blue aliens once each. The #3 and #4 could have been left in the car. Next go I'll definitely slim down the rack.
 2-liter bottles of water + 3-liters in Tara's pack
We drank what was in Tara's pack and used one of the 2-liter bottles for drinking and cooking. No beers! We forgot beer!