Trip Report
Tangerine Trip - June, 2010

by jsb
Sunday September 19, 2010 5:45pm
El Cap pano.
El Cap pano.
Credit: jsb

I don’t know exactly why, but I really wanted to solo El Cap this year. It started out innocently enough with thoughts to myself like “Jeepers, I wonder what it’s like up there all by my lonesome.” Then, it was “Well, I guess I am getting kind of fat.” Soon I had spent enough money on new climbing gear to kick off another subprime lending crisis. But it was only when I forced myself to suffer through one of "Pass the Pitons" Pete's posts from start to finish that I realized I had a serious problem.

So for a few months I accumulated all the remaining odds and ends that I would need for my first solo wall: a Snake Charmer rope bag from Fish, some Metolius offset cams, a dozen empty 2-liter bottles, MRE’s from Ebay, plastic grocery bags from Safeway, a poop-tube I assembled inside Home Depot, a killer brand new 10.7mm 70m rope, and an old Fish single ledge I found on Craigslist.

MRE's: The secret to wall-climbing success! Just "field-strip" out any...
MRE's: The secret to wall-climbing success! Just "field-strip" out any packaging or food you don't want.
Credit: jsb

With all my gear more or less ready to go, the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained non-stop basically all spring. Good for the drought, but I was getting antsy and it meant that the bears were going to be hungry and wet. At last, a weather window opened up in early June, so I pulled the trigger and took an impromptu vacation from work.

It felt strange to drive to Yosemite by myself. Actually, the whole climb felt strange. Climbing solo is like handicapping yourself to make things harder. Because you have to rappel each pitch, it’s actually more than twice as much work as climbing with a partner. I can’t really think of another activity where that ratio holds… well, maybe ping-pong. But you can’t screw yourself by breaking an ankle while playing ping-pong by yourself. So why do people climb aid solo? Who knows… I eventually pulled into the gravel piles for some sleep at around midnight and was barely able to find a spot to park because it was so packed. I bet one day “Gravel Piles” is going to be a franchise with locations outside every major national park. I got in late and left early. Usually, my car is the last one to leave, but this time I was on a mission.

Day 1 - Saturday, June 5, 2010:
 Hump loads
 Fix and haul P1
 Bivy with the bears
(Note: I'm using Supertopo as a reference for the pitch numbers.)

I had three loads: gear, water, and food… in that order, praying the bears wouldn’t mess with my stuff as long as I brought in the food last.

I dropped off my first load at the base of the Trip with a bit of disappointment. There was already some gear at the base, and the first three pitches were fixed. When I dropped off my second load I met the owners of the gear, Kate and Kitty hiking up their final loads and getting ready to blast off. They were super cool to talk to, and actually kept me company throughout my entire climb. Aurora, their route, shares the same start and finish as Tangerine Trip, but is a couple hundred feet to the West and much harder (A4).

Before hiking down for my third load, I fixed a pitch while I was still fresh. I have to admit it felt pretty rad to lasso my rope around a big’ol tree and then scramble up the first 4th class section of the climb. That feeling wore off pretty quickly when the rope kept slipping through my grigri to my backup knot. (I know about the rubber-band trick, but it’s littering.) So I switched to a trusty clove hitch on two lockers with no backup knot. This system, with a continuous loop from the anchor to the haul bags, worked really well for me for the rest of the climb.

After coming back up with my third load, I waited for Kate and Kitty to finish hauling and then hauled all my stuff up to the top of the first pitch. I wanted there to be no chance that the bears could get my stuff. I rapped back down to the ground with my sleeping bag and dinner. That evening I had the distinct pleasure of meeting several thousand mosquitoes, a rattlesnake, and a very annoying bear that would just not stop bugging me. He didn’t go away until he bit open my contact lens solution bottle… meaning I basically had to sleep in my contact lenses for the whole next week while climbing.

What I might have looked like chasing the bear away.
What I might have looked like chasing the bear away.
Credit: jsb

Day 2 - Sunday, June 6, 2010:
 Link P2 and first half of P3
 Link second half of P3 and P4

The first important lesson I learned about soloing is that you have to cinch closed your rope bag before you leave the belay. If you don’t, the rope will just pull itself out of the bag under its own weight. I promise. I found this out on the very first moves of P2 when I stepped left and all 430ft of my rope (lead line + haul line tied together) went whipping down to the deck. Demoralized, and not wanting to restack the rope for another half an hour, I decided to just keep climbing anyway. Fortunately, the rope didn’t snag on anything, but man… it was heavy!

Cleaning P2.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Cleaning P2. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Cleaning the downclimb on P4 is scary. The fixed gear is rusted and the crack is seeping. If something pulls, you can take a big fall onto one of your jumars and possibly cut the rope. I figured out I could clean this safely by doing one big 2-to-1 lower-out off of the last good bolt, and then staying on that lower-out while I did secondary 4-to-1 lower-outs off of the bad gear. (Disclaimer: you might need a 70m in order to have enough rope for this.)

Day 3 - Monday, June 7, 2010:
 Climb P5
 Climb P6

P5 was long and tough. It was very physically and mentally draining for me, maybe because I had just spent my first night in the ledge. Near the end I took a daisy fall when a #2 c3 ripped out of a seemingly good placement just after I got on it. I won’t lie, this spooked me and slowed me down quite a bit. I was psyched to finish just two pitches by the end of the day.

Starting P5.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Starting P5. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

How could you not fire off an El Cap Salute or two here?  That crack i...
How could you not fire off an El Cap Salute or two here? That crack is gorgeous. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Day 4 - Tuesday, June 8, 2010:
 Climb P7
 Link P8+P9 (260ft pitch!)

Starting to get into the swing of things, I polished off P7 in good time. Feeling cocky (or maybe lazy), I decided to try to link P8 (130ft) and P9 (130ft). P8 traverses to the right, and P9 runs to the left. Also, P8 is mostly bolted gear, and P9 is mostly crack gear. Sounds perfect, right? The only potential hang-up was that my rope was 230ft (70m), and the combined distance on the topo was 260ft. Somehow, though, I felt positive that with a little thrifty back-cleaning on the traverses, I’d make the belay with rope to spare. I was right. I had about 5 feet to spare. Really I had more than this, though, because I could have climbed past the linking knot on my continuous loop and used an extra 30ft on my haul line to go even farther. (Disclaimer: rope drag would kill you on the spot if you tried this link-up with a partner and a running belay.)

Cleaning P7.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Cleaning P7. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Halfway up the P8+P9 mega link.  This exact spot is actually pretty tr...
Halfway up the P8+P9 mega link. This exact spot is actually pretty tricky. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Day 5 - Wednesday, June 9, 2010:
 Climb P10
 Link P11+P12

P10 was the most physical on the route for me. I had to squeeze behind a flake into a space that was way too small when I had way too much stuff on my harness. Cursing seemed to help.

Starting P10.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Starting P10. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Tagging the anchor on 10.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Tagging the anchor on 10. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Day 6 – Thursday, June 10, 2010:
 Climb P13
 Climb P14
 Climb P15

P13 was the most technical and dangerous for me. You have to get on some tricky cam hooks, micronuts and micro c3’s for about 20 feet right off the belay. Any mistakes and you’ll take a nice factor 2 onto the anchor. To mitigate this risk, I usually butterfly’d a screamer into the rope at the anchors.

P14 involved some fun scrambling, and P15 was pure headwall boltladder goodness. All the bolts were replaced by ASCA, and every 3rd or 4th has a nice new hanger.

Past the thin stuff on P13.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Past the thin stuff on P13. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Coming back to the bags on P13.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Coming back to the bags on P13. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Day 7 - Friday, June 11, 2010:
 Sleep in
 Climb P16

I slept in this morning because Kate and Kitty were also starting on the same pitch. Aurora joins back up with the Trip at this point. Plus, I kind of wanted to have a night on the wall all to myself to soak it all in.

When I finally got up and started moving at around 1 or 2 pm, I decided to dig my hammer out of the bag and at least take it on the next pitch, along with a handful of pins and heads. The topo indicates a section of A2 on P16, and Kate and Kitty did some light nailing on this pitch, so I figured I’d have to as well. Fortunately, it turned out to be doable clean. Offset cams and a hand-placed small BD pecker got me past the first difficulties just above the bolt ladder, and then some awkwardly angled cams and hooks got me through the last few moves up to the anchor. This is where I made my last bivy.

Camping out on the headwall in a sweet freaking spot at the top of P15...
Camping out on the headwall in a sweet freaking spot at the top of P15! (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Kate and Kitty making the pass.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Kate and Kitty making the pass. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Trying on one of those Safeway grocery bags.  (Photo by TOM EVANS!)
Trying on one of those Safeway grocery bags. (Photo by TOM EVANS!)
Credit: jsb

Day 8 - Saturday, June 12, 2010:
 Climb P17
 Climb P18
 Hike down 1st load
 Meet Tom and chill in the meadows
 Sleep at Upper Pines with some friends

P17 was the most exciting pitch for me. My body was starting to feel quite worked from the last week, and the 5.7R climbing needed to be done very strategically. It wasn’t so hard that I felt like I was going to fall off, but it was hard enough that I couldn’t stop to feed myself more rope while climbing. The trick was to correctly gauge how much rope I needed to get to the next stance, and then just pay it all out before starting off. At one point, I was at a stance about 10 feet runout, and had to give myself another 20 feet of slack. Mellow for a good free climber, I’m sure, but trouser-staining for somebody like me. Once in the final corner, I knew I was home free… as I had done the final pitch just last year while on the route Iron Son with my friend Peyton.

Finishing up P17.  (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Finishing up P17. (Photo by Tom Evans.)
Credit: jsb

Gear dump.
Gear dump.
Credit: jsb

Happy dude.
Happy dude.
Credit: jsb

On my way down I ran into a cool guy named Brian who had just soloed the much longer and more difficult route Tribal Rite and was hiking down his last load. At the parking lot, he gave me a lift back to the meadows where I finally met Tom for the first time. After that I just relaxed in the meadows and took some pictures of El Cap. At the end of the day I learned I had some friends with a campsite, so I devoured some pizza at Curry Village and then headed over to Upper Pines to crash.

Soaking up some sunshine in the meadows... see the mosquito eating my ...
Soaking up some sunshine in the meadows... see the mosquito eating my right temple?
Credit: jsb

Day 9 - Sunday, June 13, 2010:
 Hike back up the East Ledges
 Hike down 2nd load
 Drive home

Perfect timing to make it back to work on Monday. What a blast. HUGE thanks to Tom Evans for all the photos!

Spring flower in El Cap Meadow.
Spring flower in El Cap Meadow.
Credit: jsb

  Trip Report Views: 7,423
About the Author
jsb is a trad climber from Bay area.

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Ben Emery

Trad climber
Back and forth the Pacific
  Sep 13, 2010 - 06:10am PT
Wow, great work and nice TR! Good to see what you've been up to...

You look way too clean in that summit shot; what's your secret?
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  Sep 13, 2010 - 06:27am PT
Dude, that was a great read! Good job putting it together.
Thanks to Tom for the photos, but I'll have to say my 2 favorites were the last ones.

Very proud effort!
Thanks for the share!


  Sep 13, 2010 - 08:25am PT
That was quite an amazing solo.. Awesome!
Thankyou for sharing it..
Stanley Hassinger

Eastern US
  Sep 13, 2010 - 08:30am PT
Way to go, Justin! Great to finally read all about it.

  Sep 13, 2010 - 09:16am PT


Thanks for postin' up!


Peyton Hassinger

Big Wall climber
Raleigh, NC
  Sep 13, 2010 - 09:48am PT
Awesome climb dude! Let's get on el cap again sometime soon.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 09:52am PT
Good work, but MRE's? Really?

  Sep 13, 2010 - 10:25am PT
nice one justin
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Sep 13, 2010 - 10:26am PT
Cool! I was watching you from over on Tribal Rite.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Sep 13, 2010 - 10:45am PT
great report, fabulous job on the climb

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
  Sep 13, 2010 - 11:21am PT
We were very lucky to get to blast off with Justin and climb beside him. He was not only great company, but actually helped us out with our initial three pitch haul, which in the wind would have been a mess without him. Also he was incredibly patient as he "hung out to enjoy the view" while we topped out.

Justin is one of the the most relaxed, organized, together climbers I've ever seen. The guy was still clean when he was topping out and I don't think he got even a scratch on his gear. :)

Congratulations, Justin, on a great climb!



  Sep 13, 2010 - 11:24am PT
Super Job! I love the Mega-Link, the Fish single ledge, and the El Cap meadow flower pic.
You going back for more soon?
Wow, Tom really did ya right with his shots. I hope ya bro'ed em down.

  Sep 13, 2010 - 11:32am PT
Congratulations on your climb, jsb. Nice going! Refreshing to hear about a solo that actually was a solo. You did it.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 11:35am PT
Good stuff! My second elcap route...brings me right back to 1992. Thanks for that...takes me away from my current status as an outta shape desk jockey in NYC. Nice pics and nice job on a cool wall. Phil O'Rourke

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 11:45am PT
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Sep 13, 2010 - 01:08pm PT
Nice! Thanks much for sharing. Posts like these keep alive my own dreams of soloing the Captain some day. When I starting thinking that I'll be too old when I get the time, Hudon's trip report is there to remind me that age isn't a valid excuse, especially since I'll be around his age about the time the kids are a little older.

And everyone's right. You do look way too clean.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 01:18pm PT

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 01:34pm PT
Congrats on your awesome accomplishment. Very well written as well. Thanks.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Sep 13, 2010 - 01:51pm PT
Well done!!!

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Sep 13, 2010 - 02:19pm PT
You guys rock! Thanks for all the kind words.

And next time I'll rub some poop in my face right before the summit shot or something. :)

Mark, I saw you, too! Maybe when you were 2 or 3 pitches from the top. You were totally styling it. What a great location.

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Sep 13, 2010 - 02:25pm PT
Stellar style and achievement !

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Sep 13, 2010 - 02:40pm PT
Kate, I owe you and Kitty bigtime for psyching me up, and also just for being around at the base to keep the bears away while I hiked up my last load. I didn't know it at the time, but the bears will bite holes into your water bottles!

Right after I climbed the Trip, my friend Chris Chan did the same thing. (Tragically, she died a few weeks later in Tuolumne.) She told me that after she dropped off her water, a bear came along and bit open all of her 2-liter bottles - just two small holes into each one, like a vampire! It was probably the same bear on patrol that bit open my contact lens solution bottle. Every bottle Chris had was leaking and unusable. She had to take an extra day to hike back down, find new bottles, and hump an extra 60+ lb load up to the base. I'm sure I would have just gone home at that point.

I guess they're either looking for gatorade, or they're trying to stall your blastoff so that they have more time to steal your food.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 02:47pm PT
That bear ate my food at the base on Tangerine Trip. Stupid of me i hang some stuff on very thin branches up high on the tree (I jugged the rope fixed to P4), which looks like it would break under my weight. Don't ever hang anything in the trees, EVER! Also, it learned to unscrew my Gatorade bottles without damaging it. The half full Gatorade bottle hanging in the tree with no cap can witness that. I also had two one gallons containers which used to have iced tea in it filled with water just sitting on the ground. It must have some smell left over, since they were unsecured nicely also (it did not drink that water anymore). The bear didn't touch any of other bottles of water, which i bought in store and funny enough seems like it had no interested in two full cans of Cobra laying right by the rock.

Trad climber
Palo Alto, CA
  Sep 13, 2010 - 07:28pm PT
awesome job Justin! And sweet TR. Though I think comparing yourself to that dude chasing the bear is a little misleading. He definitely wouldn't have let a bear drink his contact solution. At least not without one of them being killed for it. Haha

And nice work on the 5.7R. Feeding out 30' of slack on 5.anythingR sounds scary. Especially after having spent a week in aiders. You da man!


Trad climber
Merced CA
  Sep 13, 2010 - 07:37pm PT
Proud send mate! Great TR!

Trad climber
Cambridge, MA (formerly) SF Bay Area
  Sep 13, 2010 - 09:10pm PT
Fantastic accomplishment, Justin, and a really great TR.

Funny how Tom managed to catch you and your Safeway bags right at that moment...

Arkansas, I suppose
  Sep 13, 2010 - 09:18pm PT
Feck ya, nice job.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Sep 14, 2010 - 02:05am PT
Sweet! It was fun cheering you on via the El Cap Report, thanks for the writeup! The shot of you coming back to the p13 belay is great.

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
  Sep 14, 2010 - 02:44am PT
One of the best TR's of the year. Well done, mate.

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Sep 14, 2010 - 02:57am PT
Nice! Real and well written.
bubble boy

Big Wall climber
Mammoth, CA
  Sep 14, 2010 - 05:42pm PT
Good stuff! Sounds like you learned the soloists "ups and downs" without to much heartache. You're a natural!

Social climber
  Sep 14, 2010 - 07:04pm PT
Nice tr Justin! I hope you enjoyed that Pepsi I gave you in the meadows that day!

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Sep 14, 2010 - 07:11pm PT
Haha. Eu-jin, do you mean the one you drank half of before offering to me? Yeah, that was fantastic. :)

Felt great to run into a friend after getting down...

Social climber
  Sep 14, 2010 - 08:05pm PT
Likewise, it made my day to see a friend do something cool and return safe and sound.

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Sep 14, 2010 - 09:23pm PT
Good on ya, jsb. Proud accomplishment!

  Sep 14, 2010 - 09:42pm PT
Nice trip report!
Thanks for taking us along.

Big Wall climber
sacramento, ca
  Sep 22, 2010 - 09:57pm PT
Great TR. I suspect you could be equally amusing describing a concrete pour. Talented climber AND writer.

Big Wall climber
Lakeview, OR
  Sep 23, 2010 - 04:20pm PT
Too much work!

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Sep 23, 2010 - 11:37pm PT
Probably true, Chiindi! I'm pretty sure I'll be looking for a partner for next time. :)

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 24, 2010 - 02:34am PT
solidly impressed and duly inspired.

all kudos are deserved jsb

Trad climber
  Sep 25, 2010 - 04:22pm PT
Very nicely done - congrats and thanks for sharing!
Pass the Chongo, Chongo

Social climber
  Sep 25, 2010 - 10:12pm PT
Sweet send! Awsome photo of you taking a crap!!!!


Big Wall climber
El Portal, CA
  Sep 26, 2010 - 12:16pm PT
Good climb and great trip report. Nice beta on linkable pitches on solo.

Trad climber
  May 30, 2013 - 11:19am PT
Great TR!
Rocky IV

Social climber
  May 30, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
P13 ain't that bad if you fix a KB after 10 or so feet. props for not being a pussy like me!

  Jul 17, 2013 - 08:55am PT
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