Elaine and I arrived in Yosemite on Saturday afternoon and the valley was in a heat wave. On Sunday, this included high winds when we were on the Free Blast. Fortunately, the temperature and wind decreased to nice conditions when we started the main part of the Salathe. The next day we packed and hauled up to the third anchor on the Heart Ledges rappel. Afterwards, we saw Tom Evans at the bridge and told him we would be on the Salathe and we both were over 50. He took some great pictures of us when we were on the climb.
On Tuesday, we finished hauling to Heart Ledges and started the main part of the climb.
Pitch 12 – We waited a bit for a faster moving free climbing team to climb through. On the pitch itself, the move to the bolt was hard for me. After that, rope drag slowed me down. The hauling was a struggle due to the weight of the haul bag and the slab we were hauling up. I had to get both feet above my waist and do a downwards squat while using one hand to pull up on the rope.
Hollow Flake – Easy climbing up to the pendulum point and then Elaine lowered me. After swinging over, I realized that I forgot my knee pads. What a grunt. The haul bag got stuck in the Hollow Flake and Elaine had to pop it out.
Wednesday began with jugging pitch 15, freeing most of 16 and some of 17, and hauling a heavy bag.
The Ear – I left my helmet behind on this one and was glad I did. Once I was in the chimney, I would place a piece, go down a bit, go sideways, then go back up to place another piece of gear. There is a bolt on the face outside the chimney that was helpful (it kept the rope from running up behind the last cam). From the bolt it was easy climbing to the belay ledge. I could not haul from the ledge because of the friction of the haul line over the ledge. I ended up moving the haul point below the ledge to make it manageable. To my surprise, Elaine enjoyed cleaning this pitch. She did a fair amount of chimneying up and down to get out each piece. She followed it without her helmet.
Thursday started out with pitches 21 and 22. There is some easy free climbing at the end of 22 that was fun. The hauling wasn’t bad for the rest of the climb.
The Jungle – The free climbing part was good. It was dripping, but I could find enough dry stuff to keep it reasonable. I combined this with the next pitch (and a lot of rope drag) to bring us to the top of The Block. It was late enough in the day that we decided to stay here for the night and go for the summit the next day. We were going slower than I had planned, but we believed we could finish the climb with our available food and water. I did fix the next pitch to Soul le Toit ledge that night to give us a head start.
Soul le Toit – My first piece was a big Camalot which is always a nice way to start (provided you won’t need it later). It has a section of free climbing to get to the pendulum. This is made all the more interesting when you realize that you will have to down climb it all if this is not the right route. This was the last ledge until Long Ledge. I used the haul line to rappel back to The Block. The Block is not a great place to sleep.
The Roof – Wild pitch! I initially traversed too far and had to come back a bit. Aiding though the roof was very strenuous. Elaine did great following it. This was the 2nd hanging belay in a row. We avoided all of the other hanging belays by linking pitches.
Pitches 33 and 34 – Pitch 33 had reasonable free climbing to start with, then a nice crack. The squeeze on pitch 34 was a pain. I had to tag up the big cams for this part. The bag got stuck in the squeeze and Elaine had to keep it out while I finished the haul. It got dark on us while we were cleaning and hauling.
Pitch 35 – I was using a fading headlamp, but this pitch did not take long since it was all easy free climbing. I placed just one Camalot on the whole pitch. It was nice to top out and sleep on a nice sandy spot without a harness. I think we finally went to sleep around 11 PM.
Saturday – It is good waking up on top of El Cap. After all the work to get there, the time pressure to get going was gone. This was my fifth El Cap route and Elaine’s first. It took us a half day longer than I expected, but we did not hold anyone up and had enough food and water.
East Ledges decent was hot! I am glad we had 6 liters of fluid to start with. We used it all except for about a cup. A bus arrived when we got to the Manure Pile Buttress parking lot and gave us a ride to our car at the bridge in El Cap Meadows. We found out from the bridge crew that Tom Evans was referring to us as “The Elderly Couple” in his daily report. It was interesting to read Tom’s daily report and see there were big crowds on The Nose and compare it to the nearly empty Salathe.