Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
The Elderly’s Climb Salathe Wall
Tuesday December 31, 2013 5:00pm
I love big routes. But I seem to have a problem keeping wall partners (I do not dwell on that fact). After my 1st 3 walls (with 3 different guys), I had cycled through all my partners. The next 6 I ended up soloing. But that still left the Salathe, which was a more than what I felt I could solo. In a weaker moment, Elaine agreed to climb it with me. We did Prodigal Son in Zion as a practice climb. It went well, so we felt we were ready.

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.
This is the moment where I realized I forgot my knee pads.  I was tryi...
This is the moment where I realized I forgot my knee pads. I was trying to figure out if there was any reasonable way to get back to the haul bag to get them. I ended up climbing it without the knee pads (not recommended)
Credit: Todd Bauck
Pitch 15 – I was unwilling to try this one on the outside. Instead, I put on my knee pads, dove deep inside, and slowly shuffled upwards. At one point, the rope snaked behind my leg and caused me to worry. But then I realized there was no way I could flip over if I fell. I finished this pitch and rapped back to the Hollow Flake Ledge where we stayed that night. It has a nice spot for two people if they don’t mind overlapping legs. It was fairly flat and was tucked in behind a rock. A little sand fell on us that night.

Wednesday began with jugging pitch 15, freeing most of 16 and some of 17, and hauling a heavy bag.
Elaine following on pitch 16.  This was a fun pitch to lead and it wen...
Elaine following on pitch 16. This was a fun pitch to lead and it went mostly free for me.
Credit: Todd Bauck

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.
The Ear.  I had to set up the haul below the ledge to reduce the rope ...
The Ear. I had to set up the haul below the ledge to reduce the rope drag. It was right about here that Elaine told me that she enjoyed following this pitch - this is not fair. If it is hard to lead, it should not be enjoyable to follow.
Credit: Todd Bauck
Pitch 19 – Long pitch. Towards the end I looked up to see the crack got wide and wondered what I was going to do since I did not have any gear that size and was too far out to tag up gear on the haul line. Fortunately, the wide part was on the next pitch.
Elaine enjoying the "belay" on top of El Cap Spire.  I use quotes arou...
Elaine enjoying the "belay" on top of El Cap Spire. I use quotes around the word belay because she did not have her hand on the GriGri. So how come I have such a hard time keeping partners?
Credit: Todd Bauck
El Cap Spire – Above the Alcove, I had to make a step across from one boulder to another with a lot of air below. At the end of the pitch, I made another step across from the main wall to El Cap Spire. The step to El Cap Spire was tough for Elaine, but she made it and managed to clean the gear. It got dark on us shortly after we finished up the haul / clean. I had planned on leading the next 2 pitches that evening so we could make Long Ledge the next day. We decided that we could spend another night out because we had enough food and water, so I left the next pitch for the morning. El Cap Spire is a great place to camp.

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.
Here I am hauling on top of the Block while Elaine cleans.  You would ...
Here I am hauling on top of the Block while Elaine cleans. You would think I would figure a way to get her to haul once in a while. But, she is the smarter of the two of us.
Credit: Todd Bauck
Friday morning, I jugged the haul line while Elaine finished packing. Then she lowered out the haul bag and I hauled while she cleaned. Two climbers who were working on Free Rider rappelled by us while we were on the Soul le Toit ledge.

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.
Gear exchange just below the Roof.  The route follows the crack slight...
Gear exchange just below the Roof. The route follows the crack slightly to the right of us.
Credit: Todd Bauck
Me over the Roof and Elaine cleaning.  Notice the previous picture we ...
Me over the Roof and Elaine cleaning. Notice the previous picture we were in the shade and I was about to start leading this short pitch? Yeah, we are not exactly speed demons.
Credit: Todd Bauck
The Headwall – I had enough gear to link these two pitches. It was warm and I did not need a jacket for this – which is in contrast to the bundled up shots I have often seen of climbers on this part. There is a pod just before Long Ledge that I had a hard time getting through. After Elaine cleaned, she said she thought I was spacing the gear too far apart. I made a mistake here and set up the haul on the 1st pair of bolts I encountered on the far left of Long Ledge. We had to do another mini haul to bring the bag over to the center part of Long Ledge. It was nice having a ledge again – we ate a bit here. We decided to keep going with the idea that we could always rappel back to Long Ledge for the night if we were slow. It looks like a spectacular place to sleep.
Leading the headwall.  Don't I look heroic?  Don't be fooled, I aided ...
Leading the headwall. Don't I look heroic? Don't be fooled, I aided the whole thing.
Credit: Todd Bauck
The view for Long Ledge looking down at the Headwall.  This is probabl...
The view for Long Ledge looking down at the Headwall. This is probably not the funniest place to belay - especially if you consider the lack of a ledge to stand on and the fact that I am not the fastest leader around...
Credit: Todd Bauck
Pitch 32 – The start of this one has a serious pucker factor. Most of the lower part had less than bomber gear. I had to feel around a corner and guess at what gear to place. About mid-way, the gear got better and I back cleaned the lower pieces to reduce rope drag for the free climbing part. The free climbing starts above an inverted cam hook move. After the initial free moves, it got easier and there were places for good pro. It ended at a good belay ledge (and easy hauling).

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.

  Trip Report Views: 2,828
Todd Bauck
About the Author
Todd Bauck is a trad climber from Denver, CO.

Comments
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WTF

climber
  Dec 31, 2013 - 05:10pm PT
Cool stuff thanks for the inspiration. One of the last of the golden era I have not climbed. This may be the year.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Dec 31, 2013 - 05:11pm PT
Great TR of the greatest rock climb on earth!

Thanks for sharing your fun and photos with us.
fat-n-sassy

Social climber
San Francity, CA
  Dec 31, 2013 - 06:47pm PT
Nice! Get it!
Brokedownclimber

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Dec 31, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
Uhhh....50+ is NOT elderly; great TR!
KP Ariza

climber
SCC
  Dec 31, 2013 - 07:03pm PT
Hats off!!

Great pics too!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Dec 31, 2013 - 07:52pm PT
Nice tr! My first big wall back in 71 or 2. Brings back memories.
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Dec 31, 2013 - 08:51pm PT
ya baybe,,gota want it,,after the reg. route on the doom,,the nose was my fist big wall..somehow my timing was off,,no buds,,so new guy ,never climbed with ,,borroing a #4 friend,,proto type,[this cam thing is cool]we musterd with heat stroke topping out and camped with generuse hikers ,found on the way looking for water,,it;s all good,,not to worry about many partners,,you did it,,bravo ,,,,
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Dec 31, 2013 - 09:12pm PT
Rad! Really nice report.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  Dec 31, 2013 - 10:30pm PT
Seems like there was another elderly ascent of the Nose this Spring.

Great pics!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 1, 2014 - 01:40am PT
pft, fifty is the new 18.

nice job
roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Jan 1, 2014 - 06:46am PT
Great trip report. I like to think that over 50 is not so old.
Cheers, Roy
Todd Bauck

Trad climber
Denver, co
Author's Reply  Jan 1, 2014 - 09:12am PT
Thanks for the comments!

I agree that 50+ is not elderly. But that is what we were known as by the bridge crowd. So we went with it.

I do have to ask if we get any privileges with being over 50? For example, on an aid pitch, a dedicated clip stick is out, but a using your nut tool to extend your reach is ok in some circles. So if you are over 50, can you use your cane to extend your reach?
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jan 1, 2014 - 12:18pm PT
How old is elderly?
I'm creepin up on it fer sure.
Sweet TR
TFPU
Tad
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  Jan 1, 2014 - 01:22pm PT
How old is elderly?

I was going to look that up. Not sure I want to know.
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Jan 1, 2014 - 01:43pm PT
Good on you for doing one of the great rock climbs on earth! I'm glad I knocked that one off when I was young back in 1971 with Donini.

I had enough trouble climbing the RNWF of HD with my son last June, and at 67, I do feel OLD.
WanderlustMD

Trad climber
New England
  Jan 1, 2014 - 06:13pm PT
Nice! Great pictures
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jan 1, 2014 - 10:34pm PT
Takes me back. and I thank you. Enjoyable read, too.
Grippa

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jan 1, 2014 - 11:22pm PT
Sawweeeeet!!
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