The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2

  • Currently 5.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
The Nose (Again!?) Trip Report – Dehyrated in mid November
Monday November 21, 2005 11:32am
I guess I have no imagination. What did I do a few days after climbing The Nose last week? Call up Mark Melvin of course: so, you want to climb the Nose this Friday?

Mark gave me the I am psyched on that idea… but not really response “Well, I guess that would be ok, but if you find someone else, you should go climb it with them.” Nobody else, dude. Its you, me, and the big stone.

Here is the gear we brought

and a close up of the rack

This time we started an hour later at 7:37 to let the rock warm up. I wanted to climb The Nose in just a t shirt in November. On the first pitch I ran into my old friend Brian Biega who I did one of my first El Cap speed ascents with 9 years earlier. He greeted me ”Good to see you chris. Wait didn’t you guys just climb this last week?!”

“Yeah, I know, I know. It’s kinda silly. But it’s the nose, it’s the best route in the world. I just cant help myself ” I replied. He was going to solo The Nose. I imagine the number of people who have soloed the nose in November can be counted on one hand.

We traveled lighter on this ascent than last week. Only 2 candy bars per person, 1 liter of water, no headlamps, not extra clothes, and less biners. When Mark was leading the third pitch, I actually poured out an extra half liter of water to go lighter. Bad move. Ten minutes later we climbed into the sun and realized this was not your typical November day.

Just above sickle ledge we passed a team of two. One of them called down to me, “Hey SuperTopo! Wait, didn’t you guys just climb this last week?!” I know, I know…

Me jugging right after sickle

Mark in The Stovelegs

I knew we were trouble when we reached Dolt Tower and I was already rationing water. This wasn’t just a warm November day, it was a HOT November day. While the valley high was forecasted at 75, on the wall, with no wind and surrounded by baking granite, it felt more like 80.

Mark leading The Boot Flake

Me belaying the boot flake

Last week, The king was a little tricky for me. This time, I figured out the secret: Swing when you are even with the last bolt on the bolt ladder. This seems really low. But it’s hard to go to low on the King Swing.

Mark mid King Swing

Me jugging up to the great roof
Chris McNamara jugging up to Camp 4 on The Nose wearing the Petzl Elio...
Chris McNamara jugging up to Camp 4 on The Nose wearing the Petzl Elios helmet.
Credit: Mark Melvin

When we got to the great roof, I prepared to take over the lead. Normally bring free shoes for The Nose, but this time I just yanked the laces as tight as I could on my approach shoes. I took a swig from my full 10oz waterbottle and managed to down almost all of it without noticing. I now only had a few sips of water to get me to the top and it just seemed to get hotter and hotter. There was still no wind.

Me in the Changing Corners

On the changing corner’s I yelled down to mark, its not warm up here, it’s hot.”

“Yeah, I know”, he replied.

“No, I mean when its 70 it feels warm. But this feels like 80 or more. This is HOT.”

I wanted some reaction like, “Yeah, this is ridiculous!” But he just let out another “yeah.” He didn’t look psyched. I didn’t look psyched. Neither of us were saying much now. And both of our bodies started to feel the effects of dehydration. My legs and arms got a little heavier and my power began to fade. I compensated by leading the last few pitches with only the pieces I knew I would need: 6 cams and 8 quickdraws.

We got to the top and I watched mark take almost a minute to wrestle the watch out of his pocket. We then spent about 5 minutes trying to subtract our starting time from our ending time… we were so dehydrated now our minds were numb. “Wow, we did it is 5:36… anyway, where can we find some water!”

We found some about half way down the descent. It was warm and had thousands of tiny white floaters in it. I thought it looked suspect. Mark thought it looked great. We both took big swigs.

Ten minutes later I was downclimbing 4th class when I slipped, took a five foot fall, and caught myself before going another 15 feet. Yeah, we were so gone now the descent was feeling harder than the route.

We got back to the road and I took this shot of el cap through the trees. We were psyched, but worked.

So Mark, what you doing next week?

PS: A few people have emailed me asking about our techniques:

 yes we run it out, but never on anything harder than 5.9 or C1. Everything else is well protected.

 short fixing is key. After the leader gets to an anchor, he pulls up the remaining rope, fixes it, and keeps climbing. If the terrain is ever harder than 5.9 or C1, then the leader self belay while waiting for the cleaner.

 the main technique is looking at the whole route as a free climb. I would say 80% of the route is 5.10 or easier. On that other 20%, we try to pull on gear rather than bring out the aiders. And for a small fraction you use aiders but no daisy chains. Even when I am aiding, I am using handholds and the crack so that I can top step every single placement. So I am never in “full aid mode” which goes really slow.

  Trip Report Views: 8,037
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated adventure journal, maintains, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business.


Trad climber
  Nov 21, 2005 - 01:06pm PT
You guys are sick!

It's meant as a compliment. Chris, thanks for sharing the great trip report.

I have some questions out of curiosity:
-Did you guys lead in blocks (and how often did you switch leads)?
-Did the second always jug the line?
-Were you ever freesoloing? (couldn't see the rope in that Stovelegs photo)
-Did you have the 5 mm tagline this time? Couldn't see it in the first photo. I assume yes. So how did you carry it most of the time when you were not using it?

Really appreciate the tips. Need those for my NiaD -- Nutcracker in a Day.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  Nov 21, 2005 - 01:26pm PT
Hey Chris, when you get it down to less than four hours,...uh, I would like to come along, okay?

(Not sure I have the stamina for anything longer.)


Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
  Nov 21, 2005 - 01:30pm PT
Maybe it is time to start NIADD - Nose in a day descents.

Mountain climber
2 exits North of the Gunks
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:01pm PT
If you had more water, I mean stayed really hydrated, do you think you could have gone faster? Great TR. Thanks.


Trad climber
Auburn CA, Seattle, Bishop
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:13pm PT
hey chris, good work man. congrats to you and mark on beating your last time. that is impressive. NO headlamps!? that is seriously committing man! how was the walk down in climbing shoes?

just got a call from brian biega. he summitted today on his solo ascent, and was on his way down the E ledges descent when he called (he's got verizon).


Trad climber
Phoenix, AZ
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:16pm PT
Dude! You guys are awesome.

Out of curiousity, what length rope did you use and what pitches did you link?

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:54pm PT
Done at 5:36 and then down to the base to take the photo and it's still light? It's dark by 5:30 here in SLO . . . so confused.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:56pm PT
way to go Chris

Sport climber
  Nov 21, 2005 - 03:59pm PT

5:36 was elapsed time, not time of day.


Big Wall climber
  Nov 21, 2005 - 04:04pm PT
I took it as "the time to climb the route was 5 hours, 36 minutes". Not as in "it was 5:36pm when we finished the route..."

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Nov 21, 2005 - 04:04pm PT
damn that's fast...

what's up with this weather anyway? we were up on the column on saturday and got all crispy around the edges from all that sun and absolutely no wind.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Nov 21, 2005 - 05:17pm PT
some answers to the questions above

mark led from the ground to the base of the great roof. i led to the top.

second always jugged the line except for a little simul climbing on sick ledge

nope, never free soloing. the rope is hidden in the crack in the stovelegs

yep, brought the 5mm tag line again. the leader had it for almost all pitches so he could pull up gear.

if we had more water could have maybe gone 5 or ten minutes faster. but the dehydration was more of a mind numbing annoyance than really knocking us out physically. we mostly felt the effects on the descent

didnt have to walk down in climbing shoes because i did the whole climb in approach shoes. and mark got to bring extra cofmy shoes. to go faster we would probably both have to do the whole route in climbing shoes... but that is uncomfortable. and we were aspiring for comfort.

we brought a 60m rope and didnt link a single pitch. I actually added a pitch by leading the bolt ladder at the end in two pitches (that way mark didnt have to jug the last overhanging 160 feet in one brutal go). when you short fix, you can kinda belay anywhere you want.


Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Nov 21, 2005 - 07:51pm PT
Ah hahahahahhha . . . reading comprehension. YOur friend and mine. I thought it was an awfully long "morning jaunt." :)

Boulder climber
Midas, NV
  Nov 21, 2005 - 08:46pm PT
who dat is?

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
  Nov 22, 2005 - 01:26am PT
another question for Chris:

when self belaying (on terrain harder then 5.9/C1), what sort of belay device or system do you use?

And what are the befits and drawbacks of it?

Hope you don't mind me asking. I could understand if you didn't want to share too much of that kind of stuff here.

Social climber
kennewick, wa
  Nov 22, 2005 - 01:42am PT
thanks for sharing Chris. After doing the Nose once in 17 hours I thought 12 might be possible, but 5:36? Without significant risks from simul-climbing? In approach shoes? WOW thats cool. Does it now qualify for grade II status? I am getting old, maybe time to retire....
John Galt

Big Wall climber
puerta Natales, Chile
  Dec 1, 2005 - 04:20pm PT
Excellent Chris! I think you are going to inspire folks to join The List! - I am hoping to have my audio program done in a few days for "mega super beta on climbing the Nose"- ready for XMAS! But you've given the beta all away, darn it!

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Dec 1, 2005 - 04:59pm PT
OK, Chris Mac, you've inspired me to attempt a speed rock gym session tonight. Two NIADs in one month at speed. WOW.

I'm thinking about opening the gym door, walking in, putting my shoes and chalkbag and MP3 player on, quickly eating two or three chocolate Power Bars and one Clif Bar for texture, chugging two 20oz Gatorades of different colors, don two heavy cotton sweatshirts [one with the mandatory hood], jumping on a pump-fest boulder problem with big holds, repeat the boulder problem until I vomit into one of the bouldering grooopie's homemade chalk bag/cauldren thing, and then run out the door.

I'm thinking I could do this in 14 minutes or less. And I won't be *that* dehydrated :) Though I may prime myself with beer prior to attempting this feat.

Who's up for this?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Dec 1, 2005 - 07:30pm PT
Woo-hoo! You made it to [url=""]ninth place![/url]

Trad climber
Redwood City, CA
  Dec 2, 2005 - 04:47pm PT
Nice job guys.

I was one of the party of two that you passed just after Sickle. We ended up spending Friday night on Dolt joined by Brian. On Saturday we watched Brian get going then went as far as the top of Texas Flake before deciding to back off, spend the night on El Cap Tower and retreat on Sunday morning. It was just way too hot. My partner's wristwatch has a thermometer function and it measured 85 degrees. Wrong time to be wearing thermals!


Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Nov 11, 2010 - 09:36pm PT

Social climber
  Nov 12, 2010 - 04:32am PT
hey there say, graniteclimber, thanks for the other bump here...

wow, a little more rougher this time...
and--the dead rat seems to be gone... ohmy...

thanks for the share, chris, though i know it is an older one:
they are ALL special... all unique diamonds, shinings, all cut different... :)

god bless...

Oakland, CA
  Mar 5, 2013 - 12:16pm PT
Such a small, small rack.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 10, 2016 - 09:14am PT
That rack is smaller than Donald Trump's hands
El Capitan - The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The Nose—the best rock climb in the world!
Photo: Mark Kroese
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