The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2

  • Currently 5.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
The Nose In January With a Nice Snowy Descent
Thursday January 26, 2006 2:36pm
I want to climb El Cap every month this year. On January 24th, I still hadn’t found anyone to climb with. It looked like I was going to have to solo something… which would probably involve suffering and cold temperatures. Not cool.

Lincoln Else saved me from that fate. At 9pm on the night of the 24th, he said he could climb. However, the very next day was the last sunny looking weather for January. I couldn’t leave San Francisco until 11pm so I got to Yosemite at 2:30am and woke up at 6am.

Two Bulls and a Bad Caffeine Twitch...
We pulled got to El Cap just after 7am. As we were ready to walk to the base, I realized I didn’t have a harness. I guess after 3.5 hours of sleep, my brain wasn’t fully on. So on the drive back to Link’s house to get a harness, I drank the equivalent of two Red Bulls on top of the two cups of coffee I had had earlier. I might have had a bad caffeine twitch, but at least I was now awake.

We started climbing just after 8am. The sun hit us on Sickle Ledge and for me it would be t-shirt climbing for most of the route. The lighting on El Cap in winter is exceptional. The sun light is much softer—like its perpetually late-afternoon. There was nobody else on the wall. It was a good place to be.

Lincoln also wants to climb El Cap every month this year. Since I had climbed 6 walls in December and was in better wall shape, I would lead this entire climb. Then in December, Lincoln would lead the whole route and I would jug.

The route was mostly dry for the first half. Occasionally I would put my hand in a dry-looking crack to find water running in the back. But, this was the exception, not the rule.

On the King Swing, we could hear our friends in the meadow cheered us on. Thanks Dov, Brandon, Naomi and crew! Its too bad with the belay location, wasn’t able to watch Link do the main part of the King Swing. But I did get to watch the last crux big were suddenly a hand, then another hand, latched onto an arête. Next, Links body slowly and carefully did the delicate “horizontal mantel.” I still have not found a cooler pendulum on El Cap… except maybe on the Pacific Ocean Wall.

Chris McNamara on the King Swing pitch of the Nose.
Chris McNamara on the King Swing pitch of the Nose.
Credit: Lincoln Else

Who Turned On the Faucet?
At Camp IV, the summer-like conditions on the route ended abruptly. Water from the Muir Wall dripped down on us. The pitch off Camp 4 was partially soaked because water seeped out of every inch of the Great Roof pitch. I was not happy.

Chris McNamara leading the wet Great Roof pitch.
Chris McNamara leading the wet Great Roof pitch.
Credit: Lincoln Else

I took my time on the Great Roof. Not only because I was terrified of the tiny alien placements in wet rock: many of the fixed stoppers looked extremely suspect. This fear was confirmed when I clipped into a few only to have them wiggle out in my hands just before stepping on them. Luckily, the increased fear kept me warm or at least distracted me from the fact that my pants were now soaked (from the water on the rock, not because I was scared).

The next pitch, the Pancake Flake, was dry. Unfortunately, my arms were now locking up from cramps. There was still over 1000 feet of the steepest climbing on the route to go. I got a bit nervous. If my arms kept locking up, was I going to fall unexpectedly in a section I usually runnout? Or were we at least going to move so slowly that we might have to climb at night… in January?

Jamming Water, Slime and Mud
To make things worse, the route seemed to be getting wetter and wetter. The crack below Camp 5 involved jamming a mixture of water, slime and mud. The Glowering Spot pitch was mostly soaked, as was the pitch above the Glowering Spot.

Chris McNamara leading up to the Glowering Spot.
Chris McNamara leading up to the Glowering Spot.
Credit: Lincoln Else

Lincoln definitely helped my psyched shouting up encouragements. He also has the cool habit of yetting out a cheerful “Yahoo!” scream every time I finished a pitch.

He enjoyed the wet conditions in a different but equally special way. The rope was now soaked and we soon learned a new equation: water + nylon rope = bungee cord. For the rest of the route, the rope would stretch in ways that, well, ropes just shouldn’t. The same principle applied to my aiders. Each time I stepped into them, they sunk down a few inches. Nice.

But the true wet climbing wouldn’t come until above Camp VI. Here, the first 30 of face climbing were drenched by a waterspout in the rock. As I approached this mini-waterfall, I imagined how I would quickly and gracefully climb to the dryer rock above. Of course, as soon as I entered the spicket, I fumbled with the climbing and gear and was soaked in seconds. I was still wearing a t-shirt… but not for long.

Chris McNamara blocking a water spout with his body above Camp VI.
Chris McNamara blocking a water spout with his body above Camp VI.
Credit: Lincoln Else

Somehow, the cramps in my arms worked their way out. instead of topping out at 9pm, as I imagined after finishing the Great Roof, we topped out around 3:30, a little under 7.5 hours after starting.

The greatest moment of the climb soon followed as we took inventory of the remaining food: 4 cliff bars, raisins, a granola bar and 9 little squares of chocolate. Big smiles and huge props to Lincoln for such foresight.

Feast on the summit.
Feast on the summit.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Somehow I envisioned that, even in January, a week of sun would have melted all the snow off the slabs at the edge of El Cap. I could not have been more wrong. Snow was everywhere.

Chris McNamara on the snowy descent with Half Dome in the background.
Chris McNamara on the snowy descent with Half Dome in the background.
Credit: Lincoln Else

I set up the camera on a log to take a shot of Link and myself. But after setting the self timer and starting to run back over to Link, my foot sunk down three feet into a hole and the following shot resulted.

Chris McNamara falling through the snow while trying to take a timed p...
Chris McNamara falling through the snow while trying to take a timed photo with Lincoln Else.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Anyone who has done the East Ledges descent will appreciate this photo of Lincoln on the slabs between The Nose and Zodiac.

Post Holing the East Ledges Descent
Despite the snow, the descent went quickly. Mainly because Link was going so fast and breaking trail. He managed to find all the big sinkholes like the one in the phot above. Thanks Link! We were back at the car at 5pm, about 9 hours after leaving the Valley. Dov achieved superstar status by picking us up and Manure Pile and driving us back to El Cap Meadow. Here is a final shot of Half Dome I took on the rappels.

  Trip Report Views: 6,879
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
Portland, Oregon
  Jan 26, 2006 - 02:50pm PT
Wow! Another great go at the nose Chris! The contrast between this and my little ass whooping on the same day is beyond, beyond. Again, remarkable what can become "normal" once we simply apply ourselves and become accepting of life on an entirely different scale. Bravo...

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Jan 26, 2006 - 04:28pm PT
Looking forward for the February adventure!

Trad climber
Phoenix, AZ
  Jan 26, 2006 - 04:36pm PT
Wow, Chris! I am always inspired by these TR's. Keep 'em coming.

  Jan 26, 2006 - 05:23pm PT
I yelled up at you guys when you were about two pitches from the top. It did look very wet,

It's been cold so that snow was obviously going to be there a few meters back from the edge. Nice going guys!

How come no close up shots of Link, Chris? The jugger is 1/2 the Team!

Social climber
El Portal Ca.
  Jan 26, 2006 - 07:03pm PT
Nice work lads and great pics!

Glad your'e getting out, must have been serene. Awesome!


Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Jan 26, 2006 - 07:26pm PT
Heh, funny to see someone needing to break trail in knee deep snow on that part of the slab descent. Looks like you guys were the only ones to have been up there in awhile. Congrats.

BTW - nice coordinated outfits Chris and Link!!!

  Jan 26, 2006 - 07:28pm PT
Boy, you guys dont look like you just climbed el cap. Frolicking in the snsow w/ matching outfits? Its like "old navy" extreme. Nice work!

Trad climber
Yosemite, CA
  Jan 26, 2006 - 07:29pm PT
Chris, you forgot the part about cutting the tag line. Then again, you were a hundred feet above me and somewhat distracted, but it was rather... exhilarating.

We had a piece of six mm for a tag line. Great line, super light, but it snagged on the first lower-out into the stove legs. Crap... I tried to pull myself back over to the anchor to twist it free or repeat the lower, but it was too thin to grab tightly. Bummer.... so I pulled myself as far back toward the anchor as I could, wrapped the tag-line around my arm, carefully pulled out a knife, and... zing.... took quite the nice ride.

As for the rest of the route, it felt somewhat like being tied to a rocket. Nice job Chris!

Chris belayed Tommy up El Cap, then I belayed Chris up El Cap... so now I guess I need to go find a belayer.

East Ledges is definitely interesting this time of year. Wonder what it will be like next month...


PS: As for the matching outfits... I'll take credit for that dorky blunder, both tops are mine. Guess I like red.

Mudcat Spire
  Jan 26, 2006 - 07:35pm PT
I want to climb El Cap every year this year.
susan peplow

Joshua Tree, CA
  Jan 27, 2006 - 02:01am PT
Chris thanks for bringing a smile to your readers. Good job, we can't even rack up in 9 hours!

David Nelson

San Francisco
  Jan 30, 2006 - 09:32pm PT
Here's for more TR's and less politics! Nice report. The East Ledges must have been the scariest part. Easy to slip and take a big drop.
Mick K

Northern Sierra
  Jan 31, 2006 - 07:14pm PT
Great to this this TR. It may actually motivate me to get off my ass.

More trip reports and less political bs
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Jan 31, 2006 - 10:18pm PT
haha link.

how could i forget the tag line incident! way to invent a new sub-sport of climbing: Open Blade Penduluming.

i am glad you made that cut with a surgeons hand... because if you went to the turf i would have had to retreat with only 120 feet of rope... and that would have eaten up my whole rack!

thanks for putting up with all my whining in the wet rock sections. i normally done complain... that much.

i wish i had taken photos... but my arms were sooo cooked i don't think i could have climbed with a singe extra ounce.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Nov 14, 2010 - 12:02pm PT

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 14, 2010 - 12:09pm PT

san francisco
  Jan 28, 2011 - 09:47am PT
I can climb it with you in june. It seems crazy that no one would go with you. In fact this is my goal, I got 2 years to really train and get ready.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jan 28, 2011 - 10:57pm PT
Awesome Job Chris, thanks for sharing,
Chris you are a professional climber and I am SOOOOO much better than you....:)
+500 points!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jan 28, 2011 - 11:28pm PT

um, WOW!!!!!
Sheesh, Chris what a tale!
(did you guys think about hauling a 3000 foot line up
so you could rap it instead of the slog)???

Just kidding. Awesome!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jan 28, 2011 - 11:52pm PT
great bump from the past...
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Jan 29, 2011 - 12:27am PT
That's the sh#t, man.

  Jan 29, 2011 - 02:05am PT
Very Sweet Link, and Chris! Man I sure am glad the water didn't run out for ya.he, he. It looks like a sled decent for the East Ledges.

What was your rack guys? Let's check it out. OOOOOOOHHHh!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Jan 29, 2011 - 01:58am PT
A nice report!

Can cold weather and/or water in cracks and/or ice cause some cracks to slightly expand or contract, leading to Chris' problem with loose stoppers on the Great Roof?

  Jan 29, 2011 - 09:50am PT
It's always good if you can climb with a runny Nose!

Trad climber
  Jan 29, 2011 - 01:13pm PT

Any advice on how to climb 3000 vert in a day???

Trad climber
Golden, Co
  Aug 31, 2011 - 01:32pm PT
One of my favorite TR's

Bump for Captn in Winter

Oakland, CA
  Feb 13, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
Bump! Respect to the landlord.


A long way from where I started
  Feb 13, 2013 - 10:48pm PT
Luckily, the increased fear kept me warm or at least distracted me from the fact that my pants were now soaked (from the water on the rock, not because I was scared).

I'll have to remember that line. No, no, the climb was just a bit wet. No way I pissed myself in fear.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Dec 9, 2013 - 02:13am PT
Good stuff Maynard!
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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