Our days prior to the ascent were spent shirtlessly boasting to attractive non-climbers and working on our project of finishing a huge Tupperware of portabella ravioli which was smuggled out of the 'all you can eat' buffet.
After a morning of scavenging leftover food at Yosemite Lodge and a final stealth entry into the shower block, we cruised down to the meadow and climbed up to Lay Lady ledge, leaving Percy behind to look after our belongings.
Percy is our van. He is a big blue beast with a massive double bed in the back. The best $350 I ever spent. However, once you cross the imaginary line into the national park, falling asleep inside a vehicle at certain times of day is illegal. Our solution to this ridiculousness involved meticulously covering the windows with bivi bags and clothes. Socks and duck-tape are ideal for sealing up the tiny spaces to prevent even the most persistent ranger from being able to see inside.
The sun dawned. Reality set in. We were about to climb The Reticent Wall. A year ago, I climbed Lurking Fear. It was definitely the hardest, most epic thing I had ever done. It was also the easiest El Cap route. Now here I was about to start one of the hardest. I knew I was out of my depth. I thought about all the people I know who've followed the path of least resistance through life. Too afraid to step out of their comfort zones to do the things they really want. But not realizing this until it's too late. If I didn't do this climb now, I would probably go back to England, find a wife and buy a lawnmower.
The first pitch was hard enough to keep my attention but safe enough to be fun. At one point, I put my bouldering experience to good use and did an unnecessarily dramatic 'free move to hook dyno' which I thankfully stuck first time. A storm came in, forcing us to spend the afternoon drinking copious amounts of tea under the shelter of our leaking portaledge fly.
After the 3rd or 4th cup of morning coffee, it often became a frantic race against time to locate the necessary utensils to perform a safe bowel movement. Bathroom etiquette is forgotten, and comparing turds becomes an interesting daily competition.
On the second day, we discovered a rather alarming core shot in the very middle of the haul rope. A simple knot was fastened over it and we congratulated ourselves for being able to solve such a potentially life-threatening issue. Later, when the knot wouldn't feed through our hauling device, we realized the complexity of the problem. For the next 5 hauls, we solved the problem 5 different ways, each using a complicated system of pulleys and slings, sometimes backed-up in a roundabout way, but always creating cluster and frustration.
By day 3 we were getting dangerously low on toilet paper. Each valuable piece had to be used to its full potential if we were to reach the top safely. Through trial and error, we learned that a single square of tissue can be used to clean the stove, blow ones nose and wipe up spilt piss from the ledge. Getting this in the optimally hygienic order is crucial, but something we never seemed to get right.
The pitch above Wino Tower is now considered to be the most difficult. A week earlier, an intense game of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ confirmed that Callum would lead this one. Keeping with tradition, we opted to drink a bottle of the finest red wine available in a plastic bottle the evening before. This provided Callum with great enthusiasm, which unfortunately seemed to be replaced by a hangover the next morning. He began climbing up, noticeably trembling with fear but pretending everything was fine.
A few hours later, I was rudely awakened by Callums shouted words of panic from above. He was barely audible over the noise of The Hawk radio blaring from our boom box. The pitch was hard and time-consuming and the ledge upon which I lay was perfect for sunbathing. I pulled a bunch of slack through the gri-gri, calculating that I should get a solid 30 minutes sleep before needing to attend to the ropes again. A few more hours passed and I became seriously concerned about the possibility that cleaning the pitch would coincide with the 7pm ‘rock block’ of Led Zeppelin on the radio. I reinforced the radio attachment so I could take it with me. Problem solved.
"I dribbled on the ledge" Callum explained, mopping up a puddle of spilt urine with his sock. My laughter stopped when I felt a sudden burning sensation in my hands. The Jetboil stove was spewing boiling water all over itself. I panicked, accidentally turned the stove on full volume and moved the overflowing disaster around the portaledge towards Callum, who instinctively grabbed the lid and frisbeed it 2000 feet down to the talus below. The smell of burning skin added a peculiar flavour to our evening meal.
The next morning, I ascended our fixed rope to the belay above. This would be a simple task if I hadn't clumsily dropped both of my jumars the night before. I invented an obscure pulley system which enabled me to move up slowly but strenuously. It seemed to work, so I detached myself from the belay and committed my life to the single rope. Only when I reached the upper belay did I realize that the rope had been rubbing over a horribly sharp edge to the point where I probably wouldn't even feel comfortable using it as a washing line.
We continuously created epic problems which were either solved accidentally or by using the skills we had just learnt on previous pitches.
After a week of perpetual anxiety, we reached the notorious dangerous pitch. I'd heard horror stories about this. Falling from an inopportune point would probably result in an unwanted case of death. I hid my fear behind a casual front and jokingly told Callum that he could have all my climbing gear if I fell. The pitch started easy, drawing me in with a false sense of security. But it quickly turned into a real-life nightmare. It was like climbing through a giant stack of wafer biscuits. I had two options; reach the top, or die trying. I began to question my purpose in life. It felt like I was watching a video through a blurred screen of someone else climbing this pitch. I continued up, committing to moves I genuinely thought would cause me to fall. Time became irrelevant.
Barely staying attached to the wall, I eventually found myself balanced atop the massive detached flake at the belay. The pitch was done. I could smell the summit.
We spent 8 days pounding metal into this natural wonder of the world, permanently disfiguring the rock simply to create the illusion to our peers that we had done something constructive with our lives.
“What next?” Callum asked, throwing a poo-filled paper bag into a small fire on the summit, “Patagonia?”
If you feel like wasting another 15 minutes of your life, watch our video: http://vimeo.com/33470817