Reticent Wall A5 5.7

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
The Reticent Wall
Sunday December 25, 2011 8:34pm
I believe that life is a journey, not a destination. Today’s modern society is structured in a way which makes it easy to live life without any obstacles. Sometimes we need to create obstacles in order to grow. The Reticent Wall was the perfect choice.

No pasta meal is complete without a dash of parmesan cheese.
No pasta meal is complete without a dash of parmesan cheese.
Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Callum climbing the pitch above Wino Tower
Callum climbing the pitch above Wino Tower
Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Trying to hide my fear behind sunglasses and a fake smile. Starting up...
Trying to hide my fear behind sunglasses and a fake smile. Starting up the Reticent crux
Credit: Neil Chelton

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.

Credit: Neil Chelton

“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


  Trip Report Views: 8,886
Neil Chelton
About the Author
Neil Chelton is from England, likes to drink tea and eat beans on toast with melted cheese. He dislikes working, paying bills and obeying rules. He still thinks that climbing big walls is a great way to meet young attractive women, but so far he has failed to prove this theory to be true. He currently lives in a tent in someones dog-turd filled back garden in Patagonia.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 25, 2011 - 08:57pm PT
Hilarious read, and frigging fantastic,


"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."

Best TR line ever!!!! :)
Prod

Trad climber
  Dec 25, 2011 - 08:59pm PT
Good stuff.

Prod.
rlf

Trad climber
Josh, CA
  Dec 25, 2011 - 10:24pm PT
Brilliant report!
Grampa

climber
from SoCal
  Dec 25, 2011 - 10:29pm PT
Great TR guys! You had epic fun!!!
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Dec 25, 2011 - 11:01pm PT
good write-up, nice photos. thanks
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
  Dec 26, 2011 - 12:54am PT
Lovely excursion. I am listening to the new Black Keys
WAY EFFING LOUD as I read this, it's a perfect soundtrack.

Merry Xmas.
NA_Kid

Big Wall climber
The Bear State
  Dec 26, 2011 - 01:35am PT
Yeah, f*#k yeah!
DaveT.

Big Wall climber
Mammoth Lakes
  Dec 26, 2011 - 10:21am PT
Brilliant mate!
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Dec 26, 2011 - 01:25pm PT
i swapped out my logging boots
for some dancing slippers halfway
thru your tale.

mostly naked save
for my dated and stretched briefs
i danced, spun and sang out
the wrest of your story.

thanks now my wife knows im nuts.
BriGuy

climber
black hills, south dakota
  Dec 26, 2011 - 12:50pm PT
Dang, nice job and TR.

My favorite sick quote of the report:

"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."

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Dec 26, 2011 - 01:56pm PT
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.

On the other hand, you could have no care in the word what anyone else thought and be up there for the pure fun of simply doing it.

Great TR nonetheless!

Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
  Dec 26, 2011 - 02:07pm PT
ya lost me at the toe lick pic…

cheers
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Dec 26, 2011 - 10:06pm PT
Another excellent and entertaining read, Neil! Are you down in Patagonia yet?

I am wondering how many ascents Reticent Wall has had by now? Thirty? Forty? I know when we made the eight ascent in 98 it was Pretty Darn Hard, with the penultimate lead being a Real Live Death Pitch.

I am also wondering how you would compare your ascent of Reticent in difficulty to our second ascent of Continental Drift? Reticent has long been the Yardstick on El Cap, and I'd love to know how you think the Drift stacks up.

Best of luck in Patagonia. And do us a favour, will ya? Please don't end up dead, as I could use you to fix tea again next time, and I need Callum as a free climbing rope gun once more.

Come to think of it, I can fix me own tea.
Neil Chelton

climber
Bouldering your girlfriend
Author's Reply  Dec 27, 2011 - 08:42am PT
Pete, I think the Reticent has more classic pitches, but it´s much easier to figure out how to climb it because so many people have pounded their way up there now. It´s (currently) less obvious how to climb your average Continental Drift pitch, and the rock quality (especially in the diorite) isn´t as good. I think the most challenging pitch overall is Extraordinary Alien on the Drift. It would be interesting to attach a heavy haulbag to the lead line halfway up each crux pitch, throw it off and see what grade it really is..
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Dec 27, 2011 - 09:02am PT
Glad the Alien on the Drift was your lead, buddy. That diorite pitch below was certainly one of the hardest I've ever done. The team of three was the way to go, surely - it gave one a day off after each lead in order to come back to grips after getting so gripped.

So what's the plan in Patagonia, lad? It's the height of the summer. Shouldn't you be up in Campo Bridwell or something, or even on the wall, instead of playing with yourself on line?
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Dec 27, 2011 - 12:07pm PT
Fantastic TR!
JSpencerV

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Dec 27, 2011 - 01:03pm PT
bad ass
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Dec 27, 2011 - 01:48pm PT
Great TR. Well done!

Thanks much.

John
bubble boy

Big Wall climber
Mammoth, CA
  Dec 28, 2011 - 10:38am PT
Classic amazing British humor. Love it! Thanks.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Dec 28, 2011 - 10:49am PT
Your few, short sentences describing the crux pitch make this TR one of the best ever. I give it 5 out of 5 Alpenhornen for succinctness and radness!
Funf Alpenhornen.
Funf Alpenhornen.
Credit: WorldWideWeb
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Dec 28, 2011 - 10:53am PT
Hehe... it's a bit like Mr. Bean meets Samuel Beckett climbing bigwall. Nice accomplisment!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jan 3, 2012 - 02:10pm PT
My bet: your completely f'd sense of humor was your best tool in the kit, deployed more frequently than any piece of gear, and did more to keep you safe and sending from bottom to top than anything else you brought up the wall.

Grade A, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 3, 2012 - 02:33pm PT
awesome job guys. lots of obstacles overcome!



nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jan 3, 2012 - 02:55pm PT
Pretty funny and hard stuff!
That toe pic was a harsh way to start things off in the report, but maybe it's like the armchair version of getting a hard climb wake-up call and it had to be done.
socialclimber

Trad climber
CA
  Jan 3, 2012 - 05:37pm PT
Pretty good stuff, my climbing partner has an anti-foot fetish, absolutely hates them to the point of having reversals at seeing certain feet, can't wait to show here the licking photo!

Charles
TPinSLC

Trad climber
SLC
  Jan 3, 2012 - 07:52pm PT
Friggin hilarious read. Great pix and TR. Cheers!
shipoopoi

Big Wall climber
oakland
  Jan 3, 2012 - 07:58pm PT
great tr, lurking fear to reticent in a year..steep learning curve. isn't the paine closed right now for fires? what's on your plate down there? steve schneider
Sankey

Trad climber
Sheffield, UK
  Jan 4, 2012 - 06:10am PT
Good job, great report, rock on!
thekidcormier

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
  Jan 4, 2012 - 10:45am PT
very enjoyable read, keep sending
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 4, 2012 - 09:08pm PT
I got an email from Neil the other day - he is down fighting the wind in the Torres de Paine.
hoipolloi

climber
A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Jan 4, 2012 - 09:29pm PT
Any idea what they are gunning for Pete?

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 4, 2012 - 09:34pm PT
Neil wrote,

"We climbed Torre Norte in Torres del Paine and will be heading back there soon to climb something on Torre Central, not sure what route yet. It all depends on whether we can find some more pitons and ropes, which at the moment is completely impossible."
YoMum

Social climber
Darwen,Lancs,England
  Jan 8, 2012 - 05:33pm PT
THAT MY BOY..
Thats brill Neil..miss you lots,luv.MUM. xx
Dominic

Big Wall climber
Peak District, UK
  Jan 11, 2012 - 12:46pm PT
Hey boys - nice one and a gripping read:-) Good to keep up the turd theme!

HOWEVER I'm a bit worried that Hidalgo didn't get a mention... Is there something that I need to break to Bill? He's very fond of it (even though it's a hideous orange and just a bit too narrow to be a really commodious pig).

Have a great time down south and hopefully we'll make it out there to catch up in Camp4 (unless you can come over and join Neil at this year's Gogarth meet - June 9th & 10th.

Cheers for now

Dom
callum

Trad climber
UK
  Feb 1, 2012 - 08:10pm PT
Hidalgo is a weapon best kept secret. Altho im sorry to say i think he may have just seen his last wall down here..........Any chance of my bag Bill??? :) Yep im on for the Gogarth meet.
m_jones

Trad climber
Carson City, NV
  Jan 23, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Splendid irreverence!
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
  Jan 23, 2013 - 09:44pm PT
Nice....nice to hear details of hard aid..
Johnny K.

climber
  Jul 16, 2013 - 07:21pm PT
up
eKat

Trad climber
  Nov 11, 2013 - 08:01pm PT
BBST!

(As a reminder = BBST = donini for Bump for a Better SuperTopo)
10b4me

climber
  Mar 13, 2014 - 12:16pm PT
Bump
Spanky

Social climber
boulder co
  Mar 13, 2014 - 12:55pm PT
Nice TR and good writing! Reticent looks rad, my buddy Chris did around the 15th ascent in 03 and said it was one of the coolest routes he ever climbed. Bump for cool climbing content!!
overwatch

climber
  Mar 31, 2014 - 07:52pm PT
Missed this ...badass bump
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Apr 1, 2014 - 08:08pm PT
Sick!


The first pic, I mean.


Awesome TR. Lol.

Wes
PotatoHead

Trad climber
Nunya,ID
  Apr 2, 2014 - 10:47am PT
The video was icing on the cake!! You dudes crushed it!
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