I still remember the first time my parents took me to Yosemite and sticking my head out of the car’s sunroof to stare up at El Capitan as we drove past, my hands sweating. From this moment on, I knew I had to climb The Nose. It took me several years to teach myself how to big wall climb. I didn’t have any mentors and spent countless hours reading The Freedom of The Hills and How to Big Wall Climb. After learning how to aid climb with a personal hero Ammon McNeely at the Red Rocks Rendezvous and spending my first night on a wall on Washington’s Column with my friend Eli, we were rearing to give The Nose a shot.
In the morning breakfast was a little hard to stomach as we took in the view. Looking up the route was worse, seeing the cascading vertical ocean of granite between us and the summit was daunting. Deciding we didn’t have enough time to finish the route before a forecasted snow storm we bailed once again, driving out of the valley with our tails between our legs.
In the morning we packed up as people were ascending their fixed lines to Sickle ledge. We waited patiently for the congestion of climbers to clear. Normally I can’t stand waiting to climb, but this time I was enjoying every second. I had kept a hand drawn map of the route taped above my bed, staring at it every night before I fell asleep, dreaming about it, waking up and running it through in my head, waiting. And now here I was, climbing the materialization of my dreams! The last pitch of the day was a full rope length of wide crack climbing. With only two cams to protect that size, I had to run the rope out for over a hundred feet. Inching my way up as the sun went down behind me my only sphere of consciousness was held in the beam of my headlamp. The pitch felt long and ordinarily I would have been petrified having such little gear in the wall. The party above us had bailed because of this very section. I felt that iron resolve that I had sensed at the base of the climb and pushed onwards, my limited field of view like a form of meditation. I flopped onto Dolt tower triumphantly - flat ground! After a difficult haul the party below us ascended our rope and the four of us hung out on the ledge and admired the lights in the valley below us. They gave us some much needed sunscreen and we enjoyed the silent comfort of each others presence in such a wild place. The night breeze was warm, and everything was still and right.
“Probably so. A lot of teams have passed us doing it in a day,” I replied. I wasn't in any particular rush. We had hauled up enough water to take our time and enjoy ourselves. Why rush something that I will remember for the rest of my life: my first time up El Capitan?
After watching them do the king swing I bolstered my confidence and Eli lowered me into the unknown. Level with the bottom of the boot flake, I started jogging across the wall to the right. The rock was slick from the overcast weather and my feet skidded out at times. It took a couple swings until I was flying, the rope above me bouncing and sawing against the flake above. I was wildly freaked at this point, and slowed my momentum. Eli cleverly flicked the rope over the left side of the Boot flake so it was in a less aggressive angle, and I launched into motion again. Hurtling horizontally across the blank wall under the detached flake, I caught the corner feature at the farthest reach of the pendulum. Pulling myself around the corner, Eli gingerly fed out slack so I wouldn’t lose balance and fly back to the right. After a delicate few moves with the tension of the rope I was safely perched on Eagle ledge. I let out an ecstatic howl. The king swing truly is something magical.
We were passed by another two parties doing the route in a day, both of which were astounded by how young we were. The rock in the next few pitches of the route is of lesser quality than the flawless granite that composes the rest the route. The climbing through this rock to Camp IV is tricky to navigate with a haul bag. At one point I found myself jumping to catch a small edge with twenty pounds of gear and two ropes hanging from my harness. Free climbing with a big wall rack is clumsy and difficult.