Trip ReportTimestamp photo TR: Ab Free to Hawkman's, the prequel
Scott called up last spring and said: “Hey le_bruce, DMT is always spraying on-line about how good the Ab Free – Hawkman’s linkup is. It’s only 5.9. Let’s do it. When we hit the top, let’s use the daylight we have left to check out an old 1930’s/40’s route that goes up the spine of Middle Brother.”
16 May 2008
Leaving the car, 6:57 am
About to put the shoes on for the 4th class approach to Ab Free Center, 7:23 am
Slabs of granite at dawn, from the end of the approach, 7:33am
Somewhere in the middle of the 1st pitch, getting hot at 8:36 am
Base of p2, 9:13 am
At the base of Hawkman’s Escape after topping out Ab Free and scrambling up Michael’s ledge, 11:24 am
Still at the base, wasting time and pondering the menacing look of that headwall, heat is in full swing, 12:25pm
Finally off our asses and committing to Hawkman’s, 12:46 pm
Spooky guillotine flake on top of Hawkman’s p1, 1:45 pm
Having forgotten that we’d taken a pic of the topo, we waste a bunch of time looking for any alternative other than the overhang on bad diorite (which is the real line). Here’s Scott sniffing around the guillotine, way off route, 3:12 pm
Not Hawkman’s, but somebody’s probably climbed up there (Ablegabel?), still burning daylight at 3:26 pm
Scott woefully considering the steep choss, and we’re still on the same damn ledge on top of p1! We suck! I’m out of water for a few hours by now, it’s late, our energy and psyche is low, but we’re just not seeing the writing on the wall. 3:39 pm
And the lads just don’t want to accept the inevitability of the line! Still off in the weeds at 3:54 pm
Moving now slowly but resolutely to what we’ve finally accepted as the line, 3:57 pm
Scott is committed to the chossy crux at this point, still not sure he’s on route, 4:10 pm
Mid runout following the linkup of pitches 1 and 2 that Scott has just sent. This was a heady, heady linkup and Scott stepped up big time to climb it. 2 hour battle on lead to keep the mind in check and commit to the climbing. I was spooked as hell just following with the whipping wind, the swaying choss tower, the lateness of the day. Great lead, Scott! 6:16 pm!
Heading into the decaying chimney on p3, the signature feature of the climb. Bad news for the noob protagonists is that it’s late, but maybe the topout is right after that chimney? I think that’s what I remember from the topo? Magical thinking will get you every time. 7:26 pm.
Looking down at the p2 runout, shaking my head at how much ass Scott just kicked on this linkup. Mucho fuerte, flaco! Meanwhile he’s up above slithering through the dark chimney on another good lead, while I’m just about hitting mental redline from hanging out on this intimidating face so long. 7:40 pm.
Following the decaying chimney, thirsty as hell from fear and heat, 8:28 pm.
Buried alive in Lower Brother, 8:29 pm
Second section of the chimney, now laaaate in the day. The position at this point in the climb is incredible. I pushed this lead hoping the top was somewhere just beyond the scope of this picture. Thirst is nagging after 6 hrs without water. 8:34 pm.
No such luck. 9:49 pm.
17 May 2008
Time to shake out my limbs and re-climb last night's lead. Sun's not yet up and it’s already hot. The thirst is well off the charts at this point, and increasing with every thrutchy move up the wide climbing above. If we climbed scared, slow, and badly yesterday, today we’re at about 50% of that. 7:00 am.
Looking down at Scott in the bivy spot, 7:40 am
Looking up at the physical crux of the route, 7:40 am
Really cool tiger-striped rock on this pitch, 8:43 am
Lots of water. Views of the Merced were a constant kick to the moral with the bitter thirst. 8:53 am.
Where to go? Because we’re idiots, we forget we have a pic of the topo in our camera, so never make it off this ledge, though we try several different lines – each attempt costing us time, energy, and gear. 3:10 pm
Exhausted and out of ideas, we spend hours floundering and just trying to get out of the sun. A deep blue had welled up in Scott’s cheeks at this point. We could not find the escape on Hawkman's Escape. The noobs are now at 24 hrs w/o water in hot temps and straining through fear, adrenaline, and wide cracks. Unable to swallow, we rifled through the deepest seems of our packs to see if there was anything moist. Scott found a couple of cough mints, which were actually a huge help!
A year later DMT would write me that we had it in the bag from this ledge, but the more truthful statement is that we were ready to be bagged and tagged at this point.
Melissa, who I knew had also done the route, couldn’t even remember the ledge I was asking her about when I wrote for beta a few weeks ago – probably because she was moving quickly and efficiently toward the top!
Only choice left – bail and eat all the gear you’ll have to leave. 3:10 pm
Even when you’re blowing it in Yosemite, the beauty is still unfolding around you! 4:34 pm.
A hold-your-breath rap. 5:20 pm
Stuck ropes rapping through the chimney off the single nut. I re-led the pitch but couldn’t get the ropes moving, so for the first time had to cut a lead rope. It gave me a sick feeling to run the blade through that thing. 5:33 pm
Rapping over the runout pitch
We had to cut our rope again on the last rap, when it got wedged behind a dumptruck flake. This was the Brother’s last insult to us – forced to leave a bright red rope dangling from the top of p1 to the dirt of Michael’s Ledge. Any climbers who made it up there would know some chumps had squeezed out an epic, and would probably guess that there was a treasure trove of gear for the taking above. Plus we were leaving all sorts of gear and cut lines strewn over what was a pristine route when we roped up for it the morning before – there was not a single fixed piece, sling, or bolt anywhere on the Ab Free to Hawkman’s linkup, a rarity in the Valley and we’d blown it. Not good. We turned tail and headed down Michael’s.
For the last half of the Michael’s Ledge descent, you can hear a running stream somewhere below. F’ing torture on the thirsty mind. Scott nearly steps on a rattler somewhere in there. 9:24 pm
Once we hit the water and doused ourselves, we took some time to think about how thoroughly Lower Brother had beaten the living sh#t out of us over the last two days. We didn’t get near the top. We coughed up all sorts of gear (half a dozen nuts, #1, 3, 5 BD cams, cut ropes). We spent 30 hours drunk on a cocktail of dehydration, doubt, and abject fear. We were way, way, way over our heads. But we made it down, even if a little worse for the wear.
Driving home we stopped in at El Agave, where we agreed over $4 monster burritos not to post a TR of the trip until we got back to give it a second shot and clean up our stuff. Maybe we’d get lucky and at least find the gear that we’d left off-route on the high-point ledge? Doubtful. What seemed more likely at the time was that we’d never get near Hawkman’s again.
Even when it’s bad, it’s still good in Yosemite.
A week ago we got our rematch – Scott, you’re up for writing that one.
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