Trip Report
Timestamp photo TR: Ab Free to Hawkman's, the prequel
Monday December 21, 2009 1:24pm
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

9:24 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 are f'ing it all up. 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

4:21 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 position, 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. 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

12:17 am

12:39 am

7:00 am

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.

9:37 am

9:55 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!

3:10 pm

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

7:07 pm

7:26 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.

  Trip Report Views: 2,937
About the Author
le_bruce is a climber from Oakland: what's not to love?.

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Comment on this Trip Report

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
  May 21, 2009 - 08:45pm PT
Whoa! It sounds like you guys sure got experienced on that outing, and now I see why you surmised that no one had been back since your last go. I'm extra glad that you guys pulled through this time.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  May 21, 2009 - 08:57pm PT
Very nice - thanks for sharing the big adventure up there.

Trad climber
  May 21, 2009 - 09:00pm PT
You guys got OWNED!!!

That was a great trip report though! Way to go for it on that heady lead.

Edit: You werent in over your just didnt have a topo!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 21, 2009 - 09:14pm PT
"Buried alive in Lower Brother, 8:29 pm"

HOOO nice style post points for that one.


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  May 21, 2009 - 09:16pm PT
Whoa! Great TR - I look forward for the rematch!
Joe Metz

Trad climber
Bay Area
  May 21, 2009 - 09:20pm PT
That's really sucking it up!

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  May 21, 2009 - 09:32pm PT

Terry Tate says good job living through it.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  May 21, 2009 - 11:13pm PT
That was great...THanks!

Trad climber
northern CA
  May 21, 2009 - 11:24pm PT
Great TR. I was going to write more but I gotta go get a drink of water!

Trad climber
  May 21, 2009 - 11:31pm PT
I say, cut the damn page out of the book if you have to. But don't go up nowhere without a topo. How'd they do it back in the day?

Nice report and nice effort. Did you get any gear back?

I'm putting it on my tick list.

Social climber
WA, NC, Idaho Falls
  May 21, 2009 - 11:50pm PT
It's great to see such an honest TR!
Hope y'all got yer gear back!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  May 21, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
So I am gathering here that on the second go, you two characters had a better time?
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  May 22, 2009 - 12:35am PT
Haha. It was just your turn.
That's all.
Everyone gets their Epic.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  May 22, 2009 - 12:44am PT
whoa, guys!
great that you went back and got it... but be careful out there, scary raps will catch up with you someday.


Trad climber
Hustle City
  May 22, 2009 - 01:41am PT
Holy mic'EPIC!

Nice. Way to dig deep and keep it together. A fine, FINE, TR.

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
  May 22, 2009 - 01:46am PT
Nice, I love a good ol epic story.

I'll go up and get your gear, clean the route up etc... for a pizza and beer at the loft.

Anyone down to follow or swap leads. I'm game.

...Oh, nevermind, I see you already went back...

I'm still down to climb it if anyones game. Still looking for a partner for Mother Earth as well.

Gym climber
  May 22, 2009 - 02:10am PT
Adventure! Pain! A full-value recreational experience. Great report.

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  May 22, 2009 - 02:12am PT
Way to go for the pain Scott!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  May 22, 2009 - 02:17am PT
How come it seems so damn funny when it's all over? It sure wasn't so funny when it was happening!

Here's a LOOOOOONG video of us settling the grudge match:

And sorry folks, we cleaned all our gear! I missed a few pieces for the shot in the video, but you get the idea.

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Dec 21, 2009 - 03:09pm PT

but basically OK. Y'all's number was UP!

Brave to go back up,and bolder still to share the pain here. Thanks!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Dec 21, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
Heh heh, good times. Nice memory for a little afternoon work break! The funniest part was how we crashed and wallowed 10 feet to the left of the appropriate crack system to the top. But it took me 5 minutes of psych-up to stand on my feet, let alone do technical climbing at that point.

Here's a pic of most of the booty we reclaimed on our second go. In addition to this, we cannibalized some of the old rope fragments to make hefty rap slings along the proper rap route on lower brother west side.

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Dec 21, 2009 - 09:45pm PT
Wow! Serious suffering and gear loss!

Great job going back up there!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Dec 22, 2009 - 03:09pm PT
Rad! That's one climb I've never done but want to someday (although perhaps a little less enthusiastic about it now!)

Great job going back there!



Trad climber
  Dec 22, 2009 - 05:43pm PT
Oh wow Scott....I didn't realize you had this monster epic before you went BACK up. Major point for pulling the mental stops on that gig. Hope the band is rocking!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Dec 23, 2009 - 08:01am PT
You and me, Karl, anytime!

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
  Dec 23, 2009 - 12:14pm PT
A mega-classic fiasco! You could rename the route Murphy's Law! And a redeeming second ascent to boot---love it.

Trad climber
the Magic City
  Dec 24, 2009 - 06:22pm PT
Totally awesome, much better stuff than I've seen in the climbing mags recently.

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Dec 28, 2009 - 04:07am PT
That was great. You really caught the hopeless feeling of incredible thirst while looking at the Merced and dreaming.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 31, 2011 - 01:15pm PT
Looks like a great climb and a fun adventure.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Oct 31, 2011 - 01:50pm PT
Awesome adventure. Proud.

Trad climber
Bay Area
  Oct 31, 2011 - 02:05pm PT
Hawkman's: No ascents between May 2008 and May 2009.
Scouted the approach to Absolutely Free yesterday. Glad we didn't make the start at crack of noon on a short autumn day.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Dec 18, 2012 - 08:15pm PT
One good bump deserves another. Le_bruce buddy, I'm packing up the Berkeley house and procrastinating it right now. So many good adventures enjoyed/survived, so many more yet undone!

  Feb 1, 2013 - 07:01pm PT

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Mar 21, 2016 - 05:49pm PT
It's about ready to resurface on the TR list...

reading all this again gave me a happy afternoon :)

The Good Places
  Mar 21, 2016 - 06:06pm PT
cottonmouth king! funny tr, way to share the shame.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Mar 21, 2016 - 07:07pm PT
I remember this TR!!! And Nutjob's.

Makes me wanna get on it after I get back into shape a bit.

I've had a trip or two like this one. Scary at the time.

Trad climber
  Mar 21, 2016 - 08:52pm PT
Wow, so good! Sorry I laughed while reading about your frustration and suffering.

Having heard all sorts of partner stories, the fact that you guys still laugh with each other after the epic (and apparently more like this one) speaks volume of your characters.

Thanks for the sharing and the bump.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 22, 2016 - 11:17am PT
Wow, so good! Sorry I laughed while reading about your frustration and suffering.

I did too. :) Those two are super nice guys, you will likely run into one or both, or have already.
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