Tribal Rite A4 5.5

  • Currently 4.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Tribal Rite with my dad. A family trip up El Cap.
Sunday December 18, 2011 4:40pm
After reading Mark Hudon's South Seas TR
I felt like writing a longer TR. Sure enough, my writing skills can't be compared to Mark's. On the other hand, writing in luxembourgish may not be a good idea either. So here we go. You take what you get.

You know, I've always climbed with my dad. Always . My first memories are from when I was about 5 or so, and I know that climbing was on my mind a lot back then already. I started climbing because my dad took me to the rocks. He does not remember when he did that first. My mom does not know it either. My best guess is that it was shortly after I was comfortable enough with walking to get to the crag. I wish i had a book showing pics of all my climbs like Hayden's parents Michael and Julie did for him. That would be rad!
Those first years were dangerous I guess. My dad essentially soloed those routes so I could toprope them. We've climbed together for more than 15 years now, and I've yet to see him take a fall. I remember not being allowed until I was 12, but when I was able to toprope my first 12a three times without rest, he agreed I could lead it. I was psyched.

Climbing in the Verdon Gorge.
Climbing in the Verdon Gorge.
Credit: nopantsben

We went climbing on most weekends, but I actually preferred skiing, and sometimes soccer. That changed soon enough.
The day I climbed in the Alps for the first time, I must have been 12 or so, up a bigger wall to a real summit, I was hooked! This was more adventurous than what we had done on the crags, and I enjoyed the entire process of looking for the right way to climb, set up anchors, rappelling, and so forth. My dad taught me everything, and soon enough I was able to climb many routes in the Dolomites on my own.

Grosse Micheluzzi - Piz Ciavazes - Dolomites
Grosse Micheluzzi - Piz Ciavazes - Dolomites
Credit: nopantsben
Look at the t-shirt.
Look at the t-shirt.
Credit: nopantsben

By the time I was 17, I had climbed in virtually every classic area in Europe. In the Verdon Gorge, the Dolomites, Chamonix, the Swiss Alps, the Pfalz, Paklenica, the Wilder Kaiser and many more. My dad had always wanted to take me to many different areas instead of trying to make me a super sport climber, which made me more motivated with every holiday we spent climbing.

The climb I wanted to do the most all those years was the Nose though. My dad had climbed in 1999 when I was 8. I was extremey depressed back than that he had not taken me along on that route, but when I saw a picture that showed El Cap, I knew that this was what I wanted to climb more than anything else.
I climbed a bunch in crags of course, and had climbed up to 5.13 by the time I could go to Yosemite the first time in 2008, when I turned 18. I climbed the Nose with an American friend, as I recounted here .
After climbing two other El Cap routes in 2010, once with my dad, my dad and I were back in Yosemite on August 10 this year. It had been a rather frustrating summer until then, and I was looking forward to the comfort and fun that climbing El Cap with my dad meant.
I wanted to do something hard, and learn how to do more tricky aid than the Muir or NNL had required.
I had been scared on theMuir , but that was mostly because of external factors, and not because of the climbing.
I'd read all these accounts of hardcore nailing and 10-hour-pitches, and hoped that the Tribal Rite would be an introduction to nailing and more timeconsuming pitches.
Now I've written that I was looking forward to the comfort, and that I wished it to be tough. That's because even when it's tough, climbing with my dad is always comfortable. With the right partner, the worst situations are mere inconveniences.

The tree doesn't stand far from the apple.
The tree doesn't stand far from the apple.
Credit: nopantsben

Rolling into the Valley together one night, we were extremely psyched. I had wanted to finish my quest on Lost in America, but we finally decided to stick to the Tribal Rite. My dad wanted to do something around the middle of El Cap.

We fixed three pitches and carried all our stuff to the base. We would be the only people on the wall virtually the entire time.

Credit: nopantsben

I really don't like fixing and the hanging out in the valley that goes with it before a wall climb. I get annoyed by the crowds in curry village a lot more when i know i could be up on the wall already. We bought pizza and jugged our two lines in the evening after 2 or 3 days of organizing.

The next day, my dad started up a really sweet pitch that goes from rivets to easy cams.

I was happy to be up there with him.

The rest of the New Dawn part was uneventful. The hauling up Lay Lady and the next 4 pitches was extremely annoying, but we somehow got our stuff to the Boot Flake, where we bivied for the third time.

Credit: nopantsben

This was the first time I was absolutely comfortable on a wall. It just all seemed relaxed, no stress, just fun and enjoyment. The communication about organization is reduced to almost zilch with my dad. We know what the other person is going to do in most any given situation and can talk about more fun things than where to hang what.

Credit: nopantsben

On the Tribal Rite, some anchors have perfect ledges, which means that you want to stop there, no matter how early you get there. The aidclimbing was more difficult than on Never Never Land, but still felt straightforward. I had done so many much harder pitches in my mind, that these seemed easy. This may sound weird, but if you dream hard enough about some things, it feels like you trained for them your entire life when you get there.The first pitch off of the boot flake didn't even take an hour. A couple rivets to hooks, beaks and small cams, to a bit of freeclimbing, and it was done. The next pitch was called A4 in our topo, but what also really mellow, more like A2+. The next two pitches were mostly A0 on fixed heads, and with clean fall terrain and lots of falling routine from sportdogging, these went in 40 mintues or so each. We arrived on the bivy ledge very early and we decided to the carrot after a late lunch.
After clipping fixed heads up to the bottom of the carrot I had the opportunity of applying all i had read about expanding flakes. For some reason I neglected to place a big pin under it to expand it. Stupid idea! I climbed the lower part on cams and nuts until i decided it was time for a good protection and wanted to place an LA. As I hammered it in, the stopper I stood in slid down the crack for about 1mm or 2, but fortunately didn't pop.
Whoo. Nopants pisspants. It was easy after that, and I cleaned the pitch on the way down to dinner.

we had been on the wall for 3 days now. every day, things had felt lighter and better than before.
I felt like I had finally arrived on El Cap. My previous ascents had been fights where I caught summit fever a few pitches from the top. This time it was purely good.
The pitch above the carrot was the best pitch of the climb. The exposure and the position on the wall blend together to make it perfect on this pitch.

Credit: nopantsben

The hauling became a lot easier on the upper part and was not an issue any more. We enjoyed big meals every night. Sardines, Beer, Fruits, sausages...

Credit: nopantsben

The climbing stayed as awesome as it was. Perfect Lost Arrows on pitch 7.

Dad cleans pitch 7. Some missing rivets make a bit of a pain.

Amazing hooking and again arrows and cams on pitch 8. All of it was interesting without being scary. It demanded some attention, kept you thinking, but it all went real quick. Pitch 9 felt like the crux. There were a lot of beaks, and some bigger pro. It was also the best and longest pitch, taking almost 2 hours. My dad took this awesome picture: (as well as all the others.)

It had turned out that above the Boot Flake I had just kept leading. I thought this was great on one had, because I had all the fun, but a bummer on the other hand. My dad insisted that it was what he preferred, but on pitch 10 he wanted to lead. It's the same for me. If I feel like my partner has less trouble than I would have, I often prefer following so the team is able to move faster. He would've had no trouble with those pitches.

Central srutinizer can be seen some times on the route, and looks amazing.

As my dad went around the corner on pith 10, i grew really anxious. I found myself worried about what was happening above. My dad has belaying family members way more wired than I have.

I was noon when we arrived on the ledge below the second to last pitch. We decided to climb to the summit. I would've enjoyed another bivy, but we agreed that summit beers would be nice. We finished without incident on the beat-out pitches of WEML.

Credit: nopantsben

our legs hurt for a couple days, but that was worth the quick descent.


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  Dec 18, 2011 - 05:21pm PT


P.S. I went back to check out your Nose TR. . . HA . . I was the first one to reply to it, too. (I used to be Blinny.)

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Dec 18, 2011 - 05:06pm PT
Wow, you guys really sent, and fast, too. Nice work!

How did you find the heat in August? I don't see you complaining about any water shortages.

And WTF are you doing drinking Miller Genuine Draft? That stuff is horrid, the worst of the worst. I would expect a little more class from Luxembourg beer aficionados. You could have at least upgraded to O.E. or King Cobras. ;)


  Dec 18, 2011 - 05:17pm PT
Applesolutely cool!

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Dec 18, 2011 - 05:26pm PT
Nice! Thanks!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Dec 18, 2011 - 05:53pm PT
Very cool! Great route, isn't it?

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  Dec 18, 2011 - 06:01pm PT
Nice! Wish I had been there to shoot it!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Dec 18, 2011 - 06:39pm PT
Nice family outing with the old man. Really enjoyed this TR. Thanks.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 18, 2011 - 06:54pm PT
Great Job Ben, very high quality TR!

  Dec 18, 2011 - 06:56pm PT
what a great experience

Trad climber
Las Vegas
  Dec 18, 2011 - 07:04pm PT

Great TR.
What a blessing to be able to do a route like that with your dad.

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  Dec 18, 2011 - 07:29pm PT
Way to go.
Thanks for sharing!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:16pm PT
Great report Ben. Someday I would love to do something like that with my son. I hear there is some good nailing on Devil's Tower. Let me know if you want to check it out sometime, I am only an hour away.

Gym climber
  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:30pm PT
Great TR. Were you also freerider?

Big Wall climber
El Portal, CA
  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:35pm PT
It was really great to meet you this year. I was so sad for you guys when the LnA was a no-go. Very cool way to come back from that.
See you next time!

  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:38pm PT
Bump! Thanks I needed that!


Trad climber
Hustle City
  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:53pm PT
What a great experience. TFPU!

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
  Dec 18, 2011 - 08:57pm PT
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Dec 18, 2011 - 10:04pm PT
Way to go! Great TR. Thanks!
Double D

  Dec 19, 2011 - 12:35am PT
Way too cool!


Trad climber
Prescott, AZ ~
  Dec 19, 2011 - 01:52am PT
You're totally blessed to have such an awesome Dad! How fun it must be to share climbing with him, and to have grown up with his influence and shared adventures.
I enjoyed your write up, concise with great pictures, just the fact it all seemed non-epic is nice to read.

Seems you already know to cherish and appreciate your Dad, that impresses me.

Carpe diem!
wayne burleson

Amherst, MA
  Dec 19, 2011 - 05:23am PT
Nice report and stylish family ascent.

This one had me thinking too...
This may sound weird, but if you dream hard enough about some things, it feels like you trained for them your entire life when you get there.

I think I've had both the inverse and the converse..
goatboy smellz

Gulf Breeze
  Dec 19, 2011 - 08:28am PT
Well done, thanks for the share.

Author's Reply  Dec 19, 2011 - 08:40am PT
thanks all for the friendly comments.
holly, it was nice to meet you too. LiA is going down next time! (I climbed the first 6 w/ my dad and then onto the Trip, which was a bummer too.)
pete, the heat was no problem, it was pretty cool, around 85F. on the ground I prefer lagunitas, torpedos and Fat Tires, but I really don't like cobras. so on the wall we stick to the cheap cans... plus when you're thirsty enough...

mark, the route is awesome!!
murcy, yeah but i didn't have a nickname, so i went with that weird one. now that i have one, i changed the name.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Dec 19, 2011 - 08:43am PT
Great TR, and it was nice to hear how you got to where you are. Lucky dude to have a climbing dad!

black hills, south dakota
  Dec 20, 2011 - 11:46am PT
Sweet photos and TR! Props for carrying that haul bag down......dang.

Big Wall climber
4hrs too far from YNP
  Dec 20, 2011 - 05:31pm PT
nice one !!!

what are those pieces of gear on the bivy pad in the picture of your rack.. (next to the beaks)

they look like GIANT heads on wires.. but maybe made of rubber? or graphite?

wtf are those things?

do I have the tribal rite to know?

LiA is RAD! you'll love it - good on you guys!!

take air,

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Dec 20, 2011 - 05:45pm PT
Definitely one of the best TR's! Loved it!
One thing I don't get. You said your Dad took all the pictures so I'm
sitting here wondering how he took one of himself cleaning with the
camera 15 meters above him. He must be really tricky! :-)

Trad climber
  Dec 21, 2011 - 01:04pm PT

Author's Reply  Dec 21, 2011 - 03:01pm PT

those are leadheads. Lead as in Pb. They are really useful. I can't see why they are not used more in the US. they work very well in large shallow placements...

3 things:
-they are very easy to place.
-they are bodyweight only.
-placing them does not do nearly as much damage to the rock than CuHeads or AlHeads.

FIXE makes them.

Trad climber
  Dec 21, 2011 - 07:09pm PT
what a great oppertunity!!!!.

Thanks for sharing.

Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
  Dec 21, 2011 - 08:07pm PT
Good job on the route and the report. Great pics and an adventure for you and your Dad to remember forever.


Wade Icey

Trad climber
  Dec 22, 2011 - 11:54am PT
skating on stilts

Trad climber
Culver City, CA
  Dec 22, 2011 - 11:56am PT
really enjoyed the read! thanks for sharing.

Mountain climber
  Dec 23, 2011 - 02:54am PT
very good trip report son, enjoyed the climbing and the trip report!
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
  Dec 23, 2011 - 03:35am PT
Gotta admit - never thot of pizza as wall food.

Big Wall climber
Newbury Park
  Feb 17, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
What an amazing time!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Feb 17, 2012 - 04:02pm PT
very cool!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Feb 17, 2012 - 04:27pm PT
Wonderful! Thanks much for the TR, and thank you, too, to whoever bumped this, because I missed it the first time.

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El Capitan - Tribal Rite A4 5.5 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Tribal Rite is route number 11.
Photo: Galen Rowell
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