South Face C1 5.8

 
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Washington Column


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Two Noobs and a Big Wall; South Face of Washington Column
Wednesday October 28, 2009 9:43pm
Oct 28, 2009. I'm sitting on the couch at home, anxiously awaiting labors arrival. My son was due 10 days ago, we're naming him Maximus Altitude Glenn. Really. I need something to distract me from the anxiety. Why not write up some trip reports from an amazing year of climbing? This year I entered the grand arena of Yosemite Big Wall climbing.

May, 2009. I'm itching to climb something big. A year ago, my girlfriend(now Wife with overdue Baby!)Mozie asked me to take her climbing. I hadn't climbed since 2000, and even then I mostly did toproping around Castle Rock and Planet Granite. We started climbing more and more, and within months we were taking trips to Red Rocks. I bought a full trad rack second-hand from an aid climber buddy who just hikes up big snowy Mountains nowadays (like all 7 summits! Good work Bill Tyler!!!). Come spring 09 I think I'm ready for a bigwall. But I don't know anybody who climbs bigwalls. I ask 19 year old Mike Rael, an enthusiastic boulderer who's been in it for about a year. He's pulled V6 outdoors and V8 in the gym during his very short climbing career. We've climbed at the gym and bouldered a few times at Castle. I ask and he immediately says yes. He also reminds me he's never climbed outdoors with a rope....At least he's enthusiastic.

I take him sport climbing at the Grotto, he flashes his first sport lead ever. The 5.10b Wing of Bat. He also flashes AC Devil Dog, 5.10d, and gets Snake Bite, 5.11b on toprope. He also tells me a bit about his "Past before climbing". Growing up in Downtown San Jose, he spent the first 16 years of his life on the street with local gangs. After running from the cops with a crack-rock hidden behind his molars he realized he wasn't on the right path. He walked by the Touchstone Bouldering Gym that used to be off 1st and San Fernando. He gave it a try and hasn't stopped since, often spending 5 days a week at Planet Granite bouldering for up to 8 hours at a time.

With some sport climbing under his belt, it's time to learn aid. Since I've never done it, we read through a book together and take the gear up to Pyramid Crack, 5.10a at Castle Rock.

Mike's 1st aid lead, the 30 ft Pyramid Crack, 5.10a
Mike's 1st aid lead, the 30 ft Pyramid Crack, 5.10a
Credit: karodrinker

After we both aid the crack, all 7 placements each, we decide we're all set for a Yosemite Wall. We get so excited we both solo Pyramid Crack and head to REI and blow 700 dollars on Ascenders, a Mini Traxtion, and whole bunch of other stuff we think we'll need. Our jugging practice takes place outside of Planet Granite in a tree.

In late May we head up to the Valley to conquer the South Face of the Column.
Leaving SJ after work we made it to the Ahwahnee parking lot by midnight. We botch the approach, walking back and forth past the Column's climber approach trail before bushwacking up the talus. I've got a heavy ass haul bag on my back, and we disturb a bear on the way up. It roars at me but heads the other way. This might have been the first time I thought to myself "what the f*@k are we doing?". We bivied at the base of the cliffs, well west of the start of the route.

Up at 6, at the route by 7, and...there's 2 other parties lined up. By 9 we start the route. We decide I'm leading every pitch since I've at least trad climbed before. The route starts with an easy 5.8 free pitch but a 5.13 haul up the low angle slab. Am I the first to wear a hole in his haulbag on his 1st haul on his first wall?
1st pitch haul. Brutal.
1st pitch haul. Brutal.
Credit: karodrinker

The second pitch looks awesome, a bitchin dihedral that goes free at 5.10. I take the opportunity to practice some aid climbing. An hour later Mike juggs up the line and cleans the pitch. This takes him an hour.
Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker

The next pitch is another easy free pitch, and Mike asks if he can take it. Maybe I challenged him to it, but either way, he grabs the rack and heads up. Bad idea. He gets about 30 feet up and starts freaking out. He cant get any gear to hold and the yosemite granite proves much trickier than he bargained for. It takes 2 hours of fear for Mike to make it to the anchors and set up the haul. I jug up and we make Dinner ledge by about 1:30.
The 3rd pitch to gain Dinner Ledge.
The 3rd pitch to gain Dinner Ledge.
Credit: karodrinker

Dinner Ledge is awesome! Big and sandy, with unbelievable views. The temps have reached the mid nineties, so we set up what we think may compete for the best bivy ever constructed. We decide at this point that Big Wall climbing is the coolest hobby ever invented and take some well deserved naps.
Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker
Learning as we go from Jared Ogden's Big Wall How To Book.  How do I d...
Learning as we go from Jared Ogden's Big Wall How To Book. How do I do a pendulum?
Credit: karodrinker

Awake by 5:00, I decide I should fix the next pitch to give us a head start tomorrow morning. The daunting Kor Roof looms overhead. Some 5.8 free climbing leads to the bolted roof. The exposure turns my stomach. Layton must have been a big dude, cause somehow he drilled bolts that I can barely reach! I'm 6'3, so small folks must really struggle with this pitch.
Looking Down from the lip of the Kor Roof.
Looking Down from the lip of the Kor Roof.
Credit: karodrinker
Looking up from the Lip of Kor Roof
Looking up from the Lip of Kor Roof
Credit: karodrinker

I fix the rope and rappel back down to Dinner Ledge.
Dinner Ledge from above. Plush spot!
Dinner Ledge from above. Plush spot!
Credit: karodrinker

A party of four comes up to the ledge at sunset. 2 plan to climb first thing in the morning, the other 2 are going to rap off with all the sleeping gear. Amazingly, my Iphone has signal up here so I play live Zynga poker until 10. In the middle of the night, I get startled awake by a ring tailed cat walking across my legs!

The other party seems to know what they're doing, so we let them go first. He asks me, "you've got some Aliens for the traverse right?". I say, "no, do I need them?". "I guess you'll find out!" he says as he cruises the Kor Roof like a pro.

When it's our turn we start up the fixed line, getting a wicked lesson in jugging free hanging ropes. It takes forever but we make it and I lead off on the first of the traverses. I'm carrying 20 camming units but only a few of them fit the narrow pin scars. I'm forced into leaprogging my TCU's. This C1 pitch is tough for me, but I make it to the pendulum and get to the next anchor. Mike slowly cleans the pitch, reaches the pendulum and asks "now what?"
Mike, about to take the plunge...
Mike, about to take the plunge...
Credit: karodrinker

I try and describe the process of cleaning a pendulum, but he just doesn't get it. "Ummm....OK, just do a one arm lock off on the fixed sling, unclip, and let go" I tell him.
"You wan't me to do WHAT!!!" he screams.
"Either that or we head down!" I yell back.
1000 feet off the ground, I realize what I'm asking him to do. I figure there's not a chance of hell that he's actually gonna swing free, but to my surprise, he grabbs the sling, unclips and yells "Woooooooooooo!!!!!". He dropps off the rock and swings 30 feet through the air.
"That was the best thing I've ever done in my life!" he's saying as he cleans the last few pieces of the pitch. Mike is beaming. I'm stressing.

The next pitch heads straight up over a bulge and then traverses hard left, again on narrow, upward piton scars. I pull up on a bolt right off the belay and reach high to put in a little HB offset nut. I'm thinking I'm hot sh#t until the HB blows and I fall back onto Mike at the belay. My hearts beating way too fast as I pull up again and try to seat the nut better this time. Much bounce- testing ensues (thanks Chris Mac for the You-tube video's!!). What seems like hours later I make the next belay. It's getting very hot and we're moving really slow. I'm running out of water in my camel pack.

The next pitch is a very thin crack that shoots straight up, switches to some mandatory 5.7 free climbing, and then heads straight up another thin crack. I think I used both full sets of nuts on this pitch, almost soiling my pants as I work my way up above the smallest nuts I've ever placed. It's here that I question whether or not I should be up here. I have 2 hours to think about it since it takes Mike that long to clean my over jammed nuts. (hehe, I wrote "over jammed nuts.")
Looking up the thin crack of the 7th pitch.
Looking up the thin crack of the 7th pitch.
Credit: karodrinker

When Mike makes it to the 6 inch ledge my one butt cheek has been sitting on for 2 hours, I'm over this big wall. It's almost 5 and we still have to rappel the whole route. We decide that the remaining few free pitches look likely to snag our ropes, so we decide to bail. We climbed all the technical aid pitches and made it to the top of pitch 7. I'm amazed we've made it this far and feel no tinge of pride as we slowly rappel back to Dinner Ledge. We make it off the cliff as the sky goes black.
Looking down from our high point.
Looking down from our high point.
Credit: karodrinker
I think I'm having fun... Self portrait during 2 hour wait at top of 7...
I think I'm having fun... Self portrait during 2 hour wait at top of 7th pitch with a very numb butt.
Credit: karodrinker

Even though we diddn't top out, both of us feel hugely accomplished. Mike summed it up when he declared "I feel like I could pick up the car right now!" when we finally make it back to the Ahwahnee. We drive out of the park with gigantic smiles on our faces, knowing we tested ourselves to the max and got away with it unscathed. As we eat through thousands of calories at Denny's on the way home, we know that we'll share many more adventures in the vertical.
Mike Rael, one enthusiastic dude! (pic taken on later ascent up Ea...
Mike Rael, one enthusiastic dude! (pic taken on later ascent up East Buttress of El Cap)
Credit: karodrinker

  Trip Report Views: 4,554
karodrinker
About the Author
Kalen Glenn is a trad climber, skateboarder, surfer and father from San Jose, CA.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 28, 2009 - 09:17pm PT
All photos taken with iphone. Thanks Apple!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 29, 2009 - 12:35am PT
brought a smile and a laugh to my face. good stuff. glad you guys went unscathed. that pendo could have gone better, eh? heh

cheers,
M
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Oct 29, 2009 - 01:10am PT
Whoa. You can't make this stuff up!
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Oct 29, 2009 - 01:22am PT
Good effort guys!
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 29, 2009 - 11:45am PT
Thanks for reading!
lunchbox

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Oct 29, 2009 - 12:07pm PT
Dude that was awesome! You guys did a super good job on your first wall. It only gets better from here.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Oct 29, 2009 - 12:59pm PT
Way to go boys! What an inspiration for getting out there and getting on the Beast. Glad yall didn't get hurt. That Penji could've gone BAAAD. Don't ever do that again! Learn how to do it right(Sorry, I'm a Dad.) There's a fine line between a grisly death and a great story. You're right, you've just opened a door to a lifetime of adventure.
Keep it up and congrats on fatherhood.
BrianH

Trad climber
santa fe
  Oct 29, 2009 - 01:48pm PT
Now I feel even worse for having woken up on Dinner Ledge and bravely run away! Nice TR.
burntheman

Trad climber
slt
  Oct 29, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
I believe many people, myself included, just relived their first wall attempt through your trip report. Way to grind through the crux pitches of the route.
William Tyler

Big Wall climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Oct 29, 2009 - 03:31pm PT
Ah Kalen, I remeber my first time up that route. I got hung on the Kor roof cleaning it and it took me the next morning to finish. Next time though, call me dude! The seven summits are over and I got free time now:)
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Oct 29, 2009 - 07:11pm PT
You bring back good memories from almost 40 years ago. You're right about the Kor Roof and little guys (I'm 5' 5", and my partner 5" 10"). In those days hammers were still in vogue, and I used a skyhook at the pick end of my Yosemite Hammer (before they had carabiner holes) as an extension arm. Even with that, I wouldn't have made the stretch from the last bolt to the crack if there weren't a fixed pin there with sling hanging down.

From the sound of it, this was a fantastic first effort, and it's a great post. Thanks much.

John
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 29, 2009 - 08:10pm PT
Thanks for all the great feedback. It truly was a great experience, I can't wait for el cap!
wee man

Trad climber
truckee ca
  Oct 29, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
do you need some more beta on a pendulum lower out sounds like your friend just launched from your pendulum point ????? maybe i am just not reading it the right way thats nuts
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 29, 2009 - 10:55pm PT
I knew how, but couldn't get mike to grasp the concept. Yep, he just unclipped and took a big swing. Nothing to hit or get ropes cut on so relatively low risk. I'm still amazed he did that.
wee man

Trad climber
truckee ca
  Oct 29, 2009 - 11:40pm PT
cool have fun out there thanks for the trip report
Slater

Trad climber
Central Coast
  Oct 29, 2009 - 11:58pm PT
Um, you might want to do a few more and top out, haul more etc. before El Cap. There is a big jump from 7 pitches (the next 4 up that route are no joke... that's another 8 hours for you guys) to 30 pitches. Keep at it, good effort.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 30, 2009 - 01:36am PT
For sure slater. We've got a long list of routes to do before we fool around on the big stone. We've been at it all year and plan on some big trips come spring. If the column taught me anything it's how much work all this takes. It's the aid that kills me. Someday I might even get to follow someone with experience! (any takers?)
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Oct 31, 2009 - 10:28pm PT
Sure. Drop me a line as the spring season approaches. I usually spend a couple days fixing pitches before we blast, and you're welcome to come along and learn stuff. Cheers!
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 2, 2009 - 12:36pm PT
So that boy I was waiting for finally came last night! All 9 lbs 3 oz of him. Watch out Caldwell and Sharma, Maximus Is gonna pull harder than all of you!
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 2, 2009 - 03:01pm PT
You named him after that choss shoe?

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/755958/Gear_review_Evolv_Maximus_shoe


Congratulations!

Don't worry, your wall climbing career isn't over until he outgrows the haul bag.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Nov 2, 2009 - 01:58pm PT
Burtheman nailed it - first wall relived. Thanks, and congrats on your son!
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 2, 2009 - 03:40pm PT
I don't even like evolves much! They get too stinky! I guess they figured they might as well make his pro model now.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 2, 2009 - 07:26pm PT
Nice, thanks for posting. Good pics!
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
  Nov 2, 2009 - 08:11pm PT
Hey Kalen!
Are you a Dad yet?
Fred
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 2, 2009 - 08:32pm PT
Hey Fred!
We got to meet Maximus at 11:06 last night. He lived up to his name and came out big!
Kalen
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
  Nov 2, 2009 - 08:46pm PT
Yo DUDE!!
Congrats. Now it's going to be REALLY hard to get out climbing. But I guess you already know that!
Love to Mose and Maximus
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Nov 9, 2009 - 10:22pm PT
Did you guys have a haul bag or just use a backpack?
Proud effort.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 14, 2009 - 02:45am PT
We had a haulbag, bought from a friend who never used it. Scrubbed a hole right in the side on the first damn pitch. I wished it had some luggage wheels !
Lambone

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
  Nov 14, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
Nice job guys, the route basically goes to sht after pitch 7 unless you are free climbing. Very awkward to aid. Nice first wall, it was mine too and went down almost exactly the same as your climb.

Good luck on El Cap! Would recomend doing Leaning tower next as another warm up.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Nov 21, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
That was cool. I haven't seen those pitches in over thirty years.

Damn. I sure am old.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
  Nov 22, 2009 - 06:50pm PT
karodrinker - Nice TR. Thanks



Be safe.. both you and the penji guy!!!
Fletcher

Gym climber
A very quiet place
  Nov 23, 2009 - 04:16pm PT
I enjoyed that... good on you for getting out there and giving it a go... it's inspiring for those of us who've yet do climb a big wall. Make sure your partner knows a bit more about those small details like cleaning a pendulum next time.... LOL. Seriously, as a daddy, you really don't want to be figuring that stuff out as you go along. Congrats on the baby, by the way!

Eric
nature

climber
Boulder, CO
  Nov 24, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
wait... lemme get this straight.


you took a young, naive , 19 year old pebble pincher and turned him into a wall climber? We have rules you know.

That broke Rule 4 section 20.

You're punishment - longer, harder and scarier routes (but let the kid have the crux pitch!).

Thanks for the contribution. Top notch!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Dec 11, 2009 - 06:23pm PT
just reread some of this. best part is he started at Touchstone Bouldering gym. That's just cool. I really enjoyed the vibe in there. Art and Justin keeping the positive vibes going. bummer it closed.

Pate

Trad climber
  Apr 23, 2010 - 12:32pm PT
Noyce, oldie but a goodie.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Nov 15, 2011 - 12:35am PT
In the middle of the night, I get startled awake by a ring tailed cat walking across my legs!

Did you really have something like that run across your legs that would freak me out. Some day a I will be a noob on a big wall, but I better get at it or it will be too late.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Nov 15, 2011 - 02:17am PT
Congrats on your first wall attempt and Maximus will pull hard!

bouldering v8s in the gym and struggling on a 5.8 free climbing is crazy! didn't think that's possible.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 15, 2011 - 02:39am PT
wow, thanks for the bump. Yep, a ringtail walked across my legs. We've come a long way Mike and I, we did the RNWF earlier this year together. He's now bouldering v12, free soloing long routes like east buttress of middle cathedral, and living in the Valley working the curry bike rentals during the summer. I'm so psyched for him, the streets almost got him, climbing saved his life.
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Photo: Chris McNamara
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