So last week, Luke (thekidcormier) invited me to join him and his buddy Dave for a weekend ascent of U Wall. I was stoked to have the opportunity, as aiding has always scared me, and it would be a chance to see if it was as gnarly as I thought.
I ended up getting Friday off from work, so in the morning I ran over to MEC to pick up a hammock and some other gear. My plan was to get up to Squamish late morning or early afternoon and help Luke hike our gear to the base. I packed everything I thought I'd need (and more) and bussed up to the highway to try and get a ride.
After fifteen minutes or so (I've been getting lucky with my rides this year) a pickup pulled over and I hopped in. The guy who picked me up looked fairly young, but said he used to do a lot of climbing around twenty years ago so he must not have been that young. He asked what my plans were for the weekend, and I told him that I was going aiding on U Wall for the first time with some friends. He asked if we were going to portaledge it, but none of us had one, so I just said hammocks. He was like, hey, I got an old double wide you can borrow if you want.
He then drove me to his place on the other side of Squamish, showed me his little climbing gym in his garage (it was sick) and gave me the ledge, as well as offered me any other gear he thought we might need. Then he drove me all the way back to the Chief parking lot to meet Luke.
Turns out his name is Damien Kelly, and he was a fairly prolific climber a few years back. Put up a lot of aid routes with Perry Beckham, including an A5+ on the North Walls that Marc-Andre is working on freeing. To Damien if he's reading this, thanks a lot! I owe you a case of beer!
So I met Luke in the parking lot. He hadn't noticed the message I sent him regarding the portaledge, so he was super stoked to see that. We hiked the majority of our gear in to the base of our route in two trips. For those of you who don't know, it's an uphill 2nd, 3rd, and then 4th class scramble to where we were leaving our stuff. That was a trek and a half for sure.
After we got everything packed in, it was time for some climbing. We soloed up Rambles (5.8) into Banana Peel (5.7) then climbed up and back down Boomstick Crack (5.6-7). I wanted to go take a look at Karen's Math, a .10a climb that connects Calculus crack to Memorial Ledge. Luke waited for me up top while I went down and checked out the first couple moves, then a couple more, and before I knew it I was almost at the top. When I reached Memorial Ledge, Luke was waiting for me with his shoes on. He said if I climb Karen's, then obviously I have to climb Memorial Crack too, and he wasn't going to let me do it on my own, so then we both climbed up Memorial at (5.9)
After climbing back down Boomstick and mucking around a bit on the Apron descent, we went into town to pick up our beer and groceries for the two days ahead. While we were making dinner, Aislinn - Luke's better half saw a BASE jumper go off the Squaw, so we ran out and tried to catch a glimpse before calling it a night.
The next morning, I was woken up nice and early from a quite solid sleep by Luke - MORNING MOTHERF*#KER! We got picked up by Dave and booked it out to the base of U Wall. We actually began two pitches before our route started proper, hoping we might be able to free climb some of it, but the first slabby pitch was a little runout. Luke had to resort to jugging partway up a manky old fixed line, while I had to aid my way through the dirty second pitch.
*Pictures were taken by everyone from Luke's camera, so disregard photo credits*
Dave wanted the first aid pitch of U Wall, so Luke belayed and I chilled out at the station.
Dave had originally intended to link the Shadow into the first pitch, but was short on gear and tired by the time he got to the belay, so he fixed our lines and we got set to haul.
Luke took the Shadow pitch.
He made it up there fairly quickly, Dave cleaned the route, and I went for another mid air jug up the rope. I started my lead before Dave got to the belay, so didn't have all the gear, but I made do. The pictures that Mike has posted of us so far show us on this pitch. Aiding wasn't as scary as I originally though, in fact it ended up being kind of relaxing until two hours later when the pitch isn't even done yet. I got the lines fixed just as it got dark, the boys jugged up and we set up for the night.
Our plan was to set up the ledge off the belay, then bat hang the two hammocks off the ledge. It took a little figuring and finagling to get everything set up, but eventually it was all said and done. We shared some pasta from the night before which was tasty as hell, and had a beer before trying to settle down for the night.
It was at this point that I leaned over with my phone to try and snap a shot of the guys below me. I'm not too sure how it happened, but the instant I took the picture, one of the buckles holding a critical corner of the ledge broke, causing the outside corner that I was leaning on to drop. Luke swears that I farted and that caused the ledge to rip apart, but they both dropped a little, and I was almost pitched headfirst over the edge.
Luckily I was able to macgyver it back to almost level after they unweighted their hammocks, but it still had a downward tilt at either end so I ended up sleeping with my head towards the ground the rest of the night.
When I asked Luke what we would do if the rest of the ledge collapsed, his reply verbatim was, "then we all go for a little ride, woohoo get some!"
I was just like, dude, you're f*#ked. Then he was like, naw man I'm just kidding, I'd be scared as sh#t.
In the morning, Luke woke up and got right to it. He solo aided the next pitch while we took everything apart and packed it up. He aided the thing faster by himself than either of us could do while on belay.
The next pitch was technically the second pitch of the Shadow. Apparently it goes at only .11+ but gear is quite thin on it. Dave made it up a little ways before taking a fall almost back to the belay. He went for another burn and made it a little further before relenquishing the lead to Luke.
Luke made short work of it, using a hand placed peckerhead to get past the thin part. My lead was next, and the majority of it was on a bunch of manky pins. It went a bit quicker, but I still took my time on it.
Dave took advantage of my slow progress and caught a quick nap.
Some free climbers caught up with us just as Luke was finishing up the final pitch. They started the climb at 1130 that morning...... it was amazing the speed at which they climbed it. We let them go up before we started to jug, and they cleaned our gear to save us some time.
We took probably close to two hours to finish off and sort the gear and everything. Then it was just the matter of getting everything over Bellygood. Luke set up the first line down to the Sail Flake, and I went to set up the second line over the thin part of Bellygood.
I led across it using my grigri, then tension the line using one of my handled ascenders. We tried to just fix the bags to the line to send them across, but due to the dynamic properties of our ropes, the pig sank down to the same level as the ledge, right at the thin part.
In what was the scariest moment of the entire climb for me, I attached my leash to the same rope, walked back across the ledge FACING OUTWARDS and knelt down right in the middle in order to tie the end of our rope to the bag.
The rest of the walk off was fairly uneventful, except for when one of the bags burst open right near the end and Luke's new camera went for a tumble. Somehow, the camera case burst open about 100 feet down, the camera landed on a soft ledge, and the case kept going. Dave was able to rap down, rescue the camera, and brought it up without a scratch.
Aislinn hiked up to meet us and take some of the weight off for the hike down. We then retired to the Brewpub for some real food and a much needed beer.
The end, although Luke will probably chime in with whatever I may have forgot.