The nose: we tried, we bailed (again)
by We didn't write this
Well, firstly, i think the title says it all. So, really there is no reason you should bother with the cocktail of narcissism and self loathing below. But if you must, the question burning inside your heart, just like mine, must be: “why?”
Well, honestly, I attribute it mostly to my general fucking sweetness. All you more experienced traddies were so mesmerized by my awesomeness that you just assumed I don’t need advice.
So, here is the story, as it happened, written just for you.
Walker and I set the date two weeks prior and really didn’t think about it. The plan finalized this week. We decided to go for the Nose in a Day (NIAD).
The final game plan was to start early. 12am on Saturday morning to be exact.
When Friday rolled around the psych was high. We drove into the valley around 5pm. We drank a beer in the meadow, watching our project bake in the sun.
Then, around 7, we hiked to the start of the Nose with all our shit plus sleeping gear for a pre climb nap.
The bivy right under the nose is pretty plush, a flat sandy terrace under the big stone. Nevertheless, it was tough to nap. We tossed, turned, and waited for the alarm to ring at 11pm.
The alarm went off, and we chugged some canned Starbucks energy drinks sitting up in our sleeping bags.
As we racked up, some rangers came up and fucked with us. “We smell, medicinal herbage. Do you mind if we search your bags??”
“Why yes, we do mind. Fuck off..” and miraculously, they did.
As I started on the first pitch, the rangers ran back excited to find my sleeping gear poorly stashed in the woods. “Is this stuff yours?” they hollered at me, smearing up a somehow still greasy el capitan in the middle of the night.
I don’t really know what the penalty (if any) there is for stashing shit in the woods, but I figured no matter what would happen, I would still have to stop mid first pitch on the Nose and deal with it. I hollered “nope, not mine.”
As the rangers took my Wal Mart sleeping bag and Dan’s thermarest (sorry dude!) away into the night, looking like worker ants, I shined the circle of my headlamp up and focused on the task at hand. We had to top out now, sleeping was no longer an option…
The first 15 pitches went smoothly and we gained El Cap Tower at sunrise, 6:50am. Climbing half of el cap under an almost full moon was a magical experience. In the dark, the only piece of rock you can see is the section very close at you. You climb in a little bubble,, not even seeing the troubles that lay ahead and the challenges counquered below.
The moon provided just enough light to see a hint of exposure below, and the looming, monstrous climb that lay ahead.
The taste of defeat started on the 16th pitch. It was my block, pitches 15 through 20, that would allow us to gain a small ledge under the great roof dubbed camp 4.
This pitch as a bolt ladder followed by A1. I did a bolt ladder and encountered a small seam leading to the obvious crack behind the boot flake. Between the crack, which looked to take bomber medium cams, and the bottom of the bolt ladder, lied 10 feet of a very thin seam, up a dead vertical, featurless chunk of wall.
I mantled the bolt and pressed up on my tip toes to gain some type of fixed piece with a wire. I grabbed the wire with one hand, grabbed a biner with the other and with great pain discovered that the wire opening of the fixed piece was too small to put a biner through.
I yelled “DUuuude, Im going to fall” and took an el cap whipper, screaming like a teenage girl on prom night.
10 minutes later, I high stepped on the bolt again, this time armed with a small nut, jammed it just barely in the crack, put my weight on it, and soon aided to the top of the boot.
When Walker joined on top, my psych was way down. I was tiered, been awake for over 24 hours, the last two pitches took over 2 hours, and a sea of granite still lay ahead. We were only 16 pitches up…
However, Walker was psyched as ever. So, I said fuck it, we waited for the slow party ahead of us (they had a myraid of shit up there, including Walkie Talkies) to handle the king swing, and I went for it.
The king swing was chill. I lowered below the boot, sprinted right on el cap, and swung left, sticking it on my second go. Then, I climbed all the way to the next anchor without placing gear, giving Walker a clear line left.
We passed a party and I finished my block. We arrived at camp 4, 20 pitches up, in time to witness a mini epic: Some aid climbers messed up a pulley system attached to the haul bags and had to arrest a pig with bare hands. One dude got his hands burned pretty bad.
Somehow, the topic of gear came up. The looked at our rack and laughed. “There is no way you guys are going to make it. Is that all you have?”
In my head I was like, whatever dudes, fuck you. However, they managed to unpsych Walker almost instantly. He said something like “Dude, I think they might be right…”
According to the aid gumbies, the last 8 pitches of the Nose required a large collection of small gear, some of which I haven’t even heard of before climbing the Nose (offset cams). Our small rack included a half dozen small nuts and only 2 cams smaller than black diamond c4s.
At first, I found it hard to believe Walker actually let these guys single handedly convince him to stop our push up the nose with 7 hours of daylight and only 9 pitches left. Then, the combined unpsych of the group, along with the topo which clearly listed gear we didn;t have as required got me down to.
However, I, put my shoes on, and led the 5.7 21st pitch of the nose to under the great roof. I don’t really know why I did this, considering I knew we were probably fucked. But, I did it, and found myself at a 1 bolt belay, which I backed up with a sling behind a very loose, sharp flake.
Walker came up and we stared at the great roof. It looked really big. I thought about mustering up the energy to lead the pitch, it would be my 7th in a row. I should have done it… but I didn’t. We bitched out, each muttering some excuse under our breath.
Our gaze switched from up to down.
We climbed with 1 60 meter rope and 50 meters of 4mm corilette for bailing. It was 13 full length rappels to the ground. 4 hours later, we made it down.
I feel like multipitch climbing is kind of like boxing. Each pitch is a round, and you either survive or get knocked out. For the second time this season, the nose knocked us out.
Operating on 30+ hours of being awake, we sloppily headed to Manteca where Walker left his car. He went home south, I drove north with no particular destination, trying to shove BBQ chips in my mouth and mostly missing.
In Sac, I stumbled into a hotel and slept for 14 hours, swearing to never do this shit again.
In the morning, I checked out of the hotel and once again had nothing to do. I went to REI and bought 2 small cams. Then, I had a few beers. I found myself making plans to try the nose again in 2 weeks. “Yeah Dude, this time it will be sick…” UGh… why????
So, anyways, here are a few actually useful observations.
1. 4mm bail chord is pretty sick. If you can manage to keep it untangled, it takes up the size of a small jacket, weights under 2 pounds, and functionally gets you off big walls.
2. We probably could have made it with the gear we had, but it would have been sketch through a few spots above the great roof.
3. El cap is big. You climb, climb, climb, and after that, you aren’t even close.