I recently retuned from a three and a half month trip to
I thumbed a lift back to Camp 4. Not always and easy task when your unwashed for three days! Lucky some ‘tourons’ gave me a sympathy vote! I returned triumphant to an empty camp! Soon the boys returned and before I knew it Tony had convinced me to come do the Direct on Lost Arrow Spire in a few days. This is an amazing feature, visible from anywhere in the eastern end of the valley. It was 1500 feet long and rated 5.8 C2+. The approach was killer!! We managed it in one trip, the effort nearly killed us but we were eager beaver! We started up and from the word go we were cruising. The first day was trench warfare in a loose 5.10 offwidth, one of my hardest leads… ever! Once that was dispensed we cruised to the spacious First Error Ledge. We had time so we fixed the next few pitches. This saw me take my first proper aid fall! I had to do this crazy mantle onto a slopey gravely ledge, it took me a few goes! All the while we got to watch one of the biggest waterfalls in
After a few days Garry and I set of to climb the Prow on Washington Column. We walked up one evening and the next morning saw us on the route. All day I watched grey clouds growing behind Half Dome. Garry had just done a great job leading pitch 5 but unfortunately a blown fixed head stopped us dead. It started to rain lightly and without any rain-gear I wasn’t keen to hang around! On our way down we passed a soloist, Chris. He was bailing too. We waited for him to get down and took his ropes so he didn’t have to do two trips with the gear. He returned the favor by driving us back to camp. The next few days were a bit miserable. I was psyched. It was time to step up and climb the captain.
I chose the classic, Zodiac as my first El Cap route. I would be doing it solo. After a few days packing Jake gave me a hand carrying all the junk required up to the base. I fixed a few pitches that evening then blasted the next day. On day 2 on the wall I had caught up to another soloist, Aaron. He was a top bloke and good fun to have around! I took a rest day so that he could continue and put some distance between us. So I sat back in the portaledge and chilled. This was almost the crux though! Being able to retreat easily made it a real mental battle. The allure of the mountain bar room, only a few hours below was hard to ignore. But luckily for me I had a special haulbag, not like any other. My pig is a one-way pig. The good folks at metolius installed a gravitron deflector that only allows it to travel up! So retreat was out of the question! I had watched both a Korean party and my mate Aaron hammer through the crux pitch on the
Before I had even recoverd properly from Zodiac I was packing for Freerider (35 pitches grade 27). With food for six days packed we headed up, jake with the goal of freeclimbing and me in support, just sniffing the roses. Hot weather on the valley floor led to some quasi-alpine starts to climb the slabby pitches without the hinderance of the sun. All went to plan for the first few days, with all pitches going free. After reaching the alcove late one night an easy day was in order. Taking it easy that day jake climbed the monster offwidth (40 meters of size 6 camolot goodness, which took 2 hours to climb) and fixed a few pitches above. The alcove provided a much welcomed respite from the baking sun. The next day, day 3 on the wall led to disaster...
The Huber boulder pitch, the technical crux of the route. It features small holds and smaller feet with a sideways dyno to a jug. After a few tries jake was looking strong. try number three, desperate gaston, get those feet up, jugs... sooo.... close... double dyno!!! jake launched, all points off, i watched, stoked!! He had the jug!! but whys he falling now?? And whats that in his hands!?!?! As we watch the victory jug fly off into the abyss the rope comes tight. Thirty seconds pass before i ask if jakes ok. We both just stare, dumbfounded by what just happened. Jake tried to work out a new sequence without using the now-missing jug but to no avail. Freerider is forever changed. We continued up to the block and set up our bivy. Later that arvo we rapped back down to try the pitch on top-rope but with skin failing jake had to leave it till next time. He also tried the other variation, the teflon pitch which was done by todd skinner. Jake did all the moves but was tuckered from the previous days intense events.
the next few days saw us continuing to the top. jake tried to free as much as possible but the dissapointment of not doing the boulder combined with being baked in the sun led to just getting up the route!! after a night at the scenic long ledge, positioned above the salathe headwall we topped out, jake already making plans to return.
What happened next was almost the end of me…
Well my time in