Thursday, October 15, 2015

Finding Neverland

The leaves are turning colors, the mornings are cool and crisp, and peaks have received their first dusting of snow.  It is fall, and it is time for rock climbing.  Just one day after wrapping up was perhaps my busiest guiding season yet, my friend Ian and I racked up our gear for an ascent of an adventurous route on El Cap in Yosemite.
I have tried to climb El Cap once a year, if not more than once, but the past couple years saw a lull.
It takes a certain mindset to get involved with a multi day big wall route, and I just didn't have the psyche.  This year however, I felt that psyche return, and was glad that Ian asked me to climb a wall.

Ian racks up and contemplates the sun about to arrive

The route, Never Never Land, is in a part of the wall I had not spent any time on, and climbs through its own really cool and steep headwall left of the Dihedral Wall.
We spent the first day just hiking loads up to the base and fixing the first 2 pitches, which traverse almost entirely.  That gave us a good jump on the next day, during which we hauled those first 400', and began climbing the next 5 pitches to take us to Timbuktu Ledge, one of the finest on El Cap.

Long ways to go still

Hauling kit

Captain Hook says, "If you're going to Neverland, bring plenty of hooks!"
Cuz' you're gonna need em!
We reached Timbuktu just as darkness fell; the climbing and hauling took us all day, even with an early start.  The ledge truly was luxurious though- like some of the other great EC ledges, Timbuktu lets you just tie the rope around your waist and walk about.

We slept well after a round of "Wall-Garitas" (lemon-lime Gatorade with tequila and triple sec!), and got up early to beat the heat which we knew was coming back for us.


The next day found us climbing some steepening pitches, which ended up being kind time consuming due to the awkwardness of the climbing.  One of the more physical of the pitches, was covered in strange calcite barnacles, not unlike the underside of a ship.  And slime.  Can't forget about the slime.  We only climbed 4 pitches this day, but ended up with a cool place to set the portaledge up, right where the wall got really steep.

Ian takes us towards the headwall

Tom Evans shot of Ian beginning the headwall

Looking down the barnacle and slime pitch

Again we awoke, our swollen hands beginning to feel the effects of a few days of vertical construction work, and ascended our lines to climb the 4 pitches we would need to reach the Pinnacle of Hammerdom, a unique feature our route would pass.  The climbing on these pitches were much higher quality, with thin nailing and reachy rivets up beautiful golden granite.  We reached the Pinnacle with daylight to spare, and got our dee-luxe portal edge bivy set up for the night.
Ian follows a nice A3 pitch

Ian gets a crash course in thin nailing

It is getting steep!
Almost to the Pinnacle of Hammerdom

Our last morning on the wall, we left the Pinnacle and I climbed the interesting thin nailing and hooking pitches and climbed up through to Thanksgiving Ledge, and climbed off the top via the final couple pitches of the route Lurking Fear, which I climbed with by friend Scott in 2008 as my first El Cap route.

The top out is never fun over on the left side, and with our massive kit is was decidedly less fun, but we were soon on top and hiking off towards the East Ledges rappels, beers, food, and a late night drive back over the pass to Mammoth.

Tom's shot of one of the final hard pitches
I have to hook what?


Climbing El Cap is always special, and always unique.  Each ascent presents its own rewards and challenges, and this climb was no different.  But we learned some things, had a lot of laughs, and had a lot of fun too.

It feels good to put away the heavy burdensome wall gear though, and begin packing for a European sport climbing vacation, to Greece and Turkey, for which I leave next week.  Here is to lots of baklava, kalamatas and steep limestone!