As a climber, Yosemite was alway described to me as the center on the universe. It took me ten years to get there, but when I finally saw the valley, I understood. Yosemite or "The Valley" is the 4th national park I've been to this year and it is by far the most mind blowing. It could be because I am a climber, but the magnitude of the place can be overwhelming.
Anyways, the plan was to tick off El Cap then move on to other things.....ha ha. Easier said than done. Weather wasn't on our game plan so after 6 days over 2 weeks, we finally stood on top of El Cap with no time remaining on our trip.
The classic tunnel view
The first few days were spent waiting out weather. When it finally broke, we had to wait for El Cap to dry out. As soon as we could, we were on the wall.
Day 1: The plan was to climb 6 pitches then fix ropes to the ground. Climbing started a little slow since none of us had aid climbed for years but we eventually found our rhythm. We eventually finished as the sun set and rappelled off in the night.
Day 2: Since we hadn't packed the haul bags yet, the plan was for Dan to pack while Brad and I finished the remaining 4 pitches to heart ledges. We had a slow start behind another team, but eventually got on our way. I had the first pitch, which was a link-up of two. I must have been rushing it because half way through I found myself falling down El Cap. After hearing metal pinging and wondering when I would stop, I came to a rest about 60 feet from where I began the fall. A little shaking up, I had to go back up and finish my pitch. Brad was nice enough to take the next two pitched so I could collect myself. We reached the ledges and started rappelling the permanently fixed lines to meet Dan.
It was about 8:00pm with 30 min of light remaining. "If you and Brad want to climb El Cap, we need to start hauling now", Dan said. I knew how much work was ahead of us and I was fine quitting then. Brad on the other hand, had never done this before. "Lets do this", he said.
We started hauling around 8:30pm and reached heart ledges by 3:30am.
Day 3: After a 3 hour nap, Dan woke me to the sound of our breakfast menu; bagels, cream cheese, and 5.10 climbing. Despite exhaustion, there was no time to waste. I quickly ate and began climbing. We hammered out 5 more pitched and made it to Gray ledges for out second night. There was weather forecasted in two days and we knew we needed another three to top out. So we made the painful decision to leave our gear and rap off the next day with the intention of letting the weather pass.
With the one remaining nice day we went climbing and had a blast. Monday the weather moved in and we were thrilled not to be on the wall. It was perfect hypothermia weather and looked miserable up there.
Day 4: The weather cleared Tuesday and El Cap looked dry. We ascended the fixed lines and were back to our high point by 12:30pm, 1600 feet off the ground. 4 pitches to the next bivy so we went for it. I was able to free the first pitch speeding things up. Dan had a slow aid pitch, then Brad got a bolt ladder. The last pitch was 5.6, so after a few minutes, we were at the next bivy site.
Day 5: After one pitch we were on the Nose route climbing some of the most classic pitches in the world. It wasn't our intended finish, but it was great. I'm not a huge fan of aid climbing, so when the opportunity arose to free climb, the guys let me take those pitches. Those moments were by far my most enjoyable. We moved more efficiently that day and made it to Camp V by night.
Day 6: 6 pitches to the top remaining. By now we were all ready to be done. Physical and emotional exhaustion was taking its toll. We climbed great and found ourselves two pitches below the top around 7:00pm. A speed team passed us here and told me that we could link the last two pitches. "Awesome, I want off now", I thought. With that I started the final pitch of the climb and it turned out to be one of the most spectacular pitches I have ever done. Only being there could you fully understand the position. Amazing.
We spent the night on top and awoke to the sun rising over Half Dome. A grueling descend laid before us. We lightened the loads best we could and began the descent. A few hours later, we were back a the deli enjoying good food and beer.