Nose Bail & Prow Solo
Wednesday March 6, 2013
2012 was a big year for me. I climbed El Cap twice, soloed the prow and WFLT, sent SFWC and climbed half dome in a push twice. I guess you could say it all started summer of 2011 with seeing a couple guys come down off the nose into manure pile parking lot with giant haul bags and even bigger grins. I climbed the east buttress the next day and was hooked. I needed to be high off the deck.
I recruited a friend later in 2011 to climb the South Face of Washington’s Column. We did it like complete noobs and finished the route over 3 days.
I came back to the valley mid February for a birthday trip. I was going to try and solo the SFWC. I cruised the first three pitches to Dinner ledge and lounged about enjoying the solitude. I fixed the Kor Roof and settled in for the night.
I woke up around 2 am to a few inches of snow on my bivy sack. Knowing I had to wait for daylight I shiver slept for 5 minute intervals until the sun came up. I surveyed the 8 inches of snow that had fallen and promptly gathered my junk show , jugged my frozen ass rope and bailed.
Fast forward a couple months to April 2012.
I once again get time off, convince Sara I need to to climbing, pack a TON of gear and head to the valley. Driving alone for four hours before you go solo a wall gives you plenty of time to think about it. I had made my decision to try and do The Nose as my first El Cap route based on my distinct lack of iron. I chose to solo it because all of my climbing partners pooped their pants when I asked them to go up El Cap with me.
I arrive in the valley under the cover of darkness and head into camp four to sleep for a couple hours. I wake up on a cold picnic table, later than I wanted to. Oh well. I pack the haulbag one last time and drive to the bridge. I feel mightily insignificant humping my first load to the base of Pine Line. It is already 9 am by the time I hump my second load to the base.
I rest for a few minutes, then double check my systems and blastoff. I climb Pine Line quickly and find my way over to the start of The Nose.
Anchor built and haul set, I try to start hauling. I was using 1 to 1 hauling with a rock exotica wall hauler. Big noob move. I couldn’t budge the load. I rap down to see if it is stuck. Nope. They haven’t left the ground. By they, I mean my ledge, massive haul bag and 5 gallon food bucket I decide to use my third rope as a haul line too and set everything up as two loads on two lines. I jug back up and begin again.
I was able to haul it right up to the ledge above pine line and then clusterf*#k it to all hell in the tree. I rap down and fix it; jug up and finish the haul. I do this entire scenario again with the second load albeit it’s a little lighter as its just the ledge and food bucket. Yes. Pitch zero out of the way and is only…oh. It’s noon.
Finally, I get my act together for a couple pitches and am sitting at the base of the third pitch feeling pretty bad ass. I rack up for pitch 3 and cast off. Seems to be going great and I backclean every other piece or so. With about 20 feet to the anchors I stand up on an offset metolius and pop!
I guess I had back cleaned a bit before the piece I was on, as I immediately flipped upside down and did a head-first-slide-into-home-plate down 30 feet of the pitch. I rudely came to a stop and hung for a second. I righted myself and checked the sitch. I had a goose egg on my forehead that was bleeding but not bad. Worse was I had smashed the left lens of my nice Smith glasses. I drank some water and jugged to my high point and set off again. I just figured that’s what El Cap was all about. I got to the anchors, cleaned on rap and hauled my two loads. I decided to get some rest early and start early the next day.
I pulled out my ledge and set it up for the first time on a wall. Pitch 3 of The Nose is pretty slabby so my ledge was at an odd angle. I also did not know the trick of hanging weight off the inside edge on a slab. Instead I set it up and clambered below to my haulbag.
I proceeded to throw ( not clip in) my stove, my food, my sleeping bag and clothes up onto the ledge. I had my phone in my hand as I climbed up onto the ledge and as fast as you can say El Cap my ledge slid up the wall and I fell onto my daisies while watching everything plummet 300 feet to the base. I steady myself with both hands, With both hands!!!! I look down and see my phone slide off my leg and follow the rest of my gear on an express trip to the ground.
F*#k!!! I decide to bail. I guess I wasn’t ready. I rig everything together into one giant mess and begin to rap. I near the bottom and have to endure two tourons asking about big walling as I wallow in my self pity. After packing everything up it is around 10 pm. I head back to the truck with one load, my ledge and ropes stashed at the base.
At this point I was feeling pretty low. I drive to the Yosemite store and used the pay phone to call Sara. I left a message saying I had to get another load in the morning but after I was gonna cut the trip short and head home early.
I slept terribly. I couldn’t tadalafilhome stand the thought of going home with my tail completely between legs. I felt like I was giving up too easy. I woke up the next morning to the same cold table and drove back to the bridge to get my second load down from the base of the wall. I reracked, repacked the haulbag and headed to Degnans for a deg muffin and to call Sara. Sometime in the night I had decided that I would solo the prow. I felt stupid for not having tried that first anyway.
I parked at the Awahnee; left a note that I’ll be on the wall and began the approach. I had slimmed down my gear food and water into one giant pig. I even had he ledge inside it so I could approach in one trip. All that said, the pig felt absolute enormous. I must have taken a hundred mini breaks on the way to the base. After a long two hours I found myself at the base of the 4th class that leads to the start of the climb. I muscled the bag up to the start of the climb and sat the eff down. I ate some food, drank water and started organizing for the climb. With the haul set and my anchor built I set off on the first pitch.
As I was aiding and solo I chose to forgo JoJo’s crack and head up the original first pitch. I made it to the belay with little trouble, rapped, cleaned and hauled. I was feeling good and was having fun. I proceeded to knock out the 2nd and third pitch and was sitting at anchorage ledge around 3pm. I decided to set up my ledge and fix pitch 4.
I set up my ledge much more confidently than previously. It helped that anchorage ledge is nice to stand on whilst setting up camp. I set off on lead on the 4th pitch and had a blast. I took a couple photos while on lead. I also brought a can of Sierra Nevada (11 less than I tried hauling up the nose) to take a photo with for the “where CAN you go?” Contest from Sierra Nevada brewing. With the rope fixed I descended and spent a restful and satisfying night on the ledge.
I woke up early as I knew it was gonna be a big day. Due to my time constraints I knew I had to make it to the top that day. I felt like I really had my systems working well and made good progress.
I was at tapir terrace around 1pm so I stopped for a snack. After a quick bowl, jerky, candy and water break I set off again. I was on the 2nd to last pitch by dark. I hadn’t climbed much in the dark yet so I kept my wits about me. I finished the last two pitches with the worst rope drag I’ve ever had. Must’ve messed up the system somewhere.
I set up the haul for the final pitch with a #4 in a dirty crack and a little manzanita tied off. I later learned there is a great place to haul further back and to the right. I couldn’t see much with just a headlamp so I made do. I hauled for what seemed like an eternity. I kept wondering how there was that much rope out.! After getting my pig and ledge to a safe spot I unroped and scrambled to the summit to make a plan on how to get my bag up there. I scrambled back down and climbed the scariest pitch of the route. 4th class scrambling with the pig on my back.
I made it. I was at the top. It was midnight.
I threw my junk show everywhere and promptly started the stove to cook food. There was a small fire ring and some dry wood so I treated myself to a small fire and then passed the eff out.
I was visited a few times in the night by the infamous ringtail cat that lives up there. He wanted my trash bad. I managed to get a shot of him.
I woke up early the next day and got all my gear together for the descent. I had chose to rap the South Face as I knew the rappel route we from descending the South Face the previous year. Also, I had here that North Dome gully is awful to hike down with a pig. So, I made my way over to the top of the South Face, set up the first rappel and start heading down. I think it was 9 raps from the top to the bottom, 6 raps to Dinner Ledge. When I got to Dinner Ledge I took a break and drank some water. I rapped 3 more time to the ground and gathered myself and gear one last time and began the final descent.
I was resting every 200 feet on the talks. I was beat. As I got down to the valley and the trail became flatter I got more excited. The walk along the trail back to the awahnee was painful. I didn’t stop, I knew it would be horrible to start again so I just kept walking. When I was just about to lose my sh#t…I hit the parking lot.
I had done it. I had soloed the prow. I was wrecked.
I unloaded and promptly began to cook soup and eat cheez-it’s in the parking lot of the Awahnee. I got some strange looks. After loading my gear and stuffing my face I drove to El Cap meadow to relax and gaze up at my next adventure. The Prow was sent and I was happy
Notes: this is and will remain one of my most memorable climbs as it was my first successful solo. I learned a lot about my systems but also learned a lot about myself. I have the drive. I am willing to push myself to the limit for wall climbing. I absolutely love it.
The route goes hammer less no problem.
I will be back to do it in a day.
About the Author
Justin Cory is a big wall climber and member of the crew at Mountain Recreation Grass Valley, California