Friday, February 27, 2015


Libby and me finishing up the Great Roof - Alan Riling photo
“You can’t wait until Thanksgiving ledge?”  Libby Sauter honestly inquired.  Her headlamp sliced the crisp black expanse above, illuminating a sea of granite dihedral's.  A series of sloping ledges splayed 20 feet below me, with Libby perched on one of them.  I had just finished tagging up gear, merely two pitches below the location in question.

“Nope.”  I said flatly. 

Been in the back of my brain since I started leading 2 hours ago.  This momentary pause of motion, my first re-rack since the start of my lead block/Pitch 10, pushed me over the threshold.  

Libby and I started this day of climbing approximately twenty hours earlier.  At 4:30 am she blasted off the first pitch of The Nose on El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park.  
Libby on the Glowering Spot, The Nose

Gracefully dispatching the first 6 pitches without a hitch. Our ropes snagged at a pendulum on pitch 7, stalling us up for a breath-holding 20 minutes.  I tensioned out the available rope with just enough slack to get around the corner.  The snag released and our spirits perked.  The movement continued upward once again.  We reached Dolt Tower, happy with our pace.  

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  

We swapped leads at Dolt Tower, passing two parties along the way to Texas Flake.   I led a prominent feature called ‘The Boot Flake’ for the first time!  
COOL.  I monkey’ed us across the King Swing and through the Lynn Hill Traverse, once my least favorite pitch to lead.  Now, I freekin’ love it!!!  We swapped leads under the Great Roof, passing my good friends from Colorado, and again swapped for the last time at the base of the Changing Corners pitch.  

Reaching the tree atop El Capitan, I pulled in the rope as Libby finished the up the last overhanging moves of the Bolt ladder.  We casually snapped a selfie with a fancy phone, and I reported to my brother via text…”on the top of El Cap right now!!  Climbed the Nose in 8:20, one down so far!”  

Lunch on top of The Nose.  

Libby and I had mentioned to some photographer friends this particular endeavor, but interest wavered. 
"Coach" Tom Evans on the other side of the lens.

Oh well…for them.  

We were sending and psyched!!    

After snacks and a little water, we moseyed down the East ledges, reaching our stash of food in the bear bins of El Cap Meadow.  It was a little after 2pm.  Our friends, Joel and Neil Kauffman offered us some Mate and a candy bar.  Alex Honnold made fun of my shoe choice as we shoved our faces with a variety of food choices.  (I sport an old, loose pair of La Sportiva Barracudas on big wall days, instead of the ever popular TC Pro’s.)  Tom Evans continued proud encouragement as we sorted the gear for the next climb.  Rebecca Caldwell (and little Fitz) gave hugs as we walked past the meadow and a gaggle of other friends hollered monkey sounds as we disappeared into the tiny forest at the base El Capitan for the second time in 12 hours.  Refueling took just over an hour.  

The sunset during pitch 4.  Libby pushed upward, crack-jumaring and free climbing with efficiency.  

Lurking Fear was my first big wall in the Valley in 2009.  I returned this spring to free climb the first few pitches with Josh Lavigne, but hadn’t seen beyond pitch 6 in five years.  Three days prior to this adventure, Libby and I blasted up the whole route…Alzheimer on-sighting the upper pitches with a new female speed record of 7:47.  Although we were not moving as fast this go round, our pace didn't seem too far off.   

Climbing TOPO for Lurking Fear

After jugging the 9th pitch in darkness, conserving my headlamp batteries, I clicked the light on.  Our perch, a pedestal of granite, was like an iceberg in the Atlantic.  Dwarfed and isolated in the night.  

Libby handed me the rack, I was to take us to the top!

My stomach churned.  

Some tedious aid moves in the next few pitches loomed above in the void.  At times I felt crippled by the narrow beam of my headlamp, as the unfamiliarity of this route tossed minutes into the encompassing darkness.  Time and ground passes more quickly free climbing.  I narrow-mindedly missed tiny features, resorting to mostly aid climbing.  It is just slower and more tedious.  I could have smeared on little dime edges, crimped crystals with my hands, paddled upward more quickly.

Part of our gear.  

My stomach still churned.  

I sighed with relief as I completed the last difficult pitch, a 5.12 corner with fiddly gear.  During our record breaking ascent, I took a whipper up-side down while self belaying.  
It rattled me a little bit.  

The terrain finally eased to a 5.7 slab.  At the top a party was bivied in a portaledge.  They woke with my passing, and almost necessary mantling over their hanging bed.  

“Sorry, just a minute, sorry.”  I climbed 10 more feet, fixed the rope for Libby and headed up a series of ledges until I ran out of rope.  

After wall hands, tingly and swollen.  

My stomach flopped again, this time with a loud thud.  

Libby arrived.  

“Can you lower me?!”

“You can’t wait until Thanksgiving ledge?”  Libby Sauter honestly inquired.

“Nope.”  I said flatly. 

I had to poop. Yup.  Poop.  

I didn’t have a proper disposal bag.  I certainly wasn’t leaving it on a ledge for those poor guys to climb into it on their breakfast pitch.  I was scared to Anasazi Shot-put it (shit on a rock and throw it) because they were below me.  
I had to take it with me.  


Well, I removed my last snack (a peanut butter/nutella sandwich) from the flimsy produce bag that contained it.  While I made my hurried deposit, Libby cut her small gatorade bottle up for me to stuff the poop bag into.  

If thats not fu&8ing teamwork!!!!!!

I then circumferentially wrapped the bottle with athletic tape, clipped it to my harness and finished two pitches to Thanksgiving ledge.

Lingering wafts with the occasional chimney move reminded me of the extra package clipped to the back of my harness.  I traversed across the Thanksgiving Ledge, jammed my way up the last 5.10 crack, fixed the line for the amazing lady I had been tied to for nearly a day and scurried up the final slabs.  
First female team to drink two King Cobras on the bridge--- yea, right!

Libby followed suit, unfixed the line and scrambled to meet me at the top of El Capitan for the second time in one day.  

Both of us weary but happy in the cool stillness of the night.

We had just become the first females to climb two routes on El Capitan in under 24 hours. (21:17)

The poop definitely cost us a little time.  

1 comment:

Drew Thayer said...

Great story, way to send and keep it clean! many would not be so disciplined unfortunately, I think.

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