Yosemite Speed

It was mid October 2010, I had just got back from the ski season in Australia and was climbing with my good friend Nathan Murphy in the Peak district.  The story is summerised well in the cartoon below:

So we left 5 days later on a two and a half week trip to Yosemite National Park to try and speed climb some big walls.  We flew into San Fran it was the 23rd of October, so we knew we were cutting it fine with the weather being the end of the season, and we arived to an empty park, there were mabe 5 other teams of people climbing in camp 4.  It was a very wet, cold and snowy trip, however we still managed to climb 3 big walls and varius multi pitch climbs.  I was teaching Nathan new skills as we went, and he did incredibly well.  It was good style that he did 3 big climbs and never spent the night on a wall or any idea how to haul!  One of the main challenges was the light, there was not much of it so it made all day attemps much harder.

Our first big climb was the South face of washington collum.  I had never done the route before and is most people first big route in the valley, it is a 12 pitch route with easy free climbing mixed in with a few sections of C2 aid.  We split the route into 2 section I did the first 6 pitches and Nathan did the rest.  Normally for real speed you have one leader and one seconder, as you try and avoid comming together at all costs as it waists time.  Although time was an issue it was not a priority as this was a warm up route, and more about learning.  Nathan had never jumared or aided before so was already a steep learning curve.  For most partys the route takes 2-3 days however is easily done in a day.  So I had 5 hours as a goal.

We ended up on the route quite late, and finished after 6 hours as the sun was setting.  It was a great route, but I remember from doing the Prow 4 years before the decent was quite tricky, so being the king of bivis managed to convince Nathan that we should camp.  We had no gear with us I was wearing some chinos, a t shirt and light hoody.  It got down to 0 degrees centigrade and we froze!  Ending up having a very uncomfortable night sleep in a vigorus spoon, but avoiding Hipothermia.  But a very funney way to start the trip.  Making the decent in the morning was definetly the write move.  On this wall I also learnt that Nathan was very good at dropping things, but that always happens and you just have to improvise.

We then went to do the West Face on the leaning tower.  Which was infact my first ever big wall 4 years before with Chris Bevins.  Being on the tower agin you remember how steep it is, and it really schools you how to jumar, but also being on it a second time I thought next time I have to come back and free climb it.

We started eirly at sunrise as we slept at the base the night before.  The walk in was not as bad as I remember but always a swetty mission.  The first 2 pitches are a big reach bolt ladder thrown in with some old copper heads and a few hooking moves which were great for nathan.  He flew on the first half really getting the hang of short fixing, which is when you get to the end of the pitch, pulling through the rope and carry on climbing self belaying while your partner jumars up.  The second half was fun, and involves a large roof.  When I got to the top the sun was setting, and the alpine glow on el cap was incredible.  However the sun had set by the time nathan had got up and sun had set!  We did the route in six and a half hours which was very respectible.  And absailed in the dark.

In between all the rain and big walls we managed to get some great climbing including 2 of my favorate routes, Serenity crack and the central pillar of frenzy.

We then hiked up the death slabs, which arn’t half as bad as they sound, I would recomend to all to go up and down but watch your footing in places.  And we were at the base of Half Dome.  This was my main priority for the trip, and something I had wanted to do since metting and hearing Royal Robbins talk about it.  We had planed doing it in about 8 hours, as we were moving well now and my climbing partner Chris had done it in 5 hours before, so I thought 8 would be respectible!  Well this went out of the window by the 3rd pitch, things wernt going our way.  Nathan sliped on the first pitch and took a large fall which always knocks the confidence and then droped the ropeman which is key when simul climbing.  So we soon ditched the speed and just enyoyed the climbing.  It was incredible.  The best route I have ever done and want to go back to free it all.  So much incredible 5.9 hand cracks real dream climmbing.  I especially loved the squeze chimney a great squirm.  My e-light broke with a dodgy connection which definetly spiced things up in the dark when seconding, but we mate the summit after 21 hours.  The cables had been taken down but we could not find them in the dark, so had another cold night out, and walked down in the morning.

The next day It snowed and really dashed any hopes of any more climbing, as we had planned to do the nose in a day as well.  But we had a great trip, and got a lot of climbing in considering the weather.  So it was streight to San Fran for a few days of party, a great way to end the trip and a great 2 1/2 weeks.


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