El Cap Report 06/29/08

ElCap Report 6/29/08
By Tom Evans

Yo..  Yep it is Sunday and another fine day here in the Valley.  I was up very early to go down to the Great Rock and see the unfolding events of the day.  There was a nice wind from the SE for a change and the sky was clear with some small white clouds briskly moving across the sky.  The air was crisp and clear, a real pleasant change from the smoke and haze of the past week.  I gave the show at the lodge last night and we all had a good time.  There were few climbers with Winky holding down the rear seating area.  Bobo showed up for a time with his partner Chris but they were off to the Dome for a one day climb so they didn’t stay long.  Most of the climbers are gone now or climbing on the routes.  So I was kind of tired when I got up at 5:25 this morning but the cobwebs were soon gone with excitement of the day.

Today’s report is brought to you by the three successful teams returning to the bridge today.
Mash and Steve were back early from the Muir and were really singing the praises of that exceptional routes upper half.
Andy and Skyler were the second back after climbing Zenyatta Mondatta, which they said was a great route.  They posed for pics and had a couple of beers and bask in the glory for a while.
Last but surely not least, Chris and Guy were back from Magic Mushroom marveling at the route and the free climbing done on it recently.  Their partner had left the climb early on and was not to be found.  He has their car keys!
Chris and Guy just down from Magic Mushroom

Todays Report:

Bad Sign:  I did see Kate and Pete mounting a monumental hauling effort to get their stuff up that nasty, pitch long, 45 degree angled ramp on the 5th (?) pitch.  Man that looked bad.  It was almost like dragging them across the ground for a pitch!  The climbing should be better from now on, I hope!
Pete helping Kate(up higher) haul loads up the ramp of pain on Bad Sign

Zodiac:  The North Carolina boys, Nathan and Peyton were on the rock early after fixing yesterday.  They arrived with a lot of very shiny new equipment causing some comments at the bridge that perhaps they were a long shot to make it.  Well forget that shiit, fool.  They are smoking up the route and had already done the Black Tower by the time I left this afternoon around 3.  The lads are looking real solid up there.
North Carolina Team on Black Tower

Higher up I did hear from the Zm team that the Cane team had topped out late yesterday and were on the way down.  Too bad as I was hoping to get some shots of them around Peanut ledge this morning.  But I am sure they are glad to be heading down.
Jesse and Roger were down yesterday.  With some time constraints they pushed it up the wall late in the afternoon and passing the Cane team and climbed out on their own rope.  Nice going all you guys!!

ZM:  Andy and Skyler topped out last night and came down today.

Mescalito:  The two climbers there did the Sea gull pitch today and were working higher when I left.  They are Tophie and Seth.  The white shirts seem to be working for them but not for me.
After the Sea Gull on Mescalito

The Nose:  I did see Greg and Fred climbing on the route this afternoon after doing Half Dome this morning for the classic link up.  There were heading for the Jardine when I last saw them.

Earlier in the day the Hans Yuji team climbed the route and here is the story of that climb.
I got up very early and got down to the Bridge around 6:15am.  The air was sharp and crisp and the smoke from previous days gone.  The men were already packed up and gone to the rock.  A large gathering of climbers, news people, and interested members of the general public were in evidence.  The place was lined with cars like it was a peak season climbing day.  The place was packed with watchers.  The largest groups were in the meadow and a pretty good sized crowd gathered at the Bridge.  There was much excitement in the air and the mood was almost festive.  Old friends shook hands and chatted, while drinking steaming hot coffee.  Tourons and climbers alike discussed the possibilities.  The air was awash with optimism and good will toward the climbers.  Around 6:30 cheering and calls of encouragement went up from the crowd almost as if by direction.  At 6:42 came the word that they had started the great adventure.  A great roar arose from all parts of the gathering.  The race was on.

Right away I could tell that this was indeed going to be the maximum effort the men had to give.  Yuji and Hans were moving up the early pitches almost at a trot.  They were across Sickle ledge in 15 minutes and off into the Stove Legs almost before the crowd had settled into their places.  Yuji climbed the early Stove Leg pitches at a continuous, rapid pace making long reaches to jam his hands and then yarding up on them like they were attached to the rungs of a ladder.  Hans came into view as Yuji was reaching the middle of the Legs.
Hans Florine curisin in the Stove Legs

Yuji just below Dolt Tower

Yuji moving off Dolt Tower

Hans free climbing after Dolt Tower

Hans climbed rapidly with the  smoothness and confidence of a man who knew the route like none other.  Not only did he do his own climbing but he managed the running belay system they employed so that if the worst happened the effects would be minimal.  Yuji was now climbing with powerful upward strokes of his arms and legs that reminded me of Alex Huber’s style on the great record ascent, with his brother Thomas, last year.  Gone was the fumbling with gear here and there.  The focus was sharp the moves precise.  Yuji was soon climbing over the top of Dolt Tower stopping only for a moment to yard up the free line and short fix Hans to the bolts there.  He then plunged off the right end and continued rapidly up the 5.9 cracks leading toward ElCap Tower.  Hans immediately started jugging and was soon stretching out his stokes and pulling hard for the Tower.  The sun was on Hans atop the Tower and he was soon lowering off the far end and free climbing once again.  He climbed to the small ledge above Dolt just as Yuji was gaining the base of Texas Flake.

Yuji quickly ducked into the back of the huge flake and scrambled up inside, beyond our view.  Just as he arrived on the tip of Texas, seemingly in just a few moments, Hans arrived at the base.  Yuji flipped the lead line around from the inside to the outside of the flake and fixed it to the bolts.  Hans stepped back onto his jugs and climbed the outside of the flake.  Yuji just as quickly started the bolt ladder heading to the Boot.
Yuji leads the bolts as Hans jugs to Texas Flake

Yuji employed the same tactic Alex used.  He used draws to clip the bolts and just put his feet flat on the rock.  He did occasionally step on a bolt to use it to push off for his lunge to the next one.  Yuji was soon up the bolts and involved it the short section of aid/French free climbing he had to do to reach the bottom of the Boot.  Hans immediately moved off the top of Texas Flake and climbed the bolts himself, quickly reaching the top one.  They were making good time and the climb was going smoothly thus far.  The record was well within their reach and they knew it.

Yuji soon gained the Boot and rapidly climbed the familiar right side but this time he only placed one piece of protection and that very low down.  He ran it out to the top and as he reached for the ledge at the top he slipped.  A quick gasp swept through those looking closely through binoculars and telescopes.  He make a quick grab at the ledge again and made the save and was soon at the bolt on top.  Whoa… Dude!  Un-phased he was quickly lowered and snatched the few pieces of gear he had placed above Hans.  They did the gear swap like in previous attempts and Yuji was off and running across the King Swing.  He was on Eagle ledge within a few seconds. 
Yuji leads the King Swing

Hans was quickly behind him and he make the swing and climb to the ledge cleanly.  Then things stopped.  For three minutes they were on that ledge.  Yuji appeared to be rearranging the rack and Hans was busy with untying and pulling the rope down from the top of the Boot.  No one was climbing and time was relentlessly marching on.  I started getting antsy and said out loud… “come on, come on guys, get moving, get moving”.   It was nerve wracking to watch them just standing there.  Finally Yuji was back on the move and the team was rolling again.  I stepped away from the camera as the Gray Bands was not a very photogenic place and I needed to break the tension within. 

When I returned to the viewer Yuji was climbing toward the Great Roof and we all knew what an important pitch that was.  Various people were doing the math out loud and telling us just how much time they had left.  It was going to be close but they had plenty of time still.  They did the Roof smoothly and lost no time on it.  Yuji turned the corner and fixed the rope for Hans once again.  Hans was back on the jugs and Yuji was off up the Pancake flake which he just hiked up, including the 11c section which he freed this time instead of aiding.  Hans by now had turned the corner and was back to free climbing.  His smooth, flowing style was well suited for this kind of climbing and he was quickly up the corner.  Yuji was now at the place Thomas Huber had fallen on one of their record attempts and I got a little nervous.  I think I mentioned he was at that place out loud and a those around me fell into silence.  He did the necessary spread eagle there but was soon past it onto the more secure holds going into Camp 5.
Yuji and Hans turning the Great Roof

By now the mathematicians among us were calling out the times and we were all speculating if it was still possible.  At Camp 5 they had, I recall, some 35 minutes left to the record time.  When that was called out a fresh optimism swept through the crowd and someone said “they’re going to do it!!”  At that point they slipped behind the edge of the buttress and out of sight until they reached the alcove.  I remember the Hubers doing the same thing… we all felt some anxiety at not knowing what was going on.  Some of the people immediately moved off to the west so they could see the entire corner.  I stayed put and used the time to shoot some of the other teams on their routes.  I trained my telescope on the Alcove and went about shooting with the camera.  The time passed so slowly and they were not in the alcove when they should have been.  I pressed close to the eyepiece and noticed some movement way in the back..  Yes there he was!  I had missed him as the smoke has started to drift on to the wall and blocked the view.  Soon they were at the base of the last pitch with Yuji already doing the bolt ladder… they now had 5 minutes to the record time.  Could they do it?… could they do the last part in just 5 minutes?  Yuji was throwing himself at the bolts, swinging up with great lunges and just making the clips at the limit of his reach.  Hans climbed the 10b crack rapidly and was soon climbing the bolts as Yuji had done instead of jumaring.  It was a sprint to the top now.  The valley was resounding with huge roars and screams of encouragement and I blew my fog horn on and off.  The noise was continuous and everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs.  Yuji was on the slab and running to the tree.  Hans was giving all he had left racing from bolt to bolt and was soon yarding up the line and then ….disappeared over the top.  It was done.  We all looked at each other …. Was it enough?… The mathematicians did the math and as no one knew the exact starting time there was no certain outcome revealed.  We waited… and waited… they didn’t come to the rim… maybe they forgot…. Maybe they were in an exhausted pile at the top.   Then the news came on the radio…. 2:47:30.  They missed it by a minute and 45 seconds.  What an effort!  Too close for comfort.  The crowd dispersed… we all shook our heads and just let the excitement drain away… to be on the edge of our seats for so long was quite a thrilling time.
And that is the way it ended.   The men were down in an hour or so.  Yuji came over, sat down at the bridge and we all congratulated him on the climb.  He even drank a Corona, in about 25 seconds too.  We were at once disappointed and elated.  It was such a great climb and we were fortunate to be able to see it in person.  They are coming back on Wed. to give it a last shot for the season.  I will be here again too…  One hell of a day it was!!

Salathe:  Jon and Dana made good time on their one day attempt on the Salathe.  I last saw them above the ElCap Spire in the middle of the afternoon and they were going strong.  Stay in there lads!

In other news:  Several of the Tourons from the show last night showed up and we chatted a bit.  We watched the climbers in front of us on Zodiac, Bad Sign and Mescalito.  Lots of climbers hung around quite a while just visiting and talking with the guys just down from the various routes.  It was a nice day but the smoke returned later to make things more difficult.  BMDJake left for some fishing up north, having not the best time climbing here after a two year layoff.  Miles and Liz also left for parts unknown and will be back in the fall.  Dave Turner and Chris didn’t do Half Dome today and they are most likely out of here too with Dave going to the Tetons soon.  Lance was by for some bridge time and will be going back east for a month or so soon.  The Cavers have returned with the mega long rope all the way down the Cap and are to commence rappelling operations in short order.
Bridge crew today.  Yuji on the far right

So that’s the way it is on this the 29th day of June 2008.
Later Ansel Evans