Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Leaning Tower

As soon as the government reopened the national parks Ollie, Duncan and I drove straight into Yosemite, packed up our very heavy Haul Bag and got on The Nose. We gambled three days worth of food and water and jugged back up to our previous highpoint at Sickle Ledge. I lead and fixed the next two pitches as the sun set. I felt unstoppable.

It wasn't to be. The next morning we bailed from the Stovelegs. Basically we were moving too slowly for the short autumn days. Our lack of prior practice was also showing through: we didn't have our three climber system sorted and every belay was a total cluster.

Back on the ground my body was sore from the attempt and I was angry with myself for giving in too easily, even though I knew it was the right desicion. I also desperately didn't want to leave the Valley empty handed. We didn't have time for another go at the Nose, besides I didn't want to get back on it as a three.

I tried to bully, bribe and guilt trip Ollie into doing the Regular Route on Half Dome to no avial. Like me he also didn't want to leave empty handed, but our failure had deflated him - Half Dome was beyond our abilities. Instead he suggested the Leaning Tower, which I'd arrogantly dismissed as too easy, dispute barely knowing anything about the climb.

An afternoon at Cookie Cliff did little booster our confidence. We backed off a 5.9 chimney (If that is the best 5.9 at Cookie I hate to think what the bad ones are like!) and I hitched back to Camp 4 in a huff.

The next day we were planning on leaving the Valley and heading to Santa Cruz to relax by the beach for the remaining few days of our trip. I didn't want to do this. Instead I opened up the guidebook and read the description for The Leaning West Face - it actually sounded pretty damn good and it's a Warren Harding route.

Mentally and physically tired from nine weeks of climbing Duncan decided to sit this one out. On the first day I lead the first two pitches, a strenuous bolt ladder, before fixing our ropes and returning to Camp 4.

The next morning we returned to the base of the climb and jumared our free hanging ropes. Ollie then lead two more pitches, which lead to the palacial Ahwahnee Ledge. We fixed two more pitches in the afternoon sun, before descending back to the ledge for very well earned beer, dinner and sleep.

After a leisurely start we jugged our fixed lines and continued for three more steep pitches to the top of the Leaning Tower and our first big wall. Big wall climbing is not much like climbing really. It involves a strange mix of terror combined with some very well earned downtime in some very cool places. It is also very rewarding and I'm looking forward to doing more of it.
Harry Potter tries the Nose - I snapped my glasses at the bivi.

Little man sad to be bailing from the Big Stone.

Vertigo for breakfast anyone - Ollie jugs our fixed lines on the second day.

It's amazing where stuff grows.

Ollie aiding on the Leaning Tower.

Ollie ready to eat on Ahwahnee Ledge.

Totem Cams - if you are going big walling get a set of these, they go in anywhere and are always bomber.

Why Gri-gris were invented - for taking selfies whilst belaying.

Ollie experiencing brain meltdown, whilst cleaning the final pitch.

El Cap - still the dream.

Ollie abseiling with the pig.

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