Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First One Day Solo Ascent of The Triple Direct Route on El Capitan!

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11:17pm Sunday on top of El Cap. 17 hrs 29 mins

I climbed, by myself, The Triple Direct (TD) route on El Capitan on Sunday, July 13th, 2014. Non-Climbers: The TD is a route up the middle of a 2,950-foot-cliff, El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley. A normal party would plan to take four days on the route. The route has been climbed by very high level of experience teams in under six hours. I do not know of any recorded solo speed record to date. I think this might be the first one-day ascent of the route by a soloist! We’d call that TDIAD (I climbed the route in 17 hours and 29 minutes. Car-to-car in 20 hours and 21 minutes.)

I am told it was 106 degrees in Yosemite Valley on Sunday; not ideal for climbing El Capitan. I choose The TD because I could climb for the first part of the day in the shade. Then the route goes slightly right around the corner into upper dihedrals so you get late in the day shade too. If I timed it right, I’d only be in the sun for a few hours. Predominately this worked out for me. It’s tough for me to get time to do something big and also climb the days before to get “tuned in,” so I really wanted to use this day, hot or not. Thursday and Friday I climbed with my friend Derrick Lindsey on Tuolumne granite, so that was a great time to get re-familiarized with the rock.

Climbers: (non-climbers this may be Greek, not interesting, or hard to follow.) I started off the ground at 5:48 am. I used a 70m X 9.1mm BlueWater rope. I planned to stretch the rope to full length nearly every lead unless there was some logistical advantage otherwise to do so. I planned to jug, (ascend the rope), with a 4,000-cubic-inch backpack, a bit big for these things but nice to have the room for the approach and descent. My rack was: ten quick draws, ten free biners, four long runners, doubles of everything up to #2 Camalots, one #3 and, in case Alex Honnold is reading or hearing about this, I didn’t take a #4. I took triples of the ½ cams, BD Gray. I also took four offset cams. I took about 20 nuts, mostly tiny ones. To my past partners, yes, I placed a few. I came upon five biners on the route and ended up leaving three and dropping a quick draw, so I was even on that score. However I inadvertently left a #1 camalot on the pitch off the Glowering spot. – Go get it treasure hunters! I self belayed with a Grigri, and brought one aider and one Yates speedy stirrup. I had one gallon and one liter of water, NUUN tablets, HoneyStinger Energy Chews and Protein Bars, and Field Trip Jerky. Although I had a light long sleeve shirt and wind breaker in reserve I climbed the entire route in my Outdoor Research Ferosi NIAD pants* and short sleeve Astro man shirt. (*they are lighter then Schoeller pants and have compartments at the knees which held light padding for my knees)

I climbed the first 2.5 pitches in one pitch. (I, un-roped, soloed up the first 30 ft of pitch “1”) I climbed from 2.5 to 4.5 in a pitch, which left me at the two bolts at the base of the bolted 5.11d section. From there I made it to the ledge, “Triangle Ledge,” after the last face crux. Then from that ledge I made a single long pitch to the top of the half dollar. It’s actually 74 meters from the anchor on that ledge to the anchor on top of the half dollar. I put in a natural pro anchor 4 meters down from the top anchor. From there I un-roped soloed, dragging the rope behind me on the easy terrain for two pitches up to Mammoth Terrace, to avoid jugging that section. I then un-roped soloed the first pitch off Mammoth to the base of the aid pitch that slopes up and right. I did this first aid pitch normally, then the next two I linked. I found five two-liter bottles of water left by someone on the Gray Ledges and drank about a half liter as I still had plenty in my pack to drink. I led up the next pitches, but had a rope snag so had to cut it short to an 80-foot pitch to lower down, retrieve my pack and un-snag the rope. I led the long hard arching left aid pitch just before it turns right to The Muir and combined that with the traverse over to the lower off point. I lowered my self here leaving some biners and swung the pendulum over to the big ledges under Camp 4, then pulled the rope, thus not having to backtrack that portion.

I tried to hide in a little rock corner from the sun on this ledge and stall, changing my shoes and eating. It was hot and this portion of the route was the three or so hours in total that I was in the sun. It was this section where I really was having to dig deep for motivation to continue on. – Note to self, never under estimate the sun and high temperatures power to suck the energy out of you. My consumption of NUUN in my water earlier on the route surely got me through this bit. From this ledge I led diagonally up to the base of the Great Roof. I took a fall on my GriGri within the first ten feet of leading the Great Roof when a cam popped out on me. I took another four-foot fall directly onto my daisy after that, ouch. I led the Great Roof and combined it with the Pancake Flake. From there I made it to Camp 5 with rope to spare. New discovery for me! I led from Camp 5 all the way to Camp 6, about 68 meters! From Camp 6 I found out it’s 71 meters to the block belay! I improvised a natural anchor and “tethered” it to the bolts. Although the moon was nearly full, it was on this lead that I put on my headlamp. From the Block, (that is not there anymore), I led all the way up the final bolt ladder onto the slab section just before it traverses to the right. From there it was just a short 70-foot lead up to the finishing anchors. At these anchors I “Shouldered” everything, then soloed up to the tree to stop the clock at 11:17pm. I figured basically I made 17 long pitches out of the route. There was ample moon light on top and two gallons of water sitting at the tree! I drank about two liters of it and poured a liter in my bottle to have for the descent. After 25 minutes of laying there panting, resting, eating, drinking, and packing my pack, I staggered up to an upright position and began the hike down.

The rappelling crowd was up on top with their 1,000-meter rope dangling off El Cap. A woman on top said she made the rappel in less than six minutes! That was sounding really good rather than the two-hour hike down the east ledges. Alas there were cavers coming up the lines in the middle of the night because it was too hot in the day to do so.

I made it back to my family van at 2:09 am. And back to my bed at 3am. I woke up at 4:15 am to start on Sunday so I did my “BTB” (Bed-to-Bed) time in under 23 hours! I hope your Sunday was equally adventuresome, or maybe you took a rest day since your Saturday was full of fun.

I will be sharing stories next Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 in Concord at Brenden Theaters.  http://bit.ly/1nEsaxh

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3 comments:

Hans Florine said...

Further notes after some questions from others...

I wore La Sportiva TC Pros and LS Vertical Ks for the descent and to jug some of the pitches.

I don't know the temp on the wall, but it was not 105. Probably under 80 while I was not in the sun for the first 6 hours. It was very windy in the middle of the day while I was in the sun, so probably not above 90 degrees for me during the 3 or so hours I was in the sun.

I think I was the only climber on El Cap that day. Of course I shared it with some spelunkers who were doing an evening ascent of their 1000 meter fixed line.

Steve Fettke said...

Only you Hans could solo TDIAD and then look half your age like in the last photo!

Hans Florine said...

thanks Steve Fettke, It's all in that late evening Alpine Glow, smart phone, and head lamp lighting tricks.