Day1: Freeblast (aka the first 10 pitches of the Salathe Wall) - 5.11b
I'd never climbed on El Cap before so this was my first time actually doing a route on this impressive piece of stone. The last time I was there, we were bandit camping illegally at the base -- I woke up early in the morning to wander over to the base of the class Nose route just to look up. At the time, I couldn't believe the boldness of the older generation to even think that such a face was possible.
The first 10 pitches of the Salathe Wall (aka "The Freeblast") take you up about 1000 feet to the top of Mammoth Ledges. It ascends a series of splitter cracks, hard slabby face, a physical roof and chimney system ("The Half Dollar"), before ending on a long, burly section of 5.7.
Cory led all of the hard pitches, doing a great job on all of his sections. The climb was made more difficult by an extremely stiff wind and also the fact that a lot of pitches were running with water from melting snow and ice above. Periodically we'd have to dodge ice coming down from the upper pitches.
My leads were all really tough. I got to lead a beautiful 10c finger crack, but slipped in one particularly tenuous section. My 5.9 pitch up to the Half Dollar was also running with water, which didn't help my confidence too much. I was moving pretty slowly on this pitch, but it wasn't so bad once I got up and through the moves.
Day 2: Munginella - 5.6
Perfect easy movement over stone. The first pitch is forgettable, mostly easy 5th class with an occasional harder move. The second pitch ascends a steeper corner on bomber foot and handholds. It's easy enough that you just fall into a rhythm of constant movement, interrupted by an occasional pause to place a piece of protection.
Day 2: Commitment - 5.9
Two easy pitches leads you to the business, a strenuous and improbable looking move under a roof to a steep corner. The moves out from under the roof were tricky and stymied me -- I went up, felt it out and came back down a few times before committing. However, hidden holds appear just as it's feeling grim allowing you to pull into the corner. The 5.9 "lieback" corner wasn't much of a lieback. Tons of fun. By this time, Eu-Jin and I were falling into a nice cadence -- he'd get to the belay and immediately we'd start re-racking. Efficiency at the changeovers is key!
Day 2: The Surprise - 5.10a
The hardest climb of the day. After doing two climbs on the Five Open Books, I cajoled Eujin into doing this (sorry!). Eu-Jin was a good sport, even when traversing the fairly unprotected and runout traverse on the second pitch. I have to admit -- a rusty old 1/4" spinner bolt doesn't really inspire confidence, especially when you're facing a fall of 30 feet! The end of the second pitch puts you on a tiny and cramped stance.
The next pitch was very worth it -- splitter cracks! I thought this pitch was pretty mellow for 5.10a, which made me really psyched -- I usually have trouble on 5.10 terrain. However, later, I realized that the pitch is actually 5.8 -- no wonder it was so easy. I really ought to pay better attention to the topos the next time around.
By now, darkness was beginning to creep up the walls and we were both anxious to get off before too long. Eujin arrived at the belay and i grabbed the gear and immediately started heading up the last 5.10a finger crack. This pitch was a bit tricker -- the crack was much smaller and I barely pulled it off, almost falling on the exit moves. Luckily I was able to just reach the rounded lip before manteling up. We finished
Photos Courtesy of:
Jerry Miller (http://imageevent.com/mr806)