Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aid Solo Adventures - Washington Column

Inspired by some others, I thought it would be fun to write a trip report, so here it goes!  I am a Yosemite local and have been building up skills the past few weeks for my first big wall.  Intrigued by the idea of self-reliance, I decided to aid solo the South Face of Washington Column. I've spent the previous few weeks aid soloing different routes on the valley floor at Swan Slab and Church Bowl.  Forcing a few hook moves here and there, I felt I was mostly prepared.

I made a big breakfast Wednesday morning and left my place around 5 A.M.  I parked at the valley stables and began the approach.  I had been to the base a few times for some cragging, so I had an idea of where I was going.  However, with it being dark and carrying my ridiculously heavy pack, I started second guessing every step, not wanting to carry it any further than I had to.  I packed two gallons of water, doubles in gear, my bivy gear, and food.  Add in the two 70m ropes and I felt like a Sherpa.  It weighed in around 70 pounds. Alright, enough complaining . . .

The first good view from the approach.
I made it to the base around 7:30 and and started up P1.  The first 100 feet or so were straight forward.  After I made it over the first lip, I was forced to make some free moves.  I felt pretty insecure stepping out of my aiders, as I didn't bring free shoes, just trail runners.  Nonetheless, the pitch went without incident.  I hauled up my bag and traversed the first big ledge to P2.

Pitch 1
P2 was amazing.  It's a slightly overhanging, pin scarred dihedral.  The SuperTopo says it goes free at 11c?  Its a bit hard to read.  I'd love to be able to free it some day.  Dare I say, I think I even had fun aiding it.  Again, the pitch went without incident and I was starting to get into a rhythm.  At this point I was averaging about 2.5 hours/pitch.  A bit slower than I initially planned, but I was content.

Jugging P2
On to P3!  A much less aesthetic pitch.  A handful of free moves led me to a thin crack out right.  I made my first legitimate cam hook placement and a few free moves up to a horizontal crack, bringing me to mini epic #1!  I should have moved left from here, but instead, branched right up into a poorly protected offwidth behind a block.  I jammed a shoulder in and graveled my way up into an ants nest.  I always smell these ants before they start feasting on me.  They have a distinct pine smell, as I've been told they eat sap?  Nonetheless, the bites came shortly after the smell, as usual.  I threw in a mental piece (a.k.a. useless), mantled over the block and brushed off the ants.   A fall here would have been 15 feet or so, but nothing too dangerous.  Freeing some easy terrain brought me to another overwhelming smell of ant.  Luckily I caught them first this time.  I clipped some rap rings on their home tree and pendulumed back on route to finish.  Jugging and hauling up this pitch was a pain, but getting to Dinner Ledge felt like a great accomplishment.
Pitch many. ants.
I took a short break on Dinner Ledge and called my friend Thai down in the valley.  He had a pair of binoculars and took some awesome pictures from afar.
Where's Waldo . . .

After a short break, I started up the Kor Roof around 3:30.  This is what some call the crux.  The first 30 feet were a bit loose, so I freed as much as I could until more solid terrain.  I made it up to the first bolt and had an absolute blast.  A few bolts later, I found myself dangling hundreds of feet off the ground.  I hung out there for a bit, enjoying the bolts and taking in the view.  It was one of the greatest parts of the climb.

Hanging from the roof.
Moving up over the lip, I found a perfect placement for my red X4.  Both lobes were in contact and it was bomber.  It took a quite bit of effort, but I made it over the roof without incident.  Realizing I had a long ways to go yet on the pitch, I begin going light on gear and back cleaning.  Little did I realize what I was setting myself up for.

I fixed my lines and rappelled back down to Dinner Ledge around 5:30.  Rapping over the lip of the Kor Roof was a bit unnerving! I took a another short break and grabbed my headlamp.

Jugging the Kor Roof!
Mini epic #2.  Knowing my line was over the lip of the Kor Roof, I jugged lightly, trying not to bounce on the rope.  I felt I did a great job until I reached the bolts.  I looked up, and the angle of my headlamp made the rope look really frayed.  Along with the darkness, this began a terrible mental game.  With each bolt unclipped, I would swing out and bounce on the rope, yelling some appropriate expletives.  Reaching the last bolt, it hit me what the back cleaning had set me up for.  Unclipping, I swung 15 feet out right, watching my rope slide across the edge. Completely terrified, I jugged up and over the roof.  When I got to the "frayed" section, the sheath was barely damaged whatsoever.  The angle of my lamp on the green rope made it look way worse than it was.  Although relieving, it didn't do much to bring me out of my mental block.

Mini epic #3.  I made it to the anchors and didn't have to haul, as the next pitch (P5) was a traverse and brought you 50m above dinner ledge.  This would be my last pitch for the night before calling it a day.  I began moving out right around the roof.  A few placements in and I realized there was no possible aid move to bring me into the next roof to traverse left.  I was off route . . .  I made a reachy move to an old and tattered sling around a bolt.  I clipped it, bounce tested it, weighted it and made a quick move to bring the other aider into the bolt.  When I bumped my first aider another loop up into the sling, it snapped!  Luckily I had gotten my other aider into the bolt and didn't take the whipper over the roof.  Again, my already defeated mental game took another blow.  I squeezed in a quickdraw and rapped back down to the anchors.  This time, I moved straight up over the roof onto some well spaced bolts.  A fun and airy top step brought me to a great hidden placement, and in turn to the thin roof.  I traversed 50 ft over to the final bolt, lowered out and began my pendulum attempts. Normally, I think I would have found this part exciting, but I was so ready to be done for the day that it was frustrating.  I eventually made it to the anchors, fixed my lines and cleaned the pitch.  I made it back to dinner ledge around 10:30, pretty deflated mentally and physically.

Ravioli has never tasted better . . .
I debated bailing all night before going to bed, but decided I would wake up and make my decision in the morning.  I slept in until 8 . . .3 hours past when I intended to wake up.  I stuffed down some breakfast, packed my things and started jugging by 9.
Beautiful mornin' this mornin'
I still wasn't sure if I would bail when I got to the anchors, as I knew it would be another long and exhausting day.  However, half way up the rope, I had a moment of bliss and decided I would go for another pitch or two.  Pitch 6 went smoothly and I felt back in the game.  Down below, Thai still had eyes on me!  Thanks for the pics, Thai!

Onto P7!  This was another beautiful, pin scarred finger crack.  The second half of the pitch was consistently around an 1.5" wide.  I began leap frogging my cams and placing gear every 25 feet or so, as a fall would have been clean.  It felt great to finally be moving at a quick pace!  I made light of the pitch and had my bag up by 3:30.

The infamous, P8.  The awkward chimney.  The beginning of the pitch was perfectly parallel and bomber, so I continued to leap frog my cams and climb quickly until I hit the chimney.  I don't necessarily dislike chimney's, but by no means are they my forte.  Every other piece seemed to be placed beside a chockstone .  Falling on one could dislodge it, so I opted to run it out, as I'd rather a long fall than a long fall with falling blocks.  The handful of free moves really took it out of me.  I was exhausted by the time I made it to the final 20 feet of the pitch.  I came to another chockstone and couldn't figure out how to get around.  Eventually, I managed some combo of free moves and french free placements to move three more feet.  Somehow, both of my shoes came undone and I almost lost them both at once.  That would have made for a great story . . .
Shoes happily still intact!
From the top of P8, it was 5:30 and I had felt pretty accomplished at this point.  Not wanting to climb and rap until 2AM, I decided to bail in favor of pizza and a nice bed.  The rappel went quickly until the second to last.  My knot got wedged into a restriction, putting my pizza in jeopardy.

Mini epic #4! Luckily, I still had both ends of the rope.  I fixed one side to the bolted anchors and jugged the other.  When I reached the restriction about 70 feet up, I noticed there was about 10 feet of slack jammed behind the knot.  This was not a great feeling.  Pizza driven, fearless motivation inclined me to tie a back up knot, and jolt outward.  This sent me into an exhilarating 15 foot free fall with a soft catch onto my ascenders, which held wonderfully by the way.

The last rap went without incident and I was back on the ground!  An excellent feeling indeed.  I'm glad I made the attempt, but would love to go back with a partner and avoid all my mini epics.   Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!