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The night I topped out on The Nose
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ronamick


Feb 27, 2003, 9:29 PM
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The night I topped out on The Nose
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It was late in the day when I got to the base of the overhanging bolt ladder pitch, and I just could'nt seem to get my anchors right in the horizontal crack system there. I screwed around forever and burned most of the remaining light, so dusk was creeping in as my partner, Michael Paul, started leading the bolt ladder.
The overhang pitch is amazing- this line of rickety old 1/4" bolts, some of them pulled halfway out of the hole- leads up this featureless, inverted 45 degree stretch of rock for 20-25 feet, turns a big rounded brow, goes vertical for a piece, then another, bigger brow, at which point you are a good 40 lateral feet out from the belay.

Mike is halfway up the pitch as night falls, and he drops down a loop of rope and hauls up our only headlamp to finish leading the pitch. He unfortunately clipped every bolt for pro instead of every 4th or so, and the rope drag started getting horrendous at the top of the pitch, finally stopping him cold, about head level with the very lip.
There's this antique dead-man's hanging belay station right there that he was forced to use, consisting of 3 old 1/4" bolts, only one of which had a hanger. So Mike used wired stoppers like bolo ties on the two hangerless studs, so he could clip into them and start hauling. He whined about this belay for so long that I finally told him that I was cutting the bag loose, whether he was ready or not, as I had been stuck at this belay for a couple hours at this point.

It was pitch dark and moonless, and we thought it would be alot safer for me to follow the pitch on belay than to jumar, which would have meant unclipping an ascender and reclipping past every bolt. So Mike takes in the slack on the lead line rather than fixing it, causing a long loop of slack to hang free under his stance. Then he ties it off and gets ready to haul. I was hot to get going, so instead of lowering the bag out, I just unclipped it and let it fly off into the night, then sat back and waited for him to get the bag up so he could get me on belay.

Now Mike starts ranting about the ropes being in this massive knot, that the bag swinging back and forth wrapped around the slack loop, and the whole thing got cinched into the mother of all tangles as he hauled it up, and how he can't even pull a strand out, then "Oh my god! the headlamp is dying!" I told him to turn it off and I'll take care of the rope when I get there, as he was really sounding panicked now.

So I begin the process of stretching and feeling around blindly over my head for the next biner, clipping in, then doing a little zorro swing into it. The hardest part was reaching back to get the aider I had just left. I had repeated this process for a couple dozen bolts, and was standing on the bolt right at the lip of the second bulge, when I was suddenly airborne.
Falling on aid is very abrupt, since you can't feel your shoes slipping or your grip weakening. It's just whoosh! No idea why.

I dropped about 20 feet, and was nearly flipped over backward when the rope caught me, but ended up hanging with my back arched over, head lower than my feet and rotating like the needle on a stopwatch. Since my face was pointing downward and out, I was looking directly at the lights of Yosemite Village with every sweep of the rotation. Twinkly lights, black rock. Twinkly lights, black rock. The rack nearly flew over my shoulder in the fall, and it's a good thing it didn't, because my jumars were clipped to it, and I began feeling for them immediately.

Believe it or not, we had no belay device or brake at all, so I was hanging directly off of Mike's waist as he hung there in that shitty belay, and he was making all of these terrifying grunting and wheezing noises like he was going to drop me. I reminded him that if I take a full pitch ride, I will surely pull the entire belay, and I will see you on the deck if you don't shut up and hang on. He whimpered instead of grunting as I jumared off his waist back up to the bolt ladder.

When I finally got up to Mike, he flashed the light on the anchors. Great mother of god! Now THAT'S a scary belay! Any my god, he wasn't exaggerating about the rope knot, which was a beachball-sized tangle, now super duper cinched, thanks to my little trap-door free fall deal. This is a problem, since I will need some rope to lead the 5.7 friction pitch, but both ropes have been consumed by this pretzle gone mad. What to do up there with our big ol' knot... I briefly tried working with it, but the headlamp was only good for a second of dim light, then it went out, and had to be turned off for a couple of minutes before it could generate another little flash and die again.

I managed to pull a fairly long douple strand of rope, a big loop really, out of the wad, and tied the end to my harness in a big granny knot, then gave the other end to Mike to belay me. Wheee! Aren't walls fun?! I stepped on the haul bag, Mike's shoulder, then his head, then 5.7 friction.
Poof! In the bleak little flash I see a flake and lieback it in the dark. Poof! a line of dishes leading up and left, and on and on, gonna die, so far out there I'm ready to barf through my nose, when I see it.

A little pine sapling, about waist high and as thick as a toilet paper tube, looking like the sacred virgin herself. I grabbed Mr. tree... my friend, Mr. tree, and knew I was going to live. I tied the rope off to my little tree, and ran a jumar self-belay back down to the lip, passing 4 bolts that I had missed in the dark. I get to the brink, and find Michael in tears. Then I realize that it's going to be some trick getting the haul bag up without a haul line, and that indeed Mike will have to UNCLIP THE BAG AND HAND IT UP TO ME. Our bag, "Bluto", checked in at 80+ lbs., and should we fail to execute this handoff, the whole business, Mr. tree included, was going for the ride.

So excitement was running high as Mike unclipped Bluto and started with the wheezing and grunting routine again, whereupon my adrenaline kicked in and I reached down, seized the bag and pulled like I was pulling a tick off my pecker... realizing in mid-swing that I had nowhere to pull it up to, then jamming it behind my legs as I stood on the 5.7 friction, toes pointed outward. With the bag pushing me hard toward the void, I put on a brave face and told Mike he was on belay, enabling him to turn a nifty 5.14b mantle out of his slings and onto my stance, where we jostle like drowning men for secure footing. Little did he know that the entire anchor at this point consisted of Mr. tree.

Between the two of us we pushed and wrestled the bag up the slab in the dark, but were unable to claw any bivy gear out of the bag due to the tangle, so a little after midnight we finally each found a crack in the capstone to lie in like a little coffin and conk out.


epic_ed


Feb 27, 2003, 9:53 PM
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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Holy freakin' nightmares, batman!! You gotta be kiddin' me. I'm not sure if you're brave, or lucky, or smokin' dope...probably all three! Nice story, dude. My palms are still sweating. And I thought the last pitch of the Nose was supposed to be cake. Something to look forward to, I guess. :wink:

Ed


roughster


Feb 27, 2003, 9:56 PM
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sweet read :)


climbsomething


Feb 27, 2003, 10:40 PM
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:shock: I uncurl my thumbs from my sweaty palms and point 'em up. Thanks for sharing your semi-epic/thrill-ride!


ronamick


Feb 27, 2003, 11:46 PM
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The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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I forgot to add that the reason I fell on the bolt ladder was because one of Harding's original bolts blew out as I stood on it. Thank Valygrl for this post. I posted a reply in the "ever broke a bolt?" thread, saying only that I popped one on the Nose, and she posted a reply asking if I still had the bolt. My PM to her ended up being this recount of the entire episode, which she suggested I share it. Misery loves company, eh?

PS This occured in September of '79 or '80, not sure which. I understand that all of the belays on the Nose have been beefed up, and a lot of the crappy old bolts (and there were a lot then) have been replaced.

Cheers, Ron


caphalon


Feb 28, 2003, 12:00 AM
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The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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Reading this story makes me never want to go aid climbing.

I now feel very comfortable with my skill level at 5.11 and I'm not sure I really want to try and get to 5.12 now.

Thanks for the story :shock:


bigwallgumbie


Feb 28, 2003, 12:06 AM
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The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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Dank story man...

gotta love the whole, I'll never do it again (intentionally) but it was still worth it factor, huh?? =)


bighigaz


Feb 28, 2003, 1:45 AM
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Wow. [In reply to]
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Hey, that epic adventure was far more interesting than if the pitch had gone sans problems. We don't make complications, but they certainly make us! Hats off too your perserverance!

We need more posts like these!


valygrl


Feb 28, 2003, 8:59 AM
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The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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Glad you posted it for everyone, Ron, great story and great writing!

Hope I don't bust out any of those bolts or have to belay there...

:)
anna

Valygrl is going to the valley tonight!


ambler


Feb 28, 2003, 9:18 AM
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Now THAT is a story. Thanks.


michaelpaul


Mar 8, 2003, 10:06 AM
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The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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Jeez Remembering that Ron brought back a lot of memories! Being our first El Cap Route and I was still a teenager, a lot of mistakes were made. But in the long run I found it for the best, seeing as how I was to never repeat them on my subsequent (multiple) El Cap ascents.


roughster


Aug 25, 2003, 2:39 PM
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Re: The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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this one deserves another bump!


epic_ed


Aug 25, 2003, 4:18 PM
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This was one of my favorites. Double bump!


maculated


Aug 25, 2003, 4:43 PM
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Re: The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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Man oh man!!! EEEEEEEK.


ronamick


Aug 25, 2003, 5:25 PM
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Re: The night I topped out on The Nose [In reply to]
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In reply to:
This was one of my favorites. Double bump!

Not even. That's exactly the way it happened.


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