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TR: East Buttress of El Cap
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Sep 1, 2003, 5:51 PM
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Registered: May 21, 2003
Posts: 59

TR: East Buttress of El Cap
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Thick darkness envelopes my head as we roll out of the valley and back home.
After a while, Rob pulls off for dinner and the turning truck lobs my head
off balance and I jerk awake. I fumble for my shoes and wallet open the
truck door and hop into the parking lot.

of Rob's truck because it's the only thing I can do. My right quad (thigh
muscle) is locked in a full cramp. I curse and then start punching my thigh
trying to straighten it out. I get it straight, and the unbelievable
happens. The other thigh locks up too. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK! MUTHER OF
ALL EVIL SONS OF A MONKEY ASS!" It would be funny, if I were not in
ridiculous pain. I want to make it stop at any cost. Rob says that he gonna
go in and get something to eat. "okay, okay, okay. I'll be in a second, I
hope."I watch jealously as he strolls away with two good legs. I fumble for
my cell phone.

"Honey, *gasp* yeah I'm in horrible pain. My thighs are fully cramped up and
I don't know what to do... Yeah, I'm probably dehydrated... well, we drank
beer after the climb... by the river... in the river... no, I drank a
gatorade too!!... No, I'm fine or I will be. sweet jesus, no it probably
wasn't the best plan... okay, I'm gonna try to get a burrito. love you -

After about 10 minutes of horrible stretching with two fully cramped quads,
I managed to get into the restaurant and drink a few cups of water and eat a
bunch of salty food. Soon I am back to normal. Well, as normal as I can get.


The East Ledges Descent seems fine in the daylight with only trad rack and a
rope as our packs, but I try to imagine doing it with 80 pounds of shit on
my back. No thank you, I'm very sure of the fact that I don't want to deal
with that EVER. I am wearing my ridiculously light Nike running shoes. They
might weigh in at 6 ounces a piece and have only about a half sole worth of
rubber. I didn't even notice the weight or bulk of them on the way up, a
very nice bonus indeed. Now and then the non-sticky nature of them is making
me take a second thought about my brilliant idea, but I'm still glad that I
didn't have more weight than absolutely necessary.

I had finished the last of my water very near the summit, but the temps
still felt reasonable at 80 degrees and there was a breeze so I wasn't too
worried. The tromp down the hand lines and the fixed raps flies by and soon
we are back on the ground endlessly hopping boulder after log after talus
after leaf covered rock. The bugs get worse and worse and soon the sweat is
flying off my face and down my nose and into my eyes. My legs and thighs
especially would probably like a rest break but we keep moving as fast as

Finally down at the truck, we open the cooler and pull out the last four
beers on ice, cracking two on the spot. Sweet nectar of the gods. We drop
our gear and practically run to the river, stripping down along the way.

Plunging into the icy water we erupt with laughter. "HOLY SHIT ROB! This is
freaking heaven! If I ever bite it and end up looking through the pearly
gates, I sure hope I see this place." We float in the shallow river, our
faces poking up towards the sun while our exhausted bodies float inches
below the surface."


"Well Rob, if you want to link the two 5.9 pitches together it's fine by me.
I just don't want to get stuck with the OW up there." Rob wanted to do the
wide variation on pitch 9. I didn't mind following (at least theoretically)
but I certainly didn't want anything else to do with wide shit today. I had
the pure luck of getting pitch 1 and I was still having flash backs.

And with a smile and very little else said, Rob launched off into more fine
rock climbing on this perfect blue bird day. I started to lose track of what
he was up to but nothing appeared difficult from my perch on the Pitch 7
ledge. Pulling another slurp from my water, I noted that it was beginning to
feel a little light. Nothing to worry about yet and we'd been in the shade
most of the morning.

I feel the rope come tight and see Rob sitting 200 feet above me on what
looks like a nice ledge. Pitch 8 is short and easy with a very airy start up
the arÍte. Yet again, I lower my small back pack on a sling off my harness
as I start up the chimney. "Stupid backpack, why did I bring you?!" More
than once today I had cursed it, but I had also been grateful for the extra
camel-back of nearly two liters. Next I'm looking into the 3 1/2" maw of the
5.9 crack. I see feet on the face and scamper up a few moves of lay backing.
I spot another foot and pull another move. A few more easy moves and then
the angle of the crack opens up and my layback becomes very insecure. I can
see a nice foot hold on the left face but it's high up and I want to fight
my way back into the security of the crack. I decide to pull a move I
wouldn't dare if I was on lead and step really far left off a drastic lay
back. It felt 5.11 at the time, but the hanging pack and exhaustion probably
were making things feel much harder than they were. There is a thin incut
seem that runs inside the crack that lets you avoid any of the wide stuff
further up, should you so choose.


"Well the topo says the route starts 20 feet left of the 'End of the world'
and that is definitely my idea of what that should look like." I drop the
rope and start flaking it as Rob peers up into the chimney above. I decide
that the 4th class gully was not going to be soloed by me, so I boot up and
clip my little pack and the rack to a sling on my belay loop and start
a'scootching. I still haven't stopped sweating from the approach and my knee
pads are sliding all over the place as I start up the 5.9 chimney.

The chimney has a number of features that take small pro and I learn that
pulling up a pack and rack each time you want to place pro SUCKS! I should
have kept a small rack on my harness on the side where the chimney moves
wouldn't grind into them. I keep working my feet up and soon the worst of it
is over and I'm working my way into an ever widening stem. Fully coated in a
clammy sweat I quickly pull up the rack and snag a yellow alien and a black
metolious and clip them to my harness. I sink the black cam and stem up,
delicately finger jamming where possible. I feel the elvis leg coming on as
I paw at the belay ledge, where my mind is telling me there should be a jug,
crack or positive seam SOMEWHERE. I feel along the right, but there's
nothing - I step up another 2 inches and use as much flexibility (or more)
as I could muster and find something at the back that will hold just enough
weight that I can reach up and grab the fixed slings.

I stand on the small ledge sucking air for 2 minutes straight; first in
massive gasps then in more even gasps and then finally in just gasps. I feel
the exhaustion from the approach and take a few big slurps of cool
liquid.Thankfully Rob, who has climbed the Rostrum, also made the finishing
moves look a little complicated. I think perhaps he knows when to throw a
little drama around to make a guy feel good.

"Can you imagine if we were on the steck-salathe? This would just be pitch
one of many wide monsters, where this would be the easy pitch." We both
contemplate that idea for a few moments before moving on.


BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. I hear Rob's alarm go off which means it's 4:30am or
5:30a, either or it doesn't seem to make a difference. I sit up in my bag
and it's still dark but the sky is lightening to a less dark grey. We're in
the dirt in Hardin Flat and neither Rob nor I say anything.

I slather some cream cheese on a bagel and we drive the last miles to the
Zodiak pull-out.

Other than a few el-cap base routes, I've never been on this massive stone.
Today we want to climb to the top via the east buttress. It might not be a
big wall or get the respect of many of the routes here, but looking up at
the massive yawn of stone above us I feel my spirits stir.

As usual, once I get my yates wall harness buckled the need to take a dump
overwhelms me and I head for the bushes. Rob suffers the same reaction to
putting on his harness and heads the other direction.


I swipe my card through the reader and walk into Berkeley Ironworks. I scan
the crowd looking for familiar faces. I see Rob giving a belay on the thin
crack - a secret pleasure of a handful of the devoted crack addicts. I still
have not gotten this damned crack clean.

"Hey Rob, you climbing this weekend?" Rob smiles, "What do you want to do?"
I think for a second, "How about the Steck-Salathe?" He smiles big and


"Maybe that was a bad idea. How about the East Buttress?"


Sep 5, 2003, 7:42 PM
Post #2 of 2 (1406 views)

Registered: Aug 25, 2003
Posts: 12

Re: TR: East Buttress of El Cap [In reply to]
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Yeah. I remember those last moves to the first belay too. Tough! And I was on second.

Congrats, and thanks for the story.


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