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TR: Half Dome in a day
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semorrison


Oct 1, 2003, 1:23 PM
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Registered: Sep 10, 2003
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TR: Half Dome in a day
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This last weekend Yossi and I climbed Half Dome `in a day', by the Regular
Northwest Face. It's 23 pitches, and we climbed it as 5.9 C1.

Thursday morning we pack, pare down the rack, patch up gear, and by early
afternoon we start driving to the valley. Friday morning we're up early,
and hiking the Mist Trail, then up to the shoulder of Half Dome. From
there, we descend down to the bottom of the face. (The alternative is to
come straight up `the death slabs' from near Mirror Lake, but a huge
rockfall came down this approach in June, so we opt for the long way
round.)

The first sight of the face is impressive and intimidating. Although the
face of Half Dome is smaller than El Cap, it somehow seems more
foreboding. While El Cap is sunny and familiar, only 10 minutes walk from
the car, Half Dome is dark and cold, in shadow until mid-afternoon, and it
looms over the valley. Anyway, I'm scared, especially at the thought that
we plan to climb the whole thing in a day!

That afternoon, we climb the first 6 pitches, mostly 5.8 and 5.9 climbing,
with a few moves of easy aid past harder sections, and fix four ropes
before rapping down to sleep at the base. There are some other parties
planning on climbing the next day -- some Slovenians with a haul bag, and
a party also planning to climb the route in a day. They've negotiated
jugging the Slovenians' fixed lines to the top of pitch three, but we're
pretty confident we'll be a long way ahead of them. We eat a dinner of
cold pasta, fill some water bottles from the still-flowing spring, and sleep.

4:00am, and we pack our sleeping bags away in the dark. By 4:30 Yossi is
jugging up our lines, half asleep, and I follow soon after. At the top of
the 5th pitch, where our 3rd rope is tied off, I stop, coil the rope, and
throw it off. We've only got one rope now (and no bivy gear), and we're
committed to the top.

At pitch 6, the end of our fixed ropes, we stop for some breakfast. Before
dawn, I'm leading off by headlamp. Pitch 7 goes easily -- the topo says
5.8, but it seems a rock has broken off making the crux much easier. At
the top of the pitch I radio to Yossi to start simul-climbing, and I
continue. Pitch 8 traverses through 4th class terrain, and I pause at a
piton to belay Yossi through the crux of pitch 7, then head on up through
another short 5.8 chimney flake, then the easy 4th class ledges of pitch
9. By now it's fully light, and I start up the bolt ladder of the Robbins'
Traverse, while Yossi finishes climbing through to the belay, and clips
the lower bolts. Great timing -- by the time I'm ready to lower off the
top bolt for the pendulum, the anchor is ready. Yossi jugs the ladder, and
we arrive at the end of pitch 10, with almost a full day ahead of us ---
it's no later than 7:30!

From here, we belay each pitch, but still have to keep the pace up. To
finish before sunset, we have to be climbing 30 minute pitches on the free
sections! Yossi leads the short pitch 11, and then I aid an easy dihedral,
chock full of fixed gear, to bring us to pitch 13. We're both french
freeing wherever possible -- perhaps we'll come back someday and try to
climb the route `as free as possible', but for now we're aid climbing and
pulling on gear whenever it's faster. Above the dihedral we get into the 3
pitches of the chimneys, hard work for both leader and follower. It's
great climbing, all hand cracks and laybacks, and we're having great fun.
The simul-climbing in the morning really paid off, and we're making good
time. It seems possible we'll be off the wall before sunset, something
we're both looking forward to. Above the chimneys some harder 5.9 cracks,
and a bit of routefinding, bring us to Big Sandy Ledge, shortly before
midday.

We stop for a quick lunch, then head into the Zigzags. These are three
pitches of hard climbing -- free they go at 5.11d, so we have the aiders
out. The exposure is wild, but the climbing a bit slow. While we're
working out the aid, two guys from Tahoe climb past us. They're freeing
almost the whole route -- I think they just pulled on some gear at the top
of the Zigzags. It's great to see such great climbers at work,
superefficient and climbing fast, and they're past us in no time. Passing
should always be like this! Eventually we get to the top of the Zigzags --
suddenly it's 4pm, the last three pitches having taken 4 hours. Too slow!
But we'd allowed for the Zigzags taking longer -- we still have daylight
enough to finish the climb. From here we're nearly at the top, just 3
pitches to go.

Yossi leads Thank God Ledge, a beautiful ledge that runs across the face
for about 20m. It earns its name because it leads you out from underneath
the Visor, the huge overhang capping the face of Half Dome, towards easy
ground up to the summit. With enough confidence, you could walk the
length of it. We're not up to it, however -- Yossi on lead opts to
hand-traverse the ledge, where it's easier to place gear in the crack at
the back of the ledge, and when I'm following I try to crawl across, but
the backpack and steep wall persuade me to hand-traverse too. Past the
ledge, there's a short 5.8 squeeze, that takes a moment to work out. We're
both pretty beat by now, and finding the climbing harder and harder work.

The second last pitch is a bolt ladder, with a little face climbing at the
beginning. The bolt ladder has a strange gap in it -- presumably it's not
so hard to free climb, but I've been tricked into aiding, and don't have
the motivation to do the free move. Out comes the hook, and a dicey
placement later I'm at the top bolt. A short pendulum to fixed gear brings
me to the top of the pitch. We can see tourists on the top now!

Yossi leads the final pitch, on a strange slab below a steeper wall,
french freeing through the plentiful fixed gear. A moment later, I'm
following up, doing the final mantles onto the summit blocks. We drop the
rack, untie from the ropes. We're free! It's about 6pm, 13:30 hours, and
23 pitches after we left the ground.

We chat at the top with some tourists, and a soloist who topped out just
before us. The guys from Tahoe are long gone. Woodsy and Erica are
climbing Snake Dike, but we discover by radio that they're epicing,
instead of bringing us our summit oranges! Oh well :-) After a while of
resting, scarfing down the last of the food, enjoying not having climbing
shoes on for the first time in more than 12 hours, we sort the gear and
head down to retrieve the gear at the base of the climb, and return to the
trail, to wait for Woodsy and Erica. When they arrive, they have all the
ingredients for a fantastic dinner of couscous with curry, coconut milk,
cashews and cranberries, along with plenty of chocolate, cookies and our
summit (c)oranges!

We all crash, wake up late, and hike back down the trail, swimming along
the way, and return to Curry village for celebratory beer and pizza.
Finally, the long drive back home, and sleep. :-)

What's next?


ctgunkie


Oct 2, 2003, 7:05 AM
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Registered: Sep 11, 2003
Posts: 20

Re: TR: Half Dome in a day [In reply to]
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Great job - you have given me the confidence to do this in three days!!!! :shock:

Good TR too. :D

Thanks.


maculated


Oct 2, 2003, 8:16 AM
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Registered: Dec 22, 2001
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Re: TR: Half Dome in a day [In reply to]
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Yeah, I really appreciate this TR because I know I want to do the same thing this summer. Good beta all around.


herm


Oct 2, 2003, 3:32 PM
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Registered: Aug 26, 2003
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Totally righteous! Endurence rules!


jcinco


Oct 2, 2003, 4:05 PM
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Registered: Aug 27, 2002
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In reply to:
In reply to:
fix four ropes before rapping down to sleep at the base.

sorry, but no "in a day" for you.

Agreed.

I'm calling troll on this one, though. After fixing the first 6 pitches the day before, nobody in their right mind is really going to claim Half-Dome-in-a-day.


sspssp


Oct 3, 2003, 10:34 AM
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Registered: Jan 2, 2003
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In reply to:
4:00am, and we pack our sleeping bags away in the dark. By 4:30 Yossi is
jugging up our lines, half asleep, and I follow soon after. At the top of
the 5th pitch, where our 3rd rope is tied off, I stop, coil the rope, and
throw it off. We've only got one rope now (and no bivy gear), and we're
committed to the top.

Ok. I'm curious about this, because doing HD without bivying (on the route), is on my hit list.

How did you know how far you could climb and still reach the ground? Supertopo lists distances, but they often seem to be rather approximate. Did you just tie off each anchor and keep going until you had no more rope?

And I'm wondering about coiling the rope and checking it from several hundred feet up (in the dark). Given all the traffic and people sleeping at the base, isn't this a rather dangerous missile? Or am I missing something?


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