1. A plan or proposal; a scheme. See Synonyms at plan.
2. An undertaking requiring concerted effort.
3. An extensive task undertaken by a student or group of students to apply, illustrate, or supplement lessons.
My project, of free climbing El Capitan, is one of great proportions. The sheer magnitude of the this piece of rock is hard for me to understand. All the little pieces, that make this idea possible, must fit perfectly together for success. The many pitches, cruxes, and styles are both overwhelming and invigorating. This will be the hardest climb I’ve ever completed with the most days invested. Surely this task will require a impressive amount of effort and teach me many lessons in the realm of Yosemite granite.
In the last 15 months I’ve spent 12 days and 8 nights on El Capitan working on Freerider. I’ve free climbed a large percentage of the three-thousand foot wall. When I close my eyes I can see the cracks, holds, and many ridiculous features. At home I hold on to the emotions: fear, excitement, frustration.
Climbing Freerider is a lifetime goal, and will take me many years to complete. Perhaps I started a little early but it gives me time to grow, relax and become comfortable on El Capitan. Looking down in certain places I still get queasy. The exposure is nauseating and it takes time to accept that you are safe. Slowly my mind adjusts and I am able to accept my surroundings.
The climbing on the two crux pitches draws my full attention. The moves are difficult and I forget the outrageous position. As I try the Huber Boulder Problem on top rope, I dyno sideways. My fingers hit the slot and slip off. I’m in the air, yet again. Many cryptic moves end in an explosive throw. I can just barely connect all the subtle features.
In the year since Stein and I climbed El Capitan ground up, I’ve gone back three times to work on specific pitches. I’ve seen progress and on this last trip, Stein and I sought out final question marks. With the fixed lines to the Heart Ledges removed for the winter, we hiked to the summit, by way of the East Ledges, and rappelled down the face. I’ll be writing another post later on how best to do this.
The first day on the Scott Burke offwidth showed my progression as a Yosemite Climber. I was able to do the full pitch on top-rope without falling. After a steep section at the beginning, the pitch is much less vertical than the Monster Offwidth and has more hand stacking then chicken wings.
The Enduro Corner, below the Salathe Roof and Headwall, was the focus of our second day. Stein managed a two hang and I struggled with the endless laybacking. Knowing where I failed, however, gives me something to train for in the coming months.
Our final day was spent on the hardest pitch, the Boulder Problem. This is a variation bolted by Alex Huber to avoid the often wet, featureless Teflon Corner. Alternating TR laps, Stein and I worked out most of the beta on this super technical pitch. While the crux is merely 40 feet long, the moves are inobvious and even more insecure. This pitch will require more work in the future!
On a previous trip, in July, with Keith and I played around with the Big Wall camping so I could work on the Monster Offwidth and the Hollow Flake Traverse. We had a really good time despite 99 degree weather and I was able to TR over half of the Monster Offwidth which was a big improvement over my many hangs on lead on our first day.
I’m very happy with the progress that was made this year despite a good deal of bad weather and my various injuries. The large storm this weekend may put an end to climbing on El Capitan for the rest of the year. I can only hope for some dry warm weather in December.