The endless trips up the Mist and Muir trail had become my weekend routine. As the year progressed, I watched the seasons come and go. Snow and ice was replaced with raging water and tourists.
Now it was the end of April and I was motivated to try and free Scarface. It was James’ first time in this part of Yosemite and Liberty Cap could be seen towering above the trail.
Trying to free climb Scarface has been an incredible thing and I was still shocked that I could piece everything togeather. Take away one or two holds on each crux pitch and the climb would be way more difficult. With the prep work done, I convinced yet another friend to come up with me and take part in the FFA of Scarface.
I could go into endless detail about the pitches that I had spent so much time climbing, cleaning and re-climbing. The most exciting part of the day was to share the route with James. To have someone else lead pitches and get feedback was very rewarding and I’m psyched for more people to get on the route.
The funny thing about Scarface is that most of the climbing is in the 5.10 range with only two pitches of 5.11a. The real difficulty lies in the two 5.12 crux pitches which are a big jump up from everything else. As an aid route I think it would be very doable all clean in a day. The route goes at 5.10+ C2 and there should only be a few slow/tricky pitches. There aren’t any natural bivy ledges so a portledge would be required if spending a night on the wall.
We cruised up the route swapping leads until the first 5.12 crack, a tips to baggy fingers splitter that cuts across some of the best rock on the route. We both managed to hang only once and got pumped to the bone. I had redpointed this pitch previously so we kept going, savoring the clean white granite on the next two pitches.
The eighth and ninth pitches had yet to be climbed on lead and the Cubano Corner was my main concern. I tried lead it twice but fell short, way too pumped to execute the powerful sequence when the crack pinched down from fingers to nothing.
In a moment of technical brilliance James managed to figure out new beta while following and sent the pitch clean. It was impressive to watch him use holds that I had dismissed as too small. My sequence, with big moves between better holds, had proved too powerful on red-point. I was far too wrecked to try it again and we decided to continue on to the summit.
I managed to execute my beta on the thin and balancey 9th pitch and the James lead us off to the summit. The final pitches added excitement to our ascent as Liberty Cap rounded off and moss and lichen became more prevalent.
I lead the final pitch to the summit, passing bushes and ant trees before stopping to belay and then unrope. The last 300 feet of 3rd and 4th class is mellow and we reached the summit well before sunset. The descent is not too bad if you find the right trail and darkness set in midway down the stairs below Nevada Fall.
We were so close to a true free ascent and now every pitch except for the 8th has been red-pointed. The 5.12 Cubano corner has been climbed clean on follow and on mini-traxion. The middle pitches are by far the best and follow splitter cracks up quality granite.
I’d love for people to get on this route, but do ask that people do not try to red-point or onsight the 8th pitch. I would still like the chance to do the first lead of that pitch.
The belays on the first two pitches are at trees and the rest of the belays are bolted up to the top of pitch 9. You can rappel the route with two ropes from the top of pitch 9. You need to put in some directionals to reverse the 5th and 6th pitches, so send the first rappeler down with gear.
Pitch by pitch beta can be found here.