It is almost impossible for me to understand how we prepare and execute in moments of doubt and uncertainty. But when all the pieces fell into place instead of being concerned, or even confident I was empty.
This was the feeling I needed. Not the feedback loop from the pump in my forearms, not the desire for glory that would only undermine my success. I needed the feeling of flow and floating, when I came to the crux, a reach I could barely make, I just needed to try.
At first I didn’t even know how to try. Thrice I had gotten to the move, the move that made or broke Scarface for me. My mind was too afraid of failure, and unsure how to proceed. Each time I had failed to stick the hold.
Of course I had done the move before, I knew it was possible, but the thousand feet of climbing had worn me down and put seeds of doubt in my head.
With the feeling of emptiness I tried as hard as I could and went for the hold. This time, as my body came to rest, my fingers still gripped the rock. It wasn’t over. I had to keep in my zone; but it was finally happening. I went through the motions, the beta freshly ingrained in my mind, and kept climbing. Soon enough I clipped the anchors of the eighth pitch and was overcome with excitement and relief.
The waves of emotion had been cresting and breaking all day. Pitch after pitch led us closer to the elusive one day red point of Scarface. We had near misses with a foot slip on some dirty rock, a broken hold on another pitch. Finally the tension was broken when Ben fell off the first crux of the fifth pitch. As I lowered him back down I started weighing the options. I had faith in my partner and I knew Ben would keep it together and send. And so he did, fighting the deep pump and getting us past the first trial of the day. Too stubborn to listen to the pump I too made it through.
We cruised up the clean white granite for a few pitches but my confidence was shaky. Nervous and unsure I fell off the Cubano Corner, pitch 8, and came back to the belay. As Ben pulled the rope I was hopeful about the situation. I had easily made it to the crux, an improvement on last time, despite feeling so far away from the “jug”. I worked on my mental attitude, tried to get my breathing in check and rallied. Sticking the move was unreal, it was right at the limit of my reach and in that moment I saw the whole route come together.
Ben followed without a problem, but later told me he found these situations almost more stressful than leading. Once I had sent the pitch it was up to him to keep the FFA going and rally to the top. We kept swapping leads and in no time we were on the summit, having climbed the second all free route up Liberty Cap. The dream of free climbing Liberty Cap was a reality!!
I would be remiss to discount the fact that I had wanted to be the first up Liberty Cap, one of the few un-freed faces left in Yosemite. But when we reached the summit there was nothing but bliss. I’m proud of all of the friends who have helped me on this project. The times spent on the wall hoping it would go and putting the pieces together were incredible. For a group of weekend warriors to put up a new free route in Yosemite is amazing!
I also am stoked that Lucho and Cedar freed Mahtah earlier in the season. I spent many days talking details with Lucho, sharing the psyche and rehashing all the work that goes into freeing a route. Hopefully 2013 will be remembered in Yosemite as the year of Liberty Cap with two free routes going up the Southwest Face.
This is the longest FFA that I’ve done and some of the pitches are surely 4 and 5 star climbing. Not every pitch is amazing and the dirt and foliage on the first few pitches may dissuade people from continuing up the route. But if you make it to the fifth pitch you will be rewarded with five back to back high quality pitches. Right now Scarface climbs more like an alpine route with lichen and gritty rock. With time and traffic this could change and maybe Scarface will become a classic. If you ever find yourself waiting in line for the Harding route, I highly recommend walking another 500 feet and getting on Scarface! As I’ve mentioned before this route would also be a great adventure at 5.11a C2 and could be done in a day. Eight of the pitches are in the 5.10 range with only two pitches at 5.11- and two at 5.12.
The next day Ben and I ran into Josh Mucci and Steve Bosque who had done the first ascent of Scarface. This was the cherry on top for me and I thought it was really cool for Ben to get to meet the people who had done the ground work that made our ascent possible. We had fun sharing stories from the wall and talking about new potential lines and our experiences on Scarface.
Another round of thanks to Jonathan, Casey, James and Steve who helped hike loads up to Liberty Cap, clean out dirt, work the pitches and climb the route. Also thanks to my wife Lizzy who both hiked loads and made the sweet topo!