Monday, 10 November 2014

Freerider Round 2

Reeve’s arm narrowly avoided getting gangrene and the temperatures dropped from high 80’s to the more tolerable mid 60’s. In the meantime our big wall mojo had started to grow back and we started talking about getting on Freerider again for go at doing it without falling off so much. It was, once again, time to go shopping for Cliff bars, get all our cams out, pack our bivy gear and to stop playing Frisbee with the lid of the poo tube. We hauled our bags to heart again and were initially thinking of setting off the day after but were dithering over whether we had enough tips. In the end we agreed that a free route on El Cap is basically a once in a lifetime objective and therefore shouldn’t be rushed. We took an extra rest day, enduring another day of the dreaded big-wall dread and the nicest man in the world (Neil Dyer) gave us sleeping bags so we didn’t have to freeze our asses off.

Just when I fancied a beer, one appeared!
Reeve trying standing on a rock trying to clip
Psyching up for Monster round 2        
Round 2

We started up a little later than last time now that it was cooler and the sun would be coming up a tad later. The Freeblast went off without a hitch and, with it being fresh in our minds, we were quicker and less tired when we reached our haul bags. Our strategy was the same this time as the last and so it was my block to the Monster, where we would switch in order for Reeve to face his demons on the Monster. We arrived at the Monster with a couple of hours of light, enough time to chill for a while, eat a bagel and rehydrate. With the lower temps and smoother climbing thus far, I think we were both feeling a lot better than at this point the first time around.

Reeve made the tricky descent into the Monster and started grunting and leg bar-ing up the first section. The first bit is tough and I could tell Reeve was seriously tense about this lead. Although it only gets 11a this is one of the hardest pitches on the route and most people will only get one go at it because, if you fall off near the top, you’re likely to be utterly destroyed. I’ve heard of a few mega-wads who have freed every pitch on the route except for the Monster. After this fall I think Reeve was a bit psyched out and I suggested I have a go. I’ve been a few rounds with the Monster now and have the techniques for this specific crack fairly well practiced, and I manage to squirm up it shortly before dark. Reeve could now take the pitch on without having to worry about sliding a number 6 above his head every few moves. He made it, resisting the temptation to layback on a few occasions, and with huge relief we arrived at the Alcove and celebrated with a couple of brews and some mashed sweet potatoes – didn’t have time to rustle up a lamb moussaka this time.

The next day started well and we didn’t feel too bad on setting off. Higher up we reached the crux, where last time we chose to take on the boulder problem. This time, however, we thought we’d have a look at the Teflon corner for a change of scene. I don’t know why this never occurred to me before because bridging is possibly my favourite style and I don’t mind stemming either. I managed to fluke the pitch on my first go and was dead chuffed. Reeve was having problems on it and after a while yarded up for a rest and some water. While discussing beta, I gave Reeve my left shoe which was a worn out slipper and good for nothing except smearing. Whether it was this or coincidence I don’t know, but he sent the pitch on his next attempt. Things were coming together.

We had a good bivy on the very slopey ledge of the block, enjoying the extra water we had with us this time and not having butterfingers dropping their rack on us. With a free ascent to motivate us this time, we were ready to give it everything we had on the final day. This includes pitches that I think I’ll find a struggle no matter how many times I do them – the endure-corners in particular. But we got through them without any falls. Later, I belayed at the start of the Scotty-Burke off-width and insisted Reeve lead it for making me do the Monster. On these upper pitches we were climbing in and around fixed lines that got in the way and were a nightmare for hauling. These lines were being used by, I’ll be honest, a bunch of pricks, to climb the route on a mini-traxion. After a short delay, during which some guy climbed in and out of our ropes and then over the top of my belay on a mini-traxion, Reeve got the Scotty-Burke out the way and it was plain sailing to the summit.

American tough guys climbing Salathe in a day
Warming up on the last day
Enduro corner number 1
Enduro corner number 2
Awefully exposed belaying
This bit is steep
It was awesome to climb this route in good style with Andy, who I climbed with on my first trip to the valley at a time when we didn’t have the confidence to take on an El Cap free route. We both agreed it had been three brilliant days of climbing on the wall, there are so many good pitches – I may be repeating myself but it’s true! I assumed that this would be the last time on this bit of wall for me for some time, and that thankfully I wouldn’t be leading the Monster again anytime soon, but as it turned out I was wrong...

Ralph leading the final pitch
Happy top out

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