Yesterday (Thursday), at 2:30 pm, I topped out on the Nose, 3000 feet above the valley floor. Below are my thoughts at 2am the morning before the summit push, along with the main entry. Due to wifi deficiencies I could not post this until now.
Climbing the largest granite monolith in the world makes me feel small. While I am trying to sleep on the creaky and wobbly portaledge, I can't help but notice that I have a view of the stars unlike one I have ever seen—a view that, when coupled with my location, makes me feel even more minuscule. All around me, it's near pitch black, and above me there's nothing but a giant starlit sky... Speaking of the portaledge, after seeing it collapse twice while it was being set up, I decided to leave all my gear on, including my ascenders and belay device and daisy chains. I kept my anchor point so tight that it lifted my waist slightly out of the ledge. In the middle of the night, I was too scared to go to the bathroom for fear of the ledge flipping over.
What did I find on top of the climb? Nothing beyond what I expected: my dad, pine trees, bushes and an incredible view. In the end, I didn't climb The Nose to reach a summit. In fact, there really isn't a summit. Because of this, climbing in The Valley is certainly more about the challenging journey up than simply reaching the top. I guess the climb was part physical challenge, part adventure, and part awesomeness. After seven more steep, overhanging pitches from Camp V, I now stand on relatively flat ground, back in the real world. It reminds me that with climbing, you live on freeze-dried food ("Kathmandu Curry", "Spicy Indian Feast" and "Chicken Teriyaki"), and a lack of bathrooms, a bed and any other comfortable items. Still, the absence of these things make the experience like nothing you can find in daily life—something almost other-worldly. Furthermore, climbing has allowed me to spend time in the fresh air—a whole lot of fresh air. As I approached the top, I noticed a plethora of wild flowers clinging to nothing but thin cracks, changing in color just as the geological composition of the granite changed. When I was on the portaledge, I also saw more stars than ever before. It's these pleasant surprises, coupled with the view and the thrill, that have made El Cap pretty awesome.
We reached the summit with hours of daylight left, after the steepest pitches of climbing yet. I struggled with soreness and nervousness, along with challenges passing fixed gear on roofs and taking mini swings into the air. I even needed to re-aid a roof section as my rope would not fit through my lower-out ring. What's the most crazy is the fact that you can't see the summit until the last five feet of the climb, so I kept guessing how much farther I had to go.
The descent turned out to be the most brutal part, with 50 pound haul bags, rapelling and endless switchbacks. Back in the valley, I soon was reminded of all the commotion and how many people are here, along with what flat ground feels like. My sleep cycle has changed, and I am rediscovering real food and these things called mattresses...
Of course, I would like to finish this journal by saying thank you to my guide, Mark, my mom who dropped me off, and my dad who picked me up, those who donated to Bay Area Wilderness Training, and my trustworthy solar panel that kept me connected to the world.
What's next? Three days of break then back to Yosemite and work in Mammoth!
Photos by Mark Grundon and Tom Evans