Nov 26, 2015

El Capitan West Face

West Face on El Capitan. A brilliant route over 19 pitches. But suited on the far end of the wall being hit with little sun and a little more adventurous to get to. And since it do not even a spectacular name that might also be a reason that it has much less traffic than it much more famous naighbours
View over the Valley of Yosemite from the top of El Capitan

Yosemite and El Capitan must be said to be one of the most famous big walls in the world. It's dramatic face is perfect suited in Yosemite valley compared to much bigger walls like the once in Ak-Su in Kyrgistan which is way harder to approach.
A hike up to the bace of el Cap to get to routes as the Nose is an easy stroll over a couple of minutes.
Which also means that it seems a big number of people trying to ascend routes like the Nose, even if they don't have anything to do there. Meaning you can be hooked up behind a number of teams in a line of just waiting.
But there is a couple of routes which are less known and harder to get to, like the West Face on el Cap.
A brilliant route over 19 pitches. But suited on the far end of the wall being hit with little sun and a little more adventurous to get to with not even a spectacular name it sees much less traffic. The climbing is typical for the area, full on with most of everything. But always well protected, most of the time at least. You should be stabile at the grade and to finish the route in a day, including the 2hour descent back to valley, you have to be quite quick.
Anna on the approach towards West Face
Anna on the approach toward el Cap West Face

 The hike up to the base and the start of the route is not as bad as you might think to start with. There is an ok foot path which takes you past all the much more known routes up hill. And after passing Lurking Fear there is a little more fixed ropes and some boulders to by pass. And once at the start, behind a big boulder on a nice platform, the climbing it self seems just impossible up what lookalike a blank wall with no protection. But just take a closer look and a couple of bolts will appear higher up and when you finally start to accually climb natural places for placing pro will start to appear. And once over the first pitch the rest is much more obvious. Just be prepared that the first one looks impassible!
One of many passages on the approach
"Sending" one of the boulders on the West Face approach

"sitting back home in my sofa scanning my topos my eyes soon focused on El Cap and the West Face. We had since before of course talked about the much more famous routes as Rostrum and Astroman and already decided that those had to be on the list of routes we just should try out. But as always the planning is one thing and actually performing is something else, if not just because of the potentials of all different cases on the way that might appear to stand in the way and cause trouble.
Pitch one of the El Capitan West Face 5.11c
The First pitch on El Cap West Face/photo Alpinemadness arkiv

 And to top things to the limit this year we had the el Niño effect, with a weather that was playing hard on us. After a couple of good climbs out of the crowds up at Tuolumne we rolled down to the valley happy to be staying at "the Pines Campground". A camping that we soon found out to be one of the worst places ever that we had been staying at. Surrounded by RV's with its big smelly diesel engines and noisy people. Together with the smoke from all the Forrest and campground fires doing its best to make things insupportable.

But the weather was typical Californian, sunny and dry, so we could focus on our main goal, climbing. After packing up the packs we stored the food away in one of all the bear boxes and drove to the melonée. Parked the car and started the hike up towards El Cap. Finding the way up was as easy as we thought and soon we stood at the base of the climb. But where was it? The only thing I saw was a blank wall that looked more or less impossible to place any pro and super hard to climb. The first bit was said to be 5.5. And to me that is pretty close to walking, but this!! We saw a couple of bolts high up on the face but getting to them just looked impossible. I just lost interest and after a big bite of cussing decided to walk of it. Sending us back down to the car and changing goals for the day, climbing something totally else. But since this was Yosemite, finding a route to climb is not difficult.
But, walking of the previous route could not leave me untouched. I was furious about it and could not stop thinking of that West Face route. I must have missed something obvious!
After doing a little more investigating I talked Anna back into giving it a new and this time harder try.
Now a bit more relaxed since we had cheeked out from the Pines and had a much nicer camping spot just outside the park. To get a little more relaxed climb wise we took a tour up Rostrum North Face in between.
And a couple of days later we where back at el Cap parking lot.
El Capitan West Face 5.11c
Second pitch on West Face/Photo alpinemadness/Arkiv
 Since we now didn't have any obvious camping reservation we decided to take the climb with a bivy included close to the top of El Capitan. So after a slow breakfast we took off at mid day, using an hour up to the start of the climb and started climbing at 13:00. Now a little more prepared and ignoring the fact that it looked blank and hard. Instead I found places and hidden cracks here and there to place a cam or nut until I was below the first crux. Below an old rusty bolt, with an old style graded .11c, the adventure had begun!
Anna up on the West Face route

Pitch 8th of el Cap West Face

And pitch after pitch up the face we had a great time with most enjoyable climbing all of our own. The route finding is mostly obvious but here and there it is possible to get of route and sometimes the most spectacular cracks turned out to dead ends. A spectacular traverse up halfways gives an exposed but well protected experience. And finally as the sun is setting below sky line we climb the days last pitch up to out bivy ledge, our free home for the night.
Anna on pitch 6 of the West Face

Finally, just in time at the Terrace after a great days climbing

 A bivy night that soon turned out to be a little bit more chilly then expected and the next morning we raced towards the summit. Sending the last four pitches on exchange for a warm sun.
Over all the West Face of El Capitan is a most spectacular and solid free climb. With pitches 2, 8 and 13 as the most memorable ones. A must on the tick list!"
Sleepy dreams at the Terrace...

...and warm dreams dreaming.

50m rope, one set of cams 0.33-#3 ( extra of mid size), 1 set of nuts (off set useful), 10 QD's (a couple of extendable useful).
There are fixed belays on most of the pitches but not always obvious. As on pitch 6 and after the travers on pitch nine.
Summit of El Cap after a nice chilly night on the West Face
P1 40m 5.11c
P2 35m 5.11c
P3 40m 5.10a
P4 20m 5.5
P5 40m 5.10a
P6 25m 5.10a
P7 40m 5.11c
P8 35m 5.11c
P9 45m 5.7
P10 45m 5.10b+
P11 48m 5.10b
P12 35m 5.9
P13 35m 5.9
P14 40m 5.10d
P15 45m 5.10
P16 Traverse
P17 40m 5.7
P18 40m 5.6
P19 35m 5.5
P20 60m 5.8
P21 4th class to  summit

/One road has become many

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