Posted by: Walker Mackey | 2009/10/27

October In Yosemite

This October was one of the most amazing months of my life. I finished up working in Crested Butte for Altitude Painting and started packing for some big wall adventure. My friend Adam and jumped into my monkey-mobile and started driving toward the big stone, El Capitan. My first objective was to climb a feature called Sentinel Tower. I had seen the rock the year before and was super inspired. Adam and I wasted no time getting to business. We packed our equipment consisting of a small rack, one rope and a small backpack. The goal was to climb the Stecks-Salathe in a push. We woke up before sunrise and were at the base just as the dark faded. The route is in the shade all day and so the key to keeping worm is to move fast. Adam and me had a great day swapping leads and before we knew it we were in The Narrows. The Narrows consists of a few squeeze chimneys that are for sure a grunt. The second was forced to clip the bag low and grovel up the chimneys with a fifteen pound anchor pulling them to the ground. We toped out just as dark came and started the decent. I highly suggest this route. Even though it is quite the grunt, in all it consists of beautiful climbing and exposure. I would suggest going left at the junction just above The Narrows. This route brings you out on to the face for some spectacular 5.7 rail traversing. The exposure is amazing!

My next objective was on the Captain. I had climbed The Nose the previous year and was super excited to get back up there. My friend Ben had been talking to me about a route called The Shield and had filled me with inspiration. I started packing for the adventure. There was much to do. The Shield consists of several traversing pitches and roofs. Fifty percent of the route is completely overhanging and requires portaledge camps. The crack system that cuts the headwall is on of the thinnest in the valley. For five pitches you climb a thin butt seem consisting of up to A3 climbing in totally overhanging ground with a sea of blank granite to the left and right. This route is by far one of the most impressive in the world. Ever since I meet my friend Dave Turner in the 2006-2007 Patagonia season I have been inspired to Solo a big wall. Dave is a one of the best big wall soloists in the world and an excellent resource for anyone perusing such an endeavor. I started to hound him with questions about how I would get myself up The Shield. Dave is a great friend and answered any question I had directly and fully. My plan was to climb El Cap from the ground up, staring with the Free Blast and then moving on to The Shield. Adam Climbed the Free Blast with me letting me lead every pitch wile he jugged behind. Once on Mammoth Ledge, it was time for me to solo. I started up and climbed for a day and a half alone when some guys from Montana came up behind. Me. On the second day they were literally pulling out cams just as I was putting them in. It felt really dumb to be climbing so close to another team solo. I am not a soloist, but I am prepared to solo to accomplish my goals on the rock. Just before the massive traverse bellow the roof the Montana boys discovered they had no lower out line and were looking at a massive swing and no way to lower out there bags. You want to lower your bags out because of the potential situation were your bags swing into the wall creating an impact sufficient enough to break the water containers inside. I feel that it each individual’s responsibility to know the climbing system inside and out. When you commit to climbing a big wall you better make sure that you know the system and have invested the proper time studying that system. On a big wall self-sufficiency is key. If everyone knows their job the group moves like a well-oiled machine saving precious time when ever possible. That being said there is no such thing as a perfect partner. You have to except people’s flaws and try to emphasize their strengths. As a partner I try to be the best teacher I can and make sure that everyone on my team is as educated about the endeavor as me, while staying open minded and an opportunist always in tune to the environment and receptive to new information that could help solve logistics. After a few pitches placing cams directly under the Montana boys, I asked them if they wanted to team up for the remainder of the route. From that point on we worked as a team of four, two people hauling and two people pushing the lead line.  Before I left I was prepared to live through a storm and almost wished for a small gale so I could test out all my equipment. Sure enough I got my wish. On the fifth day of our adventure a small storm rolled in and caught us on the head wall, just above The Triple Cracks. As Kyler, my new roommate, and I struggled to get the portaledges and fly’s set up Mike and Tyler pushed the lead rope to Chicken Head Ledge. They came retreating back to camp just as a massive waterfall was forming and flowing directly through the portaledge camp. Lucky for us the weather gods took mercy on us and as the day continued the storm faded and the sun came out. The next day was perfect! We packed up camp and started working, in hopes of reaching the rim before dark. I traveled nine pitches the last day sort fixing on lead and toped the route out at about four in the afternoon on Wednesday October 27, 2009. We spent a glorious night on the summit of El Captain watching the sun set. This has been on of the most meaningful experiences of my life and has taught me that the key life is to live it. Recently a really good friend of my family has passed away. I dedicate this accent to him. His death has given me one of the greatest gifts of life, inspiration, and I want to thank him for that. My goal in my life is to take advantage of every moment while maintaining the perception that life is precious and should be taken advantage of.

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