So the time had come for our first Big Wall Adventure. The training had been done, the book consulted, techniques mastered (...), and the kit purchased.
A 4am start and a pre-check of the approach and first pitch the day before ensured that we were first in line to get started on one of Yosemite's most popular big walls - South Face of Washington Column. Our early start really paid as we passed another team floundering in the dark on the approach.
|Simon leading Kor Roof|
|Marian "Cleaning" the gear having just pulled over the roof. You can see our plush bivvy ledge below|
Some straight-forward aid climbing and our first taste of proper hauling of "the Pig" (haul bag) gained the first ledge which was to be our bivii. It mostly smelt of wee, but we secured a higher spot which was more bearable. We then climbed the infamous Kor Roof and Marian discovered that cleaning the gear on a big overhang can be quite troublesome.... We climbed a bit more and fixed a rope back down to the ledge. We then spent the evening watching another team on the Kor roof using their headtorches!!
Below us, was Yosemite village where there were many campfires glowing. Above us, the clear sky twinkled with thousands of stars, and opposite, we could see the dark mass of Half Dome silhouetted against the night-sky. At the base, middle and 3/4 mark we could see headtorches flashing as, like us, other big wall teams prepared to settle in for an uncomfortable night.
Day Two was another pre-dawn start with jumaring up our fixed ropes (using special devices to haul ourselves up the free hanging rope), to our high point of the previous day. 6 more pitches of climbing on the open walls of the Column and via the inevitable offwidth and chimney section (free climbed), we got to the top. Hurrah! Only the retreat past several slower and floundering teams to go....
At this point I would like to say thank you to the British Army for two things (they had taken several days to ascend the route and we met them on their way down): firstly, for showing us how to clean a pendulum, which we learnt on a ledge half way up. (I had failed to notice there were any to do and hence we hadn't practiced that); secondly, for supplying us with most of a rack of offset wires which Marian removed from cracks all the way up! (They clearly didn't have a purple hex and nut key - essential tools for the removal of stuck wires - M)
Got to the van with headtorches on and feeling pretty smug. I started to plan the next Big Wall....