Occasional postings about Maz and Si's big adventures

Monday, 20 September 2010

Living on the Ledge

In the last week we've dispatched two Big Wall climbs. That's three nights spent living on the ledge. It's an unusual style of camping out but I do quite like it, especially as we've been really lucky with the weather.

After our success on Washington Column, we set off on our second big aid route: Leaning Tower. We were attacking the underbelly of the beast: America's most overhanging wall. The lower part of the tower averages 110 degrees, the upper part 95 degrees. When Harding first led it in 1960 he placed 111 bolts! This is a full on aid route.

So what does a big wall aid trip involve? A lot of climbing gear (every single piece we own), aid climbing gear (2 sets of jumars, mini traction for hauling, 2 sets of aiders (ladders) and lots of daisies), 2 ropes, lots of water – 3 litres per person per day, food, stove, warm clothes, waterproof clothes, bedding (thermo-rests, sleeping bags, emergency bivvy bags) and the poo kit! It's not physically possible to climb and carry all this stuff, so most of it goes in a haul bag.

Simon carries the haulbag on his back to the base of the route (because it's grey, he looks like a dustbin), while I carry the climbing gear and ropes. Then, Simon has to get to to top of a pitch - “by any means possible”. He ties in the lead rope and hauls up the haul bag on the haul line. I then jumar up the lead rope, taking out the gear that he's placed. Obviously, the more overhanging the wall, the harder it is.

Pigs Might Fly - our haul bag in space, with the poo tube swinging free (must get a screwgate karabena for that!)

Ahwahnee Ledge.  Sleeps 4 apparently!
Our first night on Leaning Tower was spent on Ahwahnee Ledge (named after the luxury hotel in the Valley). It was 10' x 2' – very spacious indeed – at least for 2 people. This ledge even had a static line fixed in place for us and dinner was waiting behind a rock – someone had thoughtfully left us a tin of Stagg Chili – yum!

Everything has to be clipped in at all times – us, the haulbag, our sleeping bags and any other bags of clothing or food. I guess if it was windy, you'd have a bit of a nightmare keeping everything under control, but it was nice and calm for us.

Once everything is in order, it's just a case of chilling out until sundown. So far Si has insisted on travelling light so no books. Might sneak a sudoku into the next mission bag though!

Working on the tan. Question is: which way's the beach?!

There's usually a boulder or a corner to hide behind when using the facilities (whilst the other person sings loudly). Simon was enjoying peeing over the edge, until I pointed out that he might be peeing on the team below! Solids go in a biodegradable ziplock bag which then gets packed away in the poo tube. So far, all the bivvy ledges we've used have been clean, but they do smell – a lot!

Before sunset, there are lots of sudden whooshing noises as the swallows swoop past and then at dusk, we're surrounded by sonic beeping as bats navigate their way around. If you choose a south or west facing route, the rock stays nice and warm long after sunset! The nights have been very starry so we've spotted lots of shooting stars, satellites, Mars, planes – maybe even a UFO or two!

When there aren't tins of grub waiting for us, we usually tuck into freeze-dried packets of food. So far we've tried Black Bean Tomale Pie (v good), Jamacan chicken (ok), Nepalese Lentil Curry (yuck), tiramisu (v tasty), mocha pie (added too much water), and huevos rancheros (with added sachets of stolen Tabasco). I'm looking forward to trying spaceman ice cream on our next trip.

Even when in our sleeping bags, we stay strapped into our harnesses. I wish mine didn't have plastic gear loops that stick out! Luckily, all the ledges have angled inwards so no problems with rolling over and off the edge so far!

Mornings involve a pre-dawn cup of tea before we start all over again!

Great Ledge, Leaning Tower Bivvy 2- bigger than Ahwahnee, but less flat!

Incidentally – there was another tin of chili waiting for us on our second bivvy on Leaning Tower too. Thank you chili-fairy! M


  1. Hi Guys
    I'm so jealous right now that I may have to stop looking at this blog. You've obviously realised that you're in the best climbing candy shop in the world.
    Those of us in the real world are busy working our socks off and shrinking in the rain.
    Don't lose my guide books - and most importantly ........... don't talk to the bears. Keep a big stick handy - no good for the bears but you can knock Simon out and run while they savage him !!!!!!!
    I don't need to say have a great time as you obviously are.

  2. Hiya

    Your adventures so far sound amazing! Feeling very jealous as I sit in a dull office with the rain battering down outside!

    Glad to hear you are having such an amazing time. Take care and keep us updated with more posts and photos!
    Carol and CT x

  3. I am fascinated by the idea of a poo tube! hehe :)

    Kitty Ouseburn