DL Bliss State Park, Tahoe, CA
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“Oh shit. JIM!”
I was about 2 minutes into following the first pitch on the East Buttress of El Capitan, working my way up an awkward chimney with my backpack hanging from a sling on my belay loop so it could drag up behind me without impeding my chimneying, when the bite valve on my water bladder got wedged into a crack and pulled out. I looked down to see my water pouring out all over my shoes and trickling down the rock to the ground.
I yelled the situation up to my belayer, Jim, who yelled back down that I should tie a knot in the hose. Oh, duh, I thought. Crisis averted. My wet shoes and I continued awkwardly squeezing our way up the pitch minus a bit of water weight.
It was a Saturday in mid-November and the temperatures were pleasant, the sky was sunny, the rock was dry, and despite being able to find 50%+ of the Bay Area climbing community on the Valley floor, there was only one other party on the route (our friends DBeezy and Jeff, of course!). Although the East Buttress doesn’t really count as climbing El Cap, I was psyched to be kind of climbing El Cap.
I found the first two pitches to be kind of awkward and thrutchtastic, but after that we cruised along at a fine pace. The climbing was fun and varied- there were good jams, fun jugs and knobs, slippery faces, and the occasional loose block to look out for. I’ll admit that I shirked my duties as the leader when Jim handed me the sharp end at the base of the 8th pitch. I started up the pitch and quickly decided that I could take forever/poop my pants leading it, or just let Jim show me how it was done. Jim did just that and I grunted my way up after him.
Then it was my turn to lead. I opted for the 5.9 face variation of the pitch instead of the offwidth option. You have to go up a corner for a section, place a #3, and then do a transfer to a thin crack and the face section. I placed the #3 and extended it with a double length sling and then proceeded to climb, down climb, side climb, down climb, climb, side climb, down climb several times on the very thin face section between the cracks. Eventually I made it to the small crack, placed two nuts, and continued slowly up. At the top of the pitch there is a section of 5.7 face which was deceivingly slippery, but after what seemed like an eternity, I was finally setting up a belay and bringing Jim up.
The rest of the climb was awesome and featured an amazing exposed traverse, cool knob navigating, and some easier climbing to the top. I was amazed when we topped out at 3:30, in plenty of daylight! I’ll admit it was the first time I had done a long climb (13 pitches), finished in the light, and still had time to do the descent before dark. The descent also went smoothly, having fixed ropes on the 4 rappels made it go very quickly. Soon we were back to the car!
All in all, it was an awesome day. I am really happy to check this one off the ticklist. Thanks for an excellent day of climbing Jim!
I got to spend the next two days in the Valley and watched some of my friends put down some awesome boulder problems! Check out my previous post for a few other pictures or my Instagram feed, @lauralopat.
Stellar weekend in the Valley!