past summer my buddy Jack had mentioned wanting to do The Shield on El Capitan,
Jack usually has good ideas so I said I was in. After spending six months in
Jackson Hole it was time to leave, I hit the road at the end of September in my
van and headed for the Valley. Rolling into Yosemite never gets old, I’m
surprised I manage to keep my vehicle on the road while peering up in awe at
the big walls.
doing some classic free climbs Jack and I decided it was time to get on El
Capitan. We took a day to get our gear sorted, packing enough food and water
for 5 days, then headed to the base of the fixed lines coming down from the
Mammoth Terraces. We hauled our gear 5 or 6 pitches up to the Mammoth Terraces,
stashed them for the night there and rappelled back down to the ground. Doing
this saves you from doing difficult hauling on the 10 pitches of Freeblast that
lead up to the Mammoth Terraces. The following day we free climbed Freeblast up
to where our gear was stashed.
2 on the wall we awoke and began climbing the 5 pitches that The Shield and The
Muir Wall share. We climbed 2 pitches before catching Jean Tucky and Adam then
behind us came Madaleine Sorkin and Eric Bissell free climbing the pitches we
had just aided up. Jean and Adam were aid climbing The Muir Wall and Madaleine
and Eric were just up for the day to work the moves on a 5.13b pitch of The
Muir Wall in order to free climb the route. It was inspiring to hear Madaleine
and Eric humbly talk about hard free climbs they have done in The Valley.
and I had heard of possible bad weather coming so in order to make as much
progress as possible on day 2, Jean and Adam graciously tagged and fixed our
rope 3 pitches, until we split off on the first pitch of The Shield. The first
pitch of The Shield is a big C3 traverse under a roof, looking at it Jack and I
could only see two fixed pieces of gear. It looked like it was going to be a
hard lead so Jack and I played, rock, paper, scissor, to decide who was going
to take off on the sharp end. I ended up taking the lead as the sun went down
stopping under The Shield Roof finishing in the dark.
3 we awoke early hoping to make it off of the headwall by the end of the day.
Jack anxiously racked up for The Shield Roof, which is one of the A3 pitches.
Neither of us had done A3, after the roof we were getting on the headwall that
had another A3 pitch and many C3/A2 pitches, you could feel the tension in the
air. Jack styled the roof and I followed screaming with excitement, half way up
El Cap with nothing below but air! I led a long mellow pitch then Jack led
another A3 pitch called The Groove. We were on another planet now, nothing but
a slightly overhung face above us with a small seam to follow. Climbing went
slow, our sawed angles were to long and only bringing 3 large, 3 medium, and 3
small beaks wasn’t nearly enough for a comfortable lead. At times I would leap
frog a large beak on each daisy, only leaving behind a small micro cam or
medium beak when I got the chance. We made it 5 pitches that day to pitch 21,
setting up our portaledge in the dark on the headwall.
4 was another 5:30am early morning, not knowing when the bad weather was coming
made us anxious to finish the route. We hooted and hollered after finishing
pitch 22, relieved to be off of the headwall. 6 more pitches were led, Jack and
I topped out our 4th El Cap route together around 6pm that evening
giving high fives and fist pounds! It felt like it was going to rain so we
packed our bags and made the long decent back to our cars parked at the base of
route we talked about how scared we were or after this route big walling was
done for us. The next day we stared up at El Capitan, with hearts thumping,
Jack and I discussed future big wall adventures and plans to get scared again.