Sunday, November 29, 2009

Agonizingly Close

So I'm down from the wall now and back in Boulder. I had fun up on the route but didn't manage the send. I did come about as close as possible though.

After redpointing the lower crux on Saturday, Sandy and I hiked to the base with all our gear on Sunday and hauled everything to the top of pitch 3. Early the next morning, I lowered down and worked the crux of pitch 3 (hard 12d). Sandy came down to the belay and I redpointed the pitch first try. We broke camp and then I started up on the next pitch (12a). I had done it years ago on TR, but didn't really remember anything. I decided to go for it pseudo-onsight rather than working the moves first. It took lots of patience figuring out the route because the first section meanders a lot before you get to the crack. I pulled it off though and then did the heavy haul. Pitch 5 goes at 12b and I remembered that it was a bit tricky at the end. I didn't want to waste the energy for a solid onsight try knowing that I could blow it right at the end, so I climbed it first taking rests at every few pieces. I got to the top and lowered down. With most of the beta figured out and the gear sussed, I sent on my next try. At this point, I was a bit tired from the climbing and hauling and decided to aid the next pitch (12c) to save more energy. Once I got to the top, I lowered down and worked it on TR. By the time I got back to the top of the pitch, it was almost dark, so I decided to haul the bag and set up camp -- leaving the redpoint for the next morning.

Hiking the final load up to the base

A scary load indeed!

On Tuesday morning, I first tried some of the moves on the second crux of the route, pitch 7 (13+). This pitch is a 12c thin traverse to a really tough vertical boulder problem on tiny holds. I tried the crux moves a bit trying to remember the sequence I had figured out in the past. After a few tries, a key crystal on one of the crimps crumbled and I didn't think I could do it using the same beta. Luckily, I figured out a slightly different way that wasn't significantly harder. Confident that I had a sequence, I came back to the bivy and lowered down to prepare for a redpoint of the lower pitch. To my surprise, the crack had seeped over night and was unclimbable. So instead, I headed back out the traverse of pitch 7 to try to understand the crux moves even more. After a few tries, the sun came around the corner and I was forced to quit. The rest of the day was mostly spent chilling on the portaledge. At the end of the day, Sandy and I lowered to the bottom of pitch 6 and I redpointed it.

Not much for the hands and tiny feet on the 12c section of pitch 7

Spending a rest day in style

My hope was to redpoint the next pitch Wednesday morning and make it to the final collection of hard pitches that evening. I was confident that I could do the rest of the climb if I could complete pitch 7 because everything else was 5.12 and below except for one 13a bouldery crux move which I had done in the past. Early in the morning, I gave a go at pitch 7. I climbed through the 12c, which was a harsh warmup, and then rested at a no-hands stance for a bit. Then I launched into the crux. I got near the end, but my hand popped off the crimp as I was preparing for the finish moves. I suspected that I crumbled a little part of the crimp, but wasn't completely sure. I tried the move a few times to make sure I could still do it the same way. Then I gave another try, but things went wrong. The moves are so technical and require such a high degree of precision that it's so easy for something little to go wrong. On my third try, I found myself staring down the final hold before things get easier. I only had the crimp with two fingers and the foot I was standing felt bad. I had to make a quick decision: go for the hold now, or try to get things in better position first. I chose to go for the hold and slapped the edge of it just as everything popped off. Unfortunately, I didn't stick it. I couldn't believe how close I had been and kept questioning if I made the right decision. When I got back to the belay, I realized that this attempt had left me with a blood blister at the top of my pointer finger and middle finger on the hand that holds the key crimp. Not good... I drained the blisters and gave one more attempt for the day but didn't come as close. I spent the rest of the day again sitting on the portaledge and making sure the blisters didn't fill back up. I figured I could give another good go the next morning.

My fingers after draining the blood blisters

On Thursday morning, I gave a few more tries but didn't come as close as the previous day. Hindered by bad skin and tired muscles, things just didn't feel as good. I could still do the crux in two overlapping sections, but it just wasn't clicking. I conceded for the day and then had to make the hard decision to go down. It was difficult because I knew I could do this move as well as the rest of the route and I had worked hard to get to this point. Still, the forecast for the next days was grimmer calling for higher winds and perhaps a snow storm. Additionally, I needed to be back in Boulder by Sunday. If the weather had been perfect, I probably would have had enough provisions to wait another day at this point and still climb the rest of the wall. It just wasn't right though and my psyche and confidence had faded.

I really wanted to succeed on the route, but I guess I'll just have to come back to it. Here's a photo of pitch 7 that will hopefully inspire me to get back soon. Can't deny that it is a beautiful place to climb. I just hope more holds don't break before my next attempt.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


So I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. I redpointed the first pitch which is a tough 12c for the first time. Then I started out on the second pitch. It was definitely a bit colder and there were some clouds which shaded the wall at times. Conditions felt better, but still not perfect. I was planning to try to link into the crux dyno to see how it felt from the start. I wasn't really serious about redpointing the pitch because I knew there was a move past the crux that I hadn't remembered how to do on my previous attempt. I did the first two cruxes and then pulled the last crux that leads to a good pod before the dyno. I rested at the pod for a while and then set up into the small crimps and bad feet that you jump from. Everything felt pretty good so I lunged to the left and to my surprise, stuck the hold. All of a sudden, I realized that I could redpoint the pitch right then. I was worried and nervous about the moves ahead which were still a bit unfamiliar. I took my time though, milked the rests, and somehow made it to the better slopey holds at the end of the pitch. At this point, I wanted to get to the end so badly that all technique went out the window and I grovelled my way to the jugs at the top of the pitch. I was so surprised that it was hard to believe that I had just done it. I really wasn't expecting this. I thought maybe I would have a chance in the morning shade when conditions were better, but in the afternoon sun? I guess things just came together well and I got a little lucky.

After a little rest, I went up on the third pitch (12d) to refresh the sequence. I came back down and prepared for a redpoint. I made it through the first half of the pitch just as dusk rolled in and as I rested at a good stance in the middle, everything became dark. I switched on my headlamp and gave a go at the crux section of the pitch. Only a few moves in, I was doing a technical foot move and couldn't see or feel the foot hold I was supposed to use. My other foot slipped and I was off. I gave up for the evening and came down to the valley floor to collect all the gear for spending a bunch of days on the wall.

I'm heading up there today soon and will haul all my gear up and spend tonight on the wall. Tomorrow morning, I'll give the third pitch another go and hopefully send first go. Then I'll try to climb the next three pitches (12a, 12b, 12c) and set up bivy before pitch 7 -- the next major 13+ crux. From there it all depends on how I feel and whether or not luck favors me. Hopefully I can sneak out a redpoint of pitch 7 on the next morning and then cruise up to the final cruxes on the route. I'll have enough gear to spend about 5 days up there so hopefully I can get it done. It'll definitely be tough though.

Here's the video of me climbing Midnight Lightning V8 a few days ago. It's not the best quality and is a bit squat for some reason, but no time to fix it now, got to get on the wall. Psyched!

Midnight Lightning from Matt Wilder on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yosemite Update

I've been in Yosemite for about a week now and the weather has been amazing. In fact, it's been so nice that it's been a bit too warm on Lurking Fear. I've worked the crux pitch three days now and am trying it again this afternoon. On the first day, I spent most of my time searching the rock for the minute holds on the crux 2nd pitch. I figured out most of the moves, but left some for later. My second day up there was pretty much a wash. I went up pretty early in the morning hoping that the route would still be in the shade because it's on the west side of El Cap. Unfortunately, the route is in the sun all day long this time of year because the sun is so low. I tried some of the moves on the crux pitch, but it was so hot that I was worried I'd slice my fingers to shreds. So I came down and did a bit of bouldering instead. The bouldering conditions were so amazing that I started wondering if I was doing the wrong thing focussing on a bigwall route. On my third day on the route, I came up late planning to do most of my climbing after dark -- strange to be doing that in November in Yosemite. I made progress on the crux pitch doing some long links and coming close to sticking the crux sideways dyno. The dyno is a bit harder now because a key hold that you used to dyno from broke. It still goes though and probably isn't too much harder. Hopefully today I'll get more links and stick the crux move a few times.

On Sunday, I'll head up there, haul the first three pitches and stay the night at the base. Then Monday morning, I'll have a last ditch effort at redpointing the crux pitch. I'm not too optimistic that it will go because the climbing is very technical and delicate and it's easy to make a mistake. Plus it will be difficult to keep my skin good and my feet from hurting throughout the whole pitch. Even if I don't redpoint the second pitch, I'll still climb the rest of the route and try to do most everything else free. If I do manage to pull off the 2nd pitch, I'll still have lots of hard climbing to the summit including the other crux pitch which could prove to be more desperate (though it is shorter). In either case, it should be a fun outing and the weather looks perfect.

I'm psyched.

Unfortunately, I don't have any interesting photos from the wall. I have a short low-quality video of me repeating Midnight Lightning that I'll try to put up tomorrow before I get on the wall.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yosemite Bound... I hope

So my next big plan is a trip to Yosemite for the last two weeks of November. I'm really psyched to have a go at freeing Lurking Fear, a 20 pitch 13+ route on the left side of El Cap. Unfortunately, the weather there is pretty unpredictable this time of year. If it looks like a storm system is passing through around then, I'll have to abandon my plans and head to Bishop or some other place. I'll be going with my girlfriend Sandy and this will be our first wall together.

I've climbed the route in its entirety twice (both one-day ascents). I've also spent some time working the free pitches and had the first 6 pitches fixed for a bit. The main difficulty boils down to two sections: a hard slab pitch early on with a crazy sideways dyno and the 7th pitch which has a very hard technical boulder problem at the end of the traverse. The rest of the climb is mostly 5.12 and below, though there may be one or two other 5.13- pitches. I've done all the moves on the route so I think I have a chance of sending if the weather cooperates. Either way, the climbing up there is really high quality so I'm guaranteed to have fun.

I really need to start climbing more routes if I want to be in the correct shape for this climb. Not that two weeks is really enough time to get fully in shape. All in all though I feel in good shape so I'm not too concerned about training.

Lurking Fear is the left most route in this picture

Check out this really cool site (unfortunately you can't see the route because it is around the left edge of the wall):