Freerider — El Capitan

This fall, during the fabulous month of Rocktober, I had the opportunity to climb in Yosemite Valley with my good friend and long time climbing partner, Simon Meis. Simon and I have made numerous trips to Yosemite together, and as a team, over the last decade, managed to climb on some of the worlds great cliffs.

This year we organized our schedules so that we could hang out on El Capitan and free climb the route Freerider. A route we have both talked about, for at least 5 years (I’m sure Simon has kept a topo on his fridge for at least that long). It was also important for Simon and I to do the route together and with a specific style in mind.

We arrived in the valley and started unravelling the logistics of free climbing a route on El Cap, which at first was a little overwhelming, we were unsure on the best strategy. Normally, our strategy is; get to the base of the wall with everything we need, (usually for a couple days or less), then start climbing until we get to the top. But this time, with a team of three and our chosen style we were going to have to adjust. (The third, Simon Parson, a veteran of the big stone and a Aussie ex-pat living in Calgary,  had a hankering for some blue collar crack work so he jumped at the opportunity when I mentioned the trip.)

Our plans to climb as a team of three (with all of us free climbing), and combing that with the hauling of the 150 pound bag (120 of water), we realized that we were not going to get the route done in the time allotted. We noticed our strategy falling apart, when, on the third day, after climbing the notoriously terrifying Hollow Flake in the blazing saddles (87 degree F temps) we all arrived at the ledge  –with the haulbag — completely dehydrated and mentally exhausted. We persevered for a couple more hours but in the fading light below the Monster offwidth, we decided to rappell our lines, returning to the valley to  restrategize.

Simon and I went back up our lines the next day, our intention was to free climb the route in 3 more days of work. Once we finished we would rappel back down, pick up the haulbag, and continue to the base (a winter storm was lining up to sweep over the valley the evening we finished). We did exactly what we had planned and after 2 nights on the wall and one day working the Teflon corner pitch, we launched for the top. We lead in small blocks, Simon leading the last 4, which was awesome considering I had blown a tendon in my big toe. I managed to keep the pistons in the engine, just barley, and make the send.

I felt extremely lucky to have been living out a dream, with a friend, who had the same dream. Usually, I find that the journey to fulfilling my dreams – is a solitary one. But luckily, in climbing a partner is often needed. From these partnerships, I’ve developed life long friends and companions to dream about adventures together. Eventually, the success of these adventures with my partners, are no longer measured by the summits reached, but by the friendships bound in time.

Thanks Simon,  for another great adventure.

SEl Cap Spire

We climbed mostly at dawn and dusk. The sun is setting and I'm belaying on El Cap Spire. Self portrait.

El Cap Spire

Simon relaxing on El Cap Spire before taking the morning commute. Photo JL

Simon leading out from El Cap Spire. The evening temps were more reasonable to climb in. Photo JL

7am wake-up. Simon leading off into the unknown. We climbed from the Teflon Corner to the top with out previous knowledge of the climbing. We had forgot our topo, which added some stoke to the adventure. Photo JL

JL seconding early on the last day of climbing. Photo SM

Simon getting psyched for the first pitch of the Enduro Corner, slippery finger locks in a flared corner. Photo JL

Simon climbing the first Enduro pitch, with the Salathe headwall looming above.

Following the 5.12 Enduro Corner. Photo SM

Everything has been sent!!! But not finished yet.

The one-two combo, the second pitch of the Enduro corner gave me a mega pump!

Simon seconding the upper pitch of the Enduro. Photo JL

Climbing the steep thin hands pitch above the Round Table.


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