Monday, June 7, 2010

Lurking Fear, El Capitan

Located on the far left of the Southwest face of El Capitan, Lurking Fear is perhaps the easiest route to the summit but offers less moderate free climbing and a bit more sustained aiding than it's more popular brothers like the Nose or Salathe.

Fatigued from thousands of miles in the car and nights on the ground we camped outside the park Sunday night at a dirt pullout off highway 140. Rolling into the park early Monday morning to try and secure a spot in Camp 4, Jason and I were rather unenthusiastic about the work ahead. Packing for a couple days on the wall, humping huge loads to the base of the climb, accustoming ourselves to the pace of climbing after so much all seemed heavy and slow.

Our original plans had been to try and climb the Salathe wall and then just keep working away at the endless classics in the Valley. Big talk of multiple El Cap routes or long free climbs seemed to destined to be just that...big talk.

We settled on Lurking Fear as a "warm up" because it required relatively little mandatory free and Jason's ankle was still swollen and discolored from his awesome bouldering fall in Portland. Supertopo says fast parties fix to 3, fire the next day, and bivy on 10 and 17, topping out the morning of day three. Figuring we'd take our time to work out some of the big wall systems since I'd slighted Jason on my other big wall adventures and this was his first really aid intensive route, we planned on the full "fast party" 3 days. Water for two people for three days plus the descent is about 20 liters give or take depending on the temperature. Add that to a massive aid rack, portaledge, poop tube, bivy gear, etc, and you get packs in excess of 100 pounds. And to think Jared was complaining about a 16 pound pack, sheesh.

Well, after a rather apathetic start, we gained momentum and were soon established on the wall.

JD jugging up to the Pillar of Dispair, pitch 9

Views of the Cathedral Rocks in the long hours of early evening

View from our bedroom in the morning

View from the bathroom in the morning

The second day was pretty cruiser with the only hiccup being a short fall JD took right after this pic was taken

With two pitches to go and getting hungry for the summit as well as dinner, we pulled onto Thanksgiving Ledge, which has to be one of the coolest places in the world to spend a night just kicking it. We were ambivalent as to whether or not we should continue. In the end, food hunger won out and Jason was happy.

We feasted on canned peaches, Mountain House lasagna, soup, ramen, and dried fruit, and we were asleep before dark, tucked away in our little cave in the side of the cliff. We felt secure enough to unrope and take off our harnesses but did string all our gear along the entrance just in case we did roll a bit too far toward the cliff's edge.

The next day... Summit!

Psyched to be done climbing but my legs were sore for next 3 days from all that stuff.

Realizing that we'd have to take a couple rest days (and that I missed my cute wife) we drove through the night to get back to the comforts of home rather than stay in Camp 4. We are finishing up our rest period and tomorrow it's back to the road...

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