Author Topic: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13  (Read 2601 times)

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Offline Didder

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Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« on: August 16, 2011, 11:27:51 pm »
I have put together a 10 min or so video of the climb which you can view at the following link, I have also included a trip report below...     https://vimeo.com/45397541

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Zodiac Solo:

First seeing El Cap as a climber years ago I thought there was no way that I would ever climb it .Then after a few ascents I remember thinking there is no way in hell I would ever try soloing it. Then after 10 or so ascents I started to get a weird twisted sort of itch... It was three years ago that I got the idea that I would like to solo a route on El Cap. The Zodiac seemed the logical choice for many reasons. I actually bought 2 #5 camalots for the pitch above Peanut ledge and they have basically been sitting there waiting for this climb ever since. After many schedule conflicts, weather shut downs, shoulder issues and simple life getting in the way type stuff I decided earlier this year that it was now or never.

I had been washed off low on the route on a solo attempt earlier this year and decided summer would be a good time to go as there would most likely be no other parties on the wall and I could use my night climbing fetish to help battle the high day time temps. As it turned out this is one of the mildest summers on record temperature-wise so I was able to climb day or not or both at my discretion.

I had been packed for a month or more and made a last minute schedule change a few weeks ago to coordinate topping out on the full moon. Full moon climbing has always been a favorite of mine and the days before a full moon always give such great nighttime illumination with those amazing moon rays.

Originally I told my wife I would leave Tuesday night and be off Saturday and home Sunday. But Tuesday morning at 4am I rolled over in bed and sheepishly told her ?I think I?ll just get a little head start?. I gave my wife a quick kiss, grabbed my keys and slipped out the door.

I was in the valley by 10am and started fixing just after noon. By evening I had fixed the first two pitches and with some help had all my gear to the base and was blasting off? My first El Cap solo mission? I was fully amped. By around 10pm I had climbed and hauled all my gear to the top of pitch 3 and was officially on the wall to stay.

Wed morning I woke up early and was climbing by 6am and got a couple pitches done before the heat really slowed me down. It ended up being around 11pm by the time I had cleaned and hauled all my gear to the ledge above the Black Tower pitch which had been my goal for the day. There was a fire burning off the Glacier Point road and the valley was filled with smoke casting an eerie haze across the valley. Not only the haze but also the fact that I was the only climber on the entire right side of El Cap, the lack of sleep and minimal food and water intake gave the whole scene a very ominous feeling. I began feeling some serious anxiety and wasn?t 100% sure I should continue.

By 6 am Thursday morning I could feel my whole body starting to shut down. I needed sleep, I needed to eat more food, I needed to drink more water and I also needed to get my head sorted out so that I felt confident enough to continue. Basically the physical drain was causing me mental drain as well and the feeling really rattled me.  I called Steve ?Habanero? Canavero, I called my wife and they both talked me through my mental funk that had me questioning whether or not I should continue. My wife really was amazing and when I asked her if she thought I should bail she told me ?don?t bail you can do this ? you ARE doing this?. For the rest of the morning I just lounged around, ate, drank and slept and by 11 am had decided I had come too far to turn around and whatever it took I was going to keep going. I had to get moving again though because I wanted to make it to the top of the Nipple pitch this day and I was now in the ?business? section of the route. The next 3 pitches are pretty much a blur since at this point I was just totally focused on the task at hand. Somehow the day wore on in a haze and it was getting dark as I started leading the nipple pitch.

Time sort of stood still but was also flying by. The traverse section to the Nipple took me FOREVER as it was getting dark and three days of climbing were starting to wear on me. Eventually I surmounted the Nipple and was in the very thin section above about 30 feet or so from the anchor when all of a sudden I went to pull lead rope and the thing would just not budge. A wave of sheer and utter defeat washed across me as I thought I had somehow forgot to unclip the end of the lead line before I left the anchor or made some stupid mistake that was now going to leave me stranded on one of the most exposed and difficult to reach spots on the entire route. I calmly thought about how I would or even if I could get back to the anchor from where I was and I was just going to have to hang there until it got light to figure out what the hell I was going to do.

I ran through everything I had done at the anchor before leading off on the pitch in my head and convinced myself that there was nothing I had done wrong but something just wasn?t right. For all intensive purposes I should have been able to pull more rope but it simply would not budge. As I started to get slightly desperate I decided I just had to get the rope, there simply was no other option. I began yanking as hard as I could for almost a full minute. Then just as I was about to give into defeat and start trying to figure out a plan I gave one more hard pull and the rope began feeding out. IT WAS A MIRACLE! I have no idea what had happened to prevent the rope from feeding and it didn?t really matter? all I knew is I had rope and I was going to make it to the anchor. It was after 2 am by the time I had fixed the pitch, lowered, cleaned the pitch, hauled and had the portaledge set up. Even though I was exhausted I was filled with a feeling of deep commitment and satisfaction.

The next morning I slept in and decided even if I only did two pitches this day it was fine and so spent the first part of the morning getting things sorted, napping, eating and drinking. By 10 am I was moving again and made it through the Mark of Zorro pitch in good time and stopped for lunch. Again time sort of slipped away and it was dark by the time I lead, cleaned and hauled the Devil?s Brow pitch. Even though I REALLY had wanted to make peanut ledge I knew it would be better to stop, get some rest and fire to the top the next day. The moonrise was insane as it had been the previous three nights.

I enjoyed a beer, plenty of food and just really soaked up the whole setting. I felt a bit like Major Tom completely enclosed in my own little space pod just drifting through deep space. The entire right side of El Cap was my playground and it was one of those magical moments where I felt I was  exactly where I was supposed to be in the universe. It made me smile thinking of how only a few people knew about where I was and no one in the world except me knew exactly how I felt at that exact moment in time? it was a very powerful experience, one that I found myself wishing would continue for another 5 days.

The next morning I was up and moving early as it was top out day no matter what and even though it was just three pitches to the top I knew it was going to be a full day. Around 8am while in the middle of the next pitch I saw something out of the corner of my eye that I thought might be a hawk, when I turned and looked out away from the wall I saw a hang glider cruising maybe 300 yds. out off the wall and almost at eye level. I couldn?t believe my eyes it was such a surreal scene. I gave a holler and a wave, the pilot tilted his wings twice banked a turn and headed east. I have never seen a hang glider so far up so far west from Glacier Point?. The thermals must have been amazing that day!? It was awesome seeing a human flying around up there and just such a cool thing to experience. About a half an hour later a Peregrine Falcon landed on a ledge about 50 feet below me and maybe 100 feet to the East. He just sat there squawking at me and we talked back and forth for a good 3 minutes before he stepped off the ledge folded his wings and was out of sight... The wall gods were definitely smiling on me this day. The falcon came back on and off all day checking me out and chatting it up.

I made Peanut Ledge in good time and could not help but stop and enjoy a full hour of lunching, lounging and laughter. I got out the video camera and shot some silly footage and basically just had a blast. The El Cap wind was blowing and I was soaring. At that moment I felt I could have gone on for another week no problem.

I was halfway through the pitch above Peanut when I heard a hoot from above and looked up to see the Mungeclimber who had come up to help me carry my gear down. It was the first close up encounter with another person for almost 5 full days and although it felt great to see him there urging me on it also made me realize that my solo experience would soon be coming to an end. By the time I fixed, cleaned and hauled that flake pitch and was starting the last 2 pitches it was 6:30 and I realized that once again I would be climbing at night. I was tired, I was thirsty, I was hungry but I was not about to rush things and make a mistake on that final pitch. I zigzagged around past the first anchor and got a bit off route. I nailed some shit (a beak and an angle). I cursed, I laughed and was just hell bent to get to the top but again all the while telling myself not to rush. Finally around 11 pm or so I pulled over the top and Rob was there to greet me. The Bud Light Lime he handed me was one of the best beers of my life and I spent a good while fixing everything and getting ready to rap back down to clean the pitch. I offered Rob the opportunity to clean the pitch but he explained that then it wouldn?t count as a solo, he even declined my offer to let him haul my bags.... a true purist. I spent another hour or so cleaning and hauling and pulled my entire junk show over the top some time after midnight.

I was so amped I just couldn?t sleep. Rob and I enjoyed another beer and some saki, we ate a bunch of food and just chatted it up for a while. Then after Rob passed out I stayed up till 3 am sorting gear and bumbling around so as to be able to get an early start the next morning.

The sun rose way too soon, we packed all the gear and started down. It was HOT!!! We rapped the East raps on our own ropes and in the gulley at the bottom of the raps got cooked! I was carrying a bag and dragging a bag. I ran out of water and found a small little spring in the boulders below the Manure Pile and drank out of a little rivlet in the pine needles and when we finally hit the Manure pile parking lot I could not have felt more fulfilled. We ( actually I) drank all of Rob?s beers, we lounged a bit then loaded everything in his truck and headed to the bridge. Even though Rob and I had never met he had answered my call to help carry my gear off the top like a true brother in arms. I can't thank Rob enough for not only his help but his companionship and for being there when I topped out. Soloing can be a lonely experience and to be able to share in my achievement with another climber was really a very cool thing.

Back at the bridge I jumped in the river and felt like I had been re-born. Erik Sloan, Ammon and a few others were milling around and everyone offered sincere congratulations. It felt really good to get props from these guys, especially Ammon. Essentially I was a lightweight.. just a padawan learner next to this Jedi master and he was still super stoked for me. It meant a lot coming from someone who I had never met but so admire.

I spent another ? hour or so hanging out, then I packed up, said goodbye to Rob and hit the road. I had to pull over once to pass out for a bit and rolled into Malibu around 8 pm utterly exhausted. I had to sleep with my hands in a bucket of ice water that night and typing these words is still very painful.

My biggest realization (one I knew already from before but seemed to have forgotten) is try not to do a major climb under any time constraints. Having to be off by Saturday forced me to really push myself much harder than if I had had no time constraints and been able to go at a leisurely pace stopping if I felt tired or exhausted. I did however prove again to myself that if I need to push I can grind it out and as long as I just keep moving I know that eventually I will top out.

It feels good to have accomplished a challenge I set out for myself over three years ago and even though I have now completed this goal I know it is merely one more small step in that journey that will continue far into the future?. Of course there will be another solo? some other route, some other time but of course it will have to be on El Cap.



« Last Edit: July 08, 2012, 11:46:53 am by Didder »

Offline Raaf

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 12:09:28 am »
Great post. . . . . hope to have that experience one day.

skully

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 12:15:48 am »
I think you have ...Full Value. Oh, yes.
Groovin'.

Offline mhudon

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 09:34:54 am »
When I go to the vid all I get is music and a white rectangle.

Okay, I downloaded it and got it working.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2011, 10:09:26 am by mhudon »

Offline mhudon

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 11:11:10 am »
Ha! That was great! In that last minute, where you're talking to the camera but we can't hear you, I can tell how happy you are to be up there and to have almost done it. That's the ticket!  Sweet!

Offline Mike.

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 06:23:56 pm »
Solo salute to you, B. Awesome job, brother.

Nice going, Munge. Way to keep the man honest.
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline johnmac

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2011, 07:31:47 am »
Most excellent. Thanks for the write up and sharing...

Offline *Mucci*

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2011, 12:20:04 am »
Very cool Brant!

Congrats on gettin that EC solo notch.

cheers!

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2011, 09:44:24 pm »
"The Bud Light Lime he handed me was one of the best beers of my life "

hahahha, part of my neo-fascist plot to take over the universe with light beer!!!

Proud to have been there and seen the top out amigo! Well done!

Let me try and load up some pics for the thread. Will try and ship a disc before I head to MT and WY.



drink mo water!

:)

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Zodiac Solo Aug 9-13
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2011, 12:03:04 pm »


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