Author Topic: Kneel before Zod  (Read 7783 times)

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Offline mungeclimber

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Kneel before Zod
« on: June 13, 2013, 11:37:41 pm »
?Kneel before Zod? - A Tale in 3 posts.



I had this saying running around in my head ever since I first started thinking about Zodiac. In 1980 when that movie came out, I was barely climbing little pebbles in Joshua Tree. Now, in 2013, the quote is actually quite something by itself, don?t you think?  Especially in front of the South East Side of El Cap. It is a towering mass of granite. Overhanging. Flakes. Features. The most visible top to bottom line when viewed from The Bridge.  All with a compelling First Ascent background; Charlie Porter in 1972, apparently without a willing partner for that side of El Cap, decided to establish it solo.



When trying to put this report together, I started to look for a theme to tie the story together. I couldn?t. Porter wasn?t really one to write up his routes in order to gain notoriety, so I didn?t really have a historical backdrop to write against. I tried to kick start from my Lurking Fear trip report. The theme there was so patently obvious, it bordered on the literary inane. No, that wouldn?t work. I needed something more. But why? To prove I?m some sort of bad ass and display my cleverness? Gain notoriety? No, the internet allows notoriety by sheer quanta of posts. I?ve posted enough drivel to qualify. So no, it wasn?t proof of my tough bad ass cajones, or whatever male bravado metaphor works these days.

There?s nothing special in this report. I?m slow on the wall. I sew up my aid lines. And I believe in engineering my leads safely to the maximum extent possible. That?s what I did with the crux pitch of Freak Show when we did it in a push. So a word of warning, my Wall style suffers a similar malady as my writing style.  I?m given to the overuse of comma splices, semi colons, and a style that assumes a reader likes overly complex sentence structure and can see thru my small written conceits.

However, what I can do for you, the reader, is write about what is going on as I try to make sense of this last adventure. I can tell you about how this trip up the Captain was so much different.  For example, for quite some time after my first El Cap route the mundane tasks of the mortal coil truly seemed pointless. Looking back it was unfortunate that the memories of the climb itself were fading so fast after getting home. I was even told that Wallers would often chase that first time sensation, much like an addict.

The sensation this time was different qualitatively. Or at least besides the soreness.  My hands still hurt. Inflamed numbness in the last two fingers where they are pinched down by pulling on the ascender handles. ?Oh, yeah, you have a case of Wall Hands? Brutus told me that first time. I didn?t realize it was a phenomenological experience back then.  So besides the hips, neck, shoulders, calves, bruising, scrapes, and cuticles, the sensation is different.

I?m talking here of the mental world. When I hit the ground I experienced cognitive dissonance. You see, by having the experience of cognitive dissonance I knew that Wall experience would have meaning. It wasn?t because of the difficulty. No no.  Yet, still friends would congratulate me, and I really appreciated the kind words. Especially since I am not a twenty something anymore, even though in my head space I am.

This time I have no such disparate cognitive state. I feel cheated somehow. Not that it wasn?t an amazing experience. It was in many ways.  However, I want there to be some imprint on my psyche. I want some meaning to be ascribed to this event. It?s not enough to chalk up numbers on a score board. There must be some value. There must be some reason for going up in the first place beyond mere cause and effect. That is not a reason. It is not a why. The Walls themselves are just a means. It is not an end. And so to be climbing Walls is to be using a means to do? what?

I thought I had it. I thought I could weave that tale. Something that brought together existential absurdity into some notion of Eternal Recurrence as a basis for self-overcoming. But I could not. Zodiac was anti-climactic from a philosophical perspective. There wasn?t a theatrical red pill to take, and a blue pill to avoid.
That?s not to say there wasn?t fear and trepidation to be inscribed on one?s soul. Those aspects are omni-present. Any of the guys on Bigwalls.net will tell you that there are objective hazards up there. 2013, in particular, was a tough year on the Yosemite community with the loss of Mason and Felix on El Capitan. The fears were so present that I had doubts in my daily full time work life about even getting on it. In fact, I even needed to outfit myself with a rule to ensure success? so it started when I told Kev.  ?Kev, I really only have two rules. Don?t do stupid shit and Once on the Wall, we don?t talk about going down.?

It felt important to tell him upfront the rules. Even though I knew he was a way more dialed-in Wall climber than I ever would be. I guess mostly I said it because I hadn?t actually climbed with him before. Hell, I hadn?t even met him in person before. Mucci had thankfully recommended him after coming off of the Horney-Johnson route on the Column with he and Ezra.  Since Mucci had been establishing new Big Wall aid routes on Liberty Cap with Steve Bosque for a while now, I knew without question the recommendation would be spot on. Now having topped out Zod with him, I can personally report Kev is charged up for Walls, and knows his stuff and I was fortunate to have done Zod with him.  I see a Yosemite that has Kev in its future.

In the garage as I was packing, I would look at the topos.





There are primarily two current topos. Cmac and Nanook. Both call out the converted aid to clean rating for the route if the fixed pieces are in place.  Now it was time for Kev?s rule. ?hammer stays at the belay until absolutely necessary and then can be tagged.?  That worked for me, hammering can be slow and I knew that some recent ascents had gotten thru so the fixed gear was probably going to be ok.  

With that, the baseline was set. But would we be able to? That is the question that drove us up.  It?s not as if we didn?t have the gear. Triples on damn near everything to #6. Plus Moses lit us up with some additional Minerals designed Hawks for hand placing too.



Sandlot late evening we met. Plans to carry water in that night to beat the heat over the coming weekend didn?t materialize after rigging our bottles with clove hitches and determining which gear was going up. But an early start was had. We humped water up before the sun hit the talus. The wall is deceptively close to the parking. I also lead pitches 1 and most of two in the shade. Make no mistake, it was warm in the sun even on the days it was in the 80s.
Prior to getting on the wall, the Da Drim helmet visor was much maligned. After the wall, I won?t leave the ground without one.  You have to get smart about walls. Logistics is everything. Whether it is how much water per person per day in your bags, to rigging the catch lines around your haul bags. I definitely painted my black helmet with flat white hobby paint. I even prepared myself by going up to help Didder bring down some bags from the top of Zodiac the previous year. Getting familiar with the descent and fixed lines is part of the process of making the logistics all a little easier.

But the nice thing about fixing lines is you get to taste the wall, but then get to go back down satisfying that visceral urge that tells you going down is what you should do. Every wall climber overcomes this at some point. Perhaps that?s why we show up at all, to overcome that gravitational urge in our belly. An entire diaspora of climbers returning to its Mecca of aid climbing just so we can break through; shift the paradigm of possibility for ourselves.

I started that shift. I got thru pitch 1 and 2. Pitch 1 has a reputation for spitting climbers off, and there is some space between the good gear.



We meet up with Briham and Roger who just had come off Kor-Beck while we're at the Bridge racking and packing. Nice job fellas!

Roger asks how I thought it went on p1. My response is mixed. It went fine, but it also was about not letting things get rushed despite some questionable gear.

Pitch 2 though is almost fun by contrast...







Later that evening, we did, we carried the next load up. This was probably the hardest mental crux for me. Carrying a full load in a haul bag, with a busted hip belt, no load stabilizer straps up a sweaty talus approach is about suffering. Suffering just isn?t very fun. It makes for a story, but while you are in it, the sheer brutality of it is something else. But if you break it up mentally into those things in the moment that you can do, the overall project fades to the background of your mind. Any sense of how weak or inadequate you may be to the task because small moments of minor victories. ?Just make it to that tree? ?Just this bit to the base? ?Just a couple pitches? ?Just one night on the wall? emerges eventually as topping out.

It?s dark. I arrive at the base again. Voices are there.  Andy Kirk Patrick and Steve Bates are already there.



They are going for a push ascent.  Steve is essentially blind and Andy?s gal has just been run over by a vehicle back at home. They are going to try ?distraction therapy? by going up on the Wall anyways.  We laugh quite a bit, which feels great. I?m much too serious on walls. Why can?t I let go of the steering wheel Mr. Durden? I am not special. I am not a unique snowflake.

Sleep is not do-able this evening for me. At least I didn?t have ants in my pants like Andy. No, literally he apparently slept on an ant hill.  I?m up shortly after they blast at some time before 5am.  I eat breakfast that I had planned for on the wall. Keeping calorically hydrated is something I?m not too good at. So best to make the most of the time. Today, all I have to do is jug the overhanging lines, belay some pitches and lead one long pitch.



Pitch 3 and 4 seem to fly by. This is Kev territory. He'd been up to 4 before in a considerable ordeal. I could tell his motivation was running deep. There would be very little that could have dissuaded him from going up.



Pitch 5 and 6 on cmac (p6 on Nanook) went as a long pitch, and here Tom's pics really come into their own. It really looks, and at the time, feels like we're getting off the deck.






Up in this space is no-mans land. You are still low enough to retreat, and not quite high enough to feel compelled upward where "the only way down is up" makes sense both psychically and physically.



Fortunately, p5 and 6 cmac aren't terribly difficult aid, just wandering with a touch of free.





The free moves make this section a little hinkey for the follower and leader since you're really not able to get any decent free climbing gear in until you hit the upper bolts. The moves aren't bad, however, I forgot to extend some slings so the rope drag weighed me down.  Swearing began in earnest.







It felt like we were making really good time. Two pitches of the fixed, the fast movement thru 3 and 4, 5 & 6 linked. The only thing left to a decent ledge was getting thru the Black Tower pitch. Some think that this is the thin crux of the route. Fixed rurps. Fixed hawk. Some mank. and tiny brass justified the reputation. Kev wanted this pitch. But even before the thin section, there is a hollow feature with a crack running along its base. The gear questionable since the hand placed stuff came out on jug. The worst part was the sound. Carabiners would tap the flake as a terrifyingly audible reminder of what scheisse had been left behind. It was abundantly clear by now that there are still plenty of potential time bombs on this route.



Late in the day we started to see darkness in the sky. I mostly tried to ignore it believing instead in the power of the forecast. I had been using two locations for forecasts, one up canyon, the other down low. Fortunately my faith in the lower forecast was rewarded. Not that even a major storm would have prevented our ascension. The route is so overhanging, it really would make for a good winter opportunity with a couple bivis that are really sheltered well.



I stopped taking pics on the Black Tower pitch when Kev started into the thin. Shit was real, but he had it in hand.

We bivi'd on top of Tower pitch.



The next day we flagged Kev's ledge since the belays above would be mostly hanging and his A5 is not quite as easy to put together or take apart as my Fish. Though I have to mention that on the wall I complete forgot the sweet spot way to fold my Fish. It wasn't until high on the route that I would get it dialed in. I just hadn't been using it enough apparently.







And though our speed would slow higher on the wall, we seemed to be getting up and moving before other wall denizens. The shadow lines tended to stay away longer than I thought they would. Strange how when it's hot we prefer the stygian darkness and shadow. Another example of the how the ground perspective is not the same as the Wall perspective. Things always change on the wall. The one constant is that things will change. Time progresses and only allows minor adjustments to the flow of the River. The question is which river. One of oblivion and one of remembering.





Lighter rock and more sunshine progressed us upward. Kev taking us up into the bottom of that huge grey circle calling. How often have you wondered what it would be like to be up there in the middle of that section? Clinging to the Sierra batholith only halfway up.





Soon enough it was my turn. The hottest part of the day soon to be on us. Temperatures were warm down below. The only saving grace, a slight breeze like a woman's touch letting us know that it was still possible to be a suitor. In return, we didn't use steel on her. We used cam hooks in place of arrows into the heart of the Sierra.





Upleveling our 'game' with her, the adventure and the unknown stayed in the foreground. Why else pursue a love? If that love were an absolute given, we would not go after her in the first place. It's almost trite to say, but we desire what we cannot have.  Even though she felt just out of reach, we were emboldened by the possibility, not the forgone conclusion. Upward into small gear, semi-decent placements, and higher up, CF gear that if ripped would pull the stuff below it. The occasional rusted or flexing or cracked pin provided some respite in this type of environment.











The right facing corner turns to an oblique corner and the bottom of the so-labeled "Nipple" pitch. On top we would discuss with philosophical aspects of Le Capitan and whether it was a feminine form or masculine form. With features as supple as this, there wasn't any doubt in my mind. College humor would expect some immature vulgar act to be played out at the middle of this next pitch. In hindsight I was more of an adolescent fumbling my way around the bra strap of my adjustable daisies trying to feel up under for a way to get some. Even the topo describes it as 'awkward.'  

I should have known what I was doing with this lady. I at least had the courage to pluck up and ask her out by way of my cam hook talk. After the bolts you are out there by yourself. Sometimes hanging off a single camhook leapfrogging to get further and further right. I don't particularly like the idea of camhooks that grind down the granite any more than any other sketchy gear, but that "settling" of the placement is anything but settling. So out I went.







At some point you can get a couple tiny cams in. Not to be fallen on, but they definitely help keep your shit together. A few more cam hook moves get you to some C1 just before the Nipple proper. Here the crack widens and a bolt, just out of reach, means you ask to have the big gear tagged up. Several big pieces here make it less awkward than it could be. But you are elated to be on the good stuff... for now.





« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 07:18:16 pm by mungeclimber »

Offline cobbledik

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2013, 08:08:20 am »
Sounds about right so far. Good writing mungy.
Sometimes the difference between a layman and a journeyman is simply what he is allowed to believe himself to be.

Offline offset

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2013, 09:21:35 am »
TEASE!!

(but keep it comin  ;)

Offline Gagner

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2013, 08:50:18 pm »
WOOT --- Do, don't try!!

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2013, 12:03:07 am »
added in some more pics

and some music via embedded link.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 12:37:03 am by mungeclimber »

Offline Skully

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2013, 07:54:37 am »
diggin' it. The Zode is a cool Wall.

Offline cobbledik

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2013, 11:48:41 am »
Loving it, I'll need a whole new angle for my write up (harharhar angle)

Best part of the picture of pitch 4 is that there's no pro in yet at that point.
Sometimes the difference between a layman and a journeyman is simply what he is allowed to believe himself to be.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2013, 03:39:31 pm »
Mungo like cobble. cobble make funny.

arrows?! we don't need no stinking lost arrows.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2013, 06:21:02 pm »
Finally under the Mark of Zorro, I'm free to photograph the upper section, which doesn't do it justice. Small loose features. Questionable gear. The pitch wasn't given up easily. For me it feels just right, now that's it's over. We only do 3 pitches today, but they are the harder ones, or at least that's what I tell myself. The next day Kev works thru the steep and awkwardness to take us up under the Devil's Brow.















The pitch around the Devil's Brow proved interesting from what I could see at the belay. Bent over knifeblade, camhook, funky gear and more up. At the belay, I rather enjoyed it. The Brow cast a shadow that lasted until I was cleaning. To my right, beauty continued on the wall.













The pitch to Peanut ledge called for backcleaning, but didn't mention the hooking, or the pedestal that appears to be resting on nothing that you have to climb thru. Heat had done its dirty work. Everything was slow again for me. Mostly I put in pieces just to keep the rope drag from pulling my harness down. You can tell from half way thru the pitch that you have to save some gold and blue camalots for the last part to Peanut ledge. It's an amazing corner, and Peanut ledge is an amazing bivy. We could have tried to press on, but the bivi just seemed to say 'stay here, rest well, for tomorrow you play with wide cams and it won't be simple."









Peanut ledge was great. Beers, pics, talk, cell phone calls to Niels, to see if we could get some help off the top. I just don't enjoy the descents. They are the most dangerous parts and doing East Ledges with an overloaded ill fitting bag after getting heat soaked the last few days was not my idea of fun. Niels was awesome, and I don't believe it when he responds to my question of if he would help carry some weight off.... " why yes, I have a weak mind and strong back."

With that spirits are raised and I only need to get thru the wide run outs leap frogging big cams the next morning.











Soon the pitch is over, as is my whining. The sun immediately warms the corner. Only a couple more pitches to go.



Kev gets things moving with a hook and thin gear, traverse out left, then back right. Moderately straightforward for him, but loathesome lower outs for me. I don't particularly like lower outs. Did I mention that already? It took awhile as the wind had gusted up pretty good. Keeping loops clipped to me and available for lower outs was a balancing act, but an essentially one to avoid clustering myself. Forethought preventing bad situations is the lesson all Wall climbers eventually learn whether they want to or not.






The last pitch, I wonder about the big block on top that everyone uses to get to the anchor. "Loose" is the description on cmac. It is completely detached from the wall. Only its heft prevents it from coming off, so far.





« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 06:58:31 pm by mungeclimber »

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2013, 07:16:03 pm »




As I think of a way to finish this trip report and make something meaningful out of it, I diverted my attention to Rick A.'s post on Supertopo by chance. He begins his TR with the following quote. I'll instead try to end with it.

Quote
And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.

 Marcel Proust

And here at the end, I'll merely note that chance may have played its rude game upon us, but I am so glad to have played her game rather than not.

Offline GoMZ

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2013, 08:11:43 am »
Woo hoo, nice job my friend. I remember topping Zodiac as my first El Cap route, Such a great feeling, thanks for bringing back those memories. Great pics, great story, proud line.

Offline Erik Sloan

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2013, 11:40:03 am »
woohoo! Nice one fellas!

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2013, 06:02:32 pm »
thx guys. I just reread it, and now see all the spelling and grammatical errors I glossed over. I'll try and fix them up later.

It's strange. My finger tips still have moments of numbness. I sort of welcome it. A physical reminder.

Offline cobbledik

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2013, 06:04:47 pm »
My hands are still in their regrowing skin phase. Everything feels a little silky. Probably a sign that I should be back on the wall rather than giving myself the time to heal.
Sometimes the difference between a layman and a journeyman is simply what he is allowed to believe himself to be.

Offline Erik Sloan

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2013, 07:41:16 pm »
If you're fixing things Munge, the 5th pitch is the 5th pitch, not the 5th and 6th(you say it's the 6th on my topo). (this process also goes the other way, as the '92 Reid guide shows the S. Face of the Column as 10 pitches but everyone lead pitch 5 as pitch 5 and 6, so now they are known as those pitches).

Love the pics!

Offline *Mucci*

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2013, 10:33:45 am »
Nice work gentleman.

Offline MikeMcee

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2013, 10:14:59 am »
Hey Munge...congrats on the send. Great TR and even better pics.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2013, 10:55:30 am »
thx guys

still haven't fixed the text. sorry. mortal coil is closing its noose it would seem.

Offline Raaf

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2013, 11:13:42 am »
Sweet trip report Munge. I'm jealous of your Tom Evans photos. Moof and I were there the first week of May, just missing the ElCapPics season by a day or two.

You definitely found some of the same heads-up spots I remember so fondly. The pitch leading up to Peanut---with the detached block. Cringe-worthy. And how a rusty, cracked piton counts as "a respite" from what you've just been doing.

Offline offset

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2013, 11:23:42 am »
ya man!  i got to that detached block in the dark.. had no idea how detatched or wtf..   but it went!

nice send and killer write up!

Offline mhudon

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #20 on: June 18, 2013, 11:26:58 am »
Nice shots, Munge.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #21 on: June 18, 2013, 11:31:08 am »
thx guys, hoping Kev will have an opportunity to write up from his perspective.

I should have mentioned it but a lot of those pics are Kev's (e.g. shots of me are from Kev, and shots of Kev are from me).
And Tom's pics are easily recognizable, but I should call out a big thx again for having the opportunity to record the trip.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2013, 12:47:43 am »
If you're fixing things Munge, the 5th pitch is the 5th pitch, not the 5th and 6th(you say it's the 6th on my topo). (this process also goes the other way, as the '92 Reid guide shows the S. Face of the Column as 10 pitches but everyone lead pitch 5 as pitch 5 and 6, so now they are known as those pitches).

Love the pics!

Ok, I've read this a couple times now and still not sure what to fix. :)

p5 on your topo = p5 and p6 on cmac

no?

or is this a meta-discussion about the epistemic qualities of which topo is most current, and thus considered authoritative?

I gotta go post modern on this one. I'm suspicious of any meta narrative claiming an authoritative legitimizing stance.

Viva la micro sites. Viva la individual stories.

Viva las cervezas!

Offline Skully

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2013, 07:07:50 am »
Nicely done O Mungie one. Good fricken pics in there, too.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2013, 08:28:01 pm »
Thx Skullbro. Now that some time has passed it starting to sync in how cool it was.

Very distinct memories.

wide pitch above Peanut

Nipple pitch

chilling watching stuff go by with no sense of time (or at least no recollection of time at that time, if you know what I mean) up at the brow.

Offline cobbledik

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2013, 03:57:53 pm »
Strange that what I remember most was the systems. What went wrong at first, tricks I figured out to overcome them, the difference in movement between the first and last day, body hauling a new way at the very top. I guess I climb more for the engineering rather than anything else. That and to escape the ground.
Sometimes the difference between a layman and a journeyman is simply what he is allowed to believe himself to be.

Offline Paul Brennan

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #26 on: July 31, 2013, 04:39:56 pm »
Good report lads, great photos. I remember very little of this route, its all coalesced into one large blob of fun in my memory. Except for not really having the right gear for p14, which made it a bit trouser filling. Looking forward to getting back on El Big Thing when my ankle is better and I'm on the right continent! Whats next on the list?

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2013, 05:44:12 pm »
Quote
Whats next on the list?

I got a jones to get free climbing and do the Nose now. As much as I hate getting in a line up, I might try an early season ascent with an overnight component to it. Not full haul drag situation if I can help it. 

But I gotta get training if that's the case.

Offline Erik Sloan

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2013, 05:07:26 am »
No one on the Nose right now. Folks that climbed it last week reported breezy, 70 degree weather up there.

Thankfully a mighty group of foreign climbers are crushing Lost in America in three separate parties each two pitches apart.

Go for it Munge!

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Kneel before Zod
« Reply #29 on: August 01, 2013, 09:52:21 am »
would that a I could right now!

actually my next bit of coveted time off will be some backcountry in the Sierra. Really getting stoked for that. Blowing off a Whitney permit too to make it happen.