Brendan and I have wanted to climb the Nose IAD for quite some time and we finally made it happen on 5/9/2009. Two years earlier in June of 2007 Brendan and I had climbed the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome with perhaps the least amount of preparation I had ever had on such a climb (after months of literally ZERO climbing we had one day in the gym and a couple hours after work in LCC) and fortunately it went off without a hitch. However, the Nose, is a much bigger deal, with much more aid climbing and jugging, two things that Brendan and I had managed to avoid for most of our climbing lives. Brendan had done the Nose several times, the first time in ~4 days and the next around ~30(?) hours. As such, I was leaning heavily on his knowledge of the route. He was methodical about the importance of having our systems dialed for short-fixing and jugging. We went to LCC several times and also hit Momentum probably about 4-5 times, all of which proved to be very helpful on the route. However, one thing that simply can’t be simulated in a gym or on 2-3 hr sessions in LCC and that is the aid climbing on the Nose.
I was a completely terrible aid climber before the Nose and after the Nose I consider myself quite a bit better, but still not great. Starting at 5:30 AM we made great time up through Sickle Ledges, the Stovelegs, and through the Jardine Traverse. We slowed down tons on the pitch just above Jardine as it started to turn into aid climbing (for us at least). We made it to the Great Roof (pitch 21) in ~ 9 hrs. Not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, but we were happy with it. The Great Roof was wet and the crack had a nice coating of green slime in it. I was hesitant with every placement and as a result climbed it frustratingly slowly…. sorry Brendan. The following pitch, known as Pancake Flake, lived up to its reputation and was absolutely fantastic. We made it another few pitches before the sun set and the headlamps came on. At this point our rate decreased dramatically. We got the rope stuck several times, which cost us time. The Changing Corners pitch (pitch 27) was soaking wet and Brendan graciously lead it, doing a fabulous job given the conditions. We plugged along and ended up topping out 3:45 AM for a total of just under 22 hrs 15 minutes for the 31 pitch route. The hike off was great despite the fact that we were out of water and food.
We met Mindy and Vanessa who had sacrificed their night worrying about us from the valley floor. We had breakfast and then jumped in the car and drove home. Well, I should say, Mindy and Vanessa drove home as Brendan and I were were fairly worked.
We satisfied my rule of more pitches than hours in the car 31 vs. ~26 so that is good. It is, however, a bit ridiculous to drive 26 hrs for a single day of climbing, but we had a serious case of obsession going on. I now understand how climbing El Capitan can become so addictive. I found myself feeling a strong urge to go right back and climb it again as we were driving home. With all that we learned I think that Brendan and I could easily cut our time in half and with some more work take more time off. But… it’s time to get back to all the other things that I have going this summer…. directing the Pocatello 50, running Lake City 50, Hardrock 100, Grand Traverse, and then Wasatch 100. Life is fabulous.
Mindy and Vanessa were incredible on this quick trip. So supportive and positive. They knew how much this meant to Brendan and I. We are so lucky.