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Yosemite: West face of Leaning Tower (5.7 C2F)

How better to ring in Cinco de Mayo with a bigwall climb of the West Face of Leaning Tower?  What a great time I had in Yosemite last week.  MattL and I packed for WFLT on Monday, Blasted to the Valley on Tuesday, and were back home by Friday evening (with daylight to spare!)  It was a very successful trip.  The climb went down like this:

Monday, 5/4

Prep day.  We racked, packed, and shopped for food.

Tuesday, 5/5 (Cinco de Mayo!)

Drive to Yosemite.  Hike to the bivy spot.  Ferry loads across the traverse to the base of the climb.  I led P1, hitting the anchors as the sun set.  I built an anchor and rappelled (whoo, that’s exciting on such an overhanging wall)!We had a nice dinner of Tasty Bites (mmmm yummy!) and went to sleep.

Wednesday, 5/6

Blast off!  We get woken up around 5am by some “we’re doing a smoke free ascent” climbers that plan on blasting the whole route in a day.  They continue across the traverse, and we go back to sleep, the alarm is set for 6:45 am.  Wakeup time arrives, we pack up and head out.  I jug up to the top of P1, and continue the lead through P2 then tag up the belay seat and haul line.  Matt taught me a new way to jug, and I have to say, it works really well on overhanging terrain (and not half bad on low angle terrain either!).

Matt arrives shortly after the haulbag, and re-racks to push us to Ahwahnee Ledge.  Turns out we made good pitch choices because P2 & P3 had some looong reaches between placements, and Matt even had to bust out a couple of free moves here and there.

The only annoying incident on the whole climb occurred on Matt’s lead.  The two climbers who passed us in the morning decided to bail from Ahwahnee, and ended up tossing their ropes down on Matt when he was in the crux.  Then when they got to my belay station (which was already a clusterfuck of twisted and tangled ropes), it was very difficult for me to feed out slack when Matt needed it since there were three of us sitting on top of each other. Finally they rapped down and I finished untangling the ropes.  (Note to self:  use the rope bag, silly!)  Other than a few tangled ropes during the chimney rappel at the end of the climb, this was the only time we had any trouble with rope tangles.  Luckily Matt didn’t complain too much about me short roping him!  Lesson learned.

I jugged and cleaned without too much trouble, and made it to Ahwahnee for a late lunch (mmm PB&J tortilla followed by a cheese sandwich).  Next up was the routes crux pitch:  P5, which diagonals right at about a 45 degree angle through a thin seam into a vertical flared handcrack to the anchor, followed by P6 which starts with some free moves. to a bolt ladder that traverses back left to the anchor.  These pitches were actually quite a lot of fun!  I managed to aid through most of the free section, with the exception of one or two free moves over a perfect BD grappling hook placement to get to the bolt ladder. (even without tape, the hook stayed on through Matt’s cleaning!).  I rapped down to Ahwahnee with light remaining, just as the sun set, and we had a pleasant evening chowing down.  Turns out it was a full moon as well, so I slept well until it rose overhead, then it was practically bright as daylight, so I didn’t sleep so well until it set again.

Thursday, 5/7

We’re through the crux of the climb, but even so we decide to get going a bit earlier.  So the alarm goes off at 6am and I’m jugging up  by about 7:30am.  The jug goes uneventfully, and I’m hauling (with Matt lowering out the haulbag from Ahwahnee) shortly thereafter.  He cleans both traversing pitches remarkably fast, and is at the anchor in what seems like no time at all.  The next pitch is his (140 feet of steep C1 or 5.11b crack).  We decide to split up the last 4 pitches insted of trying to run them together.  This turns out to be a great choice.  About 5 or 6 placements off the belay, I’m zoning out when all of a sudden, POW! I get lifted up off of the belay almost to the end of my daisy, as Matt falls about 8 – 10 feet or so.  Turns out the nut he had been hanging on for a while decided to pop!

Turns out he was trying to conserve cams by placing a lot of nuts (and then ended up at the belay with tons of cams left!).  So he replaced the crappy nut with a good cam and continued on, energized now!  Eventually he gets to the anchor and I come up cleaning lots of nuts (which wasn’t actually too bad at all.  Only one of them took much effort).

When I get to the anchor, it turns out that the next pitch looks like it is even shorter than Supertopo says, so we change the strategy somewhat and I link it with the super steep P9.  Damn, that thing was steep!  Luckily I was in the shade for the entire climb until I topped out on the ledge system at the top.  Matt however, had to sit in the blazing sun while I led this massively overhanging pitch.  This pitch was definitely the most strenuous pitch on the entire climb.  Did I mention this pitch was steep?

I make it to the anchors, which are on a great ledge.  The hauling goes easily and I’m psyched that we’re almost done, and Matt gets to lead us up the final 80 foot pitch to the top (well, not the top top, but close enough).  When he gets to the anchors though, it’s clear that he is in bad shape.  Seems like all of the sun has given him some problems, and he’s feeling completely sick.  I think his words are something like “dude, it would be bad for both of us if I hurled on lead”.  So after hanging out to give him a chance to recover, I take the lead and bring us to the top!

We top out again around 7pm, and Matt scrambles up to the top to check out the descent.  We decide to bivy here and do the descent in the morning.  We still have plenty of food and water, and it’s another beautiful night.

Friday, 5/8

We take our time getting moving, basking in our Success.  Matt feels better in the morning, and luckily offers to ride the pig down the descent with nary a complaint.  I take the rack and the tagline.  The first chimney rappel is actually quite a bit of fun, but the low angle stuff is just miserable.  I went first on all of the rappels, and I had to sit and spend about 15-20 minutes untangling the ropes at least once.  After that I was way more careful to keep them separate and untangled.  Finally we get to the last chimney rappel and then it’s straight down from there.  The final two raps were nicely vertical, and we were on the ground by about 1pm.  All in all it probably took us at least 4 hours to hit the dirt from the top.  We were both glad that we didn’t do the rappel the night before.

After a quick repack at the bivy site, down the talus we went.  We were back at the car before 2pm, and on the way home shortly thereafter.

Whoo! What a great climb!  Both of us had been up to Leaning Tower before (Matt several times), and both of us had bailed on it, so we were both especially psyched that we made it.  Oh yeah!  This was a great training trip to prep for El Cap at the end of the month!

Phew, this story is way too long.  I guess I’m just verbose!

Now it’s off to Yosemite for the week, home on Friday, then back to Yosemite for PGVIP this weekend.



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