Ever since I started climbing on ropes last year, I’ve thought about getting on some multi-pitch/big wall climbing sometime in the distant future. But then I went to Yosemite for the first time with some friends a few weeks ago, and when I looked up at El Capitan at night I counted 24 flashlights (14 lights on The Nose alone). After that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it anymore.
Yosemite Big Walls - Mirko Caballero
On a Tuesday evening we went to an ASCA Fundraiser Auction hosted by Tommy Caldwell and Chris McNamara at Planet Granite San Francisco. I noticed that one of the items being auctioned off was Climbing The Nose on El Capitan with Jim Herson, I ran over to my Dad and begged him to bid on it, and before I knew it my Dad had won the bidding war!!!!!! We went to talk with Jim and he said we should start training for it right away. Jim told me that he was going to climb The Rostrum, 8 pitches, 5.11c with some friends that coming Sunday, and told me I could join them, or I could come the following weekend for an easier climb. After mulling it over for a day, I called him and said I was up for The Rostrum... I must confess that I may have been a teensy bitsy scared, so on Thursday I tried some crack climbing for my first time ever at the gym! It was really really hard. I was starting to get really concerned now that I realized how hard crack climbing actually was.
On Saturday as we were getting into Yosemite Valley, we spotted Tommy Caldwell and Jonathan Siegrist on the side of the road, who were preparing to go up El Capitan to work on their monster Dawn Wall project. I stopped to say Hi, and we had a brief chat. I then went bouldering and in the afternoon I met Alex Honnold at Camp 4, who had just come down from a big wall climb. We ended up bouldering together until it got dark. Alex showed me around a bunch of Yosemite Classics that were medium difficulty climbs. It was so Sick to boulder with Alex!!!
As we were bouldering, we had a little conversation that went something like this:
Alex: Mirko, what are you doing tomorrow
Me: I’m climbing my first multi-pitch with Jim Herson
Alex: Oh cool! Which one?
Me: The Rostrum!
Alex: Great route! That’s your first multi-pitch?
Alex: How’s your crack climbing?
Me: Well I tried for the first time on Thursday in the gym
Me: ...and I just sent Bachar Cracker, my first crack boulder problem today
Alex: And you’re doing The Rostrum?!?!?!? Dude, that's badass!!!
Well... Now I was a teensy colossal bit scared....
A little later in the evening we saw Dan and Luke at the pizza deck in Curry Village.
Dan & Luke: So Mirko, what are you climbing tomorrow?
Me: My first multi-pitch and my first crack climb
Dan & Luke: Which one?
Me: The Rostrum!
Dan & Luke: Really?? Dude! Good luck....
Ok, now I was ridiculously freaked out.....
Sunday morning!!! It was finally Sunday morning which meant today was the big day, and as you know I was really really really scared. We met up with Jim and Chan at the Bridalvail Fall parking lot and they drove me up to the top of the climb. After a fifteen minutes descent and two rappels later we were at the base of The Rostrum!!!! I was so focused, I was in the zone, and before I knew it I was starting up the third pitch and was really enjoying myself. It wasn't quite as scary as I thought it would be.
After struggling on what felt like the longest crack in the world I was finally at the base of the "crux" fourth pitch. Even though the fourth pitch was graded the hardest it felt rather easy. Sadly I only realized this when I was halfway through the indescribably hard pitch six, but we'll get to that later. And so by the time I finished the fourth pitch I was psyched!! I had just flashed every pitch including the "hardest" pitch of the route!! Now with my motivation high I was able to run up pitch five relatively easily. And by now I was really psyched!! And I went up pitch six feeling super strong until... The off-width section *drum rolls... dramatic music...* and that is when I realized that pitch four was far from being the hardest pitch -- at least for me. So after about 15 minutes of pulling on nonexistent crimps on the face on the side of the off-width I made it to the top of the pitch!!!
Finally!!! Now only two pitches left!!! As I scaled up the seventh pitch a thought came through my head. Every move I do, the higher I am than I've ever been!! After an 80 foot pitch climb there was only one move left and I was pumped and tired so I pulled my feet up and 1...2...3!! I dynoed and just barely caught the lip of the ledge. Only one pitch left!!! Oh, wait.... it's another off-width!!! But I just told myself that if I made it this far I could do just one more pitch. So one awkward traverse and a not so hard off-width later I reached the top of my first ever multi-pitch climb and my first ever crack climb, having climbed every pitch clean without falling!!! The view from the top of The Rostrum is incredible!!! After fifteen minutes we were at the car and drove to the El Capitan Meadow to meet up with my parents.
At the meadow:
Matt (friend of Jim): So did you lay back all the cracks?
Me: Yup, pretty much!! :)
My Dad: How did the off-width go?
Jim: What off-width? He found some nonexistent crimps, and face climbed it…
My Dad: Haha that sounds about right!!
As we were saying goodbye, Jim told us that he would be in Yosemite the following weekend and that I was welcome to climb with him and his daughter Kara on Sunday. And so without hesitation I accepted his offer!!
I got an email from Alex Honnold asking me how it went, and then congratulating me!!! He then said that we should climb something together sometime. He said he would think about something “interesting”!!! Ok... seriously... what does it mean when Alex wants to climb something “interesting”??? I’m both super psyched and super freaked!!!
On Saturday my Mom and I drove to Yosemite. We got there around 12:30pm and we went to Camp 4 for some bouldering. The first thing I tried after warming up was a V10 called 6 Degrees. I almost did it second try and fell on like the last move and missed the pads and bruised my ankle a little, so I stopped trying it. Next time!!! (with more pads hopefully:)). I then went to try a climb called Don't Make Me Kick Your Ass, V9. I sent it on my third try in only fifteen minutes!! I then went back up the hill and tried an unclimbed problem I had my eyes on.
I cleaned it tried it a few times and broke off a few holds, and then I sent it!! I called it Biggie Short V6/7 do to it being pretty short but powerful. I then walked around the boulder and flashed two V5's and one V6 and then tried Tap Dance V10. After working it hard I finally figured out all the moves I just had to put them together!! And about ten minutes later I found myself repetitively falling on the last hard move!! I took a five minute break and sent Tap Dance V10 (my eleventh double digit boulder)!!!!
The next day I went with Jim and Kara to climb the first thirteen pitches of The Nose on El Capitan!!!! Just to be clear, Kara is a pretty badass climber! She has done a lot of multi-pitching in Yosemite, and has climbed a 22-pitch route on Half Dome with her Dad a year ago!!!
Ok, back to The Nose... Let me tell you that it was just downright TERRIFYING!!!!! It was soooo much more exposed than The Rostrum, and it was freaky windy, and the last off-width was really hard, and it got sooo cold on the rappels down... Oh, and there is that Big Swing where you have to run across the face hanging on the rope to catch a flake... But I have to say that in the end it was just really AWESOME!!! It got me really psyched to try to do the full route!!!
The Nose it a beautiful 32-pitch monster rated 5.14a scaling straight up through the middle of this gigantic 3,000 ft. (1,000 m.) granite wall in the middle of Yosemite Valley!! It was first free climbed by the incredible Lynn Hill!!
Long story short, I am totally psyched...elically hooked!!!!