Quick TR of my trip a little over a week ago to get on the Regular Northwest Face of Halfdome in Yosemite Valley.
My friend Yaman and I have been trying to get on this route together for over a year, but between our schedules and route conditions, we only just managed to get it done. We tried it in October of 2011, but were chased off the lower pitches by cantaloupe sized ice missiles falling from the top that were exploding around us. Mental note, don't get on this route if a large storm has dropped significant snow on top of HD only a few days prior.
I flew into Burbank on Friday night, and Yaman picked me up. We crashed at a trashy motel in Fresno, complete with a pregnant looking "lady of the night" wandering the parking lot.
We drove into Yosemite the next day, where we shoved an entire large pizza from Curry Village into a couple ziplock bags and started up the slabs approach. 4 hours later we were at the base, where we climbed the first 3 pitches, leaving them fixed to give us a head start the next morning.
My friend Yaman on the fixed ropes. We wasted the good weather day sweating on the approach.\:
The original plan had been to climb to Big Sandy Ledge (top of pitch 17) on Sunday and bivy. Then climb the last 5 or 6 pitches on Monday, hike out, and make it back to Burbank in time for my Tuesday morning flight home. However, at the last minute the weather forecaster moved the predicted "chance of showers" comment up a day, from Tuesday to Monday. Not wanting to climb in the rain, we decided to speed the schedule up by climbing the whole route on Sunday. To do this we double checked the headlamp batteries, and ditched the sleeping bag, bivy sack, extra rope (if we needed to bail, we would "bail up"), and half the water. I figured this would lighten the packs enough to speed us through a day ascent...
We started at 4:30am. We made fairly good time up to Big Sandy Ledge, getting there just as it got dark at about 6:30pm. With about 5 pitches to go, we were on track to top out by midnight, or so we thought . . .
Yaman belaying me on pitch 10
Yaman follows one of the chimney pitches:
Me, with more chimneys to go!
Sunset from just below Big Sandy Ledge
We took our only break of the day there (maybe 10 minutes) to eat and drink. I then launched up into the zig zags. Turns out that learning to aid climb on a 2,200ft wall may not have been the brightest idea I've ever had. At 12:30pm I was at the top of the zig-zags, after having taken a 30 foot whipper. 3 pitches left, and it was starting to SNOW!
Me, at he belay above the zig zags as it was starting to snow:
The last 3 pitches were a bit of a blur. They took us a total of 8 hours! The rock quickly became plastered in snow, and anything resembling friction vanished. I had to break the last "5.7 friction" pitch up into 3 pitches and employ a combination of aid and sketchy free climbing on snow covered holds to get to the top. At that point we were on the summit of Half Dome in a blizzard, at 8:30am, and we'd been moving for 28 straight hours.
Yaman, following the first pitch of the 3-pitch-long "last pitch".
Summit at 8:30am
I was worried that we wouldn't be able to find the cables if they were covered in snow, but that wasn't an issue. We did several rappels to get down the cables, and our hands were both totally numb due to the wind and cold. Since we were exhausted and didn't bring crampons, we thought it would be too dangerous to go back down the slabs descent, so we just hiked out the standard trail. Good bye sleeping bags .
Rapping the cables
While it was a good climb, and we did top it out, we kind of got our butts kicked!
But it was all worth it when . . .
More photos and some fun videos (which aren't embedding for some reason) here: