Another mauzy evening in St. John's. It's only 6:30pm, but the sun has already set. I (Nick) am sitting in front of my laptop at our kitchen table, hunched over a sprawling pile of notes, staring through glazed eyes at slide 44/112 in a lecture titled "Nineteenth Century Foundations of Experimental Psychology." After 45 minutes of studying, my pace has ground to a halt. I absentmindedly open a new tab in my browser and type "yosemite mountain project" into google.
Daniel, Erik, and I have been planning a climbing road trip for over two months now. The three of us have a spreadsheet titled "Big Trip 2016: Finances," and Erik started a slideshow where we can lay out a vague plan for the route, and the places we will visit. I open this slideshow in another new tab. There are 7 slides, but only 4 of them have content; its just a skeleton. Slide 3/7, "Yosemite," is the only one with an image.
Back on mountainproject.com, I search for "El Capitan," and immediately start browsing through world-famous routes. Although all are renowned in their own right, two climbs in particular stand out: "The Nose," and "The Salathe Wall." I open the page for The Salathe Wall, and feel my vitality returning immediately.
The hardest part of any big objective is getting started. Apprehension and nerves are rampant. However, once underway, even the most daunting projects can unfold with relatively little anxiety and stress. This is a detailed account of the Choss Boys' most ambitious climb to date.
The Salathe Wall on El Capitan is 35 pitches, with 3500 feet of climbing; the difficulty rating is "5.13b or 5.9 C2". Since the Choss Boys were not skilled enough to free climb 5.13b, it required using a combination of free climbing and aid climbing. After training for months leading up to and during their time in Yosemite, the Choss Boys finally committed to the climb at the beginning of November, 2016.
We arrived in Yosemite valley rife with stoke from our brief introduction to aid climbing in Smith Rock. The first thing we did upon our arrival was rush straight to the base of El Capitan and climb one of the valley's most famous single-pitch climbs, Sacherer Cracker.
The next three days were spent honing our big wall techniques: aid climbing, hauling, and managing logistics as a team of three. After substantial practice, and careful analysis of our timing, the decision was made to commit to our first multi-day wall ascent, the West Face of Leaning Tower.
Having left the Bugaboos early due to bad weather, Nick seemed to have a hole in his heart where the summit of South Howser Tower should have been. It was unsurprising that his unfaltering summit lust was replaced by another massive objective on our way South: The North Ridge of Mount Stuart, in Washington State.
And thus began the Choss Boys biggest epic to date.
I (Dave) have joined Nick and Dan for three and a half months of climbing! For the last 5 years, a road trip around the United States has been a big goal of mine. Recent grad school acceptance has led me to resigning from my job and joining Nick and Dan under pretty short notice – It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to join the "Choss Boys" after they planned such an amazing trip!
Living in the "Chossmobile" (a 1985 Dodge Ram Get-Away Van) is more comfortable than I initially expected, but not without its quirks – here are a few stray observations from the first couple weeks on the road.
The iconic Monkey's face has allured me (Nick) for years. I've often found myself staring at it on the bathroom wall of our local climbing gym. A retro picture of the misshapen monkey's head hung above the Wallnuts toilet years before we even began contemplating this road trip.
When we arrived in Smith Rock, Oregan, my only ambition was to stand on top of that monkey's giant head! No sooner than our second day there, I set our bearings straight for Stone Kong.
On their way South from Canada, the Choss Boys stopped in Washington to sample the granite wonders around Leavenworth. Below are photos from three days of fun climbing in the craggy hillsides.
4 AM again. True to the Chossboys style, Daniel and I (Nick) had attempted to climb the Northeast ridge of Bugaboo Spire the previous Wednesday, but instead got hopelessly lost. After four hours of scrambling up steep, dangerously loose choss in complete darkness, the sunrise revealed how far we were from the climb. Using bail gear left by equally disoriented climbers, we retreated back to camp and made damn sure to scout the proper way for next time.
So there we were, this time following the true approach. The night was quiet and still. A clear sky and soft breeze filtered in from the North and kept us shivering well into our hike. As if to spite our reconnaissance efforts, cosmic forces cast our approach in the beautiful, bright light of a full moon. In the dead of night, Daniel and I were preceded by our shadows all the way to the start of the climb: a softly illuminated right-facing slab.
The very first people we met in the Bugaboos were two robust older men named Pat and Paul. Pat is 70 years old and Paul is 77. They started the long, grueling approach from the Bugaboo parking lot ahead of us and were resting 100 meters from the campground. Nick and I (Daniel), eager to arrive at the campsite, briefly and politely stopped to chat with the two obviously seasoned mountaineers. Although evidently winded by the steep hike, their beaming grins, deep satisfying breaths, and willing conversation revealed authentic appreciation for the scenery and tranquility of the mountains. Later that evening, they recounted stories of their rich climbing and mountaineering history. We became friends quickly.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
Having considered an alpine start to the famously long Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, Daniel and I (Nick) were instead tempted by new friends into taking on a shorter and more leisurely objective: The West Ridge of Pigeon Spire.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
Keep up to date with our adventures! Subscribe below to get an email for each new blog post.