Regular North West Face Of Half Dome (Free Variation)
Regular North West Face Of Half Dome (Free Variation)
Followed by a few days of rest due to the rain, Jimmy Fair and I set out on the 8 mile hike to the base of Half Dome, via the John Muir Trail. As I awoke Sunday morning, I was not really nervous nor excited, I was however, experiencing a sense of calmness, but not sure why. Normally I lose sleep with racing thoughts about what it's going to be like, but not this route.
As we approached the base I was in awe, as the very first thing I saw was the 3 pitch Chimney section on pitch 14-17. It was right then, that I got excited, and knew I was ready to climb the Dome. We fixed 3 pitches that night which took about 1.5 hours and it felt good. Looking at an early start to the next day we cooked, using the Jet Boil Flash of course, a Back Packers Pantry meal, which is full of good salt and calories and not to mention, extremely light and easy to pack.
The night was chilly so I'm glad I brought my Sierra Design Ridge Runner 30 degree bag. It seemed as though ideal for the four hours of sleep I was about to get. As I was laying there starring up at the silhouette of the dome, I got super antsy and overwhelmed with excitement for the following day, to be up there on, and a part of this beautiful peace of stone.
As the alarm sounded at 3:20 am, I was not exactly ready to get out of my bag, as the air was frosty and I was warm, but it was indeed time to send. Bundled up in my Marmot Variant Jacket I strapped on my cold shoes and started juggling my line to the top of pitch 3. Jimmy soon followed. We were accompanied by two other parties that day and it seemed as though all of us had been climbing at the same pace, which was fun. But because we were climbing the Free Varation, our route veered off their normal route by 5 pitches, so we split but knew we'd meet up with them again later.
As pitch 4 was mine it started with a nice 11b traverse to an awesome 11a off width. As I got into the wide section I soon realized it's tough. Working my way up, inching my way up, breathing hard, I get to the top, reach for a solid hold and soon come to find out it was not what I want........ POP, I yell falling and I soar in to the sky taking a solid 15 foot wipe. Weee I yell, excited to take the fall as energy is running through my body. I get back on the OW and make it to the top. Next pitch is Jimmy's. Starting a hard start to a sandy ledge, dino-Jimmy works his way nicely through the tough 5.12 section. . We linked the next 2 pitches which were pretty straight forward. Jimmy lead pitch 7 to 10 which was chhossy and full of loose rock. After a few "ROCK" calls, I met up with Jimmy and took over to head up to the Erickson Traverse. Still slightly wet and chilly out, I made my way up and over the traverse and to a ratty sun baked sling. I lowered Jimmy down to the bottom of pitch 13 but when I lowered him, I lowered him too low to a manky belay again. As I wrapped down to him I say “why are you over there? Don't we need to be over that way about 80 feet?" "Yep, but this is where I got to so, we will need to traverse over,” he says. “ So here is the rack man." Not super stoked to lead this after I just lead 2 pitches, but I grabbed the rack, headed over, and luckily while moving through it, I realized it was not as bad as I had thought.
Upon reaching pitch 13, we caught back up to the other climbing teams, and at that point, decided to let them head up a few pitches ahead of us. It was noon, still chilly, and we were hungry so stopping for 20 minutes or so sounded way good. After some good eats, it was time for the beautiful Chimney Section that first caught my eye from the ground. As I worked my way up this wide section I was just hooting and hollering with excitement. Something about being fully jammed in this big section of rock just tickles my stomach. I worked my way out of pitch 14 onto a thin finger crack that lead me to a hanging belay. Jimmy followed me up and to the belay. The next 3 pitches I linked because stopping was just not fun nor time efficient. Running out the pitch, 230 feet, and we finally felt some sun. It was good to get warm but still not warm enough to strip of the marmot Variant Jacket.
After leading the last 5 pitches, Jimmy took over the next block and styled the climb all the way to pitch 21. With Jimmy moving fast it felt great to be on track. At this point, looking at the shadows moving through the valley and crawling up the base of Half Dome, we knew we weren't blessed with much more daylight for this climb. Knowing this, we kicked it into high gear and powered through the Zig Zags to Thank God Ledge .
WOW what an awesome one to two foot wide ledge that’s just about 80 feet long with nothing but air below you. Hearing stories that you should crawl the ledge, I decided that I could walk the narrow section. Bah! I quickly realized that it's wicked scary and that it was a really bad idea in reality. After two feet I quickly dropped down to my knees and crawled the 80 foot ledge.
With only 2 pitches to go, we were aware now, that we'd be doing them in head lamps. With the darkness approaching quickly, I hurried through those 2 pitches and soon found myself on the big blocks right below the summit.
As I was belaying Jimmy, the sun was at dusk and looking down to the valley floor, I started to see the lights of all the campers on the ground. It was truly the best sunset I have ever seen. And because it was accompanied by the excitement of achieving my goal, your damn right I had the biggest smile on my face as Jimmy approached me. With 200 feet to walk to the summit, Jimmy and I 4th classed up to the vacant Summit. Hugs and smiles were coming in at 9:15pm, making it just 16 hours that he and I had summited Half Dome. We placed a quick phone call to my Dad, and one to Jimmy's mom (who didn't seem too happy that he was calling her at 11:15 her time) before making our way down to the base and into our bags, for a well deserved and much needed good night's sleep.