1998: The summer of sloth

Move out of my apartment and start living in the library at work. Homeless!

Go to Yosemite to try The Shield. It was wet so we decided to test my ankle with the approach to Washington's Column instead. Made it to dinner ledge and spent a night soaked in the portaledge. Drag. Drove home and sport climbed at the Pinnacles instead. Sigh. I've had enough of El Ñino now thanks.

My last day at work! I am now officially jobless and homeless.

The plan: Pick up Paul at the airport, drive to the valley, and do Mescalito.

Things that have gone wrong (so far):

Things that have gone wrong (so far, continued):

Things that have gone wrong (so far, continued some more):

Things that have gone wrong (so far, continued again):

The new plan: Blast off on The Muir tomorrow morning.

Next chapter: Things that go right (hopefully).

Things that have gone wrong (so far, continued some more, sigh):

Blast off on The Muir!

Around 10am we wake up and talk things over. The conclusion is that this trip is cursed and going on seems sketchy. Paul is convinced that our downfall was hauling the route instead of the fixed ropes to The Heart, but I know the turning point was really when he stepped on the frog. It reminds me of the time Dennis wanted to bail from the 20th pitch on the Salathe because he had a blister on his toe.

Paul and I go down.

We switch from Big Wall mode to Sport Climbing mode and with Paul leading tick: Church Bowl Tree(10b), Energizer(11b), Bitches Terror(11a), The Tube(11a), Desperate Straights(10a), and Skin Heads(10d).

Cragging at the base of El Cap: Moby Dick Center(10a), Ahab(10b TR), Sacherer Cracker(10a), Short But Thin(11b TR), and La Cosita Right(9).

In Big Sur with Monique to celebrate my birthday.

AM: Wake up with Monique in the Clairmont hotel in Oakland.
PM: Get woken up by sleet as I bivy alone outside Yosemite.

Storm Clouds... Mark and I decide not to try Lost Arrow Direct. Instead, we think we'll try Southern Man on the Column tomorrow if the weather holds.

Climb to dinner Dinner Ledge and Mark fixes one pitch above. Mark has pulled the haul line out of my reach, so I call up to him to toss it down (Meaning: lower me an end so I can tie your headlamp on). I watch in horror as Mark tosses the haul line off the wall. In denial about what just happened I call up for him to toss down the other end... He of course replies "What other end?" Looks like we wont be fixing another pitch tonight, and in fact, its not obvious how we'll get off he wall at all... I clean the pitch and go in search of our rope. Luckily, it got caught up in a tree and was retrievable. Whew!
Mental note: Be careful what you say to new partners.

I go up to work on he next pitch. Unfortunately our topo sucks and I can't find a pendo point. End up just following the South Face route up until a point where we can do an easy traverse onto our route. Mark leads another pitch, and then its my turn again (after I have him do the 5.7 moves to the first bolt). I end up completely stymied. Its a 5" crack, and we have no 5" gear. I contemplate free moves, but the pro is not inspiring. We decide to bail as I tie off a loose block. (Later we would find out that there are drilled holes to avoid the wide section of this pitch, I never saw them...). As we descend it begins to rain again. Sigh.

I'm supposed to pick up Monique at the 120 entrance station, but I am stopped by of all things: Chain Control! In late May?!? No officer, I don't have chains... Its a 2 1/2 hour drive to the gate via 120 and 49, and then another cold went night in the car.

Monique and I ride the Green Dragon. Something I've always wanted to do.

Monique's first rock climb: The Grack. All goes well.

Test out my ankle on the Vernal/Nevada falls hike. Ouch! Monique goes back to the real world in the Bay Area. I pick up Kim, friend and climbing partner du jour.

Cragging with Kim. After a late start we went to look at Nutcracker. It was a zoo so we moved on to Cascade Falls. Did Golden Needles(5.8) and Jug Monkey(5.9). Golden Needles was really fun. The roof at the end was wild. The bolt on Jug Monkey is off route and the route isn't worth doing. I wanted to try Free Press(10a), but it was under water.

Back to Manure Pile at 4pm, the crowds were high enough on Nutcracker that we decided to give it a go. Did the 5.9 start, wet 5.7 liebacking, and the final two stellar pitches. Made it back to the car just before we would have had to break out headlamps.

Sort gear, apply duct tape, shower, laundry.

Ian arrives. He and I rack for New Dawn. The plan is to fix the first three tomorrow and then to spend 6 days and 5 nights on the wall. Time to do a little sun dance...

After fixing the first three pitches, Ian decides El Cap isn't a place he feels like being. He drives home. I sleep alone at the base of The Captain.

Perfect weather.
No partner.

Pull the gear and fixed ropes from our highpoint and sulk.

I Decide to clear my funk by free soloing. I do: Pot Belly(5.7), Anti-Ego Crack(5.7), Sloth Wall(5.7), and After 6(5.6). Near After 6, I notice some folks I know top roping Beer Pressure(10a), I catch a ride and then ask if I can borrow their Gri-Gri for a few days (the one piece of important gear Ian took with him). I'm now set up to be able to solo a wall, but of course, the rain comes again...

Sulk some more.

Sulking gets old. Despite the poor weather my plan is to hike up to Washington's Column and try to solo a route. As I discuss this with a stranger over pancakes at the cafeteria, a new plan emerges: drive to The Gorge for some warm dry sport climbing. The sun is out though, so we do Reed's Direct(5.9) and Bongs Away Left(5.8) on our way out of The Valley.

Get to know the stranger(Mark) during the 4 hour drive to the gorge.

Sport climbing in the gorge:

More sport climbing in the gorge:

Drive back to the Bay Area.

Real life and errands, then the oh so familiar drive back to The Valley.

4 hours on the road to do a lot of contemplation. Its been a lonely few weeks on the road. A lot of frustration with my climbing, the weather and people. A lot of unfortunate circumstances and reminders of past times better left behind.

The drive gives me time to ponder what I want to do this week, and how I want to look back on this summer. Part of me wants to crag, to build up some confidence in my free climbing. Part of me wants to go up and do a route on The Column, to build up some confidence on stiffer aid. But, I'm burnt out on dealing with people, and The Column has always been uninspiring to me.

On the drive, a plan forms. I'll jug the fixed lines to The Heart and finish the last 20 pitches of the Muir Wall, starting from the point where Paul and I bailed. A big part of this summer for me, is doing El Capitan with my new ankle, and my new set of daemons. Proving to myself that I still can, before maybe moving on to other things in my life. And with my current mood, what better way to do it than solo. I like the plan so much, I stop at Kinko's to photocopy the topo.

Breakfast in the cafeteria, then off to the base of El Cap to rack, organize, and socialize with the tourists. A climber and I spend a while chatting about routes and the weather. He is tentatively thinking about soloing something on The Column so we have common ground. Eventually I tell him my name, and he says: "The Evan Bigall? Oh wow, I really enjoyed your Zodiac Trip Report." I figure anyone who likes my trip reports can't be that bad a partner so I offer him a starring role in the next one. It takes some convincing, but soon we have a new plan. We will blast of tomorrow morning, and finish the Muir together. I'm a bit disappointed I wont be soloing, but also greatly relieved.

No phones on the wall. If all goes well, the next update should be Friday...

Blast off on the Muir with my new partner, Jim.

Top out on the Muir. My El Cap record is now 3 for 10. All the successes are special in different ways. This one certifies that my life is still whole, despite what happened to my ankle.

Hike down from El Cap, and make the requisite phone calls.

Cragging with the weekenders:

East Buttress of Middle Cathedral with the weekenders. Casual, but I still can't redpoint the bolt ladder. Sigh.

The weekenders return to lives and jobs leaving me alone in The Valley. A rest, recover, and laundry day for me.

Break up with Monique.

She isn't ready to move to Boulder for someone she has only known a few months and I'm not ready to commit to someone who is soon to live 1,000 miles away.

Sad. Lonely.

																														  ... and when a drop-dead gorgeous girl
																														  at once abets and staves you off, ax
																														  murderers and priests are born.
																														  ---John Long
And big wall climbers....
Rack for Mescalito with Mark. Our plan is to fix four pitches and then spend as long as 7 days on the wall. The average pitch on Mescalito is harder than the hardest pitches on the Muir. If we succeed it will be my longest, hardest wall.

Show up at the base and there is a party ahead of us. Bummer. They are planning on four days (half the time we are planning), but, all their gear is suspiciously new and they have no portaledge. Hmmm. Looks like and epic in the making. We fix three pitches and decide to delay our launch to give these guys some room.

Haul our bags, and climb another pitch. At 6pm, team epic has climbed 5 pitches and has 8 more to go before the next place you can lay down without a portaledge. Grim.


Top out on Mescalito after 7 days on the wall. Slides.

Hike down. Think about what, if anything, it means.

Mescalito Triva:

On the other hand, we got worked over on almost every pitch and we dropped a huge amount of stuff (two sets of RPs, a biner of Aliens, the belay seat, and my left Jumar). Yikes. If I had a dollar for every time I swore to myself that I'd never do another wall I'd have no need to go back to grad school.

Awake in the El Cap Hilton to the sound of tinkling portaledge poles. Yosemite has been my home for the past 6 weeks, but its time to leave now and move on to the next phase of my life. I don't know when I'll be back, so I take a tour of my usual haunts on the way out. The cafeteria for pancakes, the camp 4 note board, the first few holds on midnight lightning, the curry village reading room, and my adopted office here in the Mural Room at the Ahwanee Hotel. On the drive out, I'll walk through El Cap meadow and try to picture myself on the wall. The times I've spent there have been poignant, but like a cheap paint job, the memories fade quickly. Its only been two days, and already its hard to imagine that I was actually up there.

My father fell off a ladder and fractured his bottom vertebrae. Today he will have surgery. So many thoughts and emotions. Too hard to write.

My father's operation went long (10 hours), but seems to have gone well.
Begin the drive to Boulder to look for a place to live.

Question of the day:
If I crashed while reading Accidents in North American Mountaineering and driving 90mph on a lonely Utah highway, would the incident qualify for inclusion?

Home hunting

Home hunting

Home hunting (and a little bouldering)

Home hunting

Home hunting

Home hunting is too depressing. Leave for few days at Devil's Tower.

My first Devil's Tower climb, on sight free solo The Durrance Route (5.6-5.8 depending on what decade you were born in). A lot wider and burlier than I was expecting, but all in all not too bad. I wore a harness and hooked up with another party on top for the rap down.

8 years ago I visited Devil's tower as a non-climber. I stood at the base pointing and gawking with the rest of the tourists. One of the people I was with *was* a climber, as well as being a bunch of other things I'm not in the mood to write. I have a vivid memory of him ridiculing my questions about the climbing. I dreamed that night of walking up to the tower and just climbing it. Now I have. Closure is good.

Search for a partner. Lounge in scenic Gilette, home of the Nation High school Rodeo Championships (yes, that sums it up).

Tugly wood: Blake leads the first two pitchs(10a). I flail on the third pitch 10a wide crack. We get caught in the sun and broil like earthworms on the sidewalk. Drink many liters of water and then do the first pitch of Soler(5.7+) just before dark.

In the morning only the hard routes are in shade. By the time the routes we want to do on the Northeast Buttress are in shade its 1 and we are exhausted just from sitting around in the heat (100+). Do a few easy pitches and call it a day.

Too hot to climb. Drive Back to Boulder. More house hunting.

Do Bastille Crack(5.7) in Eldorado Canyon with (new)Andy.

Finish this summers first trip report

Fly back to the Bay Area UA1529 Arrives San Francisco (SFO): Wednesday, July 22, 1998 at 09:19PM

Oh No, I've become that free loading friend my mother always warned me about. Shack up at Casa Andy.

Wedding rehearsal & Dinner

Hang out in some of my old "favorite places." Think deep thoughts about leaving California.

Marry off Ian. Damn! I hope he is as good a husband as he is a climbing partner. Quote from Ian's toast: "After spending a lot of time with Evan I can honestly say that getting married is not the scariest thing I've ever done."

Epic drive to The Valley in my '68 mustang. It was overheating in the central valley. Not an auspicious start to this trip. Hopefully the bears wont have their way with the convertible top while I'm on the wall.

Hike up to Half Dome with Jim (My Muir Wall partner).

Top out on the Direct NorthWest Face of HalfDome AKA the non-trivial version of the face. We sumitted to the applause of a hundred or so gathered tourists, you don't get that on El Cap. The price we paid though was the murderous 8 mile hike back to the valley.

Nightmare drive home. And yes, the bears did have their way with my convertible top. Sigh...

The verdict is in on the Mustang. Blown head gasket. Bad. bad. bad.

Get in the U-Haul and drive back to CO with Robert.

Arrive in Boulder. Unpack and settle into my new home ending the Summer of Sloth. Orientation is 8/20 and classes start 8/24. As I settle into grad student life, things may not be quite as interesting so I probably wont be updating this diary. I always welcome e-mail though, so if you want to know what I've been up to, just ask.

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