A ground-up, rope-solo, 5 day ascent
This Yosemite season I redpoint lead rope-solo'ed Father Time over 5 days in a ground up push. It is a 2000' 5.13b big wall that only occasionally gets repeated. It was put up primarily rope-solo with some aid climbing - my ascent was a nod to that style, with no fixed ropes or prestashing on the wall - thus leading, rappelling, jugging, and hauling each pitch as I went. It has three 5.13b cruxes, but also many runout pitches up to 5.12-, creating quite a surreal solo quest.
I had previously been up the wall back in 2017. I was planning my spring 2021 valley season around a second trip up FT with the same partner, thinking I have risen to the level to send the route. After I was already in the valley, my partner had a work schedule shift causing him to bail out of our plan. This was my first significant climbing trip since I quit my engineering career. I expected to enjoy the extra time freedom and linger in the valley for most of May, but quickly found myself feeling a bit unsettled about the new restrictions, all the fixed lines strung about, and the "scene" in general. I take an introverted approach and don't enjoy the jostling for partners, engaging in subtle spray to size one another up. I was also bummed to see that the route I planned my entire season around was clogged with fixed lines up most of the wall. These feelings churned for a few days. A plan came to mind that would give me the peaceful adventure I was seeking: I would climb the wall anyway, but rope-solo free climbing with a 5 day wall kit, pretending like the fixed lines were not there.
The days on the wall were a contrast of perfect solitude in the face of consistent serious climbing. I thrive in these scenarios, finding clear thought and stable emotions without anyone to magnify ideas off of. I managed to redpoint the entire wall with only small asteriks, yo-yoing two of the dangerous 5.12 pitches from small midpitch stances. The first 5.13 pitch went down in a few minutes, second try. The other two pitches put up a stiff challenge - I sent the athletic layback pitch 6th go, using up lots of precious energy, and then just eked out the index corner after 12 lead go's over 36 hours. The slippery corner scumming felt absolutely desperate with the extra tangle of rope hanging off my harness! All the crux pitches were sent on lead rope-solo, placing gear and all. I left camp below the last crux pitch and blasted to the summit on the last morning, with imminent rain on the forecast, rappeling to the ground a few hours before the storms rolled in.
I often use the Silent Partner for aid soloing, but surprisingly used an unmodified GriGri for the redpoint ascent. Having opened up the Silent Partner mechanism, I don't trust its durability for repeated falls (seeing it more as a quick feeding but seldom loaded backup). My system was an unmodified GriGri clipped upsidedown on my belay loop with an elastic neckband to hold it upwards. The key was then to keep the "brake" strand light with ~20ft cache rope loops clove hitched onto a harness loop with independent racking biners. The rope needed for the pitch is all hanging off your harness, prestacked such that you dump the cloves as you are going and running out of rope. I also reinforced this gear loop with a sling hitched to my double points so that the clove biners are also a structural backup for GriGri failure. I was surprised to find this system nearly as smooth as a standard belay.