We took a slow start to this day, expecting to be too scorched midday for strong attempts on the Golden Desert 12+ layback. We slowly jugged the two fixed pitches, careful to not over exert ourselves on this simple commute, and then hauled kit to our camp for the next two nights. We didn’t pull onto the rock until mid afternoon.
Our goal for the day was to send this layback pitch and at least touch the holds of the 5.13a A5 traverse. Aaron set off first on the Golden Desert, using his Indian Creek prowess to nearly onsight the short tips layback bit. The intro and exit of the pitch are both easier than this short section, but are run out and airy! I had a similar performance on my flash go. Once we knew where to place gear and where to gun it, we both sent second go.
We both got one attempt on the A5 traverse that evening, each hanging on most of the gear to understand the blind and slopey climbing. This pitch feels desperate until the tiny foot chips are found and you realize how many of the slopers are best to just skip. We rapped back to our portaledge at Tower to the People to try again in the morning.
It was a warm day once again, so we rested in the morning. We were given a wild show in watching multiple parties climb the enormous El Corazon 8a roof traverse which finishes at our bivy ledge. We made some room and made new friends as we all waited for the sun intensity to fade.
By 3pm a bit of haze took hold and the wind picked up. Aaron and I jugged our line to the belay for the “A5 traverse” pitch (which is really sport climbing on decent fixed gear). We then received our obligatory Emily Harrington Golden Gate appearance as she rapped in from the heavens to give a few working attempts on the same pitch in preparation for her in-a-day ascent. We all alternated attempts on the short and fierce traverse. I managed to lock down the movement and send my second attempt, first go of the day. I lowered back to the belay to let Aaron work the pitch further.
As darkness neared, I deemed it best to try the 5.12- next pitch this eve to hopefully have the free ascent in the bag. I thought a lowly 5.12- was a sure thing after completing the A5 traverse, but this next pitch is not to be underestimated! It may not be as pumpy, but I thought it has a single move more difficult than any on the A5 pitch. I fell on my first attempt. Second go was equally as desperate and I barely made the moves. It really did feel as hard to pull off as the four other crux pitches. With deep fatigue setting in, free ascents on El Cap are not over until they are over.