Alone on the Westie Face
On the second-to-last pitch of Leaning Tower, I find myself dangling off a left heel-toe foot cam in a pod above my head, hoping to take weight off two greasy hand jams. This would usually be a comfortable sized crack, except that it is flared and overhanging by 45 degrees. I alternate chalking up my hands and take a few deep breaths while looking straight down to the talus 900 feet below. I cinch a bit of slack through the GriGri at my waist - I am on the sharp end, rope solo free climbing the wall. I maintain composure and onsight yet another 5.12 pitch. Only one more to go!
Cleaning yet another steep pitch, the second to last 5.12
I didn’t really intend to be up here free climbing alone.. but this Yosemite season was a bit of a bust. My hopes were for a few partnered missions this season up El Cap free routes and shorter 5.13 multipitch day lines. A historic snow year in the Sierra foiled these ideas. As late as the beginning of May, there were still ample reports of wet streaks down most routes.
Bags in space.. this is how far out they swing out while hauling the bolt ladder pitch!
This spring I have been lead rope soloing quite a bit - partially to find extra challenges locally, and partially to prep for future solo options like this Leaning Tower outing. I was ready to aid climb pitches if necessary, but I did think I had a chance of sending some of the harder pitches alone on lead. I’ve recently ticked some cool lines around Flagstaff in this lead rope solo style:
The spacious Ahwanhee Ledge, about 350' up the route
I spent the last few hours of shade that first day working out a 12d stem pitch of Wet Lycra within a few top rope laps. By 1pm, the sun comes around and turns the whole wall into a solar oven. I deployed my portaledge to create an excessively heavy sun blocker, and sat underneath it for the next 7 hours.. Perhaps late spring isn’t the best time for these routes. I had been warned of this.
A shady hole to wait in
The very cool 12b ramp pitch
Beach vibes all afternoon on Ahwanhee
The last pitch - see the hanging rope for the orientation of gravity
Me and my friend El Cap
One last look at the Leaning Tower