Don’t Sneeze I thought as I unclipped some janky tat that skittered back across a slabby face, now out of my reach and gone forever. I was now committed to free solo mode, along on an island of smeary granite. The tat wasn’t long enough to get me to the security of this bomber bolt that was just out of reach. The bolt was only one slab move away and the move was probably no harder then 5.9. I was standing on less then vertical granite and fully trusting the rubber of my shoes. I’ve soloed 5.9 slab plenty of times before, but this time was different. I was two thousand feet off the ground on Half Dome all by myself. I wasn’t truly alone. Some kid in what seemed like another world was looking down at me from on top of the visor waving his hand. Another guy was taking pictures with his smart phone. If only they knew. Why the hell didn’t I just hike up the cables? Why did I choose to be here? WHY DO I DO THIS STUFF! One of two things was going to happen within the next thirty seconds. I’d clip the bolt and be on my way or I’d be in a seven or eight second free fall thinking about who knows what. In that moment though I was thinking about how I shouldn’t have unclipped that tat. Why did this seem so insecure? I took a quick draw off my harness and got it ready in my hand with the gate open and ready to go. I placed my foot on a higher smear, took a deep breath and committed. The rubber held and I clipped the bolt. Safe!
Looking back on the situation I knew I wouldn’t have fallen. I know my abilities and I know my feet don’t slip on easy slab. In that moment though my confidence left and I was forced into that terrifying environment where in mind anything could happen. I made the mistake of not warming up to Half Dome. I had only been in the Valley for a few days and The Valley is a place you really want to warm up to before you throw yourself at the big climbs you came to do. I love Yosemite so much but it has a way of making me super scared sometimes. Maybe that’s part of the reason I like it so much. As my experience in climbing grows I find myself in these situations less and less. My strength and mental focus has grown and I have a good understanding of my abilities. I will always be learning new things as my goals become bigger and greater and Yosemite will always be my tough coach.
As I dangled my feet over the visor of Half Dome I thought again about why I do these things. It was a beautiful day and the views were spectacular. I looked down at Curry Village far below. I was hanging out and drinking coffee down there only five hours ago. I looked at my watch and saw that it was only 1pm. There was still so much time to do more climbing! That’s why I do these things.
Taking it all in on the summit of Half Dome
Making the FFA of The Heart Route a couple weeks later. Mason Earle and I completed this project after a five year effort. Unfortunately I couldn't pull a powerful and height dependent move on pitch 6 but Mason stuck the move and the whole route went free. I went back a week later with Alex Honnold with intentions to free the route in a day. We decided to avoid the cruxy Heart Route start and climb Freeblast instead. This took out three of the nine 5.13 pitches on the route (including pitch 6). Most of the route went super smooth and easy but once the sun hit the wall my body shut down and i couldn't muster the energy to pull the last 5.13 pitch right at the top. Alex crushed the route with only two falls both of which were sent on his second try. Photo by Ben Ditto
The Golden Desert Pitch photo by Cheyne Lempe
Playing around on The Five Open Books on a rest day. The previous day I had climbed Free Rider in a day for my first El Cap free route. A big thanks to Ryan Evens for belaying me up the whole route! photo by Dan Krauss