andres' life

Living the Dream

Livin’ the dream on El Capitan.

Zodiac A2 5.7

Zodiac, on the eastern side of El Capitan had been a goal of mine for a few years now. I knew it was going to happen eventually, I just needed to step up and commit to it.

So in classic Andy fashion, I made plans mid bike tour to climb a wall upon my return. Part of me felt like I was distracting myself from the current task at hand (bike touring) but honestly that’s just the way I work. Hopping from one major adventure to the next allows to stay excited and confident even when my next adventure is slightly daunting.

The topo for Zodiac, our route.

Our route ascends straight through the grey circle.

My partner, Maura LaRiviere has been a friend for years now and has always been a great partner. Although I had never climbed anything bigger than 1 pitch with her before, I had absolute faith in her skills and knowledge. Truth be told, she’s a better climber than me any day of the week. We were SO set!

This the Zodiac dream team, in all their “glory”. With a team like this, what could possibly go wrong?

My fearless/goofball partner, Maura

I like to pretend I'm scared at times.

Battle Kitty strikes again!

As with all walls, the first step involves the gear and logistics which are always a pleasant pain in the ass. Seeing as how Maura would be riding in from Las Vegas on her motorcycle, she was somewhat limited in what she could bring. However, being the genius she is, she managed to bring a truly impressive amount of gear and food on her motorcycle! This woman is truly amazing!

All this fit in Maura's motorcycle panniers!

After gear sorting, food prepping and route re-assessing, we were ready. The easy part was done, it was now time to stop drinking beer on my living room floor and start humping heavy loads to the base of the climb. Seriously, I know it’s all part of the “experience” but humping 80 lb. loads 1,000 feet up talus slopes is damn hard work. Luckily for us, it was over before we knew it and we got to work climbing the first 4 pitches and fixing lines so we could jug up in the AM. All in all, a pretty uneventful first day except for the fact that I left my headlamp on the ground and had to rap down in the dark, no bueno…

Looking up the first pitch of Zodiac. If you can do this pitch clean, you can easily climb the wall.

The next morning, after a bivy at the base that we shared with a rattlesnake, it was up , up and away!!!! This is always my favorite part of a wall, the moment you blast off and commit to the wall and all it has to offer. I knew the next 4 days would certainly be a trip!

All in all the wall went extremely well and we ended the wall feeling fresher than either one of us had on any other previous wall. A lot of that had to do with the massive amount of food we brought which allowed us to gorge every night after setting up the portaledge.

For those interested, we managed to only take 1 fall. This was on the last pitch with the top a mere 30 feet away. It was a short 10 foot fall due to a popped piece, a piece I knew would pop anyways.

Even more proud though was the fact that we broke out the hammer ONLY ONCE! I needed to tap in a beak that was resting on a head but kept skating when I weighted it. Once I moved past it I was able to pull it out with my fingers from above. Not too shabby, eh?

Once topping out we had the “pleasure” of walking/rapping down the East Ledges descent back to our car at El Cap meadow. That descent will always be a badge of honor that makes you realize you just did it.

As an added treat, two days after we finished Maura celebrated her birthday. We figured it only made sense to do yet ANOTHER wall. This time we aimed for the West Face of Leaning Tower, the steepest wall EVER! Only this one we did in a one day push the day before I went back to work. While I didn’t get many pictures of that wall, it was great!

Climbing with Maura was a pleasure and I look forward to roping up with her again.

As per the usual, I’m going to stop blabbing on and on and just let y’all enjoy some pics.

cheers!

That rivet in the block once was a secure piece of protection high up on the wall!

Me coiling the ropes, gansta' stylee

Looking out on the traversing second pitch of Zodiac

Looking up from the belay on day one at what lies ahead...

Maura heading into the black tower, she's a bad ass!

Sorry for the bad quality but it gives you an idea on what life on a portaledge looks/feels like!

Tam Bikes rocks! Get it, "rocks"? buahahahaha. Seriously though, they are great. check them out in Mill Valley.

Trusting yourself to this and knowing a fall would rip out your last couple pieces certainly makes your balls drop. Its called a "head" and is basically a malleable piece of metal hammered/molded into a corner to hopefully hold a climber's weight.

Looking up, it got a little better. This is hands down why I love big wallin'. Way high up off the deck and scared out of your mind. At least for me 'cause I'm a weenie.

The bolts leading to the famous "Nipple"

Me wrestling with the nipple. i gave it a pinch for good luck!

Ah yes, climbing walls "clean" without hammering. Gotta love it."

Maura gives this night's rest a thumbs up!

Sometimes I lurk. I know, I'm a creepster....

Rockfall off of Middle Cathedral at 6 in the AM. It was HUGE!!!

Maura being the bad ass that she is!

This is the view when you look down. Steep and high!

When you lower out the bags from the belay for the haul you REALLY get an idea of just how steep this wall is!

Maura leading off into the light.

Two cams meet on Zodiac. One cams says to the other," What's your sign?"

A lower out with the Nose in the background.

Me. peeing. in a bottle. I'm wayyyy too excited.....

Yup. that's a gallon of urine fresh from two dehydrated climbers. It was still warm....

Nose to Nose. More like dork to Nose.

This give you an idea of that it's like cleaning the upper pitches of the wall. STEEP!

As I'm topping out Mauara shouts up, "Do something cool!" I immediately shout back, "As if topping out on El Cap isn't cool enough!?"

Resting at the top. I felt so good in that moment.

Headed down the East Ledges with a full haulbag.

Carrying a heavy ass load down AFTER doing a wall is pure torture, in a good way.

Anyone who has ever descended off El Cap will recognize this wall. Another awesome place high up off the ground that few people get to see. Up close the streaks are pretty wild!

The team, posing, like the chimps we are!

2 comments on “Livin’ the dream on El Capitan.

  1. Martha Estrada
    October 12, 2011

    Way to go Andy and Maura. How about that guy Alex who climbs “solo” meaning without gear I believe? He was featured on CBS “Sunday Morning” or was it “60 Minutes”? I don’t think he could do the climbs you two just finished.

    • Andres
      October 12, 2011

      That guy is in a league all his own. I admire his inner strength and commitment to his particular style but I personally have no desire to climb like him. I’m sure he could have cruised the route we did in a mere 5 hours though I had a blast exactly as I did it!

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