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A Cold Nose 1/20/02

By Jim Herson

Rebuttal By Greg Murphy

Darwin's mistake was in extrapolating from the complex finch to El Cap simpletons. Had he been a quiet observer in El Cap Meadows Sunday morning -- forecast high of 43 -- he would have had to concede that the Kansas Board of Education had a point.

What he would have observed was two soft-bellied middle aged yokels drive up in the family station wagon packed with multiple baby car seats and a sparse rack of cams. Being a sharp pair, the two bozos quickly noticed that Yosemite Valley was desolate with no sign of human habitation, that El Cap Meadows was covered in snow, and that the outside temperature was 24 degrees. At which point they curled up into the fetal position and whimpered.

For the last three weeks I have been wheezing, hacking, and coughing non-stop. The preliminary self-diagnosis pegged it as Ebola/pneumonia but as standard day care bugs go this was obviously much more serious. In addition to rendering the body utterly useless, it also shutdown all rational mental facilities. Thus Greg Murphy's frantic Friday night call suggesting that we climb the Nose on one of the coldest days of the year just because he hadn't climbed in the last two months didn't strike me as all that unreasonable other than the fact that it wasn't the Salathe.

Truth be told this was purely a scientific endeavor. Greg hypothesized that we'd be the only party on the Nose. I assured him that was a physical impossibility and that Warren Harding himself had to negotiate past a few parties.

The casual stroll to the base lacked Greggie's usual manic, psychotic flare although our trademark haggling over what to pack was as fierce as ever. Captain Safety wanted to load us down with a 2nd rope "just in case". I noted the importance of arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Of course Greg would sooner share his beer than defer to the All Knowing Beta Master. So we lugged the bail cord until we were safely hours behind schedule and then pitched it. I was firm on the big ticket items though. To go fast and light -- the days are short and a forced open bivy with Greggie seemed like a bad idea -- we left the watch behind. This saved oodles of time bickering over that annoyingly ambiguous phrase "drop dead turn-around time".

Being the cold-blooded venomous creatures that we are, the first few pitches went down pitifully slowly. But then the sun hit and we started to thaw as did the ice 3000 feet up on the rim. We noted that perhaps the one helmet we had packed but left in the car would have been handy given the barrage of ice missiles whizzing by.

Despite the late and slow start, the warm sun made the forced open bivy less of a sure thing. Greg, however, was unwilling to chance a daylight descent. After I painstakingly directed him into the Stovelegs before turning away into a hacking and wheezing fit, he managed to miss only the most obvious and striking continuous straight up crack system in all of Yosemite Valley! In his defense, Greg explained that he had only led this pitch 6 of the 12 times he's done the route.

The mid-day thaw allowed for some outrageously crisp and surprisingly dry climbing. The Great Roof was the unexpected grand prize. The streaming green slime oozing out of the roof made slipping in those ultra thin marginal placements a breeze not to mention cleaning them a non-issue. And as though that wasn't enough, and no matter how cold and miserable the descent was sure to be, the tour de force was definitely slinging the icicle in the Great Roof! The Nose now goes at 5.9/C1/M7.

Swimming up the last few pitches in the dark was decidedly not the grand prize. We topped out with a good 15 minutes to spare before the top pitches became frozen sheets of ice. The descent was no more treacherous than you'd expect snow and verglass covered steep rock to be and took just slightly longer than my previous Nose ascent with some blond yahoo. The deadly 2am drive home took on a surreal aspect when it wasn't at all clear if the dense central valley fog was inside or outside our fried minds.


RE: A Cold Nose

By Greg Murphy

Attached is Jim Herson's take on our ascent of the Nose last Sunday. My additional observations follow:

From: Evan 

I recall vividly a slide show in someone's house in Menlo Park where a buddy
of yours talked about getting trapped in some storm in Nepal and wondering
if anyone else was alive ...winds whistling at night...etc.  When the lights
came up I thought - boy! I never want to do *THAT*!  but shockingly everyone
starting murmuring "Oh man, I got to do that!"  and I thought -- very
different group of people.  I had to talk to Tracy about the nuances of
nethack for an hour to detox.  You should take a photo some time from near
the top so the earthbound can appreciate the experience without having to
leave our arm chairs.

From: T Hilarious as usual! T. P.S. I wish Peter had been there.
From: Nathan Greg, You guys are maniacs! What a fantastic writeup! Send to Climbing or Rock&Ice immediately - they would die for it. Congrats big time on 40 trips up El Cap - I'm proud to have been there on #2 oh so long ago, and I still remember how you looked waking up after that night sharing the portaledge. ---Nathan
From: Megumi Greg, Jim, I second Nathan's motion to send the write-up to a worthy magazine. I'm impressed every time I read Greg's write-up, not only because of the awesome stuff you do, but because the style in which you describe the epics is so darn good. I'm not sure if I've met you, Jim, but I sure wish I were a natural storyteller like you and Greg. I'm jealous! Megumi
To: Megumi From: Jim Herson >the awesome stuff you do, but because the style in which you describe >the epics is so darn good. Thanks Megumi but I should point out that the goal of rock climbing is *not* to have an epic. It's a subtle distinction that seems lost on Greg. -Jim
From: Nathan Jim, do you know Elliott Robinson? Back when he was climbing he planned everything carefully to have as wild of an epic as possible. Greg climbed with him a lot back them. Probably too much! ---Nathan
From: Derek Jim- I am glad you are insane. D. p.s. I hope you are feeling better.
From: Mom Jim, I have just tried to read and understand your last epistle re: you and your friends recent outing. admittedly I HAVE done one or two things out of the ordinary in the past, but you and your honcho are really off the wall......... I do hope you had an outstanding time suffering as you did....by the way, I had to read the mail a couple of times to undertstand it. you really should have been a writer. as you really write well..... so...I am glad you had a wonderful time... hope your physical being keeps up with your ambition... in the meantime we are in need of some more Kara stories and the old M&M program... xxxxxs and oooos to all Mom
From: Aunt Pat & Uncle Ron Hi Defrosted Climber, After reading the latest, I had to run and put on several more layers of clothing. It's cold enough down here even. We've had frost for a couple of nights and I had to cover up my precious flower beds. Yosemite. Forgedddaboutit! Glad you had so much fun. Thanks for the latest write-up. You are nuts, completely. Hugs to the three of you. Love, Pat and Ron
From: Ken From the limited amount of this that I understand, it appears you survived, which is a good thing. When's the wedding?
From: Sam sounds like a lovely day, how are your wife and daughter?
From: Chandlee Sounds outrageous! Sounds mouth-watering (at least the shiitakes). Excellent work. Although I'm a little confused? Didn't you guys make it above Boot?..: --- "Murphy, Greg" wrote: > All in all, it was a blast - and my 40th El Cap ascent to boot.
From: Bill Jim, Another huge, bold, audacious climb recorded with typically brilliant and understated writing. I'm envious of both... You guys are so fast and so bold! I have heard from Hans that picking the correct crack at the Stovelegs is a mistake that people often make. If a pro like Greg can do this, then I'll surely do it. What are these guys doing wrong? Isn't it the first crack you get to? Is there a crack further right that starts lower down? I've only been up the Nose once and we did the standard pendulum above Dolt Hole. I really want to learn this new way as it sounds much faster. Thanks so much for the report. I loved it! I can't wait to get out there and see if I can climb that baby in a day! I'm going to practice night climbing before I come out and try to climb on the crags around here for 24 hours straight. Bill
From: Clint Dear Jim, Thanks for sharing. Sounds like a good adventurous twist and a nice getaway from the day-to-day things. Clint
From: Hal Silly boy. You chose the wrong weekend. I was climbing in the Valley Jan. 12-13 and the measured daytime highs were 55 degrees. It was downright warm in the sun. Joan and I climbed Nutcracker and After Seven on Saturday and the Center Route of Absolutely Free on Sunday. This past weekend I was in Mammoth. A coworker has a cabin there and we spent four days skiing and, taking advantage of the cold temperatures, one day ice climbing. Hal.
From: Mark thanx for the update. makes my soccer - coaching in the biting cold portland rain sound like a weekend in miami. (which, by the way i did last weekend.) keep me posted, mark L p.s. do i get an award for reading until the end ? i was hoping for news of polygamy.
From: Marie So, let me get this straight. Climbing is *fun*, right? Marie
From: Mike I'm glad to see that age has not impacted your judgment....
From: Aunt Pat & Uncle Ron Well! Another precinct heard from! It's nice to get different viewpoints on all kinds of subjects - how I would love to see that mega-icicle. Probably in pretty good spearing-position - what a great murder mystery that would make. Climber "accidentally" stabbed to death by giant icicle. Climbing partner expresses sincere condolences to beautiful, talented, sexy widow. Keep those ascent letters and postcards coming. Love, Pat and Ron
From: Itso Jim, thanks for sharing your unique experience with me. you guys are real! source of inspiration for me. and very talented story tellers. I have so much fun reading your essays, I can't wait for the next one. keep the good work. fan of yours itso
From: Mimi yes! more epic climbing adventures that read more like a Harry Potter book than lived experience. Lemme see, what was I doing that day? Oh yes, I too climbed a mountain but, silly me, i took a chairlift. but really, what all your armchair-climber fans want to know is: when's the party? when do we get to drink champagne and toast the couple avoiding marriage longer than, well, me.
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