By Jim Herson
Proving once again that correlation is not causation, at least with respect to age and wisdom, Tim Klein and I climbed the Nose. You'd think Tim, at 35, might have known better than to climb El Cap with a man who just celebrated his 50th birthday with knee surgery. But then Tim climbs with Jason Wells. 'Nuff said.
As I said, Tim is not a discerning guy when comes to climbing partners. Which is a good thing as few would accuse me of aging gracefully. But I would like to believe I'd have emerged from my 50th with a shred of dignity had it not been for tipping over on my nice, new, expensive bicycle and torching the knee. Yet suspending disbelief for a moment there is a plausible scenario in which I might have withstood the arrival of my AARP card while nursing a bum knee had I not just chaperoned 93 hormonally challenged 6th graders at their outdoor education week in Yosemite. Now stay with me here because in a year that the Giants failed to bitterly disappoint in their heartbreakingly, torturous way, I maintain that there is a funky, as yet unexplained, alternate universe in which I would have endured my 50th with a worthless knee and a bunch of whacked out 6th graders not climbing in Yosemite had it not been for the most gorgeous, beautiful, crisp, delightful, fall climbing weather in all of Yosemite history! That last one just sent me sailing over the edge. Thus the panicked phone call to the undiscerning Tim who quickly rallied to restore Jim's sanity.
After a week of diffusing the endless stream of prepubescent teen drama through an interminable series of excruciating team building and "problem solving" inane exercises, I was done. I just don't do team building well! And the 1.5hrs spend building a consensus on our group name which culminated in the most absurd, incomprehensible, ridiculously long concatenation of what 12 excessively opinionated 6th graders consider to be the most clever group name ever invented did not help. I just wasn't that into imagining what Suzy might have felt like when Joey said her name sucked. Besides it did. And so did Joey's. Congressional bipartisanship has nothing on these kids.
Finally packed the 93 nutty 11 year olds on the bus home which we almost missed when the kid who could only walk diagonally tripped his buddy, who was inexplicably carrying in his hand the lone key to the locked cabin containing the luggage, off the path and into a ditch catapulting the key into the deepest bowels of Yosemite's wilderness. But in a testament to human endurance, not one chaperon throttled the clueless little buggers and everyone had fun and, after finally unlocking the luggage cabin, returned home safely.
Met up with Tim in El Cap Meadows Friday night and when the ranger stopped by as we were packing to remind us that out of bounds camping was a Yosemite no-no and Tim assured him we were just about to start a one day El Cap assent and the ranger looked down quizzically at the sleeping bag sprawled out at Tim's feet, I was briefly tempted to revamp my partner criteria to something more rigorous than undiscerning. But I was in no position to be choosy and so I stifled a belly laugh and let Tim awkwardly and completely unconvincingly, yet somehow effectively babble his way out of that one.
For some inexplicable reason, and for the first and last time, I checked the weather forecast and packed accordingly. That won't happen again. We took full on winter expedition gear on what turned out to be a warm, gorgeous day. Argg. Hadn't even packed a t-shirt and ended up roasting up there. All of which might have been fine had Tim not taken his incredibly expanding puffy that completely commandeered the entire pack.
Ran into Dean Potter and Sean Leary at the base. They were gunning for the Nose record so we coordinated with them to be at a pull off point at the rap anchors on the Stove Legs when they came flying by. It was a blast watching them. They were on fire. They obviously had put a ton of hard work into this. They had it totally wired with every jam perfectly choreographed. They were solid and focused as they came blasting through which considering the single piece of gear between them was a good thing. They did an awesome job crushing the route in a bit over 2.5hrs. Well done! And now I sincerely hope they'll move on. This speed climbing game when played at these speeds can only end badly.
With the entertainment gone, Tim and I continued up at our 10hr snail pace. But it was fun. And hot! Perhaps it was all the winter garb I now had tied around my waist as Tim's ever expanding puffy could not be tamed and took over more of the pack with each sip of water.
I had a blast leading up to the base of the Great Roof. The knee, which maxed out at 90 degrees, did great although there was one comical moment when I placed a high step and commanded it to press out and it looked back in that "Dude, I've got nothing" blank sort of way.
And then Tim took over. Tim may very well be the only guy to have ever climbed the Nose twice in a day who doesn't own a pair of climbing shoes. Tim is an aid monster with the unique mental fortitude that the double NIAD requires to dangle with Jason all day.
Turns out Tim's not all that discerning about back cleaning either. He leaves fewer pieces on an aid pitch than I do on a free climb. Granted in dozens of ascents over 20yrs the roof has never been remotely this fixed with the horizontal decked out in fresh, new, bomber, long rope slings so that what is normally a spicy little traverse is now a fun 30 second juggle gym rope swing. But nonetheless I was sure I had dropped the rack when I cleaned the pitch and handed Tim back ten biners and a cam! That boy can back clean! I usually dump an entire rack into this pitch.
We were loving it. Topped out and drove out of the Valley with plenty of daylight and smiles. Great day. Great rock. Great climb. Great way to kick off the next 50!
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