A Mere Mortal's Guide to Climbing the Nose
After climbing Moonlight, Spaceshot, Southface of Washington Column, and North-west Regular on Half Dome, I decided it was time to set my sites on the Nose. A year of training, 3 days, 2 nights and 50+ hours of climbing later, and we finally touched that tree.
I am just a regular guy from the midwest with a 7 year old daughter and a semi-normal job who dreams about living in a van with my smokin’ hott climber girlfriend and being a #dirtbag #vanlife. Since that would never happen, I had to train my butt off, literally, because at this time last year I was about 30 lbs overweight. My climbing partner, Matt, a chiseled 6 foot 160 lbs, laughed at me when I told him I wanted to climb the Nose.
First, I started dieting. I was not really sure how to do that and I knew that buying some pill off an infomercial was not the answer so I decided to stop eating. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it does not do much for your energy levels. I dropped 10lbs in 2 weeks! Matt’s wife just happens to be a doctor and when she found out about my diet plan she told me I was and idiot and took me through the proper way to lose weight. For the next 2 weeks I increased my calorie intake until I got to 1200 making sure that everything I ate had more protein than carbs. (Minus fiber carbs because those don’t count) being a pescetarian (a vegetarian who eats fish) this was a little complicated but I made it work. I also stayed away from dairy as much as possible. I started running about 15 miles a week, and 4 months later I was down to my goal weight!
Being from the midwest I don’t have access to much climbing outdoors without putting in a lot of windshield time. I joke with people that my local crag is Devils’ Tower, an easy 11 hour drive! Luckily, we have a great climbing gym in town so I started going there at least 3 times a week rotating between strength, power, and endurance workouts; I like to finish a day at the gym doing laps on a 5.7 until I fall off and have to drive home holding the steering wheel with my wrists.
The whole time I was calling Matt, who lives in Billings, Montana and giving him updates. “Wow I like the dedication. If you are serious then I’m in! Let's do this!”
We set a date for the first week in October when we would go to the valley to see if we have what it takes. Before that, we decided to make a weekend trip to Vegas to practice our systems and see how fast we can actually climb. Plane tickets to Vegas are cheap and if you rent a mini van you don’t have to get a hotel so, we decided to see how fast we could climb Epinephrine! (a Red Rocks classic, 13 pitches of first class 5.9)
I normally take my daughter to utah/colorado for spring break and the only time that worked for Matt was 10 days after I got back, but it takes what it takes.
I was feeling great after my trip out west, crushing it on the mountain bikes and doing a bunch of hiking, this is going to be a great trip to Vegas! Then I got a fever of 103 that didn’t go away for 3 days. After some blood tests we found out I had rocky mountain spotted fever.
“It will be gone in about 2 weeks, don’t do anything strenuous” the doctor told me.
“No problem doc” and 1 week later I landed in Vegas.
I made about as shitty of a climbing partner as a guy could ask for but I could operate a grigri and, with a little help from the top rope fairy, I could still climb 5.9! Matt was disappointed in my performance, to say the least, but he didn’t show it.
“For a guy on death's doorstep you don’t make a half bad belayer" he told me when we parted ways at the airport. I knew I was really going to have to step it up.
I added hangboard workouts into my routine at home and there didn’t seem to be any shortage of manual labor opportunities available on the fixer upper house we had just purchased. 6 months went by of running, climbing gym workouts, shoveling dirt, and memorizing the Topo.
My girlfriend (Hänna) really wanted to come with to Yosemite and I reasoned could use an extra week warming up on that famously unforgiving valley granite. Looking over my gear, I realized I had some seriously outdated stuff. My helmet was from 2001 and my ascenders were gifted to me almost 20 years ago so I thought maybe it was time to upgrade. I reached out to my friends at Petzl and they sent me the New Sirocco helmet with a black and orange scheme and a new set of Ascenders. They also Included a bunch of goodies in the care package that really dropped some pounds off my rack. New gear in hand, we headed out to see how we fared on leaning tower.
Pulling into the valley around noon, we had planned on fixing the first two pitches and blasting off the next day but since camp 4 was full, we just went for it. Made it to “The Majestic Yosemite hotel ledge” (formally the Awannie) before dark with another fun couple, who already had the route fixed to pitch 6, and spent the night. The climbing was fun, exposed, and mostly straight forward. Getting to the top around sunset the second day, we came across a perfect Bivy (camp site) and figured it would be silly to pass up just to sleep in the car. After dinner, while we watched the sun set below the valley rim, Hänna looked at me a with her big blue eyes and said,
“Check out this necklace I wore up here, I don't mind wearing jewelry on a big-wall. You know, Just in case you were thinking about giving me some jewelry, I would be happy to wear it right now.”
“Like earrings? That would be silly, they would get caught on everything” I replied.
We have been talking about getting married for two years now and she has been dropping increasingly less subtle hints as time has passed but there is only one rock on my mind right now so her blonde locks and moonlight smile we're going to have to wait.
After a fun gully descent it was time to start some recon. Matt and I knew that we were not exactly the fastest climbers in the valley so we were going to have to plan our start time to hopefully avoid getting stuck behind any big parties and not slow down any fast parties. One look from the meadow and we could tell this was going to be a challenge. That day I counted four parties all climbing over each other in the stove legs and a few more on sickle all staring up at them in vain.
My phone rang and it was Matt looking for some good news, “How is it looking out there buddy?” Matt asked.
“Sunny and beautiful, sending temps for sure!” I replied. looking over at my Hänna. We knew this many people could pose a real risk.
We spent the next couple days cragging and picking up trash with the Yosemite Facelift crew until it was time to pick Matt up from San Fran. I wanted to be proactive and get any leg up I could so I decided to take 3 gallons of water up to Sickle Ledge (pitch 4) on fixed lines Wednesday so we wouldn’t have to haul as much when we took the pig (haul bag) up.
Standing at the bottom of El-Cap with my ascenders on the fixed lines, I heard it.
Out of nowhere I heard the crack and rumble of an avalanche.
Looking down the valley to see what could possibly have made that noise, I saw a rock the size of a house had just detached itself from the East face of El Cap. As if in slow motion, a cloud of dust followed the rock to the ground where it shook the earth and filled the air around the scene momentarily blocking my view of the cliff. Without thinking, I grabbed my rope and started running. Pine and Aspen trees surrounded the base. The fastest trail to that side of the cliff was up a steep winding set of makeshift stairs fashioned from boulders that were all similar in size for a quarter of a mile. I got winded quick and the yellow aspen leaves covering the rocks did not help but the adrenalin was flowing and I couldn't stop.
What if someone was under that, what if someone was near it?
I had been climbing in Wyoming once when a rock the size of a refrigerator came loose and the shrapnel broke a kid’s leg in half. He was over 400 yards from where the rock hit. This rock was the size of a house!
Mouth dry and chest heaving, I realized that the trail had started to flatten out and the trail was consistent enough for me to get a quick drink of water as I ran. A few hundred yards later, another climber was just reaching the ground.
“Could you see anyone from up there” I asked.
“A girl, she looks hurt” he replied.
All of a sudden, the trees opened up to a large boulder field and we could see her. She was limping, her right arm against the wall and her left arm clutching her right side. She was wearing a sports bra and I could see she was badly bruised from her face to her hip. The other climber got to her first.
“Are you ok? Was there anyone else with you?” He asked.
“My husband, he is back there. I think he's dead,” she said, gasping through tears.
The boulders were the size of a small car and I had to jump from one to the next to save time. When I got close enough to see her husband, a few groups from above yelled down at me:
“Don't go any further, There is more loose rock, It's going to fall any second!”
If I went in the rock fall zone, I could get hurt and risk more people’s lives who would then try to help me. I debated if it was worth the risk, yet I felt worthless just standing. I yelled at the unconscious man for 10 min hoping to get some response. He was in the fetal position and if he could show some trace of life, I felt that would justify me running in there to pull him out.
My attention was taken back to the girl when I heard the helicopter. As it got closer, I ran back to the now group of 4 people with the injured girl. One of the climbers that had shown up while I was gone was a retired Israeli army medic who was taking very good care of her with the little supplies he had. They had calmed her down and we waited as the Yosemite Search and Rescue Medics flew hanging from the bottom of the helicopter. We helped them with their gear. The medics were able to quickly evaluate her condition and prepare her for emergency evacuation.
We put her in a triangle shaped chair used to suspend people from rope and carried her down the boulder field 50 meters so the chopper could come back and pick her up. By this time rock had fallen three more times and YOSAR was instructed they couldn't go into the fall zone for 24 hours. The two guys leading the operation decided they could make a quick recovery and get the husband 20ft to safety so he could be examined. Not all heros wear capes, but these guys were the real deal. When the rest of the YOSAR ground crew arrived, they no longer needed our help and thanked us for our time. As I was walking back down those granite stairs I couldn't help but think that if I had pulled him out he might of had a chance. Maybe I could have done more.
I received a call from YOSAR medic finishing the report and he filled me in on the details. The husband received a fatal injury during the first rock slide when he had covered his wife with his own body. Like a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his comrades, he had made the ultimate sacrifice. That thought brought me to tears. Although I don't feel like I helped much during the whole ordeal, I was honored to be close so many amazing people and the experience will stick with me for a lifetime.
The next day I walked to the base of El-cap a little slower, I still need to get some water up the route a little ways and Matt’s plane didn't land in San Francisco until 11pm. “Jugging” (climbing a rope with metal handles that slide one way) fixed ropes to Sickle ledge is one of the most casual 150meter rope climbs you can do. It is just less than vertical and the rock is accommodatingly blank. Nothing out of the ordinary on this go around so Hänna and I jumped in the car and headed to San Fran.
(It is always good to check the message board in Camp 4 before heading into town just Incase a traveling climber or thru-hiker needs a lift, but we didn't have any takers this time.)
Standing in the baggage claim around midnight, Matt finally showed up. I always forget how good looking this jackass is, with his short blond hair and marathon runners physique. He looks like a one of those guys in a fly-fishing magazine.
“Matt! How the hell are you my friend? How was the flight?”
“I am better than I deserve. the flight was ok, but i'm itching to get to the Valley,” he replied.
It was a four hour drive back to the valley but being set in the ways that "dirt bagging” is part of the experience, I refused to get a hotel. This ended up meaning that we were dead tired on Friday. We did nothing except bitch about how many people were still on the route and field calls from Matt's wife. She'd heard there was another rockfall when he was on the plane flying out, and she was not very excited to say the least.
Saturday, we ran up to the valley rim and did a little aid/exposure warm up on the lost arrow spire tip. Which is, in my opinion, the most fun for the money of anything you can do in the valley.
Sunday we decided the crowds had to have thinned out after the weekend so we were going to take the pig up to sickle and fix the first 4 pitches. We started the 15min hike up to the base around 9 am and promptly waited in line until it was our turn at 2pm. When we got to Pitch 5 there was one other bag waiting. There was also a party planning on bivying on the ledge and a very disgruntled team that decided it would be a good idea to set up a Port-a-ledge at the Pitch 6 anchors who might as well of had a long beard and a staff shouting “you shall not pass!”. (Port-a-ledge is similar to a cot, it uses rope attached to the corners to give you a level place to sleep on otherwise sheer cliff face when a natural ledge is not available.) We heard rumor that they had left the ground at 4am that morning and jugged to Sickle only to make it 2 more pitches because of the crowds.
Back at camp 4, we knew that we were going to have to try something a little off script if we were going to make this work. We left the pig up there Sunday and decided that we were going to blast off Monday morning. If everyone else was going to get up at 4am we would get up at 3am. We brewed 8 shots of espresso and made bagels that were half bread and half cream cheese packed a small bag to jug with and went to sleep at 8 pm.
At 3:15 am, we said our goodbyes to Hänna and left the ground, making it to Sickle Ledge by 4 am. When we fixed the lines we had made sure to attach them to each anchor instead of one line down so we could break the jugging into sections. One line to the ground seems fast for rappelling, but on the way back up the second would have to wait for the first to jug 150 meters before he could start. With it broken into sections, the second was able to start jugging after the first had only gone 50 meters saving precious time.
Upon arriving at pitch 4, we found that there was a solo party (Dan) sleeping under the bags. Who we came to find out, was attempting a 5 day rope solo. Another party 10 meters up in a port-a-ledge was sound asleep and didn’t seem to mind us climbing over them. Dan must have known a lot of people were coming, and stayed right on our tails.
We had planned to link 5 and 6, but with all the stuff and people on the ledge, we thought it would be better for hauling to break them up. By the time we made it to pitch 6, a “nose in a day” team asked us if they could pass. Seeing as how they were moving a bit quicker than us, we were happy to oblige. At that point, Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds flew up, attempting to set the new speed record. They passed us with astonishing ease. They had made it to pitch 6 in 14 min. It was unreal to witness something like that in person. Little did we know, they would break a record that had stood for 5 years, making them the fastest climbers in the world! As fast as they had come, they were gone, and we were back to just trying to move fast enough as to not hold up Dan. This was a lot harder than we had expected.
We took option C through the stove legs and quickly figured out that all of the prep and workouts we had done before hand didn’t mean jack up here. As confident 5.10/11 leaders, we thought we had the stove legs no problem, however we were soon forced to climb in the classic French style!
Looking back on the rest of the route, we were glad we had gotten up so early. It looked as though there were six parties kung foo fighting behind us. One had even fixed lines to pitch 9 trying to sneak in between it all.
We made it to Dolt tower by 4 pm and stopped for lunch. Our goal was to make it to ElCap tower, and fix the Texas flake before a relaxing sunset. El-Cap had other plans.
Matt took the pitch off Dolt. He was back cleaning so he could link the next pitch when the weather started to change. The clouds got dark, and the wind picked up as if someone had flicked a shit storm switch. For the next hour, I belayed Matt in the relative comfort of every piece of clothing I could find. He proceeded to climb in what I can only assume was self contained contentment, since I couldn't hear a complaint out of him over the wind and snow that kept trying to persuade me to fall off my perch on top of Dolt. Then just as Matt finished the pitch, he must have found that switch. The clouds broke, and thankfully the wind stopped. I was not looking forward to climbing in that weather! I joined my disgruntled, blue lipped partner as the sun was going down, and we started to make camp on a plush five foot by twelve foot ledge on El-Cap tower.
Matt was making lasagna in a dehydrated food bag for dinner. I yelled goodnight to Dan back on dolt tower 300 ft below, and asked Matt,"Where is the food?". He was sitting cross legged on his sleeping bag, and still trying to warm up from the storm. “I put it in my coat, seemed like a waste to let all the heat go, check it out!”. Just as he was opening his coat to show me, the bag exploded! Lasagna went everywhere! He hadn't even taken the stuff off of his harness yet. Sucking noodles out of an ascender was not how I planned on spending my evening, but we are a team and I didn’t want him to have all the fun.
We woke up the next morning to the sound of a haul bag being dragged up the Texas flake (a 100ft tall flake that sits 2 feet away from the main wall). It was still dark, and we knew we better get a move on if we didn’t want any other parties to pass us.
The night before, I had been secretly glad it had gotten dark so we didn't have to fix the next pitch. The Texas Flake had been in the back of my mind for months. Matt is a stronger free climber than I am, and I knew he would lead it if I couldn't. I have much more experience with chimneys and we had agreed that I would take the lead on that pitch.
After the bag was packed I handed, Matt the rope and said, “Good luck”.
“No way dude, you are the one that likes climbing chimneys” Matt argued.
“But you are a stronger leader” I replied, trying my best to get out of just this one pitch.
“My legs were cramping up all night, I'm worried they will cramp when I'm in there and I don't want to take that fall.” Matt was serious.
I knew that I needed to lead this pitch. I knew that if I skipped out on it, I would regret it. Even after we completed the route, this would be the moment that I would look back on. If I failed this one pitch, I would not feel like it was complete. It only took about a 20 minute pep talk to get my stoke level to an acceptable level so I could start climbing.
After about 40ft of rock that was relatively easy, I got up to the flake and looked in. There is a ledge about 10 ft high in the crack where you start the chimney section. From below the ledge it didn't look so bad. I started climbing. In order to pull over the lip, you have to do a move like you are trying to get out of a pool. I looked up and could see the whole thing and at that moment I thought “Nope, no f**king way".
I climbed back down and told Matt that I didn't think I could do it. Matt yelled back from around the corner “I believe in you, Hänna needs a knight in shining armor.”
I have a theory about relationships. A woman falls in love with the knight because she sees him coming back from battle and all the men congratulate him and the other women swoon over him. The problem is when she finally has him she does not want her “knight” to go to battle any more, then eventually she will lose interest in him because the grandeur has worn off. I have not asked Hänna to marry me yet so I have to keep fighting and keep winning so she does not take interest in any other brave knights. Maybe that is why I was standing in the bottom of this chimney talking to myself.
“You got this, its only 5.8, you can't fall out of a chimney, you got this” I told myself over and over. Finally I decided to turn on the ipod and see if some music would help. First song that comes on is “Climb” by The Cons Of Formant “It’s not the size of the man that determines the fight...” Now it's on! I jumped in that crack and started climbing.
It's easy, move one body part at a time, inch your way up and don't move too fast.
“Because the climb is gotta be worth the fall back down…” the song was really helping and right as it started to fade out I was able to clip the bolt. “Ok only 25ft to go and now if I fall I won't break my legs, it will only get hurt so that is a plus”. Just then the next song starts, “It’s the Eye Of the Tiger, it's the thrill of the Fight” “O hell ya! This shit is going down” 3 min later I clipped the anchor. I looked over the flake and could see matt sitting down looking off down the valley.
“OFF BELAY, MOTHER F**KER” I yelled down to him.
Matt jumped up banging on his chest “SHIT YA, WE ARE CLIMBING THE NOSE NOW!”
For some reason this 50ft section of rock right in the middle of a 3200ft tall cliff represented, to us, the main hurdle for the climb; It was as if we could practically taste the summit now! Only 1500 ft of climbing left, no big deal!
Now it was time for the “King Swing”! I had watched so many videos of people lowering out way below the anchor and running back and forth to “swing” 50ft over to a new crack system and I couldn’t wait to get my chance to fly around like a superhero! Being 5’6 a friend told me it would be hard to reach around the corner and get the good holds but they were there so i should just commit. I lowered out what seemed like 100ft below the anchor and took off running, HOLY CRAP this is fun! I hit those holds first try and went to reach around the corner but couldn’t feel anything. everyone says “don’t go to low” and I thought I had to be in the right spot so I reached as far as I could with my left and even though it felt like I was trying to do a pull up on a watermelon I knew there had to be a good hold just a few inches further after a few min of reaching and looking around I finally decided to commit and go for it with both Hands.
“You got this” I thought to myself “on three. One, Two, Three!”
Nope! I peeled right off. This was not a good situation to be in because the rope was now pulling me back from whence I came and if I didn't straighten up and get my footing I was going to start tumbling. Knowing my lady was in the meadow watching, I wanted make a good show so instead of getting my footing and starting over I used the momentum of the swing. Feeling as if Iwas running along the smooth side of a skyrise, I was able to make it back to those same holds and I knew I had to do something different. Unbenounced to me, people were in the meadow yelling “go lower” “the holds are lower”. I couldn't hear them so I decided to cheat and hook a small flake to use my aider to get around the lip. Man that was cool! Texas Flake, check. King Swing, check. Next I back cleaned the whole pitch so Matt could come straight over and didn’t have to lower the bag out much.
Once Matt and I were back together again, we noticed the party that passed us earlier. They told us in broken english that they got their rope stuck trying to do a little pendulum and that’s why we caught them but none the less now we were stuck behind a party right before the spot we were planning on stopping for the night (camp4). Matt decided he had some hero in him after taking the morning off leading and went for the 5.12/5.10A0 shortcut to try to get around them, he pulled the moves in fine style only to find out that he was attempting to pass their second and the leader was a pitch over. Now it was about 3pm and we figured if they were going to continue climbing we would have to sleep at camp 4 which wasn’t ideal but it is what it is. On our way up to camp 4, following close behind them, another party poked their heads around from Triple Direct (a different route on El-Cap that shares some pitches with “The Nose”) and announced they were going to stay at camp 4 also! Then the party in front of us decided they didn’t want to keep climbing so it was now 6pm and we were under the great roof screwed into making it to camp 5 or sleeping in our harnesses trying to get there.
The great roof is one of the iconic pitches of the route and for good reason; it is a seemingly impossible roof hanging 50ft out from the rock, the crack system we were following goes up directly underneath it and forces you out right. We were now about 2000 ft off the ground and the whole wall was starting to overhang the rest of the route.
After 12 hours of climbing for the day, we were not setting any speed records. I was able to finish the great roof before it got dark, but Matt was up next and we would have to climb by headlamp for the rest of the night.
The belay after the great roof is one of the most exposed belay stances I have ever experienced. Slightly overhung with nothing to stand on and only air below you, it is surreal. I wish I could have gotten to experience it during the day but night was fun nonetheless. I was attempting to convince Matt that he could link the next 2 pitches because I heard the second one was a super awkward flared crack that I didn't want to climb and was going to take for ever; one of us would have to fight for every inch. He ended up running out of gear and couldn't do it so I was up to lead it.
The wind had calmed down and we were no longer in a hurry. No one was going to pass us, since all the smart people were sleeping, and it was already dark, so not feeling rushed I was able to start my way up the horrible looking flaring crack. Aid climbing means I am pulling on gear to go up something that I can't climb under my own strength. The problem with flaring cracks is you can only get one shoulder in and you are forced to climb and pull on gear but you get stuck all the time and it is very uncomfortable. Imagine trying to clean the back of your coat closet without taking any coats out. You can do it but it kinda sucks, for some reason it is slightly easier by headlamp.
Matt and I knew it was going to be a long one so we started chatting. Being slightly delirious from climbing 16 hours already, we started talking about any funny thing we could think of -- first BJ, losing our virginity, girls we should have kissed and ones we shouldn't have, -- you know; guy stuff. Half way through a story about this time I fooled around with a girl in school, I saw it: Eight giant eyes staring at me.
“Holy shit dude it’s a f**king tarantula!”
“No its not, shut up” Matt replied.
“Dude this thing is staring at me, everytime I get closer to it the thing lunges at me.” I protested.
“Are you telling me that you are climbing el-cap by headlamp two thousand feet off the ground and you are scared of a spider?” Matt questioned
“It is a very large, aggressive, looking spider” I said
“Just poke at it until it goes back in the crack and keep telling me about this chick at your school. Did she have big boobs?”
Not having anything to poke at it with, I used a loop of rope and kinda slap poked at it. To my surprise, the spider crawled back into the crack; waiting to jump on me as my headlamp passed I was sure!
“No I don't like chicks with big boobs, more than a handful is a waste! Plus they are always complaining about their back”
By the time I made it to camp 5 which the book claims to be a “good bivi for 2” it was a little before 2 in the morning. I still had to haul and matt still had to clean the pitch. By the time we had camp set up and we forced some food down our throats it was about 3am.
Just for the record; CAMP FIVE sucks, It was sloping away from the wall in 2 directions and I had to put a cam in the wall to keep snug against harness so I didn't slide off. Matt woke up at one point hanging halfway off the ledge facedown! We were essentially trying to sleep hanging from our harnesses in a slightly less than vertical position.
By the time 7am rolled around, we were as fresh as pigeon shit. We blamed the blurry vision and the dry mouths on the smoke in the valley and played rock paper to see who was the next contestant on, “Climb Already”. It was Matt.
The next 2 pitches were straightforward but slow aid, the teams we passed last night were only 2 pitches behind and gaining on us a little faster than we would have liked.
Once we made it to “Camp 6” we decided to take an hour for lunch and repack the bag.
“If you take this one I will take the next 4 to the top, hell we might even finish tonight!” I told Matt.
“That is cool with me just let me eat some more food and text my wife,” Matt replied.
And so we chilled. Five pitches from the top, it all started to sink in. When we make it to the top, we would be done climbing. I have been dreaming about climbing this rock for 20 years. I have spent a decade of my life learning what it takes to do this route and it's almost over. It started to sink in that tomorrow we were going to have to get back to our real lives and I didn't really want that.
“On belay” Matt said.
“Hold on Matt, let's take another 15 min and enjoy this spot, this will be our last chance on The Nose to relax, Take it in because next week you will be in an office and I will be building a Garage. All I want to do is Climb this route and be right here.”
So we sat, looking off into the valley admiring the light flickering off the stream in the meadow. looking at the smoke slowing rolling over the far cliff. Looking for climbers on middle cathedral.
I couldn't tell if the next 3 pitches were just slow going or if we were trying to make our time on The Nose last a little longer. Matt got to lead Changing corners, which was spectacular but looked a little different than the movies had made it seem. We short fixed the rest saving us a little time and got us to the top of pitch 29 by sunset. The last 2 were an easy link and we knew it was almost over.
The view was incredible, 3000 ft off the valley floor, we watched the sun go down for the last time during our climb. We didn't talk much, just watched the headlights come on in the valley and pondered everything we had accomplished over the past few days and everything this route meant to us. Matt referred to The Nose as “The dissertation of rock climbing” when we finished would would have our PHD.
The top took almost an hour, getting to the anchor is no big deal but it is always surprising how much work it is to get the bag and all your get on level ground.
When we got all our gear up to that tree, Matt had a surprise for me.
“I brought a little something up just incase we made it here, how would you like a little whiskey?”
I had given up drinking 6 weeks before the trip to help with training and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our accomplishment.
“I brought something too,” pulling out two Snickers bars.
We hugged each other and tried to hold back tears.
There was no Provost at the top of this rock handing out diplomas, no annoyed, sweaty professors waiting to shake our hands. Just the two of us and a giant pile of gear.
So we sat, eating Snickers with warm bellies, and watched the moon come up over the valley rim.