The Salathe Wall on El Cap had been on my tick list for sometime, but for some reason things never worked out to get it done. When visiting Karsten and Andrew in Vegas back in March I asked Andrew if he would be interested in doing the Salathe and he was, Karsten who had done the route 8 years decided he wanted to get in on the action as well and a plan was hatched.
Andrew and I met up last Wednesday evening and began to rack up, Karsten would be driving in late that night. We met up with Karsten el cap bridge at around 6:45AM and headed up to do the Free Blast. Unfortunately there was a slow party beginning to start up the first pitch, we decided to hike some loads to the base of the fixed lines and give them some space. After hiking a load the second was just getting to the first belay. We decided to start up the route and informed them that we would be passing, I started us off linking the first 2 pitches to make the pass and began short fixing on the 3rd, the pass was complete. We made good time up the Free Blast, fixed a pitch above heart ledges, rapped down, ate some dinner at the bridge, hiked the remainder of our gear to the base and began to haul our bags to heart ledges, unfortunately a team of two beat us to heart but they had not climbed the free blast yet. We slept at heart ledges after a long day, I woke up being cold and wet, evidently the ledge I was sleeping on had a seep of water that I had blocked and I got soaked, so I was motivated to get moving. We ended up making it to el Cap Spire, that night, with Andrew leading the first block, me the 2nd block and Karsten the 3rd. I bonked hard at the end of my block and Karsten was so worked at the end of his block he was feeling sick, I think the effort we put in on the big first day was taking its toll. Andrew took one for the team and fixed a pitch above El Cap Spire in the dark. There was a team of 3 Koreans bivied in the Alcove and they had 2 pitches fixed above the spire, we needed to pass them in the morning as they were a very very slow team and we could not afford to be stuck behind them. We woke up early and quietly got our stuff ready, trying not to wake the Koreans. I took the first block and made good time until I hit the Sewer Pitch which I linked to "the Block", no one wanted to lead the Sewer so I took one for the team. This has to one of the worst pitches I have ever climbed, I soaking wet by the time I finished this waterfall of slime and awkward climbing with tricky placement. Andrew took the next block from "the block" to the Salathe Roof as the sun was setting. The Koreans asked us to fix lines, so we fixed ropes for them all the way to the Salathe Roof, something like 8 pitches, they were struggling and moving slow, so maybe we prevented a rescue. Karsten led the head wall pitch in the dark to "Long Ledge" where we bivied for the night, in the process he took a huge whipper just before the ledge when a piece pulled. The next day we climbed off and were on the summit by early afternoon, the decent down the East Ledge was casual.
Overall a classic route with good friends, what could be better!
Unfortunately when we got down I discovered that a bear had broken into my van and made quite the mess. Most likely a momma bear broke out a window and put her cub in to the work as there is no way a full size bear could fit through the window. The damage was considerable and a bit of a downer, but we still celebrated our ascent with cobras and hit the pizza deck for food.
I decided I needed to leave the valley the next day, with the van damaged my options for staying in the valley were limited.
More pics to come when I get Karsten's!