Solo big wall questions


Original Post
Scott Redding · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0
  1. I'm wanting to get into solo big wall, im up in the buffalo ny area. It's hard to get anyone in my crew to want to do the climbs I'm interested in, so I was thinking of trying to do it myself. My old man was a climbing bum back in the 60s and 70s mainly in the alps and U.K. And for as long as I can remember he's been talking about 'Dawn of the Early Morning Light' on El Cap. Not sure if this was the old name for WOTEML or he just mis named it, or maybe linking up new dawn with WOTEML. Either way I want climb it and solo. Problem is the only wall experience I have is West face of leaning tower, getting rained off Washington column half way up and bailing on regular route of half dome after 6 pitches. ( mainly because I was climbing off a two year couch) Not an illustrious career! 
  2. My plan is to try Wet Denim Dream on leaning tower, Ten days after on Washington column and Tangerine trip on El cap for training. 
  3. Questions- do these seem like good routes to train on solo? What is the preferred belay technique? Single or double portaledge?  What are the answers to the many questions I should be asking but too dumb to know!?
  4. Thanks in advance
Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

If you bailed on HD after 6 pitches then simply forget about the dawn wall. Can you rope solo?( I'm betting not) Do you free climb or aide? An you need partners or your gonna die. I cant tell if this is a legit questiom by a total beginner or a troll. Hook, line an sink. 

Scott Redding · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks for the reply Tyler. I've been a trad climber for over 30 years, with many 1000' plus Free routes and multi day alpine accents. Then started aid climbing a few years ago, it's so much easier than hard free climbing as you get older. I bailed on half dome as I was planning a route up el cap with a partner. unfortunately it was too hot so we tried half dome. I hadn't climbed in two years, not a problem for aid but a problem for all the free on half dome. We didn't feel like epicing and realized we weren't prepared.  The only rope soloing I've done has been on ice with a gri gri but I'm sure there's a better way.  I know I'm not ready for the dawn wall that's why I listed some easier climbs to train on. I don't think I'm going to die. I plan on training and preparing for this route over a year or two, or more if necessary. hopefully you've calmed down and got your knickers untwisted. Just hope to get some constructive advice on achieving this goal. Thanks all

delly84 · · Golden, Co · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 64
Ryan Strickland · · Idyllwild, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 126

Your plan seems good to me, if not overkill as far as training walls go. I first learned to rope solo with clove hitches on a single pitch clean aid route (or 5.12d...). I did that route probably 20 times until I could lead and clean it consistently in less than 1 hour. Then I moved over to a long overhanging crack and practiced steeper and more awkward aid (on a 5.11c...). I chose weekdays and winter time to do this so I wouldn't interfere with anybody free climbing. Once I felt pretty good at that, I purchased the Silent Partner for rope soloing. On walls, for me the hardest thing is fitness and motivation to keep going up. Fitness is the easy part: start jugging steep fixed lines as often as you can to build up fitness. I like to work in the weight room on squats and deadlifts to help me better endure hauling day after day. The weights might be more mental than anything, but if I feel like I'm strong, I am more determined to keep going. To stay motivated while on the wall, I try to take it 1 pitch at a time. If I'm not in any real danger, I keep going up. Once you're halfway up, might as well keep going up because going down would suck more, so motivation takes care of itself for me at that point.

If I were you, I'd find a couple of routes nearby that you can practice aid soloing on and just get comfortable with the process. Get used to carrying 2 ropes, a huge rack, and keeping everything organized. Hauling on the WOEML will be the biggest energy expenditure, so learn how to do it well and efficiently. That may be a 2:1 or 1:1 haul, depending on how much you bring and your overall fitness. I only have a double ledge (Runout Customs Double) and like having it to myself. It doesn't weigh much more than a single. 

Mark Hudon has some good pdfs that you can Google search for that detail his hauling, rigging, and other aid techniques. He's soloed quite a few El Cap routes. 

Good luck!

Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
Scott Redding wrote:

Thanks for the reply Tyler. I've been a trad climber for over 30 years, with many 1000' plus Free routes and multi day alpine accents. Then started aid climbing a few years ago, it's so much easier than hard free climbing as you get older. I bailed on half dome as I was planning a route up el cap with a partner. unfortunately it was too hot so we tried half dome. I hadn't climbed in two years, not a problem for aid but a problem for all the free on half dome. We didn't feel like epicing and realized we weren't prepared.  The only rope soloing I've done has been on ice with a gri gri but I'm sure there's a better way.  I know I'm not ready for the dawn wall that's why I listed some easier climbs to train on. I don't think I'm going to die. I plan on training and preparing for this route over a year or two, or more if necessary. hopefully you've calmed down and got your knickers untwisted. Just hope to get some constructive advice on achieving this goal. Thanks all

Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

My apologies good sir. Thought someone was trollin.. godspeed

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

The Dawn Wall is one of the easier El Cap walls but it is also one of the longest. It would be a fun, relaxing climb that travels through some amazing spots on the cliff. 

Your training program sounds good. Dial in your systems and go and have fun.

Mydans · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

I think your training ideas are sound but I would add a couple things.  First big wall climbing is complicated enough with a partner and soloing adds at least a couple levels of complexity. I would try and climb a couple walls with a partner first to get the basic systems down and then try soloing a shorter wall like the tower or the column.  The zodiac is also a good solo in that it is steep, clean, and doesn't traverse too much. Traverses, roofs and pendulums are quite a bit more challenging when soloing.  Also when you say the "dawn wall" that is a bit misleading.  The dawn wall is the free climbing project completed by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson.  It is not a traditional aid climb.  The dawn wall free project is actually a mix of several aid routes with the majority of the pitches  consisting of Mescaline( apparently auto correct won't let me spell it correctly), space, and the wall of early morning light.  The route you are probably referring to is New Dawn which is a much higher quality start to the WEML.  I would definitely disagree with Mark that New Dawn is one of the easer lines on El Cap.  I can think of quite a few routes on the wall that are easier, shorter, or less involved and unless you are a super quick learner I would get 4-5 EL cap routes under your belt before getting on New Dawn.  I'm not saying what you want to do isn't possible but I think its important to be realistic. 

One of the most experienced wall climbers I know gave me this wise piece of advice.  " Are you soloing because you don't have a partner or because you actually want to solo?  Don't solo a wall because you can't find a partner.   Only go up there by yourself is that's really what you want to experience.  Soloing can be a transformative experience but it is also scary, lonely and about 3 times the work, so if that isn't what you want you should find a partner"  After thinking about it that summer I went and found a partner. I have soloed a bit since and it was incredibly rewarding but it was a totally different experience.

Just my 2 cents, have fun!

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

Your plan sounds appropriately incremental (if not perhaps overly so)and you seem committed to training and preparation.  I think you'll be fine if you stick with it.  

+1 for doing a wall or two with a partner. Not mandatory, but will speed up the learning curve and be more fun.

New Dawn is really long and I would advise provisioning for a)being up there longer than you think and b) a couple planned rest days, because you will get physically worked and those rest days will assert themselves whether you like it or not.  Some sweet ledges at around the 1/3 and 2/3 marks should make these easy. 

Whichever ledge you get hold of will work, as long as it's storm-worthy. Your time on the wall will exceed reliable forecasting. 

Notice how no one's chiming in on ideal belay method? That's because the best one entails another human. Go try out the usual Plans B and report back!  [My experience includes the clove hitch (heinous, got injured), Solo Aid (not horrible, but tough to pull rope through), grigri (manageable, better if modified), and Silent Partner (great for free climbing, but bulky and works poorly with wall-sized ropes)].

John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 845

I've found that the silent partner (with backup) works well on walls as long as I don't go with a rope thicker than 10.5 and it has to be pretty new. 10.2 is what I usually use. Andy's K. book is great. A lot of the information is out there already but he puts together in one place. His "mental" kills section is a good read as help. 

I would just do something on Washington col and then el cap. New Dawn is a long route. Kevin D. did a great trip report on New Dawn to Tribal Rite on supertopo a few years back...

 http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Part-1-of-2-New-Dawn-to-Tribal-Rite-12-days-on-the-Wall/t12302n.html

Remember to take lots of food and water and plan to take your time. No need to put yourself under time restraints or pressure. Have fun and don't beat up on yourself when things go wrong. It will happen. Just take some time out, smell the roses and get back on it.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Silent Partner (great for free climbing, but bulky and works poorly with wall-sized ropes)].

it was actually designed to be used with "wall sized ropes" Rob. 10.2 and bigger. Any smaller and it will not engage. 

Kevin Stricker · · Evergreen, CO · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 325
Mark Hudon wrote:

Silent Partner (great for free climbing, but bulky and works poorly with wall-sized ropes)].

it was actually designed to be used with "wall sized ropes" Rob. 10.2 and bigger. Any smaller and it will not engage. 

Actually it will work fine all the way down to 9mm ropes.  Blanchard even tested it on on sub 9mm ropes and it still caught falls.  The big concern with smaller diameter ropes is backfeeding (rope silently running down and pooling at the anchor) so you have to do a better job counterbalancing your loops and checking tension.  Personally I think it's a bit foolish to rope solo on skinny ropes but I will take a light cord when rope soloing an alpine route to shave some weight.

I think your plan sounds like a good one.  I second the previous comments about practicing on a local cliff...a lot.  When I was first learning to rope solo I would go out after work and run up some harder local crack climbs over and over, refining systems, learning crack jumaring, and shaving time off the climbs.  My one big piece of advice is to not underestimate your water consumption.  As you are doing twice the work you will likely need more water than you would while climbing with a partner.

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

Maybe I'm doing it wrong,  but my SP definitely seems happiest with a slinky new 9.4 or so. The fatties just don't flow and I end up having to manually feed.   Which just negated the one real advantage. 

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 0
Mark Hudon wrote:

Silent Partner (great for free climbing, but bulky and works poorly with wall-sized ropes)].

it was actually designed to be used with "wall sized ropes" Rob. 10.2 and bigger. Any smaller and it will not engage. 

I could easily be wrong, but I thought the issue with thin ropes and an SP was that with thin ropes both parts of the clove hitch can end up on the same side when it locks in a fall. And that this would then be much harder to undo. But `I might have got this completely wrong!

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

Hey I'll go try it out again with my chunkiest cord (Marathon 10.1). Good a reason as any. 

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 200

Silent partner for soloing is your best bet. I've used many different systems and this is what I use for solo FAs and soloing obscure routes. Works well, allows you to free easily, and catches every time so long as it's not arctic cold out. 

Works great on wall sized ropes. No idea what dude is talking about with not being good for larger ropes. If you're having trouble with the having to manually feed the rope you need to check your setup because the silent parter is not the problem. If you're not using tied off loops the weight of the rope hanging down will make it impossible to move up easily, but then at that point you're not using it properly so you should probably bail until you know how to use your equipment 

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 655

Thanks Kevin

Scott Redding · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thank you all for your beta, mountain project had limited my posts as I'm a new member. So I haven't been able to chime in. I'm awaiting delivery of Andy K's book. Been practicing solo aiding on the bolts at my gym there's a 50' route, very overhanging, so that's a good work out. I'll definitely be doing a lot of practice single pitch at my local crag. I was thinking this summer doing one of my training walls with a friend, it's been a few years since my last big wall and I've never done C3 so see what's that all about with a partner. Then I'd like to try something solo. With regard to the comment about an I doing this because I can't find a partner. Not at all, this route is something I want to do alone. My father has cancer right now and I just wanted to do this climb to honor him and meditate on our relationship. Hopefully by the time I'm ready to climb it, it won't be a memorial route. Remaining questions 

SP seem really hard to find, used the only option, is this the only way to go?

How much water is a good guide per day? I'm thinking early to mid September so it's a little cooler as there doesn't seem much opportunity for shade on the route

This summer for training I was going to go in mid to late august so it'll be hot, I think leaning tower is in shade till 2 pm so I was thinking wet denim dream. Is there any other good options for summer?

delly84 · · Golden, Co · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 64
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Mid September will probably be way hot on that wall. Mid October is a much better option. 

My rule for water is to make your best estimate of how long you will take on the route (soloing, I figure only 2 pitches per day. More on that later), add a day for slowness/bad weather and then add another day for the unknown. I take 3 quarts per day.

I have soloed three El Cap routes and I have wall climbing pretty wired. I also want to have a relaxed experience on my walls and I don't climb from dawn to dusk. 2 pitches a day is a nice, comfortable pace for me. 

On the New Dawn (your route), there are quite a few C2 pitches that could be climbed quickly (by me). I'm sure I could get 3 in a day, and maybe even 4 if I really wanted to. Your mileage may vary.

I don't have the topo in front of me right now but the New Dawn is a long route, it has to be 30 pitches. If you manage 3 a day, that's still 10 days. 10 days, add a day for slowness and the unknown, and add a day for bad weather and you have 12 days. 12 x .75 is 9 gallons. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply