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Scorched Earth - El Cap Trip Report [FINISHED!]
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Dec 23, 2007
Note: I still don't fully "get" how this forum works, eh? These posts shrink the photos, which I don't like. Be sure to click on the photos to see them in proper size. Cheers! Thanks for being patient, I should have done this a while ago. Thanks to John McNamee for his help uploading everything.

If you have any technical big wall questions, fire 'em at me in a separate post, and I [along with everyone else] will do my best to answer 'em for yas.

Pete [and Tom]


Rock Climbing Photo: BFC

[Pete] This is where it all begins! Welcome to the erstwhile "Camp 5", the one time "Yosemite Branch Office" of me - the diabolical Dr. Piton - in the centre of the Curry Village Parking Lot. Tom and I used the BFC's [Big F*ckin' Cams] you see here for our successful ascent of Excalibur on El Capitan in May of 2002. They were so bitchin', we we thought we'd use 'em again for Scorched Earth in September.

 In this photo essay trip report of our trip up Scorched Earth, you can assume that whomever has submitted the photo is the one who's doin' the talkin', but we'll let you know when we interrupt each other. [But like, if you "get it", you'll probably know when I'm the one talking, eh? We will also give you a [HINT] from time to time.]

 From left to right, "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok, Nathan Chaszeyka [Natec] and Tom Kasper [Apollodorus]. Tom designed and manufactures these bitchin' 9" and 12" cams, and you can click here to open the Valley Giant Cams web site. (Photo by Lisa Reedy)

[Tom] Who is this guy? And why does he have my #16 cam?

Rock Climbing Photo: Steve G
Steve G

Here's a shot of Steve Gerberding, graciously posing in front of his nemesis, El Capitan, with my #16 Valley Giant cam. I was just about to head up to the base of Scorched Earth, when I ran into Steve standing on the bridge at El Cap Meadows.

He'd just come off his one-hundredth ascent of the Big Stone, climbing the Dihedral Wall for his first time, in record speed, with Hans Florine, who was also making his hundredth ascent of the Stone. Steve and Hans have many speed records on El Capitan, but I think that was the first time they'd teamed up to do one. You can click here to open another browser window and read about El Capitan speed ascents.

Steve doesn't need any such giant cam to go up anything. He is a Big Wall Master on at least three continents. He was just being a good sport for the camera.

I did my first big wall with Steve back in October of 1983. We swung leads on the Lost Arrow Direct. It took us two days after fixing two pitches.

Rock Climbing Photo: El Cap Hilon
El Cap Hilon

El Cap Hilton, at the base of Scorched Earth

This is a hot of the world-class El Cap Hilton. For a minimal fee [a twenty-minute hike from the road - more when carrying a pig], you get a roomy, soft and flat area to prepare your gear. It's high enough above the river and marsh grasses that the mosquito problem is negligible, at least in the late summer when we were there. Bears and other odd creatures of the night like ringtail cats and spotted skunks will get your food, though, so make sure you hang it from the trees or your fixed lines.

Technically speaking, you are no longer allowed to bivi at the base of El Cap, nor to leave so much stuff lying around for long. We were packing, and we left not a trace behind. To legally bivi at the base of El Cap, you need to hang your portaledge on the wall, even if it's only three feet above the ground!

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok, [PTPP] still groggy from lack of coffee, is pondering how to get all our gear into two pigs, a piglet and a Blue Whale. This was our blast-off point for Scorched Earth. Not shown is most of the climbing gear, already up at our Advance Base Camp at the top of pitch 2.

The bags in the tree at the far left edge of the photo are hanging from the haul line, which goes straight up to the P2 ledge, 58 metres above. You can see from the position of the rope that the wall starts off very overhanging, and it never lets up until the last two or three pitches. It's the steepest part of El Cap, between Native Son and the Tangerine Trip.

At the middle right of the photo is a 16-inch (400mm) plywood cam I made for the Leavittator, the notoriously WIDE offwidth pitch that follows the right side of the enormous Golden Finger of Fate, a four-hundred-foot high rather detached pinnacle.

[What a load of crrrrrrap, eh? "You must alvays have a vell-organicized belay." I'm doing my best to minimize the clusterf*ckage, and somehow make our loads ready for hauling. This always takes ya longer than ya think, eh?

Just to the right you see the blackened wall next to the fireplace. According to Chongo, Scorched Earth is so named because the original start [which we did not attempt] begins in the fireplace[!] Campfires are no longer permitted at the base of El Cap, and neither is camping. While you're fixing, you need to either bivi on the wall, or return to the Valley. Technically, this could mean hanging your ledge from a rivet five feet off the ground, though I'm not sure this BWT has yet been tested with the rangers! - Pete]

Rock Climbing Photo: California King Snake
California King Snake

Dr. Piton cuddles this friendly little guy that was hanging around the El Cap Hilton looking for a bit of room service in the form of a tasty rodent. I believe he is a California "King" Snake, which is really a Milk Snake. Are there any herpetologist taxonomists out there?

Heinz57 Jugging on the Tangerine Trip

This is a shot I took from the second belay of Scorched Earth on El Capitan. "Heinz57" is jugging three ropes he used to fix the first four pitches of the Tangerine Trip (ed. note: Heinz said he fixed the first five pitches).

This is the steepest section of El Capitan, and his fixed lines hit the ground about 70 feet from the base. Fixed ropes here have been known to fail, and two people have died on this jug.


[When I introduced myself to Heinz at the base, he instantly recognized me from my writing at But when I asked him his user name, he didn't have one - he was a lurker. Heinz was struggling with the traditional Yosemite system of jugging, until I fixed him up with the Petzl Frog System.

You can click here to learn how to ascend a free-hanging rope using the Petzl Frog ascending system.

PTPP on the Awesome Ledge of P2, Scorched Earth

PTPP soaks up sun and hot coffee at our stylin' Advance Base Camp, the ledge at the top of P2 on Scorched Earth. This ledge is a full 60m free-hanging jug from the El Cap Hilton at the base. It's about three feet wide, thirty feet long, flat and almost level. It was a nice base of operations for the crux third and fourth pitches. 

[I'll say, mate! What a great place to hang out and drink another cup o' joe. With any luck, I won't have to start climbing til afternoon. - Pete] 

The left-facing open book behind and above PTPP is part of the Tangerine Trip route. The start of Zodiac is the flat talus area below the rainbow. The near skyline is the East Buttress, a popular 5.10 free route.

Advance Base Camp - Scorched Earth

This is the view looking in the opposite direction along our very bitchin' digs at the top of the second pitch.

From bottom to top - fresh fruit, ghetto blaster wrapped in blue foam, the Blue Whale, and Tom. To the left of Tom on the skyline is El Cap Towers on The Nose.

It's all so very comfortable hanging out on this ledge, isn't it? Unfortunately, I must now confront my fears. Please click here to come along, and find out why I was feeling so scared!


Tom at ABC on Scorched Earth

Here you can see Tom standing on our Advance Base Camp ledge at the top of the second pitch of Scorched Earth, which is in fact the top of the second pitch of El Cap Tree. The climbers behind Tom are on the third pitch of Tangerine Trip, a popular Trade Route.

Scorched Earth is a seldom-repeated route that comes at you fast and hard, starting with A3+ hooks right off this ledge, moves which offer significant deck potential. So DFU!

Back in November 2000, I stood here alone, preparing to solo this next pitch of Scorched Earth while waiting for my partner to escape from work. He didn't, and I later got snowed off. But not before I chickened out of soloing this pitch, and switched to the Trip! Tom is looking pretty happy here [hell, yeah - he didn't have to lead this one!] - but this pitch and the one above had me a bit worried.

Rock Climbing Photo: Tom's Ledge
Tom's Ledge

Flag on Scorched Earth

This is a shot of my portaledge at P2 of Scorched Earth. People say that PTPP's Crab-O-Ledge looks like a Hoser flag from the ground. [Can you imagine?! Sheesh. - Pete] So, I figured I should put an American flag on my ledge to balance things out. Coincidently, MrHardGrit had his Union Jack British flag flying on Mescalito at the same time we were on Scorched Earth. El Capitan is quite the cosmopolitan place during Wall Season.

 [Not dying is a VGT! - Pete]


Rock Climbing Photo: SE ABC

Scorched Earth Advance Base Camp

Since PTPP and I were going to "flag" our ledges above the pigs, I figured I should put a real flag on mine. I'm standing on the ledge at the top of P2 of Scorched Earth, which is a free-hanging jug 200-foot (60m) above the El Cap Hilton. This was our Advance Base Camp for the next two pitches.

Pete took this photo while returning to ABC after knocking off the crux A4+ fourth pitch.

Rock Climbing Photo: Helicopter in Flight
Helicopter in Flight


After knocking off the two scariest pitches, a little levity was in order. The next morning I made a little helicopter from part of a Wall Flower bag, and gave it a test flight. But my design needed a bit of improvement.

[Pete's, like, a Chemical Engineer, eh? He must've been sick the day they taught aerodynamic stability. - Tom]

 Tom achieved an aerodynamic solution by putting a bit of weight on the axis of the rotor in the form of a small rock and some red duct tape, and let it fly!

At this point on the wall, I thought the worst was over. Little did I know what lay in store.....

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! [DDEL]

Anyway, we've finally drunk enough coffee, so click here to join me on the sharp end.

Tom Belays at 4 – Scorched Earth

I'll tell ya, mate - I was pretty darn relieved to make it to here safely! The belay at the top of 3 was two or three manky quarter-inchers, which I had to equalize to the first three pieces in the fourth pitch! Sheesh.

The crux aid is on the fourth pitch and clocks in at a solid A4+ - including a twelve-foot cheat stick move where I had to hook and then trust a crumbling edge above already-bad gear. Yikes! Higher up are tiny heads and more lousy hooks. Blow it here, and you're in for a long ride, mate!

Scorched Earth, along with Disorderly Conduct, are two El Cap routes which require such a device. Randy Leavitt called his the Lovetron, while Warren Hollinger had a more practical use for his - it was his Tequila Straw.

PTPP, in an action sequence moving past the large roof of P5 on Scorched Earth.

Click here for a larger image

Rock Climbing Photo: Pete Leading P5 SE
Pete Leading P5 SE

Pete Leading P5 Scorched Earth

Now is this a bitchin' shot, or what? One of the benefits of is the people you meet, and the photos that end up in your inbox! As you read above, I gave Heinz [then lurker, now heinz57] a mini-tutorial at the base. It turns out his friend William Zittrich was out in the Meadows with his 1000mm lens.

You can see I'm just turning the upper roof, while Tom belays me from my Crab-O-Ledge. That obvious notch in the roof to the right is the Batcave on Aurora.

You can now click here for a close-up photo of Tom belaying me.

Rock Climbing Photo: Tom Reclining while belaying at the top of Pitch 4
Tom Reclining while belaying at the top of Pitch 4

Tom Reclining at the Fourth Belay – Scorched Earth

This photo is absolutely remarkable, in that it was taken from El Cap Meadows! You know William had to be so far away because of the angle of the shot.

You can see the cordalettes equalizing all the cams I stuffed into the crack above us [no bolts!], the green and purple rope bags, the white handkerchief protecting the back of Tom's neck from the sun, the Blue Whale, the fruit bucket. Hell, you can even see the Hoser Flag on Wee-Wee's hat!

Rock Climbing Photo: Pete Leading P5
Pete Leading P5

Pete Leading P5 – Scorched Earth

Ha! I actually remember this move! I had to hook that little edge I'm leaning towards, and then make this wicked top step to stuff a cam into the roof! Long reach, you say? No problem with my Russian Aiders!
Cool shadow, cool body position.

Rock Climbing Photo: Above the Roof on 5
Above the Roof on 5

Above the Roof on P5 of Scorched Earth

This is PTPP above the roof, and nearing the top of P5 on Scorched Earth. The pitch starts by going left, then over a fifteen-foot roof and then up and right on the overhanging wall above. This area is roughly at the same height as the notoriously steep Wing pitch on Native Son. You can judge the angle from his hanging Zip Line. I was glad I only had to clean that pitch, and not jug a free-hanging line. 

As Pete approached the fifth belay, he suddenly erupted into Diabolical Doctor Evil Laughter. The next photo will make you laugh, too, when you see the sight that greeted Pete at Cape Wild Bivi.

Rock Climbing Photo: Booty

Woo-hoo! BOOTY!

I couldn't believe my eyes when I arrived here at Cape Wild Bivi, the top of 5 on Scorched Earth. Over to my right, the pitch on Aurora was festooned with gear! [Great word, that...] Evidently it had been left behind by a retreating party which had to down-aid the pitch. This could prove to be one of the most booty-licious coups of all time! If only I could get there......

[Pete's eyes aren't as good as mine, especially without my 300mm lens. All he could see was a bunch of Booty. When I came up and used my camera as a telescope, he couldn't believe it as I called out what I saw: two Yellow Aliens, two Purple #4 Camalots, a few smaller cams, some stoppers, biners, lockers, slings and even a pair of aiders. Basically, it was a complete trad rack! - Tom]

But with all that booty just waiting to be plundered - ARRRR, may-tee! - I knew that I just had to find a way!

Anyway, enough with the drooling - it's time to get to work and haul those pigs!

PTPP Hauls P5 of Scorched Earth

Another 1000mm telephoto by William Zittrich shot from El Cap Meadows, this time of PTPP hauling P5 of Scorched Earth. My haul bag and flagged ledge are being raised. I'm on Pete's Crab-O-Ledge below the large roof. Once Pete raised the first bag, I flagged the Crab-O-ledge above the second pig and lowered it out.

The bag doesn't leave a shadow because it was so far away from the wall. That pitch was STEEP! 

From top to bottom on the haul line is PTPP, my flagged portaledge, the (soon to be) Cratered Pig, and on Catch Lines beneath, a five-gallon bucket of oranges, avocados and bananas, the Amazing Flying Whale, and my sleeping bag.

Notice that the U.S. flag is backwards from what it should be. I neglected to research how to properly fly the flag as a banner. The blue field of stars belongs at the upper lefthand corner. At least the flag is not upside down, which might have looked like a Distress Signal to people on the ground. Unless you're in need of a rescue, the last thing you want to hear on El Capitan is YOSAR and the Park Rangers calling up to you with bullhorns.

The next photo shows my arrival at Cape Wild Bivi.

Rock Climbing Photo: Tom Approaches 5 - Cape Wild Bivi
Tom Approaches 5 - Cape Wild Bivi

Tom Approaches 5 – Cape Wild Bivi

Ha! I must have been scared. Check out the doubled Scream-Aids above the Screamer near the top. A superb photo of our sub-loads on their multi-coloured Catch Lines, and hanging beneath everything else, our fragrant Wall Flower. 

After Tom finished cleaning P4, I fixed half of P5 and equalized a bunch of rivets, then rapped off and returned to Cape Wild Bivi. Our accommodations for the night consisted of nothing more than four manky quarter-inchers in a horizontal array [the topo showed five - sheesh] - so it felt good to have the belay backed up to the rivets above.

The next morning, I tried some crazy Rubber Band Man pendulums across and towards Aurora in an effort to score the booty. With each subsequent swing, Tom would whip me farther across the wall in giant forty-foot arcs over five-hundred feet off the deck! After I caromed and bounced off porta-ledges, pigs, and sub-loads, got tangled in the Wall Flower, and spun round like a top until I felt sick, I finally succumbed to the futility of my actions, and escaped the vertiginous exposure to collapse exhausted in my ledge.

[But not before wearing a core shot into the sheath of my 3-month old 11mm x 60m Mammut Flex lead rope. - Tom]

Nothing to do but climb the A4 expanding Poison Pill, and try to swing over from higher.

Now, you may be wondering what an expanding flake actually looks like. Believe me, it looks better once you're past it then when you're actually climbing it.

You can click here to see it from the friendly side.


Looking Through the Poison Pill

This thing had me a bit worried. It said A4 expando on the topo. When I got up to it, it was a fairly normal-looking though awkward flake. Was it A1, or was it A4?

[It's all A1 until you fall. - Tom]

There are two ways to look at an expanding flake - you can look from below, or you can look from above. Believe me, it always looks better from above!

It might look innocent enough in this photo - check out the cams and the ground six- or seven-hundred feet beneath - but this bastard still packs a punch, as you are about to read.

Rock Climbing Photo: p5

Pitch 7 of Scorched Earth

This is PTPP in action, going up the A4 loose rock of pitch 7 of Scorched Earth.

We fixed this pitch, and spent the night at P6, the Poison Pill block (scene of the infamous Cratered Pig Incident the next day). This overhanging pitch traversed to the right. The next day when I lowered out to jug the fixed line, I found myself thirty feet from the wall and fifty feet east of where I started. 

[The steepness was the least of my worries! See that flake all my gear is stuck in? It's not expando, it's loose. You could likely pull it off with your hands. Ripping to the belay is possible, though hopefully not probable. - Pete]

From the top of this pitch the next day, I took a telephoto shot of a traffic jam on the Nose. 

  (Photo by: Unknown)

Traffic Jam on the Nose

This is a shot from Scorched Earth looking west towards El Cap Tower and Texas Flake on the Nose route. It was taken from the P7 belay. 
El Cap Tower is the middle of three prominent ledges, and Texas Flake is separated from the Cap by the chimney above.

Notice the traffic jam, with parties on both El Cap Tower and Texas Flake one pitch above. The route above Texas Flake goes up and left to Boot Flake (you can just see its base) and from there follows the infamous King Swing penji.

You can also see a climber in red on Mescalito. From a full-size image, I could see that it was Pete Davies from England, who was doing Mescalito with Tom Randall, MrHardgrit, also from England.

PTPP waves, "Later, eh?"

Hoserspeak, for bon voyage) from the Poison Pill ledge at the top of P6 of Scorched Earth.

The portaledge is clipped to cams placed downward in the crack behind the ledge, which is hardly visible here.

I went up the fixed line to the P7 belay, and hauled Pete's pig and Crab-O-Ledge. As he cleaned up the belay, the expando Pill closed up on a #4 Friend. Pete couldn't get the cams to move. I came back down the haul line to see if I could get it, but it was solidly stuck. It's now Booty for the next party who hangs their pigs from this expanding anchor and opens it back up with the weight.
This is the last photo showing the Cratered Pig and the Amazing Flying Whale before they slipped the noose and got away. It was lucky for me that I took my camera bag with me, and didn't leave it clipped to the top of the Pig.

I took this photo while dangling about thirty feet from the wall on a fixed line to P7. You can see someone on Sea of Dreams below and left of PTPP. If you look closely, you can see two guys on Mescalito, too. El Cap Tower and Texas Flake are on the skyline behind him.

Rock Climbing Photo: Disaster Strikes Dr. Piton
Disaster Strikes Dr. Piton

Disaster Strikes Dr. Piton!

OK, folks, this one goes way beyond being a Big Wall Theorist! This is what happens when the Wank Factor spirals way out of control. Here you can see how I dropped Tom's pig from a thousand feet up on Scorched Earth.

 Notice how I correctly flagged the ledge onto the haul line. That bit is right. 

In my left hand, I hold the cordalettes which equalize the anchors, and in my right hand, I hold the Power Point locker. My mistake was that I attached the haul line, not to the Suspension point locker on top of the pig like I should have, but rather I attached it to the Power Point of the anchor. So when I untied the load release knot on the docking tether, the pig flew into space unattached to the haul line!

[I was working to get the #4 Friend out of the closed-up Poison Pill crack, when all of a sudden came this noise like a gigantic falcon flying down away from us: a tremendous flapping and the sound of the air itself being ripped apart. I looked down just in time to see the bags disappear into the trees, about a hundred feet from the base. And that's what saved the Amazing Flying Whale.

[After we topped out, I hurried down to perform Salvage Duty. I could see that the Cratered Pig had hit full-speed without being slowed by the trees. The large rock it cratered onto still had the scars from the violent encounter. The Pig was blown out at all the seams, and there was exploded clam chowder and ants everywhere. Shattered water bottles littered the scene for at least a hundred feet downhill from the Impact Zone.

[But the Amazing Flying Whale had managed to reach out and grab the trees with its Catch Line and was still hanging a few feet off the ground when I arrived. The Leavittator rack of Valley Giant cams inside was only marginally damaged. AMAZING! Not only that, my sleeping bag didn't even get a hole in the stuffsack. Pete's headlamp, which was in the top of the Pig, still worked. And so did two other flashlights. Not one thing was missing or stolen. About the only things destroyed, besides the Cratered Pig itself, were water bottles and some of my food. Quite a bit of that was salvaged, and offered up a fine feast at the base of the Zodiac that night.

[The next day, I put the exploded mess into large garbage bags, tied them up and fed them to the Pig. I was able to easily carry it out like that, despite the blown-out seams. - Tom]

Please click here if you would like to understand exactly How Dr. Piton pulled the ALL TIME BONEHEAD MOVE and dropped Tom's pig.


[You can carry on by clicking here to see my next photo, and find out how Dr. Piton Saved the Day. - Tom.]

 "Saved the day?" Dr. Piton pulls Superhero Poses in front of mirror. He frowns. His biceps really are small, aren't they? No matter. Dr. Piton is retired from free climbing.


All-Time Copperhead Crack, Aurora

Dr. Piton transmogrifies into Mr. Hyde (AKA Pound the Pitons Pete), attacking the All-Time Copperhead Crack on Aurora with heads, hammer and chisel. Actually, most of the heads were fixed. The flared splitter also took Hybrid Aliens

We were forced up this diversion around the Leavittator crack on Scorched Earth (visible to the left of PTPP) when we lost the Amazing Flying Whale and my mutant rack of monstrous Valley Giant cams.

[Geez, I wish he'd quit talking about that all the time. Sheesh. - Pete] 

The notorious Leavittator crack goes from A3/A4 knifeblades to Lost Arrows to tips to fingers to hands to fists to offwidth to off-offwidth to squeeze chimney in one big, unbroken swoosh. It looks like the big brother of the Outer Limits crack on the Cookie Cliff. It goes free at hard 5.11, but I was going to C1 it with the big cams. I even made a special #16, just for that crack.

[Uh, like sorry, eh? - Pete]

Stellar Heads on Aurora

So we had to bypass the Leavittator cuz I dropped all of Tom's big cams. But as Bob and Doug McKenzie would say in The Beer Hunter sketch, "like the punishment is not too bad, eh?"

[No, not when you get all the leads, and I have to wear your dirty clothes so I don't freeze to death. - Tom]

This might be the all time head crack - old A4, it was a cakewalk after the horrors of the seldom-travelled pitches of Scorched Earth.

Beneath Tom in his ledge, the majestic concave face of El Cap sweeps to the east. You can see climbers on Zodiac. This is the money shot - because this is what brings me back to El Cap again and again. There is no place on earth I'd rather be than up here with the peregrine falcons.

Unrequited Love on Scorched Earth

See that long look on Tom's face? Don't blame him, blame me.

Check out that big wide crack leering sinisterly behind him. That is the famous Leavittator Pitch on Scorched Earth, a notorious offwidth starting out as knifeblade size and finishing up at 24", with every horrific dimension in between.

In lieu of a Offwidth Free Climbing Rope Gun, I brought along Tom and his BFC's - Big F*ckin' Cams.

Tom manufactures the 9" and 12" Valley Giants, and he was heartbroken he didn't get to do battle with the Leavittator.

[That was the only real pitch on the climb. Everything else just provided access to and from it. - Tom]

 See, when I dropped his pig, I dropped all of his big cams, not to mention more than half of our food and water! Suddenly our leisurely one pitch per day holiday became a somewhat desperate race against our dwindling supples.

So we tripled our pace and gunned to the summit following Aurora, but had to skip the Leavittator, unfortunately for Tom.

[As we got closer and closer to the Leavittator, I became more and more consumed with the idea of somehow leading it. It was my pitch, and I was going to get it, one way or another. It was the main reason I was on the wall in the first place]. I'd wasted almost a week making that ridiculous #16 cam. I told everbody I was going to do it. I had to do it.

I kept saying to myself, over and over, "I think I oughta free it. I think I oughta try to free it. I think I oughta try to free it, and hangdog if I have to. I think I oughta hang on whatever I can get in, and free the rest. I think I oughta aid up as high as I can with the two #4 Camalots, and then just go for it."

[But, this sort of thinking soon degenerated into full-blown madness: "I can shim a #4 Camalot with a loose flake. I can use tape and webbing to sling it on the rack. I can tape two flakes to the other #4 Camalot, and that'll give me a #8. I can take an empty water bottle, screw the cap on really tight, shove it into the crack, and then mantel up onto it. I can duct-tape everything together, and get a #13. I can have Pete zip me up a basketball-sized rock, and use that for pro. I can leap-frog giant rocks, and then shim them up with loose flakes that I break off with my bare hands as the crack gets wider and wider and wider. . . ." - Tom]

Tom's telephoto shot of our own Mr. Hard Grit flying his flagged Union Jack ledge.

Note: You can see the Wall Flower dangling right next to Tom. It's also a good photo of my Catch Lines.

This photo was taken from about P12 on Scorched Earth with a 300mm telephoto lens. Oddly enough, while Pete and Tom were on Scorched Earth, Pete and Tom (mrhardgrit) were on Mescalito. We all topped out on the same day.

In this photo, Tom is one pitch below Bismark Ledge, while Pete is cutting loose the pig. [Note: Their pig doesn't fly. Clearly the Better Way. - Pete] Tom's Union Jack (British flag) ledge is flagged above the pig, as it should be. Notice Tom's no-hands hauling technique. Or is he doing yoga to warm up?

Scorched Earth Hook Traverse - P13

PTPP has safely navigated the ten-odd hook moves in a row to traverse a blank section high on Scorched Earth. You can use the Zip Line to judge the steepness of the rock. The W-W belay anchor is made from two cordalettes, each equalized to at least three pieces.

[Scarrrry stuff, Count Floyd! Nothin' but air for two-thousand feet beneath my heels, nothing but the bite of the hook on the rock holding me there. (Voice of Maxwell Smart) "And loving it." - Pete]

I was originally going to take over most of the leads from here, as they were relatively easy. But I was still reeling from having just lost $2000+ worth of cams, all my food and water, all my warm clothes, my sleeping bag, my headlamp and my storm gear. My heart just wasn't in it. Pete and I also realized that we'd get off the wall faster if he led everything. Since we were running on half rations, and were going to run out of water, that was our only choice.

Short Fixing on Scorched Earth

One of the most effective strategies of speed climbing is to "short fix" pitches.

What this means is that when the leader reaches the upper belay station, he pulls up all of the extra lead rope and "short fixes" it to the upper station. He leaves only enough rope beneath to allow his partner [who cleans the pitch] to perform a 4:1 or 2:1 lower-out if necessary. [If the pitch is vertical, then you would be able to leave almost no slack at all.]

At the same time as the lead rope is short fixed, the leader pulls up the haul lines, and puts them through the hauling devices. [If you have only one hauling device, then you fasten the other haul line directly to the anchor. It can be lifted later with the 2:1 Hauling Ratchet. ] 

As soon as the haul lines are ready, the cleaner attaches the pigs to the haul lines with an alpine butterfly, "flags" the ledges, and then lowers the pigs out, using the excess haul line as lower-out line.

Note: Dr. Piton emphatically recommends you attach this knot to the pig, and not to the anchor!
[Don't do as I do, do as I say.]

The pigs then hang in space as the cleaner cleans. Before blasting off, the leader usually hauls one of the pigs up three or four metres to prevent entanglement.

Now that the pigs are free, the leader can continue leading while using a self belay.

In this photo, you can see the thicker turquoise lead rope going down and left to the Power Point, and then directly down to Tom who is jugging on it.

 The thin blue rope is the 5 mm Zip Line that allows Tom to "zip" me up the gear that he has cleaned, and to later zip me up the haul lines.

On the right side of the frame you can see the twisted coils of the excess lead rope I have pulled up, and will be leading with. They are clipped to designated backup knot autolocker than hangs from the short sewn sling girth hitched to my donut. Looks like the rope needs to be unkinked, eh? I'm self belaying with a Grigri.

It's important the cleaner be speedy - he needs to reach the upper anchor before the leader runs out of either lead rope or gear!

[Pete would continually remind me that he could lead all the pitches faster than I could clean and haul them.

[If you look closely at the right side of the photo, you can see at least two bolts that aren't clipped. Pete didn't run out of biners, he just didn't want to use them. That belay is near the very top of the Tangerine Trip and has about ten bolts and rivets. Only the three that Pete clipped are worth a damn. - Tom]

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the mandatory Summit Photo, with a surprise ending!  (Photo by: Unknown)

Rock Climbing Photo: summit shot
summit shot

Tom & Pete & Tom & Pete

No way!

 How often could you find two teams - both of whom consist of Tom and Pete - topping out on El Cap on the same day?!

From left to right is, well, Tom and Pete and Tom and Pete. Like, what did you expect, eh?


Tom Randall [mrhardgrit] and Tom Davies have just finished their ascent of Mescalito, while Tom Kasper [apollodorus] and I - Dr. Piton [passthepitonspete] - have just wobbled up Scorched Earth.

If you somehow missed Tom Randall's EPIC, you had best click here to find out how he got rescued off of El Cap while attempting a solo ascent.

And if you haven't heard how I - Dr. Piton - got demoted to Big Wall Wanker, then you had best click here to return to the first photo in this series.


"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Joined Dec 8, 2007
0 points
Dec 30, 2007
Wow.. awesome TR Pete!!!
I think you should re-name it something like; "Flagged Ledges & Flying Pigs" (It seems that you've have started a trend).
The shot of the two ledges from the meadows is a keeper for sure. I'd love to see the same shot zoomed back as well, to give one some perspective.

You know, I've always been superstitious of bootied gear, it seems that you eventually pay for it in one form or another.

PS: If if you don't want comments here, [Del] this.
From Calgary, AB
Joined Dec 14, 2007
0 points
Jan 1, 2008
I also wrote a story about this on Rex Piepers or whatever. Groovy novel route. All the heads were fixed when we climbed it in 01.

The black spooge on pitch four was memorable, as was the beginning of pitch 3, I ducked the big brother pitch (is that p4's name?)

Poison pill and pitch after won't be there forever.

Has been climbed in a push also.
From city, state
Joined Mar 12, 2001
25 points
Dec 22, 2012
High Quality Trip Report (HQTR) Justin Tomlinson
From Monrovia, CA
Joined Apr 4, 2010
235 points
Feb 16, 2013
Just re-read this.


My favorite part is the description of what is in the pics. As a noob I just don't know what route I am looking at. Or what ledge or or what route is way over in the background or what the features you are talking about look like. Great stuff there. Thanks Keep em coming Pete and Tom!
Wes Goulding
Joined Sep 5, 2010
10 points
Feb 16, 2013
Great story. 1Eric Rhicard
Joined Feb 15, 2006
7,510 points
Feb 27, 2013
Cheers to John McNamee for copying and pasting this from RC = n00b dot com. I have tons of useful stuff sitting over there, partially lost due to all the coding changes that have taken place over the years.

If anyone feels like copying and pasting them over here, please have at it. I can help edit. Doubt anyone is reading stuff over there any more.

There's a fun photo essay on Reticent Wall, for instance.
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Joined Dec 8, 2007
0 points

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