Touchstone Blog Archive
Friday, October 7, 2011
  Touchstone Team on Half Dome
On Saturday evening, October 1st two bay area climbers hiked to the base of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome via the Death Slabs, thelow angle granite directly above Mirror Lake.

“Neither of us had been up the Death Slabs and after some of the stories I had heard about them I wasa bit intimated,” said Brian “Cuz” Hedrick of Berkeley. “One fixed line nearly killed me! The rock was a bit slick and the rope in question ran out of knots in it to hold on to. I slipped on a hold and slid 5 feet down to the last knot! I was 20 feet above a ledge, not attached to anything with a decently heavy pack on. Wigged me out before we even started climbing!”

The Death Slabs are in a serious rock fall zone and are extremely hazardous to hike in.

Ethan Pringle, a San Franciscan, and Cuz are notable figures in the bay area climbing community. Pringle, a Touchstone Athlete, is a world renowned sport climber with ascents of routes up to 5.15. Cuz, who works as a Touchstone route setter, is no slouch with ascents of the hardest problems in Bishop’s Buttermilk Boulders and at the bay area's Mortar Rock. However, the pair are far from seasoned trad veterans.

When asked what routes he climbed to prepare for the route, Pringle responded, “ Uhhh, the 13+ link up at Mission Cliffs? We really did nothing to prepare ourselves for the route, which was a bit of in issue.”

The two decided to pitch out the route, leading and following every pitch. On the harder sections of the grade VI climb, the second pulled on gear. In the difficult Zig Zags portion, the second jumared with the pack.

The view from the base of Half Dome is daunting.

They climbed with minimal gear, a small pack and only one rope. “Only having one rope was a little gripping because you're pretty much committed to the top no matter what, as there is no way to bail after a certain height,” said Pringle.

The pair made quick work of the lower sections of the route, climbing through the wandering slab pitches, across the Robbins Traverse and through the long series of chimneys. Things were going smoothly until they reached the difficult Zig Zags.

“I was getting ready to start jugging and cleaning the last of the Zig Zags when I hear Ethan yell some profanity and see a nice iPhone gleefully spinning towards the valley floor, “ said Cuz of the team’s only on route epic. “I supposed it didn't feel like taking the cables down. It wanted a....wireless descent!”

Unfortunately, the pair’s only topo was on Ethan’s phone. Route finding had been a challenge for them all day. Since neither had climbed the route, they weren’t sure where to go. At the top Zig Zag, Pringle took the direct variation instead of the easier corner out right, climbing 12d instead of 12a. “There was no chalk, no tic marks to tell you where the good spots were, and it was slick as hell from all the aid climbers (and the sun),” said Pringle. “But there was a ton of fixed gear, so much so that I didn't even clip it all.” Luckily, the pair were only four pitches from the summit and used their savy climbing skills to bring them to the top. Pringle managed to onsight the pitch freeing much of the route, except for some of the free variations lower. Hedrick free climbed the majority of the route as well.

The Northwest Face of Half Dome is marked in red

After approximately 14 hours on the wall, the pair topped out and returned to the base, where they spent the night. The next morning the two weary climbers took the “long but enjoyable hike” down to the Valley floor via the Mist Trail.

When asked if he had any more plans for big walls like El Capitan and Half Dome, Cuz said, “I'm probably going to start gearing up for bouldering instead. Much less commitment and fixed lines.”

About the climb Pringle said, “We had a freaken blast! I can't wait to spend a whole season in the valley sometime. I think it will broaden my climbing horizons.”

Congratulations to the team for getting tradical!

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Way to go boys. next up The Nose in 10 hours. Then you can start working your way onto the record speed time!
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