Tribal Rite A4 5.5

  • Currently 4.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Grape Race-Tribal Rite, Solo. 6/10, Trip Report
Wednesday August 25, 2010 12:57am
I was having a bad day. The wall was so steep that the bottom of the gear rack hung eighteen inches away from the rock, and the two quarter-inch anchor bolts to which everything was attached – including us – were not exactly inspiring confidence. A jet screamed through the Valley, and when I turned to look I suddenly took in the surreal view of a group of cavers hanging from their 3000-foot rope way out in space. I really didn’t want to be here, in fact it was much more severe than that. I knew I was finished. Not just this wall, not just El Cap, but all of my climbing. It was all over. I was done.

“Rainsford,” I declared. “I can’t do it. I’ve already climbed my last El Cap route.”

Back on the security of the ground, I knew my career as a rock climber had ended. As I emptied the water bottles, I could feel my soul draining empty with them. Within the next twenty-four hours, I would give away all my climbing gear – pitons, ropes, haul bag, hundreds of biners, the whole deal. I started to cry and didn’t stop for hours.

In the spring of 1978, Max Jones and I attempted the 4th ascent of the Pacific Ocean Wall, considered on its first ascent to be the hardest big wall in the world. Only the week before, three climbers from the Midwest had fallen to their deaths off of the Nose when they dropped their haul bag and a bolt hanger had broken. It was, and still is, El Cap’s most horrific accident. Max and I were more than a little freaked, and when a flake I was nailing fell off – ripping off my fingernail and almost cutting my ropes in the process – it was all the excuse we needed to bail.

Credit: Mark Hudon
On the Continental Shelf

I climbed El Cap three more times in the next few years but something had changed – things felt different, and I was no longer calm and relaxed. A string of El Cap failures cumulated on the South Seas with Rainsford.

I had failed. I was a failure.

Everything I do in my life I do intensely – windsurfing, carpentry, photography or mountain biking. I usually indulge in intensive market research before I buy the best gear, then I get on the forums, learn the techniques and pretty much live the sport or activity to the max. I’m so intense, I even lost two years of my life to a computer shoot-em-up game. Every now and then I’ve said stuff like I don’t care if I ever climb, windsurf or take another picture again, but my friends know me better, and have learned to accept my lies along with large doses of salt. In the early 90’s, someone asked me to build him a climbing wall. This piqued my interest in sport climbing and I was rabid with it til I reached my level of incompetence spending 15 days over two years to redpoint a single 5.13c route at Smith Rock.

I met Bill Wright in 2000, and we climbed in Colorado doing some of my favorite routes like the Naked Edge and Country Club Crack, and on one of my favorite cliffs, The Diamond. A few months later we visited Yosemite and climbed the Rostrum and then the West Face of El Cap. Long “trade” routes rekindled my love of climbing, but living in Oregon limited my opportunities.

Years passed and I climbed less and less. Eventually I realized that whenever I told someone about my rock climbing, I was really telling them about my climbing El Cap. Other routes and formations faded from memory, and time and time again I returned to El Cap. After some friends climbed the Nose in 2008, I figured it was time I quit talking about the damn thing, and get back on it.

When I made plans for the Shield with John Fine last year in 2009, I was sure I wanted to do it. I had hoped it would be relaxed and fun. I had spent so many years sport climbing, lobbing off onto bolts worry-free, I hoped this attitude would carry forward to the big walls.

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Jugging to Heart with John Fine on our 2009 Shield attempt. (what's up with those ropes?)

Yet I was unprepared for how calm and “at home” it felt, even from the very first instant when I clipped my jugs onto the ropes dangling down from Heart Ledges. Somehow I knew I was going to be able to do it, I knew it was going to work, and I knew it was going to be right.

That night – my first on El Cap in thirty years – was probably the best night of my life. It was where I was meant to be: the sounds of the birds at dusk, the bats flying around in the night, the view of the Meadow, the stars covering half the sky and hulking mass of El Cap blotting out the other half. I was home again, I was back! Later, when John got sick and we had to retreat I was bitterly disappointed, but also overjoyed that I had discovered something inside myself again, something I had feared I’d lost forever. Later that month on the Nose, it felt so right again. I felt calm and confident – it didn’t matter that I was short roping with no real belay on 5.10, or that I was a gazillion feet off the ground – every jam was perfect and solid, every anchor and ledge was home.

I had originally thought I’d solo something short and sort of easy, at least as “easy” as a solo of El Cap can be. Virginia came to mind, although I had already climbed the Tangerine Trip and it wasn’t exactly my favorite El Cap route. I had read some trip reports for Tribal Rite and when someone suggested it, I liked the idea. But I had already climbed the right side of El Cap Tower twice and didn’t want to repeat it a third time, and hauling up the Nose was certainly not on my to-do list. Right around then Erik Sloan posted his trip report on Grape Race and I was intrigued. I looked at some of Tom Evans’ photos and saw that it might be feasible to connect Grape Race to Tribal Rite by swinging right onto Tribal Rite from where the original Nose route swings left on the Grey Ledges heading to Camp 4. I figured Grape Race would be a good warm-up for the harder climbing above, and that it would also give me an opportunity to learn how to solo climb, hopefully in time to be ready for Tribal Rite! I started buying gear and learning everything I could about soloing big walls.

Now, I’ve been climbing for a hundred years and thought I understood the basics of big wall soloing, but not much more than that. It’s sort of funny “being me” – I’m kind of well known in the climbing world, at least among the Old Farts, so I have immediate credibility with just about anyone ancient enough to remember who I am.

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Max, left, and Mark on top of Devils Tower in 1979.

I had met “Pass the Pitons” Pete Zabrok briefly once, and knowing he had done eight solos of El Cap I emailed him a question. Imagine my surprise and delight when he answered with pages and pages of instruction. Over the following months, I would ask Pete hundreds of questions and he would answer with hundreds of pages of replies - literally. When it came to putting together the systems, I began to “get it”. Pete told me he enjoyed answering my questions, and that I had good problem-solving skills. “Big wall climbing, especially soloing, is a continuous problem-solving process, and is therefore a Thinking Man’s game,” said Pete. “I think you’ll probably reach the summit – and you’d bloody better after all these frickin’ emails.”

On SuperTopo, I posted a question about copperheads and ended up receiving a haul bag full of ropes, pitons, copperheads, and rivet hangers from Mark Herndon aka Base104. He had once geared up to climb big walls, but unfortunately had developed health problems so the gear had sat in his garage unused for years. I’m sort of technically-minded, so many of methods came quite easily to me. For the more difficult ones, I would try setting up the system on my small climbing wall to try to figure it out.

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testing 3 to 1 hauling

For instance, I lugged 300 pounds of cast iron from the weight room at the local gym over to their climbing wall just to see if I could haul it with at 2:1 system.

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It worked well enough on the vertical gym wall, but since Grape Race is pretty much the longest slab route on El Cap I had a 3:1 system figured out just in case.

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I practiced setting up my ledge and also setting up the rain fly at the local sports club wall.

I also spent time practicing setting up my portaledge and its rain fly. I was glad I did since I developed a slick way to set up the ledge with it laying flat against the wall and me dangling and swinging left and right from my Grigri. I also realized that the Grigri was going to be an invaluable solo wall tool, so I bought myself a spare and then tied keeper slings onto them so I hopefully couldn’t drop them.

When I told Pete of my original seven-day estimate, he laughed so hard he spilled his coffee. He told me he often observed people bailing off of walls because they feared they were going too slowly and would run out of food and water. “What a sad reason to bail from a wall, dude! Think of how much time, energy and money you have already invested, and compare this with the extra work it would be to bring a little more food and water, thus stacking the odds in favour of your success. We’re Old Bulls, dude, we win by attrition. We don’t run up and knock us off a cow. We walk up, and we knock them all off.”

Pete convinced me I ought to take my time, smell the flowers, and bring enough supplies to really enjoy this unique experience. I concurred and drastically increased my expected time to 11 days with actual food and water for 13, stretchable to 15 or 16 if I were delayed by storm or other unforeseen problems. As the trip got closer I was actually hoping for a few days of rain so I would have an excuse to hang out under my customized Metolius fly and while away the hours reading, sleeping and watching the storm clouds drift by beneath me.

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I had SailWorks here in Hood River put a door into my fly. They easily did as good a job as any of the original fly makers would have.

My bags were packed almost a month before I actually left for the Valley. In spite of my certainty they were perfect, after dinner most nights I’d go out to the garage and visit them.

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Gear gets lonesome too you know!

In my mind I’d go over every detail of leading, rebelaying, setting up anchors, cleaning and hauling. At work, I’d draw pictures of anchors, and write step-by-step instructions of every activity like arriving at an anchor or tagging.

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The hook is a great design but I felt it needed a backup cord.

My departure date was the Memorial Day weekend, and my friend Gary “The Bullet” Allan would help me hump loads and then belay me on the first three pitches. Grape Race starts from the middle of the 4th pitch of the Nose, and on Memorial Day weekend I had feared those pitches to be jammed, so planned to get up them as fast as possible to avoid the clusterfrig. I would lead and haul, then Bullet would belay and clean on jugs. It was, after all, all about me.

Arrive Yosemite
[Click to View YouTube Video]

The weather in May was terrible, but the day I arrived in Yosemite, the clouds miraculously parted with clear and warm weather predicted for the duration. We humped the rack, my ledge, fly and some odds and ends up to the base of the Nose, and I did my best to speed climb up there, passing two parties. We climbed to the top of the 3rd pitch (linking the 2nd and 3rd of the Nose) in only slightly more than an hour, then rapped off. I was psyched and on-form. Since we had the time and energy, we humped another load to the base and hauled it up the first pitch.

The next day, Hansi Standteiner arrived and the three of us completed my final schlep. I hauled to the top of the first pitch where Bullet and Hansi bade me farewell.

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Hansi, left, and Bullet.

I was finally alone, still on the Nose superhighway, but feeling as though my fate rested in my own hands. I spent a bit of time arranging the haul bags and the Far End Hauler system. I had the time so I went up and fixed the 4th pitch.

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The 4th pitch fixed.

top of the 3rd pitch

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Climbing was now a joy! I had all the time and gear I needed, and didn’t have to go fast to make anyone else happy. I could stop, smell the granite, take in the view and revel in the experience. The fourth pitch is 190 feet long and rated A3, but it seemed pretty easy with the only hard part being to clip a couple of fixed copperheads. Hooks used to freak me out, but I used a few on this pitch and felt right at home on them. I drug up the tag bag with the extra gear, set up the anchor and rapped off, eager to set up my ledge, enjoy my first beer, and relax.

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A local sail loft, SailWorks made a bunch of stuff for me and modified my packs and ledge fly.

As I lay back on my ledge and looked up at El Cap I thought of my journey. In 1974, only a hundred feet away from where I now laid, I fell off the 5.9 climbing of the Salathe Wall’s slab pitch and wondered if I could climb it. I was 18 and hadn’t yet climbed El Cap. That was a long time ago, and I wondered why I still do it. My main reason is of course that I love it. I love all of it – the smell, the sounds, the feel of the rock, the vastness of it, the uncertainty, the fricken wildness of simply doing it, the absurdity of it – these are the things that are is important to me. Physically, I’ve not suffered “the thickening” that some of my friends have. I’m in decent shape but I also know that I’m running down the clock. I’m 54 and I probably won’t last another 54. When you’re 21, you’re sure you will live forever and that you have all the time in the world to live your dreams. But when you’re 54, you realize that the end – although hopefully not yet in sight – is out there like a destination you’ve been approaching for hours, but have not yet reached.

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Camp on top of the 6th pitch, the Stellar Cellar.

Video: The First NIght

Lying back on my ledge, the sky getting dark, the stars coming out, the bats and the swallows chirping, I fell asleep and slept the sleep of kings and babies.

The next morning, I knew exactly what to do. Back in the day we didn’t have efficient and portable hanging stoves. But now? Yeah baby, fire it up and hot coffee is just moments away! I didn’t used to “need” coffee, but I sure do now, perhaps the result of owning a coffee roasting company. The fresh batch of Ethiopian I had roasted just before I left home greeted me that first morning. I contemplated having a second cup but was so excited about the climbing ahead I didn’t make time to drink it.

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Coffee care of Hood River Coffee Co.

Now, don’t forget that prior to this I had never rope soloed anything in my life. I had emailed with Pete back and forth a few hundred times, I had spent hours envisioning all the techniques and had drawn scores of pictures and written dozens of lists of how I thought it should work, but until this point it had all been Big Wall Theory. Now it was time to make it work. I made one mistake that day which cost a little time when my tag bag hung up because I forgot to unclip it from the anchor – duh. It hung from a fifi and was safetied with a “slippery overhand knot” so that if the hook fell off the biner somehow it wouldn’t fall onto my waist – at least in theory. Obviously I never should have clipped the bag in at all. Fortunately the climbing was not difficult, so it was no big deal to set up an anchor mid-pitch, rap down and unclip the bag. Good thing it didn’t happen while I was in the middle of an A4 hooking traverse. Everything else worked great for me that first full day, and if this was the worst El Cap could throw at me, I was in good shape.

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My tag bag, safetied by a "slippery knot" (the orange cord was used as an extension to my lead/tag line)

Again it was a beautiful night. This area of El Cap stands a bit away from most of the routes, and I could see no other parties. I felt completely alone on my solo – perfect.

The next day started out nice but the wind came up in the afternoon and it “nuked” – Columbia River Gorgespeak for “it blew like stink.” The gusts raised my tension level a bit, but given that I had nowhere to go and all day to get there, I was unconcerned. I was warm enough in a windshirt I had brought along, and I frequently stopped and laughed at how hard the wind was blowing and my involvement with it.

Video: The Wind

Almost at the end of the last pitch of the day the wind had blown the lead rope/tag line out of its rope bag and under the haul bags. As I tried to pull it up, the rope had slid up behind the bags and had become hopelessly caught. It was now getting late and to rap down, fix the problem, clean the pitch, and haul would have delayed setting up my ledge and calling my girls (Peggy and Ellen) until quite late in the evening. At first I was sort of mad that I should have to worry about them worrying about me, but then I thought, “What the hell – I’m on a pleasure cruise, not a speed climb.” So I rapped back down to the previous anchor, set up my ledge, took out my iPod and got Miles Davis’ “Kinda Blue” going, popped a beer, called my girls, and marvelled at my blessed life.

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Yeah Baby!

Video: The Middle of the Great Crack

The next day I jugged my line, hauled the bag and then set off on a solid 65-metre pitch that would end at the top of the slab and the very prow of El Cap.

When you’re soloing with a Grigri the rope slips back and forth through the device depending on which side has more weight of rope at that moment. You might yard yourself a bunch of slack, but when you get back to climbing, find yourself with only five feet of rope. Or fifty feet of rope – all of it, by the way, hanging nicely down at the anchor and out of view.

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The last bit of Grape Race swings over to the corner just above the Jardine Traverse. Photo by Tom Evans

The next morning I lowered off the belay and swung over to the corner starting at the end of the Jardine Traverse. It’s a beautiful corner, steep and clean with good finger locks every few feet. I was in free climbing shoes with only a minimal rack. I figured this was going to be great. Well, it wasn’t. The Grigri was back-feeding, and then the tag line got stuck in its rope bag. I rapped down, fixed the problem and then fought my way up to a ledge even with the top of Boot Flake. I was glad no one was on this part of the Nose at that time since I didn’t want to involve them in my cluster. I rappelled back down the pitch, released the pigs, jugged the rope and started to haul. I had combined two pitches so the haul was quite long, perhaps 190 feet.

Partway through the hauling I felt the call of nature. On Grape Race, a route rarely climbed, I didn’t feel the need to capture my water waste. Here on the Nose, one of the most popular rock climbs on the planet, it would be insulting to urinate down the cracks up which everyone who came behind me would have to climb. I freed myself from the haul system and rapped down to the haul bag to get an empty water jug to relieve myself. For the next three or four days while in urinating distance of the Nose, I captured all my water waste.

My plan to swing right to the top of Tribal Rite’s first pitch worked perfectly and that night I set up my ledge on Tribal Rite for the first time.

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From where I swung right the original Nose swings left along Gray Ledges to Camp 4. Photo by Tom Evans

Video: A Frustrating Day

With the debacle of the previous day fading from my mind, I got ready to climb one of Tribal Rite’s old crux pitches. The SuperTopo guide rates it A4 but the pitch goes clean and is mild C3, with the first part being awkward but not extremely so. All in all, the pitch is interesting and fun – only 140 feet straight up. That means it didn’t take too long to lead, and it was easy to haul so I could get back to the pleasure of my portaledge, beer, snacks, music and scoping the Valley and other climbers with my binoculars. By this time I was getting quite a system worked out for the various wall tasks. I had the anchors all figured out, the hauling was easy, and so was setting up my ledge and arranging my food, clothes and water. It was all good. I’d be dangling around, setting up my ledge and when it was done I’d be the most satisfied man in the world. I’d unpack my bags, clip my color-coded Metolius Wall bags to the ledge straps and then drop them down to the ledge. It made me happy to no end seeing them laying about my ledge, all clipped in.

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Sun Ledge below the Carrot.

Video: On Tribal Rite

I’d take off my harness and put on an old swami to be more comfortable. I’d blow up my sleeping pad, open a beer, sit there, take in the view and relax, make dinner, make a dessert, take some photos and call my girls. You can’t even imagine a man so happy and relaxed!

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It's hard not to be happy up there!

Video: Above the old A4 pitch

I felt that I was now into the real meat of the climb. I had made a few mistakes lower down but I had things pretty wired by now. Somehow the days passed like a leisurely float trip down a placid river. I’d wake up, make coffee, and eat breakfast all in the beautiful Yosemite morning light. I’d get up as soon as the sun hit me and given that I was on “The Wall of the Early Morning Light’ in the springtime this was quite early. It was wild to be up in the brilliant sunshine looking down into the still-dark valley. I’d laugh at myself – everything was important yet nothing was important. I’d stop and watch the birds or the clouds or spend a few moments appreciating the hook I was hanging from or the four inches of haul line I’d gain with every push while hauling the bag. The climbing continued to be steep and the rock beautiful.

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You can just make out Boot Flake above El Cap Towers. The Carrot is a bit down and left of the bags, in that groove. You can see Sun Ledge just left of the groove.

Video: Below the Carrot

As a funny aside here, I knew two of the three guys who made the first ascent of Tribal Rite – Alan Bard and Tom Carter. Both are well over six feet tall. Me, well, I am not much over five feet tall, so those f*#kers were all about a foot taller than me! I figured this might give me problems on the rivet ladders so I had gone to a local ski shop for an old ski pole and cut it down to what I figured I’d need to reach from rivet to rivet – about thirty inches long. On the next pitch, I came across a flake that I could have climbed if I had had a copperhead to hammer into a small hole in its side. I had just moved my tag bag up and it was only ten feet away but I didn’t have any copperheads on my rack. I put a cam hook into the hole but it levered the flake out. I could see it move and I certainly didn’t want to break the flake off onto my lap. So rather than tag again, I got out my “cheat stick” thinking, “I hope that bastard Tom Evans isn’t watching, or this will be all over his El Cap report.” Guess what? Tom got the shot and later that night, Peggy reported to me that I had been awarded the “Stick Clip of the Day”! I laughed and laughed. Wouldn’t you know – the only time I used the stick on the whole route!

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The infamous Stick clip. Photo by Tom Evans

The Carrot and the next pitch turned out to be among the best of the route. I was and still am bummed at all the fixed copperheads in the route. Quite a few of them seemed placed in legitimate piton placements. I would rather have worked to place a pin or even a nut than mindlessly clip into a fixed copperhead. On a supposed A2 pitch I took one of my biggest falls, about 15 feet when a nut pulled. I did the pitch clean and would easily rate it alongside any C3 pitch on the route.

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Looking up from the middle of the A3R pitch.

Video: Moving up from Sun Ledge

I bivied on top of that pitch, below the next one rated A3R, I guess since it involves hooking right off the anchor for quite a ways. But it didn’t seem too bad, and I climbed only one pitch that day. I was setting myself up for two pitches the next day and then two on the final day. I still had the “RURP pitch” and then the final two pitches, which I had climbed when we made the 4th ascent of New Dawn back in 1976.

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Me, left, and Rainsford, belaying where what is now half way up the last pitch of the Dawn Wall, et al. Photo by Peter Cole

Video: Below the A3R Pitch

The RURP pitch was great and the next pitch was easy and fun. It was pretty wild to pull onto a ledge where I had bivied 36 years previously. Aside from a few bolts of course, nothing had changed. I set up my ledge, called my girls and was cooking dinner when I saw there was a message on my phone. I called to find that a buddy who had driven down from Hood River on his motorcycle wanted to know where my car was so he could put some stuff in it. I called him back and found that he was right down on the road, next to the bridge,

“Hey, man, where’s your car?”

“Right there, across from the bear boxes,” I told him.

“No, it’s not,” he replied.

Shit! Where did my car go?

Video: I find my car is "missing".

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Taken on my 2nd to last night

I was starting to loose cell phone battery power so I cut the conversation short and called Peggy, hoping she could get a hold of Tom Evans and maybe get some answers. In the meantime I tired to stay unconcerned. If we couldn’t find my car, my buddy couldn’t store any of his stuff in it and wouldn’t be able to hike to the top to help me hump loads down. I had a ton of stuff; it’d be hell to hump it all down myself.

The next day dawned sunny and clear – as beautiful as they all had. I was laughing at myself, making up stories about how a bear had shredded the inside of my car and the guy at the garage telling me that he didn’t think the bear liked me. The standard “sad that the adventure was almost over” feeling hit me but I pushed it back. “It ain’t over till it’s over, and I ain’t down yet,” I told myself.

Video: The Last Morning

It was sort of sad climbing the last two pitches, seeing the beautiful knifeblade crack I had nailed so long ago now pocked with 1-1/4” pin scars. I tried to use cams and nuts wherever I could, even an upside-down cam hook, but I still had to place three pins.

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The Metolius Offset Master Cams are the ticket for pin scars! I had two full sets.

The top-out is one of the best on El Cap, changing immediately from overhanging to a nice flat ledge with three bolts within sight of the flat top.

It was strange pulling over that last edge and clipping the bolts. The trees were within spitting distance and it felt that all of a sudden my adventure was done save for the work. Yet I felt neither elated nor sad. I shuttled my rack a safe distance away from the edge and returned down the haul line to clean the final pitch. It was wild looking up to the trees on top and down to the trees far, far below. It had been twelve days since I left those lower trees, twelve days living on this wall – how wild was that? But I wasn’t finished yet – the bag had to be hauled and everything had to be carted away from the edge.

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That's a lot of stuff!

I found a sheltered bivy site and set up camp. I was on top and the climb was done but I wasn’t finished. I learned a bear had broken into my car and the Park Service had towed it. It was now somewhere in an unknown parking lot, gathering pollen. I just wanted to be finished, but everything had to be done and I was the only one to do it.

Video: On Top

The next morning I packed all my gear into four fairly heavy packs – two awkward and heavy haul bags and two heavy packs. I began shuttling my stuff down for ten minutes before dropping one pack and then hiking back up to retrieve another, all in all spending a minimum of seventy minutes to get all four packs ten minutes down the trail. Hour by hour I repeated this scenario. After awhile I was exhausted and mentally drained. The way down is a trail in only the faintest sense of the word. It’s a climbers’ trail – steep, rocky, root-filled and loose and requires constant attentiveness which I became less able to give. I collapsed just before the slabs above the rappels, unable to even think of carrying another load. Two parties passed me while I lay there and bivied. One party mentioned that the bear had broken into five other cars besides mine!

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It got to be a total mind bender getting this stuff down!

Video: The Hike Down

Video: Camp on the way down
This vid shows how absolutely hammered I was.

The next day was more of the same but included getting my four bags down the ropes which I did in a single rap, then further nasty downclimbing. At 3:30 I finally wobbled into the Manure Pile parking lot with all my bags, unsure whether to jump for joy or sit down and cry. I was so exhausted I had long before switched to autopilot, going through the motions but unable to feel much of anything.

Video: Almost Down

Video: Down!

The bus picked me up and I mentioned my bear predicament to the driver. She said that she knew right where my car was and that she would take me there. With a bus half-full of tourists she drove around the backside of the garage in Yosemite Village and dropped me off right in front of my car.

The car had the usual bear damage and no more and it was really no big deal to me. I cleaned it up, bent the window frame back into place, taped it shut, called Peggy to tell her I was down and safe and then went off to the grocery store for a gallon of water, an apple and a cold beer.

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Nothing that $2500 can't fix.

I seemed to have some nervous energy left over, but couldn’t decide what to do. I felt like I was in an emotional limbo. I was so tired that I couldn’t think straight, but figured I needed to do something, although I wasn’t sure what or why. I went over to Housekeeping Camp to get a shower and then to the Curry bar for beer and nachos. Later that night I drove to El Portal, rented a motel room – with a bed! – then watched some TV before finally passing out.

Things in my life affect me strangely sometimes. The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” album reminds me of my first girlfriend in high school, the smell of propane and The Stones' "Sticky Fingers" always remind me of my first trip to Yosemite in ‘74. Whenever I see a beautiful smile I am reminded of my wife, whose smile enchanted me from the first second I saw it (and still does). I sometimes cry when I hear Bono, in U2’s song "Bad", singing “I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping”.

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My "girls", Peggy, my wife and Ellen, my daughter, were always with me.

I returned to the Valley to bask in the glory at the Bridge for a couple of days, and jumped off it, naked, into the Merced much to everyone’s amazement. Sitting there on the bridge, looking up at El Cap, the climb started to take form inside me like the pieces of a puzzle falling into place. Looking at the wall, seeing places I had been years ago and just recently, remembering climbs, partners and experiences. All parts of my life, parts that are what make me who I am, it all started to come together. Eventually I wanted a quieter day since I needed to organize my car and equipment. I parked in a shady spot over at Church Bowl and emptied my car. When I dumped out the pack that contained all my solo gear, I saw my laminated topo of the route. When I picked it up to look at it, I started crying.

I don't know why.

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More Photos HERE

  Trip Report Views: 23,099
Mark Hudon
About the Author
Mark Hudon is a climber from Hood River, OR.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:16pm PT
oh boy....this was a moving read! I cried too! But I know why...great capture of spirit and life and all that. Hope to see you this fall. Best regards, Susan

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
  Aug 10, 2010 - 05:37pm PT
That was awesome, I love the Sailworks Cobra holder, that is one way to tame a Cobra!!!

Mark: With the addition of the video, this is the best Trip Report possible! Thanks for taking us along on your Grand Journey!

Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:21pm PT
Thanks, Mark - very nice!

I like how you interspersed anecdotes and photos from the 1970s.

Mudcat Spire
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:24pm PT
Yeah, I keep topos from wild routes. They're like talismans.

Thanks for the TR.

Trad climber
electric lady land
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:31pm PT
great read!!!!

thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
East Coast
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:43pm PT
Cool Mark, I've been waiting eagerly to read this, and you didn't disappoint. You went big on the wall and with the report!! Hell Yeah.

Trad climber
san diego
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:55pm PT
Awesome TR Mark, of course we were all keeping an eye on ya via Tom's reports.

Walter was one of my best friends, and was the tallest of the trio at around 6'1"(i am 6'2" and he was just short of me)and Fuzzy is a scrawny lad measuring in at about Five-ten...fwiw!! hey, that was one proud send dude, and regardless, i don't think anyone would have regarded you as a failure, then or now!


A long way from where I started
  Aug 7, 2010 - 10:53pm PT
You just stole a bunch of time from me. I should be working (why else am I not out climbing today?) and suddenly I'm sucked into a trip report and...

Oh well. It was a fine story, and I'll just stay up working a little later than I planned.
Michael Kennedy

Social climber
Carbondale, Colorado
  Aug 7, 2010 - 11:22pm PT
Beautiful ... thanks for sharing. Really makes me want to get after it!

  Aug 7, 2010 - 11:31pm PT
Badass™ trip report Mark! It's what a trip report should be when it's at it's best.

Thanks for!
Two Pack Jack

The hills
  Aug 7, 2010 - 11:46pm PT
So strange we've never met, but the depth of penetration of these experiences make me feel like we could have a hell of a lot to talk about... or not talk about if we ever did meet. Great writing, so glad you shared this with us.
John Mac

Trad climber
Breckenridge, CO
  Aug 7, 2010 - 11:48pm PT
Awesome TR Mark. Thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:01am PT
Fantastic adventure and TR! Thanks for sharing !

Social climber
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:11am PT
Somehow, I wish I could have been there to help you get those bags down.

Wow. Best trip report ever. Thanks Mark. You are badass!
the Fet

  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:49am PT
Very, very good trip report. Thanks for posting.

Cardiff by the sea
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:01am PT
Great trip report Mark, thanks for taking the time and sharing it with us. I am about to get myself one of those metolius ledges care to tell me how you like it?

Thanks again

Trad climber
Sad the forum is gone =(
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:02am PT
Kick ass Mark, thanks for sharing I enjoyed the read.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:09am PT
Thanks for a very fine trip report Mark. The inner and outer story.

I like that idea of doing a untraveled route and taking your time, "Being" there.



Mountain climber
Juneau, AK
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:23am PT
Thanks Mark Hudon. You inspired me in the past and you ave done it again.
Bob plumb

Random Nobody
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:28am PT
Mrk - Great quote I'd like to answer: "Shit! Where did my car go?"

From where the pic was taken I can say "Who cares? You're not at work!!!"


Great TR

Awesome photos

  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:33am PT

What an intense trip.

It's amazing you can remember all that stuff.

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts Mark, and congratulations on your solo.

I saw you up there .....

  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:48am PT
Wow Mark, that was awesome. I had some similar experiences on my first (and much shorter) solo on the Leaning Tower a while ago. Great TR and great trip!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:53am PT
Thanks to everyone. Tomorrow I'll put links in the appropriate places to my videos.
Todd Eastman

Social climber
Putney, VT
  Aug 8, 2010 - 02:50am PT
Mark, great saga! Cool to see the Bullet helping.



Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:00am PT
Amazing, great work!
Jordan Ramey

Big Wall climber
Calgary, Alberta
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:01am PT
An absolutely beautiful narrative. Thanks for sharing it.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:30am PT
Nice job, dude!

And thanks for sharing all those thoughts! People don't really do that anymore. Awesome send.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Aug 8, 2010 - 04:34am PT
Very proud effort!


  Aug 8, 2010 - 08:46am PT
Awesome. Great to see that you are still getting after it.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Aug 8, 2010 - 10:52am PT
Wow Mark, what incredible focused make us proud and inspired. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 11:05am PT


Big Wall climber
From Back to Big Wall Baby
  Aug 8, 2010 - 11:12am PT
A really nice read, great pics and nice to read some true Big Wall Adventure on ST
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:29pm PT
Thanks for taking the time to put this together, a proud journey and a wonderful share.
The combination of stills, video, and text make, along with the story a treat to experience.

"My bags were packed almost a month before I actually left for the Valley. In spite of my certainty they were perfect, after dinner most nights I’d go out to the garage and visit them." heh heh...

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:32pm PT
Very inspiring to see that the digging-a-hole motivational system worked. Well done!


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:34pm PT
You know what Mark Hudon?
THAT was pleasure to read.
Great accomplishment for you, and a treat for us.
Thank you.

My gal thinks you're hot.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Aug 8, 2010 - 12:44pm PT
fabulous report Mark - thanks

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:10pm PT
What a great TR! All aspects captured my youth (54, started in the Valley at in 73). Geeze this thing should be published.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:13pm PT
My gal thinks you're hot.

Ha! That made my day! (along with all the other comments actually, many, many thanks.)

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Aug 8, 2010 - 01:19pm PT

WOW! A classic, Mark. Beautifully written,
great photos, even a leader fall.
Worth the wait, Mark. I'm glad you had such
a great trip, thanks for sharing it with us!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 8, 2010 - 02:17pm PT
Absolutely world class mark,

It was amazing to read how much you remembered from the climb and your whole life. The 70s stories were great! Thanks for sharing!
bubble boy

Big Wall climber
Mammoth, CA
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:09pm PT
Good stuff! Thanks. Proud work shuttling your loads down. I've done it a couple times, and every time I think it would have been easier to rap......

Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:14pm PT
Great TR Mark. Mark Hugeone rides again!

Social climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:26pm PT
Well.............I thought that was about the best trip report ever.
Thanks for taking the time to be so creative in your sharing.

  Aug 8, 2010 - 03:46pm PT
Hell ya!

Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 04:05pm PT
jeeze mark....what an experience. Highly motivating and amazing to boot. Nice read and more importantly, nice work.


Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 04:19pm PT
No doubt, best TR EVER.
This was more like reading a magazine article. Really inspiring job Mark, and should be an example for all of us of proper style re: "smelling the granite" and drinking in the experience. I hope that I'm in a similar place at your age. Hey, I'm gonna see if I can get some of your coffee shipped to me down here in LA.

keep it up.
John Mac

Trad climber
Breckenridge, CO
  Aug 8, 2010 - 04:35pm PT
Hopefully, you're send it to Alpinist Mag and it will be published. Deserves a larger audience than supertopo.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Aug 8, 2010 - 10:22pm PT
Beautiful, Mark. Not just the big adventure, but all the little details that make up the past/motivation (like the obsession example of 2 years lost to a video game), little unexpected things along the way, the frustration of shuttling loads down the descent, and the way songs/smells remind us of things in the distant past.

Trad climber
  Aug 8, 2010 - 05:23pm PT
Great post Mark, but I liked your video even better. Inspired work. Great to see one of the old guard still getting after it and savoring the experience. Keep living the dream......

  Aug 8, 2010 - 05:41pm PT
You should really try to get this published. I enjoyed reading it far more than the umpteenth article about superhuman climbing hero X climbing route Y barenaked freesolo and with hands tied if you know what I mean...

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Aug 8, 2010 - 05:47pm PT
Well done ! It wouldn't take much for you to add "author" to your list of accomplishments. You write well Mark.
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Aug 8, 2010 - 05:50pm PT
Half of me wants to wait more than the 2 minutes I've had between reading your TR and writing a comment--like the time and space you had between your ascent and this writing. I did not climb the wall myself, obviously, but your narrative hit home so deeply and poignantly that I feel somehow transformed as if I, too, had walked through the fire.

Having enjoyed your NIAD TR so much I'd been waiting greedily for this report, and from your first sentence I was hooked. I think this humble TR shines as brightly and brilliantly as any of the great pieces of climbing literature or literature period, for that matter.

Thank you for sharing your experience so candidly. Thank you for all the effort you put in to the writing and uploading. Thank you for not being afraid to show your humanity.


Jay Hack

Trad climber
Detroit, Michigan
  Aug 8, 2010 - 09:30pm PT
Beautifully done, that was simply inspiring. Thank you for sharing that experience.

Trad climber
Oakland Park Florida
  Aug 8, 2010 - 09:35pm PT
That was fantastic, one of the best trip reports I have ever read. Truely inspiring. 37 years later on the same belay ledge. What a climbing career you have had. You are one of the special ones.

Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Aug 8, 2010 - 10:04pm PT
Yes, thanks for sharing

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 11:59am PT
Nice work Hud. Well written trip report. I'll buy you a beer next time I see you!


Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Aug 9, 2010 - 12:55pm PT
Thanks for writing that up.
You Rock!
Dave Johnson

Mountain climber
Sacramento, CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 01:03pm PT
Great report of an epic adventure, Mark. "Kinda Blue" - nice touch.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 9, 2010 - 01:54pm PT
An amazing TR!!!
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Trad climber
  Aug 9, 2010 - 02:07pm PT
Really awesome TR - thanks for taking the time to put this together. Enjoyed all the videos as well.

Oakland, CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 02:23pm PT
Holy sh#t this was something special. A new standard is set.

This felt like 1/2 love letter to El Cap and the climbing life, and 1/2 insightful and intimate rumination on a life well lived. Into one TR you eased in moving ideas on time, mortality, gratitude, obsession, the reason we climb, the satisfaction of simple things, the soulfulness of time on a portaledge, the singular wonder that is Yosemite Valley... This TR will inspire many to come, and for a long long time. J. Werlin really summed up my own feelings upstream.

Thanks much!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 9, 2010 - 03:08pm PT
completely worth the wait.

It sparks the memory.

"everything was important yet nothing was important"
zen in walling

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 03:47pm PT
Mark, what a GREAT TR!
Congratulations again on your trip up the Big Stone. Looks like it put a piece of your soul right back where it belongs.

I look forward to hearing the tails over some cold beers.

Cheers man.
Jay Renneberg

  Aug 9, 2010 - 03:47pm PT
Cool. Old #46 got ya, eh? "Dude, where's ma car!" That's a bit unsettling I'm sure, I would always check the rig from on high...

Trad climber
Northern California
  Aug 9, 2010 - 04:15pm PT
Wow, I cried at the end of this report too. What a wonderfully recorded report of your amazing experience. Thank you!

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Aug 9, 2010 - 06:42pm PT
Amazing TR! Way to go after it. When will you be coming back to Cali for Freerider?

Did you ever find out why a bear broke into your car? A few Cobra's left in the trunk?

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 9, 2010 - 08:33pm PT
Thank you all very much for your wonderful comments.

Luke, I'll be there mid October for Freerider and then the Shield.

There was no food at all in my car. I did have my camp cookset in there though, it probably smelled that.

Trad climber
Merced CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 08:31pm PT
Great TR man! Looked like an awesome trip! This is what climbing is all about.

Trad climber
Cascade Mountains and Monterey Bay
  Aug 9, 2010 - 08:53pm PT
A wonderful accomplishment and a great story!

Social climber
kennewick, wa
  Aug 9, 2010 - 08:55pm PT
Great TR! Thanks for sharing.

BTW, I used your "dig yourself in deep" method by telling everyone on a few things I did and it seemed to work pretty good. Dont know if I am brave enough for that anymore.

Thanks again,

Trad climber
Ventura, CA
  Aug 9, 2010 - 09:33pm PT
That was probably the best TR I've ever read. It was like reading a great short story. I aspire to do a solo up El Cap one day, and reading this makes me want it even more. Great job.

  Aug 10, 2010 - 01:22am PT

"When I picked up the topo, I started crying. I don't know why."

I don't have the answer but it makes me cry. Thanks for sharing! Very well documented! Awesome job on the climb!


Social climber
An Oil Field
  Aug 10, 2010 - 02:04am PT
Cool! Allan would have gotten a kick out of reading this.

Trad climber
East Wenatchee, WA
  Aug 10, 2010 - 02:17am PT
SWEET Trip Report! MAN does that ever inspire me...have got to solo El Cap again!

I'm curious, I did not get what you meant about your tag line, nor the "slippery knot".

I'm thinking you had a third rope as a tag line to pull up a small pack with extra gear? And what in the heck is a "slippery overhand knot", and how does that work?

Hey, thanks so much for the killer report! So cool...

  Aug 10, 2010 - 07:41am PT
Brilliant TR Mark. Thanks for a wonderful read.


  Aug 10, 2010 - 01:24pm PT
Mark -

Great effort.

Thanks, your time up there really brings back the memories of Walter and Allan and our adventure. You really pulled out the stops!

You know Warner and Dale did the 2nd.

What a comeback.

You did us proud!

Tom Carter
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 10, 2010 - 02:25pm PT

Thanks, I remember watching you guys on the first ascent.

Hobart, Australia
  Aug 10, 2010 - 03:12pm PT
Simply awesome! One of my favorite El Cap routes.

Big Wall climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Aug 10, 2010 - 05:21pm PT
Hell of a TR Mark! One of the best reports I've read! It kept me reading until the wee hours of the night, I'm inspired and stoked to get back to the valley. Virginia is in my cross hairs.

Big Wall climber
  Aug 10, 2010 - 07:18pm PT
mark, great effort..the trip report, not the wall that is! glad you got a great solo in and it was great to talk to you at the bridge. hope to see you in the fall, steve

Jim Henson's Basement
  Aug 10, 2010 - 07:48pm PT
Awesome trip report. Great writing and pics. Thank you for taking the time to put it together.


Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Aug 10, 2010 - 11:27pm PT

Great TR! Good mix of narrative and media. Thanks for keeping the taco real.
Double D

  Aug 11, 2010 - 01:32am PT
Mark, great TR! You brought back many memories of how cool it really is to be up on the big stone. Coffee, beer and cell phones on the wall? time have changed, eh?

Until I read this I had forgotten that you and Max attempted the 4th on the P.O.

Good times, great read. Thanks again.

Dave D


  Aug 11, 2010 - 02:38am PT
Very nice report, Mark. Congratulations on your climb.

Trad climber
Reston, VA
  Aug 11, 2010 - 05:28am PT

Incredible account of an incredible feat. Very different from your Yosemite free climbing days in 1970s, but in some ways an even more impressive accomplishment. Not many people of any age have the physical or mental stamina to do what you did. It was inspirational to read.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Aug 11, 2010 - 01:16pm PT
John Fine

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Aug 11, 2010 - 03:23pm PT
...and I almost cried as well. Thank you Mark.


"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" --Robert Browning

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 11, 2010 - 10:50pm PT
I need to mention that aside from his generous help getting me up to speed with the solo techniques, Pete Zabrok edited this TR for me. In my humble opinion it was on its way to being good, but he helped me push it further to the level you all commented about.

Thanks Pete.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
  Aug 11, 2010 - 11:35pm PT
I totally cried as I read this report because I spilled good beer all over my keyboard...
the TR was Cool Too...Cheers Mark


Trad climber
  Aug 12, 2010 - 11:15am PT
Wow Mark,

That was inspiring. After my only trip (so far) up Elcap, when I got to M Pile parking lot and looked over my shoulder at what I had just climbed, I started crying, and had no idea why.

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 12, 2010 - 11:25am PT

it's amazing that it does that, isn't it?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Aug 12, 2010 - 10:20pm PT
Like, you're welcome, eh? And thanks so much for keeping me well supplied with all your awesome Hood River Coffee, especially the New Guinea Dark!

I think this might well be the All-Time Best McTopo trip report ever! Chris' new format of putting the trip report into the forum assures that it gets plenty of views, too. I don't know how many hours Mark put into this, but I'd be willing to bet at least twenty, if not more. These things are a ton of work. So please reply and tell him you liked it, and also to keep it on the front page where others will see it.

What makes Mark's trip report really outstanding is that it is honest and introspective. You read lots about how people climb, but what makes Mark's story so compelling is because he does his best to tell us why. Not just sharing the joy of his success, but also sharing the pain of his failure.

All of us who climb, especially those of us who solo big walls, are more than a little f*cked. We try our best to fit in, and some of us even manage to do it [sort of], but it can be a struggle. Mark lets us see inside the mind of the big wall soloist, and as you're reading his words you're either thinking, "Yeah, I get it," or else you're thinking, "I get it, but I don't get it." For instance, I don't play video games, but when Mark wrote that he lost two years of his life to playing one, I totally understood.

But the part that made me laugh out loud was when he talked about visiting his pre-packed pigs out in the garage - too funny! Well, that and him wrestling those "enormous" fifty-pound packs on the way down. [He's Mark Huge-dong, he's badass...] Oh yeah, and how he got progressively uglier in the photos as the days wore on!

It was a lot of fun writing back and forth with Mark all winter long. Answering his questions kept my mind in shape for wall climbing in the spring, and it was fun exchanging ideas and insults, both before and after Changeover Time. I was quite tickled that my "hero" from Long, Hard and Free would seek me out to share ideas.

Climbing El Cap should be every climber's goal, and soloing El Cap should be every wall climber's goal. I hope that Mark's tale will inspire others to step up to the Big Stone and face it down one on one, like he did.

Cheers and beers,
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
John Mac

Trad climber
Breckenridge, CO
  Aug 12, 2010 - 10:38pm PT
Well said Pete!


dont make me come over there
  Aug 14, 2010 - 01:24am PT
well done mr hudon! Killer route, climbed in killer style and the narrative was even better. If I ever did something that hairy Id be beatin my chest like Tarzan....yet there was nary a trace of ego in your tale, and THAT is the most impressive thing of all.

Hats off to you, sir

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
  Aug 17, 2010 - 12:01am PT
Awesome TR Mark...and quite inspiring. It gives me hope.

now how do I get 2 weeks off work?
wayne burleson

Amherst, MA
  Aug 18, 2010 - 05:42pm PT
Great report! I've always wondered about Grape Race
and Tribal Rite and it was a cool solution to link them up.
Most has already been said by others, but it's
wonderful to see great climbing writing from one
of our legends.
And what a great inspiration for the many 50-somethings
on this forum...
M Carville

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
  Aug 19, 2010 - 07:10pm PT
Brilliant report - super inspiring. Loved the video segments too. Thanks for sharing it! Cheers, M

Big Wall climber
total Disarray
  Aug 19, 2010 - 07:29pm PT
Great TR. love the clips. pics, too.
Good stuff.

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  Aug 19, 2010 - 08:27pm PT
Nice stuff Mark... fun to shoot too!! Stick Boy! See you again up there!
Tom Evans
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Aug 21, 2010 - 02:51pm PT
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!! He called you "Stick Boy"!
John in Bishop

United States
  Aug 21, 2010 - 04:56pm PT
good work mark.
climber john

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Aug 21, 2010 - 07:17pm PT
Awesome! Someday, when I have time to rub together, I'll get my ass back up El Cap.
Thom Campbell

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
  Aug 22, 2010 - 10:31am PT
This TR should continue to get recognition, here's some more well-deserved positive feedback. I sent this to many of my contemporaries (read, older folks) who climb lots less. This is inspirational, a word I'm allergic to. Thank you for sharing your efforts Mr. Hudon. Here on the banks of the Hudson river, we salute you.

Trad climber
  Aug 26, 2010 - 11:49am PT
Mark Hudon, you are a badass.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Aug 26, 2010 - 11:54am PT
Fantastic. Thanks for sharing Hudon.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Aug 26, 2010 - 03:51pm PT
Pig farmer? I don't get it?

I had planned to start up with 12 gallons of water but ended up with 14. I topped out with five.
I'd take less power/fruit/chocolate bars. I had a ton of food, I'd take less next time. I had a ton of sandwich makings and was pretty well stocked with "emergency" stuff, extra headlamps, batteries, etc. I'd take less of that.
The big wall cooler didn't work, I wouldn't take that bucket at all.

I had two books and a note pad. I thought I was going to get more time to meditate and read and write. As it was, I was too excited simply being on the wall to do much more than sit there and look around. I think I'll still take a book and note pad next time but certainly not two books.

I didn't lack for anything so there is nothing I would add.

  Aug 27, 2010 - 09:40am PT
You've heard it a hundred times, but here goes: Thank you for a wonderful TR and congratulations!

Lately I've sort of lost some of my zeal for climbing, and I haven't been to the taco in ages – and this is the first thing I see on my return! I'm out climbing again this weekend for sure! Thanks again!

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Aug 27, 2010 - 01:56pm PT
All honors and hats off to you Mark on a job well done. Peace, quiet, suffering, I was with you through all of it.

This is the best trip report I've ever read on any forum.

Melbourne Australia
  Aug 31, 2010 - 09:21pm PT
To me, this links together both ends of my climbing lifetime, from the 80's being inspired by your articles in Mountain 66 and 67, to my recent first effort at El Cap at age 48. I was there while you were on Tribal Rite, watching through Tom's telescope, before making our attempt in the second week of June.
Sadly, we bailed, but learned from the experience and will succeed next time.
Melbourne, Australia
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Sep 1, 2010 - 12:03pm PT
Dang, Steve - it's a long way to come from Oz just to bail! What route, what happened?

[excuse to bump Mark's excellent trip report!]

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
  Sep 3, 2010 - 12:49pm PT
First, and foremost... PERFECT TR! Pics and story are stellar.

And, if you haven't figured it out yet, I think Lovegasoline's comment refers to wrasslin' those bags (pigs) up and, UGGHHH!, down the Captain.

Thanks for the pulley!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Sep 3, 2010 - 01:00pm PT
Ah! There ya go! Thanks.

And thanks again to everyone who has commented.

Social climber
Pahrump, NV
  Sep 3, 2010 - 02:47pm PT
Absolutely brilliant TR. Great photos, captured the essence of all great adventure in that you told us what it meant to you. Superb!


Big Wall climber
  Sep 13, 2010 - 03:18am PT
Mark, tanks for the TR.

Great climb (congratulations !!!), story (very well writen) and pics (the old ones and the recent). I am waiting for more.
Thank you for an inspiration...

goatboy smellz

Gulf Breeze
  Oct 5, 2010 - 05:21pm PT
Good show, a real inspiration!
Trad Climber

Trad climber
Alexandria, VA
  Jan 15, 2011 - 11:33am PT
Bump and thanks to Hudon for inspiring a retired wall climber to get on El Cap again! This article really hit a chord with me. It's been way too long since I've been up there, and Mark's article made it seem like yesterday. I have to admit when I think about climbing I'm usually thinking about El Cap, and I can't seem to get it out of my mind these days!

I even managed to reserve a campsite in the Valley this morning for the first week of June (I was skunked December 15). I think every site was gone in three minutes.


Big Wall climber
  Jan 16, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
NICE Mark........

really nice TR!!!

black hills, south dakota
  Jan 16, 2011 - 09:57pm PT
Mark, great TR. A photo I shot from above...

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Jan 16, 2011 - 11:22pm PT
Hey, Thanks Brian, I wondered if you got any shots of me. Here is one of you in the middle of the third pitch. This was taken from the very top of Grape Race.


Social climber
granada hills
  Jan 18, 2011 - 02:03am PT
WOW! Great TR. I stayed up way past my bedtime reading and watching your report. Just awesome. Never been on a wall, but you bring it right up front for all of us to see. The important stuff. So cool.


eric peterson

Big Wall climber
big blue truck
  Jan 27, 2011 - 04:49pm PT
very motivating !!!!

30 mins. from suicide USA
  Jan 29, 2011 - 09:25pm PT
good job man.

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Jan 30, 2011 - 12:01am PT
Spectacular work, Mark! You will always be an inspiration! It was so good to meet you last fall. I hope to see you in the spring!


Trad climber
  Jan 30, 2011 - 02:00am PT
Amazing ! I loved the fact that you found new inspiration for being "out there" like you once had when you were younger. I'm at that point where I feel like something has "changed", I dont feel as comfortable up there anymore. I hope to one day find it within me again like you did!

Pass the Chongo, Chongo

Social climber
  Jan 30, 2011 - 02:16am PT

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Jan 30, 2011 - 03:20pm PT

That was my concession to the other climbers who I thought might be jamming those first pitches at that time of year. I figured it was a matter of respect for their experience that I didn't clusterize up the first three pitches.
Pass the Chongo, Chongo

Social climber
  Jan 30, 2011 - 05:55pm PT


'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 30, 2011 - 09:28pm PT
Bump to keep a real climbing trip report on the front page on a Sunday night, and to ignore the semi-good-natured trolling.

Social climber
  Feb 9, 2011 - 02:42am PT

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Feb 9, 2011 - 03:44am PT
Really excellent! Thanks!!

Trad climber
Pioneer, Ca
  Feb 9, 2011 - 05:29am PT
Wow, great read, truly inspiring! Thank You

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  Feb 11, 2011 - 01:38am PT
I've read this thing several times and keep coming back to it when I need a climbing charge... it is better every time I read it!

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Feb 12, 2011 - 08:06pm PT
^^^ ditto ^^^ Thanks again for sharing Mark
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Feb 13, 2011 - 01:10pm PT
Jeez! Many thanks.

  Feb 13, 2011 - 01:38pm PT
nice TR. thanks a lot for taking the time to write this!
Greg Hassapakis

Trad climber
  Feb 14, 2011 - 09:35pm PT
Great story and pictures. Wishing it was me..... I agree with others comments "that's what climbing is about". Climb on!!!!

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Feb 14, 2011 - 11:12pm PT
Wow, awesome TR. The best really.

My mind is wild with inspiration.

  Feb 24, 2011 - 12:09pm PT
thanks for posting this fantastic TR! Well done...

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Feb 26, 2011 - 03:46am PT
Mark, Inspiring and moving. Thanks for the time and insight to your world. Signed...Hopefully and prayfully a future El Cap wall climber
Dave Sessions

Trad climber
Thousand Oaks, CA
  Oct 22, 2011 - 03:09pm PT
Awesome Trip Report Mark! I just watched and read the whole thing. It really moved me. Swept me away and moved me. Kind of like Jack Black in School of Rock "listen, I'm not really a teacher but you're kids have really touched me and I'm pretty sure I've touched them...." You're really a teacher Mark. You let it all hang out and I really appreciated this very honest and personal tale. Thanks. One thing though, you're not Mark Hudon. No. Sorry. Mark Hudon is a young guy with brown hair and bloody hands from working the Phoenix, who will forever inhabit the pages of MOUNTAIN 66 & 67 (?), who sent me and my peers on an endless pursuit of painful cracks, and who will NEVER grow old. No, sorry, you're not Mark Hudon. Nice try.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
Author's Reply  Oct 22, 2011 - 03:36pm PT

Thanks. Ya know, it amazes even me that I am in fact the same Mark Hudon, my whole friggen life, I must have had a real shitty previous life because this one here is pretty dang nice! I've received a lot of love from people over the course of my life, my biggest joy these days is giving it back.
Dave Sessions

Trad climber
Thousand Oaks, CA
  Oct 22, 2011 - 10:43pm PT
I know the feeling! Yesterday I was sixteen and wondering who I could find to drive me from my home in Berkeley up to Yosemite or the Meadows and now I'm 48 and my whole world is my gal and two daughters. How was SouthSeas with Max? When can we expect a trip report? Dave
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Oct 23, 2011 - 03:02am PT
One of the most engaging pieces of climbing literature I've ever read. Don't miss looking at the daily video diary. I'm surprised these clips have had so few views; the video clips complete the document, in a unique and significant way. The trip from the summit to the valley floor seems like more of an epic than the climb itself, but that's only apparent from the video clips.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Oct 23, 2011 - 03:24am PT
...the smell of propane...

Exactly! I made my first trip to the Valley in 1975, as a 17 year-old ultra-dweeb. Now, whenever I get a whiff of exhaust from a propane-powered vehicle, I immediately think of that trip. Had my very first sexual experience, with a gal on the back seat of the Greyhound bus between Sacramento and Modesto (in the dark, wee hours). Heady times!

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Dec 4, 2011 - 07:44pm PT
Wow! Awesome job Mark!

I enjoyed the read and we are much alike in how we pursue our dreams, I have recently had the idea of wall soloing and your TRs have really inspired me and pushed me to the point of no return. Hahaha.


Trad climber
Culver City, CA
  Dec 4, 2011 - 09:23pm PT
Mark, you have the best TR's I've read. Thanks!!

Trad climber
NE Philly, PA
  Dec 4, 2011 - 10:37pm PT
Thank you for sharing! Great report! you are an inspiration to climbers everywhere



Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 16, 2012 - 12:46pm PT
Leaving for the valley in exactly 3 weeks, and this TR gets me so psyched!

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
  Oct 31, 2012 - 10:47pm PT
another trip report that kicks ass over political threads.

Social climber
granada hills
  Apr 18, 2014 - 07:18pm PT
Mark, just reread this great TR. Last time I posted to it I had not even considered climbing big walls, now it's all I can think about!


Thanks again.

wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
  Jan 4, 2015 - 12:10pm PT
Bump for a truly great TR!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 4, 2015 - 02:45pm PT
A great read to start the New Year! Lots of changes since you wrote that, eh?

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jan 5, 2015 - 09:00am PT
rad, mark.
i totally get your associations.

everytime i hear def leopard,
i think of shauwna.

she was my first kiss.
six grade.

i don't know, somehow she was 22
with huge tits, sex know-how
and a strong smoking habit.

pollock pines has all kinds of social anomalies.
but man that girl, or i should say woman,
she schooled me in advance future theory.

i was 12.

and as innocent and naïve as they come.
and here arrives shauna.

like a train in the dead-still silence.
well shite let me tell you i got on that train
and rode it to oblivion who wouldn't
and i don't know that i ever got off.
the train i mean.

def leopard was all over the air waves:
sugar on me,
fucing rocket.

i lost my virginity like three times to that girl...

i love your trip report,
i couldn't currently solo el cap,
i'm not attuned to rockfall
i better receive falling realities
and dreams.

Trad climber
Red Rock
  Aug 10, 2016 - 03:55pm PT
Bump for one of the best climbing tr's ever!
Thank's Mark!

Trad climber
  Aug 11, 2016 - 12:44pm PT
What an awesome trip report Mark! The writing was excellent and the photos and videos great. This is getting me psyched for my first attempt at El Cap coming up soon. Thanks for sharing!

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
  Feb 13, 2017 - 08:58am PT
Just reread this TR from a few years ago; my 2nd time through it. Thanks for writing this up! One of the best.
El Capitan - Tribal Rite A4 5.5 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Tribal Rite is route number 11.
Photo: Galen Rowell
Other Routes on El Capitan
El Capitan - The Nose 5.14a or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
The Nose, 5.14a or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
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The Nose—the best rock climb in the world!
El Capitan - Freerider 5.12D - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Freerider, 5.12D
El Capitan
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The Salathé Wall ascends the most natural line up El Cap.
El Capitan - Zodiac A2 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Zodiac, A2 5.7
El Capitan
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1800' of fantastic climbing.
El Capitan - Salathe Wall 5.13b or 5.9 C2 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Salathe Wall, 5.13b or 5.9 C2
El Capitan
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The Salathé Wall ascends the most natural line up El Cap.
El Capitan - Lurking Fear C2F 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Lurking Fear, C2F 5.7
El Capitan
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Lurking Fear is route number 1.
More routes on El Capitan