Picture a fun day of climbing with a long time friend. For a pair of Bay area climbers, that meant a quick jaunt up El Capitan.
For the past two decades, Touchstone owner Mark Melvin has tied in with Mill Valley local Chris McNamara. Mark first dragged Chris up the West Face of El Capitan when Chris was 15 years old. Since then the pair have climbed eleven El Cap routes including Lurking Fear, Squeeze Play, Flight of the Albatross, Sea of Dreams and a girdle traverse of the entire formation.
In early May, the pair tied in and began climbing on the fair west side of El Capitan. They started the stop watch at 7:50 am and made a quick 7.5 hour ascent of Lurking Fear. “The climbing went smooth,” said McNamara. “More exciting were the building storm clouds that provided epic summit views: the coolest I have ever seen up there.”
“Lurking Fear is the easiest aid line on El Cap,” says Supertopo. “The lower pitches are beautiful, exposed and straightforward, while the upper part of the route involves wandering, lower-angle free climbing of lesser quality. The hauling on the last seven pitches is bad and punishes parties that bring too much.”
Luckily the pair avoided hauling altogether. They climbed the initial slab pitches quickly then dispatched the beautiful cracks, the traverse and making their way through the final pit of low angle climbing. The pair climbed with minimal gear and water. Using advanced techniques like short fixing, they were able to ascend rapidly up the wall.
Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden free climbed the route at 5.13c. The difficulties involve a series of slab pitches low. They make for excellent aiding though and a great adventure. Steve Schneider offers an aid climbing clinic at Berkeley Ironworks for those that want to learn.
Congratulations to Chris and Mark for another successful ascent of El Cap!