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Two Gumbies and an Old Coot do the Prow -- Part 1

Two Gumbies and an Old Coot do the Prow -- Part 2

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Scott Ghiz's Climbing Page

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HW Gear List

2 sets micro nuts (offsets good)
2 sets wired nuts (offsets good)
Tri-Cams, one each of the three smallest
2 each Aliens up to Red
1 each offset Aliens
1 each TCU's to #3
2 each Camalots, #0.5 to #3
1 each Camalots, #3.5, #4, #4.5
Hooks; 1 standard, 1 Grappling, 1 Talon, 1 FISH
2 Cam Hooks, regular
5 rivet hangars (cinch)
Very light pin/'head rack + hammer (Just in Case)


Pitch-by-Pitch Beta

P1. Follow right facing corner to low angle face to fixed anchor.  Continue straight up through overhang at left facing corner to thin crack to anchors. C1 120'.  Small to medium/large gear, Cam Hooks.
P2. Traverse right to steep & thin left facing corner.  Follow corner (awkward) to fixed 'heads that lead left to a C1, right facing corner to the belay. 90' C2F.  Small to medium gear, Cam Hooks.  Possibly the crux pitch.
P3. Step left off belay and turn a 4' roof in a corner facing right (awkward).  Big piece (4") above roof to the 'Triple Cracks'.  Follow a series of three cracks to a step left to a nice bolt to manky fixed 'heads, some free moves to more fixed 'heads to Anchorage Ledge.  100' C1+F.  Mostly small gear with one bigger piece, Cam Hooks.
P4. Follow bolt ladder straight up to cracks (50').  Nuts, small cams and fixed 'heads get you to the belay.  110' C2F.  Mostly small gear, Cam Hooks.
P5. Get into the shallow corner that heads up and right from the left side of the belay.  Copious fixed 'heads plus a couple of small nuts/cams get you to the reachy bolt ladder.  Bolts lead up and slightly right to a flake with a fixed pin.  110' C1+F.  Small gear.
P6. Long pitch.  After a tricky first move, follow your nose up the left facing corner system for 100+' (C1).  A hook, a free move, bolts, Tri-Cams and fixed 'heads lead to the belay stance.  C2F 160'.  Small gear up to 1.5", Cam Hooks, Regular Hook.
P7. The 'Strange Dihedral'.  A little awkward getting started.  Low angle.  C1+F 65'.  Small to medium gear, Cam Hooks.
P8.  Tension right 15' to fixed mank (exposed).  3/8" bolt to hook to fun thin crack that arches left back over belay.   One manky fixed 'head to a 3/8" bolt.  Go left aiding a 6" wide ledge on TCU's placed straight down in the back to a three bolt ladder.  5.4 free free move right from last bolt leads to 5.0 free climbing over blocks to Tapir Terraces.  Go back left to small stance with many good bolts directly over previous belay.  C2F 90'.  Small gear, Regular Hook.
P9. Go left off belay to bolt and vertical seam.  One bunk TCU or Alien placement gets you to better placements.  C1+ 80'.  Small to large gear, Cam Hooks.
P10. Follow the nice right facing dihedral straight up, leap frogging small cams.  Once it becomes lower angle after 40', large cams and occasional moderate free climbing get you to a small roof.  Place a directional for the haul line and continue up into a low angle chimney system (5.6-Class 4).  Step left onto a great ledge with good bolts and a shade tree.  5.6 C1 170'.  Bring all the gear, no hooks.
P11. Get back right into the chimney.  Climb past a big loose flake to a bulge.  We climbed the rightmost crack system using a #4.5 Camalot at one point.  Continue up on easier climbing after clipping a bolt above the bulge.  Belay at a blocky section below a steep headwall.  5.4 C1+ 100'.  Big gear, no hooks.
P12. Step right and mantle onto a slab with a double bolt anchor.  Move right 10' and do three aid moves on small cams in pin scars, fixed 'head and 3/8" bolt.  Climb over to the right on rotten rock and weave your way to two pine trees at the top.  Watch out for how your ropes run, biting ants, loose rock, rotten rock and rope drag.  5.3R/X C1+F 140' of circuitous climbing.  Total rope distance is about 70'.  Difficult hauling.  Difficult to hear your partner.  Medium sized gear; when you can get it to stick.

Two Gumbies and an Old Coot do the Prow (V 5.6 C2F), Washington Column, Yosemite Valley

Part 1 of 2

By: Scott Ghiz

It's July 4th, 2001.  I'm getting mauled by New Jersey Greenhead flies while on a sea kayaking tour with my regular wall climbing partner at the south end of Barnegat Bay.  It's about 90 Fahrenheit, 90% humidity and there is no wind.  The flies are having a little feast on my neck and arms while jet skiers buzz us with their foul machines leaving oil in the water, hideous fumes for us to suck down, a constant loud droning of two-cycle motorcycle engines and large wakes that threaten to capsize our crafts.  The North Dome Gully descent never looked better.



Somehow I ('Old Coot' (OC), sometimes known as the 'Angry Old Coot', (AOC)) got talked into guiding two, part-time COL staffers up a Yosemite wall.  Route picture.  The Prow (V 5.6 C2F) on Washington Column, Yosemite Valley, California.  Photo by:  Nancy Stoner, Graphics by:  Scott GhizGreg and Nancy Stoner initially planned on having an ex-patriot eastern Pennsylvanian friend of theirs, now residing in Moab Utah, to take them on a wall tour.  A couple of months prior to blast-off, something fell through and I was pinged to see where I stand on doing a wall with them.  I was planning on soloing 'Skull Queen' on Washington Column in early May, but my wife didn't like the idea of me being up there all alone and nixed the plans without actually telling me not to go.  I still can't figure how she does that.  Anyway, I was spousal approved for an early summer trip to the valley to climb a wall with Greg and Nancy.  Team Philly.


For a couple of months before going out to the valley, I had the Stoners jugging and rappelling a 100' section of the local choss pile known as High Rocks in Ralph Stover State Park (PA).  We did that about once a week and tried to get 500' vertical feet in during each session.  I upped my runs to 7.5 miles and rode my mountain bike a lot more.  I'm not sure what they did except that Greg killed his back during this time and suffered a severe bout of Colitis on a warm-up trip to do Mordor Wall (IV 5.7 A3... trip report to come soon) on Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire.  He told me that he needed to drink two gallons of water a day to prevent the stomach ailment from occurring.  An attack of Colitis basically makes him turn into a horizontal, moaning, stationary potato for a half-day.  He also gets the most noxious, rank, nauseating farts ever blown forth from the human body.  And they're silent, so they sneak up on you.  Not a good thing to get on a wall (or in a car with the windows up).  Greg just giggles about it all.  I also didn't relish hauling eight gallons of water just for him.



Tuesday, June 26, 2001.  I fly out from Newark (NJ), land in San Francisco, get the rental pickup truck, drive east to Oakdale, load up on supplies, get a bite to eat and drive to the valley.  I call my family to tell them I made it safely and tell them they will hear from me on Sunday, after the climb.  Talking to my kids makes me want to turn around and go home.  I miss them a lot.


I arrive in Lower Pines and find the campsite around 6:30 PM.  I immediately dump all of my gear and park the truck in Curry Village for the duration of the trip.  I find that Greg and Nancy carried five gallons of water and a portaledge up to the base earlier in the day.  Good work, kids.  We sort gear and pack what we can that evening.  I'm beat and crash out early.  They stay up for a while chatting with others in the site who fixed pitches on Zodiac and who are also from Philadelphia.



Wednesday, June 27, 2001.  I wake up early, still on east coast time.  Everyone in camp is still asleep.  I do the early morning boogie and make a strong press pot of coffee to gets things moving.  Greg beginning the 1st pitch.  A long way to go.  Photo by:  Scott GhizWe finish packing and begin humping loads from Lower Pines into the base of the column around 7:30 AM.  That's a tough stretch from the paved bike trail to the base of the climb.  On the way up I get covered with biting ants.  It's like watching a horror movie on your own arms.  We finally get all of our junk to the spot below the route.  OOPS.  Looks like someone has gotten ahead of us.  Nope.  It's a soloist on 'Ten Days After' but he's doing the original start, not the Prow variation.  It's Ben from Boone, North Carolina.  Nice kid, 21 years old.  I really am an Old Coot. We have the Prow to ourselves.


No one else is around as Greg begins climbing around 9:30 AM while Nancy belays and I pack the two bags.  We have a lot of stuff.  Two poop tubes, two portaledges (one double one single), twelve gallons of water, lots of food, four ropes (we did two hauls for the entire climb) and enough gear to setup a competing climbing shop across the valley from the Curry Village Climbing Shop.


Greg takes a little while getting to the belay.  This is his fourth aid lead ever.  But everything goes OK and he hauls the bags.  I clean and Nancy spends the entire climb as bag lackey.  She knew the plan before going up.  She has never lead an aid pitch.  She was a real trooper and did a good job helping out when she could.  The system works out well.  It keeps all the belays fairly open with only two folks at any belay at any one time.  Angry Old Coot beginning the 2nd pitch.  The first 30 feet of the pitch is also the most awkward section of the whole climb and probably the technical crux.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerThe leader hauls the first bag which has the second bag's line.  The leader then hauls the second bag with Nancy's jug line attached.  By this time the cleaner has cleaned the pitch and has re-racked for the next pitch.  The new leader takes off belayed on a Gri-Gri while the old-leader restacks ropes and organizes and Nancy comes up.  This systems worked very well and we used it the whole way up the wall.  It also allowed us to haul pitches 2 & 3 and 7 & 8 as one.  Unfortunately, I got to do the longest hauls on the climb.


I started up the second pitch.  It begins with a friction traverse to the right on a sloping ledge.  It's not a big deal but the first few pieces on the pitch are a bit questionable.  There is a fair chance of hitting the ledge if you blow a piece.  The first 30 feet of the pitch is also the most awkward section of the whole climb and probably the technical crux.  It's great climbing but you are in a steep, shallow left facing corner that feels like it leans is some direction; but which direction?  Eventually a 'head ladder is reached and leads around to the left to a C1 right facing corner to a good belay under a roof.  I had planned on running P2 & P3 together, but I was down to 7 runners and 15 carabiners.  It ends up that I probably could have made Anchorage Ledge at the top of pitch 3 with that gear, but decided to stop.  Greg cleaned the pitch and I continued up pitch 3.  This is a great pitch.  It turns a little roof in a corner and continues up what I'll call the 'Triple Cracks of the Prow'.  It's a perfectly vertical white face with three vertical cracks in it.  You start in the right most one, go a third of the way, step left into the middle one and then eventually step left into the third of the triple cracks.  At the top of this section the climb moves left off a nice 3/8" SS bolt to some manky fixed 'heads to some free climbing to some more fixed 'heads to Anchorage Ledge.


Anchorage Ledge is a nice place to bivy, though it slopes in and down to the right.  We used portaledges, so the ledge was just nice to put the bags on.  Greg cleaned and I hauled pitches 2 & 3 as one.  Greg leading out on pitch 4 from our hanging camp at Anchorage Ledge.  Good job Greg!  Photo by:  Scott GhizEventually Nancy came up and we set up our hanging camp.  After everything was set up and we refreshed ourselves with some food and drink, Greg did a great job fixing the fourth pitch before dark.  The fourth starts with 50 feet of bolt and rivet ladder and finishes with 60 feet of tricky nutting and fixed 'heads.


Once Greg got down to the bivy, we finish up dinner and unpacked the sleeping gear.  Greg and Nancy proved their inexperience by having no tie in loops on their sleeping bags, sleeping pads, rain gear and other important stuff.  They racked up a bunch of Gumby points, but I probably should have checked out the situation prior to hiking up that morning.  We were on the cusp of having a grand old epic.  Luckily, no one dropped anything important.


I take daily heart medication to keep the arteries around my pump from seizing up.  The kids knew this and keep reminding me to 'take my meds'.  I guess they didn't want to carefully lower my body to the ground and then gingerly carry it out.  My guess is that they would just cut me loose and call the rangers.  I really am an Old Coot.


Angry Old Coot and Nancy at the Anchorage Ledge (portaledge) bivy.  AOC is eating some dinner and Nancy is the attentive belayer.  Photo by:  Greg Stoner (while leading/fixing pitch 4)We talked for a while before sleepiness completely overwhelmed me.  We yell for Ben, who is now bivied just around the corner from us, that we need a rescue.  He just yells back that he needs a rescue.  Nancy talks a lot.  Like non-stop for four days and always about climbing. Greg and Nancy are full-on addicted to the climbing world.  They made a pact long ago to never have kids.  They made the following comment more than once on the trip, "Glad we found climbing after we got established in our professional careers or we would have been 100% climbing bums."  I could see their focus on climbing was strong, like heroin addict strong.  I'm more of a scatter-brain.  I like to do a lot of different things, none very well.  I probably had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) back when it was called Pain in the Ass Kid Syndrome (PAKS).  I spent a lot of time in detention.  Nancy and Greg threatened to start boinking on my portaledge.  EEKS.  Better get to sleep before anything happens.  ZZZZZZZ.



Thursday, June 28, 2001Greg on the early part of pitch 5.  He's pretty happy now, he hasn't reached the reachy bolt ladder.  Photo by:  Scott Ghiz"You asshole.  You snored all night long." was the first thing Nancy said to me in the morning.  I did get a good night's sleep in their Black Diamond Sky Lounge Single Ledge.  Supposedly they kept rolling into each other all night long when the floor of my A5 double ledge sagged.  They didn't use the shark fin dividers which helps support the middle of the portaledge.  We brushed teeth, ate breakfast and did our respective businesses.  Actually, Greg and I went simultaneously with Nancy in the middle, getting the experience in stereo, trying to use mind control to mentally leave the area.  Poop tubes get their first of many deposits.


Two guys in blue helmets start up the first pitch using the 'Jo-Jo' start.  The leader is smoking pitches.  His second takes longer to clean pitches that the leader leads them.  Are we going to get passed?  Only time will tell.  A little later a guy in a white helmet starts right behind the blue helmet guys.  Maybe he is just fixing pitches.  The white helmet guy also used the 'Jo-Jo' start.  He looks like he might be soloing.  Did we miss something?


Greg went up the fixed line and hauled the first bag.  I cleaned the few remaining pieces and hauled the second bag.  Greg was tasked with leading pitch 5 because of it's notoriously long reaches on the bolt ladder.  Greg is like 6'3" but claims to only be 5'11".  He got the lead anyway considering I'm a squat 5'7".  Greg made good time up the initial 'head ladder with a couple of nut placements in between.  The bolts were very far apart, even for the giant Greg.  Angry Old Coot (AOC) on the best pitch of the climb, pitch 6.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerI let him flail for a little while until I told him a secret about extending his reach.  The trick is:  On steep rock, put your heel in the aider step and put your toe against the rock.  After that, he was able to get through the pitch without a cheat stick.  Again I cleaned and Greg hauled.  I racked up and started on pitch six. 


An awkward move off the belay leads to C1 climbing in a nice corner on nuts and cam hooks for 100+ feet.  Pitch 6 is a great pitch and is very long; probably 155+ feet, not the 130 feet in most topos.  At the top of the shallow left facing corner, a hook move to a free move to a 1/4" bolt.  Fun.  Then a 3/8" bolt, then mixed 'heads and bolts to the belay stance.  I used a key Tri-Cam in a blown pin scar to get by one spot up high on the pitch. 


After hauling the bags, Greg started up the short, 'Strange Dihedral' of pitch 7.  Greg dropped a 'biner three moves into the pitch.  I missed catching it as it flew by and yelled "ROCK!"  But it was still falling.  I yelled "ROCK" two more times at the limit of my voice.  It finally hit five or ten feet out from the start of the climb after falling forever.  What a steep climb!  Fortunately the 'biner did not hit anyone.  Greg continues up and finishes the pitch.  Greg fighting his way up the short 'Strange Dihedral', pitch 7.  Photo by:  Scott GhizNancy stays with the bags and I clean.  I get to lead pitch 8. 


Pitch 8 starts with a very exposed free/tension traverse down to the right.  Just as I start Greg informs me that he doesn't know what a tension traverse is.  Great timing, pal.  I manage to scrape my way to some mystery slings attached to a terribly rusty 1" angle pounded into a hole.  A nice 3/8" bolt follows, then a hook move.  A nice thin left arching crack is followed on small nuts and small cams to a horrific fixed 'head with a tie-off girth hitched to the nub of the blown clip-in cable loop.  It only has to hold for a few seconds.  I get on it and move smartly to another 3/8" bolt.  Whew!  Now a 6" wide ledge leads left to a short bolt ladder.  This ledge is chalked.  Do I need to free climb here?  I figure a way to aid on TCU's placed straight down behind the ledge rather than free climb.  I follow the three bolts to the free climbing I had been fearing all day long.  Yes, 5.6 terrifies me.  Alas, it's like one 5.4 move right from the last bolt to mostly 5.0 scrambling over boulders and low angle corners.  INancy arriving at Tapir Terraces after the scary lower out and long jug.  She looks happy... maybe a little too happy?  Photo by:  Scott Ghiz clip gear like a crazed idiot and have a King Kong case of rope drag by the time I reach the far left end of Tapir Terraces, our home for the night.  In retrospect my advice is don't clip any gear from the last bolt until the nice belay/bivy bolts at the end of the pitch at the far left hand side of Tapir Terraces.  The rope will run straight up to the belay from the last bolt.  I got the wonderful chore of hauling two bags up two pitches again.  But we made our planned bivy and that was the primary goal.  Tapir Terraces is a weird place.  It's like a room in the carnival fun hose where all the floors and walls are at different angles.  Everything slopes, one direction or another.


Nancy arrives after having to lower out around the outside of the Strange Dihedral (scary).  Greg suffers through having to clean pitch 8, with all of it's traversing and long reaches.  But he too makes it to the bivy after some well placed curses and general moaning.  No fixing pitches for us tonight, just get the bivy set up and food out.  We chow down and drink plenty of water.  The day before it was cool and today was warmer, but we benefited from some nice breezes for most of the day.  So we didn't drink all of our day one water and had extra.  I opened up my dinner bag and fished out a can of Greg suffering through having to clean pitch 8, with all of it's traversing and long reaches.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerHormel 'Hot' Chili, a small can of fruit cocktail and a cup of banana cream pie pudding. MMMM.  Every night I had a cup of pudding stored in a plastic cup and foil lid.  Some of the cans had sizable dents in them, but the puddings were unscathed!  I guess they bend, but don't break.  All my meals were great except for the Hormel 'Hot' Chili.  It tasted fine, but I got a horrific case of heartburn that lasted most of the night.  The only thing I forgot in the medical kit were antacids.  Heartburn from spicy foods; just another symptom of becoming an Old Coot.


Unfortunately, the bivy was more cramped on the second night and I had the bottom bunk where the bags resided.  It was my job to fish out everything for everyone under very cramped circumstances.  I took my contact lenses out (it's really not that difficult to use contacts on a wall climb) and zonked out quickly, but woke up at around 3 AM to take a leak.  As I rolled over to use my pee-bottle I thought I saw a line of clouds in the sky, but didn't have my glasses on.  I have very poor vision, 20/400.  A little later I saw the same smudge of clouds in seemingly the same place.  I put the goggles on and saw the most spectacular view of the Milky Way I have ever seen with my naked eyes!  Incredible.  Back to sleep....


 End of Part 1 of 2


Two Gumbies and an Old Coot do the Prow (V 5.6 C2F)

Washington Column, Yosemite Valley


Continue with Part 2 of 2






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