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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

Tuan's Yosemite Rock Page

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 2 of 2

By: Scott Ghiz

Greg starting off on the 9th pitch, pre-airtime.  Photo by:  Scott GhizFriday, June 29, 2001.  I was told that I was snoring again.  I think the Stoners were awake for 55 hours out of 57 hours we spent on the route.  At least I hope they didn't catch up on their snooze time while belaying me. 


We pack up, take care of business and Greg leads off on pitch 9 with Nancy belaying and me packing the bags.  It's either C2, C1 or 5.9 depending on where we get the information.  We decide that it is C1 before Greg gets to the second placement.  Greg struggles mightily with flared and bottoming placements that he cusses at trying to make them better.  He gets at least 30 feet of placements to stick.  Then while relaxing on the nice ledge I hear the familiar, "Pink, tinkle, woosh..."  I quickly mention to Nancy "He's off" without looking up.  Nancy is slammed to the left while the Gri-Gri locks up.  Greg is 10 feet above the ledge and close to 20 feet below his high point.  A litany of curses fill the air.  AOC leading pitch 10.  Photo by: Nancy StonerFirst fall of the trip, on a C1 pitch.  Greg is fine and actually decides to step up in his aiders to look at his next placement.  It's a C1 placement that he blew; he just got lazy.  Greg takes his time finishing the pitch and hauls the bags.  He sets up the haul below a nice ledge.  What the hell?  He didn't trust the fixed pins above the ledge.  Too much sport climbing for this lad.  I yank the bags up to the ledge and get the anchors set higher.


A look over the edge shows the blue helmet guys retreating from Anchorage Ledge.  Later in the day, the white helmet guy gets up to Anchorage Ledge.  It looks like we'll be free to climb as slow as we want to the top.  We know Ben is a few pitches below and moving well.  Maybe he'll catch us.  It's now a circus over on the South Face.  Pitch one probably has two fixed lines and five people buzzing about.  We really lucked out getting the Prow all to ourselves.


After a quick re-rack for the 170' pitch 10, I cast off.  C1 all the way.  I backclean extensively, leaving nuts for gear every 20-30 feet.  Once the angle lessens, I throw in  free move or two to quicken the pace.  The topo said something about a 5.8 section. I never found it.  I did follow the Eric Coomer dictum of clipping the haul line into a directional just above the small roof on the pitch.  This is key.  Nancy saw all kinds of things stuck in the flake to the right on her jumar of pitch 10 including a poop tube and possibly Jimmy Hoffa's bones.  The top of the pitch has a great ledge.  Greg and Nancy belaying at the bottom of the 10th pitch.  It's a nice triangular ledge.  Photo by:  Scott GhizBomber bolts, a shade tree and a good place to sit down or even lay down.  Beautiful!  Greg helped the bags get by the clip in point and small overhang. 


Greg charged up the eleventh pitch with the big gear and more cursing.  Heck, it got him through the overhang.  He climbed the right most crack system.  It looked like the better way to aid climb this section.  He also got to use the #4.5 Camalot going through the bulge.  If you want to free climb it, climb the middle crack system at 5.9.  If you want to torture yourself, try the belly crawl crack.  It looks bad.  All the variations end up at the same spot anyway, a low angle, blocky stance with one fixed pin.  Greg actually used it this time.  I cleaned the pitch and acted as a directional for the haul bags to get them past the overhang and up the corner.  Greg charging up the eleventh pitch with the big gear and more cursing.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerI reached the belay, stacked ropes, racked up for the pitch and take off. 


I fully expected pitch 12 to be a walk in the proverbial park.  I stepped right off the belay and mantled to a slab with two bolts at the top of it.  Maybe a better belay for the top of 11?  I then stepped right to a ramp with a bunch of pin scars, a fixed 'head, which was actually a mashed in wired hex, then a bolt with a sling and a 'biner.  Hmmmm.  I tried to free climb to the 'head.  No go.  I plugged in an Alien into one of the pin scars and hoped it would hold.  I was out a ways from my last gear and the placement wasn't exactly C1.  It held.  I clipped up the mashed in hex and bolt then plugged in a big unit, a #3.5 Camalot.  The next section  is the most dangerous part of the climb.  You have to climb right and up following weaknesses to the top.  Most of this climbing is on very rotten rock.  It's probably no harder than 5.3 at any point and you have to keep the ropes flicked over the edge above the last bolt.  I grabbed a bay tree on the way up this section and had a swarm of biting ants all over me in one second.  I brushed them off and continued up the rotten rock to a steep cleft leading to the top.  The pitch was only supposed to be 70 feet long.  Maybe 70 feet after you straightened the ropes over the edge, but there is about 140 feet of climbing on it, most of it easy and loose.


Greg topping out with Tenya Canyon and the North Dome Gully in the background.  Photo by:  Nancy Stoner.As I topped out, I was blasted with a warm wind and sun.  A beautiful view of the western end of the valley greeted me as I set up the hauls off a couple of trees.  Greg helped the bags over the first edge and waited to top out with his wife.  Made me want to fly home right then and there to see my family.  I'm such a sissy.


We got all the junk to the top and decided to bivy at the top.  It was 6:30 PM.  We sorted out all the gear, ate dinner (plus all the extra cans of fruit the kids brought with them), drank plenty of water, took obligatory summit pictures with an alpine glow on Half Dome in the background.  We made a clean and non-cheater-stick ascent of the Prow.  Though we definitely benefited from mid-season, fixed gear conditions.


It was great to be on top of the column.  We played flashlight/headlamp tag with folks on Glacier Point that night and yelled 'Wilbur' as loud as we could from the summit Greg and the AOC (Angry Old Coot) coiling ropes at the top.  Photo by:  Nancy Stoner  We look pretty happy now.  We had little idea what laid in store for us the next the folks playing that game in the Pines campgrounds could hear it like it was from God.  Sometime in the middle of the night something crawled across my feet and was poking around in a few stuff sacks with food and accoutrements in them.  I thought Greg was searching for lip balm.  I looked up, without the goggles, and saw a skunk.  I yelled and Greg shined a light.  Nothing.  I'm lucky not to have been sprayed.  Greg and Nancy laughed and said it was a Ringtail Squirrel.  It may have been Bigfoot.  Time to zonk back out.  I actually didn't sleep that well.  I was too jazzed to be on top with a couple of real novices and I helped them get to the top of their first wall.  Because of me, they will probably have a lifetime of wall experiences, good and bad.  I felt pretty good and proud.



Saturday, June 30, 2001.  Time for the casual stroll down the North Dome Gully.  It can't be that bad.  We're doing it after a good night's rest, we're well fed, we're hydrated and it's perfect weather.  It can't be that bad, really.  I poured out 1.5 liters of water because I didn't want to carry it down.  I only carried 1.5 liters with me.  For some reason the pouring out of the water haunted me.


Greg and Nancy resting after our first back-track, trying to find the NDG descent.  Photo by:  Scott GhizWe start at 6:30 AM and thirty seconds into the walk, we're lost.  We crossed onto the eastern side of the Washington Column summit ridge way too soon.  We end up not quite at the top of the 'Death Slabs' and have to reverse our track.  I end up crawling on all fours with an 80 pound haul bag on my back, through the Manzanita bushes, to get back to the proper trail.  Greg does a great job finding the correct path and we stumble, scramble, crawl and trip our way east toward the North Dome Gully.  We get to an obvious gully with a 30' hank of 9mm fixed on the opposite side and about 40 feet down.  There are cairns marking the way down to the rope.  We follow the rope down to it's end and slide down 60' to a blocky section.  Do we continue down or do we go across?  No cairns, no footprints in the soft, sandy soil.  We take off the haul bags and explore.  We find cairns on the opposite side of the gully, up high.  We should have crossed over the gully at the bottom of the fixed line.  Cairns mark the way to the next gully, the North Dome Gully.


We finally get over there after a terrifying climb back up the first gully with big heavy packs on.  After a short steep down section we hit a rappel station or a steep downclimb.  Greg starts down the gully climbing with his haulbag on, but it gets too steep and scary.  It's probably only class 4, but you'll certainly die if you blow it up high.  AOC leaving the North Dome Gully runout.  Lots of fun.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerWe opt to rappel.  While Nancy is setting up the rappel, Greg falls about 8 feet into a rock crevice while repacking his haulbag. Another flood of curses reveals that he is basically OK.  We don harnesses, helmets and rappel.  I remember something about the description of the NDG talking about, "...if you ever contemplate a rappel, you are off route."  Too late, Nancy is at the bottom and Greg is cursing his way down the rope.   Part way down, Greg becomes inverted while on rappel and his Petzl Shunt saves him and traps him at the same time.  Another bout of curses and he makes the bottom of the rappel, slightly scuffed.  After a 100 foot rappel a non-stance is reached.  It's a completely dry quicksand that slides down the gully with frightening speed at every slight movement we make.  We somehow grapple our way over to a sturdy tree and tie off.  Greg repacks his bag and we continue.  The hardest part is over, we think.  Now all we have to do is deal with the sand boarding, butt scuffing and general sliding that takes us down to a westward traverse following cairns to the sandy switchbacks on the slabs.  The switchbacks are tough and look like they could be fatal if you blow it at certain spots.  Eventually, one more 100' diagonal rappel on the slabs leads down to more switchbacks and the trees.  Sisyphus and his boulder have nothing on descending the NDG with a full haul bag on your back.  What a lucky guy.


I was done.  Stick a fork in me.  My only water bottle broke part way down the slabs and the temperatures were reaching into the 90's.  Good thing I poured out the extra liter-and-a-half of water that morning.  I am so smart, S-M-R-T (as Homer Simpson would say).  At least we now had shade. Instead of hiking back up and down to the base of Washington Column, we went down toward the Indian Caves.  Greg slumping on the NDG descent, between cursing episodes.  Prow is in the background.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerMistake.  Next time I will walk up and back down to the base of the column.  The Indian Caves route leaves you way out from the walk in and probably adds a mile to your hike.  The trail is not too bad except for two spots where I took the haul bag off and chucked it off the steep ten foot drops.  I finally reached the civilized Indian Cave trail and laid down.  Greg had been there for twenty minutes and Nancy for ten.  Now I'm an Old Angry Coot.  Greg takes off immediately, Nancy close behind.  I lag for another 10 minutes and then muster the strength to pick up my cross.  I slog out to the paved road hoping for a water fountain or even a puddle of water.  Nothing.  They wait for me, the AOC, at the paved trail.


We move along the paved bicycle trail in a completely separate dimension from the clean tourists with glorious bottles of water in their hands.  Nancy and Greg take off.  They obviously have more gas in the tank.  The rear of my pants are shredded and give a full showing of my undies.  I could care less.  Some kids point it out to the world and everyone gawks.  Some jerks in Stanford shirts strut by and say, "Was it really worth it?"  I almost chucked my bag at them.  It gave me some fuel for the walk back to camp.  Now I'm a VAOC.  Then a YPS employee motored by in a three wheel scooter.  I waved and she waved back.  I walk a little more and she comes back and gives me water.  It ends up that she is Ben's girlfriend!  You know, Ben, the guy soloing 'Ten Days After'.  She takes my bag a few hundred yards to the backpacker camp and I pick it up.  Walking without the pig on my back made me feel like I could fly.  We talk and she has been watching Ben and us for the past few days.  Ben bivied two pitches below us at the top of Prow pitch 10 on the previous night.  He was probably only a little behind us (Ben makes it down the NDG in two hours with all of his gear!  That punk!).


We talk for a short while more and I continue my journey.  I hike through  North Pines campground, over the bridge to the entrance of Lower Pines and find my way back to our site while tourists point out the fact that my pants are blown out.  The first thing Greg and Nancy say to me is, "You got a ride back, the climb doesn't count."  I blurt back a swift and curt, "Fuck OFF!" All while little kids are standing there.  I'm such an Angry Old Coot.  Greg and Nancy really know how to push my buttons. I fish out my cell phone from my tent and call my wife.  It's 1:15 PM.  It only took me 6 hours and 45 minutes to descend the North Dome Gully.  Yeah baby, I'm a regular bat out of Hades.  I'm never doing the North Dome Gully ever again.  Ever.



After cleaning up in the disgusting Curry Village showers and downing some food and beer; I begin sorting out the gear.  We carried everything up and back down for proper disposal except for our pee.  We tried to pour it onto exposed areas out of the climbing area using our pee-bottles.  It didn't always work.  I cleaned out my poop tube for future use.  No problems, it cleaned up nicely.  The kids didn't even try.  They chucked their poop tube into the trash.  I had a rather large family of ants living in my haul bag.  They were gathered around the garbage bags that held our used food cans.  The ants seemed to dig the static haul line for whatever reason.  Nancy had the privilege of carrying the rack and a rope without the benefit of a pack.  Fifty pounds of awkward swinging junk.  All of my gear got dragged through the sand and dirt, certainly not Nancy's fault.  We should have hauled a mini pig just to carry the hardware down.  I'll clean the gear when I get home.  I pack what I can and climb into my tent for the night.  I bring a full bottle of water to quell the 'middle of the night' thirst that has followed all the walls I've done in the past.  I moved my flights up and booked a night at a hotel near SFO.  I plan on getting a good meal, a clean shower, some time in a hot tub and a nice comfy bed.


Sunday, July 1, 2001.  I get up, finish packing and get out of the valley.  I don't even stop to look at the Captain.  I just want to get out of there.  I get to Oakdale, stop for gas and snacks.  I come out and two big surly guys (you know they're bad guys when they have tattoos on their faces) are looking into my unlocked pickup truck.  All I have visible is a cell phone, a CD player and a few loose dollar bills.  Note to self:  Lock car while in Oakdale.  I get in and drive off while receiving some serious vibes.  I get to the hotel, check in, shower and hit the hot tub.  Unfortunately, a large wedding has occurred at the hotel during the day and all of the guests have forced their drunken, bloated bodies into the Jacuzzi.  No thank you, I'm not jumping in.  Back to the room for some room service; a big Caesar Salad, a loaf of Garlic Bread and two Sierra Nevada Pale Ales.  I watch TV and stretch out in the nice big bed. 


Monday, July 2, 2001.  Everything smells like old beer and garlic.  The TV is on.  I fell asleep with beer number two in my hand and a partially eaten Caesar Salad in my lap.  I am completely slathered in 12 hour-old Caesar Salad (with anchovies), Garlic Two big FISH Behemoth Bags packed with 80 pounds of gear each.  Photo by:  Scott GhizBread remains and stale, warm beer.  I wonder what housekeeping is going to think?  Another long shower and I'm outta there.  I get to SFO and try to check in at the curb.  In Newark NJ, I arrived with two big FISH Behemoth Bags packed with 80 pounds of gear each.  The limit is 70 pounds/bag on United Airlines.  The dialogue in Newark went as follows: 


Curb Check Guy #1: "Hey Tony, I tink dees bags are ova da limit."
Tony, Curb Check Guy #2: "Betta take dem to ova-size."
Me: "I believe Mr. Lincoln checked these bags and they are OK."
Curb Check Guy #1: "Hey Tony, dees bags are OK."


And I get to check in with no problems and no extra baggage fees.  For those who don't understand, I bribed Curb Check Guy #1 with a 5-spot (a sawbuck, a 5 dollar bill).  On the way to check in at SFO I was whisked directly to the oversize check-in before I could plead my case with the curb check guy.  Here is the dialogue at SFO:


Oversize Baggage Check-in Person: "Sir, these bags are overweight.  You need to pay $75 for excess baggage."
Me: "Well on the way out from Newark they said that bags were OK."
Oversize Baggage Check-in Person: "You are still required to pay the excess baggage fee of $75."
Me (flashing a $20 bill): "I believe Mr. Jackson checked these bags and said they were OK."
Oversize Baggage Check-in Person (looking at me like I just sprouted two additional heads): "Sir, I don't understand.  You are still required to pay the excess baggage fee of $75."
Me (somewhat embarrassed): "Do you take American Express?"


I bypassed the $5 & $10 moves and went straight to the big guns, a $20 bribe.  It's tantamount to skipping the 'Double-Dog-Dare' and going directly to the 'Triple-Dog-Dare'.  It didn't phase the SFO oversized Check-in Person.  What a geek or maybe I'm just a scumbag?  Could be both.


The flight was canceled and I was pushed back to a slightly later flight.  Really no problem.  I got home kissed my sleeping kids and slipped into my own bed.  What a cool trip.



Two Weeks Later.  The kids (Wall Gumbies) headed down to the The Angry Old Coot at the top with Half Dome glowing in the background.  Photo by:  Nancy StonerNew River Gorge in West Virginia for a sampling of world class crack climbing for a few days after the 4th of July.  I found out that the guys who fixed on Zodiac made it a couple of days after we finished.  Team Philly scores two Yosemite walls in a week.    As you already know, much of my body mass was eaten by NJ Greenhead flies during a sea kayak trip at the NJ shore on the 4th.  Greg's back has been killing him since the NDG descent.  They are heading to the Gunks this weekend.  Maybe I'll go with them and try my hand at free climbing for a day.  Nah, gotta cut the lawn, do house chores and baby-sit my kids this weekend.  The North Dome Gully is looking better everyday.


The End?





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