American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, The Dihedral Wall

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1965

El Capitan, The Dihedral Wall. On June 6, after 5 days of difficult aid climbing, Tom Frost and I completed the first continuous ascent of the Dihedral Wall, otherwise known as the direct southwest face of El Capitan. We passed our first night in hammocks suspended beneath a ceiling 700 feet above the ground. This is a good place because a horizontal line of bolts permits comfortable suspension of the hammocks. To reach these bolts, however, we had to climb until nearly midnight. This night climbing can perhaps be avoided by starting at dawn. We also passed the third night in hammocks — hanging uncomfortably 30 feet beneath a horizontal roof. The other two nights were spent on good ledges. On the 9th pitch a flake providing a piton crack broke off. We avoided placing a bolt here by using a fifi hook on a nubbin. Higher on this pitch a second flake threatens to break off. The 15th (Flake Pitch) and 17th pitch are very long, and rope drag becomes excessive. We recommend the use of a 50-meter perlon rope, 9 millimeters in diameter to minimize rope drag and provide sufficient length. Although we had learned that on the first ascent Ed Cooper had removed the hangers from the first 35 bolts, we didn’t know he had also removed the nuts which keep the hangers on the bolts. These are customarily left in place. One can imagine our surprise when, upon arriving in darkness at the line of bolts beneath the 700-foot ceiling, we found nothing but a hangerless, nutless, line of rawl bolts. By pure chance we had with us 6 nuts, which we had to make do for the 35 bolts which led up from the bivouac. If we had not had these, we would have been forced to descend or to ruin the bolts by bending them up at right angles so we could hang slings on them. In his article describing the first ascent Mr. Cooper included a full page of "interesting facts,” containing such data as "approx. footage prusiking up fixed ropes,” and "number of piton hammers broken.” Oddly, he did not include the extremely important information about the missing hangers and nuts. One might justify the removing of hangers by economic arguments. But why were the nuts removed? (Cooper tells us that he removed them because he feared they would rust on. — Editor.) We recommend that subsequent parties carry 40 rawl drive nuts (¼") and 30 hangers. We left a few hangers in place. If other parties do the same, the route will eventually have hangers on all bolts. We removed 13 bolts, but still used 87, which indicates a hundred bolts placed rather than the 75-85 reported in Cooper’s article. We suggest the following bongs be taken: 1-4", 2-3", 2-2½", 2-2".

Royal Robbins

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