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North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Heavy Metal and Tinker Toys

El Capitan, Heavy Metal and Tinker Toys. In August, Boulos Ayad, Tyson Hausdoerffer and I managed to establish an 11-pitch new route on the southeast face of El Capitan that we named Heavy Metal and Tinker Toys (VI 5.10 PDH). The route joins Atlantic Ocean to New Jersey Turnpike for 19 total pitches, which we climbed over ten days; 18 belay bolts, 36 machine bolt rivets, and 54 filled holes were used in total.

We used the new Abbreviated Aid Rating System (AARS) to define difficulty on this route. This was done to avoid the commonly misinterpreted, redefined, and generally abused A1 through A5 system. The AARS has only three difficulty ratings: NBD (No Big Deal), NTB (Not Too Bad), and PDH (Pretty Dam Hard). Concomitant when deemed warranted is a danger or serious rating, i.e., WHU (Way Heads Up), or the more concerning DFH (Don’t Fall Here).

The new route starts about ten meters right of Wyoming Sheep Ranch and Continental Drift. Boulos, only 19 years old, led the very serious first pitch, which involved difficult aid climbing with ground fall potential. This pitch crosses the long traverse on the first pitch of the Drift about 50 feet above the ground. We fixed a rope, and the next day Tyson led pitch 2, crossing a 35-foot blank section on 5/16" machine bolt rivets placed in shallow 1/4" holes. Caution should be exercised on these rivets during subsequent ascents.

The next three pitches are easy to follow if not generally easy to climb. These pitches are all PDH and except for pitch 3 tend to move right toward the New Jersey Turnpike route. Tyson led the sixth pitch, which intersects the Turnpike by means of a pendulum. Pitch 7, though not particularly difficult, is somewhat serious and may be hard to see where to go initially. A small pendulum right from the third of three hook moves leads to easy free climbing, also to the right. After 30 or so feet, climb up on thin and sometimes expanding flakes to a three-foot roof formed by a very large flake. There is a single unnecessary bolt here, to mark the belay. Near the end of the next lead move right to a ledge and a two-bolt belay anchor.

The next day, after a super-human hauling effort the day before, Tyson led a long PDH, WHU pitch to a small triangular ledge. Boulos led the next pitch (NTB) to the top of a small pillar only 15 feet left of the Gulfstream route. In the finite quest for new territory to climb, I moved down and left to free climb up some large loose flakes before aiding on copperheads to some more very loose flakes that took me back to the Gulfstream route, 20 feet below Boston Tea Party ledge. At this juncture our vain hope of establishing a totally separate line dwindled to sad reality. Above we spotted copperhead wires growing from a crack we had proposed to use. At this point we joined the Atlantic Ocean for two pitches and then onto the New Jersey Turnpike to finish.

Jim Bridwell, unaffiliated