American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, Porcelain Wall, Sky Is Falling

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Porcelain Wall, Sky Is Falling. In late July, Eric Kohl and I established a new line on the left side of the Porcelain Wall. We named the route Sky Is Falling (VI 5.10+ A?, 15 pitches, 73 holes) due to the amount of loose rock regularly shed from the face (our lead line was chopped by rockfall while fixed on the first pitch). Seven loads apiece were carried to the base as the first five pitches were fixed. Eric led the first two, 5.10+ polished slab pitches, runout between stance-drilled quarter-inchers. True to his style, he used recalled Leeper hangers as well as a few rusty relics I’d kept after re-bolting belays on Zenyata Mendata. The third and fourth pitches climbed through a recent rock scar (a large section that appeared in my three-year-old photos was now gone) and involved a short section of free climbing and trundling. This led to “The Death Splitter,” a beautiful 80-foot blade/arrow crack that separated an enormous slab from the wall. The fifth pitch, “Ron Faucet, had me groveling through running water and a mud-oozing corner that finally sloped onto The Garden Terrace,” a huge overgrown ledge system strewn with loose blocks.

After two days of rest, we hauled our pigs to “The Terrace” and Eric began leading the next pitch, battling bushes and small trees and tossing the occasional loose block. Suddenly, the one-inch cam he was on popped. He went 20 feet, landed on his side on a small shelf, bounced off and continued for another 20 feet until his next piece finally caught. Shocked, I lowered him the remaining ten feet to the ledge and asked if he was all right. He had badly scraped his shoulder, hit his head quite hard and was bleeding. Muttering something about “damn A1 munge,” he cleaned himself up, took a hit off the vodka bottle, and to my amazement was back on lead in less than 15 minutes. For the following three days, he became dizzy every time he looked up. Eric now wears a helmet.

A pitch of good nailing and heading brought us to the second ledge system, where we bivied and found signs of Harding’s passage: a bed of arranged blocks and a sardine tin. Eric led off the ledge on creaky blades and hooks, then used ball nuts in an expanding comer that made strange popping noises from within. Hooks, heads and beaks brought me to the largest feature of the route, a huge, right-facing A1 comer that arced to a roof, where I belayed. Eric’s next pitch, “The Chinette Pitch,” traversed right on blades, hooked a flake, then nailed more blades and beaks into a pair of expanding splitters. I then led off the belay on six beaks, a few heads and a hook, then joined Harding’s route for 90 feet of frustrating bat hooking, protected by a few manky Z-macs with plumber’s tape hangers. From our toe-sized belay stance, Eric traversed left for 80 feet on hooks and rivets, then, after several tries, pendulumed from a blade in an expanding roof to a skating hook. He then pasted heads to the belay. Nineteen rivets, a few circleheads, and many hooks brought me to “Swill Station Zebra, a welcomed narrow ledge. With heads and blades, Eric ascended a tight comer, drilled two rivets, and nailed his way to “The Sky Lab” at belay 14. The final pitch consisted of beautiful beak seams connected by hook traverses, a large ledge, and a perfect bugaboo splitter that continued over the 90° summit edge, providing a natural belay. We spent eight days on the wall, bivied on top, and quickly descended to The Deli the next morning.

Bryan Law

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