North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Tempest
El Capitan, Tempest. June 9, 1999: I am in a doubly overhanging dihedral, approaching The Eyrie. Lulled by the morning sun, I contemplate the sand running over my knee. Suddenly, the body-sized arrowhead flake I am hooking explodes out of the corner. The sharp edge of the block rolls over my stomach and in a haze of motion sails past Valerio Folco (CAI), who is oblivious, writing in his diary on the portaledge. I jumar past the tear in my lead line and tie in farther from the end. We camp at the Eyrie. To the east is a subtle buttress that is the most consistently steep feature we can see. We say nothing, the language barrier keeping talk to a minimum, but we each silently conclude that it will be our next adventure: a third ascent of Tempest. Information about Tempest was sketchy and hard to come-by. One person dismissed the route as a bolt ladder. Others claimed the route was one of great difficulty, having stymied many attempts, “the most sought-after route on the Captain.” It turns out that the Tempest’s first- ascent team (Jarrett, Hornibrook, and Lloyd, 1993) had previously done many big-wall FAs together. What impresses me about Tempest, in addition to the superb, audacious line, is the quality of the FA. The positioning of fixed belay anchors shows great skill and care. Where rivets exist, they are spaced at impressive distances, similar to Reticent Wall.
Val gave me the jobs of recruiting a third climber and finding a photographer. In October, as Bruce Bindner led the second pitch, Val remarked, “Bruce is the perfect wall climber.” The three of us alternated leads. I wanted to lead the pitch called Tom, and Val wanted to lead Killer Whale. That made it easy to decide which pitches we would each lead. Jerry Dodrill and Marco Spataro filmed us on the initial pitches, and again at the top.
The route retains much of the character of a first ascent, with grassy cracks being commonplace. There is a lot of climbing up small (and very large!) detached features. Since there is as yet no published topo, I shouldn’t say too much more. I think that Sea of Dreams will never be equaled when it comes to beauty of line and fun climbing, but Tempest stands out in that, along with Reticent, it will probably be one of the last independent lines created on El Capitan.
Thomas I. McMillan, AAC