Mt. Tyndall, East-Facing Grave

United States, California, Sierra Nevada
Author: Erik Roed. Climb Year: 2002. Publication Year: 2004.

On August 25, 2002, Becka Bracy and I intended to do the 5.8 East Chimney as a date climb. A date climb is when you climb something easy, so as to get in some climbing, while you still spend time with a girl. In this case, a lot more climbing than I was interested in. The newest Moynier guidebook described the route as the left of two chimneys on the east face. These chimneys are left of the Direct East Face and around the corner, out of sight to the left as you round the base of the mountain. But I didn’t remember all that, and walked around the base until I got to the second chimney I saw and thought, “that doesn't look too bad.” So we started up the left of the two chimneys RIGHT of the Direct East Face with one rope, stoppers, a set of cams to 2.5" and me in shorts with no helmet. You’d think this story was heading for the other AAC publication. Being tired from the hot 12-mile hike with a big elevation gain, loss, and another gain, we did not leave camp until 9 a.m. and arrived at the base of the descent route at 11, where we racked and scrambled around looking for our climb. We climbed the 1,600-foot face to the summit ridge in eight pitches and in about seven hours, with climbing up to 5.11b (5.10+/11-R and 5.10X). The line is easy to pick: the massive chimney/gully just right of Galen Rowell’s Direct East Face, and at 2/3 height (where it gets really wide) it climbs the left face of the gully.

We eventually became committed to our gully, with its smooth walls, lack of gear placements, and our small rack. At one point we heard what sounded like a Volkswagen coming down the gully, but it turned out to be only football-sized, flying way overhead. Later, I realized that I had gotten used to the sound of rocks hitting my girlfriend’s helmet. I knew if anything happened to me, this would probably become for both of us an east-facing grave. We were benighted during the descent and arrived at the base at 9 p.m. We failed to find our packs, tried to bivy, and finally hiked the two hours to camp in our climbing shoes. Becka later lost a toenail. The next day we found our packs underneath the rock that I thought we’d left them on top of.

One highlight was climbing a dihedral. It looked like there would be a good belay under a five-foot roof. When I got there it was no good. With two feet of rope left, I got a green alien in halfway out the roof and, hoping the crack above would be good for a belay, shoved my fat tips in, lay backed off the left wall, and reached out to the lip of the roof. It was positive, so I reached out with my right hand too—and my feet cut loose. The lip crumbled, and I fell, lip in hand. So I yelled down, “On belay! Climb when ready!” Becka didn’t feel the fall, and as she climbed I lowered until I could clip my webalette to pieces I’d placed on the way up, then landed perfectly on a small stance.

Erik Roed