American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Atlantis; Porcelain Wall, House of Cards

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

El Capitan, Atlantis; Porcelain Wall, House of Cards. In the fall of 2005, just left of Block Party (which I established in spring ’05), I completed my second new line on El Capitan, in the alcove area of the southeast face, naming it Atlantis (VI 5.9 A4). I fixed the first two pitches to the top of the alcove over two days in early October, and then committed for another 18 days alone on the face. This route shares a few pitches with Tempest but turned out to be 75% independent, requiring 74 hand-drilled holes for belays and leading, with no drilled bat hooks. One of the cruxes came on pitch six, under the Great White Shark feature of the South Seas route. Extensive hooking up and left, with a marginal tied-off Arrow for pro, led into the continuous crack system of the route Space. I followed this route for three easier pitches until I broke off on new terrain for most of the remainder of the route. Two-thirds of the way up the wall, I came upon possibly the last major ledge on El Cap that had never been touched. This feature, Bobo Ledge, gave me somewhere to stand and sit other than my portaledge, after 13 days in aiders. Another 60+m pitch led up to the left side of the luxurious Island In The Sky, a very comfy natural ledge on the Pacific Ocean route. Climbing off this ledge I headed up the left side of the Black Tower on my way to the long-awaited summit.

Then, in spring 2006, I turned my focus to the Porcelain Wall. I headed up on another solo mission, looking for unclimbed terrain to scare myself on. Luckily I found it, 100m right of the only other route on the absurdly steep central headwall section. In 1995 Eric Kohl went to this face alone to climb a direct line right up the middle of this not-so-well-known Valley gem. But after fixing the first four pitches, he teamed up with Pete Takeda for the ascent. In similar unintended style, I fixed the first four pitches solo until my good friend Matt Meinzer showed up and wanted in. The first four pitches went very well and completely natural, but up higher remained a few stretches of blank rock, which I knew would be easier to drill through with someone to share the workload. After we regained the highpoint up my three fixed lines, we continued on for 10 more days to the summit of this beautifully colored wall. Our route, House of Cards (VI 5.9 A4+), was characterized by difficult climbing through large roofs and flakes with some rivet ladders to connect delicate features. In the early 90s a section of the wall, about 200' around, fell off, leaving the adjacent rock expanding and dangerous. We hand- drilled 114 holes, including a few into pitch 10’s death flake, until I could see what I was attaching myself to. We topped out after 11 days.

David Turner, Sacramento, California, AAC

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