El Capitan, Dawn Direct. In September I embarked on another solo mission to climb new terrain on El Capitan. I had scoped this line on the southeast face since I climbed Mescalito in 2004, enabling me a good up-close look at the features. The route starts about 25m right of Mescalito, and has about 500m of new climbing.
I intended to connect to the Wall of Early Morning Light in a more direct and natural fashion than Warren Harding took in his controversial ascent of that route back in the day. His route took him and Dean Caldwell almost a month to establish, and they received harsh criticism for excessive use of bolts and rivets. The first half of their route contained the highest concentration of drilled placements, and wandered all over the lower part of the wall, making large traverses to the left to hit the main dihedral coming down from the Wino Tower ledge.
My intent was simple: to climb a 500m direct plumb line start to this dihedral, using far fewer bolts and rivets than they did. WEML has more than 300 bolts, with approximately 200 on the first half. In covering the same vertical gain (to just over halfway up the wall) on my direct-start route, I drilled only 66 holes
The route (Dawn Direct, VI 5.8 A4-) was difficult right off the ground, but most of the climb was steep, clean, and beautiful. The crux came at pitch seven, where a nice dihedral of 14 consecutive birdbeak and copperhead placements greeted me right off the belay. My line crossed Mescalito, Adrift, and the Reticent Wall on its direct path to WEML. I spent 16 days creating this line, my third solo FA on the Captain, and joined the Harding route for the upper 450m to the summit.
Dave Turner, California, AAC