Salathe Wall / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Since my last update my life has been dominated by the Salathe wall... my first experience on the headwall, the 5.13b (29) crux of the route,  was rather humbling. I had walked up to the summit of El Capitan, then rappelled down the top 100m of the route to top rope the crux pitches. It is quite possibly the most stunning top rope in the world, and definitely  the most amazing pitch I have ever worked on.

I spent many days over the next few weeks, on my own, camped up at the top of the Captain, working out the sequence of moves on the Headwall and gaining the endurance needed to complete the hard crux moves right at the top of the epic (60m), wildly overhung and flaring hand-crack. It was a very intense experience for me, being up there alone in the most exposed position possible, trying to climb the most difficult crack I have ever attempted. But, it did not take long for me to become very (almost too) comfortable up there, to trust the terrible feeling hand-jams and to learn the intricate sequences on the upper section - When Max arrived from NZ, selflessly ready to support and follow me up the 1000 meter wall, I felt ready to attempt the Salathe, from the ground... and within a couple of days we were on our way.

For the first few days the temperatures were insanely hot, yet somehow I still managed to climb 20 pitches and succeed in climbing the Monster Off-width right at the end of the first day. It took me over an hour to climb this 40 meter, six inch wide off-width, which left me feeling like I had been wrestling a bear and ready to throw up.

The next day proved to be no less hot, and after the previous days efforts, I did not feel capable of sustaining another insanely hot day, so on our second day we rested, and tried to avoid the intensity of the sun.

Then moved our camp five pitches higher, to the "Block". We spent the next couple of days there, getting up super early in the morning to enable me to work out how to climb the Boulder Pitch (Huber Variation) before the sun hit it at 10am and made the tiny holds impossible to hold. Eventually, I succeeded in linking the sequence together and we had and awesome day heading up through the fantastic pitches on the upper part of the Salathe. I managed to free all the pitches up to the Headwall, which we choose to aid through, with the intension of dropping down off "Long ledge" to climb this section, early the next morning.

Unfortunately, just as we arrived at the ledge it started to rain. Me, being ever the optimist, was convinced that it was just a shower, and that we should just sit it out. But, the shower just continued gaining intensity, and within several minutes the entire wall had been transformed into a waterfall and we were standing in a bathtub gushing water down the rest of the face. Within minutes we were drenched to the bone and decided there was no other option that to get off the wall as quick as possible. Luckily some other climbers had dropped down off the top that day, and we were able to use their ropes to ascend to the top of the wall.

This attempt on the Salathe did not end as I had hoped, but we did everything in our power and unfortunately the weather did not work in our favor. It was a freak storm, which lasted for five days, and we were lucky to be in a position to get off the wall easily and without harm... Now I really do know the entire route and am ready for my next attempt!