Yosemite Trad: Learning Lessons On ‘After Six’

Yosemite Trad: Learning Lessons On ‘After Six’

I am a firm believer in learning something new every time I climb a route.  Whether it is a new body position to do a move, a different way to rest, a better method for placing gear or something else that improves my climbing, I’m always looking for it.  Unfortunately, our first route on our recent Yosemite vacation taught me a lesson I would rather have left unlearned:  how to deal with heat exhaustion.

When we first got to Camp 4 on Sunday night, our tour guides Eddie & Rachel suggested it would be fun for us to romp up the Manure Pile Buttress near El Cap for our first route the following day.  Having heard good things about the classic line there, After Six (5.6+++, 5 pitches), I was psyched to give it a shot.  I was a bit nervous though because this would be the first route I had climbed in almost 7 months because of the two surgeries I had early in the year, and I had also heard that it was pretty stout for 5.6.  Despite these things, we resolved to give it a go the following day.

As with any near disaster story, there were several poorly thought out events that led up to our climb of After Six.  Let’s analyze them so that all the kids out there can learn something from my mistakes:

  1. December through end of June:  rock climbed NEVER
  2. Sunday evening:  Skipped dinner to see a (boring) video presentation by the legend himself, Ron Kauk.
  3. Sunday evening:  Ate some pretzels before bed in lieu of dinner
  4. Monday morning:  Spent a few hours of the morning registering for camping
  5. Monday morning:  Ate usual meager breakfast due to picky eating habits
  6. Monday morning:  Left for climb around 11 just as oppressive midday heat really started getting going – highs in the upper 90’s
  7. Monday morning:  Brought 1 Nalgene water bottle for Mrs. Narc and I to share for a probable 4 hour climb in blazing direct sunlight
  8. Monday morning:  Took advice on gear beta from someone comfortable with free soloing my intended route

So there we have the lead up to our climb.  Nothing really smart about any of that is there?  No real meal, not nearly enough water, poor physical preparation and the late start all conspired to negatively impact my/our climb.

There was nothing smart about how sandbagged the first pitch was either.  I’m sure it had something to do with not climbing in a while as well as the heat making the rock even more slick than it normally is, but by the time I got to the belay tree I was pretty gassed.  Unfortunately, the belay tree was swarming with fire ants which necessitated 15 more feet of climbing while trying to brush off the ants.  This also moved the 1st belay from a shaded spot to a ledge directly in the sun.  Not good…

Starting up Pitch 1

By the time Mrs. Narc got to the first belay, it should have been apparent that we didn’t have enough water to complete the climb.  However, if I had taken note of that fact and done the smart thing there wouldn’t be much of a story would there?  So of course we pressed on into the heat.  Trying to save some of our water for Mrs. Narc, I quickly became “that guy”, bumming water from Eddie & Rachel who were climbing with us.

As we approached the final two pitches, my condition worsened from simply thirsty to physically sick.  At that point I felt like topping out would be the fastest way to get down so I didn’t say all that much about how I was feeling.  Drinking what water we had left didn’t really seem to help at that point either.

 Mrs. Narc topping out

Eddie, Rachel, Amy & Brian atop the Manure Pile

Fortunately, I made it to the top of the Manure Pile Buttress before completely shutting down.  Despite the physical problems I was having, the route itself was a blast.  Besides the incredibly polished first pitch, it offers great variety of movement on good rock. 

At this point I knew I needed to get back to the car so I quickly raced down the descent trail.  I figured the water and shade waiting there would make me feel better in short order. 

After several large chugs of water back at the car I figured I was good to go, and I started driving us back to Camp 4.  I made it about 3 feet before I had to bail out of the car and I laid down on a picnic table.  I sat there for who knows how long feeling like I was going to throw up (what? I don’t really know).  A combination of small amounts of food and more water over the course of 30 minutes to an hour and I was back to feeling normal.  I am often a bit over dramatic, but that 30 minutes was one that I wouldn’t want to relive ever.  Big thanks to Mrs. Narc, Eddie and Rachel for waiting for my sorry sack to feel better.

Speaking of Eddie and Rachel, they had a very big summer in Yosemite.  They made ascents of Valley classics such as Separate Reality, Astroman, The Nose and a one day ascent of The Regular NW Face route on Half Dome.  They did a great job of showing us around while we were there as well.  Thanks guys!  Stay psyched!  …and Rachel, please bring back your spraysheet!!

You can view a full gallery with a few more pictures from After Six by clicking here

Thanks to Eddie and Rachel for manning the camera during the climb as well!

Posted In: Pictures, Traditional Climbing


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9 Responses to Yosemite Trad: Learning Lessons On ‘After Six’

  1. Brett September 8, 2008 at 3:18 pm #

    Yah, I seem to remember a similar experience in Colorado with Dave and Doug (several years ago). I vaguely remember making back to the car, and those two in the front seats discussing how to divide up my gear if I didn’t make it! Apparently one common theme in an Epic is “well, after the water ran out….”

    Glad you survived!

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  2. bj September 8, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    Ha, I had a similar experience on After Seven, we should compare notes sometime. Not very fun to be that hot.

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  3. Narc September 8, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    My main note is to stop going to Yosemite in the middle of the summer…

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  4. You Know Who I 'Am' September 8, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    There are some details the Narc happened to overlook in this post. Please allow me to elaborate. First, the Narc did not drink some of our water or even most of it, rather he drank ALL but one sip of it. Secondly, he ran ahead down the trail without letting me know much of anything was wrong and I was left to navigate on my own( I didn’t get lost). Lastly, only when I suggested he not drive did the Narc relinquish control of the keys.

    In all seriousness I was worried about him; it’s not often you have to feed a grown man a cliff bar as if he were a squirrel!

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  5. eddie September 9, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    if we would have left him out there (as he repeatedly insisted, yet we didn’t oblige); the narc himself might’ve become a squirrel snack. vermin.

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  6. Narc September 9, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    HA! I was acting a bit delusional wasn’t I…although a hapless climber being swarmed by squirrels sounds like a good plot for a submission to the reel rock tour next year.

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  7. sock hands September 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    maybe instead of ditching mrs. narc on the trail, you shoulda made an anchor for her and ran up the slab itself, gotten some water and maybe even some dippin dots, and ran up the slab under her to join up again, revitalized by water and dry-ice frozen icecream.

    that’s what a good husband woulda done. FOR SHAME!

    also, i’ve been analyzing the climbing habits of oldschool tradsters and it seems to me that scary or insecure climbing is best done half drunk or fully high…. also, consider using big hexes instead of cams for added comfort…. the more sun-bleached the cording on em, the better.

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  8. Rachel October 23, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    what spraysheet was i supposed to bring back? im confused?

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  9. Narc October 23, 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    8a.nu of course!

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