El Capitan Southwest Face » Grape Race » Grape Race, mostly solo

Grape Race, mostly solo

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I moved back to the Valley from Wawona last summer psyched to spend more time on the big stone. Night shifts at the MR bar gave me days free climb, just it was almost July and most of the climbers had headed up to Tuolomne. My roommate Eric suggested we do Salathe in a day, which I countered with Grape Race in a day to warm up as GR didn’t have as much free climbing and we could make sure we were in good enough shape.

A bit of a wild man, Eric showed up at our tent after work around 11pm,
‘dude, are you psyched?’
‘hell yeah!’
 ‘well, we gotta go on that thing now cause I don’t like to wake up in the morning’
‘huh?(I had just got off work too, and was a little cashed)’
‘don’t worry man, I’ll lead through the night’
So off we went into the sweaty night, me shaking my head but not that worried as I had two days off and knew we’d probably make that.
Eric cranked through the Nose pitches but slowed down on the first Grape Race pitch. He eventually sent the pitch free, calling it solid 5.11(in the dark!) and was cranking up the next pitch when I arrived. Eric took a five foot fall when a fixed head pulled. After that he started moving really slow. The rest of the pitch showed rivets to the belay so I figured something was up. When I got to the belay Eric’s face was ashen. During his fall the rope had rapped around his foot, re-tearing soft stuff that was just coming back together after a nasty break the previous Fall. I led a couple pitches but Eric was toast. We rapped and drank our wine at the base, cowering in the shade.

So then it was July, Eric and most of the other climbers had split for cooler locales, but I was still psyched. I figured if I could get a belay for the free climbing on the first Grape Race pitch I could solo the rest over a couple weeks just fixing ropes as I went. Soloing is not good for picture taking, so sorry for the weak representation.

Grape Race is fun not classic, I’d call it the Fat Man’s Nose(though you do have to do a little 5.9 face to get on it). There was probably an honest four or five hundred feet of old, worn-out rivets on the route. Out of pure laziness and disrespect for the longterm health of Grape Race, I replaced them all with quarter-inchers. 

It took me a few weeks of going up most mornings to fix ropes to the end of the route(I was surprised to run into a fella this fall who had tried the Nose in ’74 and had seen Porter up on GR and mentioned that Charlie had fixed what looked like 1000’ feet of rope during the FA—lots o drilling). Steve Schnieder climbed the route in the mid-90s and replaced most of the belay bolts. Thanks Steve! In the end my buddy Shane, who kindly belayed me on the first pitch, jugged from the end of the route to the top of the Nose for me.

Nose on the right, Grape Race on the left:


So you go up the corner, beginning of the 4th pitch of the Nose, but instead of going out the fixed pieces to the right to go to Sickle you bust left on the face.

Looking up the end of the first pitch and up the small cams/heading corner on the second pitch.

Sea of Dowels

Nah, don’t worry Ma--It’s really safe up there, I swear

Soloing psyche!

A little C2 interlude to the blank

AAAiiiiiigh, ees dat ugh ledge?

The best part about being on El Cap is the drinking, er, I mean climbing. Seriously though, so many El Cap routes have you training for desperado-- but a slab drillup named GR, cheers. The Stellar Cellar is a sweet spot to break out the juice.

I was a little over stocked on the vino so I convinced Ran to jug up and check out the scene/take a few shots

Golden dreams up there

lookin back at the ‘Cellar

Cool view of the Half Dollar from up there

So I finally reached the splitter crack that comprises the route. I found an old pic from a friend’s ascent. Funny thing, when I got there the thing was all cleaned out.

Sweet Splitter!

This baby goes for 300’ of mostly C1

So that’s how it went: Fixing ropes, soaking in the Golden Grace, sipping some of Cali’s finest…..i mean, it was epic

But alas, with the route fixed it was time for the summit blast up the second half of the Nose.

Picked up a few things along the jug

Replacin the last bolt on the route, from there you penji into the crack leading to Eagle Ledge

Soaring through the Grey Bands

Sunset caught us earlier than we hoped so we enjoyed a warm night on Camp Six and finished er off in the morning

New Topo

To download the topo as a pdf:


Thank you Le Cap and Shane!

My best Thomas H