My buddy Mike had never done a wall and as I only had two days off from my restaurant job in Wawona we decided for a relaxed trip up Liberty Cap (edit: our climb was awesome but I'm a pro, so maybe plan on three days if you want a relaxed trip:) . Liberty Cap’s Southwest Face is a technically easy wall with a few logistical hurdles owing to the first good sleeping ledge being at the top of pitch 7. Most parties fix the first 2-4 pitches and bivy at the base, climbing to the top the next day. Mike really wanted to learn the wall skills that will get him up El Cap one day so we opted to bring the haulbag and enjoy a night on the wall. The days were November short so a deluxe ledge with a nice view of Vernal Falls below sounded perfect.
It had been a couple years since I climbed Liberty Cap but I blithely assured Mike and my friends that it would be a casual hour or so hike to the base. Uuuggghhh, more like a solid hour and half of huffing to get to the climbers trail to the base.
Mike’s pointing a little left, the route goes up the bigger, sunny book.
We hit the climber’s trail and stop to pant, bid our porter’s farewell, and admire the wall above. The route starts off a major ledge system that you can see as the row of horizontal trees on the wall.
The climber’s trail to the base is circuitous and the last bit out a 3rd class ledge is very brush choked. So we decided to take the rack and the food up to the base of the climb and then rappel 350’ish back to the ground(via one bolted station) before going to the base of Nevada Falls to get water and finally hauling all our stuff up. If you’re planning on hauling this is the way to go for sure.
Low water in the Falls meant we could go right over to the base to fill up. Swweeeet!
Most of the year you'll have to go up to the top of Nevada Falls for water, unless you have extra room on the approach where you can get water as it runs down smooth slabs above Vernal Falls. The trek up to Nevada takes a little longer than you expect so if you have friends helping you get to the base it is probably best to just get the water above Vernal.
This picture is of Mike hauling our stuff up to the base of the climb. The scruffy approach ledge is above him.
A pic from him looking down at me. This is how you would rappel to the ground if you were bailing. If you're planning on hauling this is how you would want to get your stuff to the base of the climb--not by dragging it across the approach ledge(which involves some circuitous hiking to access).
So by mid-afternoon we finally had all our stuff up at the base and I was sweating like it was summer. 80 degrees in the beginning of November? I love yosemite!
Mike was psyched to get moving so he took off linking the first two pitches.
Man, the splitter on the second pitch(we linked) is incredible!
We had planned on fixing the first four pitches but after seeing the thicket of trees at the base that could hang up our haul bag(not to mention the horror of one of us having to cut loose from the base anchor with the bag as we didn’t bring a dedicated lower-out line) I vetoed that plan. Mike was bummed that we couldn’t fix higher but once we were back on the base ledge with it’s awesome views he started smiling. The liter bag of wine he brought helped.
There’s a cave just before the start of the first pitch that’s a little cramped for two six footers. Laying in the cave with a three hundred foot drop just a couple feet away was cool(as the approach ledge is third class we considered this sleeping on the route and not at the “base” which is unlawful).
We got up early to try and get some climbing in, and elevation gained before the sun hit us. There are many splitter cracks on this route with a few grainy ones thrown in for good measure.
We reached the ledge in the late afternoon and after a nice siesta continued fixing above....5.8 chimney after siesta-ing, aaarrrggggh!
It got dark by 7pm and we happily rapped down to enjoy the ledge, our ropes fixed a pitch and half shy of the summit.
Day two had been a major workout for us so we crashed hard. I had to work the next afternoon so dawn came all too early and we were back up and jugging up our lines.
Jugging with a haulbag is not that much fun(low angle so not too bad) but a lot more fun than hauling through the manzanita jungle would’ve been.
Mike hiked the final pitch and we were on the summit with an incredible view of the south face of Half Dome.
It would’ve been nice to have three full days for the climb but we got by and after a few nice break to relax and soak up the vibe Mike led us back down to Curry Village.
I always smile remembering that view from the ledge....