Holly has been tearing it up on El Cap lately. I’ve been hitting the ice cream store and swimming in the river. After a gnarly week of wildfire smoke and forced indolence, I was psyched again for the big stone. I suggested the West Buttress cause I hadn’t climbed in a month and half and it looked shorter and lower angle. Holly was feeling strong and was up for anything.
Here’s a sunrise shot from the smokey time


The West Buttress has a reputation of being a little dirty, though I’d had a couple friends who climbed it over the years tell me it wasn’t that bad. Also, in our book, Chris Mac says the mandatory freeclimbing on the route is more sustained than that on the Salathe. We liked the route a lot. Other than the 9th ‘jungle chimney’ pitch didn’t find it that dirty and didn’t find anything other than a couple 5.7/5.8 moves of mandatory free which we(5.10 grovlers) both did in our approach shoes.
Picking the day the Nose speed record is broken to fix on a route has some serious advantages. The bridge and meadow were going off.
Tom Evans photo


At the bridge Tom said we looked like a two touchdown favorite but after the cheers and encouragement of Tom Frost and our friends from the clearing below the Nose I was definitely ready to double down--shape or no shape.  
The path along the base was serene, save for the discovery of some preserved poop. Come on people, you can only poop in plastic bags if you take the poop with you back to the dumpster.


A couple shots of the approach to the upper Southwest face, everything west of Aquarian goes up this fourth class bit.



our line


Once we were at the base our psyche mega soared! The first two pitches are 5.7 and 5.10. Holly agreed to lead the first two and let me follow them.
(we stopped a little low on the approach trail. The real start for pitch on is off a ledge next to the tree above Holly)

Steve Schneider attempted to free the West Butt in the early 90s and did a heroic job of replacing all the anchor bolts. Thanks thanks thanks Steve! I cleaned up a couple old bolts that had been left behind.


The incredible second pitch


Oh yeeeeeuh!


The third pitch was a super fun, zig-zaging nailing lead with tons of sometimes bomber arrows, angles and bird beaks.


So fun to be up on El Cap with a great friend!



I had to work that night and the next so we rapped after pitch three and made plans to start early in the morning on Friday. The route bakes in the sun all afternoon so we wanted to get up early and try to get a bunch of climbing in before the heat set in.
Our plan to get up at 3am sounded good while basking in the radiance of the Captain. After not getting off work and to bed until almost 11pm the night before I was feeling pretty cooked as we left our cars at 4am.


Thankfully, Holly led the charge easily dispensing several wide pitches.
pitch 4


Yates/BD appreciation shot

pitch 5


Man, I look worked and all I’ve done at this point is jug!

cool row of fixed pins starting pitch 7

Loving the shade

Holly on pitch 7

me cleaning

A few of the belays have changed for the free climbers--but it still works out to about 125’ per pitch. Viva 1/2” belay bolts.

Here’s Holly leading pitch 8, where the rope goes left is a nice stance with a couple old bolts which would be a better spot to belay than the hanging station I was at. (those old bolts would need to be replaced though)

Pitch 8 ends with some jungle chimney fun!


dirty boobs appreciation shot

I was ready for a nap but it was my lead(and the only ledge for that was still 8 pitches away).

1963 is old


I’ve just thrutched up the 5.7 lieback and am heading up the glory headwall of pitch 10.

Looking back down

I was going to link pitches 10 and 11 but got to the two lead bolts and chickened out(wouldn’t have been too bad).

Climbing in the hot sun off the couch I’m worked, but enjoying it

I take off to link the rest of pitch 11 with pitch 12 which thoroughly kicks my butt. After pitch 3 I had decided that it was ok if we were light on the angles and arrows recommended for the route because I liked the big bird beaks better.


My enthusiasm waned when I found myself on 80 feet of sideways arrows and sawed-offs. We were feeling good and cruising up until this point but my slow sideways progress and the intense sun combined to slow us down considerably.

at least the angle kicked back to easy

I was totally worked at this point. Thankfully Holly was fresh and charged off on the last little traverse that meets where Lurking Fear joins the West Buttress. While we both enjoyed the route a lot, the traversing section was quite a bit more substantial than we had thought. The sideways pitches gain no vertical ground, and even when you join with Lurking Fear the pitches seem to continue traversing a fair bit.
In no time we were on the much easier pitches shared with the Fear

but the Sun had done done it’s thing for the day

The crescent moon in Cancer slipped below the horizon quick and the stars twinkled and a deep feeling of contentment swept over me. The hard part was behind us. We both had climbed Lurking Fear in a day and now the feeling that a nice bivy ledge was imminent helped me to relax and enjoy the immensity of our surroundings. It was the 4th of July and we had really felt the celebratory vibe all day. America is such a wonderful place to live. We both felt very happy to be on our local crag--living it up.
Holly led us up to a pitch below the ledge at 16. It was dark and we were both exhausted to the point of silence. I tried leading across the ramp on the 16th pitch but kept loosing my balance and my psyche. Being up for 20 hours at that point, after working hard the night before, I wanted the ledge at the end of the pitch bad. Taking a break from the ramp I checked out the mantel variation to the left and after slamming home a couple pins(!) for pro eventually busted that and led up to the ledge around 1030 pm. We dizzily gorged on sandwiches, sardines(for Holly), and V8. Lying down flat was sublime. It was super hot so we figured we’d just sleep in our puffy jackets. Holly is so tough and doesn’t get cold easily so she hadn’t brought a sleeping pad but just used the lead line. I almost felt guilty pulling on my wool socks and pile gloves.....we were both out in minutes.

the next morning, grinning like a cat knowing that we got this one in the bag

Holly jumped up at 6am looking as fresh as if she had spent the previous day in the meadow. I gladly offered to belay for a couple pitches.


me standing on our deluxe bivy ledge

cool El Cap shadow, quite a bit different than when you’re on the Nose

Holly was climbing fast and we hit Thanksgiving ledge before 11am

Cool yellow lichen at Thanksgiving

Great to see the cave clean of trash!

This was our last shade for the climb so we organized our gear and ate a hearty lunch
(thanks for the can o veggies Thanksgiving)

Garden Patch appreciation shot

I struggled up the 10a pitch off Thanksgiving ledge and in no time was running up the 5.4 to the top.


The West Buttress top out is one of the few where you still have a bit of hiking/scrambling to do to get to the top of the other routes. Holly leading us to the truer summit.

We laid around on top for a while, but forgot to get any glory summit photos. Man, the view from the top--never gonna suck

West Buttress was an awesome adventure. Thanks Holly and El Cap!
love e





Route: 
Date: 
2008-07