Pat Nay holds that jugging the Nose doesn't count as a
"climb"; he reserves that term for a traditional swapped-
lead ascent. Other have disagreed with him, saying the
jugging-only ascents qualify as having climbed El Cap.
I don't think anyone here is "wrong" on this topic. It's
not a black & white thing, it seems. I'm chiming in
because I think my experience on the Nose was somewhere in
between the qualifications being discussed.
I "climbed" the Nose last summer after 8 years of trad and
aid experience at the various cliffs in North Carolina. My
trad skills (when healthy) were around 5.9. My aid skills
were much better, having done a large amount of A4 nailing
both partnered and solo. I'd spent a lot of time leading
on heads and thin pins. I'm saying this not to spray or
puff the chest, but to give you background on my
perspective when I showed up in the Valley.
I arrived in early June having semi-recovered from a
yearlong bout with tendinitis in both arms. I had healed
enough to be pretty much pain free, but I had lost a lot of
strength. This is the main reason why we chose to do the
Nose instead of the Shield.
My partner Dennis had done the Nose many times before,
including in a day. He was climbing strong at Valley
5.11. He wound up linking and freeing a lot of pitches
that went well that way, while I did many that usually get
aided. However, he led more pitches overall than I did, so
I jugged more than he. I hauled on the pitches I led, and
helped him haul early on when the bag was heavy. We both
used some fixed lines for a few pitches set by parties
ahead of us due to a logjam above Camp 4. My arms did not
hold up well.
So, did I climb El Cap?
In all honesty and humility, I feel that I did. I feel
this way because, no matter the details of who led what, I
was challenged quite strongly by the situations and I dealt
with them successfully. My arms were falling apart, so
even basic 5.7 was surprisingly tough on me. Plus I had an
enormous emotional burden from never having done El Cap
Am I superior to Sulam or Mark Wellman? No way. But I
feel I was kind of in Mark Wellman's situation: the climb
posed challenges to me that wouldn't bother most other wall
climbers, yet overcoming those challenges took everything I
had to give.
This leads me to my final comments:
>Naw cut the relativity crap, this isn't deconstructionist
>climbing that only relates to the individuals experience.
deconstructionist! The only meaning I gleaned from the
ascent was based on my own unique experience at the time.
Sure, the Nose is a relative cakewalk to most folks. Sure,
I've done tougher climbing in the past. But on those 3.5
days, in my mental and physical condition at the time, the
Nose was a true handful... for me.
>evolved criteria set by others over time.
climbers and not the climbs?
>this conversation anyway?
object to your implied invalidation of Sulam's ascent. You
followed up with "not to invalidate..." or "not to
detract...", but I think the tone of detraction was plain.
When it comes to the idea of "what others think doesn't
really matter", kind of the "it's the experience, not who
wins" perspective, there's a lot of b.s. out there. Many
people claim to do something "just for personal
satisfaction", but inwardly yearn to be seen as "the best"
or the victor among their peers.
But I claim just such a "experience mattered most" attitude
towards my Nose climb. Nobody else will ever understand
how hard that route pushed me. El Cap shoved me against a
brick wall and said "the only way you'll summit is if you
reach deeper inside than you've ever had to before. Doing
so is your only hope."
I responded by sucking it up and grappling with the
challenge as best I could. I earned the summit prize, and
it was worth every bit of effort.
It all happened on that great trip last summer, when I
climbed El Cap.
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