YOSEMITE. Sport climber Jose “Bicho” David jumps into the deep end of trad by simul-climbing again, this time on the the 2,000 ft tall Royal Arches with yours truly.
We are both napping in the god rays at the top of Royal Arches when I say to Jose, “You know, you realize we’ve simul-climbed over 80 pitches together and not one single pitch?”
It was true. Jose and I together had flown up 2,000 meters in simul-climbing style – passing anchors and skipping countless bolts – in a very high consequence style that cuts a huge amount of time out of a long multi-pitch, but we had never once just roped up to do a single pitch, and lower down.
Most all these simul pitches were from our fun speed attempt of Time Wave Zero, a 23-pitch bolted route in Mexico with several cruxes up to 5.12a. We had never climbed together before our attempt. Here is the video from that attempt, thanks to Monkey Hands, who also supported the documentary of the program that the gear was donated to, Escalando Fronteras.
As per usual, all gear from Mad Rock Climbing (30 ultra light quickdraws) for the project was donated to the at-risk youth climbing program Escalando Fronteras.
The last 16 pitches were on our simul of Royal Arches, and it would be our second time climbing together after we had made laps on one of the tallest bolted lines in North America: Time Wave Zero.
Although a strong V10 and 5.13+ climber, Jose had only ever climbed a few pitches of trad before our Yosemite trip. Therefore I would be in the mentorship role for the first time, and the initial idea that popped into my head was to run a lap on the Rostrum. Upon hearing about raptor closures on the Rostrum, I sent Jose the idea of doing another fast-style simul.
This would be the first time I took advantage of being in the mentor position to find a partner for ticking a route off the to-do list.
Jose had very little crack experience going into simuling Royal Arches. Since he was an engineer, I was fully trusting of his capability to place bomber gear and make good decisions, and in myself to not take a fall on 5.7 trad and endanger Jose. Jose agreed to lead the 600 meters of granite.
It is a widely accepted fact that no one on earth has ever look graceful on their first pitches of off-width – and since Jose is much stronger than me in terms of muscle and grades, I was highly entertained watching him squirm on the first chimney pitch, and later in an off-width that he could have easily walked up the side of.
Other than these two pitches, Jose managed to style the rest of the route.
Jose even braved the optional and (to me) sketchy 170ft “5.4” slab traverse. Unaware that he had bagged the route and passed the rap station, Jose tiptoed heroically sideways across the sun-baking rock to a single bolt then another 15 meters to the finish line, calves quivering so hard that I could feel it through the rope.
Only after he had collapsed from his staunch effort did I let Jose know that he would have to relive the traumatizing experience across the slab to achieve glory, and rap down. We considered trying to hike out, but had no idea how to bushwack the half mile uphill to a large trail, and settled on the slab reverse with a ferrata on a bail nut for the follower.
The next day, we crawled back into our comfort zone and wrestled some very short boulders.
Next: St Leger Du Ventoux: the best hard sport climbing in France, according to France, and my friend Alma. (Spoiler: it’s not Ceuse.)