© Neil Bennett Photography 2020.

The Nose, El Capitan

First ascent of El Cap by a Canadian team

Day 4 on the Nose: descent day. We had topped out on day 3, by moonlight, and to get back to the valley we headed for the Yosemite Falls trail. This turned out to be quite some exercise as there was still quite a bit of snow so we were post-holing in places, only to have manzanita grab our shoelaces. Charming stuff. Eventually we got to the trail and headed down. Maybe halfway down the spray from the falls was drifting over the trail so we sat for a few minutes. Needless to say we were pretty tired, dirty, beaten up by three days on the rock, knuckles smashed from nailing in the backs of flareing cracks, sweat runnels down our faces and we were draped with climbing gear.

After all these years I can still remember a woman walking by,  uphill, and cheerily asking “Oh, have you boys been camping?”. I don’t recall how I answered, or what she looked like, but I can distinctly remember her holding a can of orange soda pop by the rim at the top and I could see it was half full of pop by the line of condensation on the can. She might even have been nude but I doubt that, all I remember is the pop can. I remember having some indistinct thought that if some harm came to her I could grab the pop, but that didn’t happen. After a short break we headed down to the valley...

But…… (there’s always a “but”)

Day 2 on the Nose: my partner had just completed the King Swing off Boot Flake and I was lowering the bag to him. The grey bands are the only loose rock on the Nose (may all have been knocked off by now) and our haul bag knocked off a rock. A football size rock. There was another party below us but I didn’t think much about it. A few minutes later we hear, very faintly from below, “Do you need a rescue? Wave your arms if you need a rescue”. Uh oh, our rock… maybe we killed someone…. a rescue was done… I was worried… This was on my mind throughout Day 3 and Day 4 while descending. Were we going to have to bolt from Camp 4 and try to make it to the Canadian border somehow? Were we going to be arrested on the summit? Was I ever going to see my girlfriend again, let alone my parents? Oh shit!

Day 4 continued and we neared Camp 4 without seeing any ex-LA cops, now park rangers, waiting. We happened to see some people we knew and they made us tea and gave us cookies and we casually asked along the lines of “say..., a few days ago on the Nose there was a rescue. No-one was killed by a falling rock were they…..?” The answer was no. A guy fell and broke a bone, thus the rescue. Whew - how do you spell relief?

For the rest of our time on the Nose we were the only party on the climb. Given that there were so few routes on the Captain then (maybe 6??) it is entirely possible we were the only party on an El Cap wall route. Current pictures and stories tell a very different story about crowds on the climb today.

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