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Tis-sa-ack, 8/99

By Greg Murphy

Another weekend update coming your way. This time around we somehow managed to drive past El Capitan and find our way to the other big stone in Yosemite Valley, Half Dome.

Chan Harrell, Peter Coward and I re-united as Team Pokey and climbed the historic and absolutely fantastic Tis-sa-ack route on Half Dome, VI, 5.10, A3+. We did what we believe is the first single push ascent of this route in 31h 45m. We are considering a break with tradition and redefining our particular brand of single push style as "weekend style", where a hectic work week and a long Friday night drive are mandatory elements of the ascent.

As usual, it was late to the Valley on Friday night with a 3:30 am alpine start on Saturday. The grueling pre-dawn hike up 2,700 vertical feet to the base of Half Dome ensured that we were whipped before the climbing even started. The climb takes an elegant line up the center of the huge northwest face of Half Dome. It is the most stunning climb I've ever been on; gently overhanging in its entirety and surrounded by anamazing sea of rock. Unbelievably, we were the only ones on Half Dome the whole weekend.

We started climbing at 7:15 am. Chan led the first block of 8 pitches while I recovered from the hike and secretly snoozed. I took over from the next block as the sun hit the face. As usual, Peter, our nocturnal specialist, was kept in reserve for the graveyard shift. (Peter generally spends the entire week before the climb, the drive up, and the approach telling us that this time he is not getting the night time block. Somehow, he always ends up on the sharp end when the sun goes down.)

The first 15 pitches climbed in daylight went at a respectable pace of under one hour per pitch. As always, things deteriorated rapidly in the dark with route finding difficulties, hard aid, questionable cleaning while leading tactics, unintended 50 foot pendulums, and general chaos.

The next morning we cranked out the rest of the route at a somewhat slower pace and topped out in the early afternoon. The hike down was a grind and the last mile on the road seemed to take an eternity. We decided to stay in the Valley that night instead of attempting to drive home. Peter and I tainted out weekend style ascent somewhat by not making it back to work until Monday afternoon. And of course Chan is unemployed but has the full time job of dealing with pre-nuptual stress.

One of the best routes around and the highlight of this year's climbing.


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