Artley Goodhart has been working for SCARPA for 4 years in the distribution department. In addition to his day job, he is currently in school and climbing as much as he can in his free time. SCARPA recently gave him time off work to go climb in Yosemite. He completed the Triple Direct route of El Capitan and wrote a detailed summary of his trip and the climb:
June 2011. I’m in the car with my longtime friend and climbing partner, Greg. We are driving back to Boulder from DIA in the rain; it seems to have followed us back from Yosemite. Even with the weather, we managed to climb everyday and racked up a decent quota of pitches on as many different formations as our race with the rain each day allowed. Pulling up to my house I figured we had both been thinking the same thing—we need to get another trip to Yosemite on the books as soon as possible. The fact that our trip was awesome even with so much rain spoke to Greg as a great personality and partner to have along when high spirits are important. By the time we got out of the car we had already worked out the tentative details of our next trip.
Fast-forward through another two semesters of school for me and Greg who is busy as ever as an emergency room PA and father of two sons Owen, two and Cole, five. Our plane tickets for the trip were bought a while ago; our objectives picked: The Triple direct on El Cap, a great route that allows for sampling of three of El Cap’s classics.
We both adopted training strategies that allowed us to get strong without necessarily climbing all the time, as our schedules do not always allow for that. Upon reflection we both felt that our training paid off, climbing at the grades we expected to be able to free in Yosemite. Keys to my training include working at SCARPA, which is very supportive of my school and climbing, giving me more than average training time. For Greg it is an incredibly supportive wife, Pauli, who allows for him to get out and climb more than any other family man I know.
It has been raining all morning, a fitting send off to our trip, but spirits are high and the forecast for Yosemite looks good. Our strategy is to fly into Oakland then rent a car to Yosemite and get to climb as fast as possible. The flight and car rental go smoothly enough. Driving into Yosemite it’s the normal cruise through farm fields and rolling hills.
The first night we plan to camp just outside the park so we scan the side of the road for a decent place to sleep. After lying out on the ground and discovering ants crawling all over us we resign to sleeping in our car. Throughout the night I barely sleep. Greg has some kind of nightmare jumping and kicking around, giving me visions of getting kicked off our bivy ledges on El Cap. Morning comes with the singing of birds interrupted by the occasional car passing by. Groggily, we pack up our sleeping bags and finish the drive into Yosemite.
Day one of our climb sees plenty of logistical obstacles. We decided to haul first since Free Blast is crowded with people, changing our game plan to climb it after topping out. Both Greg and I have climbed Free Blast before and were relatively familiar with it. Unfortunately, because of the time it takes us to get a campsite we don’t start climbing until 3pm. We reach Mammoth Ledges late in the day. After finding our bivy spots on Mammoth, we take advantage of the last rays of the sun and I lead up the first pitch of the Muir (Pitch 11 of Triple Direct), a fun relaxing 10b pitch, fixing it for our start the next morning.
Day two we have our first bit of aid climbing to do and we both find out that our skills are pretty rusty. The climbing pace drops to a crawl as the effects of training to be strong free climbers, but neglecting aid, shows through. Nonetheless we press upward, a two hundred foot link-up looms ahead that the topo describes as having awkward aid – that is, if the easier variation is missed. I miss the easy path and struggle exhaustingly upward; a mistake I won’t make twice.
Heat is all that is on my mind racking up for pitch sixteen. Climbing up the small seam, feeling like I’m on the surface of the sun, I reach up to place a green C3 into a small pocket and to my shock there is a bright green tree frog tucked perfectly into my placement. I shout down to Greg that there is a tree frog in my placement. I’m sure hearing this Greg thought I had succumbed to heat stroke. Perplexed by how to get around this frog, I am oddly concerned about its safety (out of respect for this little adventurer frog who scrambled up here alone into the vertical desert while his frog community is thousands of feet below). All of this turns out to be unwarranted as he zips out of the pocket onto a impossibly blank face with ease. I encounter many more frogs, realizing that they actually live on this section of El Cap close to 2000 feet off the deck, absolutely amazing. Once at our bivy we eat some soup and realize that we have climbed all day with only eating a packet of peanut butter for breakfast and energy gel. This would become the norm for us on the wall.
Day three. Pitch nineteen was a comfy belay with frogs to entertain us. Greg even had two frogs hanging out on his bag in the morning when he woke. Today we have the choice of topping out or taking it easy and adding another half day tomorrow, we decide to make this decision as we pass our last bivy at Camp VI. The first pitch of the day is a fun, wide 5.9 that leads up to the start of the Great Roof. Next up the classic Pancake Flake – I take off my aid/approach shoes: a pair of SCARPA Epics, and cram my swollen feet into my rock shoes, my favorite SCARPA Vapors. Free climbing feels great after aiding. Looking up at the Pancake Flake I see where it gets its name. It has the look that if you take a fall your cams will break right out. I begin climbing one layback move after another with good holds; the exposure of this pitch is fantastic, located high on the Nose of El Cap. A few pitches later we arrive at camp and the day is young. We could top out with a long day but decide instead to fix the next pitch and finish early the next day with time to make it back for beer and pizza.
Summit day. The routine is ingrained in us at this point – wake up, organize gear, each person completing the morning checklist and the climbing is under way. Greg starts the morning by tackling the infamous Changing Corners pitch. As we continue to climb and pull away towards the finish over perfect stone, the steepness and feel of empty space behind us is an ever-present tug at the back of our minds. Leading up over the last bit of steep rock and looking up to see no more rock towering above has a strange feeling. We top out, give each other a man-hug and relax for a bit, but soon the craving for beer and pizza is overpowering and we begin the descent. Getting off El cap with a haul bag full of uneaten food is a challenge in its own right, and it feels like slogging down an endless staircase with an awkward load on your back. Pressing on, talking as we have for the past seventy-two hours, we finally reach the valley floor and make our way to Curry Village. The hunger bubbles to the surface as my previously adrenaline-soaked body relaxes. We order up a large pizza with a mess of toppings and it tastes amazing. Each beer is more refreshing than the last. With a post-climb buzz I could not be more content reflecting on yet another great finish to climbing in an amazing place with a close friend, both of us exhausted and happy.