Friday, May 19, 2006

Headed to the Valley - El Capitan is calling

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park - do you hear it calling?Each year when the snow melts our man Kevin Quaderer starts to hear a whisper that with the passing of the days gets stronger and stronger - El Cap is calling him back to "the Valley" - Yosemite that is. Last year Kevin managed two trips Yosemite, one in the spring and one in the fall.

Big wall climb climbers are an interesting lot. These days with the explosion at gyms and bouldering sites one could conclude that they are a rare breed. Perhaps time constraints have lead more climbers to satisfy their thirst at a local crag or on a boulder. Regardless of the excuse, Kevin has none. I sat down with him for a couple of minutes to get the 411 on big wall climbing:


Powstash: Why big wall climbing? Isn'’t it a dying sport?

Kevin: Why bigwall climbing? I'll be asking myself that question over and over while we're up there. It's hard to explain "why." If you're a climber, and you've ever stood at the base and looked up at el cap, you'd know.

I wish it was a dying sport, but unfortunately I don't think that's the case. It seems like more and more people are climbing walls every year. The impacts are becoming more apparent. Popular routes see placements getting blown out, and extra holes appearing. We all have to tread lightly and act with future climbers in mind.

P: What is the pull for you to make your annual trip to "“the valley"”?

K: It's just that - it's a pull. Again it's hard to explain. I kind of get emotional trying to talk about it. Can you turn the camera off please? Turn it off.

P: Fine, it's turned off (wink). What route are you attempting on this trip?

K: We're attempting the Salathe Wall - the second route to go up on El Cap. It's characterized by killer ledges, some scary wide sections, and awesome exposure.

P: What is the vibe like in Camp 4?

K: Crowded. Dirty. Climbers. You've never seen so many in one place. People walking slack lines, drinking cheap beer, telling war stories, racking up for big stuff, or nursing their wounds from their last climb. There's a core group of resident dirtbags, people on road trips, local legends, and tons of international climbers. You've got Japanese, Korean, Australian, British, Brazilian, Basque, you name it. It's the Mecca.

P: When you're climbing in a special place like Yosemite do you ever think about those legends that may have climbed the same routes you are embarking on?

K: Yeah, that's part of the whole experience. Knowing the history of a route is a key part in appreciating where you are and how you're climbing it. I try to imagine what the first ascent was like. I try to imagine all the people who passed that point before us, and all the epics that took place there. It's a trip when you get on a pitch that you've seen a million pictures of. Usually, things are more windy in real life.

P: What types of objects have you seen thrown from the wall? Ever been hit by one of those objects?

K: I've seen cams, bagels, hooks, powerbars, aiders, quickdraws, hats, slings, biners, cans of food, porn, poop tubes, pitons, radios, water bottles, rocks, and climbers falling from El Cap. I've been hit by a few small rocks, had some close calls with bigger ones, and one time I got nailed by a #6 nut. That kinda hurt.

P: What type of harness will you be using this trip?

K: I'll be using my Yates Shield harness and my Misty chest harness. You need all those gear loops for a wall rack.

Send it Kev.



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