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Friday, December 31, 2010


I have provided this section to help educate our customers and employees.

As it grows I will detail information on Rain Water Harvesting, Soldering, Seamless Gutters and Water Conservation.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Leaning Tower

Busted in Yosemite.

So there I was, on The West Face route of The Leaning Tower, in the rain, with strangers. My friend Andrew and I had rolled into Yosemite with the grand ambition to wage an assault on one of the steepest and scariest looking rock formations in North America. We had made the slog through the talus, traversed the epic starting pitch that led you to a dead tree 400 some odd feet off the ground where the  climbing starts and made it up the first pitch. Some other climbers heard us debating on going forward or not as the wall was intimidating in the extreme. " Just do it! " they shouted at us. Good enough says I, but maybe tomorrow.
So we rapelled off the wall and made our way back to my truck. We were young, green and so new some of our gear had tags on it. It got worse; I didn't have a piton hammer or a haul bag, so I used a Coleman camp hatchet as my hammer and a army surplus duffel bag as our haul bag. The Pig, as climbers call that bag that carries the sleeping and rain gear and food.

We were confident we would return so we left our Pig on that ledge that started the West Face route.
One thing about a " big wall climb "; those wall get bigger after you have been on them. You, as a climber, break the route up into smaller sections that are easier to mentally manage.
Click for a larger image
Many had come before us and lived to tell the tale, and this was what I had been training for and dreaming of. But as I got closer to the car, the wall loomed larger and steeper than it was when I was on it. It leered back at us, an ominous troll or a crumbling tomb stone.

" Driver of the truck, pull to your left! "
So I pulled over. We were speeding, reeking of jazz cigarettes and each had an open beer. Seeing we were obviously dirt bag climbers, too broke or stupid to even have an official piton hammer they took mercy on us. They cited me as the driver for having an open container. We drove away feeling pretty lucky; out of beer but free men. They didn't seem to care about the Mary Jane.
Then the lights came on again behind us. I again pulled to the right. Again the ranger yelled through his P.A.; driver pull to your left! So I did and this time they came out with guns drawn and attitudes as big as...The Leaning Tower.

Luckily, it was my friend Andrew they wanted and not me. So he was hauled away in handcuffs and there I was in Yosemite with all my climbing gear on the first pitch of the Leaning Tower. I found out much later that my friend had had some issues with hard drugs and had got caught masterbaiting in his car and then didn't show up to court. At the time, the rangers wouldn't tell me what he had done.  I guess the charge might have been spanking in public. Protect and serve and all that jazz.

So I went back to our camp and gather our gear and headed for the climbers camp in Yosemite that was still known then as Camp 4. I figured I need to find a partner to get my gear down and maybe finish the route. I stood there at the kiosk writing a note that said something like; " partner got busted need a climbing partner for The Leani..." and before I could even thumb-tack it up a voice behind me said " I'll do it. " and thus I landed my partners for my first Big Wall climb.

One of them was from Scotland and the other from Boston. They had met the same day in the same manner and now that we were a team it was decide that I was the leader, as I had experience and all. Little did they know it was my first time on a Yosemite Big Wall, but nevertheless we all gathered our gear and made ready to head out the next morning at 5 a.m.

I sat on the top of a picnic table, eating a package of fig newtons. The other guys were in chairs around the camp fire. Suddenly my package of fig newtons was disappeared0. A raccoon had climbed up on top of the picnic table and stole them while I was busy spouting my plans to climb cliffs on the Moon, or El Capitan.
I got down, chased after him and retrieved my figs.
Ten minutes later he/she did it again.
This time, after chasing him down and getting my fig newtons I resolved to kick that coons ass if it came back, which of course it did. When the critter stole the package again I picked up a ping pong sized rock and lobbed it from about thirty feet to hit it on the forehead, right between the eyes. It was obviously in pain and left our camp site.  I felt bad as it pawed at its head and sulked away. I certainly didn't mean to hurt it.
About 2 A.M. that morning I woke to a screaming raccoon, two feet from my face. The fangs seemed very large. I screamed and it fled, my fellow campers simply yelled at me to " shut up! "  Quiet time in Camp Four made no allowances for angry raccoons.

So then next day my new companions sorted gear and headed out through the mossy talus to the ledge where the West Face route starts. I had left the haul bag there and we had " fixed " ropes to the top of the first pitch. One of my greatest tests as a climber was having the courage to lower myself off that ledge thirty feet to where the rope made a plumb line and start climbing. The climb " started " five hundred feet off the ground on a small crumbling ledge with a dead tree.

We used hooks to negotiate the mostly blank granite wall, where there were no bolts or cracks. Previous climbers would drill a shallow hole about 1/4" deep and you use a tiny hook to hang from those small holes. The whole time you are doing it you want to scream " this is basically absurd! " Basically absurd technology, aka B.A.T. hooking. After an hour or two my two companions were caught up with me and the new climbing could begin. We made in that first day to the Ahwannee Ledge, a large and spacious sleeping platform with plenty of room for six climbers and lower bathroom ledge for privacy.

This pix looks down on The Ahwannhee Ledge from the end of the pitch above it.

Late that night we got to the second ledge. You'd think climbing at night would be more scary, but it isn't because you cannot see the crazy exposure or the tops of the trees two thousand feet or so below.

We woke to a heavy curtain of rain, but we stayed dry as the wall is so steep it stays free of rain, unless it is blowing up. I watched the clouds roll in and boil up the face below to finally engulf us. We climbed as fast as possible and there on that last pitch I took my first fall; a back wrenching whipper. The crack was so filled with bird crap that the granite had deteriorated and the gear pulled as I moved up on it. The wall was so steep that in that ten feet I fell I was also ten feet away from the wall, spinning like a spider on its web. I was too afraid to hesitate and climbed quickly up my rope ladders and onto a large hook placement. My new friends cheered.
The trouble was, that fall had wrecked my psyche and when it was my turn to lead again I started to panic. My new " friends " glared at me. C'mon mate, this was your idea. Off you go.
So I climbed on through the rain clouds and over the roof where dawn greeted me with blinding sun. By the time my companions had reached where I was clouds had blown back in and we fled the summit with our hair standing up and lightening flashing and thunder booming off those magnificent walls. My lesson for that climb was to only do serious stuff with your friends. I never saw those two again after we parted ways. We promised to exchange photos but, you know how it goes.
My climbing of the West Face was during the spring of 1994. These images are of the same route by different climbers. My photos are from a disposable camera and never made the digital age.