Kristoffer Szilas

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The Nose on El Capitan

Posted on June 12, 2016 at 11:50 PM

The spring season has come to an end for bigwall climbing in Yosemite Valley. I finally got to do the Nose on El Capitan, which is arguably the most famous rock climb in the world. Fortunately, it was every bit as good as its reputation. In many ways it reminded me of the Heckmaier route on the north face of the Eiger by being a complex route up the longest part of the wall with lots of historic pitches, although the former is a pure mixed climb whereas the Nose is a pure rock climb.

There are several interesting pendulums on the Nose, which makes for a fairly committing feeling on the route. Especially the King Swing was intimidating and it required complete trust in the ropes and climbing gear.

I’m grateful that I once again got sponsorship from Scanlico who provided me with ropes from Beal and climbing gear from Petzl. In particular I would highly recommend the Apollo rope, which is 11 mm thick and really inspires confidence when rappelling and jumaring on an exposed bigwall route. The new Petzl Ascension jumars are also worth mentioning because they have been significantly improved and are now both light and easy to handle. They slide very well on the rope and it is possible to temporally disengage the teeth when moving the Ascension up a rope that is not weighted, which makes it a lot easier to use than the previous version. Another piece of critical climbing gear on a bigwall is the Grigri, which makes it a lot safer to belay pitches that take a long time to lead because you don’t have to watch the climber as closely as with a normal belay device. If I need to let go of the rope to eat or to send up more gear on the tag line I still need to tie a knot about a meter away from the device just to be completely safe, but the Grigri greatly reduces the stress of belaying because of the automatic blocking mechanism.

After the Nose we did Skull Queen on Washington Column, which was a nice route with mostly aid climbing. It has an easy approach to get to the base of the wall and good rock as with most climbs in Yosemite Valley. I will certainly be back for more bigwalls…


Below are some of my favourite photos from this climbing season.

The approximate line of the Nose:

King Swing (c) Tom Evans:

The Great Roof:

A long way from home:


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