Friday, June 17, 2011

Dale Bard, The Rurp Belay - Sea of Dreams, El Capitan, Yosemite

It was early June in 1978 on a very windy day.  I was a little over 100’ up a pitch that we named the “Z” rurp pitch on Sea of Dreams, a new route on Yosemite’s El Capitan.  The pitch wandered in a perfectly backwards Z pattern and the rope drag was miserable.  Most of the upper part of the pitch was comprised of tiny rurps, something the width of a butter knife, driven into minute seams.  I had to bounce my bodyweight upon the rope just to get enough slack in the line to clip each successive piece.  As luck would have it the normally body-weight-only placements were pretty solid.  In fact if it weren’t for the rope drag this pitch had been a blast tinkering up severely overhanging placements with nothing but big air below.

Upon reaching the logical belay point, I whipped out my drill and started drilling a ¼” hole to place a 1.5" belay bolt.  We were running very low on good drill bits as lack of financial stability was unanimous and expending money into drill bits didn’t take precedent over visits to the mountain room bar prior to leaving on our granite voyage. As a result were in the habit of starting the hole with a dull bit and then breaking off the tip for a fresh, sharp edge to drill with.  After 25 minutes of non-stop drilling my sad little hole was only ¾” deep. 

I was loosing patience and tired of drilling so I yelled down to my partners, Jim Bridwell and Dale Bard, “let’s not haul from here, let’s just climb through and fix ropes.  It’s taking too long to get the bolts in and I’m out of bits.  Is it ok to belay off off 5 equalized rurps and a rivet?”  Although this may seem ridicules the seam that the rurps were in was harder than a W*****’s heart and quite solid.  Besides nothing like that had ever been done before to my knowledge and the pure novelty of it … I thought.  Thankfully Dale strongly protested, as he would be the one cleaning the pitch so I slogged on and put in a 1” bolt, still very substandard for a belay, and backed it up with a rivet.  The drilling must have taken an additional half-hour.

I knew that when Dale reached the anchors it would be an amazing photo op so I brought up the camera on the tag line and got positioned.  Unfortunately it was so windy that when the time came one of my aiders blew up into the image and there was no way to stage his reaction so that’s why there’s this big blur in the photo behind his head. 

George Meyer’s classic book, Yosemite Climber, first published the image and I’ve made it available as a numbered edition for collectors. 

You may also want to check out the short video with the original photos at: SEA OF DREAMS VIDEO

No comments:

Post a Comment