ElCap Report Farewell Tour 10/15/2023

clElCap Report Farewell Tour 10/15/2023
By Tom Evans

Yo… Solid weather continues to mark the mid-season for climbing and unfortunately so does solid smoke from burn piles that the NPS is getting burned before the cold, wet winter sets in.  At first, they did the piles to the east of the ElCap Bridge and the prevailing west winds, that come in late morning, blew all the smoke east into the east end of the Valley.  That was fine with me because it left the Cap clear of smoke for the rest of the day!  However, yesterday they started on the piles to the west of the ECB and all that choaking, nasty smoke is now blocking the view of the Cap. I took Saturday off because I knew that shooting was not going to be worthwhile, and I have a family matter that is commanding my attention and may lead to me leaving in the very near future.

Today’s ElCap Report…Written just for you…. Unique in all the World!

1) Marek is nearly done with Bad Seed and now is on its link with another route to finish. Here he is clearing the Devil’s Brow in late morning, after a bivy underneath that large feature. He topped out around 2pm this afternoon 10/15/23


2) Well, since he left all his kit under the Brow, he obviously had to go back the recover it …. So, the big lower-out was in order. This is part of that


3)  Over on the ever-popular Zodiac, a new team with Ryan Arnold in a sweet yellow shirt is now on the route.  Here Ryan is approaching the short crux of the third pitch.  He looked great but spent some time passing the little section you see him on.  His mistake was a common one we see on ElCap every day…and I am sure he would want me to mention it to help other climbers,  he stayed in his 3rd or 2nd step and had to deal with hooking and difficult placements to pass the obstacle.  So.. a word to the wise… use that top rung of the ladder right away, and you will be able to reach a good placement immediately and move on up.  Don’t hang around in the lower rungs.. immediately move as high as you can and you will be surprised at what placements will reveal themselves to you.


4) Higer up Ryan quickly moved quickly to the small stance at the top of the pitch. Do you notice the 1920’s “flapper” girls head on the right side of the shot, looking to the left?


5) Higher on Zodiac, a team of two has a leader climbing on the ramp up to the start of the White Circle., the so-called “Pearly Gates.” I recall doing that pitch in 1995 and just like him, started aiding a little bit early on the 5.6 ramp… I felt like I was almost lying down aiding it!  Still… I stayed down and continued to aid!


6) Higher the next morning, the team in shot 5, is seen here finishing the “Mark of Zorro” and is about to enter, what I call the “Bear Claw.” Notice the three claws at the top third of the pitch.


7) Over on the Muir, I spotted a two-man team speeding right along on the upper part, doing it from Crossroads in one bivy with two days of climbing. Nice!


8) Muir team … high on the uber-classic final dihedral… surely one of the
most beautiful features on all of ElCap!


9) This well-dressed team, of two, bailed from Hollow ledge, on the Salathe and earned the much maligned “BAIL OF THE DAY!”


10) Hauling kit, high on the Salathe Headwall.


11) This team chose to do the Knobby traverse to the left instead of going right over to Long Ledge, on the Salathe. It seemed to give them some
problems as the leader hung on it for a time.  Actually there are 3 climbers in this shot... two wearing unapproved clothing!  Look just above the bags to see them. The "green mark" appears to be painted on the rock, perhaps as a guide to drop-ins of where to place their rope to hit the right spot at the start of the roof?


12)  Out on Hole World… the old master, Pete, took the difficult lead above the so-called “Grand Traverse” way before 3pm, his normal starting time.  He was in for a tussle and took the plunge when a Bat Hook hole broke under the immense strain of his enormous weight.  As a result, he had to use a cheater stick to pass the damaged Hole and thus earned the much “coveted,” Wait for it…….  “STICK OF THE DAY!”

Actually, I didn’t see the stick but he reported it on Social Media, probably to avoid any ridicule he might have gotten had I noticed it!  Attaa boy Pete… confess and the punishment may be less severe!  Anyway, I missed the super-classic next pitch which I think they did on my day off. I last shot Richie and Ammon, on this “pitch in the sky” and was hoping to shoot it again.


13) My family is having a crisis and I was very upset today… so I took a long walk to see some of the places I used to visit, before I became obsessed with climbing photography.  I had to stop at my favorite Tree in the Valley … the Sugar Maple near the Chapel. So, these two shots, 13 and 14 were taken as I relaxed under the wonderful old tree.  It is not in the best of shape these days with many dead and dying branches hanging off it. But still … it is an old friend of many years, reminding me of the wonderful fall colors of Virginia and West Virginia where I spent so many fall seasons at Seneca Rocks and the rugged country of south west, Virginia, at VMI.  I hope the old tree will continue to see many more fall days before it too must fall to earth.


14) The old Sugar Maple.


15) The Sugar Maple path leads across this wonderful wooden bridge, across the Merced, where I took long walks, with loved ones at an earlier
time in my life.

In other news:  Hopefully the burn piles will be burned up quickly and we can return to the crystal clear skies of fall in the Yosemite Valley.

Update 10/15/23 early afternoon.  Alex Honnold drifted out to my tree this afternoon and we had a nice chat... he is in town for a while.  He expressed the desire to meet Nick and chat about the new record.  He also said he felt that the Jardine was a faster route, especially not having to carry a full rope. He looked good and was out for a bike ride.  The "Animals" were out today on several routes on the Captain.....Stay tuned.....

So, that’s the way it is, on this Sunday, the 15th day of October, 2023.

Capt. Tom… looking for peace, in our incredible Yosemite Valley.

amazing pictures

Hi Tom,
Once again, you have made my day with these amazing pictures...I look forward to it every day... I'm planning to make it back next season and meet up again...by the way, why are you calling it the farewell tour? Please don't say it's your last season...sorry man, not allowed... we cubically contained specimens need our daily feed of your great action pics of the cap...
Dennis G. from Ottawa

Those amazing fall colors!

Hi Tom,

It's been a long while since I checked in on "the" ElCap Report.
Incredible lighting and colors at this time of the year. Thanks for taking those of us who haven't shown up in a while down memory lane. Great to see that Marek is still hitting it hard. I hope your family crisis gets resolved.

All the very best,
Doug (of the Ottawa variety)