EL CAPITAN

Posted on: December 1, 2002


Martyr's Brigade (5.11 A5c R) is located between Reticent Wall and Space and has about fifteen new pitches. I spent twenty-four days on the face, including four rest/storm days, and fixed four pitches before blastoff. Martyr's Brigade is probably the hardest and most dangerous big-wall route on El Capitan. With six pitches of possible deathfall, this route is intense.

The route takes "Reticent style" reachy hooking to the next level as most hard pitches contain hooking just out of reach. The seventeen-foot stickhook move on pitch 24 bypasses a super-thin flake, but has real bloodbath potential. The "dry tool" move on pitch 11 is unique. By topstepping a big hook, I was able to reach past a twenty-foot blank wall and "dry tool" (my ice axe taped to my twenty-two-foot stickclip) an out-of-sight block. As I jugged my 5.5-mil spectra cord up to the axe I was afraid that it would come off and impale me. When I reached the block I realized it was detached and resting on a narrow down-sloping ledge. I should have been more gripped.

Pitch 18 took two storm-shortened days to lead. A fat circlehead blew, but my adjustable daisy with screamer was snug on a tiny head I was working and it somehow held. Farther up the pitch I hucked a cool backflip while topstepping a sketchy pasted number two head in bad rock. I didn't fall too far, but did get the full visual tour. I drilled a lot of bolts, but chopped about an equal number on surrounding routes. Creating hard pitches, destroying pathetic bolt ladders (Early Morning Light)—it seemed to balance out in the end.

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Martyr's Brigade was a good mission and I was up there long enough that I felt like a different person when I returned to this boring life on the ground.

— Jim Beyer, USA

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