Southern Belle attempted 2nd ascent 1994

as told by Hank Caylor, 3/2009
from supertopo.com

South Face of Half Dome. 94'. Alan Lester and I are in the prime of life. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Scott Cosgrove said that this was the most sate of the art thing he'd ever done. If he did it, that means that if want to be "state of the art", I gotta do it. 12DX no problem.

So Alan and I get this plan together to repeat the Southern Belle. Not try, repeat. We drive all the way from Boulder with one thing in mind, 2nd ascent, PERIOD! All this under the gaze of Valley big shots like Croft and Cosgrove and God whoelse?

And yeah, I had visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. I just did the BY, Midnight Lightning, Astroman blah blah. In Yosemite, those folks don't care about who you think you are and what you just climbed. Kinda hard from a Texas/Colorado hybrid like me to understand.

We drove in one straight shot to Yosemite(get a globe, it's a long way). Marched straight up to the Southern Belle, camped, drank nothing and tried to fire. CRAP!

We had a deal, I do all the freaky runout face pitches and Alan gets the cracks, that's his thing. Alan floats the 1st 5.9 pitch, cruises the shorty 5.12 2nd pitch and then HIKED the12C 3rd pitch with 2 #2cams. He just left one halfway up and milked the second for 60feet. I just pooed myself.

The 4th pitch is the "crux", 12DX, I work the 5 bolts and do what we considered an, A0? followed by a 100foot 12a runout. The scariest climbing moment of my life(in the 90's), almost so far. I tried to put in nests of RPs and just left them hanging cuz' they were crap! Who's foolin' who? I nail the runout and Alan does the 5th pitch in excellent style, 12A.

Alan blows through the 6th pitch, that's right, 1 bolt in a 150' 5.10.

This is where we get to the porn....but not on Half Dome with Alan....ahem.

So Alan nails the 6th pitch and it's all me from here on up, his crack duties(funny) are through at this point. 2 mindless unprotected 5.11 pitches with almost no bolts go by, AND!

Here's where I screwed up. The topo only sez' where the one bolt is and 1 bolt is hard to see. I missed, not hard to do on Half Dome.

If you've ever had to climb 40' to get to within' seeing distance of the bolt. When I say the bolt, I mean the only bolt.

I just could not find the bolt. There was a garbage drawing Coz gave over but dangit. 14 bolts on the back half of Half Dome does not register in the heat of battle.

So yeah I fell(you wanted to hear it and there it is). Crap I thought, where is the bolt. I already climbed 40 feet longer than Coz's(I love him) crappy topo said.

And there the bolt was, 30' to the right of where I was climbing. I had already done way too many moves to downclimb.

Once again, I've said before, this is where I thought you separate the "men from the boys". The Cali boys from the Boulder boys! If you've ever been that far off route, yet so close.What a mind f*#k. A BASE rig wouldn't help you. Largo couldn't help you.

(Any partner affiliation that has to do with death routes is well discussed before hand between the partners. Alan and I did not even broach this subject. We were studs from Boulder and arrived in Yosemite to steal the 2nd ascent of the Southern Belle.) [This in response to a question.]

The 3rd worst moment of my climbing life was on the Belle. I had climbed to far to the left to ever get to the 1 bolt. 40' of 5.11 that I just could not downclimb. I yelled my ass off to Alan, get me the bolt kit!

Seriously people, I was wearing a baseball cap. I leaned in a little to far and the brim of the ballcap clicked on the rock and chucked me off. Alan needed 150' feet of rope, we didn't, have to send up a bolt kit. I started sketching as much as you can halfway up Half Dome. Mentally, I had a meltdown. Seriously, Alan was 100' below me separated by a #2 TCU and a tiny Lowe Ball Nut. If those two pieces blow, ugly factor 2 straight onto Alan.

This brings up a situation I've always fancied. Do you wanna take a 200' fall and blow out your legs, or do you wanna hold a 200 foot fall as the belayer? Behind every earthquaking leader is a bold unheralded person holding the other end of the line. The belayer of freaks should be recognized!

So 1 pitched, I knew I was going to pitch. The mental process of pitching the kind of pitch that Doug Robinson would write about and make Coz cringe is a many splendered thing. Getting so far up all the rad sh#t on Half Dome, and then tossing so far was unthinkable.

Anyhoo, I went 40' into a dike (the kind that runs all over the S. Face of the Dome). I knew I broke my ankles very quickly. Actually, I knew they were toast way before. I then skidded like a dog dragged by a truck for another 40'.

My two pieces of gear held. I asked Dean and he never saw them on his ascent. This was easily the biggest fall Alan ever held. He lowered me down 8 gruesome pitches(thank you Coz). Anybody who knows about the South Face of Half Dome knows what a train wreck it is to get there. A freakish rescue is unbelievable. I begged and pleaded for a YOSAR rescue, a helicopter or whatever. Alan then looked me straight in the eyes and said "dude, were from Boulder and we won't be rescued in Yosemite". Alan literally carried me on his back to Little Yosemite Valley, a coupla miles. I then took a horse ride down to the bottom. Another crazed experience.

if you ever break your feet on Half Dome and got to be carried out. Alan Lester is the man for the job. I just want Tami to do all the play by play toons!

The horse ride to the Valley floor with air splints on is a sobering experiance.

#1 is the 3rd ascent of Sheer Terror here in Eldo. Closest I've ever come to killing myself.

#2 is blowing the exit mantle on Midnight Lightning. Pads had not been created then and I almost broke both legs for the first time.

Caylor