Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock-Climbing

Overnight on the Mazatlan Ledge
By Royal Robbins
  |  Gorp.com
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Meanwhile, Chuck and I were hauling the party's 200 pounds of food, water and equipment. The heat was withering. Our 60 quarts of water, which gave us each one and a half quarts per day, would not be enough if this persisted. We passed the night on long, narrow Mazatlan Ledge, 500 feet up. Next morning the circles around Yvon's eyes told of another sleepless night. After Chuck led past the cavernous overhang known as the Gulf of California, I pitoned and climbed familiar bolts to Easy Street, a large broken ledge at 700 feet. We doggedly climbed without enthusiasm in the fierce heat, unconsciously saving ourselves for the forbidding problems above.

The heat wave broke on the sixth day. We reluctantly left our cozy ledge and crossed the traverse to our high point. The section above was ugly. Overhanging to the right 400 feet, the Black Dihedral was a rotten mess. Dropped here by the leader were many rocks and huge balls of mud and grass. Luckily, these objects fell harmlessly far out to the side of us below. Chuck and I, doing the hauling that day, sometimes had to let ourselves out as much as fifty feet in order to prusik straight up to the end of a pitch. After dark, we reached the Black Cave, an alcove with no bottom. Here we spent several hours stringing our hammocks and getting settled. By flashlight Tom observed large centipedes on the wall above. At dawn, casually glancing over the sides of our hammocks, we were astonished at the tremendous exposure. The ground was 1,600 feet straight below. Suspended over space, we hung one above another, like laundry between tenement flats. Oppressive is the word for the Black Cave. We felt we had climbed into a cul de sac. As we breakfasted on salami, cheese, and a mixture of candies and nuts, cirro-stratus began to cover the sky. My wife Elizabeth, through our tiny two-way radio, told us a storm was forecast.

Chuck led the overhang. He pitoned up one side of it and followed a horizontal dike of aplite around the top. Fascinated, we watched the lower part of Chuck's body move sideways thirty feet across our line of vision. Pitonage was very difficult, and Chuck's hauling line hung far out from the wall. When all crack stopped, he ended the pitch and belayed in slings, thus finishing the most spectacular lead in American climbing.


Published: 22 Sep 2003 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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