The granite burned my forehead. I slumped my body further onto the wall, hoping it would support me. I cried. For the past two hours I seared my finger tips on the hot rock of the Boulder Problem, a twenty-foot section of unforgiving crimps that guarded my path to free climbing El Capitan’s Freerider. I’d spent 16 days over the past year toiling, working, and wanting to send the route. It was destroying me. I stared across Yosemite Valley at Middle Cathedral, El Capitan’s dark brother. How do people complete these enormous routes? [Above: Home in the clouds. Photo: John Dickey]
The Dark Brother
For over two years, Mikey Schaefer worked on his mega project. From the Boulder Problem I watched Mikey toil on the cold rock of Middle Cathedral, pushing a line through immaculate slabs and onto the steep headwall of the northwest face. On his fortieth day of climbing, after hand-drilling 113 bolts from marginal stances, after questing on the wall searching for a free passage, after doing the majority of this work alone, Mikey summited. This was the beginning. The route needed to go free.
On Tuesday, October 9th, Mikey packed water, food, and supplies for a five-day free effort up his route, Father Time. At five foot four inches tall and a solid traditional climber, Mikey Schaefer is the type of short man that people look up to. My stoic friend needed a belayer, someone to hold the rope and help keep the energy high as he fought up the wall. I volunteered to follow him.
[Mikey at the base of Father Time. Photo: Jenning Steger]