HomeStorytellingFirst Ascent: Psychedelic Wall, Sentinel Rock

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In early September, 1966 Dennis Hennek and I were laying plans to do a new route on the north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite.  After first carrying food, water, and equipment to the base of the rock, I fixed the first pitch; Dennis came up and cleaned it.

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The next day, we hiked back up to the base of the face and began the climb.  After we prussiked up the first pitch, Dennis led some difficult free-climbing followed by some difficult aid.  The crux was a large roof which he passed by placing a tiny “URP” (a piton smaller than a RURP) into a thin crack








On my lead, the cracks were in places non-existent, so I drove some RURPs directly into seams of rotten granite.  Dennis’ next lead brought us to some small, uncomfortable ledges at dusk.Psychedelic Wall 7

Our bivouac, although uncomfortable, was still enjoyable because less than 100 feet away Jim Madsen and Kim Schmitz were spending their first night on the Robbins-Frost Route.  We joked back and forth and listened to their radio, and their company kept our morale up and vice versa. We had all decided that retreat from where we were was nearly impossible due to the severe overhangs below.

The following day was rather uneventful, mostly moderate to difficult aid climbing, except for passing the very impressive, huge band of ceilings half way up the face.

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The climbing was awkward, if not difficult, so we only did three pitches that second day. Kim and Jim, meanwhile, would occasionally erupt in loud curses and swearing, usually directed at Robbins, because they felt quite insecure with the lack of good anchors that Robbins and Frost had placed on their first ascent, having done it in excellent style without a single bolt.

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While Dennis belayed at a horizontal crack just before sundown, I fixed forty feet of the next lead before descending to Dennis’ position, where we would bivouac.

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Jim and Kim, across the wall, had found a large ledge where they could bivouac, and they took great delight in telling us of their comfort.  However, when they saw us stringing hammocks, they offered us no more sarcastic sympathy.  Unwilling to lose the dispute about who was most comfortable, Dennis, knowing they had little water left, poured out nearly half a quart of our large supply while they helplessly watched.  Again on the bivouac, this friendly joking and teasing with Kim and Jim kept all of our spirits high and gave us all a great deal of confidence.

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The following morning we got going early and began nailing slowly up the dirty cracks toward the summit.  In the early afternoon, after three pitches, Dennis led up and right to a seam of rotten granite.  Several RURPs driven straight into it took him to a good crack which he nailed to the summit.

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After I cleaned, Jim and Kim, Don Lauria and Conrad Willet (who had climbed the Chouinard-Herbert route) and Dennis and I sat happily on the summit for a short time before beginning our descent to the Valley.

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That night we partied in Camp 4 until quite late, enjoying the company of good friends.Psychedelic Wall 19

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