© 2020 Yosemite Climbing Association Museum & Gallery
EL CAPITAN: THE NOSE
FATHER OF ALL MODERN ROCK CLIMBS
EL CAPITAN
Father of All Modern Rock Climbs
THE NOSE
Barely a week after Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, and Mike Sherrick completed the Half Dome first ascent, another fleet of climbers took to the granite walls of Yosemite Valley. This team consisted of Warren Harding, Mark Powell, and Dolt (Bill Feurer), who sat in El Capitan Meadow and pieced together a line through binoculars up the Southwest face of the big stone. In their excitement, they immediately began gathering the necessary supplies for an exploratory attempt. Many wondrous gadgets were conceived through sketches on paper napkins at Degnan's Deli in the Old Village by Dolt and the team. Some of these gadgets actually came to life, a few of which being: a winch to haul a lightweight cart up vertical space, nesting aluminum channels made to fit progressively wider cracks, and even a modified basket stretcher for sleeping on a blank face. Eventually they could plan no more, and thus, their vertical assault began.
Harding and Powell hauling with the
newly-invented Dolt Winch.
Over the next year and a half, Harding spent a total of 47 days on the wall with a variety of partners, including: Mark Powell, Dolt, Wayne Merry, George Whitmore, Rich Calderwood, Wally Reed, and Allen Steck. Reed was the first of the group to experience the effects of long-term abrasion on ropes. He was prusiking up the rope when suddenly, he came crashing back down onto a ledge; the rope had broken, his life spared only by the sheer size of the ledge. "Henceforth", Harding wrote post-incident, "all fixed ropes would be nylon and expenses be damned!"
Harding and Powell after getting chased off of their first attempt by foul weather.
"Harding said not to worry, he'd do all
the leading; he just needed a belayer.
I thought it might be fun.
It wasn't."

Allen Steck relayed his experience of
climbing with Warren Harding on El Capitan
to Steve Roper for his seminal book,
Camp 4.
By Summer 1958, the rangers were getting increasingly irritated with the longevity of the team's mission on The Nose. Valley residents knew when the team was on the rock and would park by the road to watch them. Curious passersby stopped to see what they were looking at; crowds and traffic jams soon formed. It was not long before the climbers were hauled off to assemble before the Chief Ranger, who gave an ultimatum: "Finish the climb by Thanksgiving or get off the rock, fix ropes all the way so you can get off and not have to be rescued, and finally, remove all the ropes and hardware when you leave."

November 1, 1958 Rich Calderwood, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore joined Warren Harding for the final push up El Capitan. Harding, Whitmore, and Merry reached the summit at 6:00AM after spending a record-breaking twelve days on the first ascent of The Nose.

The longest climb was over.
Tap any image to learn more.
Click any image to learn more.
Calderwood prusiking to clean gear after the first ascent
Calderwood prusiking to clean gear after the first ascent
Whitmore, Merry, and Harding celebrating their success on the summit
Whitmore, Merry, and Harding celebrating their success on the summit
The beginning of the team's ascent
The beginning of the team's ascent
Harding's hammer, bolt hanger, and Stoveleg pitons
Harding's hammer, bolt hanger, and Stoveleg pitons
Rappelling off of Sickle Ledge
Rappelling off of Sickle Ledge
Wally Reed on Dolt Tower
Wally Reed on Dolt Tower
A subset of a standard rack used to climb the Nose
A subset of a standard rack used to climb the Nose
Warren Harding at the upper corners
Warren Harding at the upper corners
Sunset from the wall after a brutal storm
Sunset from the wall after a brutal storm
Close-up of the King Swing
Close-up of the King Swing
Made on
Tilda