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The first order of business was to get our gear together. Since neither of us had done any aid in a while, we had to dig deep to find our stuff. Plenty of things from the normal trad rack were useful - cams, nuts, slings, rope, harness, and carabiners. But there were the esoteric aid doodads too,
We copied the topos (maps of the route) and headed down to the valley. We unloaded the gear at the Ahwahnee hotel and I drove to the parking lot and took the shuttle bus back. Then the gear went onto our backs and the suffering was underway. I had the pig, Andy had the ropes, rack, and some of the other climbing gear. At first it wasn't so bad. We staggered down the trail until the cutoff for the route. Then it was up the steep climbers "trail" to the base of the column and to a nice almost flat spot under a steep overhang where we spent the night. On the hike in we could see that there were people high on the route, at least 6 pitches up, and a bunch of people on the south face route. So we didn't have to worry about someone getting in our way unless they beat us to the start in the morning or the people up ahead were very very very slow. The route ascends Washington's column just on this side of the skyline on the picture above.
The alarm went off the next morning before dawn. We had a quick cold breakfast and repacked for the route. Then we stumbled up the last part of the trail, and up some 3rd and 4th class bits to the base of the route. Andy got the first pitch, and soon he was off. Unless you have your systems dialed, aid climbing is slow, and we did not have our systems dialed. Pitches often take over an hour to lead, for us, even on fairly straightforward aid climbing. It doesn't seem like you are really dawdling, but there are so many steps. Reach up and place a piece (this can require some creativity when there isn't a straightforward placement, or it can be done for you if there is a bolt or other fixed gear). Then you clip in your aider and bounce test the piece a bit to make sure it will hold. Then you climb up onto it, clip the rope in if you so choose, and climb up as high as you can and place the next piece. Sometimes you take the last piece out if you are feeling brave or expect to need it later. If there is no good place, or the next piece is a fixed piece placed by a tall person, your last piece might be down by your knees which can be very strenuous on steep terrain. That is pretty much all there is to aid climbing. Just repeat that until you get to the next anchor, pull up the lead line for the second to jug and clean, and set up the haul system and start hauling the pig. Usually this is done with your body weight. You stand up and slide the ascender up the line, then you sit down on the haul line, with a little (or a lot) of help from your arms or legs get the bag moving, then stand up again. It gets a little old after a few seconds. Meanwhile, the second has clipped his ascenders to the lead line, and is ascending up the line by sliding one, then the other up. When he gets to a piece, he takes it out and continues up. When he gets up to the other person, he gets all the gear and the haul line and hauler, and it is his turn to lead. There are lots of other ways to do this by people who go faster, but that is basically how we did it.
Somehow the first 2 belays I got were hanging belays. That means that I didn't have a nice ledge to sit or stand on, I was just supported by my harness and standing my feet in the aiders. We did have a butt bag, which is a bit like a hammock for your butt, which took a bit of the wait off of the harness straps, but was hardly comfortable. We inched our way up the wall all day. It was a bit hot in the sun, but not too bad, and there was usually a breeze. In the afternoon we were in the shade, and glad that the strong wind was mostly blocked.
It was still a bit of an adventure getting the ledge set up here, but so much easier to have a bit of a rock ledge to stand on as well as a number of bolts spread out horizontally to use as multiple anchors (one for the ledge, one for the pig). Conveniently someone had left a can of deviled ham on the ledge for us, so we gratefully added that to the menu. Then we eased into bed for a somewhat belated and fitful cramped sleep, especially for 6'6" Andy.
The next morning we didn't set any speed records for getting up, but we weren't so very slow either. Then it was on up the wall at our still rather glacial pace. Eventually the angle eased back a bit, and the last two pitches featured at least some free climbing (which goes much faster, but is a pain with all the aid gear strapped on). It was quite windy on top when we got there, so we had to be careful repacking for the descent that nothing blew away. Andy got the heavy small stuff, the portaledge, and the ropes, and I had the pig (at least 24 pounds lighter due to the loss of water). Then it was off to the north dome gully descent. A sort of delicate traverse and downclimb followed by a long hot steep dusty slog followed by a while on a trail. Finally we got to the Ahwahnee and then ran the last bit to catch the shuttle bus back to the truck. There we got some food and a much needed shower before driving back up to Tuolumne.
This little adventure fulfilled our aid climbing requirement for the year, and we were free to go back to free climbing in the sun (at least until it started snowing).