I nabbed a highly exclusive spousal interview. This was Mich's first big wall style route, and he brought all his Austrian mofo styles to bear as well as a nice new hat which he wore on the wall "in case he met someone." Cody free-ed every pitch and Mich came darn close, and they still managed to entertain me on the phone each night, bringing the lol's from 3,000 feet.
El Corazon isn’t an often traveled route, and it has a reputation for being kind of ‘exciting’. How did you decide to get on it?
I’d been wanting to climb Corazon since I saw the poster of Alex Huber on the Golden Desert pitch which I had on my wall for years.
Alex Huber on the Golden Desert pitch
I’d kinda forgotten about it when Walker Emerson dragged me up there last Fall to research the Beak Pitch. It doesn’t get traveled that much, and he said the gear on Corazon was kind of tricky. When I went up there and climbed it with him, I thought it was pretty straight forward, and it was exciting but really safe and really good gear, so it seemed all that scary stuff was kind of over-hyped. But, however, I later found out that was actually one of the tamer pitches on the route.
What other climbing on Corazon did you do to prepare?
Actually none. We intended to rappel the route, stash gear, and climb the roof pitch because it looked pretty hard in the photo of Tommy doing this crazy stem move. But rappelling the route was so terrifying and time consuming that we actually didn’t get to preview any of the pitches. It’s sheer lunacy to rappel Corazon.
What was the crux of the route for you?
I think the psychological crux was falling off the roof pitch at the very end of the traverse and knowing I had to re-lead the heal breaker move. There’s a section underneath the roof which ends the initial crux of difficult compression moves where you get a really solid heel-toe-cam lock underneath the roof. You hang off that heel-toe-cam at full extension with no other holds and reach down below your knees, face-down, and grab onto a half pad flake and then you have to yank your foot out (hence the potential ankle dislocation) and whip your body onto the flake with your legs and the rest of your body swinging across the wall.
Is that a move?
It’s kind of like a fall. But you grab on at the last second before you eggbeat backwards and upside down across the wall.
How did you end up climbing this route with Mich Kemeter?
Mich and I go way back. [Long pause and laughter]. Basically I needed someone who was crazy enough and motivated enough to go climb a free route on a El Cap that doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic without knowing anything about it. I asked him to do it and he said “which route?” so I sent him the picture of Alex Huber on that 5.13 corner. He never responded, but I guess he got psyched.
Mich in a corner on El Corazon. Photo: Walker Emerson
Would you compare this route to anything else you’ve ever climbed?
Every pitch is pretty unique and requires a different style, which is cool. The Beak pitch is kind of a combination of bouldering and heady lay backing with technical footwork up high. The roof pitch was like nothing I’d ever climbed before with intense compression, under-clinging, and heal-toe-camming. And the Kierkegaard chimney was just really wild. It was one of my favorite pitches. It’s a bombay chimney about 5 feet wide. As you climb up, the chimney narrows to only accept #4 or #5 camelots near the top, so you have to eventually decide which way your head is going to be facing before you exit the chimney into an overhanging 6-8 inch off-width. I chose to look in. Into the void.
How did you get out of that thing?
You have to wriggle a lot. You wriggle your foot and knee into a sitting position and sit up into a fist jam and chicken wing.
[Laughter] It is the deepest form of meditation I know. The longest move on that section is no more than an inch.
Cody and Mich smiling on the bunny slopes, 12d R. Photo: Walker Emerson
How do you train? [Besides carrying a 30 pound corgi up to and down from crags several times a week? I note for our readers, you even performed a 10 foot “chimney con corgi” scrambling out of the Sads last week.]
My training is mountain biking 2-3x per week for at least 2 hours and bouldering a lot. I rarely climb routes since I’ve found strength and cardiovascular fitness equals endurance for El Cap climbing. I think the most important thing is being in good cardiovascular shape and being able to do hard moves when they come at you. Most of the climbing on El Cap just requires you to be able to do boulder problems and stand on your feet, with the exception of the roof pitch and the chimney, and the a5 traverse, which is basically a pumpy sport climb with a lot of exposure.
The heel-hooking on the A5 traverse was really fun to watch. How did you like that pitch?
It’s rad. Nik Berry said it was only 12c. Nik is the biggest sandbagger I know. It’s hard to say just how hard it was since I was climbing the pitch in a full down outfit with a big wool hat on and 30 mi/hour drafts. I found it quite difficult in that moment.
That was the day it was threatening to storm, and I watched you from the valley. What was going on?
There were thunderheads building all day, and the wind was in full force. I had anticipated the weather potentially turning and thought I had planned accordingly by putting my rain jacket in our day bag. The rest of the gear was two pitches below us hanging on our extra long haul line and was not accessible until after we climbed another pitch. When I found out my rain jacket was not in the day bag and I had still not red pointed the A5 traverse on my third try, I was weighing our options pretty heavily. It seemed like the only thing to do was to whine a lot to Mich, which I did. I red pointed it after much encouragement from Mich that “today is not a good day to die” and that “the storm would never happen to us.” Also, Mich offered that we would share his jacket if it really did rain… [laughter].
[Laughter] What would you say to our future children if they tried that kind of logic on you?
Sometimes ignoring the obvious is the only way to succeed : )
Cody and Mich's headlamps on a spring night on El Cap. Photo: Walker Emerson.