5.7 A1 ****
We had just finished up the two pitches of the West Face Variation and were linking that climb to the Pioneer Route up to the top of Monkey Face. I was already tired from the previous three pitches.
Linda had hiked up to the Summit from the back of Monkey Face and was laid out in the sun on the springboard. She was great to have right there where I could talk with her. It was definitely a calming point to me.
The exposure on the ledge was getting to me a bit. The difference now was that on one side of the saddle you had a 230 odd feet drop and off the other side was a 180 foot drop. The rock on either side was very extreme also, lending its own little twist to what was already going through my head.
Larry very easily led the Aid pitch with quickdraws. There is a bolt ladder on the side of the neck that leads you into the mouth cave of Monkey Face. It looked so easy watching him do it with his really long arms and nice upper body strength. What I didn't realize was how much longer his arms were and how much more upper body strength he had than I.
After he finished the pitch and set up station, I whipped out some brand new etriers and got ready to send this bolt ladder.
My own personal opinion? Some guy with nice, long arms put up this bolt ladder. It beat the crap out of me. I would stand in the top rung of the etrier and reach as high up as possible and it was still difficult to the next bolt. If you took all the pitches of this climb and balled them physically together, that wouldn't equal what it physically took for me on this pitch. By the time I reached the mouth cave, I was really getting tired and freaked out by the exposure.
Sitting inside the mouth cave, looking out is one of the oddest feelings I have ever had. I could feel the pillar of rock moving underneath me, the floor of the cave sloped out of the mouth, giving me a feeling that at any minute, I was going to be spit out of the mouth of Monkey Face, a most embarassing demise, I am assured.
Linda sat on the springboard talking to me while we set up for the last pitch. I know she could tell I was really tired. She was having a nice day off, though, and the sun was pretty nice to be out in. At this point, I don't really think I wanted another pitch. I think I could have been happy to be done.
Inside the mouth is some gear bolted in the mouth for a Tyorlean Traverse across with matching gear on the springboard for people to line into the mouth. This crosses the saddle between the Monkey Face pillar and the rest of the main cliff bands.
Larry led out the last pitch to the rappel anchors just on the outside of the nose boulder. I was belaying him out the left side of the mouth when I heard him yell "Oh, shit!" I could also see Linda sit bolt upright with a very alarmed look on her face. I grabbed the rope with both hands thinking I was going to be slammed against the roof as Larry took a lead fall off the side of face. I found out later that as Larry was going over the rappel anchors, a golden eagle happened to be feasting on a couple of dead pigeons inside the nose cave. As Larry approached the top of the boulder, the eagle took flight coming very close to Larry. Linda could see it coming out of the cave and said it was huge.
Sitting in the cave, I was overwhelmed with how freaked out I was at the thought of coming out of that cave. Basically, you pinch up in the roof, lean out, look straight down, hop on a ledge and climb up jugs along the face to the rappel bolts and finish out the climb just above the ancors. But, the exposure is still the worst I have felt on a climb. As I was climbing up the side of the face, the exposure got to me to the point where it made me puke my guts out hanging off the ledge of the rappel anchors. I never let go of the rock and I finished the climb shortly after recovering. The top was more of a relief than an accomplishment. Larry got a nice chuckle and a good life-long story out of it.