The next day we climbed and hauled through the traversing zig zags, with all our gear, food and water that weighed nearly as much as I did. Moving camp in the vertical is slow and exhausting. All day I focused on expending only as much energy as absolutely necessary. I had to save myself for the next crux — The Move. At the anchor below The Move we were still baking in the afternoon sun, so we took our time constructing an elaborate sun shelter at our hanging camp. We got out snacks, electrolyte water and hand balm — our recovery tactics were getting slick! At dusk we packed away the tarp and pulled out the mini hangboard. Could I perform under all this pressure? Yes you can, I told myself. You’ve been practicing this all winter. You’re good under pressure, that’s your superpower. Believe it.
I sent the pitch second attempt by headlamp, in a magical flow-state daze. With the two hardest pitches behind me, the realization that I might actually pull the whole thing off was suddenly all too real. Two crux pitches still to go, but I was starting to get a little giddy with excitement. I slept deeply that evening.
In the morning we climbed four pitches up to Tower to The People, the only natural ledge in the entire upper half of the route. Our pace had certainly slowed as the exhaustion of the wall was catching up to us. “Is this day 5? Or 6??” We counted back and realized it was in fact day 6! Sitting on the tower, we could lean out and see our entire line up the mountain. Another route, El Corazon, joined us here and the two lines share the final seven steep pitches to the summit.
The Golden Desert stretched above us — a beautiful finger layback weaving through a series of stepped roofs. I was nervous. Under the fading pink light, I began punching through the tips layback. Punching? That’s what I was expecting: a fight to the death against the enduro pump monster. But instead I felt light and nimble. I danced up the corner, trusting my feet on terrible footholds, sometimes stemming, sometimes jamming, always dancing upwards until suddenly my fingers slotted into the bomber lock under the roof.
I snapped out of the trance. I was through the crux! Keep it together. As I clipped the chains I let out a celebratory yelp into the darkness. Then I looked directly to my right at the A5 Traverse, the final crux between me and the Golden Gate summit. I knew that pitch had stopped strong climbers in the past. I couldn’t celebrate prematurely.