In order to give you the clearest picture of how a team of four go up El Cap, I think I’ve got to go over a few terms and some basic principles. We, just like you, hadn’t a clue how to climb as a team, especially a team with two additional haul bags disguised as human beings in flannels.
The basic order is that you have one lead climber and one person who climbs second and cleans the route of the protection that the lead climber placed. So if Timmy started, he would climb up a route, anywhere from 60-120ft and place small devices in the cracks every 10ft or so that would protect him if he fell. When he’d get to a belay station (two bolts drilled into the granite) he would clip in and pull up a tag line(smaller rope) that had the ends of three ropes. Two ropes for Heath and I, and one rope for hauling the bags. When those were tied into the bolts you’d hear “line fixed!” and then it was safe for Heath and I to go up. The last climber would then jumar up the rope and clean the pitch. This is where the real work came in, hauling the bags. When Heath and I neared the top of the rope, we’d get off our lines and get onto the haul line to use our body weight to pull the haul bags up through a pully. Make sense? It’s kind of a cluster fuck unless you’re there looking at it. But basically, Timmy goes up, then we go up, then we haul. Over and over and over again.
People ask us if we climbed at all. The honest and not so awesome answer is no. Turns out, if you’re not a rock climber, your ass is not coming near leading a pitch on El Cap. All the risk is placed on the lead climber and there was about a 0% percent chance of us putting that weight on our shoulders. So how do you ascend a rope? Well basically you have two of these things called jumars, or jugs:
They each clip into the rope and allow you to slide up and then they catch when you pull yourself up on them. Hanging off the bottom of each one is an aider:
Once you get the rhythm, you basically walk up the rope by alternating your hands and your feet. I know, all this info is kind of boring, but without having a basic idea of how it works, it ends up just seeming like greek.