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Duo Completes Yosemite Double and Triple Crown in Same Season

After climbing El Cap and Half Dome camp-to-camp in fewer than 24 hours, using bikes, Danford Jooste (29) and Nick Ehman (27) pulled off the Triple (sans bikes this time) —the Nose on El Cap, RNWF of Half Dome, and the South Face of Watkins in 21:35.

the team on top of half dome Photo by: Danford Jooste

Seasoned El Cap big wall climber Tom Herbert reached out recently to tell me one of his climbing partners, Danford Jooste, and Yosemite Search and Rescue member Nick Ehman, had completed the Yosemite Triple. “They are under-the-radar guys that did an incredible feat. It seems worthy of an article,” Herbert wrote.

“Danford was just some dude that was an average climber (and an electrical engineer) that had an incredible increase in his trajectory of wall climbing,” Tom told me. “He had barely any experience, then started climbing in Yosemite and probably had more wall ascents this year than anyone else.”

Michelle, Nick and Danford on the summit of Half Dome after completing the Triple Crown. Nick is the one eating steak out of a bag. Photo: Danford Jooste

When Tom speaks, you listen. Plus the Yosemite Triple Crown, which started with Timmy O’Neill and the late Dean Potter in 2001, is an incredible feat. Honnold and Caldwell freed it in 2012, and most recently, Jordan Cannon and Scott Bennett nabbed the sixth ascent (which they connected via bicycle).

Climbing Magazine describes the Triple Crown as “71 pitches, 7,000 feet of climbing, in a single day.” I reached out to Jooste and Ehman for more info. 

Danford was raised in South Africa and spent the past decade living in California. Two years ago he quit his job as an electrical engineer to live out of his van and climb. In 2021 he helped Bronwyn Hodgins free Golden Gate on El Cap (34 pitches, 5.13), and this past season, he big wall free climbed in Cochamó, Chile. 

Nick is from Bloomington, Indiana, and to get fit for the link-ups he relied on his time in the field working for Yosemite Search and Rescue. He says, “On some of the bigger rescues, I’m carrying heavy packs and traveling very far, which has been really good for training. And this winter I tried to maximize the number of pitches I could do. I would do ten pitches daily in Indian Creek, then adding more, so eventually, I was doing 14 pitch days.” 

The Yosemite Double — El Capitan (Nose) and Half Dome (RNWF): May 19

“The bike double,” Nick tells me, “We were psyched about that for sure. Human-powered, self-contained.” Nick tells me they left Camp 4 by bike without pre-stashing any gear or water on the routes, didn’t rely on help from other people, and made it back to camp via bike in fewer than 24 hours. 

As Danford told me from Yosemite, “We did the Nose first for the Double. Here we rode bikes from camp 4 to Manure Pile Buttress and stashed a bike there and I got on Nlogistick’s handlebars, and he rode me over to El Cap meadow, where we locked up the second bike, and then we climbed the Nose in 6:40. Then we went down the east ledges to get the first bike, I got back on his handlebars again, and he rode me back to the second bike. From there, we jumped in the river and rode to Mirror Lake to reach the start of the Death Slabs (that leads to Half Dome). We climbed up the face in 7:30, ran back to our bikes, and then, sprinting the bikes back, reached Camp 4 at 2:59 am for a total of 23:55 round-trip time.”

Their splits were 6:40 on the Nose and 7:30 on Half Dome. 

Five weeks later and some rehearsal time later, they went for the Triple. 

Final checks of the rack the evening before. Photo: Danford Jooste

The Triple Crown: June 26

For the Triple, the team brought in reinforcements but still kept their pre-stashing to a minimum. “The only thing we stashed for the Triple was the rack and rope at the base of Half Dome,” Nick says.

Their friend Michelle Pellette provided support and logistics help. She waited for them with a car when they hiked to the road after topping out Watkins, drove them to El Cap meadow, and was there when they topped out Half Dome. “Michelle killed it,” Nick says. “She really hooked up.”

Danford told me of the Triple:

“We climbed it on June 26, five weeks after the Double. On that day, we hiked out Watkins and got there at 11 am and stayed in the shade until it was go-time. We topped out in 3:56, and from the summit, we walked back towards May Lake to HWY 120 where Michelle was waiting with hot coffee and a car full of food and we had our extra gear for the Nose and Half Dome. From there, she drove really fast to get us to El Cap meadow.

“Then we started up the Nose and did it in 6:40 again, the same time we did it for the Double. But this time we did the Nose at night, starting at 11:30 pm. The Nose at night is not what most people would think; it was incredibly hot and sweaty, and we could have used more water. The sun came up when we were on the final pitches, and we tagged that tree just after 6 am. 

“An hour later we reached El Cap meadow, and Michelle was waiting (again) with hot coffee, coconut water, and bubbly water.” 

Nick on the summit of Mt Watkins. Photo: Jooste

Continued Jooste, “We started up the death slabs at 7:50 am and knew we had 9 hours to complete the mission to go sub 24. We didn’t know if our bodies would fail on the approach or on the route, so we hiked incredibly fast to keep up the momentum. We got to the base in 1.5 hours, immediately racked up, started up Half Dome, and reached the top in 4:50. Once again, Michelle was waiting for us on top, this time with chicken, steak, chips, and bubbly water. Our total time was 21:35.” 

“From there, we took the Mist Trail down to reach Camp 4. That was incredibly difficult with all the sleep deprivation we had going on,” Danford says. 

Their splits for the Triple Crown were: South Face of Mt. Watkins: 3:40, the Nose: 6:40, RNWF of Half Dome: 4:50.

Lead photo: Danford Jooste