Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yosemite Valley

El Capitan, the crown of American rock

Before winter had even hit Anchorage, I had a craving for warm weather. Perhaps it was due to the THREE days of "summer" we had that hit 70 degrees, perhaps it was just a desire to climb in Yosemite. Either way, I HAD to go.

I went down there with plans to meet my buddy Travis, who had hitched a ride over from Jackson, Wyoming. As I walked into the parking lot of Camp 4, I saw my friend Ben from Anchorage. It was totally random, but great to see a familiar face right off the bat. We didn't waste any time and hopped right on the classic Nutcracker, a four-pitch 5.8.
The feel of beautiful, warm granite under my hands and feet was euphoric.

Trav seconding on Munginella, a sweet 5.6 warm-up!

Travis showed up the next day and we got right to it. My buddy Nick Parker listed off a few of the classics I had to do when I was in the Valley, and we started with a nice, simple warm-up on Munginella, a five-pitch 5.6 on a rock formation called the Five-Open Books. We did a lot of climbing on this formation, as it had a high concentration of four to six-pitch routes in the 5.8-5.9 range.

The third pitch of Munginella, with Lost Arrow Spire in the background

Some sweet chimney action...a little runout on After 7, a popular 5.8

The days were spent climbing with an incredible backdrop of the visual wonders of Half Dome, Lost Arrow Spire, El Capitan and the Cathedral Spires.

Trav with the Cathedral Spires as a backdrop

On a rainy day we hiked up to the base of El Capitan to the North American Wall route. Rain ran off the wall, but fell over 100 feet into the about steep. This section was overhanging!!!

Hiking around under El Capitan

The classic Royal Arches was a fun and moderate route that put us up high above the valley. The hustle-bustle of activity below was quelled by the clinking of carabiners and cams. Bishop's Terrace was undoubtedly the best 5.8 I've ever climbed. It had a little bit of everything from fingers to hands (lots of hands) to a wide section that had me hopping up my lone #4 camalot.

Setting up the rappel atop Bishop's Terrace. It was a beautiful and HOT day

A great guy from Wales named Matt spent a lot of time climbing with us. He and I tried to get on the South Face of Washington's Column but got turned around by crowds, so no big wall for us this time. Oh well. We cracked a beer from our haul-bag on a ledge and watched the sun set on the northwest face of Half Dome.

Sorting and packing gear before our attempt on Washington's Column

Matt and I on Washington's Column with Half Dome in the background

A little sacrifice for the friends we wished were with us

We met many great people from all over the world and had almost as much fun sitting around the crackling fires at Camp Four as we did climbing. It seemed as if half of Alaska was down in the Valley when we were there. I think I met 14 people I knew!

Aside from climbing a lot, we got to do a lot of other cool stuff. We watched Hans and Yuji smash their speed record of the Nose, climbing the whole route in just over 2:35 minutes.

Hans and Yuji on their record-breaking run up the Nose

The Sentinel at sunset

On another day we bailed off of the Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral Peak after the weather started heading south. We headed back over to El Cap and played around on the biggest rope swing I've ever seen. Nothing says 'fun' like swinging nearly 200 feet over the forest in front of El Capitan!

Me leading up the first pitch of the Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral

We were having a good time at this belay!

On the Central Pillar of Frenzy before the weather closed in. The East Buttress of El Cap is in the background

Matt and I on the Central Pillar

Swinging high and far on the El Cap rope swing as the snow starts to fall

Me taking the big swing

Another swing from my point of view, this one had a harder landing

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. Of course, just when my trip was winding down was when I was starting to feel really strong and comfortable. Oh well, next year!

Trav and I finished our trip on a five-pitch route called Super Slide, a great 5.9 on the Arches.

Trav making his way up Super Slide

Trav and I at the top of Superslide on our last day in Yosemite. You've gotta love his fishing hat!