Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yosemite v2.0 - Red Rocks - Joshua Tree

Days are short. Nights are cold. Sarah Palin has a new book out. These are desperate times. Times not to be reveled in.

Let us remember fonder days. Steep granite. The aroma of Manzanitas. Sarah Palin out of the headlines.

In mid October while getting my rock on in Yosemite, a massive torrent befell upon us. The majority fled to the safety of bars and other nefarious hideouts, while other brave souls took the tempest head on and remained in Camp 4. The papers proclaimed it "the worst storm in 50 years," perhaps they weren't too far off.

Fattened up from five days of Gramma Kluberton's cooking, I returned to the Valley with a fellow named Keegan. We promptly set out to experience the classic Serenity Crack-Sons of Yesterday. Tragically, we were beat out by a hoard of other climbers and only climbed Serenity Crack.

Hanging out under the great Muir Tree

Next we aimed our eager hands and Stealth rubber soles towards the looming Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock. The first half of the route was mine, Keegan would lead the chimneys. Despite an early start, we still had to wait for another party. The climbing was fun, solid and exposed...perfect. Racing light on the long route, we wasted no time. We caught up to the other team and waited a while, swearing to ourselves for lack of headlamps.

Keegan inching up the chimneys

On one of the upper pitches, Keegan's gear loop sheared off while he lurched upward. I heard a crashing followed by the terrifying sound of something heavy gaining momentum through the air. My body sucked against the rock and I assumed the turtle position, head low and down. Something exploded into my right hand with a pain that surely signaled shattered bones. It was then surprising to look up and see that I had blindly (and completely accidently I might add) caught the carabiner of nuts after an 80 foot free fall.

"DUDE, I dropped the nuts," Keegan said.
"Yeah, I know, I caught them," I yelled, cringed forward in pain.
"You got them?"
"NO, I CAUGHT them, and I think I broke my hand!!!"

Minutes later, it was apparent that my hand would be OK, and I seconded the rest of the route. We topped out in the dark and had an interesting descent, to say the least.

In the next week we mostly cragged, including routes such as Jamcrack, New Diversions, and the Central Pillar of Frenzy.

Joe karate kicking his way through Yosemite

Higher Cathedral Spire from the NEB of Higher Cathedral Rock

On a beautiful day, Steve, Joe, our new friend Leighan, and I had the time of our lives on the Regular Route of Higher Spire. This route is anything but regular. It was absolutely stellar! The climbing was never too hard, but the exposure and quality of climbing was incredible. The top out was surely one of the coolest summits I've ever been on as well. It was a great day with some of my best buds!

Steve coming up on the Higher Spire

Great view from the top of Higher Spire

Awesome climb, awesome summit, awesome friends!

Steve and I checked out Leaning Tower one day and practiced some aiding. Talk about exposure! We linked the first two pitches, so by the end I was certainly running low on biners.

Looking down on the first few pitches of leaning Tower

A fun 5.10 near the Arches

Joe took off for Peru, then Steve and I closed our Yosemite trip by running up the Snake Dike on Half Dome with our two British friends Matt and Sam.

We packed our stuff and put the pedal to the metal towards Red Rock in Nevada.
We didn't get on anything too big. More than anything, we wanted to recon for next time. Still, we got in some great cragging and did take a jaunt up the ultra classic Jorge and Joanne Urioste classic, Frogland.

Mister Master, a crazy overhanging Red Rock crack

Ragged Edges Cliff

Steve had a date with the Palisades and I still had a week left in my trip. Being the good friend he is, he drove me down to Joshua Tree and even got in a good day of climbing.

Alaskan local Paul Turecki finished my tattoo one day.

After a week of phenomenal climbing, it was time to head back to Alaska. Luck was on my side and I scored a ride all the way to San Fransisco with a nice guy named Mitch.

Of course, every trip has its ups and downs. You fail on some objectives and don't get on others you had wanted to. This trip, I pushed my boundaries and became a much better climber. As importantly, I got to experience it with some of my best friends and ultimately, that is what is really important to me in climbing.

Until next ROCKtober...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yosemite 2009 - Volume One

Ahhh Yosemite.

What a captivating and mystical place! A place that has and will continue to be an annual pilgrimage.

Having learned many of the intricacies and tricks of Yosemite last year, this trip has been a little easier. After camping on an old forest service road just outside of the park, Joe and I drove in at 3 AM and bivvied at the Camp Four kiosk. Since Camp Four is the only walk-in campground in the valley, it is a first-come first-served site only. I learned last year that it is imperative to get their early, since only the first few people get in during the crowded season. We set up shop under the kiosk at 4:15AM and it wasn't long before other hopefuls were waiting behind us.

Unfortunately my camera battery was dead for this initial time so there are very few shots of my friends. All photos came from them.

A lone climber waiting to gain access to the Shangri La that is Camp 4.

Camp 4, the central climber hangout in Yosemite.

After we registered and set up camp, it was off to the crags. A few warm ups on the Swan Slabs had us ready to tackle Commitment, an ubber classic Jim Bridwell 5.9 three-pitch climb at the Five Open Books.

Leading the crux pitch of Commitment

Joe, stoked as always!

We then met up with fellow Alaskans Rob and Lee to plan our climb the following day on the South Face of Washington's Column. An early morning jaunt to the base got our blood flowing. As expected, the route was already occupied by other hopeful senders and we were third in line despite our early awakening. Rob decided to bail, so Lee and I continued as a green duo. We made it to Dinner Ledge by late afternoon after MUCH waiting for other parties ahead of us. Optimally we would have fixed lines to pitch five, but we only fixed to the top of pitch four, just above the reachy bolt ladder on the Kor Roof.

Improvised poop tube. Don't ask.

Starting the second pitch

The next morning we awoke early but still had to wait in line for the party ahead of us to progress. The haul bag was left at the ledge and we pushed for another three pitches before calling it a day and retreating. It was just too slow and crowded. Oh well, we had a lot of fun and the climbing was exciting without being too hard.

Seconding through the Kor Roof

Jugging pitch six

The next day I basically chillaxified and hung out for most of the morning. In the afternoon I was doggedly convinced to climb Nutcracker with Joe and some other guys. I wasn't at all stoked, but slowly got in the mood as the climb progressed. Joe was super new to the trad game but led the crux fifth pitch mantel with ease. He did however drop one of my favorite pieces, the #2 Black Diamond C3, and it fell all the way to the base of the climb. Tisk Tisk, Joe!

The following morning we returned and were miraculously able to find it after hiking up a 3rd class gully. Booty!

A friend had his car broken into by a hungry bear. Bust out the duct tape!

After that I took Joe to another ubber classic, Bishop's Terrace. It might be my favorite 5.8 in the world! He seconded it like it was cake! Strong guy, that Joe! He quickly got the hand jam technique down and made it look easy.

Feeling strong and situated, Joe and I aimed our rope and rack at a bigger piece of stone, the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral.

Another early start and we were at the base by 7:30. We waited for the other even-earlier birds to get ahead and were on route by 8:30. Joe linked pitches one and two, then I linked three and four. Joe nailed the fifth pitch bolt ladder to 5.9 section...then dropped his belay device! JOE!!!!

We continued to the top with a bunch of stellar 5.7/5.8 pitches on superb rock. El Cap dominated the skyline behind us the entire time and the weather was utterly perfect. A few minutes looking for the descent trail and we were plodding down the mighty chasm between Higher and Middle Cathedral rocks. Three rappels brought us back to the trail and from there it was just a short walk to the car.

Lower Cathedral Spire

The forecast took a big nosedive with heavy rains and flood warnings for Tuesday and Wednesday so yesterday we packed up and bailed! Camp Four climbers scurried out like roaches when the lights go on and everyone evacuated in a mass climber exodus towards San Francisco and other Big City safe havens.

Joe and I dropped off our new friend Ian in Sacramento then bee-lined it back to San Francisco to warm beds and laundry at Grandma Kluberton's house in San Mateo. Back to the Valley as soon as the massive tempest lets up!