Tuesday, October 13, 2009
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!