Reflection on a Yosemite Summer

by We didn't write this

I know, I know, its been a while since I’ve blogged.  You poor fellas have probably been thurstier for this post then the island people of Fuji, who ironically dont have access to clean drinkin water (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Fuji exports all its water, but the natives are thursty

So if I haven’t been bloggin, what have I been doing?  Good question.

Iv been splittin my time between the worst place on earth (Rancho Cordova, CA), and one of the best, Yosemite.

I kicked off my Yosemite season in May. With only a handful of trad leads under my belt, Yosemite sketched me out.  I would shake my way up 5.9 cracks, death gripping the slippery granite, instantly regretting getting on the sharp end.

As the summer progressed, things got better.  I got better at placing gear, I took several trad falls, and learned anchors and tactics.

I think the turning point of the summer was somewhere in July.  After a night of very heavy drinkin with Steinchilber, Walker picked me up for a weekend of cragging at Donner.  Too hungover to make a decent effort on any sport climbs, I borrowed Walker’s 10 piece rack and asked him to belay me on an 11c finger crack.

He wasn’t really down and tried to convince someone else to set a toprope on the climb for us.  I didn’t want to look like a pussy and convinced him to belay me. I onsighted the crack.  Then, I onsighted the 12a crack next to it.  Then, I tried, ground up, the infamous 13a Star Wars crack, taking several trad whippers.  In this single day, I took my trad game from super gumbie to Tommy Caldwell.    In the words of JoeKindKid, I was SIIIKEEED!!!

While my gear placement skillz seemed OK, I was still scared shitless on multipitch.  This was quickly cured as well.  I made plans to work the 13c redpoing crux of the salathe wall on toprope.  Soon, I was rapelling off the top of the Salathe, 3000 feet off the deck.  We got caught in a thunderstorm and I had to jumar to the top of el cap with rain and sideways wind.  Exposure was no longer an issue (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Exposure on the top of the Salathe Wall

The next weekend I got a text from Walker.  “Dude… lets do Half Dome.”  At first, I was hesitant.  Then I said fuck it, spent $1020 on a set of cams and went for it.

A few days later, Walker and I found ourselves at the parking lot of Half Dome.   We nerviously ripped tags and instructional manuals off 19 new cams purchased a few hours earlier and hiked to the base.   The next day we summited Half Dome with me leadin 22 out of 23 pitches (Figure 2.5).

Figure 2.5: Half Dome

The feat seemed incredible.  After all, only a handfull of weeks earlier, I would tremble at the thought of any trad lead, let alone 22 in a row up the 2nd most impressive wall in the valley.  Really though, it was chill.  Half Dome is mostly 5.9, and we french freed anything harder.

The rest of the summer was spent climbing trad in Tuolumne.  After exclusivley sport climbin since the age of 8, I totally switched gears and became a total traddie, scoffing at the thought of clipping bolts.  I took many trad falls, climbed many cracks, and never sent anything harder than 12a.  My 8a plummeted, but my spirits soared.

As the summer turned into fall, we attempted many Yosemite test pieces.  We climbed major Yosemite monoliths, like Cathedral and the  up the 17 pitch 11c Chounard Herbert up the Sentinel Rock (Figure 3).

Sentinel Rock, A Close Look - Yosemite National Park, California

Figure 3: Sentinel Rock.  Chounard herbert goes up the middle

My confidence was up high.  I felt like I could do any climb.  I was the shit.

The wakeup call came soon.  Walker and I made plans to do the Nose and started our climb in the dark at 5am.  After 7 hours we made it 14 pitches up, to the top of el cap tower, passing the only party above us to become kings of the wall.  However, we quickly realized that we didn’t have enough water to make it to the top, and bailed sketchily with only a sinlgle rope and 40 meters of cordilette.  The worst part was that the party who’s process we impeeded by passing on the way up, was impeeded once again by our sketchy bail.

The next weekend the fail grew even greater.  I made plans to climb the relativley small 11 pitch Astroman with a friend from North Carolina.  We barely made it 4 pitches up before bailing, once again holding up the party below.

With 2 fails in a row, all the previous achievements seemed very far in the past.  Mostly, I was tiered of leading the pushes on multipitch routes.  I wanted to climb with a partner who could pull his share of the work, not someone who I had to baby up routes.

Walker answered every wish I had.  The next weekend, him and I climbed the amazin 8 pitch Rostrum, in 7 hours only taking a few falls.  I led 5 out of 8 pitches, but he was clearly gettin better.  Two weekends later, Walker and did the Astroman Rostrum linkup, topping out Astroman (Figure 4) with only a few falls and sending the rostrum.

Figure 4: Walker leading the 5th pitch of Astroman, aproaching the Harding Slot.

Figure 5: Walker racking for Astroman

On our send of the rostrum, things really came together.  Walker, who previously was a pretty slow trad leader, sacked up, led the crux offwidth pitch and established himself as a very solid partner.  The next weekend, while I wanked around in the valley, Walker led 17 pitches of Half Dome in 10 hours.

So yeah, its been a sick season.  And, we are going to finish it off in style.  At midnight this Friday, Walker and I are going for our second try on the nose.  In the context of Walker’s newly honed trad leading abilities, I am going to be the slower partner because I suck at jugging.  We plan on reaching our high point, the 14 pitch high El Cap Tower at Sunrise, and then pushing to the top before sundown.

So what does this all mean?  I guess a large part of me is psyched that the first time I saw the sheer, vertical 3000 foot face of el capitan, I thought “there is just no fucking way in hell that I will EVER climb that” and now, I have a concrete plan to top it out in under 24 hours this Saturday.

The other part of me, however, is ready to fucking climb something harder than 5.9….