Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yosemite Valley, June 11-12

I've wanted to get back to the valley for a while, and Scott and I had a free weekend overlapping.  Scott is a fellow PG Belmont climber who can lead seriously hard routes while ingesting only two Lara bars a day.  To complement him, I get nervous leading relatively easy climbs, and require huge amounts of food while climbing.  I figured worst comes to worst, I'll just follow Scott and eat a big block of cheese.  Saturday started bright and early hiking the steep (1500' in .8 mi) trail up to the Regular Route (5.9) on Higher Cathedral Spire.  The ascent felt suspiciously short as we veered off the talus slope left to the base of the spire. A cross etched into the rock marks the base of the climb, but snow was covering much of where such a feature could be.  Compound that with ambiguous rock features approximately matching the topo, and we eventually made the somewhat skeptical decision this was probably right, so I took the sharp end.

I quickly found out that this climb was going to suck as the right facing layback was wet, mossy and filled with dirt.  My calves were burning as I placed each piece, and I struggled through the steep smeary laybacks until I was within 15 feet of the belay.  At that point, I had enough terrifying wet-foot-slippage, so I lowered off a cam and gave the lead to Scott.  If we were on the right climb, this was not your average 5.5 first pitch as the guidebook told us.

Scott was also quite nervous, but finished with general ease.   While following, I took a surprising fall on one of the wet layback sections I had lead through before Scott.  The fact that it would have been a disaster had I fallen there on lead was upsetting, and lead to my newfound hatred for wet laybacks.  Upon reaching Scott at the bolts, the complaining started as we mocked the awful climb.  This gave away to a quick survey of the terrain ahead, which we conceded looked terrible and mossy, and almost certainly not the route we intended to climb.  We dejectedly rapped down, and retreated to the car.
What climb is this??
We later found out that we totally botched the approach, and we ended up climbing some obscure route with an unknown grade.  Regardless, it was mid day, and we were determined to get some more climbing in, so we made way to Pat and Jack's for some cragging.  The mosquitoes were out in full-force when we reached the base, and Scott roped up for Knuckleheads (10b).  The rock here is composed of large knobs and slopey protrusions as opposed to the Valley's normally clean faces.  Scott struggled his way up the climb, disliking the awkward big moves, and I followed.  Afterward, we searched for another climb, but crowds forced us to find a new crag, and Cookie Cliff was calling our names for redemption of what was appearing to be a lost day.
Scott rapping on Catchy
We did a nice 5.9 crack, Meatgrinder, then Catchy, a stellar 10d thin hands to fingers crack.  Scott was pushing his trad leading on Catchy, and thus took a while at the crux at the top.  Meanwhile, I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes, still pissed off about my botched lead in the morning.  He lowered off around 8:15 pm, and I took a burn on TR, earning a slice of happiness by powering through the steep jams.

We had plans to meet fellow Planet Granite climbers Erica and Justin at the Ahwahnee at 8:30 for dinner, and were a bit late at this point.   The Ahwahnee is the epicenter of outdoor enthusiast stratification in Yosemite; it feels strange to wash my dirt-covered face and arms in the bathroom sink with guys dressed in suits waiting behind me.  The food in the cafe is quite tasty, and we had a good time recounting the day's adventures before heading back to get some sleep.

Sunday morning was more relaxed, but we were determined to get a long route done, so we headed up to the Five Open Books to get on Caverns (5.8).  After putting my pack down at the base, I felt some pain in my toe, and undid my sandal to realize a dime sized blister had popped on my right pinky toe.  Damn.  We waited for a party to get off the first belay, then headed up, with one scare when someone above us dropped a carabiner that nearly hit my head while Scott was pulling through the first pitch crux.  The climb was filled with fun laybacks, some of which were wet and slimy giving me flashbacks of the day before.
Scott peering into the "cave" at pitch 4 (5.7).  It is hard to believe people like leading unprotected chimneys like this.
We finished the climb, and realized our planned ascent of Selaginella (5.8) would entail us getting home at 3 or 4 am.  After the unpredictablility of this trip, we decided that wouldn't be prudent, so we headed down the steep and wet descent.
It was quite the wet descent coming back from Five Open Books.
Upon arriving at Lower Yosemite Falls, I decided I needed lead climbing redemption more than a band-aid on my dirt-caked blistered foot.  We headed back up, and I lead the first pitch (5.8) of Commitment, which offered steep thin hands in the beginning, giving away to lower angled hands higher up.  I was stoked to nab my first 5.8 lead in the Valley, and thus I felt ready to head back to the Bay Area content with the weekend of climbing.

In all, we (re)learned an important lesson this trip.  If you want it bad enough, you can find whatever you want when matching topos to rock features.  Next time, we'll read the approach beta more carefully.

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