Sunday, July 6, 2014

Yosemite: Farewell to California

Taking it all in....
Between packing up our little apartment, trying to sell most of our furniture on craigslist, finishing up my final rotation working with the podiatric surgical team at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, getting things in order for graduation, getting things in line for working in Seattle, saying goodbye to all of our friends and trying to find a replacement for our apartment management job, I decided I needed to throw a Yosemite climbing trip into the mix before I left. I planned the trip a few months back knowing that getting a reservation and pulling a group together takes some early planning. I was able to get a crew of friends from Utah together and got on some awesome climbs.

Day 1: Bishop’s Terrace
I traveled down from Oakland and arrived late afternoon, meeting up with Dan Nelson and Bretterick (Brett) Briggs. I knew Dan from high school and from my undergraduate program. Since moving to California he was introduced to climbing by Brett and has become quite a crusher. They also introduced me to some USU guys that had just spent the previous three days climbing “The Nose”, the classic line up El Capitan. I hopped on a glorious hand crack line in the Church Bowl area call Bishop’s Terrace. It was a beautiful climb. From the top of the route the views of the valley were breathtaking (not a term I use loosely). It was a good shorter route to test out my still numb toes that had only stopped aching the day before (see previous Mt. Whitney post for explanation).  They managed ok. We spent the first two night in Camp 4, the only first come first serve campground in the valley.

Day 2: Central Pillar of Fenzy (CPOF)
In order to get a valid spot to sleep in Camp 4 you have to get in line insanely early to ensure that you get one of the limited spots. I spent the night before sleeping under a haul bag next to Dan and Brett’s tent to hide from the rangers and got up at 5:40am to get in line in hopes of getting a spot for the next night. I ended up being number 32 of 38 spots that became available. It looked like some of the group had been in line sleeping there all night.

Dan starting up CPOF.
After the Camp 4 mess was over, 10:30am, Dan and I decided to go and get on the 5 pitch CPOF located on the Middle Cathedral rock formation across from El Capitan. We got to the base to find a slow group part way up the first pitch and another group waiting in line to get on the route. We hung out for 2.5 hrs waiting to get on the climb. During the time we witnessed a ranger confiscate a backpack because it had food in it at the base of the climb. The rangers are trying to teach the animals that backpacks aren't associated with food. They told us a story of a mother bear who, over the course of a few years, lost 6 of her 7 cubs while crossing the road traveling to the base of three different climbs because she knew she could get food from the packs.
Once we started climbing things were great! Dan led 3 of the 4 pitches. The climbing was fantastic. My pitch consisted of a thin finger to hand sized crack, which isn’t my strong point. I took a bit longer than I should have but made it up without any problems. Dan burned through the remaining pitches linking pitch 3 and 4. By the end of the climb my toes were SCREAMING in pain! That thin crack was rough.

Day 3: East Buttress of Middle Cathedral
After moving all of our stuff to our non-electric RV campsite (it was the last one available) Dan and I decided to go after the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral. This route was a 10 pitch 5.10b route and had it all from awesome crack, overhanging cruxes, spicy face climbing and fantastic views. We arrived at the climb and got on the rock around 11am, only able to hear a group ahead of us in the distance. I lead every other pitch and made Dan do the hard ones. I only took one fall on top rope when I blew out a foot while reaching into a finger crack to pull the difficult overhang. Everything went smooth and the decent was quick with new anchors preventing us from needing to hike down a nasty gully. We were back on the ground in around 6.5hrs.
That night we met up with Spence and Annie who had just arrived. Spence is my main adventure buddy and his wife, Annie was about 7 months pregnant. What a trooper. It was great to catch up.

Dan aiding up the hard sport pitch. 

Beautiful rappel route. 
Dan dreaming of the day when he will conquer The Captain. 

A view of the Middle Cathedral as seen from the Sentinel.

Day 4: Steck-Salathe on the Sentinel

When I first invited Spence to make the 10hr trek over to Yosemite from Utah to climb with me he said, “if I come will you do this route with me?” Having done a lot of masochistic ventures with Spence that were my idea I felt I owed him one and also was hungry for another adventure. The day before I mentioned that I planning on climbing the Steck-Salathe route to a climbing ranger and her response was one of concern and she stated that she probably wouldn't do that one herself which wasn't comforting. The route was originally climbed in 1950 over 5 days and is one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America. It is rated today as a 5.10b and the 1600ft face is usually climbed in 16 pitches. We hit the trail at 6am and were at the base of the wall climbing by 7am. Spence had scoped the approach the day before and only got us off route once which is considered a big success in our book. 

Spence is completely stuck above me. 
Because it was Spencer's idea and he is such a strong climber I was completely ok with him leading every pitch and found myself being extremely glad that after following up all the ones that he did lead. Pitch after pitch of vertical wide crack sections were climbed. The "Wilson Overhang" was an awesome overhanging crack that was followed by a tight chimney that Spence got completely stuck in and had to retreat to the alternate flake variation. I lead the 10th "easy" 5.9 face pitch after Spence admitted that mentally he could really use a break. Somehow I got off route after being drawn to a rusty bolt and piton with sling attached, missing a fresh shiny bolt. I almost pulled a nasty ramp but luckily decided to retreat and got back on route. Note to self: if you find yourself climbing on thin moss on a climb that is regularly climbed, you are off route even if there is some crappy pro. I also was convinced to climb the famous "Narrows" pitch after Spence was again blown after doing the crux wide chimney pitch just prior. My pitch consisted of a crazy narrow (duh) chimney that required using dynamic chicken wings and all sorts of wiggling to get into the chimney without any feet. Multiple times during the climb it was so narrow that I could hold up my body weight by only holding a big breath which expanded my chest. I ended up leading another pitch further up which as should have been expected was harder than I thought it would be going into it, but I managed.

"The Overhang"

Enjoying the top rope.

Spence following up my face pitch. Notice the green lichen on the face to the left, yeah, that isn't on route....

Off width wallowing. Notice the effective chicken wing being used.

Enough with the off-width already!

Headed up "The Narrows" pitch. 
We topped out at 6pm with the sun still shining high in the sky which was a welcome sight knowing that odds were high that we could have ended up topping out in the dark. There was a fire pit on top showing that it probably happens quite frequently. We took a few summit pics and started the long hike down a rocky gully which we had also heard was quite unpleasant. It ended up being pretty straight forward which was welcome. We were back to camp by 8pm for dinner to the surprise of all of those waiting for us.

On the summit with a few hours of sunlight left!
Day 5: Rain.... 

We awoke to rain and overcast skies. Dan and Brett peaced out and headed back to Utah. I waited around a bit and made an attempt with the Weilers to get on Bishop's Terrace again since they had never done it. However we were shut down by a group of beginners that was already on it and while waiting we watch it start raining on them. I entertained the idea of spending the day hiking with Spence and Annie around Lake Hetch Hetchy but decided to head home because Kimber and I still had to get everything in order for my upcoming graduation, our move to Seattle and trip to Thailand which kept us hopping up until we ended up missing our flight to Thailand by 10 minutes.

It was a great trip! Even though I was only able to get one climb in with Spencer I think it was still a worthy Spence-Nate adventure.