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Yosemite 2010

September 28, 2010

Months ago I signed on to the Yosemite reservation site and booked a cabin for 6 in housekeeping.  Slowly plans fell into place: people, plane tickets, car reservations, and simple logistics.  We’d have a week in Yosemite to plug gear and get high up on the walls.

September 8th

Wednesday night I drove Blue up to my sisters and returned to Philadelphia for some last minute packing and beer drinking. I left Philadelphia for San Jose on Thursday around noon. The flight through Houston was fine though I didn’t get to sleep as I was hoping but I did get a chicken enchilada.  Once in San Jose I was talked into upgrading to the Chevy Tahoe.  It seemed like a bargain for $10 more a day (not including inevitable extra fuel).  I quickly learned how to handle the behemoth, which required I physically had to climb into.  I took 101 straight into San Francisco and found Aaron Ilika and a parking spot.  I caught up with Aaron, Anna and Neus over a few beers in the apartment and crashed out for the night.

Friday September 10th

Aaron and Anna had some work to take care of so I set out on foot across San Francisco. The weather was cool and hot at the same time.  I headed straight down to the municipal pier, watched some sea lions swim with swimmers, the eccentric homeless (or just simply challenged) cruise the side walks and the tourists gawk at Alcatraz atop their segways.  Around noon I took the brutal hill up Broad Street back, I definitely broke a sweat.  We took Neus to the park, had a Crunchy taco Nick’s way, saw machete and checked out some bars, Thai food and the porn at Kozy Kar before retiring early on a Friday night.

Saturday September 11th.

Saturday morning I packed up the Tahoe and drove back down to the San Jose Airport to pick up Don and Kathi. We did a round of grocery shopping before picking up Russ and hitting the road.   We rendezvoused with Lino along the highway and repack the cooler. Along the way we stopped for almonds, peaches and sweet corn. The park pass worked and we headed straight to Housekeeping. Once we unpacked the truck a bit and loaded the bear box we were ready to hit the swan slabs. I tried some un identified line with 3 bolts.  I ended up needing to pull on gear to get to the beefy but fun crack above.  The experience was a good learning experience, I’d be pulling on draws hand over hand again soon enough.  We headed back to camp and made plans for the next day over dinner.

Sunday September 12th

Lino had spent the night at another camp site so we left him a note and had Don drop Russ and I at the Church Bowl.  After stumbing around looking for Bishop’s Terrace, Lino met us just before we headed up. Of note, the route starts right at the park bench.  The 3 of us cruised the route in 2 pitches. Russ had no problems on pitch one and pitch 2 was a great double hand crack, not unlike Phoebos up in Tuolumne.   Lino took his turn leading up Church Bowl Layback.  We left the crowds, gumbies and falling rocks and headed over to Kor Beck. A 7 pitch 5.9 at Middle Cathedral.  We intended on doing just the first three pitches and that’s all that we did. Lino went up the first pitch, russ and a I followed. I took the 2nd which was a bit of a workout but not too bad.  Eyeing the 3rd Russ and Lino handed the lead back off to me. I did well up to the roof and started having problems. The gear was fine but I still fought tooth and nail not to hang. Eventually taking a rest in the alcove and grabbing the cams a few times.  Laying back the crack through the roof wasn’t working for me so I pulled around to the face and found a bolt. Not too bad really. I clipped the bolt and headed up some run out face to the anchor. From there we bailed. Back at Camp Tommy LD found us and we had dinner and a few beers over the fire.

Monday September 13th.

Lino and I headed to the Five Open Books crag.  The other teams beat us to the climbs despite a head start, we got lost and spent some time watching bucks wrestle on the path.  Lino and I headed up the Caverns. A fun route with a memorable hand crack and a wide chimney to dance over on the 4th pitch. We were able to rappel the route to the right using two 60s.  Aside from the ants at the 2nd belay stop this was a good option. It still didn’t get us down quick enough though. I missed Don and Kathi on the ground and Lino had to head out. I stole the keys from Don’s back pack and left a note. I walked around a bit, used the bathrooms and found Russ and Tommy LD at the Swan Slabs.  Tommy had a rope set up over Grant’s Crack and the thin face to the right.  I top roped a bit and did a fun boulder problem with a super slippery layback, not that different from the one I flailed on Kor-Beck.

Tuesday September 14th

Don and I woke up early and headed to Middle Cathedral to the East Buttress, one of the 50 Classics.  On the way in we found ourselves following a Bear in the dark. Occasionally it would stop and look our way waiting for us to scream and yell at it. We took the climbers trail up and promptly lost the trail in the dark. Fortunately we were still first on the route. Another team headed up right behind us. I ran up the first pitch and Don took the next, getting the #4 stuck. I swore up and down at the thing.  I left it for the party behind us for the sake of speed.  Their leader couldn’t get it out but the follower was able to save it.  A few more pitches later I found out what kind of idiot overcams a #4….this idiot. Before I even put it where it was intended the crack grabbed the lobes and squeezed down with my fingers fully retracting them.  I knew instantly I’d fucked up and began banging with the nut tool.  Don suggested I leave the tool on the piece and continue (having forgotten his nut tool). I thought he suggested I USE the nut tool which I was already doing and I responded to his snarky suggestion with an eye roll and dufus face.  The joke was on me though because nobody got the #4 out that day.  The route went well otherwise. I took the bolt ladder variation, confident in my draw pulling skills from my practice on Aid Route at Swan Slab. The roof was also tricky but I was able to pull on a fixed Forged Friend and make my way through.  I don’t think it spoils the route, I just pulled on about 10 draws in a row anyway.  Somewhere along the way Don decided to take a detour but we were able to get back on route and stay ahead of the pack.  I took the 5.9/5.10a crack at the top of the climb, on the last pitch, over the flared 5.7 grove.  It was a fun way to finish a great long day. We topped out before 3 and had our smashed bagels and drank up.  The decent involves going over the top, staying left and looking for some cairns, leading us down into a gully wash. 2 rapples with the Austrians got us down pretty quickly.  Foolishly we tried to find the way we had approached the climb in the morning and ended up in some bad boulders. I scrapped my legs up pretty good at this point.  I have some nice scabs to pick at now.  Don and I relaxed the rest of the day.

Wednesday September 15th

We decided it was time for a rest day but I was determined to make the most of my trip. I decided to do the Half Dome hike with Russ.  Some how this took us over 12 hours to get back to the camp site.  I was left pretty sore, dehydrated and sun burned. My feet now had blisters.  Still, I can’t say anything bad. The view from atop Half Dome is amazing, especially considering how clean the air was that day. We could see over the valley and out into the sierras past Tuolumne. Climbers topped out the North West Face and I lounged around plenty while waiting for shutterbug-Russ to catch up.  I graciously at the rest of the food in the pot and quickly racked up for a long day with Tommy.  There was still time for a few beers before crawling into bed before 10:00.

Thursday September 16th

El Cap- East Buttress.

At 5 AM the alarm went off and Tommy and I rushed ourselves out of camp after a coffee infusion.  The approach was tedious up the scree and boulders.  I felt the fatigue in my legs after the previous day’s hike.  The scree “stairs” end at the base of El Cap at a smooth steep section of the.  I looked up to see small rivets that lead seemingly nowhere.  There were definitely people above us, maybe on Lurking Fear and other routes.  We headed of right to the end of the trail and the obvious start of the route.  We bouldered up to the higher belay stance, which was a bit trickier than I anticipated in approach shoes with the backpack on. I sucked it up and nestled in to the notch.  Tommy fired up the first pitch in style. The pack remained troublesome on the chimneys, I hung it from my harness on the first pitch. The climbing went really fast.  I lead the 5.10 section with little trouble. It’s protected well from above with a fixed nut above the belay and cams fit nicely in the pin scars.  The airy 5.9 face bit that tommy lead was intimidating and I was glad to have followed. The 5.8 angled crack traverse gave me pause but went down fine. There is plenty of opportunity for high exposure and great views of the Valley and the routes on the east side of El Cap.  We topped out a bit before 3:00PM and began looking for the east decent ledges.  We were about to consult the Supertopo photocopy when we saw someone coming our way. It was Chris McNamara (mr. Supertopo and author of the guide book) carrying an oversized haul bag and trekking poles.  He pointed us in the right direction and told us the fixed ropes were fine for rapping on.  He said he was heading up to Zodiac.  He was really personable and unassuming.  The decent went well except for the overheating of our ATCs on the long rappels. HOT.   We got down with no water left and cruised back to the camp site. I did some laundry, walked around curry village and ate some pizza by myself, finishing the night off with lots more beer.

Friday September 17th

Russ and I decided to head up Nutcracker but were stymied by the long line that had formed before 9AM. We chose to do After 6. A fun romp up mostly 5.5 and lower climbing. The first pitch was a fun 5.7 and it features lots of wide belay ledges. The blisters on my feet were finally giving in. It was time to call it a day when clear yellow liquid kept juicing out of the corn kernels that formed on my heels. There was quite the crowd at the manure pile.  The number of gumbies lined up and flailing on the routes beats the gunks hands down.  Russ and I headed to curry village and enjoyed some burritos and quesadillas.  The rest of the day involved beer, sun, photography and half a bottle of bottom self bourbon.

Saturday September 18th

Our last day in the park started with a 6AM wake up. Don and Kathi got up and headed to Central Pillar of Frenzy. I stumbled out of bed and realized I was still drunk, unable to form a sentence and dying of thirst.  I went back to sleep and scrapped my plans to give nutcracker another ago.  We had a lazy morning cleaning and packing up. Tommy and his friend left their food in our bear box.   Don and Kathi weren’t back by 11 so Russ and I walked to the Ahwahnee hotel for lunch.  When returned to housekeeping around 1:00 Don and Kathi weren’t back yet.  It wasn’t long before the staff came by with a pick up truck to clean out our stuff.  Russ and I were instructed to get our crap out and too the curb.  We parked up our belongings and brought everything out of the cabin and waited for Don and Kathi to finish their near epic.  Apparently 2 ropes are required to rap Central Pillar and they were forced to wait for another party.  We tried to find Tommy LD and after some headscratching left his food and #4 in the Ahwahnee bear box before hitting the road.

We dropped Lino’s cooler and stove off in his house and found a hotel in downtown Oakland.  Oakland is the Camden of San Francisco, however we were able to find a good time. After a few high octane beers at the Trappist we found some dive with a dj.  A few more drinks and the four of us were dancing.  At last call we wandered the streets, yelling and knocking things over in good style.  I supposed Don and Russ ordered a pizza though we were all asleep when it was delivered to our hotel.  Rough night.

Sunday September 19th.

We had brunch at cock-a-doodle Café with Aaron and Anna before checking out and returning the car.  I took a redeye through Phoenix and failed to sleep until I got home Monday morning.  I was still a bit sore and had plenty of scratches to pick at.

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From → Yosemite

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