Yosemite Part Deux
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
57Trip End May 2010
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We returned from San Francisco with our hearts back into climbing. In fact, even the journey to Yosemite was interesting. We picked up a ride through Craigslist at 7am. Our driver: Dave, a musician and ex bass player for many bands over the years, including INXS. The other passenger: Boswell, a spirited transient on his way to Yosemite to help rig a slack line up across Lost Arrow Spire next to Yosemite Falls. He had a buddy, Andy Lewis, who was attempting a back flip on the near 255-foot line. Scary! We would later run into Boswell in scattered locations about the valley and hear of his aid and free climbing adventures, mostly with folks who didn't speak English.
Reenergized and reinvigorated, we returned with a tick-list of climbs we hoped to get on:
- Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire
· East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock
· East Buttress on El Capitan
· Snake Dike on Half Dome
· Royal Arches
· Serenity to Sons of Yesterday on Royal Arches
· Brail Book on Higher Cathedral Rock
Our biggest challenge in ticking these off was the weather. Yosemite is usually dry and sunny this time of year, but we got hit with an unusually early monsoon. Thankfully, the almost daily showers hadn’t been too bad to keep us off the rock entirely, but the climbs remaining on our list were all longer routes. It would require both dedication and a little luck to get any of them accomplished.
We were able to climb the Regular Route on Higher Cathedral Spire almost right away. The approach was steep and long for Yosemite, but the climbing was anything but regular. In order to maintain 5.9 or easier moves, the route meanders back and forth on the spire, creating amazing exposure at times.
Higher Cathedral Spire is the pointy spire on the right-hand side in the background
We hit some of the 5.9 variation pitches, including the second pitch, what was the original way up the route but is now traversed. This pitch was a VERY stout 5.9 with flaring cracks and slick roofs. Ben loved it!
Lindsey loving the exposure on the traverse pitches (Higher Cathedral Rock in the background)
Lindsey making her mountaineer's pose on the summit of the spire (other climbers in the background)
Ben with a fine shit-eating grin on the summit spire with El Cap in the background
The forecast kept calling for 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am every day, however. The weatherman didn’t know what was going to happen with the weather and neither did we. We have climbed in the rain plenty of times before, so if the weather did decide to do the daily sprinkle on us, we figured we could probably hack it.
We finally committed one morning and rose at 4:15am to get on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. Compared to the spires, this approach was relatively short and straightforward. We approached in twilight and arrived at the base at 5:30am. Lindsey’s contact fell out at the base of the climb, but with a little saliva, Ben’s encouragement, and El Cap in view, she put it back in and off we went.
The East Buttress on Middle Cathedral Rock is a 1100 foot route in the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. At 5.10c, you can aid the delicate crux slab moves and make the route go at 5.9 A0. The remaining 10 pitches alternate between 5.8 and 5.7 and a little 5.9 here and there.
Lindsey making her way up
Ben on the slabby crux pitch with Lower Cathedral Spire in the background. Ben chose not the aid the crux pitch but he took a nice, clean, safe fall at the crux!
The climbing went fast and smoothly, but despite our early rise and fast pace, we got hit with a little rain and hail on the final pitch, a 5.7 chimney. It wasn’t too bad though, and we topped out.
Lindsey, a little damp, stoked to finish the last pitch
On the descent, you have to rappel three times in the gully where Middle Cathedral and Higher Cathedral rocks meet. We got hit with a bunch of rain then too, but made it down just fine. We found out later, however, that a guy fell off the cables on Half Dome in the weather and died.
The descent gully, looking a little ominous
Soaked and stoked to be down! Our camera wasn’t too happy however!
A couple days later, when we ran out of camping days at Camp 4 and thus were forced to leave, we got a backcountry permit to bivvy at the base of Half Dome and the next morning we climbed Half Dome via Snake Dike.
The approach to Snake Dike is known to be the crux of the route. There was lots of routefinding and scrambling up and across slabs for nearly two hours in our case.
Snake Dike is known both for its long run-outs (up to 130 feet and usually only one bolt per pitch), easy climbing, and the characteristic formation in the rock. With smooth granite on either side, featured runnels nearly two feet wide protrude from the surface and wind up the side of the dome like a snake.
Lindsey cruising across one of the dikes with Yosemite Valley (including Yosemite Falls) in the background
After 8 pitches of easy climbing, you get to walk 3rd-class slabs forever. And we mean forever!!
Ben heading towards the crowds at the summit
The only descent off Half Dome is to walk down the cables with all the other hikers. We put our climbing gear to use to make our descent even safer.
It took 1 hr 20 mins to go down the cables, something that can take only 10 minutes if everything goes smoothly. There were a few hesitating people. (line down the cables)
Our good friend, Dave Snow, whom joined up in Smith Rock at the start of our climbing road trip joined us in Yosemite too! He’s really strong at sport climbing, so we thought we’d give his crack-climbing skills some practice. We saved the Serenity to Sons of Yesterday climb for him.
Dave stylin' some sick aid moves at Cookie Cliff
Serenity is a 5.10d, three pitches, that we climbed earlier. The only way to get to Sons of Yesterday, six more pitches at 5.10a, is to climb Serenity first. It’s a popular route and we didn’t get our usual early start, so we had to wait at the base for a while.
Never had we seen so many parties on the same climb!
Unfortunately, a super-sweet girl from the Curry Village store was climbing ahead of us and fell off the crux moves of Serenity. She injured her ankle pretty badly and we went into rescue mode. Thankfully, she’s doing much better now.
Ashley leading up the first pitch (which we still think is the crux pitch despite it's grade!)
We continued up the route after her fall and enjoyed pitch after pitch of stellar crack systems.
Ben jamming up the most difficult pitch of Sons of Yesterday
Ben and Dave having tons of fun on the rock!
While we didn’t hit everything on our tick list, we did manage to get in 86 pitches on 38 routes! All were magical. Here’s the finally tally:
Middle Cathedral Rock
· East Buttress, 11 pitches, 5.10c or 5.9 A0*
· Central Pillar of Frenzy, 5 pitches, 5.9*
Lower Cathedral Rock
· Unnamed but Beautiful, 5.10c*
· Mac Daddy, 5.11a*
· 76 Degrees, 5.10c
· End of the Line, 5.10c
Higher Cathedral Spire
· Regular Route, 5 pitches, 5.9*
· Snake Dike, 8 pitches, 5.7 R*
El Capitan Base
· La Cosita Left, sandbagged 5.7
· A fine list of 10s and 11s at the base of Schultzy's Ridge
· 5.9 crack and chimney to Wheat Thiin
· Gripper, 2 (or 3) pitches, stout 5.10b
· Harry Daley, 2 pitches, 5.8*
· Chinouard’s Crack, 5.8
· Some fun 5.10c R slab climb
· Goodrich Pinnacle, 7 pitches, 5.9 R*
· Reed’s Direct, 4 pitches, 5.10a*
Five Open Books
· The Commitment, 3 pitches, 5.9*
· Lemon, 5.9
· Jamcrack, 2 pitches, 5.9*
· Right of Lazy Bum, 5.10c
· Lazy Bum, 5.10d*
· Bishop’s Terrace, 2 pitches, 5.8*
· Pretty much all of the other pitches
· Aid Route, 5.11a
· Lieback Fun, 5.9
· Some other cool 5.9 finger crack
*Routes we’d highly recommend
Leaning Tower and Bridalveil Falls
Link to many, many more pictures from Yosemite here: