My first Yosemite Valley climbing trip. Other than following Snake Dike years ago as a beginner, I'd been content kind of saving Yosemite Valley for the future; knowing I would want to spend a lot of time there once I started. I still kind of feel that way. Seems like the way it's been done historically. But I'm never going to get a summer, month, or even a full week there in reality.
Last week's stormy weather predictions for the High Sierra got us derailled into a Yosemite trip, and well, now it's all over....I can see I'll be trying to go there more often now. I think we did about 3000' of climbing in 3 days, of which every inch was super quality.
On wed we climbed the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. We did it the 5.9 A0 way, pulling on slings to climb the bolt ladder. Greg probably could have led the 10c face moves instead, but we just did it the original way. This is an 1100' climb mostly in the 5.7 and 5.8 range, with 2 short 5.9 moments. Included in the 50 classic N America climbs book, and rated 5 stars in Supertopo. Warren Harding first climbed this route in 1954. We took the alternate route mid-climb put up in 1961 by Chouinard and Hampel.
Greg has done these climbs and knows Yosemite Valley Climbing some. He assured me all of these climbs are going to form lines in the morning, and we need to be at the base as early as possible. Just at dawn basically. He was right.
No, our East Butt route is not the steep one in the center, it's the left edge of the mountain. It certainly felt steeper than it looks here though! The Cathedral Spires look sweet! must look into those...
Greg started us off and we swapped leads to the top. By the second pitch we could already hear voices below. the pic on the right is a ways up the climb where I'm pulling on gear slings to climb the bolt ladder. I continued over the 5.9 roof next, which was fun and not too hard.
On the next pitch Greg went over left to look at the original 5.7 Harding chimney route.
Finding big cams neccessary, he came back and went up the more popular right side route. This is some delicate face traversing and then excellent easy crack climbing for a few pitches.
2 Parties came up behind us, but didn't seem to be going any faster. We just slowed down by 30 minutes checking out the chimney variation. Sure is nice climbing first, who wants to look up at people and stress about their water bottle falling on you? Plus it's more fun to figure out where to go all on your own.
on the last pitch Greg took the 5.10a variation. We thought it was a little easier than that. I loved the lower elevation greenery I haven't seen on the high sierra climbs I've done this year. In Yosemite you go many pitches up granite walls and run into cool looking trees you would see in the front yard of your house in the foothills or even the city.
Greg checking out Upper Cathedral Rock before dropping down into the chasm in-between upper and middle.
Then 3 short raps from fixed stations leads you to 2nd class and the approach trail. You mean we don't have to hike 4 hours to get to this one? nope, that's Valley Climbing. Just as beautiful as going up high, way less approach time, but you gotta share the rock with other people. At least they are climbers! (Cool people)
Here is the approximate route of East Buttress Middle Cathedral Rock
That evening we went to Church Bowl and climbed a few one pitchers. I led Uncle Fanny 5.7 chimney, only getting up it because Greg pointed out a critical foothold to use. As I found many times over 3 days, if a pitch is rated 5.6, 5.7, 5.8....most every move is that hard. This chimney was easy to protect, but you could have told me 5.9 due to the muscles I was using. Then Greg led the 5.8 Church Bowl Lieback next door, which was just a typical deal probably for Yosemite...but was just beautiful to look at (for a climber I suppose). When they say lieback, crack, chimney, etc.... in Yosemite, it's clean and long.
With iffy weather in the forcast we did a few shorter climbs of 4-5 pitches each.
First was Super Slide 5.9 behind the Awhanee. Only 10 minutes from the car! Next time I'd like to do Serenity Crack to Sons. Super Slide was amazing. Next time I'd to the 5.8 Trial By Fire chimney start seen on the left of this pic. We hiked around to the easier start in the right pic. 5.2 loose rock with some guessing got me up to the 2nd pitch, where the climbing gets really good.
Greg leads up an awsome 5.7 crack to the tree, where we moved the belay over for me to start.
I combined pitch 3 and 4 into a full 60 meter rope length of really fun crack climbing. 5.8 and easier.
Greg heads up the last steeper 5.9 pitch. Sweet! then we rap off.
A look back at Middle Cathedral Rock and our route for tomorrow, east Buttress of El Cap across the meadow. This is basically the ridge in the center climbing up the mountain to the right. Doesn't look steep here, but it does go straight up at times, trust me.
Half Dome on left, Glacier Point Apron on right.
After lunch we went to the 5 open books area. This is like Lovers Leap. Right near the car, and many multi pitch classic climbs with a nice trail descent. We did Committment 5.9 and Caverns 5.8.
pic on the left is the 5.8 churchbowl lieback from the previous day. pic on the right is the start of Committment at Five Open Books. This was pretty hard for 5.8, but I believe the rating. I got the better leads here, pitch 1 and 3. Greg had done all these climbs before and I just told him to tell me what to lead. So he gave me pretty much everything cool.
here's a group above us doing hte 5.9 roof. Greg let me do it and held back the beta, which I just barely figured out at the last second. Seems the theme of 5.9 roofs, there's going to be a hidden hold just out of view somewhere.
Here's Greg leading on the Caverns climb.
Here's the actual Cavern, a huge gaping 100' slot a few feet wide. Don't fall or you'll slide right in there; leading or following
Finally on Day 3 we got up at 4:30am and walked up to the base of the Nose on El Cap in the dark. I had never really looked at El Cap, and certainly not from the bottom of the rock. I can't wait to go back there and walk around during daylight. We climbed the East Buttress 10b 1400', which is the right side of the mountain in this pic. The route goes up to where the trees start. The whole mountain is 3k I believe. And frieking straight up I might add at the risk of saying something obvious.
We got to the base just a few minutes before another party arrived. Phew!! Although it was weird having people climb up my butt, and watching my every move, I'd rather not be down there in the pack. I'm sure we (I) held a few people to a slower pace, but also at times they seemed to dissappear. Anyway, I guess you just yell and ask to pass if you want to, and no one did. If you are really fast but 3 teams back, then you're just going to have to take a mellow day and accept you slept in too late for a classic climb like this.
On the right pic, Greg links the first two pitches. I swung our pack from my harness and had no problem with the 5.9 chimney. The 5.10b pin scar holds up higher were pretty hard though and I just cheated my way through the last 20 feet. Partly because of not wanting to get totally spent, but also because the guy behind me was 10 feet away. I got used to this, but I thought he was trying to pass me in an impossible spot. Obviously he was a great climber who could just hang out waiting to reach a belay, or just willing to hang on a piece. Still, I don't get why anyone would want to climb that close to the party above. Later I realized they had people climbing behind them like that too.
Looking down at the top of pitch 2 (our pitch 1). On the right greg leads up just a little more to get us away from swarming, biting ants, and into position for me to take over. Don't belay at the tree above the 10b crux!
I led this amazing 5.6 arete. although easy, you can't fall due to the rope path. The pic on the right shows my view of el Cap while climbing. Go to U-tube and check out the Black Diamond short films on Tommy Caldwell's ongoing project. 31 pitches of mostly 5.13 and 5.14. 50 nights on the wall this season alone. Lunging Dyno jumps to 5.14 holds 2000' up. He's staying until he finishes this all free. I'm over here not too far away, slightly gripped leading runout 5.6!
Looking back across the valley at our Middle Cathedral Rock climb from 2 days ago.
Next Greg goes up 3rd class then a little 5.7 to put me in position for a really fun part of the mountain. I drew a line of my QUICK GUESS on the upper half of the route.
Greg follows me up over a 5.8 roof. This was the second time of the day I was looking for a pin shown on the supertopo that wasn't there anymore. I'm not suprised some go missing however, they aren't neccessary and might be in some climber's stolen historic artifact collection. Or they just fall out...
When we reach the actual edge of the Buttress again, Greg leads a really cool hand over hand 5.9 thingy to put me in place for the next 5.9 chimney.
Here's Bill, the leader of the party behind us. (I'm zooming in). He's got other climbers on his ass too. He was totally cool and it felt like we were doing the climb with him. He could have gone twice as fast, but never asked to pass. I think because his partner was going our speed anyway. He told me "good lead" on the 5.9 OW, and also mentioned a few times he didn't mind getting a chance to see where we were going. So I didn't feel like a total gomer....until the next pitch I led. I did the crazy traverse that leads to vertical 5.8 knobs. I spent some time going back and forth looking for places to protect. At one point I looked down and saw about 8 climbers just lounging around looking like they were taking a nap. Oddly it didn't bother me for more than 2 seconds, and I got back to enjoying the climb!
Greg goes around the cave on what the topo calls 5.5 face.
I only got this pic from my lead on the traverse / knobby wall pitch. I'm standing on little diving board with 800' below me on both sides. Supertopo describes this as the "mental crux" of the route. I wasn't gripped, but I agree...you go slower here and just marvel at the exposure.
Near the top Greg leads a long 12th pitch to the large pillar, where we swap for the last 5.6 short bit to the end of the climb.
Every inch of this route was fun, different, and beautiful. I would definately do it again. Only I'll need some help leading the 10b part at the bottom! I could do it a lot faster now too of course, as is probably the reason why people repeat long routes like this. We spent about 7-8 hours on the rock going up, and maybe 2 on the descent. supertopo says 8-9 hours. I'm sure valley heros can do it in just a few hours though.
after some slick class 4 downclimbing, you reach 3 raps. There were fixed lines that were really old. Next time I'd wait for another team and put our 2 ropes together. I didn't check to see if my 60meter rope would have cleared rap 1, and used an okay looking but OLD and BEAT one strand. the 2nd rap was really bad, with the rope showing the core. My rope DID make it. the 3rd rap had 2 old beater ropes, one which looked intact. we used those, but again, could have just teamed up with the team behind us to rap. This was definately too long for one rope.
hmmmm clouds rest. what's that all about?