Monday, October 27, 2008

Yosemite Epic

Trip Report - Yosemite National Park
October 4 - 6, 2008

Travelin' Blues

Earlier this month we embarked on what would be an epic three-day weekend in Yosemite Valley. For starters, the backlog of chores from already having climbed in the Sierra several weekends in a row (maybe even a month straight), coupled with a busy week at work and school, left us far behind schedule on Friday night.

A classic Yosemite vista

Considering we were ahead of schedule the week before, we didn't take it too harshly. We decided to take our time packing Friday night and leave when we pleased Saturday morning. We knew it would be raining a good part of the day Saturday in Yosemite, so we weren't in too big a rush. Somewhere in all the confusion though, we managed to leave our new camera sitting on the bookshelf at home. Thanks to Dave for any pictures I have here.

Rainy Day Hangout Brigade

Originally we had planned on arriving much earlier, but we rolled into Yosemite Valley around 2pm, and immediately met up with some friends at the LeConte boulders. Due to the rain there was no free-climbing to be done, but one of the LeConte boulders has a large, overhanging face on it with a bolt ladder. Squishy and a_requiem were there getting an aid-climbing lesson from some other Summitposters we were meeting up with (a.k.a. D.O.A., the Decadent Outdoor Adventurers).

Since the area was a bit sheltered from the rain, it was a great place to hang out! We even had a handful of other climbers stop buy and shoot the bull with us. We split off for dinner and met back up with everyone later for some fireside wine drinking, beta-sharing, valley gossip, and tech tips. The wine flowed like water, and eventually I had to have a few beers to "bring it down a notch".

Sunny Day Doldrums

We were staying at Curry Village, just down the way from the others at Housekeeping Camp. Amber and I were staying a day longer as Dave and Christi, friends from Texas, were on their way to meet us after working that week in San Jose. Since we needed time to do the tourist thing with them later, Amber and I hit the Curry breakfast buffet first thing in the morning and went to do some top-roping at Swan Slab.

Curry Village tent cabins at night

The crack we were working was dry enough to climb, and we both had some measure of success on it, but the wet sands underneath were sticking to our shoes and making smearing more like walking on ball bearings. It was a disappointing climbing session, but par for the course as far as things going wrong that weekend. On our way back to Curry we stopped by Housekeeping to say bye to our friends and the D.O.A. crew, who were just heading out to climb on the Glacier Point Apron before leaving for the weekend.

Now it was time to chill out and wait for Dave and Christi to arrive. Seems like they were having the same luck we were. They blew by one wrong turn coming around to the 120, and got sidetracked about two hours trying to rectify their GPS with their google maps directions. Wasn't a big loss for us, as we spent a lot of time looking through books at the mountain shop and picking up a little extra gear.

Picnic lunch near the Glacier Point Apron

Sunday Fun Day

When they finally arrived we headed over near the apron for lunch. We couldn't pick out our friends, but saw many parties up on the climbs. Dave and Christi were very excited to be there; they spend a lot of time traveling but only rarely get to go on vacation. When lunch was finished we poked around the Valley floor, took pictures of climbers high on El Cap, and then poked around Lower Yosemite Falls.

Christi spotting parties on the walls

Climbers and gear high on El Cap

The massive face of the Captain

Amber and I got the idea to scope out a climb near Lower Yosemite Falls that heads up on top to Sunnyside Bench. It's called the regular route, and its three pitches of climbing, mostly class 4, that maxes out at 5.4. Since we had just gotten some new cams before we came, we actually had a sufficient rack for the climb, and it's a walk-off so we didn't need two ropes (which is the case for many Yosemite climbs). Dave and Christi were talking about riding bikes around on Monday and suggested we go ahead and give the climb a shot!

Lower Yosemite Falls

Amber and I had a crappy dinner the night before, but Sunday night, the Curry Buffet did not fail to satisfy. As long as it isn't too busy (which it often is) it's a killer place to eat in the valley. If you've been hiking or climbing all day, nothing satisfies like the endless options of a buffet! Plus, the ensuing food coma makes it easy to sleep the night away. I really enjoy the process of doing food for camping trips and being self-sufficient, but sometimes its just worth it to go the lazy route and this was one of those times.

The setting sun highlights the valley walls

Monday Morning Mayhem

After breakfast Monday, we headed over to the Regular Route on Sunnyside Bench. We were psyched, and well-fed, and the climbing was easy enough that it wasn't too stressful to be out on lead (my first real lead). I thought the 4th class chimney was a little more like 5.2-5.3, but the topo was accurate, and the route is speckled with trees which can really help simplify things. The funniest section is the "tricky boulder problem" in the easy second pitch. You're practically hiking, then you come up to this short, awkward wall. It was the hardest move on the route, but you're on top of a big ledge and not exposed at all, so its safe to give it a few tries.

We climbed to the top of the first ledge, Sunnyside Bench

After that you come into the hardest, most exposed pitch. The views, even from the belays we're just stunning. It's hard to describe the beauty of the valley when you're just partway off the floor. The route then climbs up and around onto a different weakness in the face, over 5.4 territory with great placements for gear, then across a really fun airy traverse and up a wide but easy low-angle crack.

That last section is probably 5.0. I had to run it out a bit, which made me nervous, but it wasn't too sketchy. It would have been nice to have a #3 Camalot (I ordered one the next day. Amber followed up the last bit, and then we had to scramble around to the descent trail. It took a little route-finding, but the book was pretty accurate, and crossing the bench gave us a little while longer with the great views.

Here are Amber's thoughts on the climb:

There is only one way to see Yosemite, and that is from the walls of the valley. This climb was rated very easy, but it was still challenging. We never were fully exposed until the end of the climb, but that's when the reality kicks in that you are around 500 feet above the valley floor. At first it was an easy scramble start with a pain in the ass chimney. The chimney would have been a lot easier if I didn't have a backpack, but I made it up anyway.

The weirdest part of the climb was the random bouldering problem in the middle. It took me three tries, but I finally got up that too. I enjoyed this climb a lot, and would do it again in a heartbeat. I recommend it as a first climb for anyone interested in dabbling in Yosemite multi-pitch.

Amber enjoying a silly moment near the Kossmobile

Delicate Descent

It ended up taking us a lot longer than we thought, but we talked to Dave via radio so they weren't worried. Afterward we all had a great picnic lunch in the sunshine over between El Cap and Manure Pile Buttress. By then it was time for one more trip around the Valley, and then back to reality. But it turns out we got one last treat!

The majestic Clark Range from Crane Flat fire lookout

The road to the Crane Flat Fire Lookout was still open for the day! I had been trying to describe all weekend how the valley walls are just the beginning and that there is equal majesty in the high country, but it's so hard to put in words. We just barely caught them while the gate was open, so we got lucky and got to drive right up to the lookout! It was a beautiful day and Tower Peak (I think) and the Clark Range seemed as close as ever. While it's always important to listen to that sense of things going wrong when hiking or climbing in the mountains, sometimes life gets stressful just to remind you later how truly awesome it can be!

A day or two after we left, a major rockfall ripped loose of glacier point and destroyed part of Curry Village. Several were injured, but no one was seriously hurt. It serves as a reminder that even in the Valley, mother nature rules Yosemite...

Photo Gallery:
Dave's Yosemite Pics

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