Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yosemite: The Classics.

The Valley
It has been boiling for the majority of my Yosemite trip with temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To combat this elevation was key with Tuolomne Meadows, residing high above Yosemite Valley, being the perfect locale for my transition to North American granite. I met up with Matt Pickles and spent the first week climbing classic knobby faces on the granite domes with the highlights being an ascent of the old school classic seam Electric Africa (5.12c) and a run up the regular route (5.9) of Fairview Dome.

Emer on a 9 day break from work in the north of Western Australia made a whirlwind trip half way around the world to see Yosemite and squeeze in some climbing. I bailed on Matt for a while and focused on some high longer adventures with Emer. We climbed Cathedral Peak (5.7) in Tuolomne, which tops out at 3,326m, followed by Snake Dyke (5.7) on Half Dome. I had a great time doing these longer easier classics, which made a good break from destroying myself on the brutal hard routes I was trying in Europe. We also had a day at Cookie cliff where I climbed the classic Cookie Monster (5.12a), which I had always wanted to do. Emers time passed quickly and before I knew it she was gone and Lawrence had arrived on a two-week break also from work back in WA. 
Emer following Snake Dyke (5.7), Half Dome.
Emer poses in front of Cathedral Peak, Tuolomne.
Emer on the Half Dome summit.
Lawrence brought with him an intensity to climb something big and difficult which ended up with us joining Matt to try and climb Freerider (5.12d, 1km, 30ish pitches) up El Capitan. We wanted to go ground up, all free in about 3-4 days while hauling a large bag full of water and other supplies. It was a bit ambitious and by pitch 14ish we realized we were going too slow. It was like a furnace in the direct sun on the wall and we were unable to climb in the afternoon. Instead we sat on a ledge, using my tent fly for shade and tried not to drink all our water.  Matt and Lawrence had both fallen and had lost the drive to free the route that shot. The realization we would run out of water before getting to the top meant we had to change strategy if we were to make it. Not to mention all the harder pitches were yet to come. We started jumaring the pitches behind the leader who was mixing free climbing with clean aiding. Things moved a lot faster doing this and by the evening of day 3 we reached the top of the wall. I consider this as a bit of reconnaissance for a later free ascent, which will have to wait until another season.
Matt hanging out during a haul.
Me getting all artistic.
Sheltering from the direct sun.
Bivvy ledge one.
Lawrence leading the Hollow Flake with me on belay.
El Cap Tower. Penthouse suite bivvy.
Matt jumaring up high.
Lawrence checks out the topo.
Made it! Summit Bivvy.
After Freerider I was keen to visit a famous roof crack called Seperate Reality (5.11d). I love roof climbs and this had been on my list for a long time. It turned out to be reasonably easy and super fun. Solid hand jams to a little boulder problem to gain the lip. We tried to get some good photos although the depth of field and light made it hard with our cheap cameras.
On belay. Seperate Reality.
Yep its a roof crack.
A fairly long roof crack.
Love the jug at the end!
Lawrence had teamed up with Tony Arbones, whom I had developed some routes with in China and also knew from the Siurana campground in Spain, to try the upper pitches of Freerider again. This gave Matt and I time to go climb Astroman (5.11c), another valley test piece. It is around 11 pitches and very sustained. I really wanted the onsight of the route although I was mentally off my game during the day. I cruised the route except for the infamous Harding Slot, which consisted of climbing an off size crack into a flaring overhanging squeeze chimney. This pitch was far from fun and I fell out of the insecure crack while trying to get into the chimney. Matt and I topped out with about half an hour of light left but made the mistake of following a well-trodden path into the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t find a descent back to the valley floor and had to back track in the dark to the top of the route. The descent was meant to be 1-2 hours but too treacherous to attempt for the first time in the dark as it traversed slippery granite slabs with death fall potential. We ended up huddling for 8 hours under pine needles shivering and waiting for the sun to come up. The next morning the descent was spicy but ok in the light.

Overall it was a great trip with good friends, classic climbs, and some good laughs. This was my third trip to Yosemite and I still haven’t seen a bear there. There are however plenty of deer and I witnessed a coyote eating a chipmunk. I also grabbed a frog in a crack three pitches up El cap. I loved my new trad gear from Kailas which was super light, easy to place, and really colourful which made it easier to organise and use. Can’t wait to come back!

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