California Weekends

I was in San Francisco for a week, for work, so I got some climbing in. Marius had recently moved to Berkeley and he was game for it, so we planned on three days at Lovers Leap, and two days in Yosemite.

We were at the campground at the Leap on Thu night and started pretty early on Fri. We were slow, slow, slow. Leading was slow, routefinding was slow, and belay changeovers were slow. By the end of the trip we were more efficient, but still pretty slow :)

At Lovers Leap we did:

In the Valley we did:

The extended narrative, with interspersed beta not found in the guidebooks, is found below.

We got started on Pop Bottle, on which I had done the first pitch on a previous trip with Victor. Marius fell following that first pitch, when a flake broke, and when he got to the belay his hands were all bloody (combination of the fall and inexperience at jamming). We had tape with us, so after an extended break to tape him up, away I go into onsight land. After a nice move to get to the bolt at the start of the second pitch, I clip the bolt and start to wonder how old it is. It looks rusty and it has a skinny hanger. Better not fall here. The climb all of a sudden gets really exposed, because the face with the bolt is over this roof. There are some dikes that you can move past until you can get some more pro in. The rest of the climb is an easy slab.

Next came East Wall. A very long and varied first pitch, where I nearly ran out of rope and out of slings as well took me to a big platform. The pitch goes up this big dihedral, often there are several cracks to choose from, and at one point I even did a couple of chimney moves. It is a bit like the first pitch of Organ Pipes at Lumpy Ridge, except steeper and full of dubious looking flakes. Second pitch traverses left and up to a small belay (there is a resident cam near the belay), after which you get to figure out where the "wild exposed dike traverse" actually is. I climbed up some more to try and find a shorter traverse, but that didn't materialize, so I came down and started on the traverse, which is about 25 feet and pretty easy. I stepped down at the start, thinking it would be a big swing for Marius if he fell at that point, but he's got a long reach so it was easier for him. The topo showed a 5.4 exit variation on the last pitch, but I didn't look for it soon enough, and climbed straight up through a small roof. Seemed pretty hard, as there is a big hold there which I only found when later repeating the pitch.

We found that rodents had punched four holes in my backpack. That's what we get for climbing slowly...

Next day we did Deception, on Hogsback, which has a nice second pitch with another dike traverse at the crux. We had to wait a while for it, as well as for Bears Reach, back on the East Wall. Bears Reach is phenomenal, and except for the start takes really good gear. The first pitch deserves at least PG, as it has ground fall potential (I put in a piece at about 12 feet, and the next one was about 10 feet higher but also some 10 feet left, the moves are there though). A layback move on a flake is followed by some easier moves and then by some face climbing near the left edge of this big flake. The second pitch is amazing. After a move on a very thin flake, which will break one of these days, you clear a roof and then you go a long ways on a corner system which has everything. Laybacks, jams, face moves between dikes, it is all there. Lots of thin gear on the pitch. The exit pitch is the same as for East Wall and East Crack.

Our last day we got on Corrugation Corner, an area classic, highly recommended by everyone we talked to. I wasn't feeling all that well, having caught a cold, I focused very much on not falling, and so I didn't enjoy the climb that much. Second pitch deserves a PG rating. Climb starts with stemming, jamming and face moves in the corner. Second pitch is more of the same in the corner, then move left to an arÍte with some fixed pins, then a chimney, then move left and mantle when the chimney first narrows, then more chimney followed by a traverse right when the chimney narrows again (only the latter is mentioned in the guidebook). On the arÍte the gear is not great. I had a fixed pin backed up with an alien (good), 15 feet above that a tricam (worthless, but a #1 Camalot would be good there), and another 15 feet above that another pin backed up with a #4 stopper (maybe). Not the greatest gear. I belayed at the top of the chimney, and on the next pitch started on the traverse right, which is surprisingly exposed, and balancy. The dike slopes down a lot, which made it harder than I liked ... More good moves, another (probably optional ) belay on a ledge, and then a last very exposed, but easy pitch where I got passed by a guy who was free soloing. Because the climb starts off Main Ledge which is itself one pitch above the deck, we were really high up for having climbed four pitches. For me it is one of those climbs that feels a lot better now than when I actually climbed it.

Next weekend, Yosemite. I had wanted to climb there for so long, and there we were. Fri night we stayed at the campground near the park entrance on route 120, hooked up with Dave and Mike (we knew Dave from Pittsburgh), and actually had spots in Camp 4 by 9 AM. We hit the Lower Yosemite Falls Wall climbed in parallel, our team on Munginella, Dave and Mike on Commitment. It was hot, but I didn't care. The climb was pretty easy and the surroundings are truly inspiring. We could see Lost Arrow Spire above, Half Dome and Glacier Point Apron across the valley, and after every belay I just wanted to jump on the next pitch and climb higher.

The afternoon took us to Manure Pile Buttress, where we again climbed in parallel, on After Six and The Nutcracker. The first pitch of After Six is pretty continuous at 5.6, and quite polished by all the climbers. A few layback moves made it work for me. The couple ahead of us rapped after the first pitch, they were actually rapping together ( it looked like she was hooked to the guy's harness and he controlled the rappel, they proceeded to drop a sling with a bunch of biners attached to it which narrowly missed Marius just as he was getting off the ground). The rest of the climb is also pretty easy, and the surroundings are again unmatched. The top of the Nose looms over you from the other side of the East Buttress of El Cap, and the Cathedral Rocks are across the valley. Everything says climb, climb, climb. Climb we did, and except for running out of rope on the very last pitch nothing went even slightly wrong. There are some nice moves on the third pitch (in a wide crack), and on the sixth (last) pitch. Dave and Mike soon topped out as well, and we took a short dip in the Merced river to cool down.

The next day, I had a plane to catch, so we decided to leave in the morning but still get a climb in. We all headed to Church Bowl Terrace, where the guidebook showed Uncle Fanny as a sequence of 5.6 chimney, 5.6 flare, 5.7 hands. It looked pretty hard from the bottom, but away I go. The chimney section was narrow, and hard for me, but at least I had decent pro in all the way. When started in the chimney, my feet kept slipping, and I was able to stay put only when using my outside arm to create palm to elbow counter pressure. As read on rec.climbing, slow progress is the key. Of course I was all out of breath and terribly frustrated after I figured this out, but I was 25 feet higher. More of the same thrashing in the flare section, which was just as physical, but at least I had a bit of a method down now. If the pitch was like that all the way, I would have had enough resolve to climb all the way through it. Last section is a hand crack in a corner. I placed a good piece in at the start, then jammed up about 6 feet or so to where I figured I would get another piece in. But I didn't have the balance, or the mental strength to work through it and get that piece in. Downclimbing wasn't going to work, I couldn't hang forever from the current handjam, there were maybe another 10 feet or so to go, so a quick decision was made to keep going. As soon as the first jam turned out to not be bomber, desperation set in. Some very sketchy climbing followed where I forgot any notion of footwork, which in turn made every new non-perfect handjam shoot a new wave of fear into me. Fortunately this only lasted for a couple more moves, after which you can reach a ledge on the right. Really out of breath now (must remember to breathe through the hard sections), but relieved, I placed another piece and reached the belay. I was very happy to not fall, but somewhat disappointed I didn't quite keep it together. Perhaps next time I push my limits on lead, I'll do better. End of trip.