Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Southwest Face of Liberty Cap

With 10 days off in between a couple courses I am working, I headed into the Park to play on some big walls. My initial plan was to solo Ten Days After on Washington Column, but some major stuck rope issues forced me down after my second day on the wall.
After a couple days of getting my stuff down and decompressing at the El Cap Bridge, I teamed up with my buddy from El Portal, Andy Esparza, to go climb a route on Liberty Cap that had always captured my interest.

We racked up and hiked up the John Muir Trail, serving as amusement to the parched and dusty tourists who were amazed at the size of our packs (and that they weren't full of beer.) The best part though, was stopping for water along the trail, and several different people, thinking my open haulbag was a garbage can, threw their trash in it!
We made it up to the base, fixed a pitch, and went to hang out at a pool below Nevada Falls to relax and fill up our water bottles.
The next day came quick, and we started taking care of business pretty early. The second pitch featured a bitchin' 5.9 handcrack, and I got to lead the best pitch of the route, a super steep hook and rivet ladder out a steep corner.

The climbing overall was OK- a combination of decent climbing accompanied by some really low quality bush-grovelling. I likened it to Dante's Nine Circles of Hell, as experienced through shrubbery. The mini-epics were plentiful, including me leading a 5.6 chimney/c3 crack when my headlamp suddenly died, and one of Andy's approach shoes taking the plunge off the last pitch, leaving him to hike barefoot back down the trail, but the location was unbeatable.

Getting to look over at Nevada Falls all day long, looking at the tourists getting way to close to the edge and screaming, "YER GONNA DIE!!!" was priceless, and topping out and getting to look up into the Little Yosemite Valley was well worth our arboreal labors.

Sierra Summer Recap

As the summer officially draws to a close, and the cool fall winds breathe new life into the Valley and the High Sierra peaks, I figured it would be a good chance to reflect on the amazing months spent in the High Country and some photos of a couple of world-class routes I have gotten to play on.
The first is the North Arete of Bear Creek Spire (III 5.8, 13,800ft), a classic alpine rock route which takes a clean line up the striking pillar.

My friend Lyn Williams and I left Midpines to climb a route in Tuolumne Meadows before making our way over to the Eastside in the morning. We had in mind an easy, fun route that would get us psyched and break up the 5 hour drive. We approached the climb with no problems, but as we neared the base, Lyn began complaining of some "strange feelings". As I pimped my way out this traverse to scope the first pitch, Lyn calls up, "Hey, I don't mean to alarm you, but I CAN"T REMEMBER YOUR NAME!" Needless to say, I was alarmed. With Lyn fully ataxic, we descended really quickly to the car, where he drank a bunch of water and started feeling himself again. Really strange.
We did end up climbing a little route after all, but took it easy the rest of the day and drove to the trailhead at Mosquito Flat to sleep before blasting off in the morning to climb on Bear Creek Spire.
We left the car at 5 am, and made really good time on the trail up through Little Lakes Basin, one of the best Sierra approaches I've ever done.
The route itself was spectacular: it seemed like Cathedral Peak stacked on top of Yosemite's Nutcracker. We pitched out some of the pitches and soloed a great deal of the exposed 4th class, with smiles on our faces the whole way. We made it back down to the car in time to pick up cold beers at tom's Place and make it to the Mammoth Hotsprings for a wicked sunset.

A week later, I was hanging out in Tuolumne, doing some easy solo climbing and relaxing in the Meadows when a friend came up and started talking about the Incredible Hulk. I had wanted to get out and see for myself what the Hulk had to offer, as it has the reputation for having the finest alpine granite int he whole range.
So Daniel and I hiked in during the afternoon, making our way through aspen groves and over beaver dams, up to a basecamp situated directly under the massive stone.

As luck would have it, I ran into a few friends out there (the only other people climbing!), namely Robin and Roger, who were kind enough to bring us over hot chocolate (we had only brought cold canned chili in the name of going light).
We got up in the morning, not an alpine start by any means, and got started on the climbing on the ultra-classic Red Dihedral (IV 5.10c). The route was outstanding. Laser cut splitter cracks led to airy and exciting bulges to overcome, and the top it all off finished with a birth-canal tunnel though to the summit!
We scrambled/hobbled back down to our basecamp and packed up all our things, making it back down to Bridgeport for a greasy meal at a local cowboy bar. Giddy up!

The Birth Canal

As always the weather in the Sierras is some of the best mountain weather in the world, with day after day of splitter blue bird skies. So as I get ready to pack it all up for the season and head back down to Patagonia for another bout with the wind-battered spires, I am always appreciative of what I have in my own backyard.