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Summer 2013 on into our first winter as Parents of Little Anik

The last post went off about the past year for myself and my partner Mandoline. It was a challenging year work wise for me, health wise for me and finally in a deeply connecting the dots of life kind of way when Anik appeared on our scene. Time has passed, my heart has become stronger because of the patch and stronger still with my feelings for my little family, and a whole summer has flown by. I tried to work part time this summer guiding but unexpected Van breakdowns forced me to work a bit more. Had some of the absolute best private guiding days of my career this year including climbing some of the new and resurrected pitches at The Gobsmacking Wall at Shannon Falls, climbing Angel’s Crest with a high school friend and climbing Blazing Saddles, Borderline, Angel’s Crest and High Plains Drifter in a day swapping leads with a great friend and guest and watching him make some truly strong improvements. Through out the summer and into the Fall I applied to as many teaching jobs as possible but no dice. So what does that mean for a guy who wants to teach elementary school during the year but has no full time job and the guiding season is kaput? It means being a substitute teacher on call, doing some great dry sunny fall days guiding at places like the new Top Shelf crag and now hitting the road with my partner and daughter to go climbing, sun soaking and generally desert living in the sand and the dust and the prickles. Perfect.

Our plan is simple, Smith Rocks for a week or so to meet up with world famous Dad and Guide Jamie Selda and his even more famous wife Christine and their stunningly talented three kids River, Jasper and Cedar. This family knows how to introduce kids to that simple life we all know and love so much. After that a week sport climbing around the Saint George area with Canadian legends Jan and Doug with the chance of a Mike Doyle appearance. It will be plush there as D and J have rented a place. After that we head to Bishop Cali. to refind bouldering and crash in a little cottage rented to us by a kind and generous local. The bouldering is just a bonus as we are really just transporting lighting and sound effects equipment for Will Stanhope’s premier extravaganza happening in Bishop around the 9th of November. If you’re around, or even if you have to quite school and give blood to afford it, get to Bishop to see this show. Makes Canada’s Cirque Du Soleil look like a bunch of well trained and talented acrobats…

Anyways, we’re in Portland for the eve, Thursday Oct. 17, staying at the house Martin, Zepher and Lotti because of their incredible generosity. Anik was melting down through out the three hours of bumper to bumper traffic through Seattle to Vancouver Washington area. Now I remember why I don’t live on a city. Yeesh. Wish us luck. Jer

Nov. 5th
Well, we survived the drive to Smith with a 4.5 month old and spent a great week climbing in the Lower Basalt Gorge. Why there? Shade for us and the wee human, a good spread of grades from splitter 5.10 cracks that mum was warming up to to techy 5.12 aretes. We did get one day climbing around the Monkey Face, catching up with Sonnie T and Hayden Kennedy. Unbelievably, Hayden the climbing savant, had never been to Smith and Sonnie was giving him the royal tour. I rope a few top ropes up Rising Expectations, the incredible overhung finger crack left of Just Do It, Spank The Monkey wishing I had lead that, and the bottom pitch of the East Face of the Monkey Face. That line really nailed home a desire to pick up the performance pace and improve. I would love to climb that line. The concentration of routes, quality of the stone and shady made the Lower Gorge a winner of a spot. Anik, our little daughter, slept in a bouncy chair listening to the serene Crooked River flowing behind her. Two and a baby is NOT ideal for route climbing so luckily Hayden proved to be a self proclaimed Baby Whisperer. We also climbed with two friends from Squamish who we’re escaping a three week trip with three kids and two dogs! They pawned the children on Grandma and Grandpa and came climbing as well showing us that our situation was far from desperate. Camping was cold at night but Sonnie T graciously lent us his Circus Tent which he uses in the off season for his chainsaw juggling show. With this we had a huge warmer space for Anik and a happier week in Skull Hollow.

From Smith we drove to Saint George Utah to meet up with great friends Jan Black and Doug Orr, stay in their swanky Sports Plex Condo and climb on some of the newer limestone sport climbing appearing there. As the weather played out, we had some cold weather the first day and suffered it down at Sunset Alley, a newer limestone area with incredible rock. It warmed up and we spent a few more days at Sunset Alley enjoying some of the lines in the cave as well as the slightly overhung wall across from it. We also had a day of sandstone bouldering in Mo’s Valley which was actually amazing. Sadly our time flew by here too and the next thing we knew, we were driving to Bishop for the remaining two weeks of the trip.

Bishop is amazing, and will always be amazing no matter how many times I visit. We’ve come here many times and usually concentrated on the Buttermilks, being granite snobs. Well this trip we branched out because of a gale force first day and gave the Happy Boulders another nod. Strangely, the area grew on us, giving us many classic problems we’d never done and a warmer hang. We also, embarrassingly, made our first ever trip to Tuolumne Meadows when a Squamish pal visited and offered to help watch our Bebe. Tuolumne in November? As if. Well we drove up, jaws dropped at what we were seeing and found the toll gates unmanned, the services shut, park rangers packing up there AK47′s and closing shop for the winter. We found Puppy Dome in full sun, forests deserted, half frozen streams quietly murmuring, a 3 minute approach from the car and the rock in perfect condition. I’ve seen photos of Do Or Fly and Horseshoes And Handgrenades for years, always wanting to climb them among all the other gems in mystic Tuolume. We had a blissful day there and I think the term “waiting impatiently to return” doesn’t come close to what we are feeling about Tuolumne now. We’ve also been soaking in Wild Willys hot spring, also known as the Green Church hot spring. Perfectly clean, constantly flowing and with no sign of garbage, Wild Willys turned out to be a beautiful hang and Anik loved it as much as we did. Here’s a little tally, in order of our best picks, of the Mexican Food we sampled in Utah and California. After getting some local beta in Bishop, it’s no surprise that the most hidden, hole in the wall deli turned out to be the best on the list. The Chevron Mexican Deli in Big Pine, California: tamale plate, shredded beef tacos with beans and rice. The most homemade Mexican food we found. Not too cheesy and oily, but still rich beans and the tamales weren’t lacking seasoned filling. Homemade salsas with real heat also helped.  Alberto’s Mexican Restaurant in Saint George Utah: Chicken Tacos, Carne Asada Plate, Chorizo Torta, Horchata: Number two on the list. Looked like a greasy American chain but turned out to me some of the best food. The amount of Spanish speaking in there was the first clue. Amazing whole fried Jalapenos, nice simple Asada and a Torta that was too big. My only complaint was portion size=ridiculous. The horchata almost made me diabetic it was so sweet. Rosa’s Latin Restaurant in Saint George Utah: Carne Guisada, Cheese/Bean Papusas, Chile Verde Huaraches, Wine Margaritas A real blend of Salvadorean and Mexican food, with amazing papusas. More light fare, like what I would cook instead of super rich beans, meat and less cheese. Salsa was not amazing. Neither were the wine Margaritas but the food had a definite un-Americanized feel to it. Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Bishop California: Chile Colorado, Enchilada Rancheras, Margaritas Of the places in Bishop Ca, my favorite Mexican restaurant. Lots of locals and a pretty charismatic staff. Great food and not too oiled up for the tourist crowd. Amazing salsa bar, always has been. Beans had a really rich pork taste but definitely weren’t light.  Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Bishop California: Street Vendor Tacos, Shredded Beef Enchiladas A local hangout in Bishop but definitely filled with more white locals than Mexican. Too rich, too cheesy, greasy tasting fried Vendor tacos. Tasted like the oil needed changing. Enchiladas seemed to be their signature thing and were definitely better.

The Most Challenging Year of My Life

Where to start…

Hmmmmmmm…

Well, it’s early March and I’m absolutely augured into my first real term of report cards for my first full time grade 2/3 class of my own. 7 day work weeks, 12+ hour days as a default and I finally get them completed, well written and handed in. It’s Saturday March 2nd.

I wake up the morning of Sunday March 3rd dizzy. Strange that? I go for a hike up the Chief and have to concentrate a bit more on the trail, to plant one foot in front of the other. I head to school around noon to print out the reports and hand them into the principal’s office to be judged. By the evening the dizziness is almost gone and I am so happy to be done those report cards, a stressful experience.

Monday morning I wake at 6am to a lurching, spinning feeling. My eyes are still closed but I’m falling. I open my eyes and the world takes off, spinning out of control in a silent rushing blur. I can’t stand, can’t dress myself, can’t walk. My partner helps into the car and we race to SGH, to the emergency. After that we head for Vancouver, to VGH, for an MRI. It could be just an inner ear vertigo thing most likely. But just to be sure…

What followed was a new reality, that I had had my second stroke in 6 months even though I was taking a low dose Aspirin. It had impacted and effected the cerebellum, the area of the brain that, among other things, controls balance and your vestibular system. I felt like I had drank 2-3 beers, all the time without the euphoria of that blessed drug. Since then I have had battery after barrage of tests trying to determine the cause of the strokes. Why was I having them at all when I drink almost nothing and have never smoked in my life? Cholesterol was perfect and I don’t have any unusual predispositions to clotting that can be found in some people’s blood work. You just never know what is going to happen so you need to live however brings you the most fulfillment, the most satisfaction by day’s end. Day after day, month after month and year after year. What I know now is that a hole between my atria was letting clots through and on up to my brain. It had happened twice in half a year, I was now on Coumadin, a serious anti-coagulaent and I was going to have some sort of heart procedure or surgery to correct the hole and maybe a moderately leaky Pulmonary valve. I was also expecting a baby daughter in June, something I didn’t intend to miss. As I waited out the decision for what kind of repair; what kind of surgery,  I climbed and did constant physio to get my vision more clear and less jittery. The climbing actually helped my gaze and balance even though it felt like I was up on lead after downing a six pack sometimes. I began training in the gym even more. Weeks turned into months as I went back to work teaching, learned that I was on track for open heart surgery, refunded my guiding insurance and park permits because I would be doing very little this summer save holding my daughter and going for walks and prepared for the longest break from climbing in 20 years.

Then I injured my wrist. It doesn’t really matter what I did to it, it amounted to no climbing for even longer. My one place to seek refuge, to crawl away to when frustrated, to revel in when I needed energy and to turn to when I needed a look at the endless goals, mental heights and amazing places I wondered if I could reach. That too had to be given a rest. What the fuck is left? Health, happiness, love, rewarding work, new learning, new life…you know, the really important things that climbing sometimes superficially blocks out. Only temporarily but still conceals them when we need to remember them most. Luckily that superficial skin was removed and things stopped festering. To wear away the yearning for climbing I began to run. I have always trail run a bit and always been pretty shabby at it. Now I know why. I thought, “Hey, maybe I should do a half marathon trail run two days before my heart surgery? Just to have one last hurray with the old heart?” I did it, did NOT win, had a good time and finished feeling good. And two days later came the chop.

I’m sitting here on May 30th recovering from a heart procedure. A bruised, sore swollen nether region and a new, modified, patched heart are my prize. Amazingly I dodged the open heart surgery bullet when the many specialists all convened and decided that my pulmonary valve was working well, that I was fit and strong and that had helped me live symptom free for about 36 years until these strokes appeared. The surgeon accessed my heart through a vein in my groin, went up it into the heart and deployed a small flexible device that permanently patched the hole. The surgeon showed me the device when it was outside me, and then on a screen moving in rhythm with my hear after it was installed. Amazing that this all took about an hour and I think I can even feel a difference. It beats clearer, more consistently and sends oxygen to my tissues more efficiently. I don’t miss the birth of my daughter. I can be a fully mobile, healthy strong dad for this little girl. I can teach my class until the end of the school year. I can guide this summer to supplement our income for the coming year with our daughter. I can climb to seek refuge from chaos, from control, from sleepless nights and from work dominated life. I can climb as soon as my groin and wrist heal. Whatever, groin shmoin, wrist schmist.

Amazing what a year can hold. Just shy of one year ago, by a week, I was in Yosemite to climb El Cap. Jesse Huey and I, in that two week trip, climbed the Freerider free and clean from bottom to top. He even went back and did it in 24 hours, the Bowse. In this same year I had two strokes that luckily, have left me with deficits so minor only I can tell out of my eyes, had two major heart issues come to light and then have one fixed almost effortlessly. I have watched my baby grow to a point where she is about to come join us and taught my first class of young kids to a point where I wanted to crawl back into the womb to escape them. Haha only figuratively but…I’ve run a trail half marathon and met some great new psyched climbing partners who I trained with and are now motivating me to get back out there so I can climb with them again. I’m not one to traditionally embrace blogging.  The presenting of every tiny piece of our daily lives to the world wide public in order to validate our choices and actions to ourselves starts a perpetual one-up-man-ship where everyone has got to constantly know what others are doing so that they can be doing something equally or more amazing. It never ends and simply seems like people become driven by what others will think of them instead of personal motivations. Perhaps I’m a big hypocrite by writing this? Probably, but at least, as one wise Squamish climber has said, “Climbing is the truth.” It’s our truth, like a barometer to the self. A very addictive instrument that I hope to use alongside my new modified heart, daughter, partner, teaching job, growing community, guiding clients, future trips and everything else to see if I am up for the task.

Winter 2012 – Blowing out with a…

Winter, as 2012 knows it, is rapidly leaving us. It’s Christmas Day and the snow is flying again here in Squamish BC. I thought another wrap up was in order. This is starting to become my signature, wrap ups that record the happenings and thoughts of a certain amount of time that has passed. In my last post I ended with a few of the climbs that happened in our long long dry sunny end that was our Indian Summer, or just our blended Summer/Fall. After the rains began work increased for me, a great thing as an on call teacher in two school districts. A few jobs appeared in my home district which I applied for and low and behold, I was hired for one! Incredible! Unfathomable! No Way! Lucky! I say Intimidated! Scared! Excited!

I started teaching in Squamish Elementary on November 15th, and took the reigns of my own class of grade 2′s and 3′s. This was an exciting point in my teaching. Through out this school year I’m going to learn if I can lead a class of kids through a year of learning, measuring a fair few months in their young lives with me teaching, guiding, showing, illustrating, pleading, laughing, signing, directing, encouraging, motivating, disciplining and collapsing in a heap at the end of each day. The class is loud, unusually full of boys, energetic, bold, squirrely, creative and definitely able to push me to my limits before I have to figuratively push back. Only time will tell, as a friend of mine, Mr. J. Finlayson once said. Wish me luck? I won’t need it…

Meanwhile,  my partner hooked herself up with a new full time line in the Emergency Room of Lions Gate Hospital, more big changes. She just finished her paid for school at BCIT where she was making her nursing wage while taking courses. Hmm, seems like a proactive idea to motivate and lemd a hand to a young financially struggling workforce? She is now done and in the thick of it, literally. She lives by example, and I learn from her.

The start of the new year, 2013, also marks the start of a new chapter in the life of my heart. On Jan. 4th I’m getting a camera extended into my heart to explore around and determine what should be done about my Pulmonary Valve which is not working at 100% and also with the small hole between my atrium. While I don’t know the options, I do know that my life will be filled with adventures and activity. I need a solution that allows me to remain on rock walls, bleeding, getting scraped up, dirty and constantly pushing myself in physical, emotional and stressful ways. I need a solution that allows a lifetime more of days running in the snowy woods and skiing into the backcountry. I really don’t need a solution where I’m on heavy duty blood thinners for the rest of my days, at risk of bleeding out if I have an accident, or a solution where the new part must be replaced within a certain number of years or even of one where I must curtail my activities to fit the new part. Here’s hoping…

This photo is of our little gem, The Grand Wall Bouldering Co-op. This place is really really keeping me happy this winter, with great times with Jamie, Israel, Matt, Adam, Al, Taran, Sebastien to name a few. Let’s keep it up in there!

Our cold fridge of amazing moves

Our cold fridge of amazing moves

Merry Christmas to all out there who’ve read this, I hope your year has been one of more motivation and triumph than defeat and regression. Let’s let 2013 come down upon us in an inspired way.

PS-I’ll try to get some images up, the top of the Chief is a site to behold right now, especially from right on top. Jer

Where has the Summer gone? A Wrap UP!

August 23 2012. The days have been flying by, and pages of the calendar getting ripped off like toilet paper. Guiding has picked up to the point that I was just desperately hoping for a rain day, a no show or a silent moment from my cell phone. Arg, sore shoulders from coiling ropes, belaying off the anchor and heavy winching times. Summer is usually the time of intense socializing as well, but this has not been the case. Sometimes avoiding the endless nights of bbq’ing, cocktails and drinks and just having dinner with a beautiful lady and getting some sleep is the plan.

October 12 2012 – Hhaaha, how fateful those words above were. More than a month has passed and the work didn’t cease, the sun shone down for weeks and weeks and weeks, the school year began, the body stayed sore and tired from endless guiding days. The weather has been the best of the best for weeks now, cool mornings, warm and climbable in the sun and dry like I’ve never seen it. The trails are powder lines and by the end of each day your nose, ears and throat are filled with dust like a proper desert day.  The guiding season was the busiest I’ve ever worked, with some great days on multipitches like The White Feather and Photophobia and days spent coaching and teaching with Sonnie Trotter and Jamie Selda in our Stone Master Crack Clinics.

However, a rest was lurking just ahead, out of my sight. In September, stepping out of my Van to begin a guiding day I suddenly lost control of my mouth and speech. A stroke, an ambulance ride to Vancouver and a week’s stay in VGH, a battery of tests from a UFO abduction film produced some odd details and a big question mark. The speech deficit returned in a day but no concrete reason materialized as to why a 36 year old athlete who has never smoked or drank overly much, who runs and watches their diet, who climbs as much as possible and generally tries to not take their body for granted would have a stroke. Connections to childhood heart surgery were made but I’m left taking a baby Aspirin a day and wondering what will happen at the cardiologists appointment I have in a few weeks. Winter heart surgery perhaps, but for now I keep running and try to take advantage of this incredible extension we were given to our summer. Things happen, enjoy the moments as you can’t plan out your experiences and paths.

Climbing has been incredible this summer, with so many highs in my season that I’m left unsure where to go next and exploring a few different options. The ascent of Freerider in the Spring catapulted me into a confused zone of what’s next? What could feel like that? Ahh that stone, those moves, those features and the high you get from climbing on a wall for days with nothing in your mind but the meal ahead, the water you’re about to drink, the jokes with your Bud and the next pitch you don’t want to screw up. Intense. You can’t put a price on morale so the shift became one to single pitch new route exploring, hunting for new lines in Squamish. This summer was unprecedented in the amount of quality new areas springing up, new lines being cleaned and cleaned off and the sheer number of difficult Crack lines springing up out of the moss. Two whole new crags were developed in Squamish featuring steep 5.11 and up crack climbing and the Prow Wall on the Chief is literally groaning now under the weight of the new lines that appeared on that shield high up on the second peak. Skycragging is a term that was probably coined in Squamish. The idea of sessioning single and small multipitch routes high off terra firma is a new norm for Squamish rock climbing. The Quercus Wall alone gave many climbers weeks of onsighting and redpointing on the lost satellite of Petrifying Wall. Some highlight lines – The Shapeshifter, The Crosmanaut, The Man From Delmonte, Trippet Out, Handslaughter, Feed Your Monkey(Horne Lake), Safe As Milk and Speechless stood out, embossed in gold. This morning was the very very first morning I woke to rain in weeks and it was welcome, if reluctantly. It’s time to shift gears and work in schools with kids now, shifting climbing to something purely personal now. No Fall trips are on the horizon, a sad thought, but learning more about my heart and how it might get repaired seems a tad more important right now, a real reshuffling of priorities. Squamish has lost a lot of it’s community this Fall to roadtrips, you all know who you are and I hope everyone has incredible times. The gang in Yosemite especially, you all are where I want to be.

I’ll leave you with the only pic I have of the Season’s capers – Speechless. I tried to get some photos but it never seemed to work out so all I have is a view from the bottom when it still had it’s fixed line on it. Hopefully Fall holds dry rock, trips to Horne Lake and maybe a rare sighting of a Narwhal? Enjoy…

High up on The Prow Wall.

What have I done?

Two weeks after that mysterious blog post where I had just arrived BACK in the Valley after working there, was picked up by my Pal Jesse and was endeavoring to climb The Freerider on El Cap…I’m back in Monsoon torn Squamish wish tens of millimeters falling from the skies. I’m not going to drawl on and on about what gaston was sick and which way I took the jammity jim jam. We climbed Freerider without weighting the rope leading or following each pitch over four days. Here’s a pic from the El Cap Report to prove it. It was an insane project from the start but slowly shrank in intimidation with the help of Jesse’s morale, which was very very high. So much work, such amazing climbing, such amazing stone and all with a good pal. Tops in climbing! Now, how to deal with being home in a rainy rainy Squamish Spring with this new motivation…Thanks Mr. Evans for the photo of us leading and thanks to Jesse for snapping a few more so we had a tiny bit of proof that we’d been up there.

Back in The Valley…

One week after arriving back in BC, after getting the bus El Monstro and all 10 students back safely, after climbing 6 days in the valley on amazing long classic routes, after predawn starts, many instant coffees, sneaky showers and crumby pizza deck crust piles it’s home to sunny Squamish I go. What a place when the sun shines. I climbed two days at Horne Lake with Mandoline and Will S and explored the amazing new lines on the Boss Wall. Hats off to Renee for the hard work and vision to put those lines up, and the climbers who came before opening up the initial lines. Canada’s little piece of Spanish limestone. A few more days in Squamish spent climbing at the newly minted Quercus Cliff above Lakeside By the Woods with Mandoline and before I know it I’m back on a plane to San Francisco, picked up by Jesse Huey at midnight and bivi-ing in the van, a huge challenge looming in the distance. Hard times leaving my Little Beauty, hopefully I’ll see her down here in Yosemite soon enough.

Jesse and I are going to try our damnedest to climb The Freerider on El Cap, a variation to The Salathe Wall, a long classic free climb of immeasurable quality and difficulty. This is really just the warm up for free climbing routes on El Cap but for us the only place to start. First day in the Valley with fuzzy tired heads felt fine because of the rain pouring down. The forecast, however, looks good coming up…

Yosemite!!!!!

This is the place, the place the place the place. Ahhh so good this place.

May 11th- Sunnyside Bench, Bishop’s Terrace and Black is Brown:
Our first day in the valley. I went with a group to the Church Bowl to climb Bishop’s Terrace, a classic old two pitch 5.8. It’s going to take the students a bit to get used to the long pitches, the gear anchors and the gear conserving when they’re on easy ground. The old cliche of “when in doubt, run it out” evidently holds true here in the Valley. These young climbers are going to have to figure out the fine line between placing to too much gear and running out or placing too little and putting themselves at risk. The route was great and when on top we chose to rap down into a clear area free of flakes and trees. The area had a strange recent rockfall look to it. Low and behold, a local guide let me know after that the week prior rockfall had ripped down and obliterated the trees there and had been closed until now. Oh well, live and learn…and not die. We finished up with a student leading a not so classic and quite sandbagged 5.8 called Black Is Brown. I this student’s case, there was luckily no brown but he did have his eyes open to what 5.8 can mean in other climbing areas. The group is charged!

May 12th – Manure Pile Buttress, one of the most famous multi pitches in the world, the Nut Cracker:
The next day I went with a group of 4 students to the Nutcracker. This route is famous the world over for being one of, if not the first multi pitch routes in North America to be protected completely by removable chocks, or nuts, as they are now commonly known. At 5.8, this is a pretty stout line with long pitches of at least 40 meters, 5 pitches long and gear anchors through out. The sun blazed down as we made our way up the route, with at least 10 people below us. The students kept asking why me had to start so early? On a Saturday, in this valley, on this line? Take a wild guess. You may ask how we climbed this route in a group of five? I was Mr. Invisible that day, riding my soloist device up behind the two leaders of each team checking gear, anchors and general climbing skills. The soloist is coming in super handy as a way of being there as a Guide without being a part of the rope team. I just hung out on a leash and slapped on the soloist when I needed to go up. The temps reached 85 but a breeze kept us sane. Our Greek team member chose to climb without a shirt to bronze his Helenic back. Guess what? Greek males burn as well and he had to deal with a sore back and wearing a pack for the next few days. We topped out, lounged a bit and hiked down, all members well and truly psyched at how good a world class line can feel.

May 13th – the first big day…Royal Arches, 15 pitch 5.8 with six people:
Today I woke at 4am, hurriedly ate cereal and had two cups of instant coffee and was walking by 445 with our group. Walking by headlamp, packs on and with a big objective for the day is one of the key parts of climbing in Yosemite. Arriving at the base in the dark we saw our starting pitch, a glisteningly slick polished chimney. From there the day just got better, as we made our way through the lower pitches mixed in with much 3rd class, on up the middle section where you encounter some awesome crack pitches and finally the last third, where you do a small pendulum to get past a blank wet section and end in the blazing sun on top of the Royal Arches. I was guiding Dave, a guy from Ecuador, who was interested in actually being guided instead of leading himself. This was a new thing for this program, allowing students to get some instructor time in the form of pure guided climbing. I’m not convinced that this was a good idea as it is really their trip and we’re there to coach and coordinate, not bring up routes. Anyways, we blazed to the top by noon and chilled in the shade of the one tree on the ledge waiting for the four others. This route is a mega classic that anyone loving multipitch climbing hoes to do interior formative years. I missed out on this so it was my first time up RA. Two hours later our second part of students came up, this time one student practicing some guiding of his own by guiding another student up the entire route. Sean and Iaonnis were psyched, especially Iaonnis, our Greek ambassador because he had never thought he could get up a route so long. Sean is unusually fast so they were up by 2. Party after party passed by, heading for the walk off descent instead of the rappel line. Most were classic Yosemite locals- moderate climbers trying to climb too fast using ridiculous techniques because speed is the game here, not difficulty or technical proficiency. Too many 5.9 climbers believing they are truly Honnold -style bad asses without having any if their basic systems or climbing skills smooth or polished. Our students were passed my many many soloists as well, the other main figure in Yosemite rock climbing. So many people soloing in approach shoes, looking so blasé about the chances they were taking. I’m not saying soloing is wrong, not in the least. Just don’t try to make it more lighthearted or casual than it really is. Case in point was a man who appeared and soloed past us to finish the route by the walk off path. He was Irish and maybe it was his first time but there but he started to climb way way of route and into a steep dirty section. Things started to look grim, he started to shake a bit, and we wondered if we were going to see someone slip right off the lip of the entire wall. We called over, asking if he wanted a belay across the final section. He was able to climb over to us on our little ledge and we popped a rope on him and gave him a well needed belay across the slick polished final slab and onto freedom and life-yay:[ long story short, the students were a bit aghast at his sketchy decision making and couldn’t really get their minds around why people would do this. Interesting to see them learning that the climbing community is far more difficult to define than any of them imagined. Our final team appeared, looking sun glazed and weary and we rappelled using the rap route, 11 rappels long. The raps took us 3.5 hours and we got to the ground at 730pm. Long day considering we began climbing at around 530am. Great route, classic.

May 14- A Yosemite Restday- today was a real rest day, with a bit more time to sleep in and nothing to get up to for the whole day. I ended up heading out towards Mirror Lake on a run in the am, checking out the amazing view of Half Dome’s steep North Face and trying to find out where the Northdome Gulley descent route comes down. A I ran underneath Washington Column Astroman and Quantum Mechanics were a glow with morning sun, what a wall, incredible. Shower, Internet, reading etc took up most of the day.

May 15 – Serenity Crack to Son’s Of Yesterday- First day on in our last set of three saw me heading up one of, of not the best 5.10 crack multi pitch in the free world, Serenity Crack to Son’s Of Yesterday. I’ve climbed this before but hadn’t been to the very top in years and years. I was guiding Cat, the strongest girl on the expedition and behind us were Sean and Martin, the two strongest guys on the trip. We owed Sean some quality time as he had been patiently climbing routes which were very very easy for him and not pushing his own leading at all. My god this routes good, some of the most consistent quality crack climbing lasting for eight pitches with a crux of 5.10d. Sean almost on sighted the crux, whipping at the last third of the finger crack section. He cruised everything else, as did Cat, following my leads. All three, Martin, Sean and Cat thought it was one of the best routes they’d ever done. As we rappelled we passed a party climbing the final pitch who were both Search And Rescue team members in the Valley. Pete and Amanda were really impressed when they learned that three of our party were students in an adventure program. As we rappelled past them, taking care to build separate stations, share anchors, keep our ropes out of their way and pull ropes up every time a leader was climbing below. They both said that the students were some of the most accommodating and dialed in multipitch climbers that they had ever met. Kudos to the students that day. Serenity Crack into Sons Of Yesterday remains one of the best 5.10′s I’ve ever climbed. Period.

May 16- The Regular Route on Sunnyside Bench- Our second day in our last set of three was a mellow day where I went and climbed a short multipitch route, The Regular Route up Sunnyside Bench located just right of the Lower Yosemite Falls. I climbed with Martin, Cat and Chelsea, with myself simply being a seconding climber that day. The route was fair, with a bit of chimneying, traversing on face hold and solid hand cracks with some face holds thrown in. We had been told that there was a set of pools above the falls that we should go soak our feet in after we summitted, so we were looking forward to the end of the route. At the top the heat was stifling. We searched around and found the stone cairn marked trail to the pools. However, our soaking was not to be, the pools were at the very lip or the falls and would have meant certain death if you happened to fall in. Some bad beta for sure, no pools and certain death for us. We hiked off down the descent trail, kept hiking, wandering in the blazing sun, questing around for the easiest way down. All we found was a traversing side hill trail made of sand wandering above the edge of a huge cliff drop. Not inspiring but the only way. We carefully made our way down in the still, close scotching heat and all swore off ever doing that route again. Ug

May 17 – Half Dome-Snake Dike- The big day had arrived, our last day in Yosemite and a three rope team party had been chosen to try the famous Snake Dike, which climbs Half Dome’s southwest edge. Our planning was extensive, the day before we had chosen the students who would best deal safely with the extremely runout nature of the face climbing and also the close to 15 miles of hiking that took us to the base and then back down the other side to camp. Bags were packed, ropes coiled, food, water mixed with electrolyte powder, topos handed out and e were all in bed by 9am, anticipating the 3 am wake up time. At 10 pm Sean, our strongest leader woke me up with the news that he had stubbed his big toe and in the process cut it open and was unable to fit it in a climbing shoe. Ahhh, last minute plans are a changing. We woke everyone up and hurriedly swapped students around to keep the dynamics of each group. The other teams were going to climb the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, a more difficult crack climbing objective but with a shorter approach and descent. Added into this was the fact that one of the SD crew had an infected thumb and couldn’t put it into cracks, so he couldn’t switch. Cat didn’t want to switch as she was getting guided up SD, Iggy our Icelander was set on SD but luckily Thompson, our youngest and burliest student was up for the challenge Of SD. We set off at 4am and nailed the quick approach trail, getting to the base of SD in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Fast for around 6 miles of uphill hiking. Thanks Martin the Ecuadorean for pace setting there. We blasted up the route in three teams of two, starting our climbing at 710 am. We stayed just far enough ahead of each other than the groups never stopped moving, getting to the top at 12 noon. The final 1000 feet of the route consisted of easy 5.0 slab that was climbed stretching the ropes out 60 meters to gear anchors for 3 pitches, then switched to using terrain belays and hip belays as the stances improved and finally coiled up the ropes, put them on our backs and scrambled to the top. The views? Incredible. Looking down at Washington Column and Astroman and far behind to Mt. Watkins, Clouds Rest and off in the distance Cathedral Peak. About 30 minutes behind us was a German couple in their late 50′s at least who climbed up and hiked down with the same pace as us. Pretty inspiring. We began the 9 mile hike down by descending the cables, which were still lying on the slabs and not propped up for the summer tourist season. After hand over handing down those, we switched climbing for trail running shoes and hoofed it down the trail. Trail runners were the way forward as they were much lighter and more comfortable than approach shoes. Martin and I ended up running most of the trail because of it’s gentle downgrade. We were back at camp by 4. An awesome day for all, on one of the most unique mountains in the world, on one of the most uniquely featured lines of all time. It was really like climbing a dinosaur’s plated backbone for 2000 odd feet. The end of our climbing expedition was a satisfying one. Early morning wake up tomorrow, 4am, pack the bus and start the long drive home.

May 18- The Drive Home…- as we drive, having just hit up a Starbucks for a morning coffee, I relate a few last minute details of my Yosemite trip. Last night my good friend Tim Emmet showed up late in the Valley and we caught up. So good to see that UK mate again. In two days I’ll be in Kamloops BC, then drive to Penticton to climb with my Lovely Lady Mandoline. I have 4 days to spend with her before flying back to San Fran from Vancouver and heading back to the Valley to climb with Jesse Huey. Hopefully it will be on the captain,, hopefully climbing all these moderates has kept me fit but also rested from hard climbing. Time to turn it up a notch.

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