Failure and Success
On first inspection, sitting here at home in Squamish a day after my week long trip to Yosemite, the trip seems a bit of a failure. Gary, Colin and I had put in much research and preparation, endless weather predicting and organizing of gear, food and campsites. We arrived to an absolutely FULL Camp 4, the quintessential climber’s campground in North America. A hurried night in Crane Flats Campground, way way away from the climbing was all we could organize before getting up early to beat the crowds to Nutcracker Suite, North America’s first all cleanly protected multipitch on the Manure Pile Buttress beneath El Cap’s Eastern shoulder. Good we got up early, we aced it, with no one ahead of us. What a route, the most perfect combination of splitter cracks, interesting dikes linking features and friction slabs. 5 long pitches put us on the Sundeck-like top of Manure Pile, a formation which should really be renamed. We hung below El Cap basking and then hiked down for another round, climbing After 7 on the same formation.
Day 2 was looking good weather-wise so we hurridly hiked out of our Pines campsite at 6am to try our hands at Snake Dike, the 2000 odd foot long 5.7 climbing the southwest face of Half Dome. 3 hours got us to the base via the shortcut inbetween Mt. Brodrick and Liberty Cap and look at that…8 people on the route already. We lined up and were moving as fast as a party of 2 but by pitch 8 a storm was brewing up and winds were threatening to blow us off our feet with each move we made. Saddly we bailed with about 1000 feet of low 5th, 4th and 3rd class terrain ahead of us. The black clouds and winds sent us away, making me wonder if Patagonia was a bit like this?
Day 3 – The heard working trio headed out again with a cold clear morning to play on Serenity Crack and Sons of Yesterday. Anyone who’s done this knows just how incredible this combination of 8 pitches is as far as Yosemite crack climbing. Yet again we got stormed off at pitch 6 by grim black clouds billowing up over the west end of the Valley. The weather continued to grow darker as we rapped, this was looking like it was set to stay…
Day 4 – 4:30am…rain had been hammering on the tent for a few hours while I dozed through it. I unzipped the sleeping bag and flicked the tent floor…oh mate…at least 2 inches of water was sitting quietly underneath by tent floor like a cheap waterbed. One wrong move and it was going to start is’s unstoppable entry. A mad dash ensued with tents, sleeping bags and thermarests thrown into garbage bags and then we jumped into Colin’s Truck and took off for drier pastures…Smith Rock.
Day 5 – Woke to clouds and a bit of frost in Smith Rock Oregon. What! After biding our time in a Black Bear Diner we heaed out to the Dihedrals to see what we could climb. Surprisingly it was calm and warm down in the park and we climbed some classics on the Peanut, Moonshine Dihedral and the ever classic Wedding Day. Nice to put some pitches behind us and climb something completely different from the cracks of Yosemite.
Day 6 – Another cold cloudy morning but it was our last so we headed out to explore the Lower Gorge, where the basalt cracks reside. What a perfect way to end the trip, on impeccable Basalt climbing Indian Creek style splitters, fully 5 star quality. We also had to experience Pure Palm, the bolted stemming line. We left early that day, intent on making it home around midnight.
Overall, a great turbo paced roadtrip with Gary and Colin Kauffman dodging some bad weather, making big weather calls and generally getting after is in the most amazing granite climbing area in North America, Yosemite Valley. This was barely a teaser, the boys were psyched for more adventures in the Valley.