The end of the month is a little sad because many of the great people that we shared the house with are leaving. On the other hand, I guess it’s a good excuse to throw some parties.
We met up with Jens at Middle Cathedral to climb the first few pitches of Stoner's, then perhaps some other stuff. The idea was to do a minimum of walking since Theresa's ankle has been bothering her. After Stoner's I got back on Bircheff-Williams, which I hadn't tried since the first time, about three? years ago.
The weekend was a Memorial Day party courtesy Chris and Pat, including a cookout at their house and climbing and Fresno Dome.
We went back to the Cookie on Friday (May 23) for our respective projects and then we spent the next day watching Yuji on his project. It was pretty instructive all around.
Theresa and I had had a running joke for several days with our roomate Nick. We said we were headed up to do Mindahoonee Wall, a two-star 5.11a up near the top of Yosemite Falls. He said it was going to take us six hours to get there, we would never find the route, it would be choss and we should just go do a known, quality route. “Where's the adventure in that?” we asked. So joking that we would be back in three days, we set off yesterday in search of adventure and boy did we find it.
I had a lot of beta from my housemate, Bob, but I was still nervous about embarking on such a difficult lead without having had the opportunity to explore it before-hand. Moratorium is only 4 pitches, but at 10d, 10d, 11b, 5.9, the terrain is quite intimidating. I led the second 10d, a pitch with a short crux section of fairly technical stemming moves. I am proud of myself for approaching it calmly and smoothly, placing gear when I needed it, but not too often. Tom said that it took me only 15 minutes to lead, which indicates how comfortable I was with the climbing. Progress! Perhaps I really should get on some 5.11 climbs.
It rained on Wednesday, forcing hordes of climbers to abandon their climbing attempts and seek shelter from the weather. What that meant for us, is an opportunity to get a jump start on a popular 'big wall' route in the Valley.
Normally the South Face is teeming with wall climbers, planning to spend the night on Dinner Ledge, three pitches up the rock, and then finish the ascent the following day. However, when we showed up at the base of the route a little before 8am, there was only one party ahead of us. After some congenial negotiation, we decided that Tom and I would be able to pass them easily on the second pitch, by taking the 10a free variation while they aided the 11. After that we were on our own.
We each free-climbed the first three guidebook pitches up to dinner ledge. Then, I led the Kor roof – which has a bit of a reputation for being reachy, but was actually no problem for me, even at my modest height of 5'1″. Tom short-fixed several times through the next two aid pitches and then we free-climbed to the top.
Having experienced the top of this route, now, for the first time, I am happy to say that there is no need for me to ever experience them again. The aid pitches on the route are beautiful, but the free-climbing, especially at the top was loose, and ugly.
As we rapped down, we encountered the crowds that are typical of the route. There was a party of three fixing two pitches above Dinner Ledge, another party of two waiting on the ledge, and another behind them on the first pitches. Plus, there were two parties setting off on Skull Queen, which also leaves from Dinner ledge. We counted our blessings at having managed to knock off this route without encountering so many crowds.
Tom is always teaching me things. When we first moved to California, Tom taught me that 10-15 pitches of climbing is more than do-able in a day. Having previously taken more than 10 hours to do only 3 pitches, this easy comfort with moving quickly over the rock was something that I hadn't really imagined before. He has undertaken a prolonged crusade to make me more comfortable hopping and dancing across steep boulder-fields and slippery scree slopes, maneuvers that would previously have had me crawling on all fours in tears. This winter he taught me to ski the trees in VT. It's always the same program, “Try this. Be safe. The worst-case scenario isn't that bad. You can do it.” and I learn, slowly, from his example.
This has been a strange year for snow. When we moved in, at the beginning of April, Hans said that having snow on the porch was highly unusual for that time of year. Now, it's May, and the snow is still falling. It's incredible – incredibly beautiful, and incredibly frustrating. This was not the view that we expected for the beginning of April in Yosemite Still, we're getting out some.
Well, well, it has been a long time. There’s so much to write about, that I hardly know where to begin. Tom and I spent December through March driving across the US, visiting family and friends. It was a great trip, and we had a great time visiting everyone, however the theme of our vacation so far certainly seems to be ‘driving’. We were definitely road-weary by the time April rolled around and we moved into our new place in Yosemite.