Butts Kicked on Mindahoonee Wall

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.Summer heat has finally hit the Valley, so we endured a scorched hike up the Falls trail. As part of our joke, we shot video on the way up. We stopped groups of hikers and coached them to act in our film. So one Thai couple, for example, says that they came to Yosemite from Thailand specifically to climb Mindahoonee Wall. Anyway, as estimated, it took about 1.5 hours to the top of the Falls trail. As NOT estimated, it took another 45 minutes or so to thrash through the 150 meters of manzanita to the base of the route. Once there, we were intimidated. We didn't expect anything so steep, so wide or so dirty. The route follows natural weaknesses, but it's still steep.

I started up what looked like a good way, found it extremely hard and, after about 30 feet, backed down to a flake, put a sling around it and rapped. I was feeling pretty dejected – all that hiking and only 30 feet of climbing. So we pulled out the topo and studied it some more and decided we needed to move over to the next crack system. I started up that and it felt more like the advertised 10b. It was exciting though – very steep, friable slab with chips breaking off constantly under foot and then, as the crack runs out, you get two solid but very dirty moss jams and then step right out of the crack. Very scary since you go onto rounded face holds and my palms were covered in moss and dirt. From there you get to the real business of the first pitch – the 5.10d offwidth with hollow flakes and occasional loose blocks. This was just trench warfare and I honestly don't remember whether or not I pulled on gear, but if I didn't, it was only because I didn't have anything big enough. I flopped onto the ledge thrashed.

The next pitch was more of the same and I definitely pulled on gear twice on the 5.10d offwidth section on this one. I would have pulled more, but the 10d was short. From there it was up 5.9 squeeze/offwidth and 5.8 layback/offwidth to a supposed 5.10a section. I went up, climbed around, tried to find anything that looked or felt like 5.10a and couldn't. I decided that I could pendulum into what looked like the route as described in the topo except that I never did see the right-facing corner that was supposed to be there. Theresa was sheltering herself as best she could from the shower of rock chips and I was just getting baffled.

Finally I decided to call enough enough and rappel. All that struggle and we were most of the way down in one 59m rappel. I was amazed at how steep the route was while rappelling, with well over half of the rappel being freehanging and we still had another 50-75 feet of vertical cliff to descend. Naturally the ropes got stuck and I was amazed at how steep the route was with well over half of my 59 meter prussik ascent being freehanging. When we finally got to the bottom it was dark and we had had to thrash out through the manzanita again. Once on the Falls trail, we thought it was over, but the Falls were running more powerfully than I've ever seen due to the rapid melting on this extremely hot day. We were thus treated to fifteen minutes of downpour – not mist, not spray, but full-on downpour like we experienced hiking in New Zealand. We were completely drenched and quite cold by the end of it. We finally reached the car cold, tired, wet, thirsty, hungry, scratched and bruised at 10:45pm. When we walked into the house, Nick heard the door open and we heard “MINDAHOOOOONEEEEEE” from upstairs. Okay, so I have to admit, he was right. Next time we want to get off the beaten track in Yosemite, we'll try not to get so far off.