Thursday, May 28, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
On Saturday, my friend Brad and I got our chance to test our skills on this masterpiece of a climb, and it didn't dissapoint. The rock is the gorgeous white and orange granite that makes Yosemite what it is, and it's split by some of the cleanest cracks in the valley. Pitch after pitch deliver steep, exposed, physical climbing.
Surveying the damage two days after Astroman and the burly Harding Slot
Matt and I (Back in Eldo, it feels like so long ago),after the successful Hairstyles and Attitudes send. I'm in need of some California sun!
Me flashing same, even later
A good zoomed-in shot (thanks Dustin)
Friday, May 22, 2009
With it's perfect weather, soaring granite, and civilized amenities, Yosemite is the perfect place to hang out for a long vacation. The crux of the matter, though, is the camping. For those of us on (very) limited budgets, there's really no legit way to dirtbag it here. That's what makes my new friend Brian so special. I say new friend because I just met him two days ago, and he had already offered to let me stay at his place "as long as I want". Be careful what you say...
I met Brian on this awesome website www.couchsurfing.org, which is like facebook for dirtbags and travellers. You can log on and create a profile, and you list whether you have a couch (or spare bed/ extra floor space) that any random people can come and crash on. It also kinda works like Ebay, in that you can leave feedback on someone after you've hosted or stayed with them. So Brian, who works at the Ahwanee, a mega-swank hotel in the Valley, has a rad little apartment in Curry villiage and is letting me crash on his floor. You rock Brian!! Everyone should go sign up on couchsurfing and host some weary travellers.
So, having been here for just a few days now, I'm only starting to get the hang of valley life. The roads are pretty complex, many are one-way. On my first day I thought it'd be fun to ride my bike down to El Cap meadows, only to find myself stuck on a one-way road (they don't even let bikes go the other way). The only bridge back to the main part of the valley was closed for construction, so I had to ride 3 miles down to the next bridge before I could pick up the road going back the way I wanted. Oh well, it was a beautiful ride with killer views of some falls and El Cap, so I can't complain.
One of my other stops in the Valley on my first day was at the Camp 4 (the climber's campground) bulletin board to post a notice looking for partners. I called and left messages with a few other people who'd left their own notes. Just a few hours later, this kid Brad calls me back to see if I want to go climbing right then (it was about 5pm), and if so, to meet him in 5 minutes. So, I run back to my car, throw together my gear, and run off to meet Brad and his friend Dustin. Turns out I had met Brad last fall in Indian Creek, and I'm really psyched to climb with him again. We all pile in Dustin's truck and head out to Cookie Cliff, where Brad is amped to try and onsight Crack-a-go-go (11c). We hike up, and Brad ties in, and only then realized that we forgot to bring a set of nuts. He's game to go for the lead with just cams, but the crack looks pretty thin and funky (i.e. perfect for nuts). He gets about 30' up, spends a long time trying to fiddle in a cam, and starts getting nervous. After some quick conversation, he decides to downclimb. We back off, promising to come back another day with some nuts.
Next up was Red Zinger (11d), a perfect crack to lead with just cams. It's my lead, and I'm a bit nervous about an 11d being my first climb in the Valley (this year). It goes pretty well, and I get through the crux thin section before pumping out and falling higher up. I get right back on, though, and finish smoothly. Brad and Dustin both take tope-rope burns as the light fades, and then we drive back in the dark.
The next day, and I have a partner (Rob) lined up. We're supposed to meet at nine, but I'm late. He's late too, though, so it works out fine. We hang out in the camp 4 parking lot and talk about what we want to do. We have a couple of moderate classics in mind, but since we're getting a late-ish start, we're worried they'll be crowded. So we settle on a lesser traveled, slightly harder line: Beggar's Buttress (11c). We drive over, looking at the rock (Lower Cathedral) from the road and trying to spot the line. No luck at first, but we quickly hike to the base and, with some guidebook assistance, find our route. The first pitch is dirty 5.7, or a bolted and slightly wet 5.10. Rob ties in and starts of the 5.7, realizes it's too dirty, and then moves over to the 5.10. Two bolts up, he starts sketching. The last bolt is at his knees, but with a long sling on it, it hangs below his feet. He peels, and ends up coming down a ways and kinda ledging out. Ouch... He's ok, though, and lowers down to give me a try. I get up the pitch with minimal fussing, and we're soon at the base of a gorgeous corner (11a). I take this lead, too, and it feels great. Unfortunately the corner ends too soon and I'm on crappy loose terrain. This is sorta what we'd heard about this route: it has some really classic climbing, but it also has some pretty crappy climbing. Rob takes the next pitch and leads a cool chimney in good style, but then climbed up to a big roof/cave/alcove thing and is stymied. He builds a belay and brings me up. The roof is super cool: you work you're way all the way up into the cave/alcove section, and then stretch all the way out to a perfect hand-jam at the lip. Cut your feet, swing out on the jam, and instantly you go from the shelter of the cave to mega exposure. Really cool climbing. As before, though, the good rock disappears just above and more loose junk must be dealt with.
At this point, Rob is having a hard time. He later tells me that he neglected to eat any breakfast, or drink much water, so he's bonking from lack of energy. It kinda sucks, and we're a long way from the top, so we decide to bail. This way an adventure in itself, since I was determined not to leave any gear. It worked, but it involved me down-leading a good section in order to make it to the next bail station. Whatever, that's climbing, as long as we made it down safely we can come back and try again another time.
The day was not totally wasted, though, since I got down in time to meet up with Brad and Dustin when they got off work (they work in the Ahwanee too, but as room-cleaners). They're psyched on Crimson Cringe, so we drive out and do the hike in only to find a raging river running at the base of the wall. Hmm.. I don't think this'll work. Dustin tries to come up with some crazy plan for leading across the river and then setting up a rope traverse, but we're not buying it. It might have worked, and that would have been really cool, but we decide just to head back to Cookie cliff and get in one pitch before dark. Armed with some nuts, Brad gets back on Crack-a-go-go. All goes well, and he completes his semi-onsight. Dustin TRs and cleans, and then I'm up to lead. I spend plenty of time down low getting the gear just right, and then pull the crux (which doesn't feel very hard). Yeah for flashing 11c in the valley! It's pretty dark by then, so we're happy to head back home.
Anyways, today (Friday) I decide to rest, because tomorrow Brad and I are gonna try the mega-classic Astroman! Tune in soon to see how it goes.
A long straight road through Nevada
Once you get to Nevada, there are some big mountains, and I stopped briefly at Great Basin Nat'l Park. I talked for a minute with a super nice ranger who checked online for me and found out that Tioga Pass was scheduled to open at 9am the next day. YES! that fits perfectly for me! Next, I stopped in the nice old town of Ely and spent a little while using the wireless in the Public Library (that where I uploaded my last post). The last little town along the way was Tonopah, which I guess is famous for its casinos and having "the darkest, brightest night sky" (or so the banners claimed).
Finally I was getting close to Cali, and I was treated to a gorgeous sunset. I stopped in the national forest between Benton and Lee Vining to camp for the night, it was a super campsite. I think it was pretty high elevation (8000' ish), so it was cool and the trees were giant. I really felt like I was in the Sierra, and John Muir spent many nights bedded down in the same wilderness.
Sunset just before California
The pass was indeed open, I guess it had actually opened the previous night, and so my little car made a great effort and we surmounted Tioga and entered the park. Yosemite, my home for the next few weeks! There's still a ton of snow in the high country, so I guess Toulumne is gonna be a good summer hangout.
So I'm here now, but I'll save all the Yosemite stories for another post.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"I do my best work under pressure"
So, it is finally here: Sunday was my last day of work, and I am now officially unemployed and homeless. By choice. I am writing this in the middle of the night in the middle of the Great American Desert, on my way from Colorado, which was such a fantastic home for the past 15 months, to beautiful Yosemite California. For the foreseeable future, probably the next 4-6 months, my car will be my home and I’ll be checking out the best the West has to offer. I would not have been able to leave so blissfully, though, if I had not been able to complete one last goal in Colorado before I left.
So, this morning (Monday morning, that is), Matt and I headed to Eldo. The proj: Hairstyles and Attitudes. The goal: a clean, boltless ascent. I had first checked out the line back in April, trying it TR solo. I loved the line and the exposure, even though I couldn’t quite do all the moves. Later that night, I saw my #6 Camalot in my gear tub, and the thought struck me: I bet that would go in to the knee lock before the crux. Once I had the idea in my head, it suddenly seemed doable, in fact, necessary. The route starts about 150’ off the deck, and it’s fairly steep, so I figured that it’d be possible to take big, clean whippers on it. So, after a few weeks off due to my injury, I went back up to the Bastille, this time with a rack. Again TR solo, I rapped down the line, finding piece after piece of bomber gear. The #6 did indeed go in below the crux, though it looked more than a little funky. It bounce tested OK, but I still wasn’t totally confident in it. The problem is that you pull the crux with your feet about 6’ above the big cam, and the next piece of gear below it is another 10’ down. So, I just decided to work on not falling.
Back to this morning. Record highs in the 90s are forecast, so we figure we’ll get an alpine start to beat the heat. We roll in around 11:30 (sleeping-in is addictive) and find some shade for our warm up. Matt onsights Jack the Ripper, pretty much soloing it. Then he spots a potential line on the arete to the right, and so we hang a TR on it and work out the moves. Good luck on that thing, Matt.
Finally, we head over the Bastille. With my fully written out gear beta list, I carefully assemble the rack (17 pieces, this route’s a sew-up!) while Matt solos up the first 2 pitches of the Bastille crack and builds our belay. I quickly join him, and with no extra time for nervousness, I start the pitch. Everything feels great, I barely notice that I’m on lead. I get up to the knee lock below the crux, spend some time getting the #6 Camalot to look good, place a totally laughable rp, and then chill-out and breathe. Once I start the crux sequence, the moves come quickly, and before I know it, my hand is on the finishing jug. Of course, the crux is over, but there’s no gear, and now I’m facing a giant whipper (even if the big cam stays in). The next few moves to gain the ledge are delicate and smear-y, but I take my time, mantel up, traverse a step to the right, and I’m at a no hands stance. (Matt later tells me that he was silently wishing I would fall, so that he could see if the gear would hold.)
While I’m doing all this, a climber is about 15’ away leading Outer Space, so we have a quick chat (nice weather, eh?, a bit hot…) while I catch my breath. Even though the hard climbing is over, there’s still one real move to pull before I get the next piece of gear, and now we’re definitely in the no fall zone. Re-compose, pull the move, and then get the piece: a bomber #9 stopper. From here, it’s more or less a romp to the top, with only one more semi hard move and decent pro.
So, I’m super psyched, as you can tell. This was not only my personal hardest ever send, but also a possible first. I don’t know of anyone who has led Hairstyles without the bolts, but who knows, Derek Hersey probably soloed it, mid-winter. Of course a route on natural gear is one thing, but to be a true trad line, it would have to see a ground-up ascent. So, all you hard-pullin, gear fiddlin, cool headed dude-bros (and bro-dettes): that’s the next challenge.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I've not been climbing very much for the past month or so, mostly on account of my injury a while back. My wrist has taken a while to heal, and it's still not quite 100%. Regardless, I've gotten in a few days of climbing this week.
Eldo is absolutely going off this time of year! Since February 08, when I moved to Colorado, I've maybe been climbing there 200+ times, all year round. This is definitely the most attractive climbing season, though. We spent many days chasing sun and shivering in puffy jackets all winter, and almost as many chasing shade and sweating in t-shirts all summer. Fall is super nice, but by then the days are shorter and the landscape browner. Right now the sun is high, it's not too hot, the canyon is beautifully green, and it seems like everyone is visiting Eldo.
So, back to me. Matt and his friend Natalie graciously invited me out for a day of cranking today, and we had a blast. Some of the coolest days are the ones where you don't really have an agenda, and everything that you get done is just icing on the cake (the cake being a beautiful day spent outside) So we warmed up on "C'est What", a fun steep route on the Whale's Tale, and then made our way over to "Breakfast of Champions". This is a pretty cool line right off the trail that I've walked by tons of times, but never gotten around to doing. It's really short, maybe only 40', but it makes up for it with interesting steep climbing and tricky gear. Matt got on it first, cruised it, and came down saying it was easy 5.10 (the book gives it 11a). Natalie cleaned it, and then it was my turn to lead. It wasn't a true onsight, since I had just watched Matt on it, but it felt good to send an "11" in Eldo that easily. The gear is bomber; anyone that has any endurance should have no problem dropping in more than enough good pieces.
First Ascents really inspire me in climbing, even though I have never actually gotten one! (I've come close though...). I think a big part of getting FAs, especially in heavily traveled place like Eldo, is having the vision to see potential lines. That, or climbing super hard, death defying hairfests. After lowering off Breakfast of Champions, Matt spotted a few holds on the steep face to the right. The line he saw connected BoC to Captain Crunch, a 5.13 sport route (avoiding the crux of that route). After a burn on TR, Matt manned up and led it, and the result is a pretty cool variation, with a totally new and independent crux. We thought it was about 11+, and the gear is pretty sparse, consisting of 2 pieces in the BoC corner before the traverse, and then two small pieces on CC after it. There's a bolt on CC, but Matt opted not to clip it, keeping the new variation all natural. We used double ropes to maximize the gear that was there, but it still seemed possible to take a dangerous fall from above the crux. Way to go Matt!
So after all the excitement of the wild steep climbing, we headed over to the Bastille to get one more pitch in. I had never done "Interceptors", and was psyched to try for the onsight. The route starts up "XM", with very little gear in the first 30' (my only piece would later clean itself and hit my belayer). Luckily, once the climbing gets steeper, plenty of good gear appears, and you climb an awesome hand-ish type crack (finding a handjam in Eldo always gets me excited). When the crack gets steeper, XM breaks off right to keep the pitch at 5.10, but Interceptors goes straight up. Just when the wall is at its steepest, the awesome crack disappears and you have to pull the crux (11b) moves with your feet above you last cam. I was glad that my head was in it and I was willing to go for it, but unfortunately my hand's weren't willing and I got to take a big whipper. The crux turned out to be hard to decipher, and I ended up logging some more air time (thanks Natalie for the soft catches!). Eventually I figured out the cryptic moves to gain the slab above, but that just leaves you even further from the gear with more not-so-trivial slab above. I got creative with a cool sling around a handhold, and then ran it out the rest of the way to the chains. Sweet route, I will definitely miss those awesome sequences that make climbing in Eldo so enjoyable. Despite the choss and the birdshit and the crowds, Eldo is FUN!
Catching air off "Interceptors" 11b R (thanks Matt for the drunken photography)
Friday, May 8, 2009
I was definitely trying to limit the amount of stuff I bring on the roadtrip, but of course I ended up with a full car anyways. I guess I just like comfort too much to pass up on: 2 tents, 2 sleeping pads, crash pad, a full bin of kitchen stuff, a bin of books, 2 bins of clothes, and much other not so neccessary junk.
Also, a BIG thanks to my friend Matt for housing me for the next week or so. I'm staying in Denver and working for one last week before actually hitting the road. I'm definitely anxious to get out there, but 1 week of work now could mean an extra month on the road, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to climb pretty soon...