Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thwarted again

I'm back again at the beautiful Ahwanee hotel for some relaxation and free wi-fi. If only I had $500/night to burn, I could stay here. Oh well, I enjoy seeing the stars when I go to sleep.

My friend Brad had the day off today, so we made plans to go try "Beggar's Buttress" (11c) on Lower Cathedral rock. You might remember that I tried this climb last week with a kid named Rob, but we ended up bailing due to his dehydration/exhaustion/frustration. Having just sent Astroman with Brad, I knew he was up to the challenge. We were so confident, in fact, that we planned on finishing the 9 pitch route by midday and having plenty of time for more climbing in the evening.
The climbing starts well, Brad leads the first four pitches (linked into two longs leads) quickly. I enjoy the beautiful, clean corner on the first pitch just as much this time as I did last week leading it. As I arrive at the belay for our second pitch, though, we notice that the sky has darkened quite a bit. Oh well, it was cloudy yesterday and didn't rain, so we'll be fine. I take the next lead, and take us all the way up to a big ledge about halfway up the route. By this time, we can see rain falling further east towards Half Dome, and thunder is echoing all around. Maybe, though, we can make it, it's not too much further and we're really moving fast. I lead one more easy pitch, and as I do, it begins to rain on us.

We're nervous because the next few pitches are the hardest on the route, and they might now be wet. To make things worse, the last pitch is supposed to be really thin, the kind that would probably protect well with small stoppers, but we'd forgotten all the stoppers in the car. At this point, wisdom finally gets the better of our enthusiasm, and we pretty much resign ourselves to bailing. Not before we get a few cool pictures, though:

Brad surveying the coming rain

Bailing is still pretty complicated, though, since we only have one ATC and one Gri-gri, so we'll have to simul-rap (when both climbers rappel at the same time on the two sides of the same rope, which is folded through the anchor). The route was mostly equipped with bail slings from previous parties, but at one point we had to do a short down-lead to avoid leaving some slings of our own. I'm pretty experienced at bailing now.

Of course, as soon as we had backed off, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. We decided to hed over to Middle Cathedral to check out "Stoner's Highway" (10c). Wow, that thing is hard! Imagine a slab of granite so polished by glaciers that it resembles a marble counter top. The face isn't that steep, maybe 60-80 degrees, but you could combine every handhold on the whole route and still not have something worth grabbing. I feel like Brad and I are both pretty solid 5.11 climbers in most genres, but we combined for maybe 20-30 falls on this thing. Thankfully it had a bunch of bolts, because I felt like I might pop off at any time. So we just did the first pitch, and then it started raining again. This time we'd had our fill of climbing and were pretty hungry, so we gladly headed back for dryness and food.

Brad on the mega-slippery slab of Stoner's Highway

So that's what's going on here in the valley. Here's a pic from yesterday of climbing "Catchy Corner" (11a) at the Cookie cliff.

Also, totally feel free to hit the comment button and leave me some greetings, comments, harassment, or anything else. I'd love to hear from y'all!

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