Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Hulk!

Ok, so some quick catching up: Two weeks ago, just after my wonderful stay in San Fran with Eric and Sarah, I returned to Yosemite, this time to Toulumne Meadows. This higher altitude section of the park offers cooler temps, beautiful sculpted domes and peaks, and free camping! (not really, but I'm staying with some friends)

Toulumne Meadows

It's really awesome hanging out here, and there's plenty of motivated folks to climb with, including my friend Graham. Some highlights of climbing in Toulumne: The Scorpion (11b) and the Wailing Wall (11d) on Medlicott Dome, The OZ and Gram Traverse on Drug Dome (10d), and the Hobbit Book (I forget where it is..., but it's 5.7)

Me leading the Gram Traverse on Drug Dome. The pitch goes horizontally for 150' under a giant roof.

Even cooler, though, than Toulumne, is the climbing in the High Sierra mountains, specifically on a mountain called "The Incredible Hulk". The Hulk is a perfect white chunk of granite, about 1500' high, located way back in a canyon at around 11,000' elevation. It's a tough hike in, so we decided to spend and few days camping at the base and try as many routes on it as we could. The crew was mostly from the Toulumne SAR (search and rescue) team: Graham, Ben, John, Lorna, and Kevin.

Our first view of the Hulk, about 4 miles into the approach

The camping is spectacular, with pure alpine streams, hidden lakes, huge cliffs, and no other people. The only bother was the mosquitos, but we seemed to get used to them and by the 2nd day we were indifferent (or totally saturated with DEET).

The climbing is more spectacular! The rock on the Hulk is some of the best in California, which would place it high in the running for best world-wide. Clean white vertical granite with loads of perfect cracks, this stuff is the medium for amazing climbing. John and I started out with the most classic line on the face: Positive Vibrations (11a). John led the first four pitches cleanly, which set me up for the even steeper and more exposed four pitches above. Positive is mega-classic, and we were stoked for the team onsight! (climber slang: Onsight= to lead a climb first try, without insider info on how it goes, and without any falls or hanging on the rope)

The Hulk at sunset

The next day: Sunspot Dihedral (11b). John was a bit tired, and the route sounded pretty hard, so we figured I should lead all the pitched. This is a rare treat, and I heartily enjoyed it! Sunspot was every bit as good as Positive Vibes, and even harder and much more sustained. It had powerful roof climbing, delicate thin cracks, gorgeous soaring corners, and a cryptic crux. I led every pitch clean for the onsight!

Our last day John decided to hike out (he's headed to Squamish, maybe we'll see him later in the summer), so I hooked up with Justin, a strongman from Montana. We picked AstroHulk (11c, do you notice a pattern?) for the day, and by this point the rock was seeming pretty familiar, so we got a comfortably late start. Just had already done Astrohulk, so we decided to throw in a harder variation on some of the lower pitches, doing pitches 3-5 of "Venturi Effect". This proved to be the highlight of the day!

Justin led the first 11+ variation pitch onsight, and that set us up at the base of a striking corner. Obvious from the ground, this corner is maybe the most clean feature on a mountain full of clean features! Justin had to get his head psyched up this pitch, and he styled the insecure 12a liebacking despite the huge fall potential. I was definitely nervoud for him, watching from the belay. Higher in the corner, the protection got better, but the climbing got harder, and Justin ended up taking a nice clean whipper. He manned up and finished the lead, and I felt really good on the follow, only falling twice.

Once past the variation pitches, we had an odd encounter: We look up to see Graham and Ben, who had been climbing Positive Vibes, rappelling down to us. Once they arrive, they explain that a slower party in front of them was holding them up, and they decided to bail. Fortunately, Justin decided that he would also like to bail (since he'd already climbed the rest of the route), and Graham was keen to continue climbing. So, about 500' off the deck, we traded partners. Justin and Ben rappelled to the ground and spent the rest of the day swimming and relaxing, while Graham and I continued up AstroHulk. And we tore it up! We both felt super confident onsighting the remaining 4 pitches, and we topped out on the ridge with plenty of daylight to spare. A quick rappel brought us back to the ground, and then a quick "ski" descent of the snowfield brought us back to camp.

The Crew getting going in the morning

Sorry to keep throwing more names at you, but that day Ben's friends Marcus and Rocky, from West Virginia, show up at camp. They roll up in good West Virginia style: with a fishing pole, a full size axe, some beer, and a gun. Party tonight! While we were climbing they had caught some delicious trout, and we all feasted. This was the last night in the Sierras for us, and in the morning we gathered our stuff and hiked out. What an awesome three days: great friends, great food, and three killer onsights!

Anyways, I'm now staked out back in Toulumne, probably for the next week or two. Here's some pictures of a fun party we threw last night when Graham's friends Sarah and Laura were visiting:

Sam playing the "Crate Game" The goal is to stack as many crates as you can, while standing on them. Note the harness and ropes, we like to keep things safe.

Ben pretending he's a bear

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful blog dude! You have a tremendous skill for speed climbing as I can see.