Friday, December 24, 2010

Indian Creek 2010

"Where did you go here?"
"Just jump onto the top of that little whale's hump thing."
"Dude, I'm NOT doing that!"

The two of us can hear, but not see, our friends from where we sit at the top of pitch one on the South Six Shooter. Geoff has already led the second pitch and is belaying Liam across a traversing short pitch that puts us below the summit block.

Impatient, I scramble to the top of a cold, shadowed chimney to see what has Liam stymied. Its a two foot leap across a small gap onto a narrow fin with a flat top. The move is just scary enough to make you think twice, but its over before you know.

Below the summit pitch we all slander Liam for his hesitation as I prepare to lead.

A few hand jams lead to an exciting mantle and then I'm on top.

Taking in three mountain ranges, two giant rivers, and one ICONIC climbing location:

This is the place.

top out


iconic climbing location: indian creek

la sal mountains

top of pitch one


Sunday, April 25, 2010


selaginella watsoni

I took a friend of 10 years for his first climb outside on Friday. Experiential learning: First Munginella and then Selaginella. On Munginella he was slow but fine. Later... I think it took him at least an hour to second the first pitch of Selaginella. Thats when I started counting the remaining hours of daylight. By the time we walked back into Camp Four barefoot, and then the car, it had been dark for two hours. While seconding the final pitch, he dropped a cam onto a ledge that was ten feet below him. His eyes were dark circles. He was thirsty. He was bug-eyed and out of his mind from exhaustion. I felt fantastic. The climb had totally blown his mind. Coming down in the dark was fun. Sitting at the belays watching the light move on Half Dome was fun. He climbed for two hours on 165 feet of hand cracks, and supposed off-widths and chimneys. That was new to me. Actually, I had tried to forget how slowly I climbed when I first encountered Yosemite's cracks. Every five minutes when I pulled a foot through the belay I smiled lovingly at my auto-locker. The traverse on the second to last pitch was perfect. A mini representation of the step-overs you find connecting the Valley's granite crack systems. Royal Arches. Serenity and Sons. The Rostrum. NEB of Higher Cathedral. Memories of these climbs flooded my mind while I waited patiently for my friend to find his way to the top of the wall. I guess climbing doesn't always have to be fast. He had a learning experience about the fundamentals of climbing while I shuffled at the belay and lectured myself about finding the patience needed to enjoy sitting on a beautiful granite wall listening to a dumping waterfall while letting my mind get lost in the dark streaks that cover the face of Half Dome. Yosemite is good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Royal Arches!

I was back in the Valley last weekend to enjoy the sun. Very glad to have made it considering the rain coming down right now. My c0-worker and I did a quick run up After-Six on Saturday afternoon to get our systems dialed. We figured it would be a nice warm up for Sunday's trip up Royal Arches.

napping After-Six

On Sunday morning we were the first party on Royal Arches at around 7. However, by the time I was at the top of the pitch there were three parties on our heels. They chased us most of the way up the route but we managed to keep our distance. Below the rope-swing pendulum I took the hand crack variation to give my partner a chance to hone his hand crack skills. A party of two caught us at the next belay and we let them and soloist pass us by. The left traversing pitch after the pendulum was an absolute waterfall. It was incredible watching the second climb climb barefoot through the cascading water with Half-Dome as the backdrop.

All in all the climb was stellar and the barefoot descent was a real treat. I love walking around up there between Washington Column and North Dome. Barefoot on bare granite. Can't beat it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yosemite Falls Trail

I had the chance to go exploring with the coworkers on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. It was quite snowy on the upper third of the Yosemite Falls Trail. By the time we reached this sign it was warm and sunny all over. Also, high visibility.

From Camp Four on the Valley Floor you head up steep switch backs for what seems like a long time. This is usually the time I am telling myself I should have gone climbing and skipped out on this slog. Then you turn a corner and see this. Everyone's face lights up. They smile. You smile. Its nice.

Upper Yosemite Falls with Lost Arrow Spire
North Dome in background

falls, domes, and spire

hiking is nice

the top!

Mount Clark, Gray Peak, Red Peak, and Star King

We weren't able to get close to the viewing area for the top of Yosemite Falls but we were able to enjoy the above panorama. Mount Star King is an amazing looking mountain. I'd love to wander out there this summer...

After a snack under a glowing Juniper we turned around and began the descent, the fun way.


moody dome
saturday evening
from sunnyside bench

moody dome two

The Sentinel
from Lower Yosemite Falls
saturday evening

The Sentinel
saturday evening

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunnyside Bench

location: Sunnyside Bench
objective: dry rock
weather: clear and fine, about 60 degrees F

On my way through Groveland I picked up a hitchhiker on his way to the Valley. He was a blacksmith on holiday from Israel. I think his trip was part of a celebration for completing his two year obligatory service in the military. Either way, he was a friendly sort and the time passed quickly.

We made a quick stop in El Cap Meadow and he ran around in an effort to generate body heat. I think he was also intoxicated by his first encounter with El Capitan. Watching him sprint around the snow covered meadow in his t-shirt was very funny. This was about ten o'clock. It was not too warm out.

higher and lower Cathedral Spires
from El Cap Meadow

I took a photo of the Cathedral Spires and then we got back in the car. We stopped again on South Side Drive so he could have his picture taken with the falls in the background. It was a beautiful shot. He stomped around in the snow a bit more and then we continued on our way.

I told him he should stay in Camp 4 because it is the cheapest place. He wanted to know if he could just walk into the woods and pitch his tent. I tried to explain why that was not a good idea. I think he heard me.

We decided the visitor center would be the best place for him to strike out on his own. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot behind the deli.

Now what? Remembering how good Sunnyside Bench looked from the road, I decided that would be my destination. I also thought it would be good to know how to find the swimming hole on top by the time Summer arrives. Halfway up I snapped this photo of a snowy Half Dome.

Half Dome
from Sunnyside Bench

Right above the ledge where I stopped for the photo I found my first Indian Paint Brush of the season! By this time the sun was blasting and I was toasty warm.

Giant Red Indian Paint Brush

I looked up this flower up in my Sierra Nevada Natural History Book and was surprised to find May to September as their flowering period. I knew I was lucky to see one on the last day of February.

Further evidence for the concept of micro-climates...

Castilleja miniata subsp. miniata

I guess those little fellas love the sun on those south facing rocks as much as I do.

Giant Red Indian Paint Brush

Anyway. When I got to the top of the bench I took my shoes off so I could walk around in the mud and grass. I found the climber's trail that leads right (east) and back down to the start. I figured I would head left so I could find those swimming holes before descending. The trail was clear. The sun was shinning. A little fresh deer scat. Some more mud. Wet rock. Nice barefoot walking really. Then a sound.

I had surprised a family of deer napping on the trail. Mom and baby got up at first, but soon laid back down when they realized I was not a threat. The buck never really moved the whole time. He seemed perfectly content to watch me from where he was.

perfect day at Sunnyside Bench

Ahwahnee Meadow
compare this photo to the one I took a few weeks ago

misty meadow

winter wear

Monday, February 15, 2010

Reed's Pinnacle

location: Reed's Pinnacle, Yosemite National Park
conditions: February with strong hints of spring

Yesterday was perfect. The weather. The climbing. And the climbing partners. It was shirts off weather at Reed's Pinnacle by mid-day, and we were soaking it up.

Yes, I know I always say that. But really, the forecast for this entire week looks INCREDIBLE for the Valley. It hurts my brain to think about how good the climbing is going to be this week while I am working. Ouch.

Anyway, before yesterday I had never made it to Reeds. Having been there I realize what I was missing. The first two pitches of Reed's Direct are killer. I grabbed the rack at the base of pitch two (yes I know hardmen just do them both as one) and set out for what I thought would be one hundred feet of locker 5.9 handjams followed by an short 5.9 off-width (OW) finish. I climb the first five feet by pinching constrictions and jamming odd pods. I wiggle in a few nuts and tell myself the glory jams are just a few feet higher. After 90 feet of odd and physical jamming I'm finally resting at a ledge. Wow! That was one tough 5.9.

P2 of reed's direct

When I started up the final OW section I was actually happy, for the first time in my climbing life, to make some fist jams. Somehow, that last section was a relief compared to the funky-ness of the lower half.

lower merced canyon
w/ climber, cookie cliff, and pat and jack's behind

So, enough whingin' and moanin'. I build a belay at the ledge. Put my partner on belay, and start enjoying the sun. The waterfalls are cranking down valley above Pat and Jack's. (Anyone know what creek that is? I can't think of it.)

stone groove

Its a perfect spring day in February.

We rap off from the ledge and then head over to Stone Groove. My buddy had a good lead. Stone Grove was tougher than I had thought it would be. Maybe the winter is turning me into a softie. Bummer.

stone groove

We finish up with that climb and then trot over to the base of Lunatic Fringe. It looks awesome! Oh wait, two folks are already racking up at the base. Shoot. None of us feel like hovering over two strangers while they trying a 140 foot 10c so we shuffle back to the car.

Guess that just shows you should jump on the gems when they are open!

We drive around in circles because of the typical Valley detours. Pick up some supplies at the store. Then we finish the day with the two mellow pitches of Jamcrack! Yes I know, doing a cruiser 5.9 when you said you had your eyes on a 10c. What can I say? The light was fading and so was the energy.

pitch one of jamcrack

Summary: thankful to have experienced the Valley in peak condition.

Monday, February 8, 2010

after the storm...

location: Yosemite National Park
date: feb 6 & 7
weather: wet

I woke up on Saturday morning and knew I had to go to t
he park despite the rain. Maybe things would clear up tomorrow. Anything is possible in Yosemite, right? After twelve days of work non-stop I needed some space.

The drive on 120 went quickly. Not too much traffic or ice on the roads. I grabbed a spot in a deserted Camp 4, and then headed up to check out the Rostrum. I had heard there were some dry pitches near the halfway ledge. After post holing and sliding down to the ledge I didn't see much of anything dry.

Rainy/Snowy Rostrum

rostrum from below halfway ledge

fern and moss

wolf lichen

It was starting to get dark so I snapped a few more photos, and then went back to the warm car.
After a quick rainy day dirtbag dinner next to the bear box, I caught the shuttle to the Ahwahnee Lodge to write a few letters and high class it for a bit. The couches are big. The fires even bigger. And the WIFI even freer.

Waiting for the shuttle back to my damp tent in Camp 4 the snow was falling at 9.30 on Saturday evening. What would tomorrow bring? Rain, snow? Was there any chance of climbing anything? Where would I find a partner. Things were grim.

But then I woke up to this...And I knew I had made the right choice...

Royal Arches and Half Dome from Ahwanee Meadow

Sentinel after storm
(too bad this photo doesn't show the whole thing, it looked straight out of the Himalaya)

Royal Arches and Half Dome
after winter storm
from Ahwahnee Meadow

Royal Arches with rolling mist

So there I was strolling about. Snapping photos left and right, watching the walls dry out. Maybe there would be some climbing after all! A quick text to some friends in El Portal. What? They are going x-country skiing on the Tioga Road. Would I like to join them? Oh, would I ever.

And so that is how I ended up spending sunday sliding around in the snow on the Tioga Road. We made tracks all the way to Gin Flat. Had a drink and a bite

road closed to automobiles

break time at Gin Flat

snowy fir trees

So, I didn't get to sink any killer hand jams, or pinch tiny holds, but the Valley still delivered. It wasn't what I was expecting. It was even better.