Finally, Success in The Valley

So I haven't been updating the website lately. I have a good excuse, I've been out climbing, biking, hiking, running, and doing other outdoor activities.

Earlier this year everything started coming together. I had the time and money to do El Cap with a guide. After several disappointing years of trying to climb it on my own I decided I would pay for the "almost sure thing" with Yosemite Mountaineering School. I called the school in April and booked my first climb, South Face Washington Column. The YMS likes to check you out before putting you on the big wall and I was OK with that. The day finally came. I left late Orange County late on Thursday June 28th. I slept in my car for a bit somewhere before the gate on the West side of the park, I think I was near Coarsegold or something. I woke up early on Friday and drove into the park as the sun was coming up and this is what I saw! There was a controlled burn in the valley which made it look amazing.

I found a nice spot in Camp 4 after waiting in line for a few hours with everyone else. I headed over the lodge and met my guide, Mike Schaefer. We chowed and then headed out to do paperwork and some basics. We hit Swan Slab for some cleaning practice as well as Le Conte. Everything checked out so I turned in for an early night. The next morning I met Mike at the lodge again, we ate, and we headed over the Equest parking area and hit the trailhead. Heres a pic of Mike right before we started the first pitch.

I really suck at free climbing lately and only freed the first and last pitch of the route, aiding the rest. It didn't matter to me, I like aid and as the day went by the trees kept getting smaller, as did the belay ledges.

We made it to Dinner Ledge in plenty of time for lunch. What a great view - Half Dome, Clark Mountains, Glacier Point, and most of the valley floor.

 

I use to think it was the helmet that was crooked, but unfortunatley it's my head, that's a new helmet and my old one fit the same :)

 

We ditched most of our stuff at Dinner Ledge and fixed lines to the top of Pitch 5. Below is Mike leading The Kor Roof. He had no problems but I did. As I was cleaning the wind really picked up. I finished cleaning the roof, lowered out ,and started spinning like you wouldn't believe. I couldn't stop. Because I was ascending one line and Mike was belaying me on another I ended up with a twisted mess. Mike had to rap down and help untwist me. I spun in one direciton for 5 minutes and then in the other for 5 more to get untangled. Wow I was dizzy but I kept on climbing and it went away. At least I had a great view while I was spinning. Yosemite, Glacier, El Cap, rock, Yosemite, Glacier, El Cap, rock .... wish I could have taken a video.

We got past that hurdle and rapped back down to Dinner Ledge for the night after fixing the lines. I woke up a few times that night and saw some amazing stars. In the morning I woke up to the sun touching the tip of Half Dome. We ate some breakfast, packed up, and headed up the fixed lines.

 

The trees kept getting smaller, and so did the belay ledges. Here we are hanging somewhere?

 

I don't know what pitch this is, maybe 8 or 9. Finally we had a descent place to stand for a few minutes. There were a ton of ants in this tree, it didn't take them long to find me and start crawling all over.

And after a fairly mild second day of climbing we topped out after a few hours. It was somewhere around lunch time. BTW - If you left a pair of shoes in the crack on pitch 7 or 8, they are still there. They didn't fit me so I didn't make a withdraw from the booty account. We did how ever tap the many water sources left on the route.

From the top we had a clear view of Glacier point. We could see a bit of Half Dome.

And of course El Cap was hanging out in the background too. Here I am at the top! 1100 feet, 2 days, and the only major drama was spinning in mid air 300 feet off the ground for 5 minutes and knocking 2 rocks loose. That last pitch is choss city. This route is probably the longest I have ever climbed and I felt good all the way up it. I don't remember any major difficulty. I'm ready for the big one - El Cap. I was originally going to do it this year but due to scheduling problems with me and the YMS I couldn't find a guide to take me when I was available so it will have to wait until next May. At least I am one step closer to the goal.

 

We rapped down, I dropped Mike off at the Lodge, and I hit the Pizza Loft. I called everyone to let them know I was OK. After dinner I jumped in the river by El Cap Meadow to hose down, then I drove home. I got back to Orange County just after midnight. Reminds me of the trips we did in college.