As the cliche title implies, we are saying hello to you from the road–the “we” being Connell and I, the road being “Philz Coffee Shop” in San Francisco, and the you being well, you!
Anyway I am coming at you fresh from a shower in the Pacific…ocean that is, which is how vagabonds do it right? Either way I am about to do something I am very poor at doing, writing trip reports–but I am committed to this blog so am damn well going to try my hardest to do our adventure justice. (Connell will chip in with a few words here and there which I am sure will beef up the content for those of you wanting more details)
Ps. for those of you who are non-climber folk, here is a link to a glossary of climbing words: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/rock-climbing-glossary.html
(see, I am going to list the days for your reading pleasure)
We started the trip slowly but surely making our way up from San Diego to Monterey where we spent a night to deliver some items to a family friend’s house (sounds sketchy right? it isn’t). We made it to the house at 3am, and despite some creepy noises and creaky creeks we slept soundly until the casual time of 8–no wait that is when we wanted to get up it was actually 11am– how it got to be that late I have no idea. With the day already half over we meandered slowly out east to Yosemite–spending around three hours between REI a coffee shop and back to REI. Finally we reached the gateway to paradise entering the park with youthful excitement (at the speed limit as not to hit a bear) and proceeded to miss the turn for Tuolumne. So just as easy as we had entered the park, we exited. In a state of confusion we turned around after a few miles of map debating and re-enterd the park, proudly displaying the receipt we had just purchased minutes ago. We settled into our pull-out outside the park that night and began what was to be an amazing time in the meadows.
Our first day was spent at Puppy dome, and as far as single pitch climbing grades goes our most ambitious. Maybe subconsciously we wanted to humble ourselves on the first day so we could slowly build ourselves up as the trip progressed, or maybe we truly believed we would send hard our first day—first time in Tuolumne. Call us naïve, but we were just psyched. We warmed up on “Battle of the Bulge” which is a 5.8R that Connell lead and I followed up. We had eyed “Do or Fly” an 11c before which has a tricky start with a bad landing. Wanting to avoid injury on our first day we set up a top rope on it to either “do or fly” I suppose.
There was nothing easy about the start—a lot of flying and not so much doing. We both took some large swings attempting to figure out the beta (or the moves). Finally after some re-opened scar-tissue and ego-humbling I made it through the start and cruised through the middle lie-backing section only to fall at the last move before the chains above the roof crack. Thoroughly irritated I let Connell rope up and give it a try, after some more grunting, bleeding and swinging he also figured the beta, cruised the middle and fell at the top. We sat at the bottom listing off a whole slew of justifications and excuses for our seemingly weak attempts—seems to be the vice of shut down, ego-bruised climbers. Acknowledging the tone of our conversation I figured the only way to move forward was to send it (how inspiring does that sound? Defeated climber get’s on climb one more time, regardless of the odds—altitude, being out of shape, tired, hungry, etc, etc… and finishes the route clean, not even a pumped forearm). So now you can probably guess where this is going, yeah I sent it, and yeah it was fulfilling and full of laughter and fist-pumps and—oh wait… its only 11c, and I top-roped it.
But then I remember why I like Yosemite and Tuolumne so much it reminds you how subjective the climbing rating system is—reminds me why I climb which isn’t (at least I will tell you) for the grade but rather for the process. So my advice for you, the reader, is that you should do things that scare you, that you want to try but the grade (or something relevant in a non climbing setting) holds you back—because you don’t really know what is going to happen. ANY thing can and will happen. But then eventually it will all feel natural and there will be something else that comes along that scares you—like a bigger wall to climb, or a bigger spider that crosses your path—, which in my case was the neighboring 12a “Horseshoes and Hand grenades”. As to how conquering that went, well, I leave that to your imagination. We will say for now I am psyched to add it to my list of projects in the Valley—and am pretty sure I can send it next go. (See, I want to set a framework so you can imagine my climbing future in a positive light). Exhausted we retired to the truck for a night of anticipatory alarm at 5:00am.
Yes, that alarm did go off, and yes I did snooze it and yes we did sleep in till 8:30am. We had planned to get on the Third Pillar of Dana but with the late start we moved that back a day and decided to tackle some routes on Lembert Dome. As we unpacked our gear and organized for the day in the parking lot beneath the dome an older couple walked up to us. They were most likely in their early 80s but held themselves as if they were about to go tackle these peaks with a youthful vigor. You can always kind of tell the curious tourists from the kindred spirits in climbing areas, and there was something about this man. His wife noted they were not only active members, but also founding members of The Sierra Club, (kindred spirits).
The husband inquired as to what we were doing, we had decided on the direct North West Face. He nodded, and said “you know that was the hardest route I ever freed”. He then pointed out climbs he had done on the west face of Lembert making some recommendations and giving suggestions. I knew that if had climbed these routes he had probably climbed them with the pioneers—or even been one of them. Who was he? He couldn’t be Royal Robbins or Yvon Chouinard, their grizzled faces are too familiar to me. “And where do you two hail from?” He asked. The conversation shifted to Tahquitz, there his wife chimed in “I learned to climb there!” “Oh yes” the husband reminisced “I put first ascents up there, do you know the area well?”
Finally I asked, maybe a little too bluntly “who are you?” Here is where his wife proudly took over, “the Sherricks” “I am Mike” he held out a hand. A little digging into my memory would’ve clued me into the fact that he was on the team, with Royal Robbins and Jerry Gallwas, that has the F.A. on the Regular Northwest Face of (get this) HALF DOME! Maybe if I had seen the name on paper I would have realized who I was talking with but instead I blankly just stared at him and his wife knowing, sort of, that I was in the presence of climbing royalty. We let him look through our copy of the newest version of the Tahquitz guide and he found the climb on the South face by the ski tracks that he and Robbins had put up in 1957, “The Unchaste” which goes free at 11a now. After saying our goodbyes and good lucks we made our way to the base, I felt a new energy after that conversation—a new “psych” for the sport and love for the history. The climb was beautiful. A really unsuspecting line until you stood beneath each pitch of climbing. I lead the first pitch which was a fun hand crack topping out at 5.9. Connell lead the next which had a 10a powerful lie back crux, and I led the final, which is the crux of the climb—a 10b thin finger crack.
We topped out in good spirits and took some time at the top to revel in the scenery. For the most part climbs remain the same for years and years, each crack climbed by generations of evolving shoes, new techniques and protected with ever-changing gear. The beauty of climbing is the consistency—for years and years you can return to the place where you found that rhythm and forever reminisce in the sport that shaped your life. Regardless of the evolution of the sport the rock forever remains (for the most part) the same.
We finished out the day with a small epic on the Left Water Crack. Unintentionally climbing a bit too high up the slabs we found ourselves pulling a little Alex Honnold. Either way Connell lead one of the most interesting and unprotected 5.7s I have ever climbed.
Day 4: Third Pillar of Dana
(Connell will update the 4th day in Tuolumne soon, but below is a quick look at to what we got on)
Day 5-Rosie: (getting burnt out on writing trip reports)
Feeling a bit tired from the previous day’s venture we woke up late and a bit apprehensive. But when we got to the base of OZ I couldn’t believe how amazing the line looked and immediately was psyched. Connell lead the first pitch which off the start was 10a and traveled into some easier terrain. I lead the next three pitches–and having climbed a fair amount of sport in my day I am going to (maybe too boldly) assert that the 2nd pitch on OZ was one of the best 10d sport pitches I have ever been on. The next two pitches were beautiful as well. Connell wasn’t feeling the extension, which is the Gram Traverse that heads out under the ominous roof, so we finished the route to the left. This was an amazing way to end the climb, you traverse out over 300feet of air which isn’t as exposed as the Gram Traverse–but still really exciting and fun climbing.
We ended the day on Galen’s crack, which is an 10c offwidth–Connell’s territory. I gave it one burn and immediately was shut down– you have to be really pumped to work your way through a wide-crack, it definitely isn’t an end of the trip endeavor for me. Connell gave it an inspiring effort and made it 3/4 of the way up before burning out. This will definitely be a project for him, and I am sure next time we get out to Tuolumne he will send it–who knows maybe I will too!
We left Tuolumne, humbled and invigorated, definitely not ready to leave but knowing confidently we will be back soon, even stronger. We sat mostly silent as Connell drove up the 120–rockin’ out to some Jim Morrison on “LA Woman”. Occasionally we would pass the time making each other laugh so hard we cried while watching the thunder-clouds develop in the hazy fire-ridden sky of Southern Oregon. But more than anything we were waiting in anticipation for our next adventure to begin.