Beneath the great Yosemite monoliths lie mazes of boulders littered between trees and trails. Though the history of the Valley reflects daring big wall ascents, the beginnings of aid climbing and the progression of trad climbing, recent development has been devoted to the granite specks scattered about the Valley floor.
I’ve been lucky to have Kris and Sara guide me through many of the Yosemite bouldering destinations straight to several of the true gems. Below is a video sample of some of our favorites.
Keep reading for some photos and a taste of the Yosemite bouldering scene.
If crashing at Camp 4, the best-known and most well-traveled bouldering in Yosemite sits right at the edge of your sleeping pad. The Camp 4 bouldering includes a huge variety of problems of all levels and the high concentration of quality boulders makes for a popular destination on nice days. The famous Midnight Lightning (“V8”) sits in plain view of Camp 4 and often a sea of pads and spotters decorate the evening scene while beer drinking climbers gravitate toward the show. The sound of excited encouragement followed by the groans of close calls can be used to keep time.
Several seasons worth of classic moderates and project-worthy hard lines occupy the Camp 4 boulders and hikers heading eastward to Yosemtie Falls gawk at our strange entertainment.
But Camp 4 is just the tip of the Yosemite bouldering potential. A wealth of lines can be found scattered throughout the Valley. It helps to have a Yosemite bouldering veteran like Kris point the direction. Though he has long sent many of the best V6-V9 problems, he doesn’t mind revisiting some of his favorites so the rest of us can flail our hearts out. But he still has a variety of ongoing projects to which he pays intense visits.
In the last couple years, Sara has made leaps and bounds. She’s now striving for some hard lines including Chocolate Bunny (V6). The unique problem looks like a moss-covered pile of rubble until you hop on. The sloper problem really tests delicate, controlled body positioning, open hand strength and core. The key is a deep heel hook that remains from the very beginning through the first 5 or 6 moves. We all heard Sara’s knee pop while cranking down on the right heel hook. Though not in a great deal of pain, she decided to rest and ice. It was a good decision as the next day she had difficulty walking. She’s done some research and it is likely a minor tear of her LCL ligament. No fun. Hopefully a couple weeks of rest and a bit more time avoiding drastic heel hooks and she’ll be back to 100%.
Chris Rolling and Patrick Hudson were also on their annual trek to Yosemite along with Rusty and Bruce, two valley veterans from the age of climbing with nuts, nuts and nuts. I had a great time talking with Rusty and Bruce, hearing their amazing stories and getting recommendations on quality routes. Having a source to break down the details of some of the huge Yosemite free climbs is invaluable. Though I decided I need more experience climbing the big Valley walls before taking on Astroman, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go for the Rostrum. Rusty described The Rostrum as “a poor man’s Astroman.” That sounded perfect to me and Chris had some unfinished business to attend to.
We woke at the crack of 8 am, drove out, geared up and started our hike down to the base, a subtle focus intensifying the sound of pebbles shuffling underneath our feet. We stood on top of the formation and imagined pulling over the lip in the afternoon after a successful ascent. Continuing the descent, we were stopped cold in our tracks by a ravenous Peregrine falcon looking to defend her nest from us intruders. The bird’s crazed eyes were the last thing we would see before the predatory mother sliced us into filets with her razor-sharp beak. Then we realized it was just a picture and our paralyzing fear evaporated into distilled disappointment.
The cliff was closed due to raptor nesting. Bummer. Let me say that again. Bummer. There is nothing like getting mentally prepared, committed and even racked up for a climb only to get rejected before laying a finger on the rock that will put a route on the top of your list. I’ll be back.
We changed gears and got back to the bouldering circuit. Conditions were perfect and Chris and Patrick both dispensed of an amazing V7 in the Bridalveil area (the first problem shown in the video above). The ascent was the first of the grade for Patrick and he was stoked. I had only briefly met Patrick before and it was awesome getting to know him better. As I expected, he’s a good climber and a good dude and I hope to see him here again soon.
We wandered back to Camp 4 and were lucky to contribute our single pad to the crowd at Midnight Lightning. Chris tried his hand. He had the beginning dialed within a few attempts but was foiled by the lightning hold. It’s nice to know he’s still human. Maybe Midnight Lightning will give him even more inspiration to keep training hard and return to the Valley. I hope so.
Lizz also has ample reason to make a return trip soon. She’s been climbing harder and harder in the gym and Yosemite marked her first true bouldering trip. She struggled as we all do, but had some sweet successes as well. She spent two solid sessions working on a difficult traverse. That tenacity is exactly what is needed to be a good boulderer.
Getting to Yosemite these last few weeks has been a perfect release from work and the business of the Bay Area. Spending time with friends and climbing in what is truly one of the natural wonders of the world is what I live for.
This is just the beginning for our Yosemite bouldering adventures. I’m already dreaming about the next trip.