I had just returned home from a graveyard shift. It was noon on Friday and I hadn’t slept in almost 30 hours. Another graveyard loomed starting at 10 pm on Sunday night. My plan for the weekend involved sleeping, naps and siestas. So when I checked my email over a blurry lunch before crashing I felt a melancholic twinge to see Kris had sent me a note to inquire if a spontaneous Yosemite trip might find its way on my weekend radar.
I didn’t reply immediately for fear of typing some incomprehensible jibble. Somewhere inside maybe I also left the door cracked open just in case my liver started leaking pure caffeine into my bloodstream. When I woke up around 6 pm, I gave Kris a call and said the only logical thing, “I’m in.”
Day one was filled to the brim with what I call ‘ground work.’ We started in the Camp 4 boulders and gave Thriller (V10) a couple hours of effort before diminishing returns became steeper than muscle memory. Kris has been close on the classic line before, but some further refining is necessary for both of us. For me, some horse steroids wouldn’t hurt either.
We then wandered downstream to the tough V9, Heart of Darkness, a problem with a huge stopper move that we just couldn’t latch.
On our way we ran into Jonathan Siegrist and Tommy Caldwell who were gearing up for work on The Dawn Wall. In case you haven’t heard, the never ending 5.13/5.14 big wall climbing on the El Cap monster has been the subject of obsession for Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson and now Siegrist, some of America’s (and the world’s) best. The vertical, technique-heavy, heady climbing is a futuristic, old school line. I’ve known Jonathan for several years, dating back to my time in Boulder and it’s been fun to keep track of his adventures. I have a ton of respect for his work ethic, determination and talent, not to mention that he’s genuinely an awesome guy. He always shows interest in what others are climbing and he’s always encouraging of others’ goals. Hearing about their continued work on the Dawn Wall first hand was an inspiration.
After repeated attempts on Heart of Darkness Kris and I decided further bouldering would be a declining endeavor. So logically we threw on our harnesses and visited Empire, a 5.13 sport route with a couple vicious boulder problems. The first is an all points off dyno. The second is a desperately thin problem of counter pressure off of razor blades. Neither of us could pass the second test and as darkness fell, a shot of Evan Williams lightened our day.
Though no sends were to be had, the day of groundwork was nonetheless fun and we’re both looking forward to revisiting all of the lines. This is one of the things I appreciate most about climbing with Kris. He doesn’t back away from a challenge, physically or mentally. Sometimes taking the plunge is the only way to find out what your made of and what you need to work to get better.
The entire trip we were taken aback by the amazing Yosemite Fall setting. Yellow filled the valley and the stream of tourists had long dried out along with the nonexistent Yosemite Falls. We were more than happy to take advantage of the sparse crowd and had no problem nabbing a Camp 4 site on Saturday.
On Sunday we visited Cookie Cliff and did both pitches of one of the most spectacular hand cracks you’ll ever see, Outer Limits. That climb is infinitely repeatable.
Despite being a bit sore and tired, we had to finish the trip on the beautiful dihedral, Cookie Monster. The first pitch is airy 5.12a and was the perfect challenge. Managing an onsight definitely made the upcoming graveyard seem a little more rosy.
The week before, my Mom, also named Kris, visited me in the Bay Area and we had a great time. We hiked in Muir Woods, spent an amazing afternoon in Berkeley’s Botanical Gardens, enjoyed some of the phenomenal cuisine the Bay has to offer and of course played a couple rounds of golf. She wouldn’t admit it, but she is a fantastic golfer.
I rarely have the chance to do those things and having her here for a long weekend was the perfect reason to relax and have a blast.
On another note, as you’ve probably noticed, ClimbingHouse has embarked upon Version 3.0. Check out the links on top as well as the navigation tools on the left side of the page. If you’re impressed with an article, share it using the tools below. Space for pictures has increased and the site is less cluttered. Thanks to Eli for these changes. His work behind the scenes continues to make ClimbingHouse a home for us all.