Friday, 24 September 2010

Yosemite Cowboys : The Arrogance of Youth without Stubborness of Age.

24th September : Yosemite Cowboys : The Arrogance of Youth without Stubborness of Age.

A couple of days after returning from 'the valley' and a bit of reflection time is needed. What a great holiday. Byron and I set out for 3 weeks after a 6-8 months of learning, thinking and dreaming of climbing some big walls in Yosemite.

Over the 3 weeks we had a bit of a roller-coaster. During the first week there was a heat wave in the valley at around 95-100 degrees. Sticky weather to be training for aid climbing in. Our confidence far outweighed our ability and as Stinger (Top Gun) would say:

"Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash. You've been busted, you lost your qualifications as section leader three times, put in hack twice by me, with a history of high speed passes over five air control towers, and one admiral's daughter! "

I guess this slowed us down heaps. We were taking twice as long to aid through long A1 pitches as we had hoped. A bit disheartened with our 'road to the nose' we decided to go for trip on Snake Dyke (aka Snake Hike) which involves a 15 mile round trip hike with 600ft of 5.7-5.4 climbing. Great fun and as we got higher, the breeze cooled us off.

A few more days out cragging and cranking up some of the 5* jamming routes in the valley and a trip on Washington Column was due. Washington Column is a 600m Big Wall and is deemed one of the easier Big Walls in Yosemite valley.

On our first trip we took Tina (the pig/haul bag) out for a spin. Hauling was not so bad, getting caught up every now and then. This is a little bit like car -camping of the climbing world. Without too much difficulty we made it to Dinner Ledge where we met a couple of other Brit's struggling with strong winds getting over Kor roof. We decided to chill at the ledge for the night as they played on higher up. That afternoon, as I was eagerly awaiting 'Stagg Chilli Opening Time', I was alerted by the familiar noise of fluttering rocks.

Looking up, about half a dozen rocks came flying down nearly missing both Byron and I (I had dived for Byrons helmet at this stage, sorry Byron). That was a close one, we deemed these trade routes quite safe from rockfall, there were no parites above us. Leave us alone mountain!

That afternoon, we kept one eye looking up, bad vibes, we abbed on down.

A day after, we met a couple of yanks that we had chatted to as we set off on the column, one of them was called Chuck, a great name! They greeted us with "I thought you guys were dead maaaaan", as they reported the rockfall to look a fair amount bigger from their angle as they rested high on the Prow. These fellas were the real deal, 'Piratical' bearded, portaledged, bandana'd and lots of 'psyche homey'. They smashed back cans of bud at the crag and were generally legendary!

Coming down from Washington Column, Half Dome N Face in the background.

Jugging up to Tina

Back at base camp we got stuck into 'King Cobra' 75c beers and jumped back and forth over the fire pondering out next move. We wanted to jump on the nose, but something was holding us back (common sense). Several parties hard already been on, failing fairly low. Due to being too slow.

We were getting quicker but needed to learn more. We got back on Washington Column.

This time, we moved fast through the first few pitches and arrived at the large ledge again. Only Kor roof was in our way. We aimed to fix to pitch 5 that night then we could 'jug' the ropes and climb to the 9th pitch the following day.

That afternoon, I spent an exciting hour and a half or so swinging around 300-400m from the valley floor aiding bolt to bolt to the lip of the roof. Over the roof you go for it to a blind pocket. Using a bit of muscle memory I slotted the no.0 DMM friend and up you go, another size 0 metolius mastercam and you are off. A rising traverse continues for another 10-12m to an intermediate belay. It is important to protect your second here, as it is just a little too easy to slot no.1 friends in all the way along the aid crack and then back clean.

I stopped at the intermediate stance. Fairly wired, fairly excited, I had just experienced the most absorbing time of my life. An hour or so later and Byron's legs are seen swinging round and around under the roof! Wow, he must be having a hell of a time, its pretty exposed right there! I finally saw his head stick over the lip.....ahh the familiar face. I have seen that one before. The last time I came across this particular Mr.Buck expression was when Byron had inverted once in North Wales. This was not a good face.

The awesome, Kor Roof.

Chilling on the ledge

I had been hanging around for a little while, we were both fairly wired by this awesome experience. We decided to give the 5th pitch a miss until the next day. We abseiled over the roof back to the bivvy ledge.

That night, it didn't take much for us to hang up the aid gear, the fifi was cut from the harness and it was game over. We love free climbing, aid climbing feels slow and involves hating life. At least that was our attitude at the time. I think now we have learned so much about aiding and the mind-set you need to be in. I think we will go back, in-fact we have started to plan the trip already. Spring/Autumn 2012. Now we know what we need to know, we can train better.

All in all, an awesome trip! Back at camp 4, we chilled for a bit went cragging and then got the bus to Vegas. Lets go on holiday!

Aid Routes:

La Escuela (El Capitan base) Pitch 1 A1
Pacific Ocean Wall (El Capitan base) Pitch 1 A1
Washington Column to Dinner Ledge (take 1)
Washington Column to top of Kor Roof (take 2)

Free Routes:

All sorts on Swan Slab, near Camp 4
Snake Dyke
Bishops Terrace, Church Bowl Buttress
Church Bowl Lie Back
After 7, Manure Pile Buttress

I am going to write a little article on 'the Camp 4 Craic' as it takes a wee while to work out the best way to do/wangle everything there. It did only take us a couple of nights of 'King Cobra' beers before we plucked up the courage to start chasing bears in the woods!

Freddie the bear even came out in the day time.
Waiting for the rangers to 'pop a cap in his ass'

During our time in the Valley 'Steve' climbed El Capitan. An amazing feat:

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