Yosemite Climbing Trip, May 5-9

  • Sunday, May 10, 2015 8:07 PM
    Message # 3338560

    Tuesday, May 5


    Edwin was going to be in Sequoia National Park somewhat near where I live in Clovis, California for a family vacation and he asked me if I wanted to climb with him in Yosemite National Park.  Although I live within two hours of Yosemite, I do not climb there often since it is crowded and there are many uncrowded areas in the National Forests south of Yosemite.  However, Yosemite is one of the places where I learned to climb and it is great to go there mid-week, which we were doing.  On Tuesday May 5 Edwin drove back from Los Angeles where he dropped off his family at the airport and then drove up to Yosemite from there.  I left my work in Fresno at 3:30 pm and got to the campsite in Yosemite in a bit over two hours.  After setting up my tent, there was still plenty of light left, so we decided to go to the short Swan Slab where I did some of my first short multi-pitch climbing.  Edwin led the short "Oak Tree Flake" (5.6).  The crux is the first few moves, which are polished.  He cruised up the flake section.  He could not find the bolts on the ledge, so he built a belay in cracks.  I came up the short pitch and looked for the bolts where the guidebook said they should be, but could not find them.  I then led off on the sweet "Bay Tree Crack" (5.6) which is the one possibility for the second pitch.  The last part features an nice, but too short, splitter crack.  I built a belay on a ledge and then brought Edwin up the pitch.  We walked down, but could not find the rappel bolts on the west side of the formation, so we rappelled from a tree down a fifth class section.  It was almost dark when we got back to the base.


    Wednesday, May 6


    The next day we got up early and got to the popular climb "Munginella" (5.6) **** on the Five Open Books.  We were the first climbers on this popular climb.  We started the climb at the tree and the end of 3rd class sections.  I led up the first pitch and kept going and going.  Edwin was shouting at me that I was nearing the end of the 70 m rope, but I could not hear him over the roar of Yosemite Falls.  I passed a difficult section coming out from a roof and then felt lots of rope drag.  I called for slack, but there was none since I was at the end of the rope.  However, I was at a stance that is marked as an alternative belay for doing the route in three pitches (at the top of the second pitch).  I set up a belay and then brought Edwin up the long pitch.  He then got a very short second pitch, which also had some 5.6 moves.  Unfortunately, while I was belaying him, some climbers led right behind me with their rope running against my leg, which pissed me off.  The second asked me to move out of the way, but I gave her a mouthful about how she needed to not be in my area if she was passing.  Her partner above knocked a rock down, which was not cool.  Edwin brought me up after the second was out of the way.  We walked down to the base.  This was an excellent climb, but I recommend having walkie-talkies for this one unless Yosemite Falls is not going.  


    Next, we wanted to do "The Caverns" (5.8) **** in The Five Open Books area, but two parties were on it.  So, we decided to try "Commitment" (5.9).  Edwin led up the first pitch, which starts out as a flaring crack that he lie-backed.  It was scary watching him lead this since he fell on to the gear once.  Then he got into the hands crack.  He led up this and then traversed right out of my view to a bolted belay.  He brought me up this pitch.  I tried to climb it by jamming the flaring crack, but the angle was wrong, so I also lie-backed it after yanking out the protection.  This section is scary even if you stem out of the tree as I did.  Then I started jamming up the crack, but it was not vertical, so jamming did not always work.  I came to a cam that Edwin placed that one of the cams rotated out.  I could not get the cam out, but kept going.  I was exhausted when I got to the belay.  We wisely decided not to do the upper pitches since they promised to be harder than this pitch which really taxed us.  I was able to get the cam out on rappel using a nut tool, a nut, and pulling with my body outward.  Edwin then came down.  The start on this pitch is hard no matter what technique you use because there are no footholds available.


    We then hiked over to The Sunnyside Bench Area.  We decided to do "The Regular Route" (5.4) *** of Sunnyside Bench, which I have never done before.  The red cover and green cover Roper Yosemite guidebooks had this climb, but then it was not covered in later guidebooks until Supertopo's "Yosemite Valley Free Climbs" came out.  We climbed up the 3rd class gully to the first belay location.  I led up a 4th class - 5.0 steep gully to a tree, where I belayed Edwin up the pitch.  Edwin then went right on a ledge and then up an exposed 4th class bottomless gully to a tree and then up some 5th class moves to a spacious ledge where he set up a belay.  Bring a lunch because this has to be one of the best lunch spots in Yosemite!  The wind was picking up as I led off on the next pitch to a tree and then up the 5.4 section on knobs.  I traversed right and then went up a low angle crack to a small bush/tree where I set up a belay.  I brought Edwin up this pitch.  We then climbed 3rd and 4th class terrain up for about 250 feet to a climber's trail.  We followed this climber's trail to the right as it traversed along Sunnyside Bench.  This trail goes for at least 1/4 mile or more and has sections that go right above cliffs - definitely a no fall zone.  Finally, we went down switchbacks in a drainage to eventually reach a paved trail which we followed back to the base.  This was a fantastic climb, but definitely do not try the descent in the dark since you will likely miss the trail and slip off a cliff.


    Thursday, May 7


    The next day we awoke to drizzle in the morning and then steady rain.  We packed up our campsite since we had to move to another campground in the park.  I cooked and ate my breakfast in the drizzle, but Edwin went to the Curry Village cafeteria to eat.  We decided to see if Knob Hill was dry enough to climb (I am ever the optimist).  It was pouring rain and wet snow as we parked on Highway 120 and hiked several minutes up the hill.  The rock was running water, so I asked Edwin if he wanted to consider a low elevation climbing area about 70 miles away that may be dry.  He was game, so we drove through the rain and snow over Crane Flat and then down Hwy. 120.  We then went to Jamestown and then to the parking area for Table Mountain.  It was not raining until we got near Jamestown.  Edwin was not having high hopes as we hiked in on the dirt road from the parking area while it was raining, but anytime climbing is involved, I am always an optimist.  We got lost trying to find The Grotto and ended up at a different area, but eventually found the right way by looking on Mountain Project.  Although it was still sprinkling, the Ort Wall and opposite Grotto Columns were dry since they were overhanging or had overhanging upper sections.


    I led the sport climb "Cowboy Up" (5.9 R).  The R refers to the high first bolt and only three bolts on this short climb.  The jugs and grippy basalt and lava rock was nice.  I clipped my rope into the two snap-links on chains at the top and then Edwin lowered me down.  Edwin led this route also.  Next, we did "Sidesaddle" (5.9) * which had five bolts and was the same height as the previous climb.  This climb had fantastic jugs and was very nice.  I was really pumped when I clipped my rope into the snap-links.  Edwin also led this route and thought it was good.  Edwin asked if I wanted to lead "Color Coded Quickdraws" (5.10b), but I told him I would top-rope it if he led it.  He led it, but had to call for tension at the crux, which involved a very long reach in an overhanging section from poor hand- and foot-holds.  I top-roped the route, but had to rest on the rope a few times.


    Edwin then wanted to lead "Bandito" (5.8) * which is directly opposite from the Ort Wall in this grotto area (grotto accurately describes this area where the ground is collapsed about 40 feet from the surrounding area).  The Grotto Columns have columnar basalt similar to Devil's Tower in Wyoming.  "Bandito" goes up a crack that varies from less than 1/2" wide to 4" or more wide; however, you have to use all different techniques since there are cracks and holds on the walls on either side.  Edwin went up this and really scared himself.  He sewed up the route, but did not put in any protection in a very wide section where he could not jam his foot.  He had a short sleeve shirt, which must of hurt doing the reaches into the crack to a hand-hold crack in the back.  He was relieved to get to the snap-links where he clipped his rope in.  I then followed the route to clean it.  The climbing required all different techniques.  We called it a day and hike out under clear skies; however, as we drove back up Hwy. 120 into Yosemite Valley, it was snowing very hard.  I was surprised the road was still open since it was snowing so hard.


    We met Leah who had flown into San Francisco that day and then drove up to Yosemite.  We set up our campsite in the rain and then went to eat at the pizza shack since the cafeteria was already closed.  Our next night's reservation was at the Hogdon Meadow Campground, which is at 5000' elevation at the Hwy. 120 entrance to Yosemite.  I agreed to get up early to see if we could get a campsite at Camp 4 instead of having to camp in the snow at the high elevation.


    Friday, May 8


    It was still raining in the morning, but less hard than the previous day.  I ate breakfast and then drove over to Camp 4.  I was the first person in the registration line and there was space available for Friday night - yes!  I called Edwin on the cell phone to tell him and Leah that they also had to be present for the registration when the kiosk opened at 8:30 am.  They came over and joined me in the line.  The nice ranger opened up the kiosk and we got our Campsite #3.  We set up our tents and said hello to the two other occupants of the site (each site has up to six people until the site is full).  After setting up, I went to nearby Swan Slab to see if the rock was dry yet since it had stopped raining, but was still overcast.  The cracks were dry.  I joined Edwin and Leah at the Curry Village Reading Room where they were.  Then I went to explore Glacier Point Apron to see if the climbs we wanted to do were dry, which they were.  Edwin joined me and we hiked up to there right side of Glacier Point Apron.  This is another area I learned to climb at years ago.


    I led "The Cow - Center" (5.5) ***, but did not do the second pitch since it had a traversing 50-60 foot second pitch with no protection and there were wet areas on this second pitch.  The first pitch was dry except for the leaves of the bay tree that we had to climb through.  Edwin came up the nice, easy pitch.  We rappelled off of the jammed chockstone with many slings.  Next, Edwin led "The Cow - Right, right variation" (5.6) ***.  The upper part of this climb featured a nice splitter crack that was too short.  I followed up using this crack only although there was another wider crack about 2 feet away.  We rappelled off using the same jammed chockstone.  The overcast sky was becoming darker, but it was not raining.  We decided to do one more climb.  We did not have enough time to do all pitches of "The Grack - Center (5.6) ***** and there was no rappel bolts on any belays until the top.  So, I decided to do "The Grack - Left" (5.6, first pitch only) ***.  I led up the 5.fun half of the pitch, which protected very well.  Then I came to a steeper crack with a horizontal crack which I pulled up on to another slanting wide crack.  I followed this up to a short small crack that led to a ledge with many bay bushes.  I built the belay and pulled up only about 3-4 meters of a 70 meter rope.  I then brought Edwin up the pitch.  We then rappelled down from the many rappel slings and rings using two 70 meter ropes to the base.  Today was a great day and we had a fantastic dinner at Camp 4.


    Saturday, May 9


    I said goodbye to Edwin and Leah since they were planning to climb together and I had planned to climb at an area south of Yosemite in the National Forest where I had put up a climb.  I loaned Edwin my second rope since he needed two ropes to get down from "The Grack - Center" that he and Leah planned to do.  While I was leaving Camp 4, I realized Edwin had my other rope which I needed.  So we connected up at the trailhead parking lot near Glacier Point Apron so I could get my other rope.  I drove out of Yosemite and noticed snow next to the road in higher elevations.  Then I drove south to North Fork and then drove east along the Mammoth Pool Road to the Shuteye Ridge Area.  I drove 30 miles on the Forest Service Road to the turnout parking spot for Chiquito Dome.  Another car was there, so I drove back up the road to the next turnout.  I hiked with a very light pack up the 20-25 minutes approach.  It turns out the two climbers were doing the climb I put up about a month ago.  This climb "Three Knobs" (5.6 - 5.7) is 2-3 pitches long and was bolted on lead by me.  I had replaced the removable bolts with glue-in bolts, which take a lot of work to put in, but result in extremely solid protection.  The two other climbs liked the climb and agreed that I had bolted it well.  I did this climb rope-solo as two pitches.  The stances seemed harder today than when I originally led it since I could not fully tighten my shoe laces due to knots tied to link broken laces.  I finished the climb and hiked out on the right side of Chiquito Dome.  I tried to rappel down another climb to retrieve a web-o-lette and locking carabiners I had to leave to rappel out of a route a month ago, but could not get to the location with a single rope.  It was drizzling as I hiked out.  If any club members ever go out to the Shuteye Ridge area south of Yosemite and want to do some fun bolted climbs, let me know and I will give you the details for this area.  The wall where my climb is located has five bolted climbs ranging form 5.6 to 5.9.  When Edwin dropped my rope off at my house before going to Los Angeles, he told me that he and Leah did "The Grack - Center", which he said was fantastic.  On Sunday he had to catch a flight from Los Angeles Airport.

    Last modified: Sunday, May 10, 2015 11:50 PM | Mark Fletcher
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