Saturday, June 11, 2011

There is Too Much to Look At (previously Great Granite)

That's correct.  If you have ever been to Yosemite National Park you know just what I mean.  Randy and I were there a mere 6 days and I estimate we saw about 1/1,000,000,000th of what there is to see there. Our necks are sore from looking up (and that's NOT including belaying!)

Pine Line - truly a warm up for the next 5.7!
We thought we should get right to it on Day One and climb the big stone - El Capitan. This little piece of rock towers to over 7,500 feet and the vertical rock climbing routes can be as long as 2,900 feet (The Nose rises 2,916 from base to top).  We set our sights on some daringly long routes such as Pine Line (5.7), a whopping 70 feet from the base of El Cap! The ease of this nice crack climb tricked us into thinking we could bump up the grades on our subsequent climbs.  But like most climbing areas, the grades run the gamut and one 5.7 is completely different than the next. 

Now it was Randy's turn. Another 5.7 should do the trick - so we ventured over to the recommended La Cosita Left.  As soon as you hit the base of this climb you are intimidated and impressed by its steepness.  And this turned out to be a hell of a 5.7 route.  Good chimney and offwidth skills are a must and while the climb is relatively short, it packs a punch.

The highlight of our first day however, was the beauty and the beast at Moby Dick (5.10a). I had backed off a 5.9 earlier (due to the polished nature of the rock which made an ordinary layback feel extraordinarily difficult),  so it was still my turn.  Moby Dick is a crack line just calls to be climbed - so what the hell? Honestly, I thought the crux was not the opening finger crack moves as most others declared. But then again, that is typical because my fingers are a lot smaller than mens' fingers so I believe I can get finger locks that most of them can't. More difficult offwidth moves await you above and actually the "crux" of the route is climbing it with only one number 4 cam!  This offwidth goes on for what seems like an eternity (if you are leading with only one #4, that is) and I worked quite hard to get as far as I did.  
Moby Dick (5.10a) - I am just getting
into the offwidth business
 Eventually, I felt it was completely unsafe to continue to bump up the cam. The climbing became increasingly difficult as the crack widened ever so slightly and the tiny face holds melted away.  I felt forced to lower off and Randy said he would give it a go.  He came to the exact same conclusion once he got up there and felt what was trying describe moments earlier from high above.  Leaving a #4 cam and an additional cam a bit lower was not desirable, so we sought a couple who had walked by earlier hoping to climb the route.  Our theory was that if we could find another pair with their own #4 cam they could finish the climb having the advantage of using TWO large cams.  While that couple was not available, we did find another nearby climber who was interested in climbing Moby Dick. So Aaron and his partner Nate agreed to give it a go.  
Aaron's competent and attentive belayer Nate

Now Aaron is young, strong and tall and climbs 5.11 in Index (WA) so we assumed he would generally hike this route. Besides, I don't often onsight 5.10 trad climbs, especially my first day at Yosemite, yet I climbed as far as I did without hanging, resting, or falling (I just needed more large gear.)  Surely a 5.11 climber would find this easy! Not so - it took him quite the long time and he felt it necessary to have a THIRD #4 Camalot to complete the route up high at the long offwidth.  We had to send that cam up to him on a loop of rope so he could top out.  
Aaron has finished my business
and is headed for the anchor.
Note the remaining 2,802 ft of El Cap above
 We so appreciated these guys who not only retrieved our gear but were friendly, interesting and without egos.  I don't think Aaron cared this route was 5.10a - he respected it right off the ground and never once commented in such a way as to display hubris. This was refreshing.

Welcome to Yosemite.  I guess I've got some more climbing skills to master before I climb the rest of El Cap - or maybe just a bigger rack!

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