Well, it feels like ages since we’ve actually set foot in the Valley. Yes, only one week to all you realists out there. But when your trip seemingly revolves around the granite wonderland known as Yosemite, a week can feel like an eternity. Anyways, a short recap on our second week bearing this crazy May weather. For those of you that don’t know, California saw 6 percent of it’s average annual snowfall this winter. Yet, May has produced precipitation more than half of our days here, including several snow days. Even with all of this time spent huddled up inside, we’re psyched for the locals and the rain to assist in their drought period. This reminds me of a quote by Aldous Huxley:
‘Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.’
By no means have I perfected this practice but I keep it within an arm’s reach. For someone who’s always on the move, it helps me harbor peace in the mundane. And I can honestly say, there’s no place I’d rather be than hunkered down in the Yosemite lodge on the dark days, hollering with glee after pulling through the crux pitch on the wall or laying in the lush El Cap meadow – soaking up the sunshine, reminiscing on the recent memories of life in the vertical world.
The week started off with redemption in mind. Casey and I marched back up to the East Buttress and put a 5 hour ascent up, past our previous retreat point (due to Horsetail falls, see Yosemite Wk 1). We took advantage of the extra time, watching a soloist we met a few days prior top out on Zodiac and hiking the rim towards the Nose. Our primary motive for the route was to familiarize ourselves with the territory atop the Captain and the East ledges descent for our upcoming attempt at the West Face of El Cap. The next day was spent as a group of three [with Jared] putting a redpoint ascent down at the Church Bowl and cragging at the Cookie Cliff, trying to imagine a day in Bachar’s shoes and solo circuit!
Tioga Pass officially opened so Casey and I decided to migrate north to Tuolumne meadows and inspect the alpine conditions. Road work set us up for a late arrival but we managed a simul-climb of the ultra classic moderate, West Crack on Daff Dome, just before sun down. There was plenty of snow of the ground but the temperatures were pleasant and warm, little did we know this wouldn’t last long. After some grocery shopping in Lee Vining, we returned to tick off a new objective. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up to a roar and temps had plummeted. The Lembert Dome seemed like a non-committing venture with the less than ideal conditions at hand. After two hours of chattering teeth and Type 2 fun, we summitted via the Direct Northwest Face. Unanimous votes sent us packing, back into the Valley we went, and without a minute to spare.
The next days, the snow and rain began to drench the Park. Just as soon as the fog decorated the tree tops and painted-white dusty mountain tops, stole photographers gaze, it was gone. The sun peered through the clouds and moisture trickled down the coarse granite. Life renewed! Quite the experience in one of my favorite places on this planet. The rest days were over. Guidebooks and topos had been combed through for hours, pitch by pitch, routes were targeted. In two days, we would take off on the 17 pitch, bold West Face of El Capitan. A free climb that held itself in the highest regard, along with Astroman and the Rostrum.
Ding Dong, Bing Bong. Ding Dong, Bing Bong. Ding Dong, Bing Bong. Din… CLICK! Thank God, shut the hell up.
It was 4 am and neither of us had slept much since our 10pm bedtime. Excitement and anxiety pumped through our veins like Class 5 rapids. This was a big one. One of those feats you tell your grandchildren about. An all-day ascent, giving it everything you’ve got, completely tested, run-out 5.10 pitches, 5.11c cruxes, scarce options for bailing. Bathroom. Breakfast. Drive to El Cap meadow. Pack. Rack. Rope. Beep, beep. Car locked. And we’re off. When looking at El Capitan, the West face starts high up on the wall, on the far left side near a gully. An hour and a half of steep terrain must be crossed to reach the base. Halfway up the approach, passing the infamous Lurking Fear, a glisten caught our eye from across the valley. A gorgeous sunrise cast it’s glow on the Middle Cathedral. My attention transitioned back to the task at hand; “we’re making great timing,” I thought. We continued onward, “this is going to be a great day.” As we reached the base I stared up, my stomach proceeded to drop into a hollow abyss. The middle pitches, 4 through 7 dripped with water. Runoff from the storm. Due to it’s west facing orientation, the West Face only gathers direct sunlight in the afternoon, and the previous day’s evening clouds hampered any drying. Humbled once before and twice now, I seem to have grown increasingly accustomed to the art of bailing, however resistant I may be to the concept. A mountain’s grand stature can weaken the mightiest of men at times. But that’s for another story (stay tuned). On to the West Face of Leaning Tower to test our luck…
Casey and I were thrilled to have our friend Ankush make it in for the week. Two years ago around Atlanta, GA, Kush and Jared introduced me to climbing. I have a great deal of my lifestyle and adventures to credit them for. Fond memories of me ‘Elvis legging’ on my first 5.7 lead at Sandrock, struggling to make a clip and Kush hollering, “take the WHIP Hobby!!” Or the awe, Jared and Kush inspired in me and several others, leading out the bold roofs at Stone Summit, taking massive 35 footers for fun! It was amazing to have a long overdue reunion with you both.
Joseph Hobby 5/18/15
Brave Explorations. Soulful Discoveries.