Friday, December 1, 2017

The Big Ditch

This fall I returned to Yosemite Valley for the first time in four years.  It was a brief stop on my way to Utah for a long desert season.  The living in The Valley is usually a little more stressful and logistically intensive, but I was surprised to find a much more lax environment than last time I visited.  Regardless, the noise of garbage trucks and construction echoing off the walls from dawn to dusk makes for a strange outdoors experience.

El Cap at dawn from Middle Cathedral

On day one I met up with Ana and Katlynne for a hike out to Clouds Rest from Tuolumne Meadows.  We tromped through frozen patches of snow along the trail as we climbed up past granite domes towards an exposed ridge that overlooks the valley.  We marveled at the massive walls below us and shared a cider and snacks before walking seven miles back to the car. 

Katlynne and cucumber

Views from Clouds Rest are all time!

The next morning, Ana and I reluctantly woke well before dawn to beat the crowds on Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral.  Not surprised to find ourselves first in line, we waited for daylight before following our friends up pitch one.

Ana following P2 of Central Pillar
I was a little nervous, as climbing in the Valley has a reputation for being stout, but Ana and I casually swapped leads up some of the most enjoyable granite crack I've ever climbed.  On the way down, we combined ropes with Max and Ryan for longer rappels that resulted mostly in belay station shenanigans and giggles. 

Cozy rappel stations- Photo Ana Ally
After a casual rest day of cribbage and guzzling free coffee from the lodge, we found ourselves alpine starting yet again.  This time, to beat the unseasonably warm temperatures forecast for the day.  We successfully made it through the crux of Serenity Crack (5.10d) before the ruthless sun hit, and moved up a ledge system to link up with Sons of Yesterday (5.10a).  I took the lead once we arrived at the stellar hand crack that comprises the last half of Sons.  Linking two pitches together, I used nearly our entire 70m rope and only half the rack for meter after meter of glorious jams. 

Crux crack switch of P2 on Serenity (5.10b)- Photo Khash Mortazavi  

Ana finishing the crux pitch of Serenity (5.10d)- Photo Alison Kaplan
I spent just shy of a week in Yosemite; rested more days than I climbed.  I did a few classic multipitch routes and one spire, all new to me.  I poached amenities in fancy lodges, ate "It's it's" from the village store, jumped in chilly pools at the base of Yosemite falls and spent hours lounging in the meadow watching tiny dots inch their way up the many faces of El Capitan.  I can proudly say I lifestyled the shit out of the Big Ditch, and am confident I will be back for longer objectives before too long. 

Till next time!