Saturday, July 30, 2011

My First Trip to Yosemite

Tuesday May 10, 2011

It's well past midnight and I'm laying in bed wide awake. My mind won't stop racing. Thoughts are running through my mind at an incomprehensible rate. My heart pounds so hard that I can feel my body jump off my mattress with each beat.  You've been laying here for hours, you need to get some sleep. Okay, deep breaths. Try to relax and listen to the music. I try to talk myself down from the adrenaline overdose only to have my thoughts interrupted. YOU'RE GOING TO FUCKING YOSEMITE VALLEY! My adrenaline spikes again, my breathing shortens and extremities tingle. This state of mind lasts through out the whole night until I am finally able to drift off for 45 minutes of sleep. The alarm goes off way too early and I'm noticing I'm drenched in sweat. It doesn't take long before I realize I had been dreaming of The Captain.

For those of you who don't know, Yosemite Valley is the premier rock climbing destinations of the world. It is a place where everyone can find their limit if they wish to find it. Formations range anywhere from 10ft boulders to 3,500 cliffs with everything in between. More famous and more sought after than any cliff in the world is El Capitan. Guarding the entrance to Yosemite Valley, El Capitan stands as a 3,500 foot cliff of granite looking over the Merced River. El Cap to most climbers is the climax of their entire climbing career. As Tom Evans, a valley resident famous for his photography, often puts it "It is the Superbowl of climbing". To me, it is a formation that had been keeping me up at night and occupying my mind during the day. Nothing had ever excited me so much and struck the same amount of fear in me simultaneously. I couldn't believe I was finally on my way to stand in front of it.

After 22 hours of driving we are at the entrance of the park. The road into the valley is longer than expected but eventually I turn a corner and see a massive piece of granite for a split second before driving into the tunnel. Holy shit. The tunnel seems to take forever. Upon exiting the tunnel I quickly realize that the massive piece of granite I just saw was the upper third of El Cap.

{Tunnel View}

We descend into the valley and immediately went to the meadow. With the evening to kill we went to the alcove swing and sat in awe and excitement drinking King Cobra in El Cap Meadow.

Laying in the Meadow
We decided to head down to Cookie Cliff and Generator Crack the next day. Being really inexperienced in offwidths, Generator crack felt impossible. I would make 25 moves and look down to only be 6 inches higher than before. After being dominated by offwidth we headed back to Camp4 for dinner and beers.

Cheyne on Crack-A-Go-Go
We heard that a storm was going to come through that weekend. It was supposed to be a substantial front with chances of snow. On our third day of climbing, we saw the storm roll in as we were up on Reed's Pinnacle Direct. We got off the climb in the late afternoon half expecting to be soaked by the time we made the quick walk back to the car.

We awoke the next morning to several inches of snow. At breakfast in Curry Village, we decide to head down to Joshua tree for the next few days. 

El Cap as the Storm Clears

I left the valley pretty bummed to have not climbed any walls while I was there. Truth be told, even if the weather had been perfect I wouldn't have climbed any walls that trip. I had been in the valley with a shitty wall partner. His expectations were to climb El Cap for his first wall but didn't know how to aid, haul or jumar. I knew I had the opportunity to spend a month in Yosemite starting in June though so I was optimistic for my next trip.

Leaving a Snowy Valley

After heading down to Joshua Tree, things got worse with the climbing partner. Simple replies such as "belay's off" were no longer being said. Needless to say conversation ceased to exist. After a few hours of climbing with him I dropped him off at camp and left him to head to town, drop by the climbing shop and see if I could find a partner. I wasn't about to let someone else's personal problems and attitude ruin a climbing trip. My plan worked as I ran into some Hungarian friends I met in Yosemite. I spent the afternoon and evening bouldering, hiking, and scoping out climbs I had wanted to do for some time now. I ended up meeting two girls who were rained out of Red Rock and fled to JTree too. They joined the Hungarians and I after dinner for drinks and what turned into a night of wandering around the desert looking for hidden secrets such as petroglyphs, the iron door, the chasm of doom, and the space station. We were able to find one but finding the others will be rest day and evening activities for future trips.

All 7 of us climbed together the following morning and I split to climb with the girls that afternoon. We climbed a lot that day but there were a few ascents that stand out over others.

Lea Before the Crux of Bearded Cabbage

Although I've been to Joshua Tree to climb more than any other national park, I still have only been going there for 2 1/2 years when I'm back home. Josh is where I first learned to crack climb so it's really fun for me to revisit some of the climbs that shut me down the first time. One of those was a route called The Hobbit Roof (5.10d). I had tried the route on top rope when I first started coming to JTree and I couldn't climb it at all. I hadn't tried it since and was able to go back and get the redpoint. Another route that was an early lead for me was Toe Jam (5.7) this felt really hard at the time but I was able to return to the climb the route ropeless with every move feeling beyond easy. I did more classics that day such as Fisticuffs (5.10b), Double-Cross (5.7+), The Aguille de Joshua Tree (5.5x) and The Bong (5.5) which had scared on a free solo attempt only a year prior. In the afternoon we found a bit more of an obscure area in Lost Horse and I led two 5.10d's with tricky pro and a 5.9+.

Joshua Tree Scenery

It was great to climb with some new people and really see how much I had progressed since I first started going out there. It definitely gave me a huge confidence boost as I left. I realized I was climbing really strong mentally and the strongest I have been physically. I was ready to take this back to Boulder with me and apply that same strength to routes I had always wanted to do. Most importantly though, I knew that I was in the perfect place for climbing El Capitan. I couldn't wait to return to El Cap in a few weeks. I was fully committed.

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