Friday, August 24, 2012

Virginia

Scott Deputy and I sat on the porch of his Search and Rescue tent and began the gear sort.  These things always take a while, it's meticulous business sorting through every wire nut, light weight carabiner and cam, then haggling over the value of each and why we need it or why we don't. 

It was warm on the valley floor while we pounded coconut waters, filled our water jugs with Cytomax and packed up the bags.  Scott seemed a bit nervous and we discussed in detail the way that we would carry out all the details, bunny ears to fix the ropes, I jumar like this, you do it like that, I want these, you want those.  Finally after several hours the bags were packed with water and gear and at least fifty packs of shot blocks and I headed for a swim.
 
I slept restlessly all night, feeling abnormally nervous and apprehensive.  Carmen reassured me that I would feel fine as soon as we started climbing.  But what was it we were getting into?  Another good friend of mine had pushed Virginia to Tangerine Trip a couple years ago, it took them 26 hours, Ammon and Gabe McNeely and Ivo Ninov, the best there are, pushed it in '03 in 17 hours 24 minutes for the speed record.  I saw us falling somewhere in between, and that's a long day.
 
I don't know why I love pushing big routes like I do.  I have a theory that almost all fun stops after 16 hours.  I dread the sunsets, but have learned to embrace the night.  I felt prepared for night climbing this time with my new mega headlamp, but there is always the hope you won't have to use it.
 
In the morning we headed to the base with a not-too-early 5.45 hiking start so we didn't screw our sleep too bad.  Carmen helped us carry some gear up which was excellent, lightening our heavy bags.  We plopped our stuff on the ground at about 6.40 and started racking up.
 
At 7.02 I stepped up onto the first piece and the whirlwind began. As I moved up the pitch I felt that the climbing was fairly safe, always seeing what I thought of as a good piece of gear somewhere close below.  This let me plug and chug on my pieces, bounce testing things as little as needed, trusting the placements and moving on.
 
Four and a half hours later I was nearing the end of Virginia, finishing up the last and best pitch of the route and traversing onto the Tangerine Trip.  Another 3 pitches and Deputy would swing in, pushing for the summit 800 feet over head.  It seems so easy when you look at it like that...
 
Deputy had seemed a little nervous most of the day, but as he pushed up onto the final pitch of climbing he seemed more comfortable than he had in the morning.  The sun set while he was approaching the end of the pitch.  I watched the stars come out, flashed my headlamp at people in the meadow, and cheered up at Scott.  The line was fixed and I took off jugging the last pitch. 
 
One more quick scramble of free climbing, a scary move I had forgotten about, and another jaunt of scrambling put me at the summit tree.  Scott came flying up, grin on his face, I pulled the bags over the edge, he pulled the ropes.  I grabbed the watch, 9.00, 13 hours 58 minutes since we started.  It felt good to turn El Cap into a day climb...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hotel Rooms and Wind Turbines versus Campsites and Climbing

The last few months have been...different.  Working for Rope Partner has been a great experience in many ways (read: money in the bank account) but has been challenging in others (hotel rooms and work versus campsites and climbing).  So there are pro's and con's and hopefully in a few months the pro's will outweigh the con's.

My good friend Luke tells me that the beauty of being gone for work for long stretches is that it focuses your goals when you have time off.  That is exactly what I tried to do the last three weeks, figure out what I want to do more than anything, and do it.

Luke and I wanted to climb in the Sierra and it seemed like there was a lot of buzz about Merriam Peak.  Peter Croft and Lisa Rands' new routes had caused a stir.  The peak looked ripe for more first ascenting and adventure, so Carmen, Luke and I headed into the back country for a few day stay.

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 Headed in from Pine Creek
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Merriam Peak and Royce Peak 
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Luke catches a view 
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 The Southern Royce Lake, Royce Peak and Feather Peak on the left
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Merriam Peak, The East Buttress
Out at Merriam Peak we spent 4 days camped by the lake, adventure climbing and drinking whiskey.  The day we hiked in Luke and I charged up and climbed the classic Northeast Buttress.
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Rackin'
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 Oh how sweet the views
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We decided to solo until we needed the rope 
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 Halfway up the route, a short pitch below the classic corner, we roped up
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 The Goods
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 Fire, Fire On the Mountain!
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 The Ridgeline!
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Over the next two days we established two (probably) new routes.  The first, 'The Last Resort' was the last ditch effort while trying to access the beautiful splitters on the far right side of the peak.  We did manage to break through the impressive roofs at the base of the headwall at about .11c (and probably R).  
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Starting Out 'The Last Resort'
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Busting left from the Bear Love into the chimney corner.
On the third day we managed to climb a great route we dubbed the 'East Buttress'.  All in all it delivered 9 pitches, 7 were 5.10, one 10+, and one spectacular 5.8R face climbing pitch.  We may have joined the 'Silver Cloud' on the east face, but the description from the Secor guide doesn't quite match up, either way, we had a great time adventure climbing and exploring.
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The objective, the leaning wide crack in the lower third, and up from there...
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Luke on the impressive 10- tips first pitch.
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The tricky step over to the belay
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Me headed up the left side splitter that wraps into the amazing serrated flake lieback
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This was one of those great pitches where giant face holds kept leading upwards and blowing our mind.
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Luke busting out the crux pitch
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I headed up and right into the incredible hand and finger crack corner.
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Eventually we rejoined the NE Buttress and finished out on the ridge traverse.
Spending the week in the High Sierra was just what I needed to forget work and remember what life is all about.  We had a great time, weathered a massive lightning storm that was striking in our basin and loved life.  
And then back in Yosemite....
After we hiked out we headed up to Tuolumne Meadows to see friends, rock climbing and hang out.  Luke and I needed to get our big wall fix on so we took a quick jaunt down to the valley to climb Wet Denim Daydream.  We took a look at the speed record beforehand and saw that, as usual, Ammon held it at 5 hours and 6 minutes.  So we did our best and manage to come in close with 6 hours and 10 minutes.  It rained on us as we topped out, but we were loving life and had a blast.
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Oh My God!  Are we big wall climbing?!
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Luke on the A3 corner a couple hours into the route, the steeps above...
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Oh I do love big wall climbing!
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I'm not scared!
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I think this is the best roof in all of Yosemite Valley, not that hard, but outrageously wild
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The steeps below
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Nothin' like a quick jaunt up a classic wall.