I had a blast climbing in the Valley two years ago, and decided it was time to come back and try some bigger and more challenging routes, and to see what big wall life was all about. I teamed back up with Jeff and spent ten days climbing classics, learning aid, and getting up some of the biggest features I'v ever climbed.
Day 1: Central Pillar of Frenzy 5.9
We started the trip by heading over to Middle Cathedral, looking to get on the Valley's most popular 5.9, the Central Pillar. A group was just casting off, so we warmed up (ha!) on a sweet 5.10 crack nearby. One of my hardest onsight leads yet; not a bad way to start my vacation! Once the Pillar opened up we hopped on and swapped leads through the 5 pitches. Every pitch was great! Not a bad start!
Day 2: Aid climbing practice
We decided to aim for a big wall as one of the goals for the trip, which meant I needed to learn how to aid, jug, and haul. We spent the morning hauling and jugging up fixed lines on El Cap, and the afternoon practicing leading and following aid climbs at Church Bowl.
Day 3: Chouinard-Herbert, Sentinel Rock, 5.10 C2 IV
Having built up some basic aid skills, and feeling comfortable on the rock, we jumped right on to the biggest climb I'v ever done, the Chouinard-Herbert on the Sentinel. The Sentinel is a 1500 vertical foot wall on the south side of the Valley, and most routes (including the C-H) were considered Grade V back in the day, meaning they took solid teams 2-3 days to complete. If you look for other trip reports, lots of people still take two days to do this route, but we decided to move quick and tackle it in one.
By mid day we were halfway up the route. By the book its several hundred feet of 4th class leading to the wall itself, which is 15 pitches long. We either got off route on the approach, or were totally sandbagged, so ended up roping up for 4 pitches before we even got to the wall.
Once on route we were able to link certain pitches and free climb past other aid sections. Most people climb the route at 5.9 C2 but we freed three of the 5.10 pitches so we could move much faster. By doing this we only had to aid two pitches. I led the lower and shorter one, and Jeff linked the two higher ones in a giant 200' pitch. I got completely worked following the traversing Afro-Cuban Flakes, my first time cleaning a traversing pitch, but I pulled through and after about 10 hours on route we were on the summit!
Day 4: Rest Day! Phew!
I needed a full rest day after climbing the Sentinel: 14 hours on the move, the longest route I'v ever done, running out of water before the top, sketchy and loose descent. Definitely time for a day off.
Day 5: Lost Arrow Spire Tip, 5.7 C2 III
It was even better than the pictures make it seem! A 4 mile approach took us to a lookout of Yosemite Falls, where we rapped into the notch between the Spire and the adjacent wall using a 300' static line. We climbed the spire with a second rope and trailed the static, rigging the Tyrolean traverse at the top. By far the coolest summit I have ever been on, and combined with an amazing traverse made this an unforgettable climb.
Day 6: Royal Arches, 5.7 A0 IV
The most classic long easy route in the Valley. We cruised the 15 pitches and 10 raps in about 5 hours, getting back in time for lunch.
Day 7: Serenity - Sons, 5.10d III
We stepped up our free climbing game and hopped on the Serenity-Sons linkup, a 7 pitch route which includes 5 pitches of 5.10 in a row!
Day 8: South Face, Washington Column, 5.8 C1 V
It was time to put everything we've been working on together, and go for a big wall! Our choice was the South Face of Washington Column, an 11 pitch route that includes a mix of aid and free pitches, and has a great bivy ledge about 1/3 of the way up.
Day 9: South Face, Washington Column, 5.8 C1 V
Day 10: C.S. Concerto, Manure Pile Buttress, 5.8
Our last day in Yosemite included a much needed casual climb, having just come off a big wall. Jeff, Virginia, and I hopped on C.S. Concerto, a 7 pitch 5.8 next to Nutcracker. We had the route to ourselves (after a group bailed on the first pitch, whoops!) and enjoyed the perfect weather and great views!