Every climber must visit The Valley. I first tried in 2013 and the government did not cooperate, but in 2014 I finally made my first visit. The American Alpine Club hosts an annual trip called the International Climbers Meet, which invites climbers from around the world to a North American destination to meet up, climb, share stories, and of course eat and drink. No better way to visit!
Last year on the 2013 AAC trip to Bishop I met Will, whose resume includes being a member of the 300 club, as well as some pretty badass climbs. We decided to meet back up for a few days of climbing before the ICM, and picked Tuolumne as our first destination. Our first night was spent at an overcrowded campground within the park, but our next day took us to Cathedral Peak, a bit more remote.
Driving back from Cathedral Peak to our campground led to a flat tire, which turned out to be a bit of a nightmare due to the lack of tire shops located in national parks. We managed to make everything work out the following day, and still had enough time to get on another route. We chose the Great White Book, which at 5.6 R sounded like a piece of cake, having cruised routes of the same grade before. It turns out that GWB includes unprotectable 50' runouts, offwidth cracks, and squeeze chimneys. I got to place my first #5 and #6 cams on this route, and was glad to have them!
The next day we headed into the Valley. It is impossible to describe my first views of Half Dome or the Captain. You either understand because you have been there, or you have no idea what I am taking about and you need to head there to find out. We managed to climb The Grack entirely alone, which is one of the most classic easy routes in Yosemite. We then met up with the AAC crew at our private campground, a luxury not many people get to experience. The following day I nabbed my second 5.10 trad onsight, a single pitch route called Hari Kiri. Heading back to camp I met more of the crew, drank some awesome beer from Strike Brewery, and planned out the next day.
The next day I teamed up with Per from Norway and Ken from Washington to climb Higher Cathedral Spire, which is (arguably) the tallest freestanding spire in the United States. We got lost on the approach and took the wrong gully, but still managed to be the first party on route. Five pitches of 5.9 later we were on the summit, with the most incredible views of the Valley!
After Higher Cathedral, I was ready for an even bigger climb. I teamed up with Ken and Dave to try the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral, an 11 pitch climb graded 5.9 A1 IV. It was my first Grade IV climb ever, and went incredibly smooth. We went car to car in 12 hours, and made it back in time for dinner.
The next morning at breakfast, Will grabbed me and asked if I wanted to leave early to climb Nutcracker, one of the most famous climbs in the Valley, originally climbed by Royal Robbins himself. It is also the most popular route in Yosemite, but we started early enough and were one of the first groups on route. This was some of the highest quality climbing of the trip!
The next few days included a self rescue clinic from Jeff, followed by an offwidth lesson by HardCor himself. I nearly threw up at the top of The Slack, not because of the 5.10d crimpy beginning, but because of the 5.8 offwidth to squeeze chimney at the top. Looks like I have a ways to go! We also put a day of community service in, helping rebuild some trails at the base of El Cap. Hans Florine also gave a lesson on speed climbing. Amazingly, his lesson took about as long as it took him to climb The Nose!
The last day of the trip I joined back up with Will on an "aproneering" adventure. We went to Glacier Point Apron, a 3000' slab with several popular 2-4 pitch routes at its base. After we got to the top of the Monday Morning Slab, Will decided we would have more fun going up rather than down! The newest guidebooks make no mention of a route continuing, but the ones from the 80's did, and Will was more than willing to take the lead. We managed three more pitches of 5.9 R climbing, on rock that had absolutely no holds or places for pro, but luckily there were some shiny bolts for belays and rappels. Will was incredibly smooth leading every pitch, and coached me through the cruxes. Ill stick to the 5.5 slabs of Whitehorse for a little while longer though, before I join the big leagues!
Like all great trips, my Yosemite adventure finally came to an end. I managed over 50 pitches of climbing while there, which is basically the same as climbing El Cap and Half Dome, right? Hopefully, I will be reporting on those climbs in the next year or two!