Having Friday off, Bill, Janelle, and Allen headed to the Valley on Thursday night. On Friday, they enjoyed themselves at Pat and Jack's Pinnacles where Allen found a diamond ring sitting on a tree branch. Later he posted a note at Camp 4 which reads: "Found Ring! Contact Smiegel at 510-xxx-xxxx for more information." (Note: here is a fairy tale happy ending — he also posted a message to a popular climbers' forum and two months later the ring found its owner.)
I found a ride with Hamid and his friend Mark to go to the Valley on Friday night after work. Two other girls, Erica and Tachos, were also riding with them. With everyone's gear and those two girls' one month's supply, we somehow all managed to squeeze into Mark's Explorer. Erica and Tachos had been both traveling and climbing around the world and they were going to spend a month in the valley. When they told us $5000 is enough to live a traveler's life, we were all anxious to hear their secrets.
- Secret 1: do not own a car.
- Secret 2: eat cheap. Rice and beans and potatoes are good food. Avoid eating out.
I did notice that when we stopped at a Mexican restaurant, I ate 3 times more than either of them ate. I think maybe that is the key secret of living cheap: a small stomach. During the four hour ride, we also found out that Erica and Mark both went to New Zealand on a student exchange program in the same year and they lived in the same flat. Actually one lived above the other. However they didn't know each other back then although they both had hung out with the same people and climbed in the same gym. It's a small world for a lot of people, but I have to tell ya, it's a tiny world for a lot of climbers.
When I arrived at Camp 4 late Friday night, Allen and Janelle were still up waiting for me (how sweet!). Allen told me that we would climb Braille Book (5.8, 5 pitches) on Saturday, which was a climb I had always wanted to do. I kept waking up throughout the night thinking about the climb and wondering if I should wake everyone up so we could get an early start. Eventually, we got up around 7:30am and as usual we did not treat the breakfast lightly. We left the car around 9am. My heart started pounding very hard and fast. But this time it was not due to excitement. It was solely because of the steep approach. We were lucky that most of the time we were in the shade. It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to gain 1800 feet and reach the base of the climb. I guess we were all pretty fit because Supertopo gives the approach a 1-2 hours estimate.
There were two guys, Ross and Scott, at the base when we got there. However, their climbing partners, Christine and Jennifer, were just coming down from the first pitch of another climb 100 feet down the slope, which they accidentally got on. Ross and Scott very kindly let us start before them. They are all from Reno, Nevada and they all know Allen and I's friend John. Talk about a small world, eh?
Bill and Janelle went first followed by the party of Allen and me. The climb was stunning. I had high expectation before I came here, and the experience exceeded my expectation. Being the second, I enjoyed stemming up the wide sections, which I would have most likely chimneyed if I had been leading. Being in the shade all the way up made every minute on the wall pleasant. And the views of the valley and the Higher Cathedral Spire were so different from what I'd seen before. The descent was just as steep as the approach. Bill and Allen in their sandals boulder hopped their way down and pretty soon ran out of sight. Janelle and I slowly and carefully placed one foot in front of the other, and managed to get back to the car without sprained ankles.
The day ended with a beautiful birthday party for Janelle that was joined by Cheryl and Mark, who brought Salmon, cake and lots of fun.
Sunday morning, we had stir fried vegetables, egg sandwiches, and almond butter jelly sandwiches for breakfast. Hmmm… yummy! Better than any breakfast I make at home. To avoid the weekend crowd at the popular rocks, we decided to ditch SuperTopo (which made me quite nervous), and go to Sentinel Creek Area. Many climbs looked dirty with veggies occupying the cracks. However there was one beautiful crack that took my breath away — the first pitch of Ying-Yang (5.10d). It's a very thin crack in the corner formed by a 120' pillar and the wall. Another climb Hari Kiri (5.10a) is nearby and ends at the top of the same pillar. Bill leading Hari Kiri started racing side by side with Cheryl leading Ying Yang. Although Cheryl got pumped out half way through the climb (who wouldn't?), at the moment she took the sharp end of the rope, I'd already put her in my idols category besides Lynn Hill just for the fact that she voluntarily offered to lead a 5.10d crack without having tried it. Allen finished off leading Ying Yang. And now the historical moment came — it was my turn to clean it.
I tied in, took a couple of deep breath, and yelled up "climbing…." It's a right facing corner, so most of the time I was liebacking (definition: A technique wherein a climber's hands are positioned to pull on one side of a crack while the feet push in opposition from the other, facilitating a crablike advance up the rock.) my way up with the right foot pressed onto some slick edges on the wall and the pinky toe of the left foot jammed into the thin crack. Not sure when I started huffing and puffing. My arms felt like they couldn't pull any more, but before they gave up, I stepped my feet on to the top of the pillar. Yes! I cleaned it clean! Following a 5.10d clean would not have been so exciting if the climb had not been so sustained. On RC.com, someone commented "This has to be the most sustained 10d I've ever climbed…A must do for the sand bag seeker" Since I did Ying Yang first, Hari Kiri felt like a treat. The afternoon slipped by fast while everyone top roped both climbs. Last Sunday, we spent one day on one climb, and today we did two climbs. There is always room for improvement.
Finally Janelle summarized this weekend for us all in a post-trip email: Good Friends, Good Climbing, Good Times, Good Food.