Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Tuolumne Link Up: Tenaya,Matthes,Cathedral

It is not looking promising. I need a climbing partner for this weekend, but I've been crossing out one name after another on my list. Erik will be on a wall, Bill wants to leave on Thursday, Debby needs to pack for Burning Man, Nate is leaving for Beijing, Hamid found a partner while I was waiting to hear back from Nate … There are a few more names on my list I can try, but I have become a pessimist by now. Maybe I should just fold up the list and plan on doing things that normal people usually do on weekends? An invitation from Allen turns the situation around. He is going to Tuolumne this weekend with Jesse, Chris and Casey (remember Jesse and Chris from the Needles trip?). I know that I'm in for a fun trip.

Jesse and Allen have been talking about doing the classic Tuolumne Linkup: Tenaya Peak -> Matthes Crest -> Cathedral Peak. I've always wanted to do it because it sounds challenging — long hikes, high altitude, high exposure, and long routes. I have no doubt that they can do it because they are two competent and fit climbers. But now that I'm joining in, a party of three will for sure moves slower than a party of two. Also, if we do it, how do we arrange the car situation with Chris and Casey? So, are we going to do it? Oh well, we'll see.

(Switching to past tense, because I don't know how to continue telling the story in present tense.)

We pulled into our secret camping spot outside of Yosemite around 11:30 PM on Friday night. I proposed to get up at 4 AM next morning for the big day, but the proposal got rejected. Ok, how about 6 AM? I didn't hear any feedback — everyone had passed out. My alarm clock went off at 6 AM dutifully. I switched it off and didn't hear any sound around me (didn't bother opening my eyes) and decided to go back to sleep thinking "forget about the linkup. I need more sleep." At 7 AM, there started to be activities around me. After throwing pine cones at each other, we packed into the van. First breakfast stop was the parking lot at the West gate of Yosemite. Then we drove to the Tenaya Lake Parking Lot (mainly for its bathrooms) and had our second breakfast. The linkup came up occasionally in our conversations, but I thought it had become a joke. Well, that was until Jesse and Allen started to pack up their camel packs. It was not a joke after all! I stuffed a few cliff bars into my camel pack. We each carried three liters of water. No rope, because we might end up using it if we carried it (a pretty logical thought, wasn't it?). We each wore our waist belt from our harness, onto which we clipped our climbing shoes and a cordelette. Among three of us, we had three tricams, a few hexes, and set of nuts. We left our car at 10 AM. Here is the timetable:

10:00 AM Left the Tenaya Lake Parking Lot. Trying to keep up with these two long legged giants, I stepped into a hole in the middle of the deer trail in a rush. Ouch, my leg!
~10:35 AM Reached the base of the Northwest Buttress of Tenaya Peak.
~11:00 AM Changed into climbing shoes some where near the 8th belay in Supertopo. Passed one party of two
11:30 AM Topped out. Took the 5.8 hand crack variation. It felt more like a 5.6 to us.
11:55 AM Started hiking towards Matthes Crest after a break.
1:30 PM Arrived at the south end of Matthes Crest. The hike was long but fairly mellow. We stopped here and there to enjoy the incredible backcountry views. The Half Dome was in a distance.
1:45 PM Started climbing up Matthes Crest after a lunch break.
4:15 PM Headed down near the north end skipping the very last spire that looked very chossy and unstable. It was a very pleasant traverse (1.5 miles?) along the crest. We took a few rest stops to enjoy the panoramic view around us. It was fantastic. We used hexes and tricams to protect the two dicey downclimbing sections (one after North Summit and one after the Wave). Could have gone without them since none of us slipped or grabbed the gear, but the consequences of blowing a move at these two sections would have been really bad.Beta: Next time, we'd probably just bring one cordelette and a green alien up to a green camelot for all of us to protect these two sections.
5:30 PM Arrived at the base of Cathedral Peak. Met two climbers back at the base to retrieve their packs. Told us that they spent almost whole day on the route behind some parties (and in front of others).
5:45 PM Started climbing. When those two climbers saw us start soloing, they kindly offered their rope to us in horror. We thanked them gratefully, but did not take the offer — the solid rock on Cathedral was of first-class quality.
6:20 PM There were probably about 6 roped parties in total on the route at that time. There was a cluster of people one pitch below the summit. None of them looked happy — it must have been agonizing to wait in a looooong line on a back country peak when the sun was sinking. I did not chat with them since they did not seem to be in a chatting mood. Instead, I quietly started climbing the last pitch, most of the time staying away from the two ropes that were already up (they overlapped each other). I figured if I didn't touch the ropes and I stayed extremely cautious to not let the movement of those ropes affect my moves, I could be perceived as invisible. Well, that was what I was hoping. Obviously, Jesse could still see me and decided not to follow his friend's rude behavior. Instead, he waited patiently on the big ledge and climbed behind a roped follower.
6:30 PM I topped out and Allen joined me a little later. We shared the 5' x 15' summit with two cheerful women who just led the last pitch.
6:45 PM Jesse finally topped out. We snapped a few group summit shots before we headed down.
8:18 PM We emerged at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. It was dark already, but I didn't use my headlamp. At the same time, Chris and Casey pulled in with the van. Perfect timing!

We probably over did our climbing quota for the weekend. Although we set off to do another classic linkup in Tuolumne (Oz + Gram Traverse + Hobbit Book) on Sunday, between a late start, a 2.5-hour wait at the base for a party in front of us, a 2nd pitch that was still too hard for me, and a planned rendezvous with Chris and Casey in the afternoon, we ended up doing the standard Oz route. That's probably better — I have an awesome linkup to look forward to for the future.

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