Monday, September 5th, 2005

Incredible Hulk (Postive Vibrations and Red Dihedral)

It normally takes me two hours to pack neatly for a weekend's trip. If I simply pile everything in the trunk without evaluating what's really needed for the trip and what should go into which bag, it can take as little as half an hour to finish. Of course, I might end up carrying stuff that I don't need and missing stuff that's needed. There's a trade off, just like everything in my life. My goal is to finish this trip report in half an hour. So here is the pile:

THE TIME LINE:

Thursday: Left the Bay Area after work. Crashed on the east side of Tuolumne.

Friday: Picked up a wilderness permit from the Bridgeport Ranger Station. But we forgot to pack the permit and it stayed in the car the whole weekend. Had a big brunch at Hayes Street Cafe in Bridgeport. Left the car at Mono Village about 1 PM. It took us 3 hours and 40 minutes to hike in. Went to bed early in order to get up super early next morning to get on Positive Vibrations.

Saturday: Woke up at 6:30 AM — the alarm never went off because Erik set it to 5:24 PM. Cold. At that time two people were already on the Hulk climbing. They turned out to be Peter Croft and Hans Standteiner on Venturi Effect (5.12+). We started climbing around 8:30. First five pitches went fast, but then the rope got stuck and there were route finding challenges higher up. Topped out after nine hours. The descent was heinous. Took us almost two hours to get down (Erik had to wait for me a dozen times). Went to bed early again hoping to get up super early next morning to get on Red Dihedral before hiking out.

Sunday: Woke up at 6:30 AM again — the alarm never went off because I forgot to switch it on. Even colder than yesterday. Started climbing Red Dihedral around 9. Topped out after five and half hours. This time, the descent only took us 50 minutes because we found a better way (see beta). Packed up and started hiking out around 5:30PM. Chatted with the 4 parties (10 people) hiking in along the way. Arrived at the car around 8:30PM. What a hike! Treated ourselves with a huge and greasy dinner at the Mono Village grill.

Monday: Woke up at 8 AM to the warmth of the sun. Drove to the Mobile Restaurant at 395 and 120 intersection and again treated ourselves with their world famous omelets (oh yeah, we totally deserved it). Drove to Tuolumne and hiked to Harlequin Dome. Climbed Hoodwink. Sat on the slab enjoying the sun for an hour. Then ran laps on Chinese Handcuffs before heading out of the park.

THE CLIMBS:

Positive Vibrations: The first 8 pitches are gems (I led only the first). Sustained and exposed. Offer the best combination of cracks except that there is no offwidth (good or bad?). All belays are comfortable (if there is no wind). On pitch 6, our rope got stuck at the bend (see topo) above the 5.10c stem. Erik had to rappel down on the single rope to free it. Pitches 9-11 are a traverse on a dirty path. Beware of the rope dragging across loose ledges.

Red Dihedral: Oh, oh, that was my dream route. Erik and I swung leads and by linking, we finished the route in eight pitches (1, 2+3, 4, 5+6, 7, 8+9.5, 9.5+10, 11+12). For P11, we didn't follow the supertopo (we did that finish yesterday on PV). Instead, Erik led a corner to the right of the the original 11th pitch, which made it easier, cleaner, to link with P12. The corner is offwidthy and feels like a 5.9. I thought it was more fun. Thanks to Erik, I got the lead of the best pitches on this route (4 and 7). The 4th pitch is the signature Red Dihedral pitch. The 5.10a splitter on P7 is the best. I climbed it with a huge grin on my face.

Hoodwink: The roof mantel was fun fun fun. But there was more friction climbing on this route than I had prepared for. With my feet swimming in the shoes that had been busted in cracks, I was thankful that I was not leading.

Chinese Handcuffs: Short but great work out. Especially when you try to climb it with a heavy pack (Erik knows how that feels).

THE CROWD:

We shared the area with a group of elite climbers for those two days including Peter Croft, Dave Nettle, Bean from Montana, Nathan from Utah, Hans, and Karen. On Saturday, Bean and Nathan bypassed us by doing the Sun Spot Dihedral start and then chilled on the bivy ledge while we passed them. Peter Croft and Hans were on Venturi Effect (5.12+) that was about 30 feet from us. Dave and Karen cruised up Red Dihedral in a distance. On Sunday, Erik and I had Red Dihedral to ourselves. But on our hike out, we encountered four parties (ten people). Five people were planning to do Red Dihedral the next day. It's just hard to predict the crowd on a classic route sometimes.

THE WEATHER:

What can I say? We were lucky. Allen had warned me that he had been to Incredible Hulk on Labor Day Weekend twice and both times it rained and snowed on them. When we were there, it was cloudless the entire time. During the day, the sky presented a shade of blue that almost seemed unreal; at night, the countless stars twinkled above us like in a dream. Yes, the wind was blowing hard both days, and the temperature was low especially in the morning. I remember on the Red Dihedral pitch, my hands were so cold that I couldn't make a clip with just one hand — it went completely numb. But that's no big deal. Only on Monday, when we climbed at Harlequin Dome, we sat in the sun for an hour enjoying the warmth all around us. Without being cold, how would you appreciate the sun?

ABOUT DRIVING:

We left the Bay Area on Thursday night. There was no traffic getting out, but around 10:30pm we came to an abrupt stop somewhere between Oakdale and Sonora right before the 120 turn off to Yosemite. There was a head-on collision. The two paramedic choppers left the scene without making a landing after circling above us for about an hour. The ambulance on the scene did not move the whole 1.5 hours when we were waiting for the road to be opened again. I could only imagine the worst. Sad. My friend, please drive with caution for yourself and for others on the road!!!

SLEEPLESS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE IN SEATTLE:

The hike in was physical, so we were happy to finally lie down in our tent. I fell asleep within a few seconds. But a couple of hours later, I woke up feeling the pain in my back. Wiggling around, I realized that my thermarest had no air in it — I was literally sleeping on the hard ground. My thermarest had leaked! That was the start of my first sleepless night. Next day, I found one tear, and patched it with the repair kit that came in my thermarest sack. Thought it fixed it. But again, I woke up after a couple of hours aching and disappointed. I put all of Erik's extra clothes underneath me, so I had a little more padding than the night before, but it was not enough. Monday night was spent in my CR-V. Lowering out the back of the front seat, I was able to lie down 95% straight. That was good enough since the seats provided much better padding than my thermarest. But the platform was no where near being flat. I finally came to accept the fact that it would be another sleepless night. I looked up to the beautiful starry sky through the windows and started humming.

BETA:

The approach: Crossing the marsh is always a challenge. But as long as you have the general direction correct, you can get out of it fairly fast. In a late season like Labor Day weekend, the water is low enough that you won't get your shoes wet as long as you are careful. I carried my sandals with me, which turned out to be a training weight.

The climbs: The Red Dihedral pitch is longer than shown in Supertopo (says 120' there). Erik belayed from the last good stance below the dihedral. When I reached the top, I had only 25 feet of rope left (60m). Was running out a little bit, which turned out to be a good idea, because by the end, I didn't have any slings or draws left.

The descent from the summit of the Hulk: Follow the descent beta in Supertopo. Coming down the South gully, you will come to two notches separated by a spire in the middle (there are two carins there). Take the left notch, but try to get back to the wall on the right side as early as possible. First time, we went down the middle of the gully, and it was extremely loose. Second time, we followed the wall to the right, it was 200% better.

Carry water? There is plenty of water sources near the camp. We carried iodine tablets and some coffee filters that turned out to be helpful. But next time, I would carry a real water filter if I knew that I would spend two days in the moutains. It would be worth it.

Photos

See all the photos in the photo album .

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One Response

  1. Peter Crofton 25 Apr 2008 at 9:29 am

    To whom it may concern (I'm not sure who wrote the Hulk info and who took the pics). Anyway it was a good read and the photos fun to see. Brings back vivid memories of a great (and windy) day. It was cool to be up there with everybody getting after it. I was wondering if I might be able to get some of the shots of Venturi Effect emailed to me. If that's possible I'd appreciate it.
    Thanks
    Peter