Sunday, September 18th, 2005

West Crack and Lucky Streaks in Tuolumne (Debby's TR)

Lucky Weekend

by Debby

My good friend Mei and I decided to go climbing together for the weekend. As was typical, we agreed on the weekend, but didn't bother to finalize any details about location, time, or anything else. Thursday night, we decided that we should go up late on Saturday (so we could have more time to relax and prepare on Friday night), and we picked a location (Tuolumne Meadows) and a tentative hit list: West Crack & Lucky Streaks.

Saturday morning we set off around 9:15 or so, and we reached Daff Dome at 2:45pm. We were concerned to see a long conga line of climbers headed up it (since we had gotten skunked on it before), but when we got to the base we saw there was just one person waiting, and her leader was almost at the first belay. It turned out that they had reached the climb at 11am and were only starting the climb now! It was perfect timing for us, and our first "lucky" of the weekend. We set off at 3pm, swinging leads all the way, and made it to the top by 5:45 or so, and only had to wait at one belay for the conga line. The descent took us right past the South Flank of Daff Dome, where we ran into what appeared to be almost the entire Rock Rendezvous crowd. They were here for a group bbq/climbing weekend, and welcomed us into their group campsite for the night. Lucky #2. Especially lucky, because we had no plans for where we were going to camp.

The group campsite was jam packed with tents and people, but we found a spot to set up. Mei cooked another delicious dinner (salmon with zucchini and onion, couscous, and kale), ably competing with the many varieties of food on other people's tables, and winning hands-down from everything I sampled. It was heavenly to sit around the campfire afterwards (I think this was the last weekend the campsite was open, and it was quite chilly), and wonderful to meet so many new climbers (some new to me, some new to climbing). We went to sleep late, knowing that there was no point in getting up before the sun warmed up the rock…

In the morning, we woke up late, and Mei cooked another delicious breakfast, featuring scrambled eggs with scallions, "thai-style" baked tofu (which I skipped), and toasted bread. I supplemented mine with leftover bacon and grilled vegetables from other tables, but made myself skip the other options (french toast, pancakes, etc), in the hope of not being too bloated to climb.

After much debate and hard thought, we decided to do Lucky Streaks. We weren't sure if we could do it (Mei had climbed it before, but had only led the "easy" pitches; I had never been on it before; the sun doesn't hit the climb until at least noon, and there were high clouds in the sky), but eventually we decided to go for it. We drove to the lot, started packing our gear, and two Canadians drove up a few minutes later. They were also headed for Lucky Streaks, and we had just barely beat them to the climb (were we lucky or what?).

Although the sun still hadn't hit the climb, the temperature seemed relatively warm, and we were anxious to start (it was already after noon). Mei talked me into leading the first pitch, which is not run out, but the protection is not "bomber" at the 5.9 move. It took me a looong time to commit to it, but once I did it went fine. I then proceeded to get my shoe stuck in the crack while walking on the ledge to the belay, which took a couple more minutes to free. All in all, it was a very slow pitch for me. Mei blazed up to me, and then led the next pitch (10a) with barely a pause, placing gear when appropriate. I followed it, after much deliberation at the 10a move, and felt very impressed. As we had agreed, she took the third pitch (10d) as well. It looked hard while she did it, but again, she had no difficulty. I followed the pitch cleanly, but I think I ended up using some of the places she had placed pro for jams, so I'm not sure I could have led it cleanly…

At that point I was exhausted, but she claimed the next pitch (described in the topo as "sustained 5.9 fingers") was easy, so I led it. She was right, luckily. The fifth pitch (5.9) was hers, since we were back to swinging leads, and she dispatched it rapidly. The sixth pitch (5.8) was mine, and although the moves felt really easy by then, moving was painful. Nevertheless, the pitch went fine, and we reached the top by 4:45. We wandered down, picked up our packs, and went to the car where we had a much deserved snack of a peach and ginger granola in soy milk. With that in our stomachs, we decided to hold out for good Chinese food for dinner, and headed to Milpitas in the hopes of finding a late-night restaurant.

At 10:30, we reached the McCarthy Ranch area of Milpitas. The Shanghai-ese restaurant we wanted to eat at was indeed open, and was actually serving dinner until 1am, so we managed to stuff ourselves. Yum.

Delicious food, climbing, conversation, unexpectedly meeting old and new friends, near perfect weather, what more can you ask for?

Mei's Notes: Thanks Debby for the trip report. On Lucky Streaks, you were not that slow and I was not that fast. But you sure have the humbleness of a Chinese. Oh, I want to add our Lucky #11: My fuel ran out while cooking breakfast. If we hadn't been taken in by the RR group, we would have ended up drinking raw eggs and eating cold bread. We were caught in action while unscrewing Simon and Amy's fuel bottle from their stove by Amy on her way to the bathroom (she was really supposed to be asleep at the time). That changed our status from fuel thieves to fuel borrowers (with generous permission).

Photos from West Crack

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