Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Can’t Say

All I know is this place is somewhere in Northen California. I was blindfolded, spun several times, and led through bushes and trees. When my eyes are finally uncovered, I am standing below a straight crack in a beautiful corner. The rock is granite that is familiar to me. The climb is almost 100 feet tall. Ahh… I know this one — Catchy Corner on the Cookie Cliff in Yosemite. But wait, that can’t be right. First of all, we didn’t have to climb Catchy to approach the corner. Second of all, there was no crowd around us! I couldn’t hear cars nor people. All I hear is the wind roaring over the ridge across the valley (although it is very peaceful where I am), the river running along the valley below us, the swallows playing in the sky, and occasionally pine cones falling onto the ground. It is a wilderness experience.

Erik has been talking about this climb. He spent days cleaning it out, and it is in very good shape right now — a five star climb by Yosemite standard. The crack is finger lock size with occasional hand jams. It is strenuous because it requires liebacking most the way up with hard-to-come-by stances for rests. He rates it 5.10b/c(?), but I know I had an easier time on Catchy (a 5.10d climb on the Cookie Cliff) than on this one. A few feet to the right is another corner crack (5.8 or 5.9?) that is almost as sustained but in a different size — cup hand size (for me) and it eventually leads to a sweet splitter hand crack. Then a few feet further to the right stands a fun technical climb that follows a wafer thin flake (5.11a?). Most of the time, I am hanging with my fingers or standing on edges that are as thin as a coin. It has to be magic that my overly stretched climbing shoes actually stay on the rock long enough for me to make one move after another. Off the same anchor is a wide crack in a corner that puts my offwidth climbing technique to test. Only after thrashing and kicking most of my way up, I notice a thin crack in the wall behind my back that I can pull on, which makes the difficulty to drop by two number grades immediately. However the crux lies in traversing a ten-foot roof. All the climbs are nothing but fun, and all are challenging in their own way. If I were Erik, I would also be proud of my discovery of these beauties, not to mention the great effort put in to uncover the beauty from beneath the choss, mud, and grass.

Having spent many weekends in Yosemite recently, it is a refreshing experience to spend a night out there. It is so quiet. Only the cracking of the firewood breaks the silence every now and then.

On sunday, we head for the climb that drew Erik back here in the first place — he really wanted to take one last look at, and maybe even give a try on, this crack that spans a perfectly horizontal roof before the area is closed in by snow. To get to the base, we have to climb two approach pitches. I like them both despite the loose condition. At the sight of the roof crack, I was struck by the beauty and intimidated by the difficulty the crack presents. As it turns out, it is indeed very difficult — hard to climb and hard to protect, and a fall yields great consequences. I know Erik will return to this climb. Hopefully he will come back with a better protection plan.

The area is still under development. Trails need to be improved, climbs need to be cleaned, and anchors need to be installed. Until then, I really can’t say.