Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Climbing: Yosemite: An 8-hour Drive and 1 1/3 the Rostrum

I had to take a pause and put my cup down on the 50-foot walk from the break room to my desk this morning because my fingers could not bear the burning pain from carrying that cup of warm water. Every finger tip is glowing red with unusual fullness. In a day or two, they will start peeling like a snake shedding skin. I will be reminded of this weekend’s climbing everyday for the days to come.

We headed out on Friday leaving Erik’s work around 6pm. By the time we pulled in to Ron and Liz’s B&B, it was past 2am.  There was an accident past Pecheco pass that turned eastbound Hwy 152 into a long and narrow parking lot. Cars inched forward a few feet at a time with a long period of standing still in between. People were losing their mind in the agonizing traffic and it was not unusual to hear a car honk purposelessly.  Erik exhibited tremendous patience and did not swear once during the three long hours covering a mere 20 mile distance. We owed our thanks to a 13-CD audio book, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan, a book detail oriented, thoroughly researched, and informative.

Originally, Erik planned on doing one day of climbing to return to work on Sunday. After the physically taxing long drive, he changed his mind — we had to make the trip worth it. Since we climbed only half way on the Rostrum [ur=]last time[/url], it seemed like a natural choice for us to get back on it and finish it.

After a lazy morning hanging out with Ron and Liz, we did not get started on the climb until afternoon. Although we slept in by climbers’ standard for we didn’t get up until 8am, still it was only about 6 hours of sleep. No enough. The valley was hot, and with the cloud coverage, it felt muggy too. Due to the heat and lack of sleep, I was not in my brightest mood. Instead, I was feeling heavy the moment I started climbing. Erik took all the lead. Neither of us climbed very well. I fell at places I’d never fallen before. My first time on the route was way better than today. We were both fatigued and dehydrated and our climbing was not graceful. Fortunately, there was not another soul in sight. Despite the opportunity to escape from the big ledge on top of the fourth pitch, we stuck to the climb and it was a good feeling finally when we topped out in light. When we got back, we could barely drag our bodies over the door steps of Ron and Liz’s B&B. That night, we crashed hard.

I expected after a good night of sleep, I would feel renewed and energetic. It did not happen. When I woke up, every muscle in my body hurt. My knees looked terrible with bruises all over. That was from thrashing around in the offwidth. Although I did not fall out of it, my form was poor because my feet hurt in the climbing shoes and I was extremely tired and desperate. Erik was in no better shape than me. He grunted just to get out of his sleeping bag. So, when we drove off towards the valley in the late morning, he had one plan in mind — eating popsicles and swimming under the bridge by El Cap meadow. It was not until the very last second that he swirled into the right lane for Hwy 41 leading to the top of the Rostrum when I prompted him that he should get the trip’s worth of climbing. We decided to just do the bottom few pitches on the Rostrum.

When we arrived at the base, there was one party of two guys high up at the Gold Corner (10d) pitch and a young couple from Salt Lake City starting up. The guy looked solid leading the first pitch. The girl looked impressive for she was wearing shorts and a tank top.  Erik and I expected to watch her style the climb. However, when she picked up a mid-sized backpack stuffed full with whatever and commented that she did not have her chalk bag, I felt nervous for her — it would be hard to climb the route with such a pack and the weather, though cooler than yesterday, was still sweat inspiring. She did end up having a hard time on the first pitch and had to break out her jumar. So they repelled on a single rope from the first pitch with our help and left us alone on the climb. Well, not exactly alone because we could hear the two guys cheering loudly after they tackled the offwidth pitch.  They must be decent climbers having made good progress on the climb and might even be nice people in life. However, they left behind an empty glass bottle (for nectar juice from TJ’s) right at the base — the bottle was not there yesterday and it didn’t belong to the young couple — so, “poor form” is all I had to say about those two guys.

Erik and I cruised up the first four pitches to the big ledge without any incidence, again he leading everything.  Wanting to end the weekend on a pleasant note, we called it a day. On the climb, Erik had been staring at the swimming hole below, so that’s where we went afterward.  The snow melt water in Merced river was chilly, which felt really good when I dipped my throbbing feet in. Erik, a few feet away, screamed when he attempted to lower his body in. Needing to wear his down jacket all year around whenever he is outside at night, he had hoped for water of a higher temperature. Instead of swimming around like what he had dreamed whole day, he splashed water on to his body quickly before retreating to sunbathing. Again, luckily, there was not another soul in sight. He, spreading widely on a rock platform, contently ignored my laughs.