Published: December 23rd 2006October 2nd 2006
With a couple of weeks of trippin' around and being silly with friends behind me, the time came for me to get down to what this trip (and my life) is all about...
So I have been rock climbing.
Not far from Lake Tahoe, Lovers Leap is a wall of featured granite and some great crack climbing. This style of climbing is unfamiliar to me so I spent a couple of days in the area in preparation for heading to Yosemite Valley to the ultimate in large granite wall crack climbing.
Climbing introduces me to places and people I am otherwise unlikely to come across. Sharing time and ideas with a diverse range of people through a common passion is for me one of the most special aspects of climbing.
Yosemite Valley is a true mecca for those inspired by the vertical realm. Big big walls of impeccable granite offer innumerable challenges to those with the skills and motivation to follow the features which allow these great beasts to be climbed. They will scare and delight, challenge and destroy. Everything takes on epic proportions in the Valley. To just go and climb one of the smaller cliffs
can take up to 10 or 11 hours and then there is still a descent of a couple thousand feet on sometimes very loose terrain!
The learning transition for me on this trip has been a great experience. I came to the States with very little experience of traditional climbing and made it my goal to approach this with the intention to become comfortable and familiar with the style...
The start was highly intimidating as I was good enough physically and mentally to go far and fight on a route. I was technically limited, which meant that I was outside my comfort zone both with the climbing and with the placement of protection. However, within about a week of starting climbing cracks, I approached my first Yosemite Classic route; the 10 pitch "Freeblast".
This went very well. I climbed all ten pitches free and in reasonable time. Within a week of this, I had climbed 3 other classic Yosemite routes; "Steck Salathe", "Rostrum" and "Astroman", as well as the jamming test-piece boulder problem, "The Bachar Cracker" - a roof crack.
With body aching and hands bleeding from the intense introduction to this new sport, I took the opportunity
to leave Yosemite for the wide open desert realm and experience Bishop.
Bishop, on the eastern side of the Sierras, has a large range of rock types and scenery within a small area. Granite and Tuff boulders in a mix of plateau, ridge and valley landscapes give the boulderer many opportunities for beautiful climbing. The smell of sage wafts rich in the desert sun, which shines strong almost everyday. In the evening to ease the aching muscles one can simply jump into one of the areas many hotsprings. The clear water at around 40 degrees is ideal for warding off the ache of the day and the cold of the night.
Having served what I consider to be a good period of schooling in the art of trad and crack climbing, and after a week of restful bouldering, it was exam time. Returning to Yosemite, I had several hard projects to test my new-found talents(?) and answer my questions that have been turning over in my head...
The alien finish to the Rostrum is steep, thin, exposed and involves some pretty hard climbing! Lowering off the edge with Greg was a mental jostle with the fresh news
of Todd Skinner's unfortunate end creating extra gravity to the situation. Intimidated, I found it difficult to commit to the initial moves out over a seemingly endless abyss, but after a play I felt I was ready. And commiting to it, it felt totally locker, which had me stoked!
Separate Reality is the classic roof crack of Yosemite valley; the beautiful test-piece... High above the Merced River, this short single pitch has one of the most spectacular vantage points over the valley... It traverses a 9m long roof with a crux pulling on rattly hand-jams at the lip. Rad!!
And as my trip ended I had established a long list of must-do or must-try acitivities in the USA:
-drive a big car
-start a BBQ with a flame thrower
-climb classic rock routes
-live the Yosemite "dirt-bag" lifestyle
-catch a racoon
-drink root beer
-eat orange cheese
-and live the american dream...
I hope this has not been too boring for anyone who is not a climber...
There are more photos below