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California Sunshine

After arriving in California, my destination immediately became Yosemite Valley, the home to some of my biggest dreams and best memories. First, however, I had to sneak in some climbing in the High Sierra before I committed the fine month of October to the ditch. Without much effort, I was able to rally my buddy Matt to try a route at the Hulk, Venturi Effect.

(Heads up: hovering the mouse over photos provides a small caption)

The view from our bivy cave

Venturi Effect is known in part for it's sustained nature and incredible crack and stemming pitches, but mostly for the great video of Peter Croft (personal hero and FAist) and Lisa Rands. Brewing up coffee while waiting in the cave at the base of the Hulk was surreal.

Eventually we hiked up to the base and found the only other party willing to brave the cold was also there for Venturi. Fortunately, they were friendly and had great beta. After stepping around ice and snow for the first two pitches, we were greeted by the sun for a legendary stemming corner: the Book of Secrets.

Yes, that is ice seeping from the cracks

Matt trying to open the Book of Secrets

We each whipped a few times here and there, but it was still a trip to finally be palming and jamming up such classic pitches. After pitch 8, the sunset finally caught us and we bailed in fading light and dropping temps.

Matt chasing the sunset up a headwall splitter

The next day, Matt and I drove to Tuolumne Meadows and cragged the classic Blues Riff before realizing how much energy the Hulk had taken from us. Matt left and I enjoyed the cool weather while waiting for my sister to arrive.

Blues Riff, a great tune for the vertical dance...

My sister and I climbed for a few days, revisiting some classics like South Crack and Cryin' Time Again. We hiked up to the Third Pillar of Dana, only to find a lot of snow and ice. After bailing from that, we split ways and I headed down to the valley.

Hana cruising up South Crack

The first couple days days were beautiful, with low temperatures, no clouds and a light breeze. I cragged a bit with some friends, climbed Freeblast with my buddy Ryan, and was lured out to Liberty Cap with Matt.

Matt wanted to free Scarface over two pushes and offered to bivy up there (with all the gear!) between partners. I couldn't turn down the offer to walk up with no weight, so I jumped in for his second day.

Scarface center punches the large rock scar on the left side

We cruised up the first few pitches with cool temps and Matt's fresh memory from the day before. Matt took off on the 5.12 "glory" splitter (truly glorious) and caught the sunlight while he was nearing the top. It begins with a stout boulder problem and quickly dumps into endless fingers on a seemingly overhanging wall. Because this route was the product of a fresh rock scar, this pitch was as laser cut as they get.

Matt resting while first light sneaks around the corner

Unfortunately, the efforts of the previous day had caught up to him and he was gassed. After a few rests, he made it to the belay and I got to enjoy the top rope ride.

Top rope hero!

A few pitches later, we reached the "Cubano Corner." I asked Matt for beta, hoping to gain a little advantage, but he quickly denied reminding me that an onsight was still on the table.

I took off in a steep corner with perfect tips locks, reaching a stem rest right when the pump set in. After recovering, I took off up a few more wet locks before clipping a bolt and entering a full stem. Getting desperate, I remembered the Book of Secrets and trusted my feet for a few more moves. After some groaning and slippage, I pull up to the belay a little dumbfounded.

Looking down the crux corner

Matt hiked the last 5.11 and we simuled to the top. Sitting on Liberty Cap at 1:30 in the afternoon after having sent a sizable and challenging route was rewarding. I can still remember the first time I hiked up the Mist Trail and saw Liberty Cap, thinking "gosh, Half Dome looks funny from over here."

Two days later, Ryan offered to help me hump loads up El Cap to cache for Freerider. We suffered for a few hours on the way up, only to be terrified by the steep rappels over the headwall. After a few hours, I felt very solid with my rope management and people skills (having passed 8 parties on route!). Hopefully nobody was upset enough to drink all of the water we cached...

Catching the sunrise on East Ledges
Big air time 3000ft off the ground

After another rest day, Ryan and I took off on his first big wall, the Leaning Tower. I offered to belay and mini traxion the free climbing. We had a good time and cruised up, never having to climb in the sun.

Ryan cleaning above Ahwahnee Ledge

Ryan nearing the top. The beginning of the fall colors...

The day after Leaning Tower, I coaxed Matt into checking out Hotline on Elephant Rock. We both were a little knackered, but managed to get up the route without too much help from the rope. As everyone else says, the traverse is very challenging and the "cadillac hands" are all time. Matt and I both agreed that this route should rank among the best of the crack climbs in the area.

A friendly Italian hiking the first two pitches of Hotline

After a few days of bouldering, cragging, and rest, Ryan and I picked up our friend Adam from the airport. We climbed the first six pitches on the Direct North Buttress and Gates of Delerium. Going for the 6-6-6 (unintentionally), I linked up with my boss, Sam, to climb the last six pitches of the Rostrum as well. This week was full of climbing and, unfortunately, tons of smoke.

Ryan and Adam coming up P5 of the DNB

Getting cooked on Gates

Sam climbing above the crowds on the Rostrum

The winds finally shifted, though, and it cleared up for Adam and I to climb Stoner's Highway. This climb was a true masterpiece that speaks to the talent of climbers in generations past. We had a casual start, swinging pitches the entire way and rappelling with some stunning views of El Cap.

Adam cruising p4 of Stoners

The next morning we were greeted with heavy rain, the first precipitation I had seen since Colorado a month prior. Forced rest was appreciated and we enjoyed some mellow cragging the following days.

Despite the smoke, crowds and terrible news, it was a good month for climbing in Yosemite. Hopefully the fires die down and the weather holds. Next up is a lot of rest and a hopefully solid attempt on Freerider. My girlfriend, Cheyenne, is finally home (from Spain!) and is kind enough to spend some precious time with me on El Cap. It will be a good time regardless of outcome, so we're praying for good weather and friendly crowds!

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