Day 1 – Hobbit Book
“We’re at about 3,093 meters,” Jeremy said. The numbers didn’t really register, we were on top of Mariuolumne Dome having just finished the multipitch climb, Hobbit Book (5.7R). Jeremy added, “that’s over 10,000 feet, the highest I’ve ever done actual rockclimbing”. This was coming from a guy who was not a stranger to altitude, having just weeks ago summited Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Something registered then, I recalled years ago a friend of mine having our party wait while on Cathedral Peak because he was helping another climber down who had altitude sickness. I had been skeptical then, but I was under the impression that altitude sickness could only hit once you hit the 10,000 foot mark, instead of being able to strike at 8,000 feet on up.
This trip I think I felt the altitude a bit though. It made me realize that, yes, we were indeed alpine climbing.
Jeremy, K, and I had just done Hobbit Book, a climb K and I had done back in 2007. I hadn’t remembered the approach being that long or hard, so I was surprised both when I read it described as such in the guide book, and when I found myself out of breath and having to rest a moment during the approach (I usually never stop, just slow down at times). Contributing factors in my feeling the altitude was arriving in Tuolumne from sea level the night before, getting a poor night’s sleep, and having to wake up early (we stood in line to get an extra campsite), also K had been worried about time so had set a fast pace on the approach which I foolishly tried to follow.
When we got to the base of the climb (after a 4th class traverse which I did remember as airy from 2007), I found myself recovered enough at least. There was a party ahead of us on the route. Once we got situated, K combined the first two pitches of the climb, which caused Jeremy to simul up a slope (I clambered up after him to a safe point). Then it was waiting time for me as one member of the party above us was still at the belay near the guys. Once I was on the move, I went up the knobs on the right of a protruding formation, remembering that last time I had gone up the middle. The right side was easier, though it would’ve been a more unpleasant pendulum fall had I come off. Gaining the belay I saw the next pitch (our 2nd, but the 3rd pitch in the guide book). It was the famed 5.7 runout pitch. This was also K’s lead. I had recalled that though the climbing was technically within my range, there were distinct high steps and reaches for a gal of 5’4″ and I didn’t really want to find out how that felt on lead with a 60′ runout. We were also still concerned about time so it made sense for K to take the pitch.
K lead it without a problem (there’s footage of him climbing in the video). Jeremy followed and then myself. Just after K finished the runout pitch we realized we had been making good time so it was my turn to lead the last pitch. I remembered it as crack climbing but when I looked at the printout of our topo I saw that first I had to do some face climbing, either as a traverse out to the left, or up and to a roof crack. The route actually showed a triangle of choices. I decided to do the traverse. Breathing became a little difficult as I did the short, easy, but exposed traverse with the wind blowing my hair around. I could blame it on the altitude but I’ll admit it was nerves. I happily placed a piece in a crack after the traverse and then continued on up and to the right to harder technical climbing that at least had more places to put pro. When I rounded one overhanging part, I was surprised to see the top of the climb in sight, I had remembered it being longer. I was surprisingly disappointed. Topping out was a great feeling though. I had only followed Hobbit Book in 2007 and this time I was finishing it as having led one of the pitches in style. I was also gratified when both Jeremy and Kelly told me, “Good lead” when they came up.
We had made good time and took in the view and took some pictures before looking for the descent. I had left my shoes on because I remembered a small “down step” on rock. It wasn’t as bad as I recalled and put on my regular shoes right after it. We found a few cairns but then had to go on past memory that we needed to go down a gully between tall rock cliffs. We found it and were on the way out. We made to Jeremy’s car while there was still light and nearly made it to the store before they closed (got there at 8:04 pm, they closed at 8:00 pm). Jeremy had decided to crash the night, and drive back the next day.
Campfire was fun, our friends had done Oz. on Mariuolumne as two parties of two, and in fact we had seen them on it as we hiked by. Apparently it was challenging and made for good stories.
I had a better night’s sleep that night.