Whenever someone says it’s always sunny in California, I realize that they’ve never been to its mountains (or lived here). I’ll admit though that it’s not a bad generality to make, I can usually count on climbing outdoors on any given weekend. This Tuolumne climbing trip was one of the few that we changed route plans due to weather.
After climbing Hobbit Book our group changed again. Jeremy, and two of our friends had to drive home Friday morning and two other friends had not yet shown up. They had run into trouble when they found the 395 closed due to a mud slide but they had said they would show up in the morning.
K and I wanted to be sure our friends found our campsite and a tentative plan was that K and our friend Cliff would pair off for a climb while I took Vina up on a multi-pitch. However by the time our friends arrived they were up for a mellow start of climbing and K and I had decided we’d try the Regular Route on Fairview with our friends Peter and Gabi, they’d be the first party of two and we’d be the second party.
A few yards into the approach hike, K realized he had forgotten something at the car and went back for it. As a result Peter and Gabi got to the base of the route first, with me coming up after. I saw they hadn’t started the route yet (it was the afternoon by now) and that a party was ahead of them. When K arrived Gabi and Peter still hadn’t been able to start on the route. Gabi finally started on the first pitch but didn’t seem his usual lightning fast self (which meant the pitch wasn’t easy), we could also still see the other party ahead of them. After waiting a bit more K and I decided to bail on the route and took off to find our other friends.
We fortunately got cell service (Sprint and AT&T) so was able to reach them and we all ended up going to Murphy Creek. While on the approach hike I realized it was the same trail I’d been on for a backpacking trip, it was fun to think that this time I was going climbing in the area. After a bit of searching, we eventually found the single pitch wall we were looking for. There wasn’t anyone else around.
The weather had turned a little chilly and we didn’t have much light left. Still we had fun on some interesting crack climbs. One included a strange “ramp/ledge” that you balanced up on before you got to more crack. The same anchor worked for a more straightforward (but a lot harder) dihedral crack climb. K also led up a dirty climb to the right of this system, I believe the name of if even included the word “dirty”. I’d say the wall was worth getting to once you knew the way and could get there directly.
We got back to camp when it was dark. Peter and Gabi weren’t there. “So either they’re still on Fairview or they finished early and went to eat,” I guessed out loud. My bet was that they were still coming back. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later they walked up to our campfire, having come directly from the climb and begging for food. Gabi said, “It’s good you did not follow us.” Apparently though they had not taken a long time on the climb, the late start just meant they were still coming back late. The most important reason it was good K and I hadn’t followed them though was that Peter had knocked down a fairly large rock while he was on the easier 4th class stuff and had watched it tumble down (while he repeatedly yelled, “Rock!!”), brush his rope, fall straight down most of the route (not at Gabi though as they had done a zigzag before this point), smashing spectacularly into pieces as it fell, with its final demise being even more rock explosions at the base of the climb.
Both Peter and Gabi said that if K and I had followed them it would have hit us.
Late Friday I thought I had heard Ben’s car pull into camp. Ben was another person I “knew” from Twitter but had not met in person. Sure enough we found him looking sleepy but present. He approached the morning campfire looking expectantly between my friend Vina and I. I said, “I’m Eileen, Rockgrrl” and smiled. Vina and I look a little alike so I think that confuses folks who may have only seen me in pictures on this blog. There were more introductions and some late risers (we had stayed up Friday night, partly seeing if Ben would arrive and because we were having fun). We started to notice the sky. We had heard from more than one person in the park that it was supposed to snow Sunday. We knew the forecast for our trip was to get colder and colder as the days went by. Thursday was supposed to have had a high of 80 but it really didn’t seem to reach that at all and the rest of the forecast for the week was supposed to drop by at least 10 degrees each day. A ranger had said showers were in the forecast. The clouds looked quite grey.
K had been trying to talk Cliff into doing the Regular Route on Fairview while I led Ben and Vina on Western Front or something similar. The weather didn’t look that great for multipitch and the climbs we were thinking of doing were popular, and would probably be even more crowded on a Saturday. We decided to check out the domes anyway. On the way though it started raining. We changed plans and went off to the DAFF dome area to check on West Crack and maybe find some single pitch climbs.
Looking at the guide books from the parking area it sprinkled on us again.
Then we went hiking. We stopped at one formation but it turns out the walk up to set anchors was a bit hairy considering the weather. On our way to another area we suddenly realized it was snowing on us. We pressed on and ended up at Guide Cracks. Where, true to its name, we found a guide with his clients on some of the cracks. Some other climbers were also there. That left a small crack/face climb and a face climb open for us. Cliff led it as the weather shifted from grey skies to greyer and from hail to rain and even another snow flurry. While we were trying the friction climb (very slick as you can imagine) I noticed a gal leading a crack near us that the class had vacated. I asked if it was fun and she said yeah and it was only a 5.6. I was disappointed but decided to lead it anyway since it was there. Once I was on it I realized the angle flattened out fast but I concentrated on just putting nice placements in. Vina did a pinkpoint lead after and cleaned it on the way down. Then Ben decided to lead it, his first trad lead in Tuolumne, he said. It wasn’t a bad end to a day where at times we felt like it could open up and pour on us. I noticed some of the French Canadians who were being guided looked very cold. One even said he was done climbing because he was so cold (he was wearing a jacket but he had on shorts).
We left early enough to buy firewood from the Tuolumne shop so we’d have some at night. It got pretty cold but we had fun. At night it rained a little on our tent and then got quiet, I think we got another snow flurry.
Our group had shrunk. Peter and Gabi had left on Saturday. Still we had five climbers left though four us had a long drive home ahead of us. The weather was still looking a little on the wet side in Tuolumne so we headed to Yosemite Valley. We ended up parking along side the road before one of the tunnels that took you down to the Valley. The area was called Five and Dime Cliff. It was a slick leaf walk down to the base of the cliff but it was a definite change of weather. It was sunny and if you got hot if you stayed in direct sunlight, but in the shade with an occasional breeze you could tell the cold snap was still in the air.
We found a crack climb. The guide book mentioned bringing a lot of slings to set up anchors from bushes. We decided to try one out first. Cliff started up a likely crack. While we were waiting I read up on Mockery, a four star, “hard 5.8” to the left of where we were. It was bolted and described as “well protected – Yosemite rarity for a climb of this difficulty”. That last bit pretty much made me decide to give it a go. Ben belayed me as I set off on the zig zagging unusual climb. The start was a little stranger than it looked, I had dismissed it contemplating a strange slanting rib of rock a bit later on the route. I managed to get up the first part and do a little traverse and was fine. The rib area looked like I could go left to a crack with a slight overhang (and there was chalk there) or right to a balance move. I went right and did the move, finding a nice handhold. Right before the bolted anchor I found a crux for the climb, there was a bolt at it though so it gave me some confidence. I finished it and came down. I thought it a fair Yosemite 5.8, which is to say, a bit harder than 5.8s at most local crags. Of course I’m sure I had a harder time of it due to nerves, that start had thrown me off, and the little gusts of wind while I was balancing on later parts of the climb also got me going a little. Ben followed up without much trouble. He didn’t seem to have an issue at all with the start and easily reached the handhold I used on the right of the slanted rib rock though he did have more trouble at the crux near the top.
I went off to do the other crack climb while Vina did the 5.8. I topped out on the crack climb that Cliff and K had led and cleaned up the anchor while the others hiked back up to the car. The view was great, mountains, a river far below. I love Yosemite and there is so much to climb there, even the little cliffs are fun.
Unfortunately it was already time for the Southern California folks to leave. Ben said he would stick around a bit and hike on his own. The rest of us got into our cars and headed to the Valley. I think Cliff planned on looking at El Capitan on his way out. K and I thought about doing the same and stopped at one point where I could see El Cap (and a deer in a small meadow) but then didn’t take the turn to the proper El Cap viewing point. We did stop at the famous pull out near the tunnels for the most photographed view of Yosemite Valley. I got a series of shots there, I had not seen it so clear in a while. I’m making some of those shots available on my photography site and others as calendars, etc in my gift shop.
I was really glad K and I took the way home through Yosemite Valley, I had been awhile since I’d seen that part of the park. I kept my window open as much as I could as we drove by even though the air was a little chilly. I love the smell of the trees. I always have. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten jaded from going to Tuolumne and Yosemite a number of times, but then I realized that I’ve barely even scratched the surface of all you can experience there.
Link to my Tuolumne and Yosemite Climbing Trip Pictures.