Sunday, May 25, 2014

Yosemite #2-Weiler Annual Vacation Recap

Tunnel view with clouds

Annie and I go "on vacation" a lot I guess in the sense that we try to get out away from SLC by visiting St George or Moab or the Tetons as much as we can. But its usually just for a 3 day weekend or sometimes in desperate measures just for a day(more often than our Hyundai would like to admit). But every year we try to go somewhere where we haven't been or are psyched about for at least a week.

This year we decided to head back to Yosemite, and though we have been there before, a few things lined up so it seemed like the best place to go.
1. Nate called and invited us. We don't get to see Nate so often anymore living in far off places(Oakland) so anytime we can have an adventure together its usually memorable.
2. Annie is 8 months pregnant, so our usual vacation time of around July/August was out with the birth of our baby boy(i'm still holding out despite the ultrasound clearly showing no "boy parts") in late June.
3. Yosemite seemed great for hiking and cragging since there would be no epic multipitches for Annie this year. Plus we could stay at a campground(if Camp 4 is worthy of that title) with somewhat of a basecamp.
4. I could tick off one of my "life-must-do-classic climbs" by doing the Steck Salathe with Nate.

Vacation Recap(unfortunately not involving El Cap, this time...) Bit of a long one. Grab a drink.

Sat/Sun- We just drove there. Stayed with Annie's sister Saturday night, hit up church on Sunday, then got our tent set up upon arriving. Scoped the approach to Steck Salathe.

Monday- The Big One. Steck Salathe on the Sentinel.  10b. 14 pitches. A 50 Classic.

Sentinel in profile on descent

I won't bore you with the history of the Steck Salathe but bottom line is this thing was burly back when Mr. Steck and Mr. Salathe did it over 4 days back in 1950 and its still burly now. You'd look at the rating and think, oh, 10b, not too bad. I climb 5.11 in LCC and 5.12 in AF. Not so fast my friend. Not only are Yosemite grades a bit old school, but this climb in particular harbors old school OW/chimney ratings. Never a good combo. Nate kept saying after every pitch, "those guys had balls". Yea, and no cams.
Sentinel. Steck Salathe climbs near right side
Approach ramp

Basically the route climbs 14-16 LONG pitches up the North Face of the Sentinel, and nearly every pitch has some kind of OW or chimney that requires what can only be described as "thrutching". Our #4 and #5 camalot got more action in one day that Miley Sirus' Youtube channel. I won't give you a pitch by pitch(since they are largely all the same anyway) but here are the highlights:

Approach: About an hour. Started at Four Mile trail around 6 am. We went too high on the grassy ramp and had to do a short rap back down. Minor delay. Started climbing at 7am.

Pitch 3- The Wilson Overhang. It gets a 10a rating but I thought it was one of the more fun/less demanding pitches on the climb. Also good gear. It was also only pitch 3 so maybe we were still having fun at this point.
Pitch 4- Many say this is the crux of the climb, a heinous squeeze chimney. My body type has been compared to that of a green bean before and even I got stuck in this thing. Could not move. Bailed down and took the 5.8 flake variation. Thank goodness that flake exists. Nate wanted to try it on TR but quickly got stuck as well. Bring a 3rd grader to lead this one for you.
Pitches 5-7- hardest route finding of the day. Got into a MMA cagefight with my backpack and slings in the midst of a 5.8 OW while walking my big cams and thought for sure I was going to need a valium
Pitch 9-Nate sacks up and leads his first pitch of the day(i lied to him and told him I would lead all day, then convinced him he needed to be a man and gave him the only non-wide token 5.9 slab bolted pitch. heh heh) Nate promptly got off route 20 feet off the belay above a roof after clipping an old 1/4"er despite my detailed description and ended up in some heinous sketchy unprotected moss terrain out of sight of the belay. Somehow he dialed it back in by downclimbing and me yelling at him and got on route. When I looked at where he had been climbing when I got up there, only Nate and God know why he went that way. He claimed a ratty sling on a piton led him that way. What about the nice shiny bolt left over there Nate?
Pitch 10-the 10b slick "strenuous flare" pitch. Uggh. Kinda runout and really physical. My mental wires were fried after this one. I'd look down and see Nate happily looking across the Valley snapping selfies. He'd get his turn.
Pitch 11-Nate sacked up and led the infamous Narrows pitch. Basically you have to tunnel straight up into this gaping hole in the roof that is pretty dang tight. Dyno chicken wings and face smears are the answer. No gear for a full 100', though you can't fall but its slow going. Nate didn't get off route on this one as that would have been impossible. He only led 3 of the 14 pitches, but he got his money worth on this one.
Nate following pitch 2

Wilson Overhang. Good gear, no hands rest baby

Nate thinks its funny that I can't move up or down on the 4th pitch squeeze
Above the Wilson Overhang we found some nice hand crack
Funny how I only took pictures of Nate climbing handcrack. This is not representative of the vast majority of the route

The slab pitch where Nate got lost for quite some time. 
Ah the Narrows. Here you can see Nate's foot with his gear dangling below him as he squirms upwards. Most won't fit with anything on their harness

Looking back down the Narrows. 

Nate enjoying yet another arm bar in a chimney towards the top. 

Summit! This is not a snobbish look, but rather a, "never again" look

We topped out at 6 pm, and enjoyed what was described as an involved, "don't do it at night" walkoff but in fact was quite pleasant. Back eating dinner at 8 pm. Long, long day. My whole body was bruised and bleeding the entire week. Bring knee,elbow,ankle pads, oh heck, bring a hockey uniform if you do this one. A classic in a type 2 fun kind of way.

Definitely watch the Smileys video to get a great flavor of the climb. Where Mark gets stuck is the Narrows pitch Nate led.

Tuesday-Hiking in Hetch Hetchy

Unfortunately it started to rain Monday night so Nate decided to bail since he had a bunch of stuff to do back home and the forecast looked crappy. Annie and I had planned on me being wasted from Monday(good foresight) so we drove up to Hetch Hetchy. It was very beautiful up there and we did a nice casual 5 mile hike around the reservoir without getting rained on.
Hetch Hetchy is pretty cool

Tons of these guys running around

Yosemite has tons of waterfalls. This one is Waponi or something

Wednesday-Hiking up Yosemite Falls

Rain again, bummer. We hiked the classic Upper Yosemite Falls trail after securing a campsite in Camp 4 which was gorgeous but it was totally socked in up at the top so the view was less than stellar. Enjoyed a $30 large pizza(ripoff! wheres the hot n ready?) at Curry Village where I consumed 9 slices of pizza and was still hungry.

Annie got a ton of comments while hiking. "way to go!" 

Yosemite Falls

Spectacular view from near Yosemite point, or so they say

Thursday-Cragging in the Valley

Despite being 8 months pregnant Annie still wanted to give climbing a go. It is Yosemite after all. We attempted to climb both Bishops Terrace and Mr Natural but found parties on both climbs so we headed over to Reeds Pinnacle. I led a fantastic 10c called Lunatic Fringe that took a little of everything skill wise and every piece of gear I owned plus more if I would have had it.

Then we did the first two pitches of Reeds Pinnacle Direct. This is the famous picture of Bachar and Cashner soloing the classic 2nd pitch 10 feet apart from one another.

The first pitch was short and splitter offset hands. The 2nd pitch turned out to be fun but wasn't a splitter but really wavy with weird constrictions. It didn't take gear super easily. I made it up with some difficulty and belayed off an ant infested tree that proceeded to attack all my bleeding wounds. Annie started up but was lacking energy(hiking, pregnancy, annoying persistent husband, "its classic!") and about 3/4 of the way up it turns into a hard OW(unknown to me before embarking) section. She hates #3-4 camalot size cracks anyway, but being pregnant made it much worse. She got frustrated, then to add gas to the fire, it started to rain. So here she is, a bowling ball lump in her way of getting a knee jam, tired, wet, and with only red hot fire ants waiting for her at the top and she justifiably lost it.

She pulled it together after a 5 minute session and made it up where we hugged in the rain under our barely sheltered ants-from-the-other-world tree home. Luckily it stopped raining and I lowered her down so she didn't have to do the more complicated one rope rap shenanigans. I proceeded to rap alone and got the rope stuck when pulling it(my worst nightmare), forcing my hand to solo up this creaky flake to retrieve it since I had no belayer. We made it back to the car and took it as a omen that our climbing in the Valley was done for the trip.
Most climbs in Yosemite require 2 ropes to rap off. When you only have one, you end up crawling through tight spaces like this one to find a way to scramble off. 2'x2'

Pitch 2 of Reeds Direct

Annie escaping the killer ant tree

Lunatic Fringe. 10c awesome. 

Friday-Yosemite North Rim-29 miles, 7k', just under 6 hours. 

Annie said she needed a rest day which after Thursday's debacle seemed appropriate. I designed a run that originated at the Foresta TH on Big Oak Flat Road near the west end of the park and terminated at Mirror Lake on the east side. It traversed over El Cap, Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, North Dome and finished in vicinity of the glorious NW face of Half Dome down Snow Creek, which is like Walters Wiggles in Zion x 10. I only encountered a few folks before hitting touron center Yosemite Falls, and only a few more till touron stadium Mirror Lake. All in all I had a great run with 95% solitude in a remarkable setting. Rounded out the day in El Cap meadow watching the tiny people climb the huge walls.
The run started out in a cool burn
Climbed up towards El Cap through great singletrack and trees
Summit of El Cap! Too bad I took the wimpy way
All alone on Eagle Peak. Yosemite Falls and North Dome visible, my next stops ahead
Lost Arrow Spire. Too scared to get any closer to the edge
Another of my liftetime must do climbs resides on that beast

Saturday-Hiking at Sentinel Dome

Did a nice 5 mile loop up around Sentinel Dome near Glacier point. The tourons were coming in droves by this time and we got stuck in a massive traffic clusterbomb. Arriving back at Camp 4 we found an Asian Invasion had struck us with a family of 7 surrounding our tent. They were nice and gave us some fish jerky, but we knew the time to leave had arrived.

Annie on top of Sentinel Dome. Better view than Glacier Point IMO

Cool pic of Middle Cathedral that really has no basis for being here

Sunday-Drove the long 12 hours back home. Another Weiler Vacation in the books! 


  1. Stellar climbing there, Spence. Keep it up.

    -Spencer Utt

  2. You stay up to date on the number of Miley Cyrus youtube views too? Yeah, not sure where I was headed on that slab pitch. Throw that one into god's gap of the unknowns. Awesome trip!