Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yosemite, the Valley

My travel spree continues, and my posting as well after a certain hiatus due to the expensive internet connection in the USA (yup, things have changed here...).

My next stop for the duration of last month has been the Yosemite National Park in California, mainly a climbing destination with some by-side photography essays. Yosemite is definitely a great training ground and a rather convenient stop to spend a certain time exercising the climbing skills.

There are several places worth a visit in the valley, depending mainly on the length of the route you want to do and the sun exposure. You have two sides - south and north. On the south-facing side you have in order of appearance El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Royal Arches, Washington Column and North Dome, Mount Watkins - and smaller walls in between (Manure Pile, Camp 4, Swan Slabs, 5 Open Books, Church Bowl). On the north-facing side there are the Leaning Tower, Cathedrals (Lower, Middle. and Higher), Sentinel, Glacier Apron, Half Dome. The biggest and most famous climbs are over El Capitan (15-30 pitches depending on the spot) and Half Dome (20 pitches). Shorter ones, but also very good are on Cathedrals, Sentinel, Washington Column etc. Also, outside the valley itself, there are several practice crags, such as Rostrum (big crag - unfortunately closed until August because of nesting birds), Cookie Cliff, Arch rock etc. that require a car (hitch hiking) for the approach.

The first climb we did on the first day was the Northeast Buttress on Higher Cathedral. The picture below shows the Middle Cathedral in the center with Higher Cathedral to the left and Lower Cathedral to the right. It is a big rock mass, although it is usually overlooked when entering the valley, rather dominated by El Cap on the opposite side of the meadow.

The climb was harsh - at least for me. At sustained 5.9 (5c), it has lots of it all, Yosemite-style, cracks, chimneys, stemming - the wide stuff. And we had company - usual as well in the park. A party of 3 Spanish guys, whom we shamelessly tried to pass and went off-route trying...They were very nice nevertheless and not only showed us the way but let us pass them for a cost of a beer - normal barter exchange method if you want things arranged with brother climbers. Here is Oriol, climbing guide in Val de Boi, leading one of the harder 5.9 pitches (sandbaggers, i say it once, i say it twice...) :

Rock is a beautiful featured orange/white, the line is perfect and exposure good. The walk down is painful, but that's the usual climbing ordeal. Here is the best part - the view on the Big Boy from the top:

Next couple of days saw us doing easier or shorter routes, such as Commitment, a 3-pitch fun with great first 5.8 hand jam at the 5 Open Books area, Nutcracker at the Manure Pile Buttress, beautiful 3-pitch line called Moratorium or the classic Serenity Crack and Sons of Yesterday couple of 8 pitches to know how the 5.10 climbing feels like. This is the astonishing first pitch of Serenity Crack, a practice aiding route that has been scarred by the pitons to the point to make it go free at 5.9 (a scary run-out 5.9 that some call 5.10 and i call hard feet-hurting monster):

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