I suspect Josh got a bit misty eyed as we drove into the Valley, the first sight of El Capitan towering imposingly over the forest. He entertained me by pointing out landmarks from and telling stories about his previous visits, including a 240 mile, 22-day backpacking trip where he made a round-trip trek from the east to the west end of the park. (yes, Josh is the man)
Yosemite really is special. One of those places where even the most artistic Ansel Adams photo can’t capture the majestic granite formations, thundering waterfalls and peaceful river.
The sentiment does dissipate a little once we arrive in the center of “town”, where the park feels more Disneyland then great outdoors. California schools have just let out for the summer and hordes of tourists make a beeline for the valley creating traffic jams, long lines and standing-room only shuttles.
While the week has been punctuated by several detours caused by bad weather, phantom car trouble and challenges settling into a campsite, we are having a blast. The car hasn’t moved for days, as we’re able to walk, bike or bus anywhere we need to go. We’ve been on the lookout for “celebrity” climbers that frequent the Valley and enjoyed meeting the author of elcapreport.com who keeps a high-powered telescope fixed on the El Capitan climbers. Through it I was able to watch this guy live in action, pulling one of the most well known moves in the sport; the “king swing” on the Nose Route. (sadly, I didn’t catch a glimpse of Conrad Anker who’s been on the wall this week)
We’re sorry to disappoint anyone by mentioning that we won’t be climbing El Cap or Half Dome this week. These 3000 foot formations take about a week to complete and require expensive gear and technical skills which we just haven’t invested in obtaining. We’re staying plenty busy on a multitude of shorter walls and formations that provide fantastic views of these monoliths. (For anyone who cares, details and Josh’s description are at the end)
Our current home is probably one of the few campgrounds in the country that appears on the National Registry of Historic Places for its ties to modern rockclimbing. Prior to our first trip the Valley we excitedly anticipated staying at such a legendary place, having read many historic accounts from esteemed climbers. But we were ready to leave after two nights vowing never to return. The walk-in camp requires 6-8 campers to share a single, small piece of real-estate.
This is difficult for a couple like us who a most content in more private, peaceful corners of the forest. Other climbers also seem to be able to function on coffee rather than sleep, as the camp never seems to get completely quiet. On our first night, a group of neighbors returned from a long day at about 10p.m. and proceeded to fire up the stoves for the hearty dinner they were probably more then ready for. Just a few short hours after they turned in, the group on our other side woke ready to get a pre-dawn start on their day. Unfortunately it’s just about impossible to both awake and quiet, given the strict food storage requirements. Each camper is assigned a large steel box in which all food and toiletries must be kept. The rusty, heavy steel doors cause a racket every time they are open and closed.
But we returned, armed with earplugs and low expectations. And this time we’ve been blessed to share a camp with a couple of campmates who are not only quiet but really nice, experienced climbers who are quick to share the knowledge and stories. It’s always fun to make new friends along the way, though we do miss our many friends that we’ve left.
For those of you who are planning your own trip, I’ve posted part two of our planning tips here.
******************warning; climber lingo below*******************
The Grack, 5.6 on Glacier Point Apron. Stellar, slabby hand and finger crack.
Commitment, 5.9. A fun corner with a view of the falls.
Mungilena, 5.6. The “wife” route which Josh followed in his approch shoes.
Central Pillar of Frenzy, 5.9. Awesome old school 5.9 with a little of everything. Great views of the Great Roof. We had to bail before the money pitch when a rain shower created a waterfall down the wall and completely drenched us on the bail rap. Bummer – Josh was powering up the sustained route.