2016 was a good year. Good for vertical hiking. As much as I despise hiking as such, when it comes to verticality, I am stoked out of my mind!I consciously say hiking, not camping as my aim this time in Yosemite was climbing routes we can manage in a day. I could not be asked to drag all the extras needed for an overnight stay. Do not get me wrong! I love sleeping on the vertical camping spots, just this time, my mindset was different. ( To be honest, I did spend some days up on El Cap with Simon and Vince, dirtbaging on Heart Ledges, becoming responsible for possible future avocado plantations at the foot of El Cap, but this was on one special occasion out of 3 months in The Valley.)
Climbing on Yosemite granite is like starting new sport. Beginning of rock climbing. I do feel an advantage of previous time on rock, yet it does not translate in capacity to tackle same difficulties I am used to. My first time around, I took the climbing grades converter and jumped on what I thought should be my level. Oh man, was I wrong! And felt humiliated. Then forced to understand I had to change my strategy. For aid climbing, I still was like – get on it! And with my partner Steve, we decided to learn the craft on The Nose in a push. One evening Daniel Joll from New Zealand Alpine Team showed us how to progress upwards, jummars, etries and all that jazz and next morning 2am we were set for NIAD! 46 hours later, hungry, thirsty, tired… We did summit eventually with support and encouragement of Team America we met at Pancake Flake.
That was the approach for aid. However, free climbing is different game altogerther. If you do not know how to progress you simply do not move. First lesson – The Narrows on Steck/Salathe. 1h in, progress equal to none we bailed going through awesomeness of night rappels. With free climbing I dropped the idea of “my grade”. I went on to climb heaps of moderate stuff, to get the right relationship with the rock, feel the smoothness and the pain of the jams, locks… 5min from the car. What a place to be climbing! And it bears its fruits. I was stoked to feel confident to solo Nutcracker, finally climb Blues Riff in Tualomne Meadows, West Face on El Cap and other joys.
The approach time is THE bonus of climbing in Yosemite. Absolute world class walls so close to the road. What Chamonix provides in accessibility for Alpinism, Yosemite does for climbing/Big Walling. You do not have to worry about logistics, hiking time, the weather is rather predictable, as compared to e.g.. Patagonia or New Zealand. This allows to focus purely on technical difficulty at each and everyones own level.
Another great bonus is the range of grades and styles of climbing. You can come here as total beginner and work your way up the grades, or you do it Adam Ondra’s way – get on what is the most difficult line here. You can play on free climbs or learn the esoteric art of aid climbing. And when the exposure becomes too much, get yourself on some world class bouldering.
The last but not least is the endless psyche from people here. OK, mainly the US climbers. They might climb really hard, yet they will be genuinely stoked for your East Buttress of Middle Cathedral if that is what you just did. That spirit is so uplifting and maybe the main reason I love to go there again and again.
During my September/October 2016 time in Yosemite I teamed up with Ed Bulman from London. I am not into teaming up with people purely for an objective. I need to also like my climbing partners. I cannot talk for him, but for me this trip was a jackpot. Nice guy to hang out with that is all in to push hard.
We started by being a bit cocky, jumping on Freerider with our hopes and stoke as high as El Cap. Our strategy was to rap down the route and work on Boulder Problem and Enduro Pitch. Oh boy! The rappels were spicy as I never experienced them before. It was simply awesomeness at its best zipping down the Salathe head wall bouncing in and out to be sure to reach the next stance on the overhanging wall 800m off the deck.
Both of those pitches we worked were hard yet not total stoppers. However, we could not picture climbing them after all that precedes them. So we turned towards Rostrum and that was pure delight. That climb has everything I could wish for. Delicate, brutal, fingery, chimneys, and on top of that we met great guys on the route for next adventures. Fired up by our success, we zoomed in on Astroman.
Astroman. Well, if you are into spanking, that is the place to be. It was new level for both of us. We tried and tried again, and it simply is hard. We had a go at it with Justin Cory, the machine from Grass Valley, working the Enduro Corner. After bit of beating and some rest days we were back, this time psyched to go to the top whatever this might take. After much huffing and puffing, trying to figure out how to unstuck a climber in Harding Slot, one of my more scary falls on last pitch ripping off four pieces of micro protection and then finishing it with head torch we officially became Astrotoddlers with Ed and Ryan (dude from Rostrum)!
So here am I, sitting in Colorado this February 2017, writing down my memories and getting stoked for another season in Yosemite. Super keen to get back there and become more intimate with those amazing walls, spending more time with people that are psyched out of their brains, push myself hard and harder. Whoowhooo!!!