Ok, so last weekend was pretty special. A lot happened, so I’m going to try get it all down on this post. So…

I’d been talking to Si about getting out one of the weekends I was here, and on Thursday he got in touch and said he was up for getting out on Saturday. I was pretty psyched, and threw a post up on Facebook. Few seconds later I get a message from Sean. Turns out he’d just landed in San Fran with no real plans, and was up for tagging along, and so two became 3.

Randomness

He was also up for staying the whole weekend if we could find a lift back on Sunday evening, and so one day became two. :-)

Anyway, we all crammed into Si’s car early Saturday morning and hit the road. I snoozed a good bit, but all you need to know is that eventually we pulled up, I got out of the car, and saw this:

First glimpse of El Cap

I was pretty pleased. :-) A few minutes later and this was our view:

El Cap

I caught a glimpse of something catching the sun, so took a very zoomed picture, and managed to find two climbers on it.

Spot the climbers

Basically, the place is fucking HUGE!!!

After a few minutes of staring at the wall, we headed over to camp 4, and warmed up on some of the boulder problems around the campsite. I got spanked by pretty much everything, Si walked up some classic slab called Blue Suede Shoes (V5), and Sean did what Sean does…

Sean

After that, the guys decided it would be fun to solo something easy. I was much too aware that what these two considered easy might be pretty fucking hard for me, but I was hardly going to say no, so off we went. The route they’d picked was Royal Arches, and the whole thing was amazing. 15 or so pitches, with pretty much every style of climbing you can imagine.

The route

I’ve no idea how long it took, although I know they would have been a lot faster without me. By the time we got to the top, my ankles were absolutely killing me. I’m guessing they’re just not used to being torqued into cracks, and it’s not like I’ve been out on routes much over the winter. They’ll definitely need to be strengthened a bit before my return in August. :-) He’s a few pictures of the route:

Hollow flakes…

The pendulum

Nearing the top

I guess it took another half hour or so to rap down, and by then if was getting late, and Si had to hit the road. Myself and Sean pitched the tent, and went in search of some much needed food. We seemed to be blessed with the luck of the Irish. We popped our heads into an expensive restaurant for a second looking for a friend of Sean’s, and someone handed me a container with a big chunk of lamb. Score! After that we went back to the cafe. We got in just as it was closing, and had to wait 15 min for the gluten free pasta Sean wanted. By the time our food was ready, the tills were closed, and we were told we didn’t need to pay. Free lamb and free dinner! Not too bad.

Back to the campsite, off to bed, and I spent most of the night listening to coyotes make strange noises, and some other animals feast on a load of energy bars some idiot had left outside in a plastic bag. :-D

Day 2. Got up super early, ate loads, and headed over to the Royal Arches to try Serenity Crack. Sean raced up the first pitch, and then it was time for my first Yosemite lead! I felt a bit shaky at the start (I needed to figure out how to do a ring lock for the opening moves right above the belay) , but then settled into things as the crack became a more familiar size. We didn’t have a massive rack, so I was having to run things out a bit more than usual, which was interesting, but I slowly got a feel for the climbing, and picked up the pace a bit. The crux was a delicate traverse moving across from one crack to another, which was pretty cool, and I was over the moon when I finally clipped the chains. Amazing pitch, and great feeling to not fail on my first lead. :-)  Sean raced up the 3rd pitch (which had an amazing section with a perfect finger crack though a steep shield of rock with nothing for your feet), and by the time I got to the belay I was looking forward to getting back to the ground, resting my feet, and having a nice drink of water.

Sean had other plans however, and insisted we do the extension, Sons of Yesterday, a further 4 pitches. To keep this story short, I did P4 (another amazing pitch), Sean did P5, I was suffering too much by then, so let Sean do P6, and finally Sean convinced me to do P7. By this point I was having to shake my feet constantly to relieve some of the pain in my ankles, and kept trying to find alternative ways to climb the routes that didn’t require jamming, so P7 was pretty torturous. :-D Finally, I got to the belay, threw off my shoes, and half an hour later we were down at the ground, with all the water and comfy shoes I could ask for.

We made a quick stop by the river on our way back to the campsite, and dipping my feet in the water was the most amazing feeling ever! It was freezing, and I could only hold my hands or feet in for max 10 seconds, but somehow Sean was able to hop in and go for a swim. The guy’s mental…

So that was pretty much our weekend done with. We went back to the campsite, and when Sean asked me to text Mary Kate to let her know where we were, we realised neither of us had a working phone (mine doesn’t work over here and Sean just doesn’t own one). So it seemed we were a bit screwed. We found a payphone, but only got through to her voice-mail,  so left her a message, but after an hour or so, we were convinced she’d left and forgotten about us, and I was worried I wasn’t going to make it back for work on Monday.

We tried hitching, but 40 minutes later we’d had no luck and all hope was gone. I was wondering if anyone in work would really believe I’d “accidentally” got stuck in Yosemite, when Mary Kate suddenly showed up and saved the day. The drive back was a good laugh, with a good bit of singing and Sean playing on the whistle, and a long battle with a very temperamental aux input.

The drive home

We stopped for dinner on the way back at a cool little place owned by Conrad Anker’s family, and Mary Kate showed us a few pictures from a recent trip of hers to Ireland, asking if we had much climbing. I burst out laughing when I saw she had a picture of Ballyryan. The poor thing had stood on top of Ailladie and not even know it. :-D

That’s pretty much it anyway. Got back to the hotel by 12. Home this weekend, and I’m hoping the weather’s a bit better than when I left. :-)

 

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