Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Yosemite Yoyo

One amazing thing about the fall road trip is that you can visit the same locations many times over, and each time have a new experience. Lately I have really been digging checking out brand new climbing zones like Greenland, France and Greece. Unfortunately, it's really inconvenient to travel on airplanes with an extremely loving and outrageously cute but rather disobedient 80 lb dog. It is for this reason that Evan and I spend our fall off-season vacation in climbing areas that we can drive to in our truck, tiny camper and big black fur ball Benny.

How could I possibly expect to leave this guy at home?

This year we decided to start in Yosemite. I have had so many memorable experiences in Yosemite, things that stand out clearly as milestones in my life as a climber. We counted it up and Evan has been to Yosemite on 10 separate trips and I have been there 8 times. My first time to Yosemite in May of 2001 I drove all night from Smith Rocks with my buddy Hatha in my '89 Chevy Corsica. We had climbed Monkey Face that day, then got in the car and drove non-stop through the night snacking on chips and milkshakes. We rolled into the Valley in the early morning, and I still remember the awe I felt as El Cap popped into view. We went to climb Nutcracker but parked in the wrong spot. Our attempt to bushwhack over to Manure Pile Buttress was abruptly aborted when I very very very nearly stepped on a huge rattlesnake in some boulders, scaring me to tears. When we finally found the trail and found the climb, there were four parties waiting so we moved on. The Kor-Beck on Middle Cathedral looked like a decent option so we began up it, but I got off route and took a 15 foot whipper on the smallest size of Rock Empire cam (I didn't have much cash and could get a good deal on these through the climbing gym I worked at in Vancouver). Luckily the piece held, but my psych to continue up the route did not so we rapped off a single nut.... another first for 20 year old Jasmin! Later on in the same trip I climbed Snake Dike on Half Dome with a different partner, but had caught a stomach bug in Camp 4 (hard to believe, I know) and had to run to the bushes to shit 7 times on the hike to the base.

I'd like to say that my subsequent 7 visits to the Valley were less dramatic in nature, but they were anything but. When I climbed the Nose, I not only had fresh human shit fall on me and splatter all over my helmet, the next day I also mis-aligned my Freshette/shenis and peed down my leg and had to spend the next 48 hours as Pissy-Pants-Caton. When I climbed the Regular North-West Face of Half Dome, my partner Larry and I foolishly decided to leave our regular shoes at the base of the route, meaning we had to hike down 2000' of slabs, steep gravel and snow in our rock shoes, then it got dark and we couldn't find the direct route to the valley bottom, so we hiked over 13 kms on the hiker's descent. When I climbed Zodiac with my friend Amelia we caught up to a female soloist on our second day who had contracted a bad flu and needed to descend from super-overhanging terrain two-thirds of the way up. We spent an entire day helping her, her haul bag and our haul bag to the ground, with YOSAR employees shouting helpful hints on the bullhorn from the meadow. When I attempted the Salathe with Amelia, I took off my helmet for a few minutes while hauling in the blistering sun on Heart Ledge. A 0.75 Camalot dropped from the top of El Cap and hit me right in the middle of the forehead. I will never forget the sickening THWACK sound the cam made when it struck me. Blood poured into my eyes and I thought for sure I was really messed up. Two minutes later, I realized I was OK and only had a tiny cut on my hairline, but the realization that it had been the difference of a cm kept me awake all night and combined with other factors had us bailing off the route the next day.

Don't get me wrong, some of my favorite road trip memories were made in Yosemite: Evan and I climbed Serenity-Sons of Yesterday on our first date, climbing the Rostrum for the first time with Amelia and taking repeated whippers on the offwidth pitch, climbing Astroman with Scott and the elation of wriggling my way to the top of the Harding Slot, climbing amazing finger cracks at the Cookie Cliff, napping in El Cap meadow, drinking beer and socializing in Camp 4, washing up in the Mountain Room bathrooms, cruising around on a bike someone gave me in the Camp 4 line up and eating Its-its after scarfing pizza with a rowdy table full of dirtbags on the pizza deck.

Nostalgia aside, Yosemite definitely always has something intense to offer. This trip to Yosemite was a bit different in that we avoided Camp 4 altogether in favour of a campground in El Portal where we could sleep in our camper and avoid the ranger, campsite, national park hassles. We did some amazing climbs and had no shortage of adventures, elation and intense effort. Rather than give the whole run down, I will let a few photos share the stories.

Following one of the burly 5.10 pitches on The Crucifix IV 5.12a, Higher Cathedral Rock

Following Evan up the 12b Alien finish on The Rostrum

The first of the free-variation pitches on Half Dome's Regular NW Face

"Chim-chimeny, chim-chimeny, chim chim cheroo, I don't like chimneys 'cause they make my knees blue"

Evan on the glory pitch in the glory light before our bivy on Big Sandy Ledge, Half Dome. It is a good thing that we are married, because I am not even kidding, the only good sleep I got during that bivy was when he let me lay on top of him. The rest of the night I was shivering.

A video Evan made of the last light as seen from Big Sandy Ledge, Half Dome

Leading the first zig-zag in frigid morning conditions, Half Dome

Following the final crux pitch on Half Dome, a 11+/12- slab

Evan and I on the summit of Half Dome Not a bad adventure for a boring old married couple!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall splendour

Fall is by far my favorite season. I love the crisp breezes, the shortening days, the incredible clarity of the air when it is not hazed by humidity and smog. Fall makes me feel like cooking amazing food - colourful salads full of local harvest bounty, hearty soups chock full of root vegetables and seasoned with fresh herbs. There is nowhere better to indulge my fall cravings than at my childhood home in Hills, so when guiding work wrapped up in Squamish, Hills was the first stop on my fall road trip which will eventually take me to Yosemite, Bishop, Red Rocks, Zion and likely some other stops too.

I spent some quality time catching up with my Mum, sis and Dad and some necessary work time getting Valhalla Mountain Touring all ready for the winter ski season.

The unveiling of the new (heavy!) Wolf stove for the lodge

Fall colours over Fish Lake, near Retallack

Spectacular weather for a hike up Mt. Brennan with my Mum and our pack of hounds

Pretty views from the summit of Mt. Brennan towards Whitewater Peak

Big smiles, bright jackets and white sunglasses is the dress code for the day on Mt. Brennan

Bootskiing on the descent