Thursday, 15 October 1998. Seattle, Washington.
We last left our bold adventurer with plans for a few classic routes in Yosemite. Lucky for him, neither meddling kids, nor bad weather interfered with his plans.
Sometimes following the directions actually helps. Brent thought he knew where the start of Royal Arches (5.7A1/5.9) was. So we hiked around in the wrong places for a while before reading the approach description and righting ourselves. If you follow the directions is pretty easy! Our plan was to go light and fast. After my big wall adventures, a single set of cams was so nice and light! We belayed the first pitch, then simulclimbed for several rope lengths, before returning to belayed climbing. There was a guided party of three ahead of us, so we elected to take a small detour we thought would get us ahead of them. Instead it gave me an offwidth pitch, which I had to run out since we hadn't planned on wide cracks. Luckily the terrain was not too steep. We eventually managed to get our selves back on route and ahead of the guided party. Our detour was a might bit harder than 5.7, but was still fun. Brent lead the pendulum pitch, freeing the moves. A few more pitches lead to the rappel station. Even with our long 60 meter ropes we didn't quite make the next rappel point. We must have missed a few stations, since the remainder of the rappel route had plenty of stations for single ropes. Back at the car by three, we were pleased by having cruised the route. Another 50 classic goes down, this one by far the easiest.
The next morning we got an early start for yet another 50 classic climb -- East Buttress of Middle Cathedral (IV 5.9 A1). Here we took maximum advantage of our long 60 meter rope and finished the 11 pitches of climbing in 7 combined pitches. We wimped out on the 5.10c portion and aided up the bolt ladder. We topped out and headed down the descent route. I'd heard ugly things about the descent route, but thought it was a non-event. We bypassed the first rappel station, but used the next two. The route is supposed to take a long day, but we were back on the ground by three. These early afternoon returns were quite nice!
I'd decided that East Buttress was going to be my last climb. My plan was to explore the valley to take pictures the following day, then leave for San Francisco.
During this current visit, my campmates were actually in camp. I'd gotten to know the group of Aussies pretty well. Peter and Wade were planning on climbing Snake Dike on Half Dome the following day and invited me along. As Peter put it, "Fuck taking pictures, come climb." Half Dome is one of the most recognized rock formations in Yosemite, since nearly everyone has seen Ansel Adam's work including Moon over Half Dome.
Climbing Snake Dike makes for a long day. We got an early start, hitting the trail by a little after seven. The approach took us about three hours of hiking to the base, with some of the best hiking I've experienced in the Valley. Finally, I was able to escape the noise and development of the Valley. The climbing is pretty easy, but don't expect to place much protection. The route follows a dike, which is a bumpy ridge that formed on the surface of the granite as the dome was formed. On one pitch that I lead, my protection consisted of a single bolt in 120-140 feet of climbing. Good thing the climbing was pretty easy at this point -- 5.4. The climbing is fun and goes by quickly. The dike doesn't reach the summit however. After eight pitches, the rock gets considerably less steep, turning into steep hiking. We unroped and continued up another thousand feet or so to the summit. At the summit we enjoyed great views of the Valley and into the Yosemite high country.
The descent follows the Half Dome hiking trail. The first part has a set of steel cables for hand holds. And you need them! The "trail" is steep, don't slip here! After descending the cables the trail is well maintained and makes for easy hiking. We managed to return just before darkness, having covered 12-13 miles of hiking in addition to the climbing. But it was all worth it, Half Dome is such a cool formation. I had a blast climbing with Peter and Wade. I was schooled in Aussie humor and language. Peter was returning back to Australia, so I gave him a lift to San Francisco.
In San Francisco, I stayed with Stu Warnsman and Kara at their place in San Mateo. I did a little touristing on this visit. Kate Schram and I went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. This place is way cool, I thought it kicked Boston's Museum of Science's butt. Every exhibit was hands on experimentation. With the addition of aid climbing gear and extra food, my truck had become quite disorganized. After a bit of reorganization, things are a little bit more manageable for now.
Over the weekend I went camping with Gil Kasparek and his friends. We headed into the mountains inland from Monterey. Drove in on some incredible back roads. We had hoped to visit a set of hot springs, but they are located on a monastery which was closed for the season. Bummed out, we went hiking instead. The scenery was incredible and it was remarkably remote for being so close to a metropolitan area. And we ate well, very well. I cooked two real breakfasts, something I hadn't done in a while. We grilled two racks of ribs for dinner over an open fire. Now this is camping! On Sunday we headed out and stopped at the beach. No way was I going swimming, I was wearing a fleece jacket just standing on the beach. At this beach, there was a hang gliding launch area. We watched the hang gliders take off and soar along the beach. Looked like fun, but I don't need another gear sport!
From Monterey, I headed inland and north to Sacramento. Jack Smith, a fellow Hokie, had been in Israel on my previous visits through Sacramento. Having returned, I spent the night at his place and we caught up on old times. From Sacramento, I headed north towards Seattle. Reaching Oregon it began to rain. I camped near the ocean, but didn't enjoy it much. I was really glad for the dryness of the back of my truck. After cooking dinner, I curled up in the back and read before dropping off to sleep. In the morning, the rain dried up and I made a few stops along the coast to enjoy the views. At a place called Seal Rocks I spotted a group of seals bobbing in the ocean. I think they must have been asleep, since they weren't swimming around. As the sun came up, they slowly started waking up and swimming around. The seals were pretty cool, but the road was calling.
When I arrived in Seattle, I couldn't connect with Chris Caputo, so I found the new REI flagship store and checked it out. After three months of camping, my sleeping bag was in need of a wash. I found a gear repair shop that offered better turn around for washing than REI. I wonder what color my sleeping bag really is :-)
Errands accomplished, I found my way to Chris's house in north Seattle. He has great views of the sound and when it is clear, the Olympic mountains. Chris took me to a great vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. Incredible food and never missed not having meat. Yesterday I got to see the machine room of Alt.Net. While there we got a tour of his neighbor's machine room -- Concord Technologies. Turns out Concord is a fax service bureau. They develop their own software, too bad they don't use NetCentric software. The guy we were talking too didn't recognize the name NetCentric. Probably a good thing, since he wouldn't have shown us their setup if he had.
Must have been all my trip dispatches, but Chris was stoked to go rock climbing. He'd taken a small intro class last weekend and wanted to do more. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very cooperative, so we went to the rock gym. It was weird for me to climb indoors, having been outside so much in the past three months.
I'll been in the Seattle area for the next few days catching up with friends. Then it will be time to head south for the winter :-)