On my first visit to Yosemite when I was sixteen years old I remember being in awe of the huge walls of the valley. It’s difficult to comprehend climbing such massive chunks of rock until you actually get started and even then, half the battle is a mental one of not being disheartened at how far you still have left to go. This was my third visit to the valley and having climbed some great routes here in the past I was really happy to have a more relaxed trip with Gabby combining climbing with more tourist related activities such as visiting the giant Sequoia’s at the Mariposa Grove.
On one of our first days we climbed the fantastic Snake Dyke up Half Dome on a scorching hot day. This has got to be one of the best routes I have ever climbed and one that we both enjoyed immensely. It’s a long walk to and from the route and well worth setting off early to get back in good time for a pizza in Curry Village.
Andy Kirkpatrick was out in the valley as well for a talk he was giving at the Yosemite Facelift event. I suggested to him that we should go and climb El Cap together in a day. He laughed at me first thinking I was joking but soon realised I was being deadly serious and started coming up with excuses. After a few hours of persuading I think he realised it would be easier to climb Lurking Fear with me than think of fresh excuses and off we set!
I think Andy was slightly thrown by my unique approach to aid climbing with only a single etrier and a standard double set of cams and wires. I also don’t think he’s going to be changing his far more efficient system of aid climbing either. We made reasonably swift progress up the route – which looked like it would be an incredible free climb and I swapped leads half way up with Andy who led a three pitch block to give me a breather.
Andy is very quick witted and has a great sense of humour but I could tell as we got higher his appreciation of my cheese jokes was beginning to wear thin after fifteen pitches and plenty of sweat. We reached the summit of El Cap in 15 hours and thirty minutes, the fastest time for both of us and Andy, who is slightly out of shape at the moment, commented that El Cap had never been climbed so quickly by such an overweight person! What a legend!
Gabby and I did plenty of nice cragging, swam in a few of the rather stagnant pools of the river Merced and on our final day in Yosemite climbed the Rostrum. Having climbed this route on my first trip to Yosemite I was happy to find it significantly easier this time round now that I’ve learnt how to jam – unfortunately, it probably wasn’t the best choice of route for Gabby who was still learning how to climb on granite never mind jam. By the time we reached the top I think Gabby was quite happy to not have to climb another granite crack for quite some time…
Returning to the valley has reminded me of just how good the area is. There are so many great places to climb around the world but Yosemite has some of the best and most convenient free climbing that can be found anywhere and that’s the reason I’ll be returning for as long as I possibly can to climb some of the best routes in the world.