After climbing smooth cracks and slick granite for a few days in the Yosemite Valley, we planned to move high up as the temperatures were forecasted to transition from mid 80s to mid 90s. But Yosemite had spoiled us and we really loved the Degnan’s Deli. As we woke up on Wednesday morning, we could not resist driving to the valley one more time, getting lattes, checking up on email and results of final exams, etc. We spent about 90 minutes at the deli, bid our goodbyes to the valley climbing, and reached the parking lot of Lembert Dome at 10am.
After gearing up at the car, we wrapped around the dome and found the start of the route. It took a few moves to trust the lack of footholds and sticky granite of Tuolumne again, but after that it was a welcome reprieve from the valley.
Pitch 1 was so easy at the beginning that I was singing my way up until I hit the 5.9 slab. Things got a bit serious here. The slab was bit steep and the crack was not continuous and I cant tell if the two finger jams were piton scars or natural formation. My singing came back as I found some more easy sections and disappeared as I was challenged again with steeper slab moves but fortunately shoes stick well and the fear is mostly in the mind.
We had a great chat with Michael while we were waiting for them to finish pitch 1. He had done East buttress of Middle Cathedral, NE buttress of Higher Cathedral and Steck-Salathe on Sentinel rock. He assured us that Steck-Salathe was not as scary and as bad as he had anticipated. This was quite reassuring to hear, and hopefully true.
The crux pitch starts off with a nice finger crack, followed by a steeper hand crack with reachy moves. The hand crack allowed for some stemming to place gear, but the 10c finger crux afterwards had no such concessions. A great 0.2, a moderate 0.3, and a funky looking gold offset nut leads to two strenuous finger jams with smears for feet and a great hand jam tantalizingly out of reach.
The first time I made the moves statically, pulling the finger jams down to stomach level to get as high as possible to reach the hand jam. Just out of reach, I was off and the gold nut was good. With that reassurance, I pulled back into the position of smears and finger jams before lunging up and sinking my first ever hand jam dyno. A stronger person could hang off the smears/smedges and one finger lock to make the move, but some momentum worked for me.
A few moves of fists and hands led to the top of the pitch and a bomber anchor.
Once Sandy was up I took off on the last pitch, a 5.9 slab move and some fun moves. The 5.9 slab was naturally just above one of those ankle-breaking ledges they always are above, but I had a secret weapon. Apparently a .4/.5 X4 cam fit in the crack to keep you off the deck if you fell. I found about 5 different mediocre ways to place the cam in the flaring pod, and it definitely held the ever so gentle tugs I gave it while balancing on smears, trying not to throw myself off balance if it pulled out. I’ll leave further testing to someone more motivated.
A few smears and one sloper mantle later I had real gear in (seen below) and was running up to the top of Lembert Dome. Now in the sun, it attempted to lull me to sleep but I totally resisted (also see below).
The rest of pitch 3 is low angle easy climbing which takes you to a flat top only to find out that your belayer is napping.
The easiest way down is to wrap from the right side of where you have topped out to find a plateau with trees as shown in the above picture, followed by traversing to the true summit. Following the low angle descend from the true summit on the opposite side of where you came from, takes you to the hikers trail of Lembert dome. We found a beastly hiker in Lone Peaks hanging around the dome who had apparently seen some climbers descending the class 3/4 route and run up that, but then forgotten where it was, so we all found the mellow hiking trail out together.
Alas! the extreme heat warnings were true even at 10,000 feet. The clouds had rendered a hot and muggy atmosphere and despite our stoke we had to abandon plans to climb more at Tuolumne and Tahoe on our way back to Portland. The next morning we had delicious latte and a pumpkin coffee cake at Latte Da, Lee Vining and started our long drive back to PDX.
Despite the heat, I still consider this as one of the best climbing experience so far. I learned so much and I cant wait to go back to the Valley with solid preparation and execute block leads on more routes.