Rick and I had been waiting for our rock-climbing vacation trip to Yosemite. Since our last vacation to Joshua Tree five months earlier, we had been busy with work, school, interviews, and training at Smith Rock. So, for this trip we just wanted to relax, de-stress, unwind, and hone our offwidth and chimney techniques. Our itinerary was as follows:
Sat, May 14th – Commitment and Selaginella linkup
Sun, May 15th – Super Slide
Mon, May 16th – Regular route of Higher Cathedral Spire
Tue, May 17th – Rest and study at Degnan’s Deli
Wed, May 18th – Royal Arches
Thur, May 19th – Rest and explore
Fri, May 20th – Braille Book
Sat, May 21st – Drive back
We had camped about 2 hours away from Yosemite Valley on Fri, May 13th so we got to the base of Commitment by 10am on Saturday. We saw a party bailing because of multiple parties on the route and the rising heat. I thought we should come back in the afternoon when the route is in shade, but Rick was stoked to start, so we decided to embrace the sun.
In Yosemite, some of the grades do not make sense; Commitment and Super Slide are 5.9 but Selaginella is 5.8 and Braille Book is 5.8+. In my opinion both Commitment and Super Slide felt casual whereas Selaginella and Braille Book were committing and a tad bit more strenuous. I was surprised to find out that Jim Bridwell did the FA of Commitment and Braille Book and rated them 5.9 and 5.8+ respectively. Makes me think that the climbers from 50s and 60s were quite comfortable with OW and Chimneys despite the lack of big cams. I led the first two pitches and felt at ease.
The roof on pitch 3 looked scary but I regretted not leading it because one gets solid hand jams with smears for feet, #2 and #1 cam pro, and clean falls (if needed) to go around the roof. It was really fun and much easier than many roofs I have done in the past.
The 2nd crux lieback topping out the route turned out to be extremely easy, with large ledges for your feet on the right side wall and good gear every step of the way. The crux turned out to be not knocking loose rocks down the route on your belayer as you topped out, since the scramble to the trees to belay was barely attached to the cliff.
After finishing pitch 3, I was not interested to roast on the wall for Selaginella, so I proposed to head down, get sandwiches for lunch, and come back. It’s mostly hard to peel Rick away from the wall because he sticks to it like velcro but he had to agree with me because otherwise his option was to solo Selaginella. On the walk off we found a rap line on the wet slab, but it also concerned us about our hike up to Selaginella in the afternoon.
We had planned to simul-climb Munginella (5.6) to get to the base of Selaginella to avoid the wet slabs, but by the time it went into the shade multiple parties were waiting at the base, so we were left with no options but to ascend the wet slab. Rick did it quickly in approach shoes, but I noticed that wet rock shoes slip off like ice which diminished my confidence. I had almost given up on the idea of ascending the wet slab but then I accepted the risk of rolling down to the grassy-rocky ledge and executed the move successfully, phew!!!
We started climbing at about 4:30pm. According to Rick the first pitch took over 45 minutes, but he amused himself taking pictures of squirrels (see below). It did not look as daunting from below so I started the lead. I had used most of my .75 to #2 down low and was left with two #3 for the second half of the pitch. I was contemplating whether to lead further or just belay half way but we were also running short of time so I went for it. I placed both of my #3 below the OW and was comforted to see a fixed cam. Now comes the OW with no pro, I thrutched up it with my back on the right wall and the right shoulder in the OW and got to the ledge. As I was belaying Rick, I looked up on the second pitch and thought I definitely need a break from the stress but by the time Rick was up I was ready to go on to the next pitch. When Rick ascends a pitch and sits down at the belay with a serious face, that confirms to me that he found it hard too but that also makes me proud that I led something which he found difficult. He’s been obsessively onsighting 5.10+ trad pitches at Lower Gorge, Smith Rock lately, whereas I have led only one 5.10- at the same place with three takes.
To set a good pace and finish before dark, Rick volunteered to lead the next three pitches as fast as possible. Pitch 2 felt easy and casual.
When I was taking the pictures of this section on Pitch 3 I was like why is he taking so long but when I got there, I was like yikes! Take a look at the view from below and above for comparison.
I had heard about this exposed traverse on pitch 3 but again it didn’t look scary from below. I really like the fact that we both took pictures to compare the perspective for the view from above and below. You have decent jugs for hands but I had to smear with my right foot, match hands, move left hand to next jug and then step over to the ledge. The picture below is taken after my left foot was on the ledge and the relief is evident on my face.
Pitch 4 has some interesting stems and liebacking at the corner and then it eases off, but the last move surprised me. You have just smears for feet and you have to mantle the slab to stand on it. Then Rick did a heel hook to the lip of the belay ledge to get up — because he never trusts trees — but I chose the trees comfort :). We topped out right as it got dark in the valley.
We had a nice, paved trail to walk back to the camp 4. This descend in the dark really reminded me of our night time run on rough/rocky Wonderland trail around Mt. Rainier. I also felt amazing that we have gained so many skills over various experiences in the wilderness from 2017 that we can deploy them appropriately and still enjoy our time despite the situation.