Monday, November 7, 2011

Diary of an idiot Part 4

30% of the time…. It rains every time!

Our trip was going swimmingly, we had done a load of free climbing including a fantastic day out on royal arches a rather straight forward 19 pitch route (after the 1st pitch chimney) involving everything from cracks to face climbing and a pendulum thrown in for good measure, all this with the impressive back drop of half dome. It came to pass that blindly assuming everyone from boulder Colorado can move fast on rock, was an error that added a number of hours to the outing and saw us racing a storm of biblical proportions down fourteen 60m abseils. We literally were pulling the ropes through on the last abseil as the cats and dogs began to fall. Deciding that this wasn’t cooking under the stars weather we opted for the all you can eat buffet (and got our moneys worth!). We later found that the storm had buried the entrance to our tent in a foot and a half of debris (my how we laughed in the darkness while digging away the mud with our bear hands in our flip flops)

                                                  the last abseil
Anyway on this particular day we checked the weather forecast which to our delight gave only 30% chance of storms. We had our sights set on a few single pitch aid routes at the base of El cap this was all part of our master plan of getting on a big wall (lurking fear) by the end of the week. Off we trotted like good little school boys up the path to our days education, today’s lesson ….. YOU KNOW NOTHING!

After a few false starts on awkward ground that really we would have freed had it been on a route, we set off up a rather steep thin corner crack/ chimney thing, the aid proved delightfully thought provoking and profanity inducing, two and half sweaty hours later Matt arrived at the belay fixed the ropes for me to clean the pitch. We both flirted with the notion that our preparation for this trip may have had the odd weak spot, if challenged we could have defended this conclusion with a compendium of amusing anecdotes that had taken place over the past few days. Anyway we decide that Andy Kirkpatrick’s approach of “fail… fail again better” was our best course. So I set of up that same pitch after cleaning it with the sole purpose of learning from the difficulties I could see Matt had encountered and to improve on his time even if just by a second.

Things were actually going to plan; I felt that I had dispatched the awkward chimney with relative speed and minimal swearing, and seemed to be making progress on the corner above… than Matt muttered the immortal words “I think you might want to come down mate?” that was my 10 minute warning before Thor himself unlashed his full fury the captain. Later while running like our lives depended on it back the to the car it became evident that we were not the only ones have a bit of an epic time, it began to rain climbing equipment, teams high on the face in the teeth of the storm were clearly in a fight for survival and were dropping all sorts of kit in the process (crabs, nuts, aiders).

We felt morally obliged to collect this kit and to claim it as our own, so that we would remember these warriors and tell their tale! It turns out that earlier in the day Matt had been chatting to a local who had told him if the forecast says 30% chance of storms it means 100% chance of storms!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diary of an idiot Part 3

It aint half hot mum!

Kit sorted, camp sorted, food sorted…its climbing o’clock! Just next to Camp 4 there is a small crag called swan slab, an extremely popular road side venue. We decided to head there with the little light that was left and cram a few routs in, to get a feel for Yosemite slabs and cracks, we were very aware that the style of climbing here with very different to what we had been training on back in the UK, and that caution should be exercised. So with in minutes of getting my shoes on I had soloed up one of the route and was stuck! The next 10 minutes of my life involved cramped calves a hastily build belay and a one handed bow line (TIT).

The following day went with out to much drama, we headed out to do a few short routes, still getting used to the rock style and found ourselves cruzing up a fantastic 4 pitch route with everything from delicate (but easy slabs) to immaculate hand cracks, Matt did have a bit of a moment. As we were finding the going particularly easy and our pace quite fast, we may have overlooked checking where the route went and when Matt shouted down for me to check the route description I may have applied a similar hast to that of my driving on the previous day… And I MAY of told Matt to head up right towards an arête when perhaps I should have told him to head up left in to the corner… Anyway after grinding to an alarming halt after a sizable run out on a blank arête, I applied my full Sherlock Holms style detecting skills to the problem and solved it (Go me!), it turns out we were on pitch 3 not 2 (Ooo how I laughed…. To myself)

Simple solution, Matt had to down climb some cheeky friction moves on the arête and a slab below, with the real chance of taking a large wipper that would see him crashing on to the belay and invading my personal space! And possibly spilling the Haribo everywhere.. After he arrived (safely) at the NEXT belay, I followed, enjoying the cracks and slabs (secretly vowing to pay more attention to how many belays we have on each route.)

On arriving at the belay with Matt I could see he had gone an impressive red colour, the kind of colour the extremely obese go after climbing stairs. But Matt was neither obese nor had he been climbing stairs!? It turns out that away from the cool protection of the corner the arête was rather desolate and extremely hot. I left Matt pondering as to weather guiding on Skye in several months of sideways stinging rain was the optimum acclimatization for climbing in 40 degree heat? The finishing crack was perfect hands and fists all the way. After topping out and eating our lunch of sardines and flat bread it became clear that the heat was having serious effects on Matt and we decided to head back to the valley and shelter as apposed to going up onto the 5 pitch route above that was drenched in the full heat of the day.