[Day 103-105] Easy crack climbing

Dillon had a friend arrive in the Valley on June 11th, so once again I found myself without climbing partner. Luckily, I had met Trish a couple of days before and she was eager to go climb.

That same day, two of her friends, Jennifer and Ross (not sure about the names, sorry, guys) were also joining, so we had a party of four. Since Ross had never climbed outdoors and Trish had pulled a tendon in her finger, we decided to head up an easy route. I lead one of the Valley’s easier classic, the 5.8 Bishop’s Terrace, and the three others came up one by one. A great route with an awesome view from the top and good crack & trad climbing practice.

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Trish and me at the top of Bishop's Terrace.

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This coyote strolled through the meadows as we drove back to Camp 4.

Since I had used up all of my 7 days at Camp 4, I had to leave. There’s a rule that you can only stay for 7 days in the Valley during the summer period, and 14 days in Yosemite in total during that same time period. For climbers, this is pretty much bullshit, especially if you are not a local and flew thousands of kilometers to get here, since a couple o rainy days can then ruin your whole trip. Anyway, I headed up to the Tamarack Flat campground and shared a site with an older couple from New Zealand, Steve and Pip. They were eager hikers and had a lot of interesting stories about their many trips.

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Morning in Tamarack Flat.

That night, I had pitched my tarp a bit too low, so both my sleeping bag and bivy bag touched the inside of it all night. In the morning everything was super wet due to condensation. I spent some time drying all the gear out and then went down to the Valley again, where I had a relaxed lunch in one of the meadows.

In the afternoon, I strolled into Camp 4, to find Trish still at her campsite. We planned to check out The Grack, a classic 500ft 5.6 crack route, but the immense heat eventually made us decide against it. Instead we took a short stroll to the Lower Yosemite Falls and ended up clambering up the little canyon all the way past the base of the falls. Along the way we saw a beautiful king snake, discovered hidden graffity (urgh) and noticed there’s a lot of climbing routes right near the falls. Definitely a better afternoon than we would have had, had we decided to head up 500ft of boiling hot rock.

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Beautiful king snake slithering away.

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Strange red-headed and -tailed lizard.

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Hidden graffity in the Valley. What a waste of perfectly good rock.

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The Lower Falls with the Upper ones off in the distance above.

Not wanting to drive all the way out of the Valley again, I found a Dutch couple willing to share a spot for the night at the Upper Pines campground. Sharing is possible there, because you reserve one spot (2 cars, 6 people), whereas it’s not at Camp 4, because there reservations are per person and rangers come to check whether tents have correct tags on them.

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This deer was grazing less than 1 meter away from me.

At 7AM the next morning, wanting to beat the heat and the crowd, Trish and me met up at the Happy Isles parking lot to go climb The Grack. Unfortunately, we were a bit slow in racking up our gear and by the time we arrived at the route, there were 2 couples already climbing. About 2h 30min later, we finally started our climb. Still, it could have been worse, which it was for the 11 (!) people that arrived 15 minutes after we did. Wanting to save some time, we tried to climb the whole thing in two pitches, but unfortunately I had placed too much protection and ran out of gear before the end of the route. Luckily, Trish made short work of the run-out last section of the route, so the others didn’t have to wait for us. We were rewarded for our climb with some beautiful views over the south end of the Valley.

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Lizard with bright blue belly basking in the sun.

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Trish and me at the top of The Grack.

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view from the top of The Grack: North Dome on the left, Half Dome very small on the upper right.

By now, it was past noon and we were positively baking in the sun. After getting a ton of cool drinks and some lunch from the shop, I took a very welcome swim/shower in the cold Merced river. Again I had to look for a camping spot in the evening, so I strolled into the Upper Pines campground once more. The first people I asked about sharing a site turned out to be climbers and were more than happy to share their spot with me.

But it gets better! One of them, Jess, had hiked the JMT three times and gave me some good tips. But wait! She, Mike and Tory all work at Google. Tory offered to give me a tour and told me I could crash at her and her climber friend’s place whenever I’m in SF. Another one of them, Eli, works in Silicon Valley for a small start up and urged me to send him my resume. Oh, and then I got some free beers and was taught how to make s’mores. Suffice to say, this was an awesome camping spot to stumble upon :).

The only regrettable thing that day was not checking out the slacklines at Camp 4 when saying bye to Trish. Apparently, Chongo Chuck was there, giving Tory and Jess tips on slacklining. He is a legendary homeless man who has lived in Yosemite for years (much to the aggravation of some rangers) and is considered the godfather of slacklining in the Valley. Oh well, can’t have it all I guess.

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