Well, I've been back for a couple weeks now, and am just finally getting around to the trip report, but that's just cause I have been kinda busy and mostly lately.
The trip was with a group of friends, and the purpose was for rock climbing, and lots of it! We arrived in the Valley early early in the morning on Saturday, May 28th, and got our spots in Camp 4 for two nights. In my campsite, I had a grand total of two trees to work with. Good news: They were the perfect distance apart. Bad news: One of the trees was probably 4 feet or more in diameter! Somehow I just barely had enough webbing on my WBBB to make it around the tree and down to my hammock. I was quite impressed actually. I did have some climbing webbing (and by some, I mean a metric boatload) that I could have supplemented with, but that wasn't needed.
The first week of our trip was unseasonably cold and rainy weather. The coldest night we saw was high 20's, but I was toasty in my Phoenix UQ and BPL 180 TQ with supplemental fleece liner. My Edge tarp kept me nice and dry, and I had loads of stuff stashed under my hammock to try and keep it all dry as well. The hammock was also a breeze to move, cause we had to jump around different campsites the entire trip. Nice and light!
Here's some shots of my setup with all the stuff under the tarp, and my friends making use of the hammock and tarp lines to dry their towels.
Like I said, climbing was the main agenda, so what's a trip report without some fun climbing stories!
On Memorial Day, I climbed a route called Snake Dike that goes up the southwest face of Half Dome. We were up by 4am, hiking by 5:15am, and didn't even get to the base of the climb until about noon. We scampered up the notoriously runout (very long distances between protection to catch a fall, in this case around 75 feet) climb with no hitches, and were on the summit just after 6pm. At this point, we had gained 5000' feet of elevation from the Valley floor, and the views were absolutely stunning.
We descended the cables, which were still not "up" for the season, making it much more scary, but my partner had sprained his ankle pretty good at the top of Half Dome. Just a flukey little step unfortunately. It was a painful hike all the way back down for both of us, but much more for him I presume. We didn't get back until 11:30 at night, and my legs were screaming at me. As most of you know, I'm sure, uphill hiking is tiring. Downhill hiking is painful. When you have 5000' of elevation gain/descent in a 16 mile round trip day, your legs aren't very happy with you...
Other notable climbs we did were Royal Arches, which has the first ever pendulum on a rock climbing route. There is a rope that is "fixed" in place, you grab on, and start running back and forth across the rock face, until you have enough momentum to pendulum yourself over to the next part of the route. Lots of fun! Also, due to the large amounts of snow melt, many parts of the climb were gushing waterfalls, so getting a bit wet was inevitable! Luckily, it was a sunny and warm day, so we dried out quickly and it didn't hamper the moods. We finished our 1500' of climbing (tallest climb I've done to date) and started down the 14 rappels to get back to the base. Unfortunately, darkness set in on us a little before we were halfway done, so the majority of the rappelling was done by headlamp. Scary the first time you do it, but kind of exhilarating once you are comfortable!
I also did get a bit of hiking in. I took off up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail at about 12:20pm, not headed just for the top of the falls, but for the summit of El Capitan! I was by myself, armed with only a map, compass, and small daypack. I held a good clip up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, about 3.5 miles and 2500 feet of elevation gain, finishing that in about 2 hours. From there, I had another 4 miles to the summit of El Cap. What I didn't realize is that, since I'm now in the high country, there's still a lot of snow! Trail signs were almost buried entirely, and there were easily points where the snow was 10 feet deep!
I must say, I wasn't quite prepared for the snow, in only some low-cut approach shoes that were not waterproof, and no gaiters or anything else. Luckily, the snow was that spring, packed down stuff, so I usually only was sinking in about 4 inches with each step. Nonetheless, my shoes, socks, and pant bottoms were soaked quick, and I had to keep up a good pace to stay warm. I had to keep pulling out my compass and map to make sure I was headed in the right direction, because with several feet of snow burying the trail, it becomes difficult to follow. So I'm hiking along, and I stop once again to pull out my compass and map. I get my bearings set, grab a Clif Bar out of my pack to boost my energy, and take a bite. Right then, I look up, and am staring at...
this huge black bear moseying around a meadow maybe 60-70 yards from me! I'm sitting there, all alone, in the middle of the backcountry, miles from anyone, HOLDING A CLIF BAR, staring at this bear that could have gobbled me up in a second. I inhale the rest of the bar immediately, hoping he hadn't caught a whiff yet, and began to walk a large circle around where the bear was. I tried my best to keep an eye on him, but the trees were thick, and the terrain was quite hilly. I finally came to the top of a small hill, and there was a clearing in the trees towards the direction of the bear. I look, and now he's even closer! Maybe 30-40 yards. Staring straight at me. At this point, I just stopped, kept my eyes fixed on his, and started walking backwards slowly, trying not to show any sign of fear, nor aggression. Luckily, the bear didn't want anything to do with me, and let me leave, intact.
From here, I kept moving quickly, crossing the beautiful Eagle Peak Meadow.
and on towards El Cap. Once I got closer to the slabs between Eagle Peak and El Cap, I found a trail, which really boosted my energy. I was coming up on 5pm at this point, which in my head was my turn around time as to make the last shuttle of the night, but I also knew I was getting really, really close. I crossed some snow runoff streams running down the slabs...
and continued on through the last patch of woods before coming out onto the snow covered slabs that took me to the summit. At this point, a cloud had rolled in on the top of El Cap, and I was standing right in the middle of it! Visibility was down to about 30 feet in any direction, and since I was standing on snow, everything just turned to white. It was like floating in a white abyss of nothing! I actually had to keep my eyes down on the snow and my feet, because looking around made me dizzy. There was no separation between was was ground and what was sky. It was all just... white! Here's a shot of a tree that was maybe 30-40 feet from me.
As I climbed up the slabs, heading to the summit, I sort of felt like one of the world's premiere speed climbers, Ueli Steck, in this video.
(Yes, yes, I know. Not even close to the same, but cut a guy a break!)
Anyways, the sun was coming down on my horizon line, creating a glowing white light in the same direction as the summit, and it felt like I was ascending into heaven. The mix of adrenaline, excitement, exhaustion, and mystery gave me the craziest feeling ever, but I loved it. I used my camera, which geotags pictures, to confirm my latitude and longitude coordinates, to make sure that I was, in fact, on the summit.
It was now about 5:20pm, and I took a little time to rest my legs and refuel with some food and water. Not shortly after, I began booking it back. The last thing I wanted was to get lost in the backcountry, at night, in the cold, in snow, with no real shelter. Luckily, I have a very good sense of direction, and great orienteering skills, and was able to keep up great speed without much faltering on which way to go. Right when I got back to the top of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, and finally out of the snow, it started raining. I tossed on my poncho, and began down the trail. With about 30-40 minutes to go, I had to pull out my headlamp, but I made it safely back, finishing at 9:20pm on the dot.
9 hours, roughly 3500 feet of elevation gain, 15 miles, and more snow then I had ever hoped to hike through, and I was sitting on the shuttle bus, riding back to my warm hammock. The old couple on the bus were in awe of my story, their jaws dropping even more with each detail. (They finally crashed to the bus floor when I mentioned the bear! ) It was an awesome day that really pushed my physical and mental limits, while providing a phenomenal journey.
Finally... one last story. (And it's short, promise!)
We were climbing along the base of El Capitan, no more than 40 feet from our packs, when we hear some shouting coming from some guys near us. I peek around the corner, and see a big momma bear and two cubs raiding our packs for the snacks inside! The guys nearby scare the bears away, but just our luck, they pick up the pack and take off with it! It was my friend's pack, but she was at the top of a climb, so there was nothing she could do. I took it upon myself to get the pack back, so I dart off, chasing the bears! Deeper and deeper into the woods they go, with me hot on their tails, shirtless, waving my arms and yelling like a mad man! Finally, they drop out of sight for a second around a big boulder. I come around the boulder, and there they are, much closer than I expected them to be! (Maybe 20 feet.) Mom's staring at me, and I'm staring back. It was like one of those old, western showdowns. At this point, I notice that the pack isn't in her mouth, but sitting on the ground in front of her, and I realize this is my chance. I charge towards her, yelling and screaming, and she takes a few steps back from the pack. I realize that this fear is my opening, and I continue the charge, and they scamper off into the woods. Pack saved, in perfect condition. The only fatality was the Banana Chips.
Finally, we finished off the day with a little climber's "secret" if you will. It's as fun and crazy scary as it looks. (Not my video, unfortunately.)
A lot more pics from the trip can be found here! Gallery
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the stories.