Continued from part one
Tuesday: Royal Arches
After the long day Monday, we decide to stay in the valley. Royal Arches is on the list of climbs and is selected. It has a ten-minute approach, fifteen pitches of climbing, and an excellent position looking over the valley. While waiting in the parking lot for Matt, we witness a tourist almost back over his duffel bag with his enormous SUV, roll forward again, turn a bit, then proceed to drive fully over the bag. Unpleasant crunching sounds emanate and we wince from the other end of parking lot. Rough start to the day.
We have our own rough start as it takes us over a half hour to find the climb. (My bad!) Soon enough, though, we are squeezing up the first pitch’s 5.6 chimney. The route mostly consists of 30-70 foot sections of crack climbing followed by some 3rd/4th class scrambling. We spend several hours working our way up the wall, gaining height and an amazing view of the valley. By 7pm or so we’re out of water and at the top. Twelve rappels, one pulled rope with the knot still in it, and an impressive jimmy-rigged stick contraption get us back to the ground around 9:30. We’re all pretty wiped as we stumble back to Camp Four well after dark. (This would be a common theme…)
Wednesday: Go USA!
Both Matt J and I are huge soccer fans, so we agreed that we couldn’t miss the US-Algeria World Cup game. It is well worth seeing, as the US scores in dramatic fashion in the 92nd minute for the win and advancement out of the group stage. We spend the rest of the day sight-seeing and swimming in the Merced below the gaze of El Cap. It is an excellent rest day.
Thursday: Back to Tuolomne
We have a vague plan to go “dome-hopping” back in Tuolomne, and by 11am or so we’re at the base of Stately Pleasure Dome, racking up right off the road. We split into two parties again; Glenn and I choose the highly-rated South Crack while the Matts do West Country, a 5.7 on the main face.
The first two pitches contain some of the best crack climbing I have ever done, clean fingerlocks on impeccable rock. I place almost solely nuts on this section as it is perfectly suited for them. On the third pitch the route leaves the crack, sadly, to venture directly up with rather run-out 5.7 slab climbing. I lead each pitch, and enjoy every one (except maybe the last one, which is 5.2 or something). We meet the other lads at the top, take some pictures, and scramble back down to the car. Tenaya Lake reflects the sky and I take in my surroundings contentedly.Next up is Lembert Dome, a couple miles’ drive away. This is another Dome practically right off the road, and we decide to do a two-pitch 5.6 called Northwest Books. The first pitch contains some interesting friction climbing, leading to a traverse below a roof and then a thought-provoking corner system. Unknowingly, I take the 5.9 variation (which is, realistically, the natural line) up the corner which is quite enjoyable. Glenn takes the next pitch of easy 5th class to the ridge. We scramble up to the summit and relish another phenomenal view of Tuolomne.
Friday: Half Dome
None of us were quite ready to spend a few days climbing El Cap, so we opt for the just-as-famous Half Dome. There is a 5.7 that sneaks up its South shoulder called Snake Dike. Half Dome is a difficult mountain to get to, and the approach involves a six mile hike, most of it on well-maintained hiking trails. Most of the time I don’t enjoy long approaches, but this is a very notable exception as we pass by two immense waterfalls. We take the aptly-named “Mist Trail,” and I scoff at the other hikers donning ponchos. After all, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky, right?
Well, forty minutes later I’m at the top of Vernal Falls and drenched to the bone. The trail winds within a few hundred feet of the water, turning the surroundings into a permanent tropical rainforest. We snap some pics (one of an amusing sign) and continue on so we can warm up a bit. The trail continues up to the base of Liberty Cap (one of dozens of massive shields of Granite in the area), where we then leave it to get onto a climber’s trail which traverses below and around the Cap. Some bushwhacking and a heinous, loose scramble up slabs brings us to the base of the climb.
Snake Dike is renowned for being both really long and really run out. By this time, we had ample experience with both types of climbing, so the route itself is pretty much a cruise. Even 5.4 can be thought-provoking, however, when you’re 50 feet above your last bolt, but we try not to let it get to us and continue on and on over the 7-8 pitches. A final scramble leads us to the top, and the best panorama of the entire week (which is saying something!) It is a fitting final climb. The nine miles of hiking back to the Valley aren’t too brutal, and we again roll back into Camp Four after dusk.
Matt and I rescheduled things so we could catch the next US game on Saturday, which turned out to be a bit of a bummer. Ghana beat us handily to eliminate us from the World Cup. The silver lining was that I was still in Yosemite! The rest of the lads were still beat from the day before, but I managed to sneak out for an hour to do some bouldering with our two very friendly British campmates. The sheer quantity and quality of boulder problems just above Camp Four was, again, staggering, and we only did a few before sputtering out. It had been a long week, and we were all hurting a bit. By 8pm the four of us were back in the car and headed back to Utah.