Martynas: Finally! After 9 years of climbing and rambling, the dream came true - I’m going to visit Yosemite Valley - the Mecca of Climbing, the Center of the Universe, the Capital of Climbing, etc, you name it. It’s difficult to count how many movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read, dreams I’ve had about this place.
Laura: A couple of weeks left until our wedding we were still considering the options for the honeymoon. One was to go to New Zealand and have unusual holidays with no climbing, just nature, hiking and stuff. To be honest, I was stoked. But you know, how can you “waste” three weeks of your precious PTO and not climb at all? The decision was made to go to Yosemite. A slightly different look at the honeymooning. I was very skeptical (as I often am) about our chances to climb there. We don’t climb granite, we’re both shit at trad, we don’t know how to haul the bags, we’ve never done a big wall, etc.
M: As a bigwall noob, before the trip I watched tons of youtube videos, pinged Gedas with many questions, practised aid climbing in a bouldering gym (was a bit weird) and even read “How To Big Wall Climb” by Chris McNamara (highly recommended!).
M: Arriving to US. For the first time. Everything looks surreal (especially policemen) as it had existed only in movies, now it is real!
L: Working from an office in San Francisco. Last day at work. Hard to concentrate. Martynas flies in in the evening. Dinner and a short walk around Tenderloin. M is amazed by the size of the cars and the policemen.
M: After catching up with sleep (and food) in San Francisco, me and Laura are finally on the way to the valley. The drive was a bit long as we stopped to buy some missing gear and tons of food. The super big cars, RVs make an impression that global warming does not exist in this part of the world. Seeing El Cap in the real life made the same strong impression as seeing the Alps for the first time. Sick sick!
L: All-you-can-eat breakfast at the hotel. M cannot conceal his nature by not giving his place to a polite waiter. Embarrassing! He uses it seven times more. Buying gear we’re still missing and loads of food on the way to Yosemite.
M: After sleeping in our rental car outside the park territory, we wake up at 5am to not miss a spot in the queue for the historical Camp4. At 6am there are already at least 20 people waiting (actually sleeping) for the camping place! Luckily, we get the spot and immediately after setting a tent we get on cracks at Chruch Bowl. I “warm up” on some 5.8 layback which made me sweat, freak out and swear - “is it 5.8?!?!?”. Funny enough, not only me freaked out on 5.8s that day :P
L: 6a.m. we are at the Camp 4 queue. There are 24 other people in front of us. Damn! Will we get a place? We did! Yay, we’re not homeless anymore! Spent the afternoon at Church Bowl trying out American granite which made me realise there’s little hope for us to climb anything here!
M: After yesterday’s disappointment, we drove to Tuolumne Meadows for more pleasant mileage on sharp cracks and offwidths (you can call it a cheating). Some single pitches and first steps on aiders.
L: Getting used to crack climbing at Murphy Creek - a small crack in Tuolumne Meadows. Remote and beautiful! I’m getting back my psyche!
M: Did Cathedral Peak. Awesome multi-pitch. Freaking out level is decreasing. Really beautiful scenery, but damn long drive while listening to a radio station streaming almost only one song. “Them girls, they just wanna take my money” flashbacks even today.
L: One of the best climbing days I’ve ever had! Climbed Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. 1.5h hike, easy but amazingly scenic climbing and a sunburn made it a very good day!
M: It was supposed to be a rest day, but we ended up in Church Bowl practicing aid. Super cool. After-climbing life at Camp4 started to get a pace :D Haven’t seen so many weird people in a positive way at one place.
L: Free shower day! Aid practice. Jumarring, lowering out, swinging - kind of a rest day. Booooring!
M: Climbed the classic - Nutcracker. Ran out of gear in the 4th pitch which made the whole climb a bit spicy! Stopped wondering about grading in Yosemite and got more into the beginners mind. Tried to climb other MP on the same day, but it was occupied by Doug Robinson and his crew shooting a documentary!
L: Climbed Nutcracker on the Manure Pile Buttress in the morning. Had lunch at the camping. Planned for The Grack at the Glacier Point Apron in the afternoon but it turned out the documentary about Doug Robinson was being filmed there so went on The Cow, Center. Were scared by the weird second pitch and so rappeled down after the first one.
M: Learning to haul at … Church Bowl:) Thanks Kim and some local dude for giving tips and sharing stories!
L: Hauling training. Boooooring! Also, our haulbag got several holes :(
M: Went together with Juan to climb Commitment (FA by J. Bridwell!) and to get pictures. Really fun, a bit crowded. Afterwards, went to do some single pitch cracks. 5.8 still damn difficult. However, Juan gave me crack climbing gloves which was a life changer / saver!
L: Planned for a rest day but who needs rest days. Those are boring. Went to Five Open Books and climbed Commitment with M and Juan - a Spanish guy who does amazing 3D pictures. Our plan to climb 3 short multi-pitches didn’t work out as the queues were long. Instead, we went to a small crag with many short routes near Lower Yosemite falls and did three short routes there. It was a good day!
M: The most boring rest day as we drove a long straight way to Merced to buy food. Later bunch of packing into a haulbag, as tomorrow we are off for a little two days adventure on Washington Column (via the South Face route).
L: Rest day. Drove to Merced, bought lots of food, ate burritos, got a dose of wifi and came back to pack a haulbag.
M: The bail day. Climbed to the Dinner ledge, started to rain, descended, sun started to shine :| The mode transitioned from “psyched” to “frustrated”. The hardest part was approach with the heavy haulbag.
L: Early start. Long approach to South Face route on Washington Column. Huge haulbag, water, food, loads of gear. Urgh… Started at around 9a.m. 3 pitches to Dinner Ledge. Hauling sucks. Otherwise it’s fun. If not for that off route on the second pitch! Damn, I thought why it feels so hard. Luckily, was able to lower out and swing to the next belay station. Phew! While on Dinner Ledge, it started raining a bit and the sky looked quite dark. We decided to go back.
M: Rest day. Decided to do a hike to the Yosemite High Point to clear our heads a bit from climbing and decide what to climb next. The decision was quite obvious - get back to the unfinished business.
L: Chilling! Hiked up to Yosemite Point, ate and rested.
M: Sunny day and we are back on Washington Column. We climbed again up to the Dinner ledge, left the haulbag and fixed two ropes for tomorrow’s early start. Fixing the ropes was super cool, because it involved the Kor roof and was damn windy!
L: Back on the route. Faster approach and easier first 3 pitches without journeys off-route this time. M went on pitch 4 - the Kor roof. Windy as hell! When seconding I was like a spinning top and couldn’t stop as my arms were too short to grab a quickdraw and legs too short to reach the wall. Scary stuff! At the belay we exchanged a couple of words which sounded something like this:
L: So what do we do? (thinking should we go back)
M: What do you mean?
L: No, nothing. Are you ready to lead?
So we fixed P4 and P5 and had a nice evening and a beautiful starry night on Dinner Ledge. Lucky day!
M: Second day on Washington Column. Had a good sleep on the ledge with a romantic view towards Half Dome! Climbed to the top. Superb climb except the last two chossy pitches. Descended by rappeling down the entire wall. The day finished with a few beers at Camp4.
L: Early start, quick breakfast and up we go. I got P6-P8. All very beautiful with some sketchy chimney climbing on the second part of P8. M led the remaining P9-P11 which were easier but very loose at times. Overall, a long and exhausting day!
M: Laundry day. Slacking in the village and afterwards in the El Cap meadow with a look to El Cap and a hesitation - to try or not to try…
L: I’m already an expect of sneaking into showers for free! Found out where the laundry machines are. Ate loads of junk food. Sat at the meadow looking at El Cap amazed by how big and wonderful it is. Still unsure if we should get on it. The longer we looked at it, the more unsure we were. In the end, it was decided to just go and try!
To be continued in Part 2.