Alone in Tuolumne.

10 09 2008

This past Friday was my day off so I drove up to Bishop to see Lizzy. She was in town for a resupply and we were able to have lunch and chat before she had to return to her field work. It was great to see her and sad when she got back in the CalTech Geology truck and drove off. We crunched lots of talking and hugging into our 4 hours together which was not close to enough. It was defiantly worth the drive to see the smile on her face when I pulled up.

With Lizzy quickly back to work I had decided to take some alone time. A partner hadn’t worked out but I hadn’t really tried that hard. I was looking forward to some personal reflection and a bit more exploration of Bishop and Tuolumne. I had brought along my bouldering pad so I could do a bit of pebble wrestling when I tired of hiking and driving. The 90+ degree forecast (in bishop) was not ideal but I managed two night sessions at Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is located near Tom’s Place about 25 miles north of Bishop on the Sherwin Plateau. Rock Creek is appeal since it is more than a thousand feet higher in elevation than the Buttermilks and is surrounded by shady trees. The boulders are located in canyon cut by the water so they receive shade a bit earlier than else where.

Before heading to Rock Creek on Friday night I drove up to Owens River Gorge and hiked down to see the climbs. I had never been to the gorge before and had been curious about the volcanic rock and feel of the area. There is climbing on both sides of the gorge and there is a road down the middle that provides access to the various power plants in the gorge (Only service vehicles are allowed in). I had a good time running around and checking out the climbs and am anxious to get back with a partner and rope. The climbs are long and vertical and mostly bolt protected. Since the river goes down the middle of the gorge you sometimes have to cross mini bridges to get between areas.

As the light was fading I was making my way around Rock Creek. The guide book showed a few boulders and I was looking for something hard with a nice landing. After exploring the Campground boulder I made my way to the talus boulder. I warmed up on a V2 and started trying One Move Blunder V4. The granite was rough and had some funky knobs. After gaining the crimp rail, on this V4, you were supposed to launch for the top of a huge (3 feet wide by 2 feet tall) feature. This “knob” unfortunately did not stick out much and was directly over a bad rocky landing. I oped for the bail out left option since dynoing without a spotter would not be a good way to start my trip. The Blunder Bus V6 is the bail right option that I did next.  The guide book said move right immediately after reaching the crimp rail. This seemed a bit contrived so I matched the crimp rail, which made the move longer but allowed me to use my feet, and then went right.

Next up was Clearcut a fun looking V7 on the arete that had very directional holds and bad feet. The crux was a standup move into a sharp V-slot with your left hand using a bad right hand crimp. I slowly figured out the beta and was able to do all the moves. I fell many times trying to link from the start and my skin was toast. It was about 8pm and quite dark so I called it a night. Tired from my 6am departure I made my way to my bivy in Tuolumne and ate a bit of dinner before passing out.

The next morning i got up before sunrise so that I could get out to the rocks quickly. I packed up and drove into Yosemite National Park, via the 120, and parked near Tenaya Lake. I was the first car in the parking lot and that meant I would be the first up Tenaya peak. The approach was easy with my small pack of water and climbing shoes. Most importantly I was able to find my way up the assorted Deer Trails and didn’t lose time getting lost. I did get a little confused about where I was supposed to start since there is no base to the southwest face. There are slabs that you are hiking up and at some point you decided you should start “climbing”. Not wanting to find my self in the middle of a tricky slab in my approach shoes I put on my Muiras and got out my chalk bag.

As I steadily went up more 4th class terrain I was worried that I was off route since it was so easy. I wanted to climb, but instead my calves were burning and I was breathing heavy from the altitude. A large band of dikes across the face that matched my topo, I was on the right track! Even though I was excited I couldn’t really pick up the pace since my lungs were suffering, I am not used to being above 9000 feet. The climbing was constantly easy and did not really necessitate a rope. Lizzy had pitched out the climb in her approach shoes and I was happy to be moving quickly.

I took a break on a ledge about half way up and ate some food and took off my climbing shoes. The view was spectacular and I had the whole place to myself! I summited a little over two hours after I left my car. The climbing took a bit more than the approach but it was very mellow. The top section required a bit more attention since the rock got a bit steeper. I got pretty lost on the decent and was more gripped going down loose gullies than climbing the route. It was about 3.5 hours car to car so I still had a full day ahead of me.

I ate lunch and relaxed at Tenaya Lake and gave a ride to a hiker from Murrieta named Bruce who had been in the area for the last few days enjoying the trails with his family. I wandered around Tuolumne and hiked to Drug dome and checked out OZ. I met a nice guy named Dennis who had been out photographing a pair of British climbers on the route. OZ looks spectacular with difficult face climbing followed by a 100+ foot long corner. After watching the couple go up the route I made my way over to Lamb Dome. Lizzy and I are interesting in doing On the Lamb, which traverses the dome, and I wanted to get my bearings. After finding the trails I made my way to the base and found a spectacular wall of knobs.

I went back to the car and grabbed my shoes and returned for a bit of traversing. I figured it would be good training to get used to the Tuolumne crimps and knobs and a fun way to spend my afternoon. I hopped on the wall and made my way most of the way across but was stopped by a reachy crux in the middle. It seemed that climbing higher might be the solution but since I was still along I decided to wait for another day. Exhausting my supertopo book for new places to go I stopped by the store and bought the Falcon guide. Tired of hiking I grabbed a vanilla soft serve and got back on the road. I needed to leave early enough to stop by Bridgeport, about 30 mins north of Tioga Pass, before going back to Rock Creek.

While I was unable to contact the ranger station, since their phone line is bad (according to the main office), I thought it was worth the trip to try and receive my rope. I made good time and luckily the station was still open and they had my rope! Sadly there was a pretty nasty core shot just beyond the middle mark on the rope. It was great that the two guys from Colorado hiked it out and I can still use the pieces once I cut it up.

I arrived at Rock Creek on Saturday night to cooler temperatures than the night before. As well I ran into a Swedish couple at the talus boulder. They were trying an improbable sit start that was not in the guide book. I had looked at it the night before but the holds seemed too poor. After warming up I spent a few minutes brushing the holds on Clearcut. I had found a tooth brush in my car and was very happy to have cleaner holds, better friction! I breathed in, pulled on, and sent first try! I was able to relax in the crux and get my weight over my left foot which allowed me to go statically to the sharp slot. After sending I did a standing jump variation of a V9 to the right. With a bad foot and two bad crimps you lunge to the top. This move was hard from a standing position and I couldn’t figure out how to do it from the sit (for the full points).

To finish off the last bit of daylight I went over to the Boy Named Sue boulder and climbed the Groove Arete, V4. By the time I had worked out the moves it was dark and I was using my headlamp. After I topped out I realized I was very alone and in the dark with no down climb. The climbs, on this boulder, range from V4 to V10 and evidently there is a V2 on one of the aretes. I couldn’t see the moves of the V2 and it did not seem logical to downclimb from 15 feet on an unknown problem with no pad. I tested a few of the near by trees and grabbed the biggest one and shimmeyed down. I bear hugged that tree like no other, palming my way down the smooth bark wishing there were branches. That was by far the scariest part of my weekend, worse than 1000 feet of climbing, harder than V7, down climbing the tree, alone, in the dark pushed my limits.

With my weekend project sent I drove back to Bishop and camped near the Buttermilks and had dinner. I slept like a log with a full day of walking and a bit of climbing behind me. On my way back to Bishop I tried to find the Catacombs where I was planning a morning session. Instead of going over the Dam I took a wrong turn and went 1.3 on a different dirt road. It was pitch black and when I got to the correct distance there was a fork like I expected. Unfortunately the fork was complete overgrown and I did not feel like exploring anymore so I bailed.

The next morning came quickly since I slept quite well but my skin and muscles were pretty trashed. I packed up the tent and headed back to San Diego content with my exploration and bouldering. It was pretty strange to be alone all weekend and I did get a bit used to the solitude. I listened to my Ipod and thought about how much I missed Lizzy. It was a good time for sure but I wont be making a habit of it.

In more exciting news Alex Honnold just Free-Soloed the Regular Route on Half Dome. Via Supertopo The big question in a lot of peoples minds is a free solo of El Cap. In an old supertopo thread there is a bunch of discussion about how many difficult parts of FreeRider are insecure and dangerous. I am glad to see Alex pushing the limits but I want to see him around for many years to come. Hopefully he can put his energy into freeing a new route on El Cap instead of risking death by free soloing it.






2 responses

3 10 2008

Solo time out there…
Nothing like it at times…

13 10 2008
Bolt Clipping at the Owens River Gorge. « Dream in Vertical

[…] a brief scouting mission a few weeks back I was anxious to get back to Owens with a partner. There were routes everywhere […]

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