Just Another Sweet Weekend in the Valley

27 10 2009

I first became interested in South by Southwest (5.11a, 5 pitches) on Lower Cathedral Spire when a dude from Colorado mentioned it when we were chatting at the Penny Lane crag in Squamish. He mentioned something about it being easy for the grade in the Valley (hey, if I’m trying to break into a grade, I have no problem trying the easiest objective first) and having red camalot hand cracks (RED CAMALOT HAND CRACKS!!!).

So I investigated – looked it up on MountainProject, checked it out in the guidebooks, and asked my personal climbing information guru, Luke, for info on the route. It sounded like a great objective – not too long, not too much hard climbing (but with good climbing on the hard pitches) and a spectacular summit. Even the long (at least by Yosemite standards) approach didn’t seem like too much of a negative because it would keep the crowds away.

Yosemite - Oct 09 002

Looking down into the Valley from the approach hike.

I’d planned on doing the route with Luke the first weekend in October, but I picked up a nasty cold/flu the week before and was in no condition to hike far or climb hard. The following weekends, I climbed with Sarah Kate and we realized that we had a pretty good climbing partnership going – we motivate each other to try harder. When thinking of routes to do last weekend in Yosemite, we tossed around the thought of doing South by Southwest and realized it would be an awesome idea. Although we knew the crux climbing would be challenging, the rest of the route would be pretty relaxed for us. Plus, it’s a rare opportunity to climb a hard multipitch route with another girl, where you can swing leads and both feel like you’ve really pulled your weight on the ascent.

We awoke at 7am in our Lower Pines campsite, broke camp, ate some oatmeal, made sandwiches, and headed for the parking near El Cap Meadow. We discovered that Sarah Kate’s partner from Friday had forgotten to give all her gear back (some of which we wanted to bring with us), so we made a quick trip back to the campsite (where he was luckily still packing up) and then back to the meadow. With tremendous effort, we took off our jackets (it was chilly) and hiked briskly to the start of the approach trail.

Yosemite - Oct 09 003

Looking up at the third (5.10d) pitch from the belay (you can’t see the crux section).

The approach was not as bad or long as we had expected (except for a short section of steep dirt when we got kind of off track) and we were at the base of the route in under 2 hours, including a short excursion further up the gully (slight confusion about which Spire was which). Sarah Kate said I could lead the crux 11a pitch (the money pitch) since I’d been psyched on the route for so long. This meant she would take the 10d boulder problem pitch.

We lead the first (Sarah Kate) and second (Lizzy) pitches without much trouble. Sarah Kate then lead a mini pitch to the base of the third (1od boulder problem) pitch. Then it was time for the business. A tricky 5.9 section brought Sarah Kate to the base of the 10d section, which was well-protected but a bit airy and mental (as soon as you commit to the pitch you get a lot of space beneath you). After some deep breaths and sequencing, she committed to the moves and sent to the jug and easier ground above to a small belay ledge. I followed, falling once at the crux when my feet kept popping (sadly, just a move below the jug), but then easily figured it out on my second try.

Yosemite - Oct 09 004

Higher Cathedral Spire

Rest, water, Shot Bloks, and deep breaths at the belay, before setting off on the crux pitch. The first part was in a small, kind of awkward corner. We both felt the crux came before the “tight hands crux” in the topo, where there was a wide pod we had to thrutch past. But I made it to the start of the roof, rested, and set off into the undercling section. Magically, it did not feel particularly hard (the undercling was a jug and there were some decent feet). The rest of the pitch was fun, wild laybacking to a bolted belay on a nice ledge.

Yosemite - Oct 09 007

Looking down at the fourth (5.11a) pitch.

Sarah Kate followed the pitch clean (awesome!) and we high-fived at the belay ledge – the hard climbing was below us! We exchanged gear and she set off on the final pitch to the summit. We ate our lunches huddled behind a rock (it was quite windy) before walking over to the true summit (no summit register 😦   ) to take some photos with El Cap in the background. It is a pretty sweet view from the summit. Two climbergirls, 5 pitches, 5 onsights, 1 fall, 1 gorgeous summit!

We rapped uneventfully and headed down the talus, ready for chips, salsa, and beer. We also chilled with a bunch of climbers at the Stanford Alpine Club campsite and Nina, Jeremy, Adrienne, Jeff, and Kelli, who happened to be camping two sites over.

Yosemite - Oct 09 006

Lovely fall colors in the gully

In the morning, we were tired and sore, but still got up at around 8:15. We ate and packed up camp, then headed to curry for coffee/tea and decision-making about what to climb. After long deliberations and considering of soreness, we decided cragging at Reed’s Pinnacle would be a good decision. It was almost lunch time when we actually got there (after stopping in the meadow, then realizing we needed to go back and fill up water) but we were in no rush.

Yosemite - Oct 09 009

El Capitan from the summit of Lower Cathedral Spire

We’d hoped to warm up on Ejesta (5.8), but two older dudes said they were planning on doing it. After considering their speed (not particularly fast), we decided to climb a 5.7 nearby. We then headed to the base of Lunatic Fringe (5.10c) to eat lunch and wait for it to get less hot up there in the sun.

Two guys showed up to do the route and I decided to let them go first (I was in no rush to climb in the hot sun), but I didn’t watch (I wanted to onsight it…). I started up the route, trying to conserve my gear (I still ended up backcleaning and leapfrogging some pieces because I hadn’t anticipated the gear size quite right). The last moves were a bit exciting, but luckily I had two yellow aliens, so it was quite well protected. It was Sarah Kate’s turn next and with a little beta and gear advice she was off. She cruised the route (even the top moves), hesitating only at a tricky off fingers section.

Yosemite - Oct 09 015

Obligatory summit photo with El Cap

Afterwards, it was getting late in the afternoon and we were both a bit tired and sore, so we decided to call it a weekend and head home via Chipotle.

It was a pretty fantastic weekend. I think we both felt really proud of ourselves for doing South by Southwest together, because I think both of us have previously climbed harder multipitch routes only with guys, who tend to be the ones to lead the hard pitches. Both of us lead our hardest route in the Valley on South by Southwest and I think we really benefited mentally from not having the security blanket of a stronger partner. It was also nice for both of us to relax more on Sunday (especially Sarah Kate, who’d climbed all of Friday, too) because we’re so busy during the week that we don’t always get any time to relax. We were both psyched on sending Lunatic Fringe – definitely a very classic, fantastic route.

Lizzy

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One response

6 11 2009
Laurel

Sounds like a fun and challenging route! Congratulations!

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