Sunday, May 15, 2016

Birthday in Yosemite

May 13th - I'm 36 years old today: closer to 40 than 30. My birthday fell on a Friday this year, so I decided to head over to Yosemite for some climbing. 

I always find that I am a bit introspective around birthdays, where I've been, where I am and where I'm going. More on that later.

Originally I wanted to climb Royal arches, but I wanted to include the Spaniols, so for a consolation I settled on Snake Dike, up Half-Dome. I've climbed it before, its super easy, so I thought it would be good for Teresa and the Spaniols to climb

Snake Dike. Climb to the top of the Yosemite icon, Half-Dome

On Friday, my students brought be a cake, very thoughtful of them! After munching that down in the afternoon Teresa and I headed over to Wawona for Friday night. We enjoyed some pizza in Oakhurst, and I sorted gear while we waited for the Spaniols to arrive.

Sorting gear at the campground
Snake Dike and Half-Dome involves about 15 miles of hiking, and 8 pitches of climbing, so it is a very full day. So, on Saturday, we woke up at 4 am. Breakfast, then drive into the valley. We were on the trail by 6 am. Not too bad.
We started up the Mist trail, with high spirits.

On the Mist Trail
One of the nice things about the long approach to Snake Dike, is the awesome hike. It goes past some of the more spectacular scenery in Yosemite. I did not capture any nice pictures, but Ali managed to get some nice ones. 

Tese in front of Liberty Cap. Photo Credit: Ali Spaniol

Liberty cap, Nevada falls, and Half-Dome in the back. Photo credit: Ali Spaniol
After a few miles, the trail breaks off the main one, and then heads up towards Half-dome. We passed a swampy lake, then up some 3rd class talus, ledges and manzanita. 

Eventually the climb came into view. As nice as I remember.

Swampy lake. Half-Dome in the background

Spaniols - Friends in adventure

Looking up towards Snake Dike. Low angle, moderate fun.  Notice the climbers near the centre of the image on the route.
We got to the base, there was a party just roping up, and another higher on the wall. We settled in for some sandwiches and wait our turn. The wind also picked up, and it was surprisingly cold. 

Unfortunately Ali got freaked out by the exposure and decided to walk back down. Teresa volunteered to hike back down with her. I was a little bummed, I was looking forward to climbing Half-Dome with my wife. Teresa has really come a long way as a climber, she can be pretty bold on lead, and was prepared to swing leads with me, even on the wildly runout pitches of Snake Dike. 

I reminded myself, that the summer is young, and there will be many other awesome climbing adventures with her this summer.
Jared and I continued on. 

While we waited, many, many, many other groups of climbers showed up. 

Jared led the first pitch, and then we had to wait for the party ahead of us to bail. The guy had taken a massive fall factor 2 onto the anchor and injured himself. Once they were clear, I grabbed the lead for the remainder of the climb, and we were off!

The climbing is ridiculously easy, but the runouts are wild. As much as 80 feet between protection pieces.

Runout. Notice the rope is not clipped to anything. This photo is from when Kyle and I climbed it last summer

For some reason, the runouts on this climb don't scare me at all. I guess I am confident enough on this low angle terrain to not be scared of falling. Its funny how an 80 foot runout does not scare me, but 10 feet on a well protected, vertical trad climb can make me poop my pants! The human mind is a funny thing. 

Jared having fun on Snake Dike
Soon enough the climb was over. Its amazing how fast 800' of climbing goes by when there is no protection! I think we climbed all eight pitches in about 2 hours.

We stopped at the last pitch for a snack, and a recharge.

Jared looking jazzed near the end. 
A 1000' of easy 3rd class slab walk-up, then the top of Half-Dome. Because the cables are down, it was less crowded than normal, but we hardly were alone. There were some people setting up a Highline between the diving board and another rock outcropping. We didn't stick around to watch, but someone slacklining thousands of feet above the north face of Half-Dome would be pretty wild!
Views from the summit. Mt Watkins and Tenaya Canyon. Notice the green slackline!

Summit of Half-Dome
Crazy slackline on the summit of Half-Dome

We loitered for a few minutes on the summit. This is one of my favourite things about climbing big objectives. Taking a few moments to savour the moment, enjoying the accomplishment.

Victory. This is what I live for.
Jared savouring the moment (I hope)
Then down the cables. Basically, metal cables, put some gloves on, and walk down a steep slab. Not so bad. There were quite a few people going up them as we were coming down. But not nearly as crowded as the last time I was there. 

The cable descent, in all of its glory. 
Then a 9 mile slog back to the car. 13 hours car-to-car, a 16 hour day total with driving etc. I was nice and tired, not the most difficult endurance climbing day I've done, but still a nice full day, good way to celebrate my birthday.

36 years old, I feel better than I have felt in my entire life. I have my dream job, an amazing wife, every weekend I am climbing mountains. I am in the best shape of my life, and I am ready for a summer of difficult mountains, and bigger harder climbing objectives.  I feel like I am living my dream. I feel complete.  

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