Sunday, May 1, 2016

In the Valley: Central Pillar of Frenzy

I'm going to be be honest, Yosemite climbing intimidates me. The style is mostly crack climbing on polished rock. Climbing in the gym and sport climbing does very little to prepare you for it. 

Last summer with Kyle, I spent about 10 days there doing a bunch of easy classics. I also spend months working the hand cracks at the gym, learning how to jam. So now I have a tiny bit of confidence.

I've been back a few times, led some easy climbs. But I was not feeling satisfied, I really wanted to push out of the easy grades, try something a bit harder. Yosemite 5.9 can be a tough grade, but it opens the doors to a lot of long climbs in the valley, so where to start?

The Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral looked like a great route to push into the grade. Sustained, long, 3 pitches of 5.9, and with bolted belays, and a short approach the route is low on commitment.

Photo credit:
I have often had trouble finding partners interested in going climbing with me in Yosemite. The drive is a bit long, it can be crowded, and probably like me, intimidation by the magnitude and style of the climbing.

Troy Kellenberger and I made plans to climb the route on Sat. Troy is a young climber-alpinist. I recently climbed Mt Whitney with him, we had a great time, so why not do some rock climbing as well? He's experienced, competent and is both stoked and has a positive attitude.  I picked him up very early in the morning (5:30 am), and we were at the base of the climb by 8-8:30 am. We were not the first people there, so waited for the party above to clear the first belay. 

Start of the climb Looking up to the first belay on the pillar. Photo credit: Troy K.
We talked about who was going to lead first, we decided I would go first, taking the so called crux pitch, although for me it was not the crux!

Racking up for the climb. El cap in the background. Photo credit: Troy K.

Troy is stoked to go. Photo credit: Troy K.

I battled up pitch 1, it was a struggle. The crux is a squeeze then step across to a ledge. I felt like I was wrestling, not climbing. Thats' Yosemite climbing, sometimes full body climbing, no gentle face climbing here!

Next pitch, 5.9 fingers, Troy led it like a boss. This was a quality pitch, super awesome climbing, best pitch on the climb. Delicate, fingery, oh so good. 

Next pitch was mine. 5.8 hands, to roof, to off-width. Should be easy right, its only 5.8?

5.8 hands to roof. Easy? Photo credit:

Wrong! For me this was the crux! I took a small fall onto my gear going through the roof, it was awkward and burly! After floundering through the roof (finally) I was into the off-width. I had 2 cams to protect about 30-40 feet of off-width, so I walked the two cams one after another to the belay. What a pitch! 

After getting to the top of the off-width, our trail rope got stuck! I tried dislodging it for about 5 min, but it was no use. So I fixed the rope, and repelled all the way back down to the beginning of the pitch to free the stupid rope. Then I had to re-climb that burly roof and the off-width again! Sheesh! 
After that fiasco I was slightly red-lined, and pretty much done leading for the day. Good thing Troy was just warming up!

Starting to burn out. Photo credit: Troy K.
Pitch of 5.8 hand crack, nice and easy, then a pitch that consisted of a 5.6 chimney followed by delicate 5.9 crack. All very good. Troy led the last two pitched. Thanks Troy! 
I think we make a good team, he led more pitches than me, but I handled the stuck the rope, and led the gnarly 1st pitch, teamwork!

Soon the were at the top of the route. Although it does go on for another 500 feet, almost no one ever climbs it (looked nasty!)

Victory! Photo credit: Troy K.

Then then the descent, the rap route goes off to the side, so we were not exactly sure where to go. Down into the unknown.

Where the heck am I going? Photo credit: Troy K.
We found the way down, with a bit of confusion and searching for anchors on repel. The to El cap meadow for a cold beer and some lunch. Awesome day in the valley.

I feel like that climb was just what I needed, a confidence booster to try other 5.9s in the Valley, and start moving into the more adventurous climbs in Yosemite. Onwards! 

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