Baba's Bridalveil Choss semi-epic


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Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 30, 2004 - 09:15am PT
Went over to Bridalveil Falls a couple days ago with the partner that I always take when looking for trouble. The falls are getting kind of low so we thought we would do Bridealveil East. We had an old topo from Reid and a written description from the Roper Guide in case we could find the Aqua variation.

It was one of those days when you look at the topo and description and try to read them like tarot cards but to no avail. Nothing in the topo or text seemed to match (only very vaguely) anything on the stone. There were all kinds of cracks and variations to climb, but they all looked harder than they were and all led into trouble sooner or later.

We just starting climbing, scratching our heads, and having lichen rained down on us when the falls weren't raining down on us. The higher we got, and the more commited we got, the worse things got, until I was "freedom freeing" things and sometime downright aiding sections. We had to squeeze, and I mean really squeeze between some devil trees guarding tight chimneys too. Dead branches totaly blocking the path assured me that the sense of adventure would be complete. Perfect torture!

We joked that we had too much water in the beginining when it was shady and the falls was raining on us, but higher up, we turned a corner and it was totally baking. Our tongues were sticking to the roof of our mouths when we miraculously hit the rim just as the light was failing. Kind of a fun sense of adventure to climb a "route" to the rim and never know if you were on any route, or if it was leading anywhere.

I was relieved that my partner had his headlamp cause I bugged him to bring it but, like an idiot, I had a new pack and didn't transfer my headlamp to it. Fortunately, the moon was bright. Unfortunately, it doesn't shine into the Gunsight. Fortunately, El Cap was like a giant mirror and lit the Gunsight up pretty well anyway.

We were hiking up to the notch to start the Gunsight when I noticed in the dimmest twilight a shape just between my legs that moved slightly. As I took another step it started rattling wildly and raced off. My heart got going for that one! I think I walked right over the dang rattlesnake. I'm sure getting bitten by the snake in a dehydrated state as it was getting dark in a hard to access location would have been too much adventure for me. It was one of those climbs when you roll over at night and your leg ceases up in total cramp.

My poor partner, the Lummox, realized at my house, at 12.30 at night, that he left his daypack at the bottom of the last rappels. He got to hike back the next morning. Groan!

Anyway, just a quick account of the mandatory, one-every-year or so choss, obscure, trad adventure that I like to have. Who's done Bridelveil East? Is it OK? Where does it start and actually go?

There so many routes possible over there. It's kinda cool...and it's kinda not.


Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Aug 30, 2004 - 12:41pm PT
Nice little trip report!

Is the name of the route "Baba's Bridalveil Choss Semi-epic?"

Aug 30, 2004 - 01:28pm PT
Great job on the adventure climb, KB. A nice read, since nobody got hurt. Funny how topos have a "placebo effect" can make any rock face look kinda like your topo if you try hard enough. Cheers...
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 30, 2004 - 11:35pm PT
Let's call it the "Doomed to Obscurity" Variation to the "Already Forgotton" variations to the "Old Skool of yesteryear Forgotton Route probaby mistaken for Bridalveil East."

or better yet, just leave it unknown so others can wring the main adventure that the climb has to offer, the unknown.



'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Aug 31, 2004 - 12:31am PT
Nice story, Karl. I loved the bit about the moonlight.

El Cap soon come!
Russ Walling

Social climber
Bishop is DEAD, long live JT
Sep 1, 2004 - 02:49am PT
Bridalveil East has been on my hit list for a while. It's all about the midget chimney. Mark the base for me if you ever find it.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 1, 2004 - 12:40pm PT
We kept saying. "Maybe that's the Miget Chimney, maybe that's the Midget Chimney" It's like the Land of Oz up there.


John Morton

Trad climber
Berkeley, CA
Sep 15, 2004 - 02:36pm PT
Just stumbled on "who's done Bridalveil East? is it OK?" ... I was half of the FFA party (via the Midget Chimney). Haven't thought about the route for a long time, but seeing as this is the 40th anniversary I'll mull it over and toast the late Frank Sacherer tonight. Here's a belated trip report for your entertainment:

The crack/chimney system is obvious from a distance, the first continuous weakness in the wall left of the fall. That's not to say you can't get lost. I think we used Powell's writeup from the Sierra Club Bulletin and had no trouble finding his route. But maybe it was also in the blue guide. (That's all you need, some 40 yr. old beta, right?)

Don't remember munge or trees or crummy rock, but memories of the last pitch overwrote whatever else happened that day. Mark Powell coined the name "Midget Chimney". Everyone wondered what he meant, because it's a flare with a 3" crack in the back. The midget would have to be 6" tall. Frank didn't tell me what was on his mind, I think he just suggested we do Bridalveil East. Just as well not to know, because I was awestruck when I saw the crack and realized we were working on his tick list of notorious problems.

Sacherer had a reputation for scant protection, but he was very diligent about this pitch - I think he got in 3 pieces, and it's not that long. There was a 3" bong at the very lip, and my palms are sweating now as I think of the effort it took to hang off a fist and beat that thing in. I was able to climb to that point, but took tension for several minutes to remove the bong. And then I dropped it and had to endure Sacherer's wrath until we finally found it in the talus that afternoon.

We each returned home with a bleeding wound in the same place on the back of the left hand. My scar is still visible. Pratt and Fredericks did the first repeat and had identical wounds in exactly the same place. There was tape in first aid kits then, but climbers were too stupid to use it.

I think Karl has got it right about leaving the route in obscurity. Leave a few word-of-mouth climbs around so Valley newcomers can get a taste of what it was like to have the Cathedral group all to yourself, with only some rumors about the route to steer you. A few suckers will go up just knowing there's a great swimming hole at the top.


Social climber
The West
Sep 15, 2004 - 04:11pm PT

I had a mini-epic on the Midget Chimney almost two decades ago with Walt Shipley.
It had been a rainy spring (fall)? In Yosemite, and none of us had gotten up as many routes as we’d wanted. Over Coffee in ‘the diseases’ Walt opened the green two ring guide (?) to the Bridalveil area.
“Here's what we should do,” he said with that look he used to get when hatching a plan.
“What's a midget chimney?” I pondered, looking over his shoulder.

“Just a hand crack,” said Werner a few minutes later in Camp.
“Lets take a three and a half,” said Walt, Werner sort of nodded nebulously.

Since we hadn't been getting enough exercise, and it looked like it might not rain for a while we decided to ride bikes instead of driving. Riding bikes with Walt was an adventure in itself. He rode on the far left of the right hand lane, any car that even thought of joining our lane was directed to the other lane with vigorous, vehement and frenzied hand gestures.
Just before taking the cutoff for Bridalveil we saw a friend’s van where they were racking for an el cap route.
“We better join the Colonel for a Beer.”
I remember thinking that that was a good idea because it would give the weather time to start raining and we could call this project safely off.
We had a beer, the weather stayed the same, we continued on.

The start of the route was not obvious, the sky was dark, but it wasn't raining yet.
“What d'ya think? Should we go for it?”
“Sure, we can always come down.” I didn't want to be the one to call it off.
I don’t remember the route that much but it kept on like that. We'd decide to go one pitch further in spite of the impending gloom, pull it off and reluctantly decide to do one more pitch.
Finally we were at the base of the Midget Chimney. Walt had called it early on and went for it. Things started twisting at this point.
It started to drizzle, just then Walt realized that the crack was pretty uniform and we should have brought more than one 3.5.
“damn that Werner, why didn't he say something?”
“We didn't ask.”
“what? Oh f*#k.” Just then the elastic waist of Walt’s cotton sweats snapped.
He continued up the pitch, making a move, sliding the piece and pulling up his pants. It only drizzled slightly. After more,muttering, climbing, pulling up his pants, twitching and complaining of the runout he summited.
We topped out and rappelled, unlocked our bikes and rode home through spats of rain. When we got back to camp the sky opened up and the deluge began in earnest. It rained solidly for days.
Every time I climbed with him was kind of like that. There was always that feeling of lots of laughs and just barely getting away with something.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Sep 15, 2004 - 07:31pm PT
That is so cool Karl! F*#kin snakes I tell ya, I'm way more scared of the snakes then the walls.

is this the notorius lummox of fame?

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 15, 2004 - 08:16pm PT
Thanks for the great retro trip reports guys. I might have to make another trip up there once I forget this last one.

No, this great and powerful Lummox (he's 6'4") lives in North Fork . There's a picture of him in my photo exhibition thread (climbing on Crest Jewel)

Peace and at least I didn't have to pound bongs into anything!

Russ Walling

Social climber
Bishop is DEAD, long live JT
Sep 15, 2004 - 11:09pm PT
Thanks for the great retro trip reports guys. I might have to make another trip up there once I forget this last one

Yep, great trip reports!!!!

Ok Karl, you and me... when I get in shape. We can add this and make a day of:
Crack of Doom
Crack of Despair
Worst Error
Fatal Mistake
Bridalveil East

I'll bring beer.
We may need Jay Bro too..... better bring even more beer.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2004 - 11:35pm PT
Hi Russ

If I have to wait for you to get in shape to do all those in the same day, then

Sure Dude! Count me in!

If the danger of us actually having to crank some reasonable collection of these in a weekend arises, then sure, let's get Jaybro to lead and we can use beer as mental tape to protect us from the awful reality.

Whenever I start talking smack about getting in shape, my girlfriends says

"Honey, you are in shape...Round is a shape!!"



Social climber
The West
Sep 17, 2004 - 01:06am PT
If you guys don't share the beer I'm not going.

Trad climber
where the climbin's good
Sep 17, 2005 - 01:34pm PT
I missed seeing this thread last summer since I wasn’t in Cali and wasn’t reading ST. For years I’ve thought that I ought to do this climb some fall when it is dry. Now I’m not sure if I’m more or less interested. Great thread.

Anyway, I don’t suppose you have been back up there yet, Karl?

Sep 17, 2005 - 02:14pm PT
Well Karl, I've done Brideviel East many times and it's one of my favorites, I've never had a problem and me and Merry did a variation once to the last pitch, some finger crack lie back thing.

Don't know the rating, but it was kinda ticky hard.

P.S. Just came back from El Cap and was going to retrieve a haul bag for a friend from the nose a few hundred feet up and the haul bag was jettisoned by someone. Everything got fu-cked up including their portaledge and cellphone.

Whoever did it ....Thanks pricks ……..

I need to read the dates on these threads, wtf

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Sep 17, 2005 - 02:59pm PT
Nice TRs by Karl, John & Jay. Back in my youth I wanted to climb all of the red book's recommended grade IVs, but this was one of two that I never got 'round to. Now I know what I missed.

Gym climber
Sep 17, 2005 - 06:08pm PT
Good laughs on this one.

"Don't know the rating, but it was kinda ticky hard."

Karl's "Freedom Free" technique quickly comes to mind.

:- k

Trad climber
Nov 16, 2007 - 08:14pm PT
Anybody done this lately. You know, the last fifteen years or so.
The water is low.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 31, 2008 - 06:10am PT

Maybe you can draw in a line where you climbed with the Lummox? (If you still remember):

My guess is a corner system right of Bridalveil East; maybe joining the Aqua var. in its bushy gully, and then continuing up above that instead of traversing?

See the Aqua var. trip report:
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