Six days in the Valley - Yosemite/Tuolumne TR


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Sport climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 15, 2007 - 05:39pm PT
uh...hold on...
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Jun 15, 2007 - 05:41pm PT

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 15, 2007 - 05:44pm PT
uh, waiting...

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 15, 2007 - 06:07pm PT
Sorry...I'm NOT very techy - hope this works!

Note: This trip report is actually a few weeks late. That’s how long it took for me to deal with sorting pictures, gathering my thoughts, and catching up to the real world!

Being my first trip to Yosemite this season, I looked forward to May 31st with a great deal of excitement. This trip took a little more planning and coordination than most. Two of my friends, Eunice and Corey were going to be in the Valley at different times. I had originally planned to be in Yosemite with Eunice, (a.k.a. Eunibomber), but then discovered that Corey had to be down there for an assignment on Thursday evening. Since it was the end of the school year, and I had nothing but time, I arranged to hitch a ride down to the Valley with Corey, and ride back with Eunice.

Corey picked me up late morning in his brand new car! His pearly white Subaru glowed with virgin goodness, and with barely a hundred miles on the odometer she was primed and ready for a weekend of lightly abusive fun. Corey packed the car with the usual camping and climbing gear, goodies from Trader Joe’s, equipment for work, and a veritable library of Supertopo guides. With great tunes jamming from our ipods and an optimistic sun warming our heads through the sunroof, we made great time to Yosemite.

Corey’s assignment for Thursday was to shoot Project Bandaloop on the Leaning Towers. Project Bandaloop is a dance company that performs stunning aerial choreographies using rappel systems. You can find more information on their website website, along with beautiful videos and pictures:

The hike to the Leaning Towers took slightly longer than expected. Not only is Corey a world-class photographer, he has an unparalleled gift for straying off obvious trails. This dubious talent gave us the opportunity to circumnavigate much of the base of Leaning Towers before finally reaching our destination. Upon arrival, Corey promptly snapped into work mode and jumared above the Bandaloop dancers with his equipment. Needless to say, he got some spectacular photos.

He even let me use one of his cameras from a different angle. The difference between someone who gets paid to take pictures, versus someone who just pushes a button is clear…and I’m okay with it.

Friday morning, we discussed the day’s plans over breakfast, at a lookout point which offered us a stunning view of the valley.

After lugging equipment around the day before, we were both ready to leave the cameras in the car and plan a casual day of craiggin’ at the foot of El Cap. Plus, I had just ordered a rack (finally!!!) and Corey felt that this would be a gentle introduction to crack climbing. I soon realized that notion is akin to a “gentle introduction to prison sex”. Corey rope-gunned La Cosita Left, Little John Left, and Sacherer Cracker, and then proceeded to belay/pull me up. There is just no getting around it. Crack climbing is painful, awkward, and if you don’t do it often, you leave a lot of self-respect behind!

Of all the climbs we did, Sacherer Cracker was the most challenging. It was true Yosemite Crack – smooth and featureless with a nauseatingly scary off-width right at the end. In principle, we were in Yosemite to climb crack, and therefore we both tried to climb without laying back. I was able to practice jamming technique, and even got some jams that were good enough to bear weight. But by the time we rappelled down, we both were completely worked. To add insult to injury, our rope got stuck in a crevice at the end of the day. We spent almost an hour cajoling the errant rope down to the ground with no success. Corey had another rope in the car, but neither of us wanted to climb Sacherer Cracker again. So I ripped out a page from the back of my Supertopo and wrote this note:

Luckily, we ran into a good-looking couple on the hike down that just happened to be hiking toward Sacherer Cracker. We explained our situation, and they offered to toss our rope down for us. We followed them back to Sacherer Cracker, our inner sadists ready to watch other climbers suffer through the off-width. But to our wry amusement, both climbers floated up the route by eschewing jamming technique and lying back the entire climb!

Saturday. Eunice was scheduled to arrive late this night with two friends. Corey and I decided it would be a good idea to escape the heat and the mosquitoes of Yosemite and spend the rest of the trip in Tuolumne. We drove to Tuolumne to secure a campsite for our group, and chose a quite site next to a peaceful lake. We couldn’t have asked for a better view.

We decided to make this short multi-pitch day. It was already 1 in the afternoon, and we didn’t want to do a crazy 12-pitch climb. We were somewhat limited to climbing on the domes on the north side of road, since everything else was seeping wet. And although I struggled on Sacherer Cracker (5.10a) the day before, I was ready for a challenging day. With all of that in mind, we chose to tackle Crescent Arch.

Supertopo says that Crescent Arch is “…one of the best routes in Truolomne. From Highway 120, it’s hard not to gawk at the elegant arc of large dihedrals and roofs that dominate the face.” Indeed, it is a line that appeals strongly to one’s sense of aesthetics.

(Thanks Todd, for the photo!)

Climbing it is another matter. Three pitches of awkward left-facing, hand-jamming, butt-scumming silliness – there is nothing pretty about getting up this route. I was beginning to wonder if I had just wasted a whoooole lot of money on a brand new rack. The sun was just beginning to set as we were on our last pitch, and we got to the top of Daff Dome in the dark. And the hike out is no joke either – a frightening 5.6 down climb on slabby crack to ancient (yet bomber) rap anchors.

Yet interestingly enough, misery can be so darned invigorating! I could hardly sleep that night, and stayed for hours up chatting with Corey about our day’s adventures. Life is so easy when one isn’t climbing – things are predictable, safe, and comfortable. Climbing takes me out of this comfort zone and puts me in situations where I have to be ultra-aware of mistakes that can lead to injury, or even death! For some odd reason, this makes me feel more alive.

Eunice arrived late Saturday night with her two friends Shekabe and Shinie (pronounced like “shimmy” but with an “n”). Sunday morning was like Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to wake up and greet the new arrivals. Shekabe was up too and we watched the sun rise over our camp. He brought his digital point-and-shoot, and caught countless memorable moments from the trip, turning this trip report into a pictoral diary.

Eunice in the morning was my favorite view of all. Shekabe thought he packed a 5-person tent, but it turned out to be a double. Eunice offered to sleep outside, and woke up with her usual good-natured smile.

Slowly, everybody began to rouse and our camp was awake!

It seemed appropriate to celebrate the morning by making breakfast. Everybody brought so much produce, I decided to make breakfast burritos. We set to work, dicing up tomatos, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, cilantro, and onions, and avocados.

Shinie warms up in the sun as I sautee veggies.

Eunice is impressed with my one-handed egg cracking technique.

Shekabe supervises me with a critical eye on as I cook perfectly-fluffed eggs. Thus began a friendly rivalry that would last throughout the weekend between Iron Chef Afghanistan and Iron Chef Taiwan.

The best damned breakfast in the campsite is served! We even had salsa and Tapatio sauce to add a little spice to our breakfast burritos.

With full bellies and light hearts, we headed to Low Profile Dome. We noted the ethnic makeup of our group. Shinie and I are both Taiwanese, Eunice is Korean, and Shekabe is from Afghanistan, which is kind of Asian…so we dubbed ourselves the A-team!

Corey, being our ropegun, was granted an honorary membership into the A-team.

I decided that I was ready to get on the sharp end today and racked up to lead Golfer’s Route, 5.7R. It was the R-rating that did it for me. Runouts make life so exciting! Eunice had lost a #4 on Surrealistic Pillar the previous week, and I asked her if she wanted me to take her new one and place it so she could feel better about having to buy it!"

I lead the route, didn’t die, and belayed Eunice up to the anchor.

We tied two ropes together with a European death knot. Together, we rappelled down what seemed to be the world’s tallest toprope.

…and then I fell asleep. (Hey, climbing is HARD!)

I woke up to the din of people preparing to climb. I noticed that Shinie was having a hard time getting her knot to stay on her chalk bag cord, and I suggested she try a square knot.

However, I was unable to tie it in reverse, so I had to put her in this position to tie the knot! (That’s Corey in the background, wishing he could have a square knot tying lesson!)

Shekabe wanted a square knot too. It took several tries to learn how to tie the knot, and I thought he was a painfully slow learner…

…until I caught on to his game!

Okay, back to the climbing. Shekabe studies his first climb…

And then floats up with style!

Shinie has the least experience of all of us. She’s only been climbing for a few months, and this was her first time outside.

However, she kicked ASS! She got up Darth Vader’s Revenge, 5.10a with no problem, and successfully negotiated the tricky micro-crimps in Orange Man, 5.10c.

After Low Profile Dome, it was once again time for business. Corey got a last-minute call to do a shoot, and convinced me to be his subject. The shoot involved taking 12 shots in a panoramic scene, and joining the shots into one seamless image. He decided that East Cottage Dome would be the perfect location for this type of shot.

We sat around, ready to take orders.

Eunice is quickly becoming one of my favorite faces to see when I look down on lead. She attentive, knowledgeable, and positive, and knows just how to calm me down when I’m sketched.

East Cottage Dome has tiny chicken heads and tiny positive edges. This was great news to me after two days of crack!


The final image required me to climb to a certain position…

…and then hold very very still as Corey shot the scenery all around me.

And they call this work?

Everybody was patient and positive through the whole process.

Shinie, with her sweet smile.

Shekabe takes a nap in the sun.

And I pretend I’m in Bandaloop!

At the end of the shoot, I’m allowed to finish the climb.

This really is a stunning wall, and it’s too bad it’s not in the Supertopo guide. Does anybody recognize the route that I’m on?

The amazing thing about Corey is that he can’t help but see life as a photograph. As we were hiking out the only thing on our minds were cold beers and a warm car. But somehow Corey was able to get this one last incredible shot for the day.

A full day of climbing brought all of us closer together, and we woke up with a sense of newfound camaraderie.

We ate breakfast sans Corey, who woke up at 4am to drive to Mammoth and send off pictures from the East Cottage Dome shoot. The plan was to split up. Shekabe and Shinie were going to go on a hike, and Eunice, Corey and I would do a multi-pitch route. We hung around camp waiting for Corey to get back. It was a slow, lazy morning, and after five days without showering, I felt an uncontrollable need to be girly. I convinced Shinie to come into my tent and let me do her makeup.

MSR beauty salon!

NOW she’s ready for a hike!

Shekabe and Shinie go on their hike, leaving me and Eunice to decide what to climb. After my initial experience with crack climbing, I would have been happy sticking to face climbs for the rest of the trip. However, I knew that Eunice wasn’t here to crimp on face, so we decided that West Crack, on Daff Dome would be the perfect mix of everything we liked.

As we read the description of the climb we were delighted to learn how Daff Dome got its name! I won’t spoil it here, though – you’ll have to buy the book!

Corey arrived just after lunch and we left for Daff Dome. Neither of the ladies wanted to lead the first pitch, so we had Corey put it up for us. It was a really windy day, which made a mellow 5.8 quite disconcerting. To make matters worse, THIS happened as I was climbing the first pitch!

Dang it – I should have used a square knot!

We study the topo and decide that I should lead the second pitch, which is an off-width with many features.

The start was really scary – a bulging roof with left jugs that were juuuust out of reach for the three of us. The rest of the pitch was super mellow, but exposed. The wind had picked up, which made things even more exciting!

Eunice lead the next pitch. It was perhaps the most beautiful pitch on the climb – a sustained finger that sucks up pro. We made great time on all of the pitches. Both Eunice and Corey are knowledgeable and efficient. And what I lack in speed and experience, I make up for by not placing gear! It was so cold that the only thing to do was to climb as quickly as we could! We were pretty happy to get to the top of Daff Dome!

My favorite partners, posing for me.

We were so cold hiking down the dome across from Fairview that we did it in our climbing shoes, rather than change into our flops.

It was still light, so I figured the descent Corey and I did would be less terrifying. Instead, it was even scarier, because we could see the steepness of our down-climb and the length of our potential fall! At one point, Eunice’s foot slipped while she was side-pulling the down climb crack, and I thought I was going to choke on my stomach!

Finally, we got to the first set of rappel anchors, rigged up a double rappel with another Euro-death knot, and Eunice and I rappelled all the way to the base of Daff Dome. As we waited for Corey to join us, we huddled in a cave for warmth. This is the amusing sight that greeted Corey as he rappelled to the ground. Brrrr!

We scurried back to camp. Shekabe and Shinie were huddled in their tent, hiding from the wind and the cold. Nobody was motivated to cook, so we drove to Lee Vining for a debaucherous night of Jaeger shots, ribs, beer, and twangy country music.

Most of us woke up still drunk on Tuesday morning. The sky was covered in foreboding clouds and the wind hadn’t died down much from the night before. We packed our cars with mixed emotions. The trip was full of too many fun moments to fit in one trip report, and I think that each of us felt like we could have easily stayed in Yosemite/Tuolumne for another week! But I was also ready to go home and deal with reality – bills, work, cleaning the house, etc. And I missed my cat.

I feel lucky to have spent six days with people that I new consider my good friends. I am positive that this will not be the last time Yosemite for any of us. But it was a great first time for all of us.


Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 15, 2007 - 06:09pm PT
yaaaaay! it worked?

i beat the computer!

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
Jun 15, 2007 - 08:11pm PT
Nice TR and some really nice pics!

Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Jun 15, 2007 - 08:27pm PT
Wow - this has to be the mother of all trip reports.

Awesome pics, awesome climbs, good times!

-and the A Team™ girls are very cute, indeed.

Ice climber
Jun 15, 2007 - 08:28pm PT
Woohoo ! Awesome fun.
Jude Bischoff

Ice climber
Palm Springs
Jun 15, 2007 - 08:33pm PT
Great Job, do you have more pics of the dancers? Art on the rock, I loved that. I still have not negotiated the picture TR thing.

Social climber
Jun 15, 2007 - 08:33pm PT
Nice Kuan! Worth the wait.

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 15, 2007 - 08:39pm PT
Hey Jude,

Don't be afraid
Check out their website
More pics are better!
And remember to let the pictures sink in
Mine aren't so bad
But theirs are better

john hansen

Jun 15, 2007 - 10:31pm PT
Great TR and pics. Can't wait to see the one he spliced together,, can you post it?

Trad climber
Hollywood, CA
Jun 15, 2007 - 10:32pm PT
Nicely done Kuan. One of the more engaging trip reports I've read in awhile. Your friends look like a happy bunch.

And congrats on Cottage Dome leading. Those knobs are schweet! Lucky you having a professional photog along to get such great shots. Those could be in magazines.

Social climber
Hercules, CA
Jun 15, 2007 - 10:51pm PT
Great TR!

Those are great pics. Thanks for sharing.


Oakland: what's not to love?
Jun 15, 2007 - 11:00pm PT

Muy bien! Thanks for posting that. Loved the 5th and 6th pictures in the East Cottage Dome series - hats off to the photographer, for the skills.

San Fran Cisco
Jun 16, 2007 - 12:24am PT
what a fun trip.

i want a breakfast burrito.

Trad climber
Hollywood, CA
Jun 16, 2007 - 01:56am PT
BTW I just watched the youtube video you posted. "Run out brings the fun out"??!!! You're my new friggin hero kuan. That's hilarious.

But seriously, your thread was pretty inspiring. I'm about to head out the door for a long drive with a big weekend that I was actually rather dreading but all the smiles and positivity in your TR is slowly changing my mind from dread to pumped. Well, I'm still probably going to get my ass handed to me and my hands ground to meat, but I gotta remember it's all supposed to be done with a SMILE! Thanks again for an inspiring TR.

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Jun 16, 2007 - 01:01pm PT
nice TR...I think Crescent Arch is the worst route in the meadows...JMO.


Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Jun 16, 2007 - 05:53pm PT
one of the nicest threads ever - well done!

really like how you keep things in perspective with plenty of friends, fun and the camp thing -very nice Kuan - you're a pro
J. Werlin

Jun 16, 2007 - 08:59pm PT

definitely an ALLSTAR TR! From Bandaloop to ribs in Lee Vining (at the Mobile?). Thanks for making the effort to post and share--well done.
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