Tuolumne Meadows Appreciation


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Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Dec 21, 2013 - 10:12am PT
Credit: StahlBro

Credit: StahlBro

Credit: StahlBro

beyond the sun
Dec 21, 2013 - 11:10am PT
One of the best / longest days I ever had was in the Meadows. It was downright magical.

Partner and I woke up early one Sunday, about 4 days into our 8 day trip, intending to climb Regular route on Fairview as a warm up, then walk through the forest to climb Oz, then after that - who knows?

Arriving at the base of RR at about 7:30am, we knew we would have to call an audible as there was a clusterf**k in progress with one party of 3 slowly making their way up pitch 1, and two more parties of 2 impatiently waiting at the base.

We walked around to the right and instead decided to jump on Lucky Streaks. I'd climbed it before, a year earlier. A bit cold over there, even in Late June and there was still a sizable wedge of snow at the base - and pretty much everywhere on that side of the dome.

Climbed LS (with the 10d variation) fairly easily. Then walked off and headed over to Oz. I'd never climbed this before but always wanted to. Feeling totally dialed in, I led and onsighted every pitch except for the final short 10a which my partner took. We'd briefly considered doing the gram traverse, but ended up opting not to.

The only hitch on Oz was my partner falling off following the traverse on pitch two and having some difficulty getting back on route from 6 feet below the crux. Him outweighing me by 25 lbs did nothing to help my attempts to assist hoisting him past the blank area he was marooned in. But, that was eventually sorted and we were rewarded with the famed dihedral. I expected that to feel harder than it did, but it went for both of us with almost no hesitation or thrutch at all.

We botched the descent and had to reverse a single rope rappel into nowhere off some slabs atop Mariuolumne dome (if memory serves, this was 16 years ago). Finally managed to get our asses down, which included several hundred feet of butt sliding down the still ample snow field on the final slope.

With plenty of time still left in the day (I think it was only about 1:30pm by this time) we decided to go back over to look at the Regular Route. Now, there were only a few parties above, starting at pitch 2.

We talked briefly and decided this would be the perfect time to try our hand at simul-climbing, what with the route getting easier and easier as you went. I led pitch 1 and as the rope came tight, my partner started climbing. We passed every other party on there, and only stopped twice to swap the lead as we ran out of gear. The whole thing took less than an hour. Neither one of us having had ever simul-ed before, we marveled at how quickly this made climbing easy ground go. But also stopped to reflect at how it might not be that much better than just free soloing under some circumstances.

On top, awash in endorphins and still with all kinds of daylight left (we were only a few days removed from the summer solstice) we decided to try and make a mad dash to Phobos/Demios and try and squeeze in one last classic.

We hurried off, piled into the car and drove to the cliff lot. The hike up to P/D is a fair bit more strenuous than the usual TM approach. Halfway into it, our buzz from climbing so much and in such nice style was suddenly replaced by a surprising weariness. The bonk was looming at our door! But we soldiered on and arrived at the base of Phobos starting to feel seriously knackered. A brief 20 minute rest / recharge / eat / hydrate period was just enough to give us back some juice, but we cut it short in order to avoid giving in to the temptation to say "meh, good enough... let's have a nap", and ambition won out over exhaustion. I racked up and somehow, managed to wriggle my way up what felt to me at the time to be the hardest 5.9 of my life. I was running on pure instinct by then. Most of my energy (along with a fair bit of technique) had evaporated by then.

We topped out just in time to lose the last of the actual daylight, then having neglected to bring headlamps on the route, had to navigate back to the base by braille and lots of squinting. The hike back down to the lot, by the dim illumination of the old school, weak ass petzl single incandescent bulb headlamps was a total comedy of stumbling, leg-cramping idiocy. We dubbed the state we were in "The place beyond pain".

We finally arrived back at camp some 15 hours after we left. We both stuffed ourselves to bursting, then skipped bothering with a campfire and wordlessly just retired to our tents for 13 hours of sleep. The next day became a rest day by default.

I'd always loved the Meadows, but that day cemented it as my favorite spot on planet earth to climb at. I doubt I'll ever have another day as satisfying as that, or as memorable.

Cheers to the Meadows. Just magical.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Jan 19, 2014 - 01:43pm PT
TM Bump

Credit: TMJesse
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