TR - Cookie Cliff (Yosemite) March 1, 2008


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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 2, 2008 - 10:33pm PT
I pulled a U-turn into the El Portal gas station, and my heart sank. Three simple words scribbled on the white paper sign covering the payphone spelled disaster for my weekend: Out of Service. No way to reach my climbing partner. From now on, I'd figure out the Where and When with my would-be partner before a pre-dawn start and driving a couple hundred miles.

It was an exceptionally beautiful morning, the first time I had seen Highway 140 in the daylight. Green rippled hills in the pastureland gave way to fiery orange slaterock in crisp straight lines, as the road slowly climbs alongside the river. Snowmelt tumbled over white polished riverstones, and light green buds were appearing at the tips of brush and trees. The morning sun played on all in the way that only a winter sun can do, making all look warm and cool at the same time. It was glorious. But I still didn't have a climbing partner for the weekend.

And then the gods of all religions joined forces, creating a circumstance of such divine providence that it rivaled celestial creation and the whisper of life. Just at that moment, with guidebook in hand and head half-craned out the window, I pulled into the parking lot at Arch rock for my first ever gander. And hey! that guy standing over by the restrooms is Steve! (aka supertopo SPYork) Not my partner for the weekend, but I've climbed with spyork twice he's a welcome site. Then out come Gary and Ed Hartouni, rounding out the off-width rat-pack. I've never seen them in person, but modern science and supertopo make that irrelevant. One minute later and I would have missed them. I can hardly believe my good fortune, and marvel at the mysterious ways in which cosmic serendipity places us exactly where and when we're supposed to be. I should remember that more often when things appear to be going badly.

I tag along with them to Cookie Cliff, happy to be heading toward whatever is on their mind. We pull up to Elevator Shaft, and the first lead is all about Steve. Unless you've watched a video of Steve posted over at, most of you won't know what I'm talking about. But I can assure you that the first time watching him climb is shocking. So's the second and third. It's not something you should bring small children to witness unless you want them to become wizened and calloused to the world at a tender young age. He cusses something fierce. And my heart hurts from the adrenaline jolts every time he lets out that blood-curdling scream signaling his imminent peel and crash... but somehow he pulls through.

Meanwhile I'm over to the left sizing up Outer Limits, deciding if my cajones are big enough to on-site lead this one. Not yet. But after I get on toprope and cruise it, I realize that my cajones are the only missing ingredient. Next time I'll be bolder. This is a climb I can come back to again and again... absolutely awesome hand and finger crack, steep, but very doable with plenty of rests.

Another local guy named Gary shows up to solo on a traxion, and instead hops on our ready toprope. While we're all hanging out enjoying the day, along come Bob and Zander! So now it's turned into a full-blown NorCal Chapter of Supertopo offwidth hounds. Zander can't sit still long enough to wait for a route to open up, so he and Bob go around the corner for Meat Grinder. And after everyone else has been on Outer Limits, there's too much Offwidth Mojo in the air to avoid. I ask for takers on Vendetta, and get a whole lotta silence, and then someone reminds me that was supposed to be on Sunday according to my published agenda.

But Steve brought these damn Valley Giants that could keep a battlecruiser anchored in a Category 5 hurricane. We can't let that go to waste. So over to Left Side of Cookie we head. And it's all my lead. We skipped the 5.9 chimney first pitch and traversed across the 3rd class trail. That's a definite DFU traverse, makes you pay attention with a full pack on. So on to the gory details. Well, there's not much to tell that hasn't been told a thousand times. Grunting, moaning, panting chest, forehead plastered to the rock in sweaty defeat. And that was the first five feet. So I flailed about like that for a while, hung a coupla times on the valley giant six feet off the ground. Then I got it together, pushed that giant ahead of me through to the top of the pod. After some master ninja moves seldom seen, I heaved into the final lieback and topped out with a strong urge to vomit. It turned out to be a good OW day, everyone saw the top.

Evening saw us all assembled on the grass near the cars, downing beers (or Odwalla in my case), swapping snacks, and telling tall tales of old climbs. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful mellow day.

But it wouldn't be a nutjob story if there wasn't some element of poor planning or foolhardy thinking that leads to more adventure than I bargained for. As the gang piled into their cars for the trip back to the bay, my thoughts returned to something I noted on the morning drive in. Long about Manteca, I realized that I forgot my sleeping bag. So I'd be spending the night in my bivy sack wearing every bit of clothing in my car that would fit. Not a big deal in summer, but it was still pretty cold here. And then I'd have to stir up a partner for the next day, with no cellphone reception, no supertopo, no mobile gmail, no blackberry email. Oh, the horror!

Again fate saved me from myself. I took the civilized route and ate an expensive dinner at the motel in El Portal, and finally found a payphone. I called home to see how things were going, and turns out my daughter had a fever all day and my wife needed a break. I got enough grunts out of my system on Left Side of Cookie, so it wasn't the end of the world for me to head back early. By 11pm, I was putting a cool washcloth on my daughter's hot forehead and locking eyes with my beautiful smiling wife.

I definitely turn into a pain in the @ss if I don't log my hours outside. To borrow a line from the Shining, "All work and no play makes nutjob a dull boy." But heck it just takes a little bit of that Yosemite magic to make everything else in life seem better, make my wife more beautiful, make my kids funner to play with, and keep a smile on my face.

God bless y'all believers, may random chance happen to work in the favor of y'all atheists, and may the agnostics receive a bit of both.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Mar 2, 2008 - 10:43pm PT
hahaha "And that was the first five feet." Nice one!

Them BAWC guys are tops, wide stance and all in the Arch Rock head!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:04pm PT
I dropped my film off for processing on my way out of town, be back in the Bay Area on Wed evening... post some pix on Thursday.

Recall that we got SPANKED last year when we went to look at Cookie, Left. Somehow, the place was rocking and no one wanted to voyage up Vendetta on Saturday. I'm not sure what was on the agenda, actually, but not that.

Yes, the cosmic forces seemed to bring us together. nutjob was welcome to join up with the BAWC for a sesh at the Cookie. spyork wanted some chimney, so we offered up Elevator Shaft 5.8, which is Kick Ass steep, and the top part is wet this time of year, but it's chimney... a great lead and then Gary goes up, and lowers to the anchor at the top of Outer Limits which we set up...

I'll probably post more details later about the climb (over on WideFetish) nutjob went right side in on the Cookie Left 5.10a off width... he had a real tussle but made it to the top. He was "in the zone" at the top, that is, he was ready to chuck his cookies, fortunately he didn't. Gary went left side in and cruised into the pod only to face the problem of last year, how to finish left side in. spyork sort of kept flipping left/right side in... taking a few hangs, and makes it to the top.

I decided to give it a go with right side in... and I think that's the ticket! The crux moves down with right side in, just below the pod. But there are lots of good features you can use with your right hand inside the crack. Patience, and getting a good inside leg lock, then driving off your outside heel-toe while gripping one of those inside holds is the the way to go. At some point my right ankle is bleeding (my Kaukulators were waiting for me at home, just arrived from Barry's in the mail) and I couldn't quite keep setting the inside leg... but I did get into the pod after a breather. Once in the pod, it's really a squeeze chimney to the top of the pod with a great right arm-bar, then a delicate maneuver into a layback, which finishes that little problem off!

I was amazed at how much less energy was expended....


Mar 2, 2008 - 11:07pm PT
Thanks Ed.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:32pm PT
ok wernr
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:34pm PT
Thanks for this recent, friendly tale! Brought me back for awhile.


Trad climber
Rancho Cucamonga
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:35pm PT
I just got off the phone making plans with my friend scott to climb in the valley at the end of the month. He just told me he did Vendetta today (Sunday) and that we should do it when I come up. We also are going to climb Entrance Exam and the Midterm. Perhaps Steck Salathe. But it may be wet. We may just wait on that one until summer? Seeing this post about O/w, Chimneys is a good sign. Thanks for this post I can't wait to get to the valley! Armando

Social climber
St. Looney
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:55pm PT
Such fun and what a great read. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Can't wait to see the photos. I love reading about all this climbing here on the taco!
Gary Carpenter

SF Bay Area
Mar 3, 2008 - 12:03am PT
Steve’s new Valley Giants

Elevator Shaft

Bob & Zander on Meat Grinder

Ed on Cookie Left

Left to Right: Bob, Zander, Ed, Steve & Nutjob


Social climber
The West
Mar 3, 2008 - 01:48am PT
Man! Wish I hadn't had to sit that one out!

Trad climber
Mar 3, 2008 - 11:06am PT
Bob and I were going to do Enigma. We got to the top of the first pitch.

Looking up the first pitch
You can look accross the 5.4 slab and see the base of the flare. It was running with water. We decided that was a little too much adventure. We went around to look at Outer Limits and lo and behold the whole darn gang! We went around the corner to Meat Grinder where we met a nice woman, Janet, who was doing some soloing. We watched her fire Meat Grinder and then Bob led the first pitch. I climbed it completely differently then he did so there are lots of possibilities in the climb.

Meat Grinder first pitch.

The guys were now down on Cookie Left so Bob led P1 of Outer Limits.

This is a really cool climb. Bob did a nice job on Crack A Go Go on top rope and another good day at the cookie was done. We retired to eat, drink and make great plans with the gang.


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Mar 3, 2008 - 11:14am PT
Good times, guys! Glad thingss worked out for you, Nutjob.

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Mar 3, 2008 - 11:23am PT
Here is my trip report, Jay!

Malibu, a Cheetah shirt
Mar 3, 2008 - 11:45am PT
"After some master ninja moves seldom seen, I heaved into the final lieback and topped out with a strong urge to vomit."

Nutjob--Hysterical TR! Even without the visual stimulation of photos, I was laughing and gripped the entire time.

I think I might even have virtual bruises and abrasions, too...

Mucho grasses!

Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Mar 3, 2008 - 11:48am PT
I saw you guys post- climb. We did Entrance Exam. Looks like fun (suffering= fun).

More TR coming.

the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Mar 3, 2008 - 12:01pm PT
Good Stuff!

Trad climber
El Portal, CA
Mar 3, 2008 - 12:15pm PT
Nice TR! What's the status of the fixed lines at Cookie?

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Mar 3, 2008 - 12:21pm PT
Fixed lines looked good on the one to the left of Outer limits. Line was in good shape.

There was a line on Cookie Monster (I think). One over by Meat Grinder too.

Mar 3, 2008 - 12:37pm PT
"So now it's turned into a full-blown NorCal Chapter of Supertopo offwidth hounds. ,,,,,there's too much Offwidth Mojo in the air to avoid.'

Pretty classic. Did anyone attempt the uber-classic line left of meatgrinder, or are the valley giants the only size you offwidth freaks allow on the rack?

Nice TR.
Hardly Visible

Port Angeles
Mar 3, 2008 - 02:54pm PT
Damn I'm jealous. Way to go guys.
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