I was happy to squeeze in one more long day this week before winter takes over at the higher elevations and I'm relegated to playing in the snow or playing on rocks guarded by poison oak.
This time the plan was to try to put up a long moderate route in Tokopah Valley, the only problem was finding a partner who enjoys type 2 (bordering on 3) fun. Most people that accept my invitations only do so once. I choose to believe that it's because I plan miserable days, not because I am terrible to be around, but I guess that's yet to be determined.
A last minute conversation with a friend from SAR and I had a partner! He hadn't done many long leads, but I knew I his belay was trustworthy and he's fun to be around so my strict partner criteria was met.
The goal was the right side of Tokopah Wall, across the canyon from it's more famous sibling; The Watchtower. There's only one reported route on the whole thing and it's left of center so we had lots of room to explore.
After a 4am wake up, 1.5 hour drive and 1.7 mile walk to Tokopah Falls we were ready to bush whack up to the base.
There wasn't an obvious route so we used the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other method. It's kind of like the marmot that got it's head stuck in my chili can, just walk until you hit something, turn, walk and repeat.
When we reached the base about an hour after leaving the trail it was kind of low angle so we scrambled up and left to start the route a little higher and increase the odds of finishing before dark.
The left side of Tokopah Wall, across the gully, looks really fun. I need to try to find the only route there next year and maybe add a few so it's not so lonely. I think it's called Adrift and is 5.9.
The Watchtower loomed across the canyon. It gets a bad rap but I think the climbing on it is fun. Of course I think all climbs are great so I'm a bad judge. If I ever make a guidebook every climb is getting 10 stars!
The start of the route is perhaps the best 5 ft long hand crack anywhere. For real, I looked it up.
After 5 feet of crack pitch one had 150 more feet of broken ledges and corners. Great rock and views but dirty cracks.
Jonathan took pitch two. We thought it was gonna be short but he ended up traversing a whole rope length to the right to find a crack system that would get us past the big empty bulge above. We lugged a bolt kit along but were trying to avoid the scary inconvenience that is hand drilling on lead.
Ohhh man pitch 3 was fun! One of those hand cracks with holds next to it so you just smile and make dumb noises as you climb!
It ended on a nice little ledge big enough for two.
On pitch 4 the crack widened and turned into a nicely manicured strip of turf. Fortunately the rock to either side was clean and featured so it went well. The roof had solid cracks and big jugs so it was really cool.
I belayed above the tree and Jonathan took the 5th pitch up easier terrain to a giant ledge system that cut across the entire upper two thirds of the cliff.
The ledge was an awesome place for lunch. We enjoyed the break even more because our lack of sleep was starting to catch up to us. SAR call outs were setting our phones off all night. I wish 8-year olds from Tulare would get lost at a more reasonable hour! (half the calls were to start and expand searches and the other half were to report that she was found so don't worry, she's ok and I'm not a heartless person).
I love big ledges! Belaying is just as fun as climbing if I have a comfy ledge high off the deck with a heavenly view.
The sixth pitch was really good. A steep hand crack down low with varied climbing up into a huge corner and wide crack. The last 20 feet got grassy and wet, but again the surrounding rock saved the day so my little slips didn't turn into big falls.
I was ready for a nap.
The day was getting long, Jonathan was ready to stage a mutiny.
The seventh pitch was almost all 4" crack in a large dihedral. Great climbing except that a snow patch on top created a stream down the whole thing and made easy climbing a little more spicy!
After seven fun pitches in the sun we were on top exchanging high fives. It was a beautiful sunset! You know those times when it's like, "hey, that sunset is rad!" Then it's, "Oh crap, the sun is setting, let's go!"
Joke was on me on the nearly 2000 ft descent. I had been bagging on Jonathan for making us carry his giant snow boots in the pack all day and then my feet got soaked while he comfortably strode along. The irony!
About halfway down is when the day started getting really long. Neither one of us were familiar with the descent and once it got dark we had to just guess our way through the bushes. This is when Jonathan said he wasn't coming on one of these trips with me ever again :) I don't consider it bush whacking unless you have to crawl or swim over the top of bushes, and we definitely had to bush whack!
All said and done we had a great day. Now that Jonathans belly is full and muscles are rested he's really happy he came along for his first (and not last) FA! Days like that are why I climb. There's nothing like walking up to the base of a rock and trying to get to the top with nothing but your gear, brain, and a friend.
We named the route "Snow Boots" and agreed that it probably goes at 5.8 when it's dry and you're not tired. It was hard to tell when we were exhausted and I was leading on wet rock, but 5.8 is probably fair (just remember I don't do many climbs that have a good consensus so I'm bad at calling correct ratings). 14 hours after we started we were back in the car.
There's lots of other stuff in that valley that I'll keep under wraps until I get a few things finished, but if anyone is ever up to explore let me know and come along next season!
Happy belated thanksgiving!