Trip ReportA Pair of Tuolumne Classics
This summer marks something of.a milestone for me. This is my 30th season as a climber. To celebrate that, I went to Yosemite with Andrew DeSimon, an old student who has now become a friend. Andrew has been climbing a couple of years, but had never climbed outside of the Gunks and the Delaware Water Gap.
The first 2 weeks of my summer passed with a week on the Appalachian Trail with my wife and our two youngest kids, and a week with just my wife and I in a mountain cabin in upstate New York. Andrew and I flew into San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon. It was interesting to land beside the fuselage of the plane that had crashed just a week before. We snagged our rental car and headed east on Highway 120.
A sign at the park entrance told us that every campsite in Yosemite was full. No problem, I assured Andrew. We got to the meadows around 10 pm and parked the car with all the others at the JMT trailhead. We could hear coyotes singing out in the meadows as we walked up to a level spot near the top of Pothole Dome for a star filled bivy.
Andrew's first view of Toulumne was at dawn the next day.
We stood in line and got a campsite for the week and headed back to Pothole to spend the rest of the day on the various top ropes. No, we didn't try Potluck, but we got every one of the other ones!
Next morning we were up early and on our way to:
We were the first folks after it that day, and were about halfway up before two parties emerged from the approach. One party were a couple who were simul-climbing and caught up to us while we ate and watched a marmot scamper around on some ledges. These two were representative of every climber we met on this trip: friendly, motivated, and enthusiastic. They chatted a bit, climbed through, and topped out 15 minutes ahead of us. The route was as fun as I remembered, and Andrew had a blast.
This was Andrew's first long route and his first real summit, so even though the descent was as much of a hot, thirsty drag as always, he was excited about all of it. When he was blown away by some of the big pines along the summit ridge, I knew where we had to go.
The next day we stopped for a walk through the sequoia grove on our way to the Valley. I knew better than to try to describe either the big trees or the Valley. The only references I could give that made any sense to him were buildings in New York City. "If you took three of the old Twin Towers, and stacked 'em on top of each other..." My only disappointment was the waterfalls. The drought was taking its toll, and hardly any water was coming over. Temps in the Valley were 95 and the walls were empty. We were glad to get back to the high country.
First light saw us at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. I had never done Cathedral, this was all new to me, too. The approach was beautiful. Not too steep, not too long, and through terrific country.
The route was amazing. We met Patrick Henner and his partner Ryan, and climbed near them the whole time. As we went to the Chimney, I got a great shot of Patrick on the 5.7 variation to the left.
He got a couple of us.
The route had not been crowded, but the top was a different story. A free soloist caught us on the summit, as did a couple from Ireland (it turned out that they were the other party from Tenaya). When we got down to the saddle we found that there were three teams ahead of us for Eichorn (including one that ha hiked all the way in just to do the north face route!). We decided to skip it, and headed down along with the Irish couple. A leisurely walk out still got us to the store in time for ice cream.
Not everything lives up to the hype that accompanies it, but the Cathedral route sure did. Great setting, interesting climbing, but never serious or difficult. It really is a route that begs to be climbed. There is a little of every type of climbing on it. If you haven't done it, you are missing a great experience.
We got over into the Mammoth Lakes area, as well as to the Mobil Station (where did the trapeze go?) and Mono Lake the next day. A day climbing at the Western Front and an afternoon relaxing at Tenaya Lake rounded out the trip. So, no radical link-ups or cutting edge routes, but a fun time and a nice way to celebrate 30 years in the steep. Back then I set the goal of becoming competent in every facet of climbing,and for the most part, I have achieved it. I've climbed walls, alpine routes, sport routes, high altitude peaks, boulders, long free routes, and free soloed. But this trip was a celebration of the enjoyment of being and climbing in beautiful and dramatic mountains.
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