Trip ReportA Wet Salathe in 2011
With family and work obligations, Tim and I don’t have a lot of time to hang out in the Valley. So the goal is always to fit in as much fun as possible from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Since climbing is more fun than sleep, this usually means that we climb non-stop from Saturday morning until Sunday morning when we return home.
A few years ago, climbing anything after the Salathe-in-a-day was unthinkable. Tim and I once spent 20 hours on the route, sprinted down to the car and hammered to the airport where I jumped on the plane 1 minute before the doors were closed.
But after a few link ups, like Triple Direct and the Nose, Lurking Fear and the Nose, and the double Nose, the Salathe-Nose link up started to seem like a brilliant idea. It would be well over a vertical mile of some of the best climbing we could imagine anywhere in the world.
The 2011 Spring season might go down as the wettest on record in the Valley. With our El Cap addiction at full tilt, this of course meant it was the perfect time to hone our wet rock climbing skills.
It was early June 2011 and after some spring runs up the wet Big Stone in between storms, Tim and I were determined to climb the Salathe with hopes of linking the Nose afterwards.
After 12 hours of travel from Colorado with my family, I met Tim at the bridge that Thursday evening to get some route conditions info. Tim had just pulled one of his typical 80 hour work weeks with commensurate lack of sleep, but in typical style, would only comment that he was “feeling 100%!”
We spoke to Eric. “Heard you just climbed the Salathe Eric, how was it? “Wet.” What do you mean wet? "Wet". How about the upper part? "Wet". The middle? "Wet". “But it is June.” “It’s wet.”
I really had my heart set on the Salathe. Maybe Eric wasn't a good source. It had been a full 24 hours since Eric was on the wall and he only seemed to have one word in his vocabulary: “wet.” Maybe in the last 24 hours conditions went from wet to dry during the wettest season in years on a route that is a known watercourse?
Since the waterfalls on the Salathe seemed small as seen through the binoculars, the next storm wasn't coming for 24 hours and people were claiming the Salathe just couldn't be climbed in a day under current conditions, we made the only logical choice. We moved up our El Cap start time to 1am from the normal 7am.
Since I was spending $240 per night for the serenity of the Lodge, we were certain to get a solid 4 hours of sleep before our alarm went off at midnight. We got 2. Lodge security thought we'd like to know the lights were on in our car. Only it wasn't our car.
We started the Salathe at 1:15am and it was not exactly our smoothest ascent. My brain was foggy and I was slipping everywhere on both wet and dry rock. We counted at least ten very wet pitches of the 30 something on the route. The sewer pitch was literally a waterfall. There were plants and grasses everywhere on the route. It felt like we were swimming more than climbing. I nearly took a 40'er when my foot slipped on some grass or water or maybe it was both. Tim did take a 40' fall when a cam popped.
The clouds rolled in before noon, preventing us from seeing the sun and the valley from hitting the forecasted 60. It felt more like 45 and we got cold. My wife, Jen, said it was the coldest day of the trip, which is saying something considering it rained the rest of the time.
We topped out in 17 hours at 6pm for our 5th ascent. That's a full 2 hours longer than the first time we climbed it 2007. With an approaching very major storm and enough wet climbing to last us a while, the Nose was given due consideration. A call was made to Jen’s parents in Ventura, who said it was raining as hard as they’ve seen it rain. So Gortex jackets were discussed along with the wind sheltered aspect of the Nose. But somehow we made it out of the gravitational tractor beam of El Cap and its mind warping effects. The Salathe + Nose would have to wait for another day.
Next Storm Rolling In
The rest of the weekend was a ton of fun. It rained. It rained some more. It continued raining. The campgrounds emptied out, leaving a few RVs and over half the campsites open on a June weekend. My daughter Amelia, Jen, my Dad and I went on an 8 mile hike up the 4mile trail. Later in the afternoon Amelia, Jen and I went to the stables, walking another 2.5 to get there. Amelia was the fastest in the group. That night we listened to Shelton Johnson speak; his book Gloryland is a good read.
The next day was the highlight of the trip for my daughter: horseback riding in perfect conditions. There were only 5 other riders besides us, the air was a cool and pleasant 45 degrees and the rain had eliminated the dust. Clouds were passing over the Column and Half Dome, making it feel like winter. With water rushing everywhere, there were waterfalls we had never seen and may never see again, and snow at the rim of the valley from the prior nights storm. Did I mention it was June?
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