Snake Dike 5.7 R
Trip ReportA long long day on the Snake Dike
I meant to write this shortly after we got back, but never got around to it. So here it goes...
My buddy Mose and I had talked about doing Snake Dike for a long time, but hadn't been able to get around to doing it. This would be Mose's last big climb before his kids would enter this world. Mose and I are a great team and we always leave Yosemite having pushed ourselves a little harder, going bigger, and with smiles and laughs. However, after this trip, we would be too exhausted to realize what we had achieved for ourselves.
It was around 0400, November 12, 2010 when I drove across Fresno to pick up Mose. When I arrived he was already ready to rock as usual. We headed up Hwy 41, we were psyched, and I was being careful not to get pulled over again like our last trip to Yosemite. Haha.
We arrived in the Valley around 0630. We only saw 1 person as we drove to the Happy Isles parking area. As we were racking up, I was debating on whether to bring my extra heavy weight fleece. I am SO glad I did! We took the horse poop trail up and crossed small areas of snow. The climbing ranger had told Mose that the route was clear of snow and we wouldn't need crampons or axes (big mistake). We crossed some ice just before dropping down to Nevada Falls. In doing so, I took the first fall of the trip. I was okay though. The approach was free of snow from where we left the Muir Trail. We made good time and reached the start around 1130.
Mose led the first pitch while I was trying to stay warm. It was a gorgeous day, but the wind was chilly. There was not a soul around. When I got up to the 1st belay, I donned my balaclava to spare myself any wind burn. I wasn't feeling up for being on the sharp end, so Mose took the lead for the rest of the climb. Mose always has a stronger head for leading than I do.
We reached the top of the route about 4 hours later and dreaded the never ending 3rd class slabs forever and ever. We summited at sunset. That is when I was so glad that I brought my heavy fleece. We packed up our gear, took a few pictures, but I still couldn't stop blinking in every picture. Anyways, time to get down. Now the adventure begins...
I led the way down since I am very familiar with Half Dome and the HD trail. This was my 7th time on Half Dome. It took me a few minutes to find the cables under the snow. Fortunately, I found a short stake where the cables were at. To our dismay, they were frozen in an inch of ice in places. We were clipped in at 2 points: a daisy and a prussik. I led the way down and had to heave on the cables to break them out of the ice. Then I used my daisy `biner to clean the ice off the cables in order for the prussik to slide down. After the first slip and fall onto my left hip, I continued down by sliding down the veneer of ice. My left hip was numb and my pants were frozen. Meanwhile, we spotted a lone headlamp down in Little Yosemite Valley aiming straight at us. Probably thought we were insane! I thought about rapping, but decided not to for a few reasons. First, I didn't want to be pulling the rope across any burrs on the cables. Second, as I slid down, gravity wanted to pull me away from the cables. Meaning, if on rappel, we could swing out away from the cables and possibly not be able to swing back since the whole area was covered by a veneer of ice. It took us 1-1/2 hours just to get down the cables. Then came Subdome.
Subdome was covered in 6 inches of snow, which covered a layer of ice. I couldn't make out any trail, but knew we had to stay generally along the centerline. After some scrambling I realized we were getting off route. We were actually veering down the south side. I was trying to find a way back up when I found myself stemming in some massive flakes. As I looked down, there was about 15 feet of sloping terrain, covered by ice, and then the black abyss of nothing. In that moment, I have never been so scared. If I would have slipped, I would have been done. I made my way back up to a tree, slung it, and rapped. We sacrificed 3 slings in order to safely get down subdome. I had gortex hiking boots on, but my feet were soaked due to no gaiters. Mose had running shoes on and his feet were soaked as well. However, since we were moving constantly and the adrenaline flowing, our feet stayed warm. We got to the bottom of subdome and were relieved to find that some people had hiked to the bottom of Subdome, which gave us a trail to follow through the 2 miles of snow. I knew the area well, but it was nice to not have to route find through snow.
Once we hit dirt, shortly before the HD 2.0 mile marker, we took a short break. I was feeling good now that we got off the worst of the descent. Mose was pretty tired. He tried to nap while I stood watch. If one of us napped the other had to stay awake. Less than 10 minutes later we were on our way down. I was used to long days and cruised down the trail. We arrived at the bathrooms at Nevada Falls. Mose took a nap while I pumped water for both of us. It was a gorgeous night. Clear skis and a gentle breeze. About 15 mins later, we were on the move. I began seeing things. Odd things. At one point, I thought I saw a kitchen oven. I knew it was a rock. I suppose that was an unconscious indication that I was hungry. Haha. As I rounded the oven, the contrasting changed, and as expected, it was just a boulder. Haha. We were both delirious!
We arrived at the truck 20 hours later. Mose was fast asleep in the front seat. I kicked my seat back and tried to nap without any luck. I was processing what had happened that day and couldn't doze off. We began the long drive home. I drove for about 30 mins until I needed Mose to take over. He drove for about 10 mins and then pulled over. We hadn't even made it past Wawona yet. It was 0300 and we quickly passed out. I awoke to see the time on the dash.... 0500! We continued the drive home. We got to Mose's house at 0700. I made my way home and then had to get ready for school at 0900. Yes, I HAD to be there that day. I finally got done with school at 1400, went home, and passed out for 6 hours.
In retrospect, that was one of the craziest experiences of my life. However, despite almost slipping off Subdome, I was pretty calm and confident the rest of the time. The weather was perfect, I was with one of my closest friends and climbing partner, I was very familiar with the area, was mostly prepared, and knew we just had to keep moving, and we'd eventually get down. We each know our limits and they were definitely pushed. However, at no time we were ever over our heads. To me, that's most important. Would I do it again? Only with Mose!
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