She may have been born in Charleston, Puebla, Liverpool, Osorno, Hamburg, Melbourne, or Cape Town. Or she may have been born down the block from you. Doesn't matter. She's arrived for the first time.
If you were to catch a glimpse of her, you'd be struck by the evident strength in her frame – testament to a life of climbing. She has put in her time and now is here. You'd feel that respect you feel when you see a climber who has put in work. But hold up something is wrong here.
Her shoulders are caked in a patchwork of dirt and misc Valley grime. That’s normal. They slump dejectedly. She's scowling at the earth before her feet. Why?
She's got salad dressing from a half-hearted, top-of-the-bearbox dinner coagulating at the corner of her mouth. A fly buzzes to it but she doesn't flinch.
She's not high on the fiddler's weed. She's not in a Post-Cookie daze. She doesn’t give a f*#k about salad dressing, not right now.
Her fists go white. She is seething, visibly shaking as she lifts her gaze. WTF is this you're thinking?
It's July 3rd, the day before she and her partner planned to blast up the Slabs. She's just heard the news. She may have crossed an ocean to get here. May have washed dishes, cooked tortillas, sold her bike, squandered her graduation gift just for the scratch to get here.
She closes her eyes. She would beg, she has no doubt. She has never begged for anything in her life, but for this she would beg. There is no one to beg. Who, time?
The pain is searing. Lower lip trembling, sputtering. She opens her eyes again, looks east, up, past the RVs, the Silver Platter, the Skywalk diagonal, the Porcelain. Her eyes land on the NW face.
It's steep. It's proud. It's now bathed in evening light. The Half Dome.
Unclimbable. The dream of the Reggae. Objective #1 for years. Nevermore.
Her arms extend Willem-Dafoe-on-the-Platoon-cover-style as she falls to her knees. Two puffs of rank Curry Village dust lift and settle. She is a piteous site. She inhales deeply --
"FUUUUUUUUUUCK MMMMYYYYYYYYY LLLLIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFFFE"
But wait! Hold that desolate cry all you broken-hearted crankers! There may be hope yet!
• Yes, your dream route is gone.
• No, you will never-except-in-dreams follow in the true and complete footsteps of the mighty Robbins.
• Yes, a variant will emerge, may have emerged already! But look in your heart and you will admit that based on current available info regarding rock fall only the bat-shit insane and utterly stout are heading up to that vicinity for the foreseeable future.
All that said, I am here to spread the good news about Middle Cathedral's very own RNWF Simulator-slash-Interim-slash-Replacement Experience.
So lace up your all-day shoes, bone up on your routefinding and mantling skills, send up a prayer that you'll get off the Kat Walk in daylight, then head on down to the intersection of Southside Drive and El Cap Crossover. If you've got 15 minutes, you've got enough time to find the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
You won't be sorry. We're following in the footsteps of Cummins, not Robbins – a man and a crew that put in a high-quality and proud line. After a pitch, or two, or perhaps exactly at the moment 40 feet off the belay on the third pitch as you run the rope left further and further away from the security of a .75 corner and onto a golden face with some mantles in the crosshairs, your no-Reggae, FML moment will be a distant memory and you'll be living in the present.
Here's the data:
---------------- Ho Chi --- RNWF of HD
Approach ------- X
Mantles --------- X
Routefinding --- X
Is it intact ------- X
Four clear W's for the Ho Chi? The Ho Chi Minh Trail: a clear winner in the post-Reggae world.
See you out there on Middle!
Good views all day
Great stone most of the day
Mantles mantles mantles
Linking galore if you've got a 70m. 20 pitches on paper, we got her done in 11. On two of them the drag was shitty and I meant to remember which but no longer can. All the rest were great links – good movement over long swaths of stone got to love that.
My memory is saying three or more roof traverses, guar-an-teed
Gooooood Middle-grade stone over 90% of the route. Textures and colors are just all day, non-stop killer.
Sun in your eye for a lot of the day, but with a breeze the heat is absolutely fine. Our day was mid-90's according to the always appreciated hand-drawn sign at the 120 entrance.
Proof that we weren't cooking up there. I got downright cold in the Notch. Mid 90s down in the meadow!
Position position position
Huge variety in climbing styles, with lots of jugs, reaches, face sequences, and edges for the feet, but also plenty of flakes, underclings, some chimney if you want it though not required, some finger and hand cracks though it's never enough of those two, on any climb anywhere you always want more. Surprisingly not too much smearing and palming though there is some.
There are some variations you can do from the old Reed topo
I think the flake of destiny is on the left there but the corner through a wide pod to a rooflet of lichen looked sweet. Seemed clear that lots of others have gone that way too.
Hardware report: Good hardware, and not much after the first five really
Then suddenly you fire up a splitter and top out on a sweet ledge with a grand view. East Butt of El Cap looking mighty small over there, great route size isn't everything
The Regular is going to be the furthest thing from your mind as you work your way through the Kat Walk, which incidentally beats the cables on the adventure scale and scared me in a few spots and seemed like much harder route finding but a little easier technically than the Sentinel approach. Can easily see how simple it would be to die on either.
Looking back up – feels good after eight years of wanting it.
Quick swim, and back to Oakland. Youngblood here has something pending.
Bridge status, summer evening 2015
Door-to-door report (important metric for any parent climber): 28.5 hours, once again didn't get the 24-hour goal but didn't bivy on the Kat Walk either which was a worry during our pre-game and led to all that linking.
Sign over my gear heap at home now reads: THESE TOOLS HAVE GONE 1,095 DAYS WITHOUT A FORCED BIVY. (Miss you Nutjob/NutAgain, no regrets okay maybe that cold one)