Trip Report
In Search of Lost Climbs: RCA on DAFF
Saturday June 8, 2013 10:05am
And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.

Marcel Proust, A la Recherche du Temps Perdue (In Search of Lost Time)



Ed with the first pitch in the background.
Ed with the first pitch in the background.
Credit: Rick A

My first trip to Tuolumne Meadows was in 1973 with Tobin Sorenson and Mike Graham. I was oldest at 18. In those days there was no guidebook to Tuolumne, and route information was gathered by word of mouth, or you simply went without.

We heard rumors of a recent, hard route put up by Kamps and Higgins, The Old Goats’ Route on Medlicott (1972). Kamps was staying a few camp sites away, so we walked over, intending to get some information about whether the route was completely bolt protected or might require crack protection. After introducing ourselves, Tobin, who was always polite, broached the question:

“Mr. Kamps, what do you need to do the Old Goat’s Route?”
Kamps looked us up and down and replied,
“Courage, boys, courage.”

After mustering the courage to do the Old Goats route and another one put up the previous summer, Sweet Jesus on Medlicott (Vandiver/Higgins 1972), we knew we were capable of establishing routes of our own, and turned our attention to unclimbed faces, which, in those days, were everywhere you turned.

On Daff Dome, we knew of only one route, the striking line of Crescent Arch, so one day we packed the bolt kit with the intention of exploring the wide open spaces to its right. There was another, smaller arch next to CA, a crack in an unusual, dark dihedral that leaned like a cobra in mid -strike, but this feature stopped halfway up the face. Here is a remarkable Gigapan photo of Daff which allows you to zoom in to such an extent that you can see individual knobs.

[url=" http://gigapan.com/gigapans/8112 "] http://gigapan.com/gigapans/8112 [/url]

It was the obvious line and it looked like it connected to a black water streak, which we knew could allow passage through otherwise blank faces. So we climbed it one day in July, 1973, and the quality of the climbing was pretty good, but we were disappointed that it wasn’t harder: we found no move more difficult than 5.8. To make up for that there were run outs on each of the three pitches. I led the first, Mike the second, and Tobin the third. Only one protection bolt was placed, in addition to the two for the first belay station at the end of the arch. We called it RCA (Right of the Crescent Arch), an acronym consistent with the Dome Across From Fairview.

Credit: Rick A

Because I moved to Colorado in 1980 and life intervened, I didn’t make it back to the meadows for the decades of the 80, 90s, and 00s, until I traveled to Mammoth for Bachar’s memorial in 2009. In the interim RCA had been forgotten and was rarely done, the fate of many routes that fail to make it into the Supertopo guide.

Last year, 39 summers after my first visit, I met my old friend and Boulder neighbor, Ed Sampson, at the TM gas station. We wanted to get into the knob climbing groove, so we did Great Pumpkin on Fairview, a fine Kamps/Couch route that is only 5.8, but has some moves that give you pause, because they are a long way above protection. We were looking for another route in that vein, one with moderate difficulty but that would require some mental fortitude, so I suggested RCA. I searched ST to get some information on the route, since I remembered almost nothing about it, and found only one reference: Ed Hartouni’s helpful thread here:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=24602&msg=24602#msg24602

Equipped with Hartouni’s suggested Tricams and a gear rep’s collection of the latest micro cams, we set off. Proust wrote of how eating a pastry that he had enjoyed in his youth, the lemon flavored, scallop-shaped “Madeline,” triggered intense memories of his childhood. A similar feeling struck me when I ascended the third class slab up to the start of the climb. I remembered being surprised years ago that the crack is wider than it looks from below, three inches in places, and like most Tuolumne cracks, is riddled with knobs, inside and out.

Ed moved up to the belay and I started up. As I climbed, the three inch crack gradually tapered off to nothing after 70 feet or so. There is still a dihedral at this point but no crack in the back of it. The two bolt belay Is 20 feet off to the right from the last protection.

Nothing to do, but back up the already secure nuts and cams and give it a go. I had another Madeline moment halfway across the traverse, when I grabbed an uneven crimp, an unusual, scallop-shaped hold for the middle three fingers, where the middle finger is higher than the others. A memory materialized of the first time fingering this same hold and puzzling how to reach the knob stance a bit further right, where there are now two belay bolts. This time I got my right foot onto the knob below the bolts, all the while trying to forget the consequences of a fall from this point, but the wall steepens right there and it is a balance move to stand up. A handy retreat sling was hanging from the belay bolts, and while extending my leg, I shamelessly grabbed it to make sure there would be no blunder. Happy to get there, I yelled down to Ed, “Pretty good bolt placement, if I do say so myself.”

The outstanding pitch is the second. You traverse through some 5.8 moves past the one protection bolt to reach the black streak, which is at a gentle angle at first, but steepens gradually before it reaches a prominent ledge. Mike had led this pitch back in 1973 and as I climbed it this time, I remembered getting to the last, steeper part before the ledge, pulling through the hardest move above the last protection Mike had placed in a horizontal pocket a ways below. I had appreciated the top rope on it and I remembered looking at Graham peering down from the belay and saying, “Nice lead, Mike.”

2nd pitch
2nd pitch
Credit: Rick A


As Hartouni pointed out, with modern gear plugged into the horizontal breaks, these days you can sew the second pitch up by TM standards.

Crags are depositories of memories. A former high school baseball player cannot relive the triple he hit in a game 40 years earlier, but for climbers, it is possible to recreate some of the exact movements, thoughts, and feelings of the past. There is magic in going back to our early climbs: one can gain entrance to a realm of memories that otherwise would be forever lost.

And you might get the feeling, for just a moment, that nothing has changed after almost 40 years. This is a fleeting self-deception, but it leaves a pleasant taste of Tuolumne summer, long ago.

  Trip Report Views: 1,681
Rick A
About the Author
Rick A is a climber from Boulder, Colorado.

Comments
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Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:28am PT
Jeez, is that Hartouni?

I hardly (by this I mean not at all) recognize him.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Author's Reply  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:38am PT
Nope, that's Ed Sampson.
Hendo1

Trad climber
Toronto
  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:38am PT
Great report, especially the unexpected recapture of lost time.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:58am PT
Very nice story Rick! Thanks. And, thanks for the nice route to guys put up there.
OlympicMtnBoy

climber
Seattle
  Jun 8, 2013 - 11:31am PT
BBST! Nice TR, really cool how those things come back around sometimes!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jun 8, 2013 - 11:55am PT
Great writing man! Especially that last paragraph, I can hear Frank Deford reading it:

A former high school baseball player cannot relive the triple he hit in a game 40 years earlier, but for climbers, it is possible to recreate some of the exact movements, thoughts, and feelings of the past. There is magic in going back to our early climbs: one can gain entrance to a realm of memories that otherwise would be forever lost.

And I didn't know/realize that DAFF = Dome Across From Fairview.

I learn something everyday here at ST.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Jun 8, 2013 - 12:48pm PT
Good writing and thanks for sharing. Interesting when we go back to routes many years later.

" In the interim RCA had been forgotten and was rarely done, the fate of many routes that fail to make it into the Supertopo guide."

It was forgotten a LONG time before supertopo was published. It was in the Reid guide but when a route has dangerous runouts and even the world famous slab climbing fiend is motivated to grab gear when he returns to it, well, it makes for few ascents. The 5.12 climbers go climb 5.12 and the 5.9+ climbers are scared away.

Just saying. It is what it is

Peace

Karl
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jun 8, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
very nice report...

...it is a wonderful aspect of climbing, that we can go back and climb those routes again, and remember, in a very primal way, our first meeting.

Hats off to you fellows, you certainly met Kamps' criteria when you put up that route, courageous indeed!

Phantom X

Trad climber
Honeycomb Hideout
  Jun 8, 2013 - 02:20pm PT
Madelines dipped in tea.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
  Jun 8, 2013 - 02:30pm PT
Great TR Rick.

Crags are depositories of memories. A former high school baseball player cannot relive the triple he hit in a game 40 years earlier, but for climbers, it is possible to recreate some of the exact movements, thoughts, and feelings of the past. There is magic in going back to our early climbs: one can gain entrance to a realm of memories that otherwise would be forever lost.

So true...provided you can still pull it off. Kudos to you and Ed for doing just that.
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Jun 8, 2013 - 04:30pm PT
That was really well written, Rick! Thanks!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Jun 8, 2013 - 07:46pm PT

Very cool report, great writing, pics & some good links too. Funny how your memory comes back in situations like this:


I had another Madeline moment halfway across the traverse, when I grabbed an uneven crimp, an unusual, scallop-shaped hold for the middle three fingers, where the middle finger is higher than the others. A memory materialized of the first time fingering this same hold and puzzling how to reach the knob stance a bit further right, where there are now two belay bolts.


On my favorite routes I often identify with little features like this and how climbing on them induces memories, stoked to hear this can happen 30+ years later, can't wait!
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:34pm PT
Great TR! Thanks for the wonderful trip into the way back machine...I never did that one, but have enjoyed plenty of things on D.A. F.F...including the bivies!
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
  Jun 8, 2013 - 10:41pm PT
What a GREAT TR! So much fun to read.
We all know that feeling of so wanting to just making it to the next piece, the next clip, the belay... You really captured the sense of relief! But I'll bet you greatly exaggerated your feeling of relief, Rick A, just to make a better story for us.
Cheers, Phyl
MisterE

climber
  Jun 8, 2013 - 11:42pm PT
Great story, Rick - and thanks for a trip in the way-back machine.
spenchur

climber
Flagstaff/Thousand Oaks
  Jun 10, 2013 - 12:55pm PT
Loved the TR...maybe this year I will have the balls to actually cast off on the second pitch and not rappel after 1 with my tail between my legs!!!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Author's Reply  Jun 15, 2013 - 10:23am PT
Spenchur , If you’ve done the first pitch, you’d have no problem with the second. There are a lot of opportunities to place gear after the first bolt. I should point out that we didn’t do the third pitch, which was Tobin’s lead in 1973 and again has runout 5.8, but this time directly above that big ledge at the end of the second pitch.

Ater the second pitch of RCA, we top roped the 5.11 Chvchichaschtli, which passes through some very smooth glacier polish. It finishes at the big ledge at the end of the second pitch of RCA. By the time we fell our way up that, we decided not to do the third pitch of RCA.

Here is a shot looking down at Chvchichaschtli.

Credit: Rick A

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 15, 2013 - 02:18pm PT
Great Tr,
Thanks for taking us down memory lane!
spenchur

climber
Flagstaff/Thousand Oaks
  Jun 15, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
Well I will take that into account this season. We also climbed that unpronouncable hungarian route to the right. The first pitch was cruiser with funky ass euro hangers on most of the bolts. The second pitch was pretty awesome with minor runs up that polished section which was bitchin. Kind of an insecure section from the last bolt to the ledge on that one I thought.

I have yet to get on the pitch above the ledge. It looked seriously run out and friction dependent, not what we were looking for on that hot sunny afternoon.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 15, 2013 - 09:08pm PT
Rick, that is perfect. I'm going to borrow that quote.

I've been mulling this stuff over recently, and it is a perfect way to end my trip report.

thanks much for posting that up.
Maysho

climber
Soda Springs, CA
  Jun 15, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
Nice to hear the story of the FA! This was my favorite route to guide and I did it many times through the 80's during my time at YMS. Reliably vacant even when West Crack had a conga line. I always found the third pitch to be a bit spicy. Did you guys go straight up? that was the way i would always go...though it is possible to traverse right back toward the El Condor finish. One memorable time... guiding with rain starting to spatter as I did the 5.8 "hugging the beachball" finishing move, gear not that great...those were the days!

Peter
bearbnz

Trad climber
East Side, California
  Jun 16, 2013 - 10:55pm PT
Bump. The good stuff like this should stay on the front page longer, this was all the way back on page 3. This is the kind of content I would like to see more of, hate to see it pushed off the front page by non-climbing content. Rick, tfpu, great stuff.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 17, 2013 - 03:12am PT
Thanks for sharing the cool story of the FA and getting back on it again.
My partner recommended this TR tonight as we were driving back from the Meadows, doing Crescent Arch with him leading all the hard pitches.
A cool view back to the days of youth and the Meadows before the guidebooks.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jun 17, 2013 - 09:16am PT
Rick, looks like TM is becoming an annual ritual for you. Thanks for sharing, perhaps we'll run into each other through our mutual friend PA as our ritual's cross!

Cheers,

Charlie D.
crunch

Social climber
CO
  Jun 17, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
A really fun read. Thanks!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Jun 17, 2013 - 04:09pm PT
Thanks for the story, and a sweet climb.

I did that climb a few years ago- Started off in approach shoes, to give my feet a break in the crack. Getting out onto the traverse to the anchor, I (carefully!) changed my shoes before making the final moves. Not recommended.

!st pitch
Credit: Jay Wood
Leaving the anchor- 2nd pitch
Credit: Jay Wood
wstmrnclmr

Trad climber
Bolinas, CA
  Jun 17, 2013 - 09:59pm PT
Uh Oh...Clint's in the meadows? I'd better get on the routes before they're rebolted.......RCA get's done more then you'd think. The gear has made it much safer. In conversation with Royal Robbins about the history of the Grey Ghost (two climbs to the right), he said he admired the slab climbs of Tuolumne and Crecent Arch in particular and wanted to make a statement of his own. Kamps influenced some great climbs and some great climbers. All those climbs from the 70's on that face are beautiful classics. I don't own a supertopo guide and look only to the Reid/Falkenstein for climbs authored by Higgens/Kamps, Fiddler/Clevenger (before the hooks) and of course Accomazzo/Graham. Thank you for a great climb, and others as well.
Edit: Chvchichaschtli is 5.10a two feet to the right of the last bolt.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jun 17, 2013 - 10:28pm PT
Thanks Rick-nice walk down memory lane via Rue de Proust.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Author's Reply  Jun 18, 2013 - 11:53am PT
Peter –Tobin led the third pitch straight up the discontinuous corner system that starts from the big ledge and goes straight up. I recall an awkward move over a little bulge, but your “hugging the beach ball” description is nice!

And being on a TM runout when it starts to rain is a nightmare that I’ve only just avoided a couple of times. Maybe this year I’ll go back and do that third pitch. The first two are worth repeating.

Charlie-Yep, I’ve made it back every summer since 2009, and we’ll be there again this year. Hope to see you up there.
10b4me

climber
  Mar 12, 2014 - 06:07pm PT
bump
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Mar 12, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Sweetness. I got a little nervous just reading it!
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Mar 12, 2014 - 08:13pm PT
What wonderment! Memories brought forward into present living....what a beautiful way of embracing life moving forward....and some kick arse climbing. Loved it...even Proust...

Susan
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