I phoned up Macronut and he agreed that a 9pm Thursday departure was just what the doctor ordered. We both had obligations Friday (swim meet for my kid, work for him) so this would be a smash and grab job for sure. As I packed the truck for action my wife reminded me that tonight was the Summer Staff Night Out at Yosemite Ranch Steakhouse. We have a great group of hard working gals and we like to treat them to a night out on the town as the summer gets going. Looks like I'd be heading into the alpine with a gut bomb firmly in place.
Headed to Happy Hour
4,000 calories settles into a happy place in my gut
We are packed and racked, gassed and loaded and southbound on Hwy 99
The Thundra grinds to a halt at the flat spot. Dome Rock parking area. The night sky rages overhead. We are in our bags, flat on our backs in the bed of the truck in under five minutes. Slow deep breaths purge the city, the caffeine and the winding late night drive from our systems. Life is good. Sleep comes to us in an instant.
Rise and shine sweetheart.
The evil mosquito horde is upon us. Death from above. They descend with fiendish intent in numbers too vast to comprehend. There will be no Truck-bed Jetboil French Roast moment on this day. A powdered donut each shall sustain us. Its time to move.
Burnt reds and molasses oranges spill over the wakening landscape with a wholly violent change from the cool indigo of the night, ushering in a new day with what some would call benevolence but others would call indifference as sinuous quicksilver rays reach into the very heart of the two men below on the trail, scratching headlong down a dusty wash, clambering about the surface of the earth with an importance to the day that is both banal and recompense in its totality, the edge of day is upon them and they clasp it to their bosoms not knowing what it may hold.
Base of the route. Skeeter defense cranked up to DEFCON 1. These things are big, feisty and juicy. The attack is relentless. But we will prevail. We will mount with wings like eagles and soar above the fray.
We are here to climb The Tree Route. And though life blossoms all around us on the approach, death hangs above. The great old tree is dying. Ravaged by time and drought and the dreaded pine bark beetle. You can feel sadness oozing from the Dome herself. This once great life-form now clinging to her opening hand-crack like a rusty old pin from an ancient Beckey, Heckmaier or Salathe route.
Life is funny like that. We treat the living as immortal. We expect the living to last forever though we know it cannot. It must not. But this does not change our desire for it to last and our surprise when it comes. Someday, like "The Rotten Log" or "Pitch 10" on Half Dome's Regular Route, the Great Tree will be gone. But it is here today. And we will enjoy the moves around, over and through it.
Macronut floats the 5.4 locks of the opening moves as the air warms around us. It will be 110 in Fresno today.
My brand new TC Pro's are under attack so I tie up and cast off as soon as he slaps a couple pieces into the belay.
I follow the smooth flared fissure for a while and am soon face to face with El Gran Arbol.
Her skin is smooth from a thousand hands caressing her over the years. There is still a pulse, but its a faint one and she knows her days are numbered. Death will not come quickly for this old gal.
I give thanks for her years of service and pull on by, quietly, like a hospital visitor walking by curtains of the elderly on life support, not wanting to disturb her.
I arrive at the belay somewhat somber, wondering how long she'll be there in her state of decay. Will it still be called The Tree Route when the tree is no longer?
But the mood does not last long. The crack above is something straight out of a fairy tale. Its my understanding that there was once a tree here as well. Now its a couple cams and a small nut.
Macronut gets a few bars on the ol handheld, checks in on some patients and fires off a text to his supervisor. "Might be a few minutes late this morning. See you soon."
Above us sits a crack so fair, so lovely and of such stature that we sit admiring for a moment before we have the breath in our lungs to actually continue. But continue we do.
Yeah. Its this good. You get it. I don't need to ruin it with a bunch of words.
I take twice as long as I should on the pitch because I stop often for selfies.
And near the top I up and down climb a bit to have Macronut shoot me from a few different angles. I Instagram and Facebook post live from a bomber jam. I'm a social media butterfly and need to give the people what the people want.
Not a bad place to be on a Friday morning at breakfast time.
Macro belays from two Fort Knox worthy #2 Camalots and we bask in the glory of a breezy blue sky day a stone's throw from The Needles proper. We are lashed to a beautiful dome far above the hot Central Valley floor and our friends and family are probably waking up and sitting in traffic on the commute right now. So much to be grateful for. Life is sweet. We drink it in.
The third pitch is like the Marvin Gaye station on Pandora...lots of smooth jams. The Needles lay down the base line while the forest sings us a love song from below.
It drops us off on a nice ledge and Macronut racks up with one draw and one #1 red Camalot.
The last pitch is a 20 foot run-out on easy peasy terrain, to a fifty foot run-out on slightly harder and much more thought provoking ripples and smears. Just hike on up there and don't stop moving. A single cam gets you over the roof and up to the summit.
Up, up and away young lad. Trust your feet and Godspeed. The summit and the ice-chest await.
The top spot is a purdy spot. As it should be.
Idiots on the summit.
Many have come before us.
Back at the Thundra.
In days past, the Great Tree spread her green canopy to protect and shade the climbers below. A guardian of the route, timeless and stoic....a talisman of good energy and good cheer to all those who passed. Alas, she now lay dying. She has been a silent character in a grand play but the last act is now upon her. Eventually death will find her, as it does us all, and with it will come the end of an era. But where there is death there is always life, always a new beginning. New birth. A fresh start.
Goodbye old friend.
P.S. It is only 8:45 so you know me and Macronut. We aint about to waste daylight. So fueled by more Donettes and IPA we drop the hammer and head toward some trout water to try and land a little fishy fishy before heading back to our daily lives.
Round Two. Ding!
We hit a couple cricks on the way down but get skunked.
We charge down towards the Tule River hoping the flows wouldn't be too outrageous to land a lunker or two before heading home.
But The Man is trying to keep us down.
We aint skeered though and we force a class 4 downclimb and make it to the water's edge, hoping to land a big'un, stay un-arrested or un-drowned and still get home in time to stay un-divorced. The clock is ticking.
Boom.Fish on! A real hawg. Nice work Macronut. You actually just caught the smallest trout in the entire western Tule drainage. Now lets go home. My kid's meet starts soon.
We stop for gas and snacks for the long drive home. We are punchdrunk on lack of sleep, too much caffeine and the adrenaline dump of a mission accomplished. And it feels good.
The drive home across the Great Valley in 109 degree heat goes by quickly. As it always does.
Made it to the meet. Fatherhood intact. Time to get back to real life.
Thanks for tuning in Supertopo. First TR in quite a long time. Its been a while. It feels good. Hope you enjoyed.