Snake Dike 5.7 R
Trip ReportSnake Dike and The Nose (each in a day)
Last fall, with my wife's encouragement, I bid on and won an eBay auction for a day of climbing with Hans Florine. The first time I went up The Nose it took me five days. The second time it took me three days. I talked to Hans and told him I would like to do The Nose in a Day (NIAD) if he was willing. He was, eventhough it would be his 74th trip up the route. I told Hans “Having a day of climbing with Hans Florine and doing anything besides The Nose in a Day would be like having a day with Michael Phelps and asking him to go play tennis.”
I decided May would be a good time to do the route because the weather tends to be ideal and it would give me great motivation to get into top shape over the coming eight months. Nothing like having something on your calendar to keep you motivated to workout.
I talked to my brother Greg about the trip and told him I would love to either climb or hike with him during the trip. As always he was up for anything. We decided on a hike and climb up the route Snake Dike on Half Dome. Greg was my partner on the three day ascent of The Nose and we had done the face of Half Dome after that.
Greg picked me up at the Reno airport on Monday night and took me back to his house. The next morning I dropped him at the local airport so he could fly to Groveland. This would allow him to fly home to see his older boys compete in a track meet later in the week. After touring all over the Sierras I eventually made it to Groveland by car and we drove on into the valley. At 4pm on Tuesday we hit the trail with climbing and camping gear, heading for Half Dome. A couple of hours later we arrived at a great camp spot about 20 minutes from the base of Snake Dike.
The next morning we got on the route with not another soul in sight. A couple of pitches up we continued on the dike we were on instead of going across the face to the left. Oops. We were now on Snake Dance (5.9+) instead of Snake Dike which at that point was rapidly becoming easier, going from 5.7 to 5.4. Some tricky moves up the smooth dike got us a few pitches higher and we realized our mistake. Some traversing got us back to Snake Dike and we made our way to the top. Beautiful weather and fantastic views were our reward. There were a few groups of people that had come up the cables but otherwise we were the only climbers around.
On our way back to our campsite we found a few hundred feet of wire in the woods so we coiled it up to haul down to the valley the next day. We spent that night at our same bivy sight.
Thursday morning we hiked back to the valley. I drove Greg to Groveland so he could fly home and I headed back to the valley to meet Hans. Hans and I met in the El Cap meadow to see how many parties we would run into on the route the next day. It looked like there would be two groups.
Hans and I grabbed some food and went to his friends Tom and Theresa’s dorm near Curry Village. They let us stay there two nights and it was fantastic. After a couple hours of planning our climb and sorting gear we hit the sack with alarms set to wake us at 4:20 am.
The alarms went off and we grabbed our gear and made our way to the base of El Cap. A short hike and a one pitch approach climb up Pine Line (5.7) put us at the base of The Nose at 6:00.
Hans led up with the speed and confidence of an experienced climber who had done the route 73 times before. We made great time and enjoyed clear skies and warm weather. The only sounds were helicopters performing a rescue just around the corner on the Salathe Wall. I climber had fallen sixty feet the night before and he was being airlifted out. He was lucky to have a full recovery.
Around noon we were about half way to the top and we passed a married couple who had been on the route for four days. They were in good spirits and said they had ample supplies. A lunch of peanuts and gouda got us recharged and we pushed on. Hans continued to lead. I had planned to lead higher up on the route once we had a really good head start on the day but Hans ended up leading the whole way for a couple of reasons. First of all the weather was deteriorating as the day went on. Clouds moved in, winds picked up to 20 mph and the temperature dropped. The other reason to keep Hans out front was because we had to pass a party of three Frenchmen and the faster we moved the sooner they could get on top as well.
I had led the entire Nose route years earlier when it took three days. I did thoroughly enjoy following the Stove Leg pitches which are perfect hand cracks. The Stove Legs are so named because back in 1958 when Warren Harding was working on the first ascent he cut legs off of old stoves to use for protection in the wide cracks. At the time there was no climbing gear that was big enough to use in those cracks.
Hans continued pushing up and I hauled ropes up for the Frenchmen for nearly five hundred feet. Twelve and a half hours after our start Hans and I were on top. One quick picture and a couple of phone calls and we headed for the decent. We made our way down the slabs, 600 feet of rappelling and more hiking to the car.
Fortunately for us we got to the pizza place 15 minutes before it closed at 9 pm. A couple of beers, bowls of chili and a large pizza helped get us back on track. Hans headed back home to the Bay Area at 4:30 the next morning. I hung around the valley for a few hours, hiking to Yosemite Falls and checking the wall before I drove out. The married couple looked to still have another two, maybe three days to get the wall done.
It was an amazing trip. My thanks to my wife Kirsten for getting me to do it. And Hans was as nice and helpful a partner as I could have wished for.
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