Twilight Zone 5.10d

  • Currently 4.0/5

The Cookie Cliff

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Splashless Leap into Twilight Zone

by Mei
Wednesday March 23, 2016 2:39pm
Update in 2019: Due to an implementation of the new photo policy on Supertopo, the TR below has become a little hard to read with the embedded images gone (replaced with links). Please visit my personal blog post for the original report.

March 20, 2016

Please add me to the list of men and women who onsighted Twilight Zone.

I took a leap. After all, I am a gym climber, being the renowned author of A Guide to Bay Area Planet Granite Cracks.

I don't know what got into me -- when it comes to leaping over anything, I'm usually like this:

[Click to View Linked Image]

No, no leap please. I'll just wait here, because I'm too afraid to end up like this:

[Click to View Linked Image]

But on this Sunday morning at Arch Entrance Station by my favorite luxurious heated restrooms, when my partner D stared at the cuts in the back of his hands, which were dragged through Meat Grinder the day before, and decided not to go practice wide at Reed's as he had originally proposed, the idea came to me. How about we go check out Twilight Zone?

At that moment, when I said that, I didn't even know where the climb was. Of course, I had heard of it before. It's famous. How else could you explain the multiple long discussions and reports found on the Internet? Scroll down to the references and see for yourself. I was aware of the Road to Twilight Zone thread, but I had not studied it. Really, what's the point of asking for the road to Russia when you are no where near Sarah Palin's house?!

Oh, don't get me wrong; I was interested! I just didn't plan to lead it. I don't like to take, on rope or on gear, on top rope or on lead. I could go through 21 pitches at Arch on one day, and I did, without a take. While some people might call me weak for not pushing myself hard enough, I drove home smiling and satisfied. Yes, I climb within my comfort zone, and my zone and Twilight Zone have no overlap, or at least so I believed.

Being a gym climber (did you click on my evidence???), I'm terrified of leading on gear. When I am unfortunately put in the position of a trad lead (like when I'm climbing with someone), I sometimes pretend to run out just to hide my overwhelming internal fear. I might only lead 5.9's, but I can follow 5.11's, right? As Clint Cummins famously said, which I heard from Mr. Mud, "Everyone looks good on TR." That's it! Maybe my road to TZ is I need to find myself a TR.

Well, only one person I know and have access to whom I can think of might have done it. So, one day when I met him in the gym for a session (need I remind you again? I'm a gym rat), I dropped hint at him. "So, have you done Twilight Zone?" "Yeah." "How was it?" "It's good."

I waited. And I waited some more.

Is that it? "Yeah" and "It's good." That's all? I was totally expecting to hear "Do you want to get on it? I'll take you up it" ? It did not come. But being a sensitive and sensible partner, I dropped the subject. A TR was not offered, so a TR was not to be had.

Fast forward to this Sunday morning. A short approach led us to a non-descriptive spot on the trail, which I had taken a few times to get to the most popular cragging area at Cookie. As a matter of fact, we were almost there. D pointed up, "there it is!" I looked and looked, and then squinted. I thought I saw it. Well, this photo was taken when D started the approach pitch. Can you see the famous, or infamous, climb up there?

[Click to View Linked Image]

You can't see the crack from the road, nor from the popular cragging area because it's tucked away inside a dihedral. And you still can't see it well standing under the trees. The climb looks elusive and mysterious.

Earlier in the morning, once the words Twilight Zone were uttered, I tried to search for beta. Without the Internet, all I could find was what was in Supertopo guidebook, "Today few people climb this route because it is just too darn hard" and what was on my downloaded Mountain Project app. It showed the links to the Road to TZ thread as well as the Offwidth Tips thread. I desperately wanted to click them, but the clicks went no where. It was a good thing I did not read the threads until after because this was offered in the Tips thread:
Develop a list of ascending difficulty of the following climbs: Pharoah's Beard; Secret Storm; Moby Dick left; Rixons East chimney; Cookie Center; do Ahab a few times; Edge of Night; Absolutely Free right; Peter Pan; Peter Left (first pitch is offwidth); Slack left side; worst error both sides; Hourglass right; Narrow Escape; Crack of Despair; Crack of Doom; Lost Arrow Chimney. If you can do these reasonably well and still want to do TZ, you are ready.
Apparently, I was not ready (my resume was pretty empty), but I didn't know that, did I?

But then, as I can see now, almost every page of the discussion (of any wide really), there are old timers reminding people they did it back in the day sans cams, and Werner free solo'ed it. So, it's "easy" right? Who knew what I would have felt had I read the threads before the weekend. Regardless, at the time, I was adequately equipped with the bliss of ignorance.

Racking up for the approach pitch, D, not feeling the bliss, repeated, "if you don't feel like doing it, you don't have to. We can do something else." That was different from the day before. Yesterday, after we pulled the rope from Red Zinger, it magically landed at the base of Meat Grinder. I took it as a sign that I should do it. After D told me the story how he took a nasty fall on his previous attempt that led to a visit to the hospital, he offered, "if you are not sure about leading it, I'll lead it for you." That gentlemanly offer almost moved me to tears. Today, he offered to walk away from Twilight Zone, both of us. (I just got his email confessing, " I was petrified at the thought that I might have to go and rescue you in the Twilight Zone." )

But little did he know, I'd entered The Zone!

Soon, I was staring up at the pitch from the belay. A gaping slot looming above me. It was beckoning. I racked up. "Are you sure you want to carry that camera (phone) in your pocket? I can carry it for you. Leave anything you don't need/want here." I thanked him, but kept the camera. What if I encounter a beautiful bug on my ascent? I don't want to miss a photo of it. But I forgot to take a photo of the climb above me given the close distance!

I took off. The weight of the heavy rack on the sling across my neck was soon lifted. I was in the Zone.

 Oh yes, this section is just like that PG Sunnyvale crack # 107. I can do it. Up ward.
 Hmm... is this section overhanging? Yes, it must be! I'm going to fall out of it! But wait, pause, or freeze! See, that PG SF Crack #84 is overhanging too. I can do that one, so I sure can do it here. Up ward.
 Darn, what's this? A restriction! I can no longer slide my way up. Hmm... it's a tricky spot. Just like on that PG Sunnyvale Crack #112. Hmmm.... I have an idea! Pretzel my arms this way, turn my heel 270 degrees, extract my knee from below the restriction, fold my body at waist 180 degrees, place the same knee above the restriction. Just like what I would have done in the gym. Up ward.
 Wait, what's that sound? That's the sound of my breathing! That's not good. I should not be breathing so hard that I can hear myself. Here, a knee jam, and hey, there is an edge out there for my outside foot to push on! A strenuous rest, but a rest nonetheless. Breathe, quiet, breathe, quiet. Okay, wake up. Up ward.
 Does anyone stem this thing? They must be 6'5"! With half of my body still in the crack, I turn my neck 190 degrees backwards without breaking it. I'm not seeing any foot holds or even just slopers. But the vision at the corner of my eye might be compromised. Regardless, I feel secure in the crack. When in doubt, offwidth it. Up ward.
 Hey, what is this? A perfect hand crack! I'm almost at the top. Stem, mantle, I step onto the grassy top feeling light.

I am at the top! Really? I am at the top! I've risen above the Twilight Zone!

After clipping into the anchor bolts 30 feet back on the head wall, I extended my belay to the edge. This time, I remember to take a photo downward. You can barely see D on the belay ledge below.

[Click to View Linked Image]

I could see D fighting most of his way up. Oh I heard him too. Don't think he knew I was observing him, but I saw him look up and then shake his head, a few times. I got self conscious, "is he hating me now?" Finally, he joined me at the top. Not via the girly stemming and mantle moves that I did, but a different style. He gave me permission to show his belly flop technique. His legs were still dangling in the air.

[Click to View Linked Image]

Then he high-five'd me. Okay, he didn't hate me after all. Thank you, D! Now, would you mind giving me a quick TR belay on Elevator Shaft since that's where we'll rappel? You don't want to do anything else at Cookie? Let's go set up a top rope at Generator. I'll do two laps on it, left side and right side in.

So, that's what I did. I took a leap into Twilight Zone.
[Click to View Linked Image]

Oh, you say that's a dive. But in Chinese, it's the same word for leap and dive: 跳。Trust me.

I tried to take a selfie at the top with the climb in the view, but my body failed to bend backwards. So, here I am, at the top of Twilight Zone. You'll just have to take my word for it. Please excuse my offwidth hair. When you rest your forehead in a crack for balance, it tends to mess up your salon tended hairdo. But that's not important. This is what I wanted to show you: Inch by inch, I will get there.

Truth is in the headband!
Truth is in the headband!
Credit: Mei

Parting words: Yep, that's right. Forget about all above what you just read if you haven't already. Trip reports are nothing but chest thumping self glorifying spray. Why else do you think we climb anyway? (I'm not the first person to ask that question.) There was no leap, and there will never be a leap. Anyone tells you different does not have your best interest in mind. Inching along forward or upward, and sometimes even downward and backward, is the only way to get you to where you want to go. Get moving!

Signing off,
-Mei, the mudworm
[Click to View Linked Image]

Offwidth tips and The Twilight Zone (193 posts)
Road to Twilight Zone (123 posts)
Twilight Zone vs. Steppin' Out (93 posts)
Twilight Zone (58 posts)

Twilight Zone trip report by Paul Jacobs and Bruce Bindner
Twilight Zone on Mountain Project

Same report on my blog site where comments can be left without having an account. They are only censored by me. Werner, it's for you! [Click to View Linked Image] (Help is here if you didn't get the wink.)

  Trip Report Views: 6,292
About the Author
I wondered off for 10 years and now am just trying to get back...


Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 23, 2016 - 02:57pm PT
I love this TR. I hope to read more from you.


Trad climber
  Mar 23, 2016 - 03:18pm PT
Bravo! You're pretty modest- you've had this within your reach for a while... I remember you cruising up Ahab on toprope at the end of our first climbing day together back in 2005:

This was after soloing RA, doing all the Doggie climbs at Camp4 wall, and Moby Dick. I surprised myself by saying no to Ahab after you did it, deciding I had pushed myself enough for the day already. I guess that difference accounts for why you are still doing badass stuff and I can grab a wad of my belly in my hand.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Mar 23, 2016 - 03:25pm PT
Proud to onsight TZ. Go Mei!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Mar 23, 2016 - 03:39pm PT
A gym climber leads TZ?

There is nothing wrong with your television set...
Do not attempt to adjust the picture...
We are controlling transmission...

Oh, wait, that's Outer Limits, never mind

Good job bro!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Mar 23, 2016 - 04:10pm PT
Way cool! Thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
  Mar 23, 2016 - 05:08pm PT
Killer work

Trad climber
  Mar 23, 2016 - 05:18pm PT
Wow!~ awesome work.

San Jose, CA
  Mar 24, 2016 - 03:01am PT
Bravo Mei!
shell you change your system from inches to "meter by meter" and place cheetah on your web page insteand of mud worm?
Did you really ask about TZ? I do not remember, but good that I did not understand , ha, ha

A gym climber leads TZ?

There is nothing wrong with your television set...
can you tell us more about your television set climbing story ?

Trad climber
  Mar 23, 2016 - 05:20pm PT
wish no do ,not sych your self out,,,wowwee the brain the weak link ,,cheers,,to the potental,,

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 23, 2016 - 07:05pm PT
Way to go Mei. The Mei Way!

"Narrator: You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."

And btw, there's gym climbers and then there are gym climbers..

M[Click to View YouTube Video]
Mark Force

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
  Mar 23, 2016 - 06:57pm PT
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 23, 2016 - 08:38pm PT
Ignorance was bliss back in the day, too.
Climbing TZ did not appeal AT ALL!
Fear and loathing were it's companions.
It was for the fiercely passionate, I knew that.
Way to take the leap, the initiative, the bull by the horns, and the brass ring, Mei.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Mar 23, 2016 - 09:06pm PT
best TR (and ascent) in the last 1.6 years on ST! Thanks!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Mar 23, 2016 - 09:51pm PT
Well done!

Need a wyde free gun for a wall route this spring [HINT]
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Mar 24, 2016 - 12:04am PT
Good job Mei! There was a list of people who onsight TZ?! I onsighted it a few years ago too, add me as well! :) Thought it was a very casual OW for the grade. For me personally, the generator crack is much harder, as it has a squeeze on top I simply can't squeeze through. Must stay on the outside and use as an awkward flaring bulge. F*#k that crack. TZ is much more 'fun' if that can be said about anything wide. :)

The crux of TZ, for me was moving over the #4 cam, walking the #5 (or a 6?) for a WAYS, but worst of all was not having a hand size piece to protect the top. Having the whole dirt mantle being an unprotected affair SUCKED.

Does not compare to the story of the pioneers who were the first to lead it without the big gear. I had the #4, #5 and a #6 for it, which I walked. It is likely the most strenuous thing about the ascent, which make leading real bitch of work. From what I remember it was basically free soloed on the FA and a few following ascents?

PS: Didn't know you knew Dimitriy!

Edit: Gym climber POWER!

Oakland, CA
  Mar 24, 2016 - 12:17am PT
Oh yeah, nice work. Some of these Valley pitches have such towering reputations, it's easy to convince yourself you're not ready. Got to feel good to punch through. Was it an emperor has no clothes experience, or was the pitch hard as nails but doable?
Jon Clark

  Mar 24, 2016 - 06:40am PT
Great post, thanks.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 24, 2016 - 07:37am PT
Au contraire Mouse! Fear was the draw! Remember the old adage, "if you're not at least a little scared you're not really having fun!" So TZ was, lots of fun!

And when I joined The club vitalliy, it wast not totally run out. Besides a massive four friend, there were also shakey tube chalks to provide marginal, psychological security..
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 24, 2016 - 07:55am PT
Jaybro, yer right. I let myself be intimidated by NOT having Friends, which were a couple of years in the future. I'm heartily ashamed. :0)

Lovegasoline, the cat is a Spazz, a breed noted for being clumsy. There is a little Spazz in everyone.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 24, 2016 - 08:24am PT
Mouse, you had tubes, Titons, I-beams et al, no excuses! 😎

beneath the valley of ultravegans
  Mar 24, 2016 - 08:44am PT
Shirtless in the Zone, way back when.
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Mar 24, 2016 - 08:49am PT
Beautiful report, Mei.
You've been busy.

Trad climber
Northern California
  Mar 24, 2016 - 09:53am PT
Awesome, Mei! And what a great TR to celebrate your achievement with. Rock on!

  Mar 24, 2016 - 10:34am PT
Mei this is the best TR I have read in a long time. I loved it - as someone else said, both the content and the style. Write more please. Nice job, thanks, congrats and Rock On!

Social climber
  Mar 24, 2016 - 10:39am PT
Great job Mei, on the climb and the TR! Thanks for the inspiration.

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Mar 24, 2016 - 02:01pm PT
Hey y'all, thanks for reading and taking your time to write your reply. The genuine congrats in most responses are greatly appreciated. I refrained from jumping on to reply to every comment.

Ignore what I said earlier about what trip reports are for, even though it's all true. But what a joy to share the excitement with the community after success, big or small! It's a good feeling to receive a pat on the back from a bro or a sis while you are still smiling. Got a survival story? You know that many others have experienced the same and can relate. The virtual hug from the Internet can feel warm too. And learned a lesson? You never know; it might just save someone's life someday after they have read about your lesson. So, yes, more power to trip reports!

NutAgain, 11 years is enough of a time for memory to fade. "Cruising up Ahab"??? That's very generous of you. The only reason you said no to Ahab TR was you witnessed my fight on (in) it, which had gotta be extremely painful to watch. :) Oh, I still remember that OW training day we had. Last year, when I got back into climbing, you were one of the first people I searched for to see the possibility to rope up again. So sad that you moved away.

le_bruce, I don't know what to tell ya. The climb felt right for its grade, but it's an OW 10d, so it can mean very different to different climbers depending on their styles.

Rock on!
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Mar 24, 2016 - 02:04pm PT
Hey there, say... that was a nice report. Thanks!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 24, 2016 - 03:24pm PT
Really great job!!!

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Mar 24, 2016 - 03:49pm PT
Hey, Mei, that was so much fun to read! Had me chuckling through the whole thing.
Congrats on your inch by inch ascent!

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Mar 24, 2016 - 04:37pm PT
I aim to entertain. :)

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Mar 24, 2016 - 07:06pm PT
Way to get after it . . . an impressive ascent and nice report!

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Mar 24, 2016 - 07:07pm PT
I bow down. It was funny, too.

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Mar 25, 2016 - 10:08am PT
It just occurred to me that it takes a mouse to know cats well . This is my first time hearing about Spazz. I just thought it was a random cat out there clumsy like ours. One tabby of ours one day walked straight off the edge of a dresser while holding her head high. She was not tied in, but her cat like instinct saved her and she landed safely and immediately went into her grooming mode pretending nothing happpened.

I like that line "There is a little Spazz in everyone." So true! Hope Spazz cats do not feel offended.

East Bay, CA
  Mar 25, 2016 - 10:08am PT
Amazing Mei! You're a serious talent. Thank you for your TR & photos which are wonderful in so many ways!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Mar 25, 2016 - 10:23am PT
Fabulous TR! I remember doing it in 1971....pre cam days. It was one of those things you psyched up for knowing you wouldn't get your first hex in until after you were in no fall territory.

Trad climber
  Mar 26, 2016 - 09:10pm PT
Love the dirt flop at the top. Very appropriate for this type of thing. Been on it once. Wasn't equal to it. Good job!

Big Wall climber
  Apr 4, 2016 - 07:33pm PT
confirmed, I was there. Rad send indeed.

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Apr 5, 2016 - 11:16am PT
Thanks for all the new likes!

Jaysen, now I think you were among the group of three at Cookie that day. I'm having flashbacks of some bright neon green tights now. Must be you! What a trip you had. Congrats!

Trad climber
  Apr 5, 2016 - 11:00am PT
super-inspired to get back on it after reading this write-up!

"positive vibrations..."

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 5, 2016 - 01:45pm PT

Nice work. Thanks for the report.
Stay stoked!


Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jun 10, 2016 - 07:54pm PT
Nut... Nut... NutAgain!
I remember you cruising up Ahab on toprope at the end of our first climbing day together back in 2005...

Looking at your picture, I can't believe I went in the squeeze right side in. What was I thinking? No wonder it felt really really hard (clean, yes, but not cruise at all).

After a gap of 11 years, I finally returned to Ahab and led it clean! So happy! I found the moves through the squeeze a little harder than what's required on TZ because of the flare, but it's easier on Ahab to rest inbetween the awkward moves.

Monterey, Ca
  Jan 29, 2019 - 06:32am PT
bump for stoking my stoke!

Trad climber
  Jan 29, 2019 - 10:37am PT
Get on it Zay! I was working toward it but didn't work up to it yet. I'll definitely be in shape for it and make time for it in the next decade barring any catastrophes.

Thanks for bringing some fun memories of climbing with Mei to the foreground. Before our first time climbing, I was going through a period of frustration looking for someone who was more committed, more willing to laugh at approaching storm clouds, smile under the burden of a backpack, etc.... In short, someone to be an equal partner and not someone I had to coax along to keep their psych up. I was by no means a super-hero, but I at least had pluck and had fun while suffering.

Mei, I think the first time we exchanged emails or talked on the phone, I may have been a bit of a jerk, something like "I don't want to climb with people who whine about being tired on the approach hike or say they want to bail at the first sign of a cloud in the sky". I had a chip on my shoulder about wanting to do more epic stuff and not deal with the wannabe gym climbers- though my ambitions outstripped the time and attention I could give to climbing in my life. You were very polite and understated in assuring me that you would try your best or something like that. Haha, you pushed me to be the best that I could be at the time, and in the end of the day I called it quits before you did.

I think I was busy with career and babies and crumbling marriage at the time, or I would have probably climbed with you a lot more after that! I hope you are still out there enjoying the good tidings of the mountains.


San Jose, CA
  Jan 29, 2019 - 01:05pm PT
to late to be exited about this route.
Due to high demand and constant fights in the line for TZ, park service decided from January 2019 to start issue the passes per party of two, no more than 5 per day.

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 29, 2019 - 08:45pm PT
Thanks for fanning the stoke, Zay! I need a bit of that myself these days.

Thanks for the kind words, NutAgain! I actually had to revisit our initial email exchange to see what you were talking about. You did ask questions and state expectations, but I absolutely did not interpret them in any negative way you certainly did not sound like a jerk, but rather an intelligent person who knows what he wants. I always appreciate open communications! Your post brought back fond memories and I smiled while revisiting my old trip report (and yours)! Apparently, the great experience has emboldened me, in the years to come, to climb with many strangers I only "met" on the Internet and I always had a good experience. Lucky me!

Yeah, I remember you went on to have more adventures on the wide cracks and long routes while I dialed back (even stopped) climbing. When I got back, you'd moved out of the Bay Area. Would have loved to have climbed more with you for sure. Best wishes to you and your future adventures!
The Cookie Cliff - Twilight Zone 5.10d - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Todd Snyder
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