Trip Report
TR - Cookie Cliff (Yosemite) March 1, 2008
Sunday March 2, 2008 10:33pm
I pulled a U-turn into the El Portal gas station, and my heart sank. Three simple words scribbled on the white paper sign covering the payphone spelled disaster for my weekend: Out of Service. No way to reach my climbing partner. From now on, I'd figure out the Where and When with my would-be partner before a pre-dawn start and driving a couple hundred miles.

It was an exceptionally beautiful morning, the first time I had seen Highway 140 in the daylight. Green rippled hills in the pastureland gave way to fiery orange slaterock in crisp straight lines, as the road slowly climbs alongside the river. Snowmelt tumbled over white polished riverstones, and light green buds were appearing at the tips of brush and trees. The morning sun played on all in the way that only a winter sun can do, making all look warm and cool at the same time. It was glorious. But I still didn't have a climbing partner for the weekend.

And then the gods of all religions joined forces, creating a circumstance of such divine providence that it rivaled celestial creation and the whisper of life. Just at that moment, with guidebook in hand and head half-craned out the window, I pulled into the parking lot at Arch rock for my first ever gander. And hey! that guy standing over by the restrooms is Steve! (aka supertopo SPYork) Not my partner for the weekend, but I've climbed with spyork twice he's a welcome site. Then out come Gary and Ed Hartouni, rounding out the off-width rat-pack. I've never seen them in person, but modern science and supertopo make that irrelevant. One minute later and I would have missed them. I can hardly believe my good fortune, and marvel at the mysterious ways in which cosmic serendipity places us exactly where and when we're supposed to be. I should remember that more often when things appear to be going badly.

I tag along with them to Cookie Cliff, happy to be heading toward whatever is on their mind. We pull up to Elevator Shaft, and the first lead is all about Steve. Unless you've watched a video of Steve posted over at, most of you won't know what I'm talking about. But I can assure you that the first time watching him climb is shocking. So's the second and third. It's not something you should bring small children to witness unless you want them to become wizened and calloused to the world at a tender young age. He cusses something fierce. And my heart hurts from the adrenaline jolts every time he lets out that blood-curdling scream signaling his imminent peel and crash... but somehow he pulls through.

Meanwhile I'm over to the left sizing up Outer Limits, deciding if my cajones are big enough to on-site lead this one. Not yet. But after I get on toprope and cruise it, I realize that my cajones are the only missing ingredient. Next time I'll be bolder. This is a climb I can come back to again and again... absolutely awesome hand and finger crack, steep, but very doable with plenty of rests.

Another local guy named Gary shows up to solo on a traxion, and instead hops on our ready toprope. While we're all hanging out enjoying the day, along come Bob and Zander! So now it's turned into a full-blown NorCal Chapter of Supertopo offwidth hounds. Zander can't sit still long enough to wait for a route to open up, so he and Bob go around the corner for Meat Grinder. And after everyone else has been on Outer Limits, there's too much Offwidth Mojo in the air to avoid. I ask for takers on Vendetta, and get a whole lotta silence, and then someone reminds me that was supposed to be on Sunday according to my published agenda.

But Steve brought these damn Valley Giants that could keep a battlecruiser anchored in a Category 5 hurricane. We can't let that go to waste. So over to Left Side of Cookie we head. And it's all my lead. We skipped the 5.9 chimney first pitch and traversed across the 3rd class trail. That's a definite DFU traverse, makes you pay attention with a full pack on. So on to the gory details. Well, there's not much to tell that hasn't been told a thousand times. Grunting, moaning, panting chest, forehead plastered to the rock in sweaty defeat. And that was the first five feet. So I flailed about like that for a while, hung a coupla times on the valley giant six feet off the ground. Then I got it together, pushed that giant ahead of me through to the top of the pod. After some master ninja moves seldom seen, I heaved into the final lieback and topped out with a strong urge to vomit. It turned out to be a good OW day, everyone saw the top.

Evening saw us all assembled on the grass near the cars, downing beers (or Odwalla in my case), swapping snacks, and telling tall tales of old climbs. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful mellow day.

But it wouldn't be a nutjob story if there wasn't some element of poor planning or foolhardy thinking that leads to more adventure than I bargained for. As the gang piled into their cars for the trip back to the bay, my thoughts returned to something I noted on the morning drive in. Long about Manteca, I realized that I forgot my sleeping bag. So I'd be spending the night in my bivy sack wearing every bit of clothing in my car that would fit. Not a big deal in summer, but it was still pretty cold here. And then I'd have to stir up a partner for the next day, with no cellphone reception, no supertopo, no mobile gmail, no blackberry email. Oh, the horror!

Again fate saved me from myself. I took the civilized route and ate an expensive dinner at the motel in El Portal, and finally found a payphone. I called home to see how things were going, and turns out my daughter had a fever all day and my wife needed a break. I got enough grunts out of my system on Left Side of Cookie, so it wasn't the end of the world for me to head back early. By 11pm, I was putting a cool washcloth on my daughter's hot forehead and locking eyes with my beautiful smiling wife.

I definitely turn into a pain in the @ss if I don't log my hours outside. To borrow a line from the Shining, "All work and no play makes nutjob a dull boy." But heck it just takes a little bit of that Yosemite magic to make everything else in life seem better, make my wife more beautiful, make my kids funner to play with, and keep a smile on my face.

God bless y'all believers, may random chance happen to work in the favor of y'all atheists, and may the agnostics receive a bit of both.

  Trip Report Views: 1,538
About the Author
nutjob is a climber from Berkeley, CA.

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Trad climber
  Mar 2, 2008 - 10:38pm PT
Keep THAT magic alive, nutjob!

Thanks for postin' up!


Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Mar 2, 2008 - 10:43pm PT
hahaha "And that was the first five feet." Nice one!

Them BAWC guys are tops, wide stance and all in the Arch Rock head!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:04pm PT
I dropped my film off for processing on my way out of town, be back in the Bay Area on Wed evening... post some pix on Thursday.

Recall that we got SPANKED last year when we went to look at Cookie, Left. Somehow, the place was rocking and no one wanted to voyage up Vendetta on Saturday. I'm not sure what was on the agenda, actually, but not that.

Yes, the cosmic forces seemed to bring us together. nutjob was welcome to join up with the BAWC for a sesh at the Cookie. spyork wanted some chimney, so we offered up Elevator Shaft 5.8, which is Kick Ass steep, and the top part is wet this time of year, but it's chimney... a great lead and then Gary goes up, and lowers to the anchor at the top of Outer Limits which we set up...

I'll probably post more details later about the climb (over on WideFetish) nutjob went right side in on the Cookie Left 5.10a off width... he had a real tussle but made it to the top. He was "in the zone" at the top, that is, he was ready to chuck his cookies, fortunately he didn't. Gary went left side in and cruised into the pod only to face the problem of last year, how to finish left side in. spyork sort of kept flipping left/right side in... taking a few hangs, and makes it to the top.

I decided to give it a go with right side in... and I think that's the ticket! The crux moves down with right side in, just below the pod. But there are lots of good features you can use with your right hand inside the crack. Patience, and getting a good inside leg lock, then driving off your outside heel-toe while gripping one of those inside holds is the the way to go. At some point my right ankle is bleeding (my Kaukulators were waiting for me at home, just arrived from Barry's in the mail) and I couldn't quite keep setting the inside leg... but I did get into the pod after a breather. Once in the pod, it's really a squeeze chimney to the top of the pod with a great right arm-bar, then a delicate maneuver into a layback, which finishes that little problem off!

I was amazed at how much less energy was expended....


  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:07pm PT
Thanks Ed.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:32pm PT
ok wernr
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:34pm PT
Thanks for this recent, friendly tale! Brought me back for awhile.


Trad climber
Rancho Cucamonga
  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:35pm PT
I just got off the phone making plans with my friend scott to climb in the valley at the end of the month. He just told me he did Vendetta today (Sunday) and that we should do it when I come up. We also are going to climb Entrance Exam and the Midterm. Perhaps Steck Salathe. But it may be wet. We may just wait on that one until summer? Seeing this post about O/w, Chimneys is a good sign. Thanks for this post I can't wait to get to the valley! Armando

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Mar 2, 2008 - 11:55pm PT
Such fun and what a great read. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Can't wait to see the photos. I love reading about all this climbing here on the taco!
Gary Carpenter

SF Bay Area
  Mar 3, 2008 - 12:03am PT
Steve’s new Valley Giants

Elevator Shaft

Bob & Zander on Meat Grinder

Ed on Cookie Left

Left to Right: Bob, Zander, Ed, Steve & Nutjob


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 3, 2008 - 01:48am PT
Man! Wish I hadn't had to sit that one out!

  Mar 3, 2008 - 11:06am PT
Bob and I were going to do Enigma. We got to the top of the first pitch.

Looking up the first pitch

You can look accross the 5.4 slab and see the base of the flare. It was running with water. We decided that was a little too much adventure. We went around to look at Outer Limits and lo and behold the whole darn gang! We went around the corner to Meat Grinder where we met a nice woman, Janet, who was doing some soloing. We watched her fire Meat Grinder and then Bob led the first pitch. I climbed it completely differently then he did so there are lots of possibilities in the climb.

Meat Grinder first pitch.

The guys were now down on Cookie Left so Bob led P1 of Outer Limits.

This is a really cool climb. Bob did a nice job on Crack A Go Go on top rope and another good day at the cookie was done. We retired to eat, drink and make great plans with the gang.


Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Mar 3, 2008 - 11:14am PT
Good times, guys! Glad thingss worked out for you, Nutjob.

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Mar 3, 2008 - 11:23am PT
Here is my trip report, Jay!

Just Livin' the Dream...
  Mar 3, 2008 - 11:45am PT
"After some master ninja moves seldom seen, I heaved into the final lieback and topped out with a strong urge to vomit."

Nutjob--Hysterical TR! Even without the visual stimulation of photos, I was laughing and gripped the entire time.

I think I might even have virtual bruises and abrasions, too...

Mucho grasses!

Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Mar 3, 2008 - 11:48am PT
I saw you guys post- climb. We did Entrance Exam. Looks like fun (suffering= fun).

More TR coming.

the Fet

  Mar 3, 2008 - 12:01pm PT
Good Stuff!

Trad climber
  Mar 3, 2008 - 12:15pm PT
Nice TR! What's the status of the fixed lines at Cookie?

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Mar 3, 2008 - 12:21pm PT
Fixed lines looked good on the one to the left of Outer limits. Line was in good shape.

There was a line on Cookie Monster (I think). One over by Meat Grinder too.

  Mar 3, 2008 - 12:37pm PT
"So now it's turned into a full-blown NorCal Chapter of Supertopo offwidth hounds. ,,,,,there's too much Offwidth Mojo in the air to avoid.'

Pretty classic. Did anyone attempt the uber-classic line left of meatgrinder, or are the valley giants the only size you offwidth freaks allow on the rack?

Nice TR.
Hardly Visible

Social climber
Llatikcuf WA
  Mar 3, 2008 - 02:54pm PT
Damn I'm jealous. Way to go guys.
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Mar 4, 2008 - 12:10am PT
Way to get after it Gentlemen. Almost makes me wish I still lived in Cali. Just have to pay a visit. . . .

Just went up and checked my backyard boulders this afternoon. Still under snow, Aaaarg.

You guys should feel guilty taking valuable forum space away from the Obama-able Snowman and (Sir Edmund) Hillary. Jeez.

Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Mar 4, 2008 - 04:18am PT
OK, here's the Arch Rock TR, etc. More wideness, just down the road.

Met up with Micha Saturday morning at Arch rock entrance. Neither of us had been to this formation... Not wanting to start out too hard, we selected Entrance Exam, at only 5.9.

Casting off, I climbed mightily for maybe 15 minutes, and stopped to rest. Looking down, I see that I was about a body length above Micha's head. This was turned out to be the pace for the whole route. OK, it's a chimney, but this part is 5.8, so no big deal, right?

I've noticed a tendency in myself before, to squeeze it too tight, where the pro is better, and it feels more secure (chest jamb), but the climbing is more strenuous.

Also a tendency to focus tightly on the crack, and miss the opportunities out on the face or for wider stemming, and sure enough, those happened again.

Anyway, I eventually made it to the first (optional) belay. I'll take the rest, and Micha can wake up.

We had some big cams, so I wussed along, pushing a pair of them up with me.

They don't call me bold for nothing- wait, they just don't call me bold!

There are some chockstones, which actually provided the few holds on the whole route.

Coming over one of them:

Whew, made it!

Here's the last chockstone/roof. I managed to pump out and fall from the top of this.

looking into the maw on the way down:

This took most of the day, but one double rope rappel got us to the ground, where I began to redouble my search for better kneepads.

On Sunday, my friend from the gym came out, and we got up a few things at Churchbowl, in spite of my screaming groin and hip flexors.

A fine weekend, indeed.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Mar 4, 2008 - 09:18am PT
nice Jay - chimneys are a balance between security and being able to move; nothing like getting in and snuggling between the rock. Always takes some internal convincing in my case to get out to the best size to make upward progress.

Knee pads can make a difference too.

Great send on a Pratt old school classic. The thing I always ponder on one of those climbs is that those old dads had no pro in much of the climb. "Technique was their protection," which is an inspiration mantra I often resort to when even the modern gear won't work.

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Mar 4, 2008 - 10:34am PT
nice job. Thats a hard one. Pratt and friends were pretty tough.

  Mar 4, 2008 - 10:43am PT
Hey Jay,
Thanks for posting pics of EE. I've wanted to climb that thing for a while. Looks cool.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Mar 4, 2008 - 12:57pm PT
jay did you ride onto that Bong-ett? When I led it I didn't place a cam up there to keep the rope running efficiently and kept imaginting taking a whistler onto that (vintage '65)pin, having it pop, and taking an even bigger whistler!

Those guys really were tough!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Mar 4, 2008 - 01:45pm PT
No, I had a solid cam in the hand crack above. The bong looked pretty sound, though.

Thanks for the feedback, all.

This was also the first valley trip for my new (to me) rig- '03 Outback. It cruised Old Priest grade, and the wet curves as well.
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Mar 5, 2008 - 02:10pm PT
bump for this rock climbing stuff

Just Livin' the Dream...
  Mar 5, 2008 - 02:17pm PT
Great photos, Jay. Man, that thing looks painful.

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  Mar 5, 2008 - 04:54pm PT
sorry we missed you guys, it was a great weekend!

Social climber
Prescott, AZ
  Mar 6, 2008 - 08:12am PT
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Mar 8, 2008 - 02:43am PT
here is spyork starting up Elevator Shaft 5.8

entering the chimney

Gary in the chimney, the rope hangs straight down

Young local Gary toproping Outer Limits 5.10c

elements of the BAWC + nutjob assemble under the Cookie, Left 5.10a offwidth

nutjob busting out "some master ninja moves seldom seen"

  Mar 8, 2008 - 09:47am PT
Clog dab? Hahahaha.;)

Metolius style edit: I could be wrong.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Nov 11, 2013 - 10:54pm PT
I've been a shameless poster of non-climbing content for quite some time. As I don't have much in the way of recent climbing stuff to share, I reckon I'm due for bumpin' some old climbing content.
KP Ariza

  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:22pm PT
Good sh#t Nutty.....Bump!

  Nov 11, 2013 - 11:25pm PT
Good stuff! Damn!
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