Flight of the Albatross A3 5.8
Trip ReportTR: My visit to the Canoe
What I Did For My Summer Vacation
For my summer vacation I visited the Canoe. It was really fun. I have wanted to visit the Canoe for a long time so it was fun to finally visit it. Also interesting. It was also a little scary to visit the Canoe. If asked whether I would visit the Canoe or not again next summer I think the answer would be no I would not visit the Canoe again. Because it was scary like that.
Myth has it that way, way up on the Shield Headwall of El Cap there’s a monster flake mysteriously pasted on a blank wall. My homeboy Geoff and I decided to cruise on up there, see if this thing really exists or what. Maybe a real block of rock up there, shaped like a canoe, or maybe just legend like a granite Yeti, or a Samsquamch. It was truly an expedition into the unknown, a dark place on the map. Fair chance one of us wasn’t coming back. But I’ll tell you this: if we happened to find a real block of rock up there, and it happened to be actually shaped like a canoe, well then I planned on hopping on that bad boy and riding it like a pony.
My matey Geoff.
To get to the Canoe you have to climb this route called Flight of the Albatross. (FA: John Middendorf, Will Oxx & Jessica Alba, 1993.) The Supertaco says to avoid the first few pitches of the Albatross, because they are grassy and crappy. So we did. I do everything the Taco tells me to do. From Mammoth Terrace we climbed the first four pitches of Magic Mushroom. They were grassy and crappy.
At Cast Away Mateys Pinnacle (arrrrr!) we finally got onto the Albatross proper. Geoff on the A2:
And up the cool 8th pitch.
The hunt for the Canoe continues. P10, another cool nailing pitch:
I sure hope it's not too late to catch the pirate bandwagon.
Honestly, this Canoe thing was really starting to feel like a legend. By the fourth day we were well up the headwall and had seen no teetering mystery. This is the eleventh belay, only 100 feet below the Canoe. Where is this thing!?
Ta-da! The Canoe!
My mom always used to tell me, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” First, it makes you really think it through when your own mom uses the phrase “mother of disappointment.” But second, she’s right. You ever get so obsessed about something that when it finally happens, you find you could take it or leave it? And not only that, but there’s a million details you overlooked along the way. Well, I’m not saying I was disappointed in the Canoe, but sitting I did realize there was another hardish pitch above I hadn’t been getting psyched up for. And whoa was it a ball breaker. It was a full-on puckerfest, with crap heads and beaks above the ledge. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, it was somewhere on this pitch that the phrase “Fuсk you, John Middendorf” was heard.
Maybe one more shot to show off a little more.
And that was basically it. We were off onto the Shield, and in another day we were off.
Random Beta and Trivia
1. We hauled two bags including 64 liters of water up the Heart Slabs 1:1 on a Mini-Traxion.
2. Rivets, though rusty, seemed very solid.
3. We had the SW face of the Cap all to ourselves.
4. They have some weird candy in Oz. Geoff brought some Chicos over. Ever had Chicos? Here’s the bag:
5. Got tooled twice during the trip (for OB camping and speeding in Tuolumne) but got off clean each time due to my charm, handsome dirtbaggish looks, and the shiv secreted in my sock. Rangers are people too!
6. Speaking of people and otherwise, I drove home along U.S. 6 aka the Extraterrestrial Highway™ past Area 51. I know what happens inside that compound because I played through Half Life four times. Outside beautiful Rachel, Nev. (ET Highway Rule #1: Whatever you do, do NOT stop the car) I happened upon a Chrysler minivan on the shoulder, shimmering in the classic distress pose—hood up. Which was funny, since the problem was a flat tire. And it was also funny that I violated Rule #1 to be a Samaritan, since I know nothing about automobiles and the gremlins that make them go fast and honk and stuff. But I stopped and tried to help this grandpa get the spare tire out from under the damn minivan. Grandma and what seemed to be two grandkids watched and fretted. The minivan had a hieroglyphic instructional panel indicating some mechanism that winched the tire up under the van, with swirling arrows to RAISE or LOWER and it was funny how little sense it made. Me and granddad, though, working together at full capacity, made slow but steady progress.
I was under the minivan pounding on something critical-looking with a rock when it came out that I was on my way back from “camping” in Yosemite. (Unless you have a spare forty minutes to explain “rock climbering,” just say camping.)
Grandma clutched at her throat and said, “Oh! Yosemite! My isn’t it gorgeous there.”
One of the kids wondered what Yosemite was. Underneath, I broke something.
“Yosemite is a beautiful mountain in Mon—up in Warsh—is it in Wyoming?”
And this was when I realized, still under their UFO, that these people were not from my planet. I crawled out and stood up and looked at their slimy faces. Gauged the distance back to my truck. Should I sprint for that and try to crank her up, or just run into the desert? What sort of aliens were these? Could they warp over and keep me from my truck? Explode it with death rays? Explode me? I had a lug wrench in my hands, that was my only advantage. Maybe these green bastards would waste enough time zipping out of their human suits that I could--
Two cars in the distance. We all watched them approach. It took about an hour and a half, you know how long and straight those roads are. They were two sedans as plain and white as Ford can make them, government plates. Two guys in jeans and black T-shirts stepped out of the first one, in unison. Two guys in green fatigues stepped out of the second, muscley under there for sure, flattops, mirror-shined combat boots. All four in impenetrable black shades.
There was a big silence so I said, “You guys out hunting aliens or what?”
Bigger silence. They stood on their side of the road, and we stood on ours. Cars ticked. The aliens shuffled around a little nervous.
One of the black T-shirt guys said, “Thought maybe you needed some help.”
And the grandma alien took in a breath like she might answer, or might explode his brain, or maybe mine, but I never heard what she said—or did—because I was slamming my truck door and cranking the key and gunning that POS up the long grade out of Rachel, Nev.
7. Earlier on that drive, on an empty highway, I noticed a little something in the corner of my eye, passing me on the left:
8. You may want more than 10 beaks. I took the 10 listed, lowered off twice (from each bolt) to back clean and got to the belay with a couple left. Not sure what that adds up to. Maybe somebody annoying could cook up a formula: B = (ST + 2BC)^SE, where SE, meaning snail eye, in this particular equation equals, say, ∞. Solving this equation will get you up the Jessica Albatross, and I hope it may solve the world’s energy crisis as well.
9. Curious how we got down off the route? We friggin’ walked, man.
Appendix: Australian/English Dictionary
Budgie smuggler = Speedo
Chockers = full, as in: “I’m bloody chockers, mate. Too many chocolate aborigines.”
Dodgy = jingus, hairball, manky, with teeth, sketch, etc. A great aid word.
Fuсk-all = little or none, as in: “How much rope left?” “Fuсk-all!” “Huh? A lot?” “No! Fuсk-all left!” “What?” “NONE!”
Lollies = candy, excluding chocolate.
Nugs = boobs.
Shits you = annoys you or pisses you off. Again, an extremely useful phrase whilst big walling.
Winter = June-August. Don’t ask, I don’t know what’s going on there.
Wombat = some freakish Oz creature, I guess. Think a gerbil the size of an ox with bunny ears and a scorpion tale with venom strong enough to kill 187 men.
So there you have it. We climbed intrepidly into the unknown with courage and cunning and maybe even what you might call panache. We also ate some Vienna sausages. And if you’re still reading, there’s something wrong with you.
(Thanks Deuce, Mr. Oxx and of course Jess for a very cool route.)
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