Trip Report
The Incredible Hulk--Positive Vibrations: A Reflective Everyman's TR
Monday August 22, 2011 8:58pm
The Incredible Hulk, late in the day
The Incredible Hulk, late in the day
Credit: Thomas

The ivory granite wall faced west, glowing a brilliant orange in the fading afternoon light. Shadows crept slowly toward the base as the chill in the air made me reach for another layer. I did not fully appreciate this perspective until completing two climbs on the monolith, but this sight would now be forever etched in my memory.

The route Positive Vibrations on a peak called The Incredible Hulk was intended to be a grand conclusion to five weeks of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. All of our training and climbing led to this line, a sustained series of cracks and corners rising to a summit of 11,280 feet. I believed the climb to be well within my ability, but the alpine setting and the speed and efficiency with which we had to climb introduced enough of the unknown into the equation to make Positive Vibrations a very compelling objective.

Pulling the final crux on pitch five of Don Juan, The Needles, CA
Pulling the final crux on pitch five of Don Juan, The Needles, CA
Credit: Thomas

Don Juan, a climb at The Needles in Sequoia National Forest, prepared me well for the later stages of our road trip through California. Both legendary and mythical in nature, this 400 foot route was equally enticing and intimidating. It takes an uncompromising line up thin cracks lacing a golden granite tower. Red and yellow lichen adorn the face and enhance its wild, surreal quality. During the ascent my body fell into a distinct rhythm: lock fingers, paste feet, tension, release, breathe, smile. A feeling of integrity and confidence resulted from the constant conversation between muscle and mind and now.

After completing our first climb on The Incredible Hulk, The Red Dihedral, we rested for a day. The six mile approach to this valley worked our knees and backs while the nebulous trails tested our patience. So I relaxed, reflected, and wrote in the beautiful snowy surroundings.

shamatha meditation
atop rolling
hummocks of granite
the unfocused green of pine
to the north
gale from the south
blowing wild hair barely contained
under a trucker hat
Freedom to Roam
snowy waters tumble down
east of my perch
Little Slide Canyon
mysterious spires west
ancient ramparts
broken squarish unknown alluring
scarce sound
water and wind and dive-bombing birds
sporadic symphony from insects

five weeks of traveling and climbing
has chiseled me down to a
narrow focused specimen
a final exam of sorts awaits
days and days of simplicity and drive and
“going up there to find out”
culminate right here
The Incredible Hulk
Positive Vibrations
I’m making too much of it
of course
but that helps me practice
letting go
no big deal
5.10 5.11 5.10 5.11
tips fists hands fingers
still…the feet have to be good
some of the time
relax breathe find the solidity
from Don Juan
that constant conversation between
muscle and mind and now
lock paste tension release smile
I have to go up there
despite the feelings of unworthiness
incompetence falsehood
I do belong in the steep
The Tilted World
the challenge is to rise above the selfishness
doubt and history that undermine
enjoying the effort
burning quads
aching knees
both victims of scree and talus
torn cuticles
scabby hands
the product of thousands of feet
of the real work
slender arms still do well to haul this light frame skyward
every system is a part of it
steps not to be ignored
ritual and spirit
the energy that brings you back

another breath and this entire expansive moment has
passed only to be relived
with the next inhale exhale

grand cosmic everyday

The watch alarm fired off early though I was already awake staring up at the green and mesh ceiling of the tent. It was time. I was psyched. Coffee (Peet’s Garuda Blend), a bagel with peanut butter and Nutella, yet another inventory of gear, and we were on our way.

Julie and I were not the first climbers to arrive at the Hulk on this particular morning. Two folks were far ahead of us in the talus field. Another pair approached distantly from the west. Two more were on the snow field behind us. We seemed like pilgrims slowly moving toward the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, each quietly dwelling on their own prostrations.
Twelve hundred feet of pearly white granite perfection soared above us. We racked quickly and set off up the first pitch, a friendly corner and double crack system that yielded to fun bear hug moves and allowed us to easily establish a rhythm with the rock. The first five pitches flew by in a blur of gleaming grey-white feldspar, pink quartz, highlights of mica, and the dark recesses to which we attempted to fit our bodies—we were not climbing what was there, but what was not there. The movement flowed so naturally, impeccably. At times it was hard to believe that this route was simply one more consequence of tectonics and erosion. Whatever the machinery, we connected fully. Muscle. Mind. Now.

Positive Vibrations, pitch four
Positive Vibrations, pitch four
Credit: Thomas

Climbing toward a remarkable ledge at the end of pitch five
Climbing toward a remarkable ledge at the end of pitch five
Credit: Thomas

Pitch six is the crux of the route—a stemming corner and a pair of roofs lead to a series of finger cracks angling toward the final aręte. One sustained section right on top of another, an ancient tapestry of lithic genius. It was profoundly exciting. There was no room for hesitation or indecision, only attention and execution. I climbed with a crystalline focus, struggling, but never really fighting. There was a cooperation between the rock and my body—we both offered our fully present best. For a time, nothing made more sense in the universe than for us to be here in the alpine sun and wind.

The major difficulties of the route ended two pitches later, but the final rope length really brought everything together and drove home the message: this is quality that is almost unbelievable. Pitch eight wove through elegant discontinuous cracks and required me to traverse right to gain the final splitter that led to the top of the headwall. Tired, but joyful, upon reaching the start of the final forty feet of crack climbing I gazed up at an aesthetic line that would take mostly finger jams and, every now and again, accept a full hand to keep the movement engaging while not entirely easy. It would be hard to plan a better finish if I had been sculpting the climb myself. I yelled down to Julie something mildly obscene, but of the tenor “This is too good to be true!” The phrase seemed to describe nearly every foot of the climb. I paused to appreciate the wild exposure, majestic atmosphere, and stirring ever-present wind, then launched blissfully into the final challenge.

Shaking out and taking it all in way off the deck
Shaking out and taking it all in way off the deck
Credit: Thomas

Positive Vibrations continued on for several hundred feet along an interesting ridge to the ultimate summit. The climbing was casual and we moved rapidly. Bizarre exit moves planted us on a ledge where we unroped and clambered to the top. While coiling the rope I was still trying to process what we had accomplished and just how good the climbing had been. If each pitch was a song, then Positive Vibrations is a “Best of” or easily a perfect album side; the music one reaches for when seeking an authentic, transcendent, and uplifting experience.

The summit was surprisingly calm with the winds experiencing a late afternoon lull. Sunlight streamed down at increasingly shallow angles, the hue beginning to suggest that the day had grown late. Julie and I wore silly grins as we quietly descended, each digesting the last five weeks in our own way. Me, I started with Rene Daumal:

“One climbs, one sees. One descends, one no longer sees, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

It was time to return, perhaps to share. I was temporarily at peace—I was ready.

"...make way for that positive day..."--Bob Marley
"...make way for that positive day..."--Bob Marley
Credit: Thomas

  Trip Report Views: 5,793
About the Author
Thomas is a trad climber from The Tilted World.

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Comment on this Trip Report

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Aug 22, 2011 - 09:04pm PT
What a treat. Thanks for sharing. Glad the mountain gave you a good ride and some vibe to savor later. The opening prose was full of insight, moment and stoke. Well done.

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Aug 22, 2011 - 09:11pm PT
Most excellent and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

  Aug 22, 2011 - 09:29pm PT
Great tr. Thanks for that.

  Aug 22, 2011 - 09:38pm PT




Trad climber
New England
  Aug 22, 2011 - 09:59pm PT
Awesome!! Nice work

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Aug 22, 2011 - 10:03pm PT
Really beautiful! I heard the quote you offered for the first time recently. It's a powerful one. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

Trad climber
the flat water trails...
  Aug 22, 2011 - 10:14pm PT

You're simply amazing, T, and I'm beyond psyched that you shared a portion of your trip..

Thank you.

You've motivated me in many ways throughout the years; this merely adds to that list.

Looking forward to visiting with you soon,

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 22, 2011 - 10:14pm PT
Beautiful rock,
Beautiful poetry,
beautiful pictures,

Way out there....
  Aug 22, 2011 - 11:20pm PT
Will Eccleston

Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
  Aug 22, 2011 - 11:30pm PT

A fantastic and beautiful report on an amazing route capping a stellar trip. Very well done! Makes me psyched for your trip all over again. I hope one day I climb that thing, before I fall apart : )

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Aug 22, 2011 - 11:35pm PT
Nice write up. Sounds like a great climb.

Trad climber
Prescott, AZ ~
  Aug 22, 2011 - 11:39pm PT
You are beautiful expressing yourself, the climb the feel of it all. I could relate, I've been and have had those feelings and because of those, is what I believe is what makes climbing so intensely profound.
Thrilled you had such a wonderful experience on the Hulk and through your words I was able to in an arm chair sort of way, be transported there, or, in other words reminded once again of what nature had has given us, if only we enter into it and receive.

Thanks for sharing your awesome experience!

  Aug 22, 2011 - 11:48pm PT
That is good stuff there, Bro.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Aug 23, 2011 - 01:46am PT
Great stuff. Still my fav route in the high sierra.
Tahoe climber

Davis these days
  Aug 23, 2011 - 01:49am PT
amazing. thanks.
I've done red dihedral, and consider positive vibes a great goal for later.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Aug 23, 2011 - 02:20am PT
love this tr, love PV, love the hulk

love love love

Social climber
  Aug 23, 2011 - 02:09am PT

30 mins. from suicide USA
  Aug 23, 2011 - 03:45pm PT

Trad climber
  Aug 23, 2011 - 04:12pm PT
Very cool...way to go

Trad climber
The Tilted World
Author's Reply  Aug 23, 2011 - 07:41pm PT
Thanks everyone for all of your kind words!

The formatting of the poem did not come out quite as I intended, but oh well.

It is very cool that so many folks will slow down enough in their daily life to read and connect with a lengthy post, not to mention take the time to leave a friendly comment, rather than just scroll through threads at 90 miles and hour looking for something familiar.

I know that The Incredible Hulk has received a lot of press in the last few months, but it is all very well deserved. Positive Vibrations easily lives up to every bit of hype out there. Go dig it!

Composing on a rest day...
Composing on a rest day...
Credit: Thomas

Cheers everyone!

Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
  Aug 23, 2011 - 07:53pm PT
Thanks for the great trip report Thomas. Well done.

There are some more excellent photos of positive vibrations on Jerry Dodrill's blog at the following link.
Drago McWhirter

Trad climber
The moon
  Aug 25, 2011 - 05:28am PT
I've sat and read this crock of s**t,
He ain't done owt 'til he's been on grit.

Trad climber
  Aug 25, 2011 - 10:12am PT
fantastic, bro. exquisitely well-written. a joy to read.

Social climber
  Aug 25, 2011 - 10:38am PT
Nice read Thomas. I am lazy but this is inspiring me to pack my bags!

Trad climber
The Tilted World
Author's Reply  Aug 26, 2011 - 05:36pm PT
That Jerry link is great--thanks for sharing. Never get tired of hearing about the Hulk...

Happy Friday Afternoon in the Universe!
Kurt Ettinger

Trad climber
Martinez, CA
  Aug 26, 2011 - 06:26pm PT
Excellent job all the way around Thomas!

Trad climber
The Tilted World
Author's Reply  Aug 26, 2011 - 08:55pm PT
Manny, I assure you that it is well worth the trip. Totally stunning...

And be sure to report back!

scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Aug 26, 2011 - 10:04pm PT
great, thanks

Trad climber
  Aug 27, 2011 - 03:36pm PT
Great pics and tr! Inspiring.

Thanks for posting 'em.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 28, 2011 - 02:24pm PT

Trad climber
Mammoth and SLO.....Life is Good!!!
  Aug 29, 2011 - 10:44am PT
Came through Little Slide on Saturday while guiding a friend on a pack trip. It is testament to the crag's quality that so many are heading in there these days!

There were two parties climbing, three in camp, and two on the way in as we were heading out.

Let's hope that everyone keeps the place pristine.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Aug 29, 2011 - 10:53am PT
Nice! One of my favorite routes.
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
  Aug 29, 2011 - 11:10am PT
great TR and a good read. In the summit shot of you with your outstretched arms is one of most amazing chockstones I've seen in the mountains. On the wall behind you there's what I call the "wing". I would imagine anyone who's done the descent off the Hulk eyeballs it. It is this thin but incredibly long/wide piece of rock perfectly wedged in a very wide gap. I've always wondered if anyone has been there.

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Aug 29, 2011 - 02:28pm PT
While I don't have the ability to climb Pos Vibes, I've heard from the Sierra's best that it's the best line in the Sierra. Doesn't get better than this. Good for you, sounds awesome.

Sport climber
Malibu, CA
  Aug 31, 2011 - 02:36pm PT
Great stuff. Well done! That route looks amazing.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Aug 31, 2011 - 04:04pm PT
Thank you for an amazing trip report!
Daniel Eubank

Sport climber
Woodbridge, VA
  Sep 2, 2011 - 10:11am PT

The Incredible Hulk--Positive Vibrations

photo not found
Missing photo ID#215726

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 2, 2011 - 01:01pm PT
Nice share, thanks!

Oakland, CA
  Feb 13, 2013 - 10:36pm PT
Solid TR bump.
Clarke Brogger

Mountain climber
Seal Beach, Ca
  Feb 14, 2013 - 04:18pm PT
Whats this route go at?
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