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Third Pillar of Dana


Tuolumne Meadows, California USA


Trip Report
Third Pillar of Dana (First Winter ascent by a Cheburashka)
Monday February 20, 2012 1:30am
My friend Bryan and I did some peaks during winter together, and did some trad routes over the summer. Since we like a little occasional challenge, for the current winter, we decided to combine the two. We decided to climb Third Pillar of Dana- a line we always stare at on the drive through Lee Vining.

Monster!
Monster!
Credit: Vitaliy M.

As Christmas approached we got the best gift possible- a blue sky weekend, and Tioga Pass that is still opened (due to absence of huge snow storms). Tioga Pass being opened was a huge relief. During early spring in 2011 I day-hiked Dana Couloir from Power Plant parking lot, and was not too excited about repeating the long boring walk.

Cold morning...
Cold morning...
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Although Tioga Pass was opened and skies were blue, it was still winter, there was still plenty of snow to slow us down on the approach, daily highs at altitude were predicted to be 28F, the route got sun only in early morning, and we were doing it on a shortest day of the year.

Sunrise!
Sunrise!
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Since we never attempted anything so technical in such conditions (sustained crack climbing in sub freezing temps) first we thought about bringing aid gear just in case it was too cold to climb some sections, than we thought about adding jumars and having the follower jumar the pitches to save time, finally we decided to skip the aid gear/jumars bullsh#t, and take Cheburashka with us for good luck. Third Pillar is a free climb, if we can't do it, we decided bailing with intentions to come back later is a better option than succeeding through aiding.

Cheburashka is impressed
Cheburashka is impressed
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After a less than typical winter drive, we started our journey up the canyon at some point couple of hours before sunrise. Since it was a moon-less night, we did not find the trail, and had to slog through unconsolidated calf high snow before we finally came across one. As we came up towards the plateau navigation became more difficult since we were surrounded by frozen streams from all sides.

Descent ledges were fun with snow cover : )
Descent ledges were fun with snow cover : )
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After we survived the ice, we made our way up towards our destination as the sun peaked out from the horizon. Here we faced one of our fears- exposed descent towards the pillar, with a foot of snow over it. Somehow we avoided a slip with sure death as a consequence, and made our way across the icy couloir with our one pair of crampons.

Bryan approaching the belay ledge. You can actually see my shadow in t...
Bryan approaching the belay ledge. You can actually see my shadow in the background.
Credit: Vitaliy M.

First ledge was covered in snow, and gave a taste for the things to come-having gaiters over my climbing shoes was a great idea. As Bryan made his way across the couloir, I racked up, and set up an anchor. Finally bathing in the sun felt great.

Me on pitch #1
Me on pitch #1
Credit: Vitaliy M.

First pitch went without big screw ups, aside from almost taking a big fall due to a slip on a FLAT! ledge- turned out there was a layer of ice under a foot of snow. Who knew? I was able to keep my balance, and make my way towards a nice, but short finger crack. Not complaining at all about it's length, for some reason there was a bunch of snow I cleared out from it before I could get solid jams.
The pitch went fast and Bryan was up it in no time. As I belayed him on P2 my right foot went numb and remained that way till we topped out. Pitch 3 was again mine. From beginning of P3 there was no more sun on the route, we were back in winter mode.

Me on 3rd pitch
Me on 3rd pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Bryan almost at the flake
Bryan almost at the flake
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Chimney was straight forward, but belay spot was exactly what it is described as in ST guide- SPECTACULAR! I have no idea how this flake is still attached to the face.

Cheburashka and I on the "Spectacular" belay ledge
Cheburashka and I on the "Spectacular" belay ledge
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Bryan took over from here and made it to top of Pith 4 before I got frostbite. The absence of the pin to protect the crux was not a big deal, since Bryan was able to find some other small gear to plug. Pitch 5 also went without complications- Bryan battled "best 5.9 in the universe" (which actually felt like crux pitch of the route) and had the honor to bath in sun first. Although cleaning snow from out of cracks, and having extremities go numb more than you can remember is not as pleasant as spring cragging in the valley, it is still a great experience.

Bryan on 5th pitch
Bryan on 5th pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After I topped out we finally had a moment to enjoy the views of Mono Lake and Mt Dana. After rubbing the numbness out of my feet we hiked out, and celebrated our little victory at Niceley's. The best Christmas eve of my life!

Bryan enjoying the sun
Bryan enjoying the sun
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Sincere happiness
Sincere happiness
Credit: Vitaliy M.

It was another perfect day with a great partner. And our lucky charm- Cheburashka!

Cheburashka enjoying the views
Cheburashka enjoying the views
Credit: Vitaliy M.

  Trip Report Views: 4,370
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
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mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Feb 20, 2012 - 02:02am PT
Thanks for a great TR! I could feel the cold in your narrative.
slidingmike

climber
CA
  Feb 20, 2012 - 02:11am PT
Way to get after it, well done! Great TR.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Feb 20, 2012 - 02:27am PT
Cheburashka is a funny little creature, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. The crate is eventually delivered to a grocery store in an unnamed Russian city (by some facts it may be Moscow) where the rest of the main story unfolds. Cheburashka is a name given to the character by the puzzled store manager who finds the creature in the crate when he opens it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheburashka
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Feb 20, 2012 - 08:17am PT
Fantastic!
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Feb 20, 2012 - 08:36am PT
good for you,
the high sierra is
astounding in it's winter beauty.

thank you.
Karen

Trad climber
So Cal urban sprawl Hell
  Feb 20, 2012 - 12:20pm PT
This is quite amazing guys! Wow, impressed you took this on in December, I can only guess the absence of others on the route made it even more enjoyable. Jealous:)

Happy you two had a great experience!
Bryan B

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
  Feb 20, 2012 - 01:06pm PT
Great trip report Vitaliy! I can't wait for our next adventure :-)
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Feb 20, 2012 - 01:21pm PT
What a great time! Congrats!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Feb 23, 2012 - 07:40pm PT
Way to get out there! What a proud send. It doesnt fully count as a winter ascent unless somebody loses a toe or a fingertip, but really good effort anyway. You guys are stokin' hard!
JSpencerV

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Feb 20, 2012 - 02:44pm PT
props!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 20, 2012 - 03:43pm PT
Hells yeah, way to get after it in the cold !
Zander

climber
  Feb 20, 2012 - 03:45pm PT
All Right!
Way to get at it.
Z
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Feb 20, 2012 - 04:07pm PT
Счастливая Чебурашка!
splitter

Trad climber
SoCal Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
  Feb 27, 2012 - 07:17pm PT
KILLER!!!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Feb 21, 2012 - 09:46pm PT
I'm trying to imagine what it'd be like to pull the thin moves off the ledge on the last pitch with numb fingers.


Cold + burly.
cleo

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  Feb 21, 2012 - 11:25pm PT
F yeah! Well done boys!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Feb 22, 2012 - 11:07am PT
Reilly, Чебурашка byl v panike!

And thank you all for the nice comments!
Alois

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Feb 22, 2012 - 11:18am PT
What a trip, congrats. Like others said here, to make those moves up top in the very cold conditions of early winter is really something!
Thanks for the TR.
davcro

climber
San Francisco
  Feb 22, 2012 - 11:27am PT
Sounds like a suffer-fest! Nice work.
zoom loco

Mountain climber
san diego ca
  Feb 22, 2012 - 01:17pm PT
good thought to nab the winter ascent while the road was open...and way to follow through on the send once you had the insight. kudos.
michaeld

Sport climber
Sacramento
  Feb 22, 2012 - 01:32pm PT
Kick ass Vitals!
Macronut

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Feb 23, 2012 - 12:29am PT
Way to get 'er dun! The route haunts every pass I take over Tioga. I am so jealous. That makes Micro and I's "Winter Ascent" of Half dome seem like a spring fling. Don't listen to Micro. He only dreams of being as hard as you guys. Good times and thanks for sharing.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 23, 2012 - 12:50am PT
Righteous!!

Legit!!

Frigid!!

Bitchin' man, that's something else....

Of course a Rooski with a mojo doll can pull it off!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Feb 23, 2012 - 01:11am PT
Survival, there's no word in Russian for 'frigid'. And, besides, I
think our Vitya is youkrainian so you better take it back. :-)
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Feb 23, 2012 - 01:16am PT
Macronut, snake dike TR was great, I really liked it. Your homeboy has a talent for writing trip reports. Hope we see some new ones soon?!

Reilly, I am Ukrainian-American!
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Feb 23, 2012 - 02:44am PT
Vitaliy you do really wonderful TR's and even more impressive climbing trips. Kudos.

I want a Cheburashka from now on when I head to the high country. That thing is gold!
aran

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
  Feb 23, 2012 - 12:51pm PT
Great TR, my friend. My feet hurt right now just thinking about it, though.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 23, 2012 - 05:36pm PT
White, Off color, Ukrainian, used to be Russian, American.....

A nice mutt like the rest of us!
Great TR anyway.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Feb 23, 2012 - 08:51pm PT
Fluoride, thank you! I will not tell anyone where to buy them though! If I do I may lose my luck and everyone will have a cheburashka enhancement on their climbs! If we ever meet I will let you hold him though : )
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Feb 23, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
So if cheburashkas live in tropical forests, why was one on a cold, high mountain?
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Feb 23, 2012 - 09:23pm PT
To get First Winter Cheburashka Ascent of Third Pillar! DUH!!! Cheburashka is a rebel! Cheburashka doesn't care!
Kenneth

Social climber
Northern California
  Feb 25, 2012 - 05:09pm PT
Nice write up Vitaliy. I understand taking on challenges, and I know you guys are tough, but no socks? That's hard core. And Cheburashka looks more concerned than impressed.
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Feb 27, 2012 - 06:08pm PT
Bumping this cause this is one of the best, most "go for it" no matter what it takes threads in a long long time.

Vitality, props again on a great thread and greater accomplishment.
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Feb 27, 2012 - 06:52pm PT
So good.

So cold.
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Feb 27, 2012 - 06:58pm PT
Wow, mucho respect for frozen fingered crack climbing.

My first trip with le_bruce, we tried sub-freezing climbing. After our two hour approach I quit on 5.7 face close to the ground, when I couldn't tell if I was holding on or not!
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Feb 27, 2012 - 09:44pm PT
That stuffed doll has done better than I have in winter ascents this season.
Silver

Gym climber
  Feb 27, 2012 - 10:38pm PT
photo not found
Missing photo ID#132841
Nice work consider a warmer head gear next time.
YoungGun

climber
North
  Feb 28, 2012 - 02:00pm PT
bump for a sweet TR!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Mar 1, 2012 - 04:28pm PT
Nutjob, I find it funny you said that. Back in the day (like last summer) I looked at your TR about climbing at Lovers Leap in winter and thought to myself, 'damn that seems sooo cold, I would stay at sugarloaf!' Although I like climbing peaks in winter, I would rather be in warm places rather than cold, if possible...with lots of nutella haha
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Mar 5, 2012 - 04:47pm PT
Nice send! Brrrrrrr. Thanks for the TR. :)

Wes
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Mar 5, 2012 - 06:29pm PT
Brrrrr....good work!
lumineferusother

Trad climber
Great Falls, VA
  Apr 15, 2012 - 02:45pm PT
Awesome TR! Can't wait to move out to the Sierras!
msiddens

Trad climber
  Apr 15, 2012 - 04:45pm PT
Way to get some. What a day!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Apr 16, 2012 - 01:21pm PT
Vitaliy, I heard if you use Vitalis on yer tips yer fingers freeze slower. A little dab'll do ya. I only got nine booger diggers. Does yer little stuffed buddy come with ten, or less. And is he like related to a Troll? Where can I get me one?

You must be told that the late Bill Bonebrake, who was a Third Pillar Firster, had his ashes hauled to the summit of 3P and was ceremoniously spread all over us on the top, the wind being up-canyon; Dave Bircheff got a face-full of Bill and I probably got some deadly lung infection standing next to him. There was a good goodbye, if one ever happened!

The weather gods have you in their safekeeping, dude. Watch that ICE!
It's not really for Ukranian-Californians or any rational man. Ice belongs in soda.

Serious Sierra lichen in the pix. I'm likin' it. You both rock.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Apr 16, 2012 - 01:58pm PT
Interesting story, mouse from merced.

I did not know that about Vitalis.

Cheburashka is not related to a troll. To get one you must know people, that know people. If you know what I mean.

: )
sol_dog

Trad climber
New Delhi
  Apr 27, 2012 - 07:26am PT
You guys are hard out. I wuss out when my fingers get cold, can't imagine climbing 4+ pitches with numb feet.
Nice job!
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
  Nov 13, 2012 - 07:40pm PT
Just read this TR. Excellent. Real climbing!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Dec 26, 2012 - 05:20pm PT
So how's cheburashka doing these days, anyway? Any good adventures? Perhaps he'll make the FaceLift next year.
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Third Pillar of Dana - Regular Route 5.10b - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
One of the more spectacular lines in Tuolumne.
Photo: Marshall Minobe