I hit the submit button and within three hours was on my way to Yosemite. The quarter was finally over and I had exactly one week before it was time to pack my life into a moving van. It was also the only free week left before Ryan started his new job and I started my postdoc - I didn't want to waste a second.
The last two weeks had been all consuming. Between a paper resubmission, grading final exams, preparing to move and walking in Commencement, I had little time to think about what was now at the forefront of my mind - what the heck are we going to climb this week? My climbing this season has been sporadic at best, mostly involving repeats of short Yosemite Valley trad climbs that I had first done the previous year. I was feeling competent, but not particularly strong, though I was eager to test myself on a few longer climbs.
A climb that had been on my mind for a while was Matthes Crest - a perfect fin of rock that stretches on for almost a mile. Despite it's humble rating and primarily 4th class climbing, the Matthes Crest is no joke. A 3-4 hour hike at elevation brings you to the start of the climb, and once on top of the ridge completing it before dark generally requires simul-climbing, a technique I had no experience with.
I had enlisted Ryan, my husband and favorite climbing partner for this week-long adventure. Though I've been leading the charge in our trad climbing exploits, Ryan's support, enthusiasm, fearless following and willingness to swing leads on easier terrain have been invaluable.
I decided that our first objective would be to practice simul-climbing on the gently sloping Northwest Buttress of Tenaya Peak. Most of the climbing on Tenaya Peak is mellow - thus I figured it would be the perfect terrain to get comfortable with simul-climbing. What I had not appreciated is that Tenaya Peak itself is a very long climb. At just over 10,000 feet high and 14 pitches long, it is one of the higher summits in Tuolumne - and boasts a deceptively strenuous approach. With some adventurous route finding, we worked out the kinks in our technique, haltingly simul-climbing our way to the top. Feeling tired, but pretty good about our accomplishment we soaked up the incredible views of Tenaya Lake and the surrounding peaks.
Descending, we contemplated our next move. Rain was on the horizon, but we had at least two solid days of sunshine before the weather came in. Our idea was to backpack in to the start of Matthes Crest and combine the climb with a short side trip to Clouds Rest. After obtaining a backcountry permit and resting for a day, we packed up bright and early Saturday morning and with full packs made the trek out to Echo Lake. I underestimated both the mosquitos and how heavy our packs would be with both camping and climbing gear, but we made it finally around midday to the start of the climb.
Getting to the top of the ridge, was an off-route, loose rock sh#t show, but we made it. Once on top, it was nearly impossible to get lost and the feeling of traversing along the ridge was thrilling. We walked, crawled, climbed and butt-scooted our way along the ridge line. The views were incredible and Ryan snapped some amazing photos (another reason why I keep this guy around).
Eventually, we reached the notch between the South and North Summits, and as the sun was getting low on the horizon we started the rappels.
After navigating what seemed like an endless scree field our feet finally hit solid ground. Exhausted, we located our packs and sought out a campsite for the evening.
The next day we packed up camp and set off cross-country for the Sunrise Lakes.
We arrived at our destination, ate lunch and spent the afternoon working on some serious R&R.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of rain on our tent. We spent the morning huddled in our tent attempting to wait it out.
When that didn't work, we broke down our tent, packed up under the shelter of our rain-fly and got on the trail. We knew the views from Clouds Rest would be non-existant with the rain, but we decided to check it out anyway. Sure enough, we couldn't see a damn thing.
By the time we made it out of the back country and back to our car we were wet, tired and foot sore. We booked it for the only place with warm weather and blue skies in the vicinity - Bishop. After a quick stop over at the Mammoth Lakes hot springs, we were lounging in shorts and tank-tops drying out our wet things at the Pleasant Valley Campground.
That lasted about 5 minutes before we realized the mosquitoes were out for vengeance.
The plan to climb at the Happys the next morning was axed as temperatures soared into mid-80s by 8 am. We opted instead for the Buttermilks, which was deserted and wonderfully pleasant - especially in the shade. A fun tour through many of the classics was just what we were looking for.
By early afternoon, we were on our way back to Tuolumne hoping the rain had passed. It had and we enjoyed a spectacular evening in the meadows.
We had one more day before it was back to reality, and I wanted to make it good....but I also didn't want to get in too far over my head. I agonized over what our last climb would be, and ultimately decided on a few shorter climbs on Medlicott and Dozier Dome. However, when we passed the Fairview Dome parking lot the next morning and there was NOBODY THERE, I said what the hell and decided to go for it.
The first few pitches of the Regular Route were pretty wet, pretty exhausting, and really really fun. With nobody behind us we took our time enjoying the spacious belay ledges and expansive views.
We swung leads up to the top of the 8th pitch, and then simul-climbed to the summit. Topping out Fairview Dome was without a doubt the highlight of the trip. The 360-degree views from the summit are amazing.
Satisfied and feeling victorious, we walked off and drove home into the sunset - culminating a trip that was beautiful and epic beyond belief.
In a way, this trip was also the capstone of my time as a climber and graduate student in Santa Cruz. When I arrived I was 24 years old and now at 32, it feels like the end of an era. I already miss my friends and fellow climbers, but I have a feeling that this won't be the last I see of the Santa Cruz Crack Fiends and that more good times are still to come.