Toss, turn, blink. Its shady and cool, must be afternoon. Perfect climbing temps. Wes floats up the 1st pitch, smiling, plugging occasional gear, and loving the clean granite dihedral.
Toss, turn, blink. I’m lie-backing 10b crack. Is this smart with a fever? My foot slips but I catch myself. “Its just par 2 Dave, no need for the long driver, use the red-silver offset alien for that hole,” suggests Wes. Why is he dressed like a golf caddy? I cry for some tension, but Wes smiles evilly and points out that the 8mm rope I was on was too stretchy. Perhaps if I slept on my left side. Mmmm, much better, the crack morphs to 5.8, relax just like counting down sheep, 5.7, 5.6, 5.5, zzzzz, I drift from REM into needed deep stage 3.
Toss, turn, blink. Rolling over in my cocoon of warm jackets Isquint at the full moon, a cold white beacon, lighting miles of stone above. Wes is invisible in the deep shadow cast by the Kor roof. He calls down, “I can only fit two lobes of this Alien in the crack, will that hold me?” Sure I mumble, anything is possible in a dream. I feed out rope slack as he pulls the roof, then doze off again. Rattling gear tinkles down a lullaby as Wes inches up the moonlit face. Maybe the fever is breaking.
Toss, turn, blink. Still night time. Wes had been short fixing pitch 5, but now waits shivering far above while I pry at twists of rope constricted in a crack just below the pitch 4 belay. Uselessly I worm a torn finger between the binds. Moon glides across the sky. “Hold in there Wes, I’m making progress,” I lie. Pulling a strand only tightens the bind further. Clance laughs from the ledge above. Voodoo Ballerina looks at me with bitter despair. Wes is yelling something. “It’s been 45 minutes Dave, maybe you just can’t free it.” Cold sweat trickles down the back. My carelessness has destroyed our climb. Frantically pounding my digits deep in the crack and prying with a nut tool, the knot melts away.
Toss, turn, blink. Wes and I self-pose for marketing pictures on Dinner Ledge sporting our Pizza Factory ® logo tee-shirts. We grin at each other, mouths full of classic Italian submarine. Pizza Factory is the traditional 1st night dinner for Yosemite walls. Pick it up at Oakhurst on the way in and ask for it “Big-Wall Bundled ®.” Working together for the last 10 years with Pizza Factory’s excellent kitchen staff, we have perfected this trademark guaranteed spill proof packing system. The beating it takes while dragged up pitches of big wall terrain will actually improve your meal in both taste and texture. Place it at the top of your haulbag load and stand on it at each belay. Wes now prefers his zah “Stomped Style ®”. A polling of top climbers at Washington Column’s Dinner Ledge venue shows that Pizza Factory is the universal choice diet for a next day send. With our pro-deal of meals and clothes, Wes and I have made it, we are sponsored climbers now. I grin wider and drool delicious sandwich.
Toss, turn, blink. I roll over groggily to snuggle my wife. She’s hard as a boulder. She is a boulder. Voo-Doo Ballerina kicks me awake and hands me harness and rack. Sun is rising. Ascending our fixed free hanging 8mm dynamic line, I regret some of our strategies to go light. My motion grinds the rope along the edge of the Kor Roof, off of the section Wes taped for protection last night and onto the ragged granite. Executing a jerking lurch the cord saws back toward the tape. Wes suggests that might be a bad idea. Concentrating on jugging more smoothly I continue up, eyes fixed on the rope taught across the edge. Nearing, an abraded gash comes into focus, strand after strand slices, “Forgive Me!” and I plummet. Toss, turn - glad this is just a fever dream.
Rivet, rivet, bolt, rivet, rivet bolt, nut, cam, nut, cam, rivet, rivet, bolt. A classic dash dot line of crisp Yosemite cracks and clean granite faces. Wes joins me beaming at a tree belay. I pull out my bag of aid shenanigans to avoid a 5.10 transition from offwidth crack to unprotectable chimney. Wes flashes me a knowing smile. We pause to take in the stunning January Yosemite view, snow patchy in the meadows but thicker on the surrounding peaks. Yet we are in a conflagration of heat. Lowering my head away from the blazing California sun, pooled sweat torrents off my brow. Could this weather be real? Must be the fever.
Wes stalls at a spicy thin section at start of pitch 8. Watch is ticking so I provide motivation by applying a Bic flame to Voo-Doo Ballerina’s toes. “Shoot-Fire!” he hops into his high steps, accelerating and making each cycle count maximum reach. Jummaring, I nearly catch up to Wes as he starts short fixing pitch 9, but then he swings out of sight on a pendulum to another crack line to the right. Enthusiastic running commentary about the quality of the line punctuates his rhythm. The sun is low in the sky but the heat is still fierce. In need of the energy we force mouthfuls of pecans down parched throats. “What I’d give for any icy cola from the Pizza Factory soda fountain,” pleads Wes. A heap of winter layers remain untouched in the pack, filling space we should have used for more water. Does this void our credit for a winter ascent?
Toss, turn, blink. Wes is prone dozing on the Clance Stance. Voo-Doo Ballerina chants a soft eulogy for her lost Skull Queen. The sun gratefully lowers its heat beam below the horizon and I invoke my headlamp, savoring a puzzling sequence of tricky gear placements on the overhanging start of the crux pitch, #10. Cracking the code with an offset micro brass nut, I brag self-praise down to Wes. Pop, I’m airborn! Swinging wildly, heart racing I plead, “maybe you should do this one Wes.” He replies with a threatening squeeze of pliers to Voo-Doo Ballerina’s head. I shut Clance’s laughing out of my brain, and commit to a blind cam placement. The pitch throws a continued stream of exhilarating aid challenges, loose flakes, shallow constrictions, hidden button-heads, delicate hooking avoids free-climbing. Confidence boosted, I continue onto the next pitch, a uniform architectural diagonal that culminates the Skull Queen.
Wes and I give a tentative hug of mutual congratulation - many dark rappels still await. We find our way down to the next anchor, but the ropes won't pull. One of us will have to re-ascend and fix the problem. Wes waves his possession of Voo-Doo Ballerina at me, and I submit to the task. The remaining rappels go by as a long hazy blur.
Toss, turn, blink. Dub-Step blasts from our mini-speaker. As it drops into a growing baseline, Wes pound doggs me the fist bump and hands over a slice of Big D Special from Pizza Factory. We recount the pleasures of the ascent, a marathon 17.5 hour day of fun but different. The moon, round like an X-Large Afredo Style lighting her stage, Voo-Doo Ballerina glides along the edge of Dinner Ledge, demi-pointe, frappé, plié, assemble, brisé, aplomb, a macabre choreography to the dub-step.
Toss, turn, blink. Despite the glory of a Pizza Factory sponsorship, Wes, a down-to-earth guy has kept his day job. I however launch into the fast-life. Gazing out of the window of my beachside So-Cal estate, past the Lotus Evora, I enjoy onto the frothing swells of the pacific. My wife Georgi brings me Eggs Benedict breakfast in bed and a hot morning tea. Flashing her new diamond necklace, “Are you feeling better honey, I hope you get over this cold soon, so you can get back on the rocks.” Pulling out a pad and pen, “Can I help plan another long climbing trip for you?” Toss, turn, blink. Rats, just another vision from the fever dream. Other climbers arriving at Dinner Ledge have prematurely disturbed us from a deserved sleep-in and are pointing out the sprawling mess we need to pack up, reminding of heavy loads yet to be slogged back to the car. But that can wait until a delicious breakfast slice of left over Pizza Factory supreme.