Zack - 7,484 miles, 388 hours
This past weekend Bens and I made the trip out to Yosemite for some bouldering, hiking, and camping. I have been to the valley before and been impressed with the one or two hikes I went on with Little V and Rob Jones, but heading there this time was different. Given its historical importance with our most recent obsession, I could feel excitement start to build the moment we stepped in the car in San Francisco.
As you drive into the park from the western entrance it is slightly underwhelming. You've entered into the Sierras, but it's still another 45 minutes or so until the granite monoliths begin to emerge, shortly followed by the Merced River and the valley floor. But once they do, it is surely a sight to see. About 15 miles into the park, you begin to pass through a series of tunnels through the mountains, and after popping out of one and taking a quick turn, you're met by probably one of the most familiar National Park views ever captured. El Cap on the left, the Sentinel on the right, and Half Dome looming in the background. Even for someone not familiar with rock climbing lore, it is surely a view that takes your breath away.
As we descend into the valley floor, I have an insane amount of deja vu. Not from the time I was there back in 2014, but actually from all the countless rock climbing videos I've watched of people climbing in Yosemite. The meadows, El Cap, Camp 4, the long lines of cars piling up to take photos - it is all more than familiar to me. It made me take a great appreciation for the fact that ground zero for rock climbing in the US is still in a place that is so accessible to not just other climbers, but really anyone who is interested.
Our first stop was Camp 4 to partake in some bouldering, and to soak in what we could of the deep tradition rooted in the soil. In Camp 4, the climbing is hard, but the living is easy. Nearly every problem is a small snapshot of what you could expect climbing on the big wall down the road is like. Most of the "easy" routes up to V2 are still pretty featureless, polished granite, but are labeled as such because they're slabbed out at maybe 80 or 70 degrees. In Yosemite, you learn quickly to trust your feet on even the tiniest of coin-sized holds, or else spend your Send-it Sunday on the ground.
To be dangerous in Camp 4, and really start to have some fun, requires climbing around a V3. I was able to take down a few of these problems on the Kor Problem Boulder, but boy did they push me to my limit. Weighting an entire foot smeared on polished granite about 15 feet off the ground does not easily make for a great sense of security, and many times that's the best you got out there.
While we weren't yet strong enough to climb much in Camp 4, we were still able to see many folks try their hand at the classics like Midnight Lightning on the Columbia boulder. The community that forms around that one location when there's a few people trying their hand at it is exactly what makes the climbing community so special. Most don't know each other very well or at all, but everyone joins together to throw down pads, help each other with the beta, and cheer one another on up the boulder. Honestly, even if I couldn't climb all day, just hanging out in the laid back atmosphere of Camp 4 is reason enough to go.
After two full days of bouldering, Bens and I hit up the trail that leads to El Cap, and hiked up to near the base of the wall. I've always been amazed by the feats completed on that wall, but seeing it now in person gives me a whole new respect for the climbing on it. In particular just how massive and featureless it truly is. In thinking of Alex Honnold 2,000 ft up there, gripping onto the tiniest of holds, without a rope, I now have a whole new respect for what he and others have done up there. We saw probably close to eight or ten groups on the wall, and I couldn't help but think about us being up there some day. I know it's a crazy thought, but one can always dream.
It's a bummer to not be able to join you and the gang back in Chicago for all your recent climbing adventures up in Devil's Lake and down at the RRG, but it'll be fun to trade stories and lessons next year when I'm back, and plan for some big trips next summer. Keep crushin' out there man, and catch you on belay before we know it.