March 20 – March 21, 2010.
I arrived at Camp 4 in the late morning and managed a quick nap before rendezvousing with my two climbing partners for an afternoon multi-pitch climb. We set out for the Manure Pile Buttress to climb Nutcracker, a 5-pitch 5.8 trad climb. Kevin led the first pitch, a mixture of slab, crack and lieback moves to get to the top. I took it from there up a 5.4 ramp, my first (and very easy) trad lead of the spring. It was a nice, easy way to get back into it. Next, Kevin led the slimy third pitch, which was terrifying enough to follow. Water streamed down the face and into the crack; I had to use chalk to help dry out my hands. Tyler led the fourth pitch, which involved a slabby traverse and an interesting crux at a bulge. Finally, Kevin took us to the top on the fifth pitch: more slab with some nice finger jams and hand jams to keep us thinking. The view from the top was incredible, and it was a fitting way to be welcomed into Yosemite. We descended down a gully filled with boulders and littered with dry pine needles otherwise known as ball bearings. My Crocs were insufficient for the walk off, I would soon discover.
Looking down at Pitch 4
Tyler finishing up Pitch 5
The next day we headed over to New Diversions wall, where Kevin led Chicken Pie (5.9). Here, a finger crack in an open book leads to a knobby face and ramp to the top. I had to employ some butt smears on the right side of the wall as the crack threw my body out in that direction. I also recall having to dyno to a hold near the top of the face because I was too short to climb it otherwise…I am sure I made that move harder than it needed to be.
Feeling intimidated to lead anything else there, we drove back to Camp 4 and over to Swan Slab just a few minutes walk from camp. Tyler led his first 5.9, Grant’s Crack. We opted for a sporty direct start up the slab, then went up the slanting finger crack. This one felt much more buttery than the last; it is probably climbed much more frequently.
Lastly, I led Penelope’s Problem (5.7), and likely earned the longest ascent time award. It felt scary being on lead, especially near the bottom with nothing to protect a fall. I placed a 0.5 cam in a pocket on the way to the flake that I doubt was of any use beyond psychological. Once on the flake I fumbled with gear, trying several cams to get the right size, and timidly moving upward, placing gear as soon as my last piece was at my feet. Oh, the mental strain of leading. Once I reached the anchor at the tree I felt so relieved; I finished my first real lead on Yosemite granite, whew, what an accomplishment!
Onward to Joshua Tree…
All photos from the trip can be seen here.
Standard rack. Hairdryer for the third pitch of Nutcracker.
2 minute stroll from the car.