By Andrew Porter:
Hector, Rushad, Clinton and Julia have arrived. The SA and Zim flags are flying in Camp 4, and 2 vuvuzelas are there as well. The idea is for us to blow them each time we send a route, get excited or just whenever.
Shortly after Hector and Rushad had arrived, we headed off to do a big route in the High Sierras called the Southwest Face of Mt Conness. This is guarded by a 3-5 hour approach hike, which we dorked badly, and at times each of us was wondering if we were on the right mountain. Gosia and I made it to the base of the route in 4 hours, but Hector and Rushad who lost sight of us for 2 crucial minutes took an even longer approach and took over 5 hours, so they bailed after the first pitch due to fatigue.
For Gosia and I, the route itself went well. I got to lead the off-width pitch which the Supertopo guide book describes as the crux of the route, and makes a big deal about. I relied of the Peter Croft description of it not being so bad, and actually well protected if you trust the bolts placed by Warren Harding in 1950 something. I was also too lazy to carry in a cam bigger than a number 3 (a number 6 is recommended in almost all guide books) so I just had to run it out. The pitch above that is fun, and soon Gosia and I had reached the summit of the 10 pitch route. We got back to the car for a 12 hour round trip.
Having crushed everything in sight, Gosia and I decided to up the game somewhat the next day, so at 12, we set off for a 12 pitch route on Fairview Dome. The crux pitch is a 5.12a finger tips layback up an awesome corner system. We got shut down on pitch 1, which is a 5.10c slabby number, that had me lead it out of pure terror, and saw Gosia just slip off twice on top rope. Gosia hiked the next 5.10d pitch, and I then got what turned out to be a very sustained, hard and not so well protected 5.10d dihedral pitch. Here, near the top, I hung on a piece of gear while clipping it, which later turned out to be the only thing between me and a clean ascent. The next pitch went well, and then Gosia stared up the crux pitch. She fell off twice and then lowered off to redpoint it next go. I top roped it clean with the pack, mainly because I could remove the cam protecting the crux before doing the crux move. The next pitch is called The Pitch of Mantles, for obvious reasons. The next pitch went well, but by now it was getting very late. We decided that in fading light instead of doing a 5.11c roof sequence, we would rather traverse out left.
We did not have the topo, or light to see by, so traversed out too low. That led us into rather blank looking stuff above, so in the darkness, I gunned left for 2 full rope lengths to try join up with the Regular Route up Fairview, which I had done last year with Laura. Each of our headlamps of course had almost flat batteries, which added to the excitement of trying to work your way up a granite dome in the dark. We made it in time for our first epic.
We have now headed into the valley. The move was great “fun”. We managed to get 4 people and a LOT of junk into the car for a single trip, thanks to stuffing stuff under the seats, on top of the seat, wearing helmets to save space, and through some minor discomfort.
Our first route in the valley was the North Face of the Rostrum, mainly because it was in the shade. 2 parties beat us to the base, so we had a slow day following them. I led the even pitches, giving me a 5.11a finger crack, the 5.11c crux finger crack and also the off-width. Gosia got to do the overhanging wide hands pitch at 5.11b which she had struggled with last time she did the route. This is an awesome 8 pitch route with a sick looking finger crack variation to the last pitch, which I have to come back to do one day. I onsighted all my pitches and followed clean, for what is my best day of climbing ever on granite!
Next up was the regular route on the Northwest Face of Half Dome. Hector and Rushad climbed together, and Gosia and I kept the team going. We did it over 2 days, and freed all the moves, but still need to redpoint some of the pitches. Freeing grade 25 moves 20 pitches of the deck is a really awesome experience. The crux pitches are actually surprising varied. The first is a blank dihedral requiring devious body positioning and stemming, the next is a 3D stemming/laybacking corner system, then an underclinging layback pitch that needs a strong head to just go for it, and then a super thin slab sequence.
Gosia is sponsored by Saltic
Related Article: Half Dome in a Day