It didn’t take much convincing to spend a three day weekend in Yosemite Valley, climb a five star classic each day and camp at the historic Camp 4. Cold mornings and warm days meant prime climbing for the Northern walls of the valley, typically swelteringly hot in the summer. This had me looking at routes on Manure Pile Buttress, Five Open Books, Royal Arches, El Cap, and even Higher Cathedral. I ended up climbing The Grack, Nutcracker and Commitment.
I was able to grab a campsite reservation for Upper Pines on Thursday night, but need to fight the masses for a first come first serve campsite at Camp 4 for the rest of the weekend. I was unsure what Camp 4 was like beforehand so here are some details:
Camp 4 had a cool vibe to this tent-city with so many people doing so many different things and constantly overhearing climbing talk.
After the Camp 4 line killed half the day we needed to climb something shorter so we trekked out to Glacier Point Apron in search of The Grack. Unable to find any sign of a climbers trail we lamented and simply hiked towards the rock about 100 ft down trail to locate our path. Arriving to base we found three parties already climbing on it so we hopped on The Grack, Left (5.7 ⭐️⭐️⭐️) for a two pitch, 290’ climb. The liebacks on the route were pretty tame and uneventful, but there was one interesting hand-finger mantel. We finished the climb in two hours with a single simul-rap using a 70m + 60m rope followed by some 4th class down climbing.
By now the The Grack, Center was clear and we could climb it without waiting! Pitches 2-3 offered a great crack training ground with consistently good hands and fingers. This caused my climbing partner to exclaim, “I get fingers now!”.
Now 6:00pm, we descended the route in the dark under a full moon, watching another party climb it by headlamp. Pulling the rope, the second half got stuck by the first tree, wrapped around a rock. So… I had to free solo up 45 ft to free it. A short walk / drive later I was eating way too much delicious spicy spaghetti.
The next morning we woke up with the goal of climbing Nutcracker and then After Six (5.7, 6 pitch, 600’, ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) on Maniure Pile Buttress. We got to the base of the climb at 9am behind two parties (one already on the wall). By 9:30 we started climbing. The sun had just touched the bottom of the wall and it was hot. Pitches 1-4 show why this route is a Yosemite classic with really solid hand and finger jams, awesome pods for feet and some fun parallel crack sections. I got my first solid single finger jam on the pitch 4 friction traverse above belay. On pitch 5, after the heady mantel crux, the route was sort of a shit show with inconsistent features all over the place and poor flow.
We were hot and hungry after topping out on Nutcracker. Our climb had been extended by two hours waiting atop pitch 1’s ledge for the parties ahead of us. Climbing After Six wasn’t an option. Besides the route was busy all day and continued to be so with a party just starting at dusk, sure be nighted. Instead we headed to El Cap. Meadow for some food and big wall climbing. As darkness decended it was a magical feeling to watch El Capitan come alive with 18 different lights on an assortment of routes and even catch the dark shadow of a base jumper’s parashoot agains the backdrop of the granite rock.
I’ve been 5.9 trad leading for a while, but something about Yosemite 5.9 scared me because I heard it could be variable. After packing up at Camp 4 we got to the base of the climb at 9:30am. The ‘carabiner post’ towards Five Open Books isn’t visible from the main paved trail so make sure you take the parallel dirt trail and look another 20 ft left for it. We ended up hiking too far and getting a stunning morning view of Lower Yosemite Falls.
Arriving at the base of Commitment we found one party on the wall and one waiting. Luckily this time each party was fast and experienced so we were now the ones holding up the French-Italian climbing pair behind us. All pitches of this climb were wicked fun. The liebacks felt more solid than Nutcracker and the cruxes were very well protected with great holds. The 5.9 finish was spectacular. Be very careful after topping out, it is stupid easy to knock small rocks down below.
This was a great trip to get an idea of fall climbing logistics in Yosemite and ascend a bunch of classic, incredibly fun routes. I totally get now why people talk up Yosemite for climbing. My favorite this weekend was probably Nutcracker since it was a consistently solid crack climb.