On Mount Sir Donald’s Northwest Ridge (5.4), I accomplished my first car-car summit, my first ~7,000 ft day and set a new record for my longest ever rock climb (2,400 ft). I barely stopped moving except to wait for my turn to rappel over the course of the entire 18 hour day. The views were astonishing, the exposure and grade sustained and the legs very, very tired.
A spray of cool water settles across my face as I lean against my climbing rope to get a better look at the billowing, glacier-fed waterfall next to me. Despite being nearly impossible to pronounce, Takakkaw Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Canada and right now I’m a few dozen feet away from where its torrent bounds up and away from the eroded shale into the form of a rooster tail. I have been excited for this exact experience ever since I found this climb next to Canada’s second highest waterfall. The kicker is the climb ends in a several hundred foot long cave from the route to the top off the falls. I could not predict it would even blew away expectations.
A reasonable person only needs one reason not to do something again, “I didn’t like it”. I know I can be unreasonable, so I have eight: chossy rock, leader fall, lightning storm, lost hikers, hail, steep loose scree, attacking rodent and a dead headlamp.
Here I was, sleeping 1400 ft above the valley floor on a forested ledge. Drinking unfiltered, fresh water directly out of a granite spring. Not a soul around except for a midnight food attack by a resident raccoon. All I had to do was ascend the longest single day climbing route I’ve ever completed and cross the worst traverse I’ve ever encountered.
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It’s happened to us all where a weekend plan is foiled by weather or our favorite area opens up for a perfect weather weekend in shoulder season… That is, if we were paying attention close enough to notice. Instead of checking weather reports for each of these areas, just use your current location to find what areas around you are in prime time as well as the rock climbing routes there.
Washington Column South Face (5.8 C1) is a 1000 ft granite face across Yosemite Valley from Half Dome. It is the easiest big wall climb in the valley and therefore the busiest. Optimistically, we were hoping to do it in a day with an early start, hauling only to Dinner Ledge and then blasting to the top. I even brought flashing light up glasses to make festive the predicted night rappels back down to Dinner Ledge where we’d hope there would still be room for our sleeping bags after sundown.
Speed would be the key and we planed to free as much as possible (first three and last four pitches) to make this climb 5.10b C1. Both Marco and I were relatively new to aid and we ended up learning a lot. We kept at it even after a lead fall injury where I climbed 70% of the wall with a fractured foot. I couldn’t walk, but I sure could aid climb!
A few weeks back I visited Moab with the goal in mind to climb desert towers, accomplishing a dream of Sadie’s for her birthday. The Falcon Guide had some of the most popular climbs, but if I bought a guide book for the area again it would be the more recent and fully featured High On Moab book. Surprisingly it was actually this map from summit post that really lead me to discover the variety of towers in Moab. If you are a moderate climber who is comfortable trying some aid, these are the regions and climbs you must check out (in order of preference).
This last weekend I finished my first multi-pitch aid climb: Machete Direct (5.10a A1 R, 6P) in Pinnacles National Park. It was a real adventure with runnouts to make my fingers sweet, unexpectedly technical sections and a night decent following a paper thin route description.