Nath and I headed to Yosemite Valley in October with the intent to climb Galactic Hitchhiker. It’s shaded, you don’t need much water since it’s cool, and the route is supposed to be dry by then. However, in the days leading up to the trip, weather.com predicted rain the day before we were planning on doing the route. As a result, I quickly gathered beta for Royal Arches/Crest Jewel Direct. We headed up to the valley, and the day we got there, sure enough it rained. I knew that RA/CJD received more sunlight and started extremely easy and could be climbed while wet, and provided the weather was nice, North Dome which receives all day sunlight would for sure be dry by the time we got there.
We rolled into Camp 4, set up our tent, and wandered around a little. We dinked around Curry Village, ate some lunch in the meadow near Curry Village, and dodged the rain when it came down intermittantly. As night fell, the rain picked up and lasted well into the night. I remember waking up and thinking, “This just isn’t going to happen.”
When the alarm finally went off, everything outside was still wet as hell. I looked at Nath in the headlamp light and asked her what she wanted to. After some discussion, we decided that we would at least go to the base of the route. You have to try, even if there’s water dripping on the tent from the trees! Punishment = Glory!
We drove over to Awanahee Hotel, parked the car, and started hiking toward our objective. The plan was to blast Royal Arches (16 pitches, 10b) and link it to Crest Jewel Direct (14 pitches, 10d) in a day in October when the days were short. It was ambitious, but doable, provided the route wasn’t too wet…..
On the way to the route, I felt some granite boulders and they felt mostly dry. When we got to the base of the route it looked dry enough as the sun started to show some light. There were other people planning on climbing the route that we had met the day before so we racked up quickly and I headed up. The first pitch fell quickly, with a gearless hip belay, but then I heard something very unfortunate. There were two other people coming in from one of the other starts to the route that had started before us! The beginning of the route involves short sections of 5th class and then ledge walking. They had coiled their ropes and hiked past. It was definitely disappointing that I had to try to pass people. It’s just never fun…
I brought Nath up and after coiling our ropes we headed out. The guys were moving slow and were very friendly. I took alternate paths and set no pro between belays in order to move quickly. After two pitches we were past. They were pretty cool about it as soon as they found out that we were going to try to link to CJD.
We flew up the route, alternating between pitching stuff out and simul-climbing. Despite having a supertopo, I still managed to get lost onto some 5.9 R territory. Oh well….
After much speed climbing, we finished the route in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Here’s Nath finishing the last pitch:
We packed our stuff up, coiled the rope and followed the extremely hard to follow trail to North Dome:
It was a beautiful hike that took us toward Half Dome and the summit of Washington Column. Once you reach the top of WC, you turn left and head up the hill toward N. Dome.
We headed up the route about an hour after we started hiking and before we knew it I was through the crux. While the whole route is very low angle, the difficulty comes from a complete lack of holds.
After the crux, we quickly blew through pitch after pitch and soon found ourselves higher and higher on the route following dike features that rival the beauty of Snake Dike and with views of Half Dome and Tuolumne getting better and better.
With Nath leading and having no pockets, we had to find somewhere to put the topo!
As we got higher on the route, it eased off into the 5.7-5.8 territory and we started doing a little runout simulclimbing when we thought it was safe.
Tuolumne Meadows came into view over the side of Half Dome and was in full snowey glory!
I ran up the last pitches and we finished the route after 3 hrs 10 min! We had gone valley floor to summit in about 8 hours!
When we were done with the route, we (I) decided we should take the falls trail down as opposed to N Dome Gulley or the RA rappels. As a result, we ended up doing Death Slog 2007 far into the night. It was some beautiful territory, until the darkness fell, but so not worth it. I can’t recommend enough taking the RA rappels down!
All in all, it was an amazing trip with Nathalie. We had a complete blast on that day and slept well the next day. Sometimes punishment isn’t climbing hard, it’s climbing FAST!
Punishment = Glory!