Friday Luke shows up at my house, “You ready? *sniff *sniff” he says. “You sick?” I ask? “Yeah, been sick all week, thought about telling you this morning, but was scared you’d bail.” “Shizer”, I think ” I would have…” Post-pone trip and stay healthy, or go and probably get sick, I’ll typically choose the former over the latter.
Off we head, up toward Tuolumne, and Mt. Conness with the Southwest Face (Harding Route) being our objective. Arriving at the parking lot a little after midnight, we sack out next to the car by O-dark thirty. Some other climbers appear to be doing the same. Then, up at 4.30, pack gear, have breakfast, and drive to the trailhead. Start hiking at 05.30, hoping we’re timing things well with sunrise since neither of us know where we’re going, and have heard horror stories of getting lost on the approach.
08.20 – We’re at the top of the east ridge of Conness having been really lucky to get sunrise just when we needed it to see where the trail went, and everything going smooth. Drop a deuce, and eat a snack. Get passed by a couple who camped at the lake and… dangit, are also doing the Harding route (Southwest Face). So, we decide to hang out, and let them get a good start. Chill-out, check out the approach, drop off packs, rack up, and start descent to the route.
09.30 – Making our way to the base of the route, we looked for the couple that passed us, but they’re nowhere to be seen. Luke starts up the first pitch. As he finishes, they arrive. Despite having been here before, they chose the wrong descent gulley… we just got lucky and now don’t have a party in front of us!. Luke cruises the first two pitches, running them out to a full 70M. I follow, and understand why Luke was grumbling about the damp start.
11.20 – My turn to lead. We’ve arrive at the base of the OW in 2 pitches with the 70, the group behind us is cruising, but will have to do 3 since they’re using a 60. Start the OW. WTF? Oh, try right side in… OK, time to go. Slowly work my way up… Why did I do the week-long pull-up competition at the office last week?? Harding’s bolts are cool looking – short, ringed pins make up the hangars, and star-drives keep them on the rock. Aesthetic, but I don’t want to fall on them – glad we brought the 6, glad we didn’t bring the 5 (new style C4’s). Arrive at the ledge, belay Luke up, lead next pitch… again, slowly (why am I climbing so friggin’ slow and tentative today? Step it up Robb, come on, get your head working!). Is this really a 5.8 chimney? I hate pull-up competitions. Then again, I expected this to be much, much, harder. Luke takes us the last two easy pitches to the top.
15.20 – At the top. Luke’s dropped the Duggans off, we’ve signed the register, and it’s time to head down. Harding is my hero – what a fun route. A soloist from the North Ridge, and a party of 2 from the West ridge join us. It’s a beautiful day – relaxing, and life is great.
15.30 – At the packs… wait a sec, we might be able to make it back in less than 12 hrs C2C? Nah.. I doubt it.
15.40 – Start the decent down the east ridge. Smiles abound, life is good. What an awesome route and perfect day.
16.30 – Hmm…. we’re at the trail again, um… wow, that was a quick decent. 12 hrs afterall?
17.05 – The parking lot? Really, sweet – that was a much more casual day than we expected! Off to the Whoa-Nellie Deli!
Sitting across the isle from Dean Potter at the Whoa-Nellie (hmm, that guy looks familiar… but why?), we’re both pretty stoked. The route went down much more easily than we’d expected and was a really fun climb. Check out Luke’s site for approach beta. So, now it was time to take a couple hours off Sunday’s drive and head south to Pine Creek…
After sleeping off and on for about 11.5 hrs at Pine Creek, Luke and I headed over to do a little cragging for the day. Starting out by both leading the Beckey Route (5.10a), an easy sport route with a play on names to the other “Beckey Routes” (and being nothing like them), the morning started off great. Then we headed to Pratt’s Crack, an awesome 5.9 squeeze chimney. Luke had first lead, then cleaned it, and I got to go. An awesome route… it was actually too bad that there were so many features on the arete allowing us to cheat some of the harder part of the OW! After that we headed over to Sheila, were it was my turn to have first lead again – another 5-star route. Luke cruised up on follow, carrying up the tag line, and then we called it a weekend and headed back to the car, and San Diego. Borrowing from Shay’s favourite word – a pretty casual weekend – an awesome weekend actually, of sick off-widthing.