My love of Yosemite National Part: Sentinel Rock, Curry Village, and leaving… for now.

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My love of Yosemite National Part: Sentinel Rock, Curry Village, and leaving… for now.

I’ve never been to Yosemite, but it’s been etched into my adult mind in the same way that the Titanic and Dinosaurs were etched into my young mind. It’s a myth, a legend. The greatest place for traditional rock climbing in the world, and arguably the birthplace of modern climbing itself.

Feats of strength and endurace took place here; first ascents of climbs that no one thought could be climbed by human hands..

Brilliance of engineering even happened; the creation of Cams, and many other unique pieces of protection.

Yosemite is greater than life, in my mind. But I’ve never been there. Until this trip.

Friday, 12-June-2015

The day starts early, when I hear the adventure group rolling out from the campsite next to me… It’s annoying, but it does get me awake and clean up camp…

But screw taking my time – I skip breakfast. It’s not really necessary… I’ll eat snacks. And I’m in Yosemite! I have climbing to do! So I packed up the last bits of the campsite, pulling my food out of the bear thing, and rolled out!
On the drive into the park, I’m reminded about the fun of driving in non-Massachusetts placed: a jeep tries to cut me off… but they really do a half-assed job of it. So… nope. Cut-off denied. No other drivers are any good. New England for life!

Instead of taking the scenic route like I did the day before, I do direct for a spot from the guide book called Sentinel Rocks – I park, walk right in and start working the routes. But damn they’re tough. Still WAY too hard. I’m talking “Ben still can crush some, but most of them he can’t even do the first move of” tough.

But that’s what I’ve noticed: most Yosemite bouldering routes are only a single move. They’re just a “mantle up onto this tiny ledge”, or “slide over from this crap hold, to this other crap hold, and you’re done!”. A lot of them don’t seem to even top out, which is definitely another interesting aspect. I think the real difficulty isn’t the routes themselves; it’s my lack of experience with this style of climbing. I’m used to more sustained movements – strong core and legs, instead of insane crimping.

So I keep my head up, keep chilling, and climbing and reading and watching Adventure Time on the laptop. It’s the usual awesome times.

And then once I’m all tuckered out? Or… when I’m hungry and sick of snack food? I head back into Curry Village, get a hamburger and do some writing. I even picked up a Nalgene bottle as another souvenir, and grabbed some postcards to send to folks out East.

While I’m waiting in line to get said Hamburger, I strike up a chat with two kids who work in Yosemite with the park services. I guess the jobs that they’re working on are year contracts? A year staying in Yosemite… working a few days a week and having the rest of the time off… Nice… I could do that someday!

But “Someday” isn’t “Today”. Today, I’m on an amazing roadtrip across the country, and the final leg is in sight. With a semi-heavy heart, I finish up my burger, and leave Yosemite Valley behind me. The goal of the day is Davis, California – meeting Mike for a weekend of partying, followed by the drive into Oregon.

It was raining as I drive out of the valley. Annoying, but I was going into California – into the throes of a multi-year drought. This was the last rain I was going to see in a long time, so I enjoyed it as best I could.

My love of Yosemite National Part: Exploring, and the first climb on sacred rock

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My love of Yosemite National Part: Exploring, and the first climb on sacred rock

I’ve never been to Yosemite, but it’s been etched into my adult mind in the same way that the Titanic and Dinosaurs were etched into my young mind. It’s a myth, a legend. The greatest place for traditional rock climbing in the world, and arguably the birthplace of modern climbing itself.

Feats of strength and endurace took place here; first ascents of climbs that no one thought could be climbed by human hands..

Brilliance of engineering even happened; the creation of Cams, and many other unique pieces of protection.

Yosemite is greater than life, in my mind. But I’ve never been there. Until this trip.

Thursday, 11-June-2015

Today, I climb Yosemite.

I won’t climb the famous peaks. I won’t be ascending El Capitan, dragging two days worth of equipment below me. I won’t be sending a line up the Sentinel, or any other legendary face.

Instead, I’ve got my crash pad on my back, my shoes and chalk, and the goal of getting to know the rock of Yosemite. Learning the bouldering problems, and seeing how the rock forms holds, and how people move up the routes.

First thing I learn? Yosemite ratings are TOUGH. I can climb routes rated V5 at the gym back in Boston. And that gym is generally considered fair, as far as ratings go. Maybe a grade or two harder than outdoors. In Yosemite, I’m climbing V0, and flailing against V1 climbs.

But that’s ahead of myself – first I drove in, took pictures, and stopped in Curry Village. When tourists go to destinations, they get souvenirs. I am no different… but the souvenirs that I get are always climbing guide books. They’re useful, and I can keep them on my shelf to show off where I’ve climbed… and to tease myself about where I can go back to.

So I bought a book, debated getting some new trad gear (I didn’t, I stayed good) and looked for some early lunch… didn’t find any, of course, since it was only 10:00 and the grill doesn’t open until 11:00.

So that’s how I found myself at the Legendary (yes, capitalized) Camp 4. The home of American rock climbing. Seriously. There’s even a plaque saying so!

I climbed, and explored. I met a climber from Chile, who was looking for a partner to climb El Capitan with. Speed climb. With a random partner. Yep, he’s nuts.

We bouldered – watched someone flail at Midnight Lightnig (a V8 climb, arguably the most famous Bouldering route in the United States). We met up with some Brazilians, one of whom climbed at the same level as me – so her an I snuck off to fight with a V0 that took WAY too much effort for a V0.

Then I headed out on my own, looking for more adventure. I found some other climbs, did a bit of bushwacking, and forgot my bug repellent in the car (meaning that I hiked back out to get it, since I’d be dead and drained of blood if I hadn’t).

I loved every second of it.

Routes that I worked:

Honestly, I don’t really remember any specifics. The routes here are hard. The folks that I was hanging out with were pretty fun though, and they definitely made the difficulty more tolerable. I focused on the main “Midnight Lightening” boulder in the beginning, then followed the Chilean climber to a perfect splitter crack that I couldn’t do much more than start on.

I was able to bust out that pretty good V0 balancy route nearby though, after a fair amount of work.

From there, I hit up some smaller boulders on the walk out – much easier routes than the splitter that I had been working before.

Ohh! I do remember one! The Presidential Traverse, a V0 rated at four stars. It was really fun – just a long traverse from one end of a boulder to another, walking on big ledges and using huge flakes. Honestly, it was really easy… annoyingly easy, after the rest of the day.

My love of Yosemite National Part: The first day

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My love of Yosemite National Part: The first day

I’ve never been to Yosemite, but it’s been etched into my adult mind in the same way that the Titanic and Dinosaurs were etched into my young mind. It’s a myth, a legend. The greatest place for traditional rock climbing in the world, and arguably the birthplace of modern climbing itself.

Feats of strength and endurace took place here; first ascents of climbs that no one thought could be climbed by human hands..

Brilliance of engineering even happened; the creation of Cams, and many other unique pieces of protection.

Yosemite is greater than life, in my mind. But I’ve never been there. Until this trip.

Wednesday, 10-June-2015

I started Wednesday in Utah, among the towering sandstone cliffs and desert sands. My tent was clogged with find sand, and my mind was full of big-wall climbs that I needed to try.

I drove through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and remembered the sheer scale of what was to come in Yosemite.

Then I started into Inyo National Park, the non-fee park surrounding Yosemite (as far as I can tell; I don’t have internet while I’m writing this post, so I can’t actually check). I saw mountains, dear reader. I saw real and true Mountains. Mountains that New England doesn’t have; the closest I’ve ever seen before was out in New Zealand, when I was hiking up Mt. Hutt…

These were cliffs wreathed in clouds, with thick snow caps even in the middle of June. The granite sides of the mountains were sharp and sheer; not the forested flanks of the White Mountains.

So I stopped. Often.

I took pictures. Hundreds.

I saw the man-made lakes, and the hydroelectric plants that feed power to the citizens below. I gawked at waterfalls. And then I entered Yosemite itself.

I can’t describe it, honestly. The closest thing that I can say is a note from The Lord of the Rings… a piece that was in the books, that was left out of the movies. It’s a prophecy, regarding an Elf. Legolas – Should he ever hear the call of the Seagulls, he will never be content in Middle Earth. He’ll always feel the pull to leave, and enter the land of the undying.

Seeing Yosemite is, for me, the call of the gulls. I need to climb here. I need to live and hike and explore and Experience this place.

This feeling kept growing in my chest as I drove through the park. The peaks called, and thousands of beautiful climbs beckoned to me, even after I’d checked into the campground and set up my tent…