A month ago, I met up with some fellow climbers in California and hung out in Yosemite Valley for five days. The people were generally awesome and inspiring, and despite the rain knocking our climbing time down to a mere one and a half days of the five, I had a great time. Even though it was a very wet trip, we did manage to get a morning of multi-pitch in.
It had been raining on and off for the two days we had been in the park, but Friday morning was sunny and clear. We had breakfast, packed gear, and headed out to Manure Pile Buttress. We broke off into 4 groups of 2; two teams climbed “Nutcracker” and the other 2 teams got on “After Seven.” Both routes finish at the same place.
I was paired up with Lizzy. She would be leading the route and I would follow. Lizzy is a great climber, she’s been climbing for many years, and Yosemite is one of her main crags. I was in good hands.
This would be my longest climb to date, 700 feet from base to summit. After my first multi-pitch experience last summer, I wasn’t sure how I was going to react. I was prepared to quietly talk myself down in case of a freak-out, but was hoping I wouldn’t have to.
There was no ceremony, no big to-do. We put our stuff in the bear box, Lizzy racked up, we checked our knots and systems, and up she went.
The first pitch was a 5.8 crack climb; both my first crack climb and my first time on granite. There was a learning curve, and for a moment halfway up the pitch I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. But the thing about multi-pitch is that you’re climbing alone. On top rope there are people around, people down below, people watching, people waiting their turn. Here, it was me and the rock, and I had to figure it out. And, eventually, I did. I figured out what foot placements would hold in the crack, and I slowly worked my way up. I met a very patient Lizzy at the top of the first pitch.
The transitions were quick. Without her having to say anything, I could tell that Lizzy wanted to be as efficient as possible. I clipped in to the anchor, we swapped gear, I put her on belay, and off she went. Rinse and repeat. The next thing I knew, we were one pitch from the top.
Our sunny day had disappeared, clouds were moving in and the wind had picked up quite a bit. Lizzy racked up and took off on the last pitch and I moved up as quickly after her as I could. And then we were at the top! Just like that. We took the requisite summit photo and headed back down (walk-off) before the rain hit. When we got back to the base and the rain started, I realized how important it is to be efficient at the belay stations. 20 more minutes on the wall and we would have gotten soaked.
The thing that still surprises me about this climb was how psychologically uneventful it was for me. I had a few instances of elvis leg on the first pitch, but for the most part I felt really calm. The fact that at any given moment I was either climbing or belaying or swapping gear made it so that there wasn’t time for my head to spin. Most of the belays were on really nice ledges, which helped quite a bit as well.
I count this as a small victory. Scratch that, a BIG victory. Turns out that I’ve made some big strides since completely freezing up on Spire 2 last year. I feel really, really good about that. If you want to give me a high-five, I’ll take it.
Other items of note about this climb:
- It was a fun climb. A bit of everything: crack, slab, flakes, lie-backs. The climbing was really fun.
- Watching Lizzy climb, I learned what constitutes a foothold on granite (it’s not very much). Once I figured out the feet, everything was a lot easier. I guess it’s true that every type of rock has a learning curve to it.
- Somewhere in the middle of the second pitch I was passed by a guy free-soloing the route. First time seeing that, too, but Lizzy said it’s a pretty common occurrence, especially on lower graded routes
- Climbing on an all-girl team was rad. Not only is Lizzy completely badass, but there was just a totally different feel to it. I can’t put my finger on it, but I liked it (the ladies at “Solo in Tandem” wrote a nice post on this phenomenon here). The ladies at Chicks Climbing are on to something.
- There were three Elizabeths on our climb. Lizzy, myself, and a Liz from the UK there with a guide. It’s a great name, obviously.
- My sense of time completely disappeared. I have absolutely no idea how long it took us to climb the route.
We spent the rest of the day hiding from the rain (and most of the week, actually), but I was so glad to get this climb in. A big thanks to Lizzy for leading the way, and for both Luke and Lizzy for being such amazing hosts for the tweetup.