20090628 A day in the life of Toulumne Meadows

After climbing in Whitey Portal, I took a "rest" day to climb in Toulumne Meadows with my friend Karie.  Karie was introduced to climbing two years ago, but its clear now she's been bit!  We met at the Toulumne Meadows store, nicked some coffee from the Sunday Morning climber's coffee get-together, then headed out.

I offered up three suggestions to Karie, and she picked my hopeful:  Medlicot Dome.  We climbed Goldmember, a knob and edge fest featuring 9 bolts and 3 pieces of gear in 190 feet.  I could feel my feet sllliiiddding i the shoes when I first tried the sloping edges on the first crux, so I down climbed and lowered back to the ledge to tighten my shoes as much as I could before committing.  What a

Of course, Goldmember is in the middle of the West Face on Medlicot, so we had to access it somehow.  One option it to cue up for Shagadelic, but there were already three parties there.  A second option is to climb some unremarkable and un-named 4th/5.4, but that didn't sound really fun.  So we climbed the first two pitches of Piss Easy (aka the West Face Route).  5.8 off-width feels a lot harder than 5.8 when you've avoided off-width for as long as I have.  Since that was the first pitch, I had to rack up and commit.  The crux second half also featured a nice wet, soppy crack to try to get big hands and fist jams into.  When my last piece - an older #3.5 BD Camalot - had a trigger-wire failure I just about hyperventilated.

After that experience, I tried to avoid the 5.7 ow(e) by climbing an alternative 5.7 face/crack to the right. Remember the water at the top of Pitch 1?  It was coming from here.  I got about 20 feet up before wet shoes made standing on the water-polished edges impossible.  With only one dubious #1 TCU in a shallow, muddy parallel, I started to down climb and POP! I was off.

I skidded about 6 feet before coming to a stop - Karie was ready for me to land in her lap.  That little blue TCU was hanging off the rope at her waist too.  OK,  off-width it was.

Turns out 5.7 off-width may be considerably easier than 5.8 off-width.  We cruised that pitch to the start of Goldmember.  At the top of Goldmember I had a quick chat with a Russian, obviously hanging on one of Shagadelic's anchors only 20 feet away.

"Hey, are you on the top of pitch 4?" I asked.

"No.  We are on peetch thrree." He answered.  OK, I thought, one more to go.

I ran off into the land of the lost, climbing unprotectable 5.7 face to the roof crack before end-running it on easier 5.6 ground.  I realized at the end of the pitch that we had gone to far to rap off.  Those Russians had been at the top of pitch 4.

"How comfortable are those shoes?" I asked Karie when she reached the belay.

She was a super good sport about having to walk off.  Besides, we realized later that there was no way we could rap with only one rope.  We did get to walk underneath the Bachar-Yerian, which was cool to finally see up close.  (As I write this, I know that yesterday Bachar has died from injuries in a fall while soloing a Mammoth Lakes crag.  You can check out Single Shot to read about my thoughts on that.)

When we reached our packs again, we were all by ourselves - a huge difference from when there were at least four teams gearing up at 11:00am.  We trotted down the trail and crossed the road to climb Galen's Crack, a 40-foot 5.10c off-width (yeah, it was on my mind).  This was to be a top-rope puzzle, and I can't figure out how the hell I'm supposed to switch from fists to stacks while my feet are still well under the overhanging first 10 feet.

Well, by now it was 7:30pm, and Karie had to go to work the next day.  So we said our goodbyes, and I drove back to Lee Vining for pizza and soda at the Mobil.  Gotta love the Sierra.

Statistics:  Goldmember (II 5.9).  Linked up with Piss Easy/West Face for for pitches at 5.8, 5.7, 5.9, 5.6.   Then Galen's Crack (5.10c), top-roped.