A year ago I visited Yosemite for the first time, and the trip was so great me and Viktor decided to repeat it again this year. Yosemite Valley is truly mesmerising the first time you visit, and equally amazing the second time as well!
This time we had two more Croatians with us, Siniša and Ivek, the team from PK Vertikal (they stayed 3 weeks). The first day we all headed to the famous Cookie Cliff, where Ivek and Škalec jumped on single pitch routes, while we practiced some aiding, hauling and jumaring skills. After the first day, with taking both our aiding speed into consideration and the the fact we only had one week in the Valley, we decided to go for a 2-day mixed (aid and free )ascent of the South Face of Washington Column instead of the originally planned Nose route, which takes 3-4 days for “normal” people.
The first big-wall experience was great – we did some aiding, we hauled our stuff up (that part is not so much fun), we slept on the ledge tied to the rope (so you don’t roll over), and met some cool people in the route. There was 7 of us sleeping on the ledge!
The second day we had to wait for 3-4 hours for other parties on the wall before being able to continue with the climb, as popular routes get (really) crowded here. This is unfortunately now very common in Yosemite, and can be a legit reason to bail the climb. And so did we – after a few more pitches of aiding, we realised there is no way we can make it in time to the top of the climb before night, so we rappelled down. On our way down there were 10 more people waiting to do the climb (there was 5 people in the 4th pitch alone). Chose your next routes carefully, echoed in the head.
The next three days we spent just free climbing, or attempting to free climb a few routes. We did two 5.9 multi-pitches, the very aesthetic Absolutely free, where by some luck we were alone all the way. The next day we almost got stuck in the mega crowded Superslide (5.9), where we waited for people, raced past some and tried to enjoy climbing in the whole mess of people – I think there was more than 15 people in this 5 pitch route at once!
The last day we decided to test ourselves in something a bit harder than our current levels. We went to Serenity Crack, a 10 pitch route with multiple 5.10a to 5.10d sections. We got scared, took our very first falls on gear (yikes!:-), aided (this time not because we wanted to), finished the route in the dark, and returned to floor dead beaten but determined – we will be back and free climb this thing! Aiding is fun, and it was very useful for us. We learned a lot about placing and trusting the gear, but free-climbing this perfect hand and finger crack is the proper way to do this climb!
We will be back.
In the meantime, enjoy a few pictures from Viktor (thank god he loves taking photos 🙂