Yosemite: Washington Column
My car'd finally been fixed. I don't want to reflect anymore on that saga, but in a short three-day window just before I was supposed to meet Henry and Riley in Yosemite my car'd broken down, I'd been told that we were getting kicked out of our apartment in Jackson and I'd gotten an email from MF Yale saying I'd been of acceptable quality to attend classes at the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Good god, by the time I hit the blizzard on Donner Pass and knew it was all downhill to The Valley I pulled out a few road sodas and moved onto the next episode of S-Town. John B. McLemore, what an American hero.
Anyway, I got to Yosemite eventually just before dinner and found Henry and Riley at Camp 4. Henry'd just gotten in the other day from Ecuador and Riley'd been living out of his truck and so was around, somewhere for a while. We talked over dinner about whether we should take a day to go climb some routes to get our feet under us or just head up Washington Column. We elected the latter idea.
The next day we woke up at some point it was beautiful. None of us had big wall climbed before, which was kind of cool. It was a collaborative learning process rather than the typical mentor-mentee system one sees in the climbing world. The first few pitches to Dinner Ledge were fine, easy...we got caught behind the ganja squad, a group that managed to be significantly less competent than us. We slept on Dinner Ledge.
The next morning I led up toward the Kor Roof. I hate Layton Kor. He was 6'5" and into drilling bolt ladders for tall people. I placed an offset nut and led up higher, higher...a 5.8 move to a bolt that was out of reach to me because of fucking Kor, I reached, reached slipped, fell probably 15' onto my offset nut which luckily held. I tried again and just kind of dyno'd up to the sling hanging from Layton Kor's perfect bolt placement. How many Kor routes am I going to fucking climb?
The roof itself was easy and the climbing above fine. Cleaning the route was probably tougher and Riley did it like a champ before leading out over the roof on the next pitch to the pendulum. I followed the pendulum by lowering out, a technique you can find here. Henry then ascended from the ledge up to us and led out up the next pitch. At the top of P6 we bailed. The ganja squad'd already left...apparently the roof shut them down.
We took a day off and then came back and shipped the whole route really fast. Riley freed the beautiful P2 5.10d. I led the C2+/C3 Southern Man pitch after the bolt ladder above the ledge so that we could pass a slower group that was struggling on the roof. After that we ran up it. Riley freed P8 through an army of ants puffing beautiful pheromones that smelled like cake. I french freed P9 quick. Henry freed P10, which was a completely beautiful pitch and then I freed P11, got off route onto some 5.10+ terrain that was wonderful until I almost pulled off a torso-sized rock that would have killed between zero and twelve people down on Dinner Ledge were it to have gone. We topped out mid-afternoon.
Some takeaways from Washington Column and big walling for the first time:
Get good at using jumars and ascending rope. Chris Mac has some great videos. Here is the link. There's also another video about ascending overhanging terrain here. Also, don't get sucked into thinking you have to ascend a pitch. Sometimes free climbing is faster. The same goes for aid climbing. Not every pitch is best aid climbed. Sometimes french freeing is fastest. Other times just free climbing is best. Knowing how to transition and use the fastest technique is perhaps the most important understanding to have if trying to move quickly. In fact, as I learned on The Titan at the Fishers, sometimes a mix of free and aid is necessary to finish a pitch. For what its worth, french freeing (C0) is fucking awesome.
Hauling is a thing that's important to be good at too. Body hauling is easier than you'd think. That said, the bag gets stuck more than any of us anticipated. It seemed good on low-angle terrain to have someone ascending with the bag and kind of escorting it up the wall. #haulscort
Remember, there is no cheating in climbing, just lying. The point is to go up, that's it.
Oh also, you need to get down. Getting down with a 130L haulbag is actually kind of fun. You just attach the bag to your biner that's attached to your rappel device and go down. Backing up the rappel is very necessary here, as there is such a huge additional weight to the system.
Anyway, Washington Column is, was wonderful. We learned a lot. This is a mediocre post because its been so long, as a write this on July 26...