July 24, 2006

Yosemite Part II: The Weather Woes

I went back to Yosemite this weekend with Peter. We decided to take my rental car over Lola primarily because my car (2006 Toyota Corolla) had air conditioning (the attentive reader will note the foreshadowing use of the past tense) and Lola doesn't. Well, about an hour and a half into driving and we both noticed that only hot air was coming off of the AC. Peter fought with it for a bit while I drove, but to no avail; apparently, it just died. So, we rolled down the windows in an attempt to stay cool. At some point soon after, we took a wrong exit onto 580 East and our car-turned-sauna set in to full heat mode. Both of us were completely covered in sweat despite all of the windows being open and me driving over 90 mph. Only because the heat was so crazy did we even question the direction we were driving in, realize that we were off track, and turn around.

Excusing the detour through hell, we got to Yosemite Valley in good time. The Valley was much more touristy than Tuolumne Meadows; tons of people were taking pictures, chasing after their kids, and carrying cameras on straps over sun burnt necks. The Valley itself is quite breathtaking. I couldn't have done the Valley justice taking pictures of it because it's much too large to capture in one snap and would otherwise require some type of photo stiching magic voodoo that I don't have. I'll just have to remember how it looked and recommend you check it out for yourself.

We decided to climb Munginella on Saturday, which is an easy 5.6 that sits 20 minutes off a main trail near the Yosemite visitor lodge. We got there at around 5:00pm and were the only climbers around, but could hear party music over beyond the trail. It was pretty funny being the only people within eyesite on a mountain in the woods and hearing Outkast "Hey Ya" over the trees. We did the first pitch without much excitement, but as Peter set off to do the second, we heard thunder and noticed the sky had suddenly gotten much cloudier. He rushed up the rest of the pitch just as big drops of water started to fall. As he was getting off belay, I caught a glimpse of a rainbow in the distance and took a quick photo just as the rain started to pour. By the time I collected the gear at my position, the water was coming down in full force.

So, it turns out that climbing rock that has water streaming over it is actually pretty tough, especially with soaking, squishy rock shoes. Most of the second pitch had a small overhanging on my left that kept the crack underneath semi-dry, so I jammed my left leg and arm into anything that looked jammable and pulled the rest of my body up along-side. There were points where I was totally out in the open and felt completely insecure. Putting the wrong weight in any direction and I would have slipped off the rock, but everything managed to work itself out and I got up without falling. We didn't waste much time at the top relishing in our survival and walked back to the trail as fast as possible to beat the dark. We got out of the woods just as it became totally dark and went off to find camp ground for the night.

Our original plans were to camp legitimately, but what fun would that be? After getting some food from a grocery store, we went driving and found some nice offshoot road with a big "No Camping" sign posted at the intersection. So obviously, we parked off this road and camped behind our car. After sandwiches, a California Cabernet Savignon in homemade wine glasses, and chocolate macademia nut cookies (perhaps illegal, but not immoderate camping), Peter set up the tent and we did the sleep thing.

In the morning, we drove to Tuolumne for more climbing, but when we got there, the weather was looking mean and cloudy, so we headed back to the Valley. A nice 2 hours of driving wasted later and we parked just off the road near El Capitan, the largest vertical wall in North America. It takes most climbers multiple days to climb the face, carrying food, water, and gear along in their haul bags and sleeping on the wall as they go. We ended up climbing Pine Line, an approach climb to El Cap. All of the gear was still wet, but it was noon, really hot, and we were directly in the sun, so we figured everything would dry up pretty quickly. Shortly after I started climbing, my toes started feeling a new pain that I was unfamiliar with. My rock shoes are pretty tight as it is. They are a good size and a half too small, which is normal for climbing shoes, but can be brutal on long days of climbing. But on top of the normal toe smashing pain, my toes were actually burning. I finally realized it was probably because the black rubber toes, soles, and heals were drying in the sun on my feet. Peter felt the same thing and attested to the burning shoes, so it wasn't my imagination. I also forgot that I left my camera in my pocket when I started climbing. After it fell out of my pocket and down about 50 feet to the ground, I remembered it was in there. Despite the battery falling out and it hitting rock on the way down, the camera seems to be working normally. Of course, any ugly pictures I take from now on will probably be blamed on this mishap. Aside from burning toes and flyaway cameras, the pitch was a nice and short crack that was probably the hardest I've done so far climbing outdoors.

After climbing, we headed home with the windows down and hot air pouring in. My thermometer read above 110 degrees for the majority of the trip, and we topped out at 120 degrees an hour outside of Yosemite. Mountain View was only 90 degrees when we arrived, which sadly felt very, very cool. I never want 90 degrees to feel that cool again, but we just escaped to cool and cushy Google for water and food and air conditioning, and all was better.


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