Festie B has been traveling again, and it feels oh so good!
As my dearest Festie M knows well, I am most myself when I am outside participating in my favorite forms of moving meditation. Namely: hiking, climbing, running, yoga etc. etc. Basically, I like it best when I can engage in wholly exhausting physical activity, eat (lots of) delicious foods, sleep till full, rise early, and do it all over again. (it’s #thesimplelife I prefer, not to be confused with that one terrible show Ace often talks about)
The best example of this might be the trip to Tuolumne I took last month. Aggressive schedule packed into just a few days? Check. Super cool climbs with new friends? Check. Ridiculous amounts of burritos? Check. Sleep…ehhh, we might have muffed that one up, but the early rising was definitely in the mix!
Before you hit the jump, please note that I was very bad with my camera on this first trip and took almost no photos with my Canon. This seems to be happening more and more these days…thankfully, that magical iphone of mine does a pretty good job taking up the slack…
Let me take a step back and recap the way this trip was born. It actually has roots in the first trip I took to Yosemite back in June. Being the
obsessive meticulous planner that I am, it was surprising that I found myself on a late Thursday night flight to San Francisco without an hour-by-hour gameplan for my upcoming weekend. I simply knew two things: 1) I wanted to camp in Yosemite and 2) I wanted to climb as much as possible. While en-route to SFO, I was researching campgrounds in the park and combing through the forums on Mountain Project (MP), trying to identify if someone had a site they’d be willing to share for the next night. I messaged a couple folks who had posted about camping and basically crossed my fingers that someone would respond. Getting a site in Camp 4 in the middle of the summer can be tricky enough. Throw in the fact that it would be a weekend and I would need to drive 4+ hours in the morning to get there…well, I was not optimistic about that first-come-first-serve outcome.
That uneasiness didn’t let up upon landing, securing my rental car, or arriving at my hotel. As I settled in, I checked my email repeatedly, still hanging onto some thread of hope that a MP angel would respond with a campsite to share. Around 2AM, I finally decided that I should try to sleep a few hours before setting off for the Yosemite in the morning.
At about 3AM, I gave up on sleeping, took a quick shower, packed my bags, scared the sh*t out of the hotel clerk, and got back in my car. Seeing as no angel had appeared with a campsite, I decided I should take matters into my own hands and just get in line early.
Woo hooo! Empty roads meant driving to the park was a breeze. Can’t imagine why more folks don’t travel this way*…
Let’s glaze over the math of how fast I was going and just get to the part where I arrived at the park entrance well before sunrise. Driving in, everything was hidden in that black-blue light most of us day-timers rarely see. I could just barely make out the valley forms in the shades of darkness as I wound my way around the park road. When I first saw Half Dome bathed in blue, easily visible against a brightening sky, I had to pull over to drink it all in (and keep myself from driving off the edge of the road). I think I took a total of five photos on my camera during this entire trip, so I can’t share those moments with you here. Though honestly, I might want to keep that first look to myself anyways. It was a pretty personal experience. Suffice it to say that I, like thousands before me, fell wholly and completely in love with the valley in that one view. A few wistful sighs and happy-dances later, I jumped back into the car to continue my journey to Camp 4. I had a site to catch, after all.
I arrived at Camp 4 just shy of 6 AM, high on life and running on fumes. Even with that early arrival, I was 18th in line. A couple hours later, the camp office opened up and I received my golden ticket. More happy dancing ensued.**
The whole time I was waiting in line, I was also trying to contact the very few people I have in my climbing ‘network’ to secure a partner for the day/weekend. I was (and still am, actually) pretty tunnel visioned into that one activity. By some stroke of good fortune, Kristen told me that my super cool friend Josh still had buddies in the Valley who might 1) want to climb on their rest days and/or 2) be able to find me someone who would be willing to take a pseudo-rest day and climb something fairly moderate. By the time I had secured my site, said friend, Camden, had responded and told me to pop by for some planning.
Stoke was so high, sleep was but a distant dream. (Shayla was excited to be in camp. I was excited to climb)
A couple hours later (following some breakfast food, booty-haul gear sorting, etc.), Camden and I were on our way to Glacier Point Apron to climb The Grack. It was supposed to be an easy approach. We had Mountain Project on our phones. We found the right parking lot… and then we wandered back and forth on trails for hours, even after speaking with a ranger on horseback who confirmed (incorrectly) that we were on the right path. Finally, we gave up on the MP approach beta and just scrambled up to the base of the apron, figuring that we would just walk along the wall until we found the climb.
By the time we found the route, the Valley was starting to look pretty dark – ominous black clouds were rolling in over the top of the slab, making us wonder if we were about to get soaked. However, given that it wasn’t raining yet, we started to get gear out, hoping that a quick climb was in the cards. We didn’t move fast enough. I hadn’t even put my shoes on when hail started to fall, quickly followed by a respectable rain that escalated into a torrential downpour that made our climbing wall a waterfall. Saddened, soaked, and no longer hopeful (our climb was now running with water and not likely to dry out soon), Camden and I hiked out in the steady rain.*** We comforted ourselves with ice cream, pizza, wine, and a few games of backgammon in Curry Village.**** Not necessarily in that order.
Now at this point you might be thinking, “wait, have you slept yet?” and the answer would be a very depressed, “no” (see above where I say how I like sleeping). I had not slept since 5:45 AM the previous morning, when I got ready for work in Bend, OR. It is understandable then that nearly 36 hours later, after I lost a round of backgammon and gave up my spot to Blair, I wanted to just rest my head on the table for a brief moment…
The next morning, Camden was still feeling like he wanted a bit of a rest day, so he was game to climb with me again.***** We went back to Glacier Point Apron, reducing our approach time by nearly 2 hours (which is more of a testament to how hard we were not #winning the previous day). There was a party already on the route when we arrived, so we chose to climb the Grack Marginal. The MP description for this guy is, “great training for Yosemite runout friction!” So here I must say, “Thanks for leading, Camden!” I didn’t envy you for a moment on those runouts, but I certainly had a blast following… 😀
Since I have been blessed enough to have climbed and wandered with people way better, way more experienced, and way funnier than I am, I will take some time to share a few new-to-me terms I think every adventurer should know:
- Adventure Nap (noun): a brief sleep, at any point during the climb. This can be at the top of a multi-pitch, in between pitches, or between separate routes when the weather would have been perfect for climbing (had you not been napping). It has been shown that an adventure nap cannot be avoided in the presence of a damn-near perfect napping rock (where a napping rock is any relatively smooth rock surface at a comfortable incline). ex: “We are adventure napping,” “If we hadn’t adventure napped we wouldn’t have been rained on,” #adventurenap #noregrets
- Extreme Picnic (noun): Semi-rad has a good definition of this one. Camden says this is also known as big-wall climbing.
- Try Hard (noun): this term describes that ‘dig deeper,’ grunt-a-little (or a lot-tle), work-through-the-pain, level of effort necessary in a variety of sports and activities. Not to be confused with a type of person who is described as a ‘tryhard,’ your try hard is a precious commodity. Mine is often broken. ex: “Have you tried turning your try hard on?!”
After Grack Marginal, we had a successful Adventure Nap under a sunny blue sky. Both of our try hards were definitely off. Not-so-successful was us deciding that we wanted to climb the Grack Center as the clouds rolled in (again). We roped up under an increasingly grey sky as the last party on the rock was cleaning up. Here’s how the next couple minutes go:
- Camden (CC) and Random Guy (RG) in other party: Generic weather-related chatter, concern about rain and review of the climb
- Becca (BL): As she puts on harness, ties knots, and puts on shoes, etc. It’ll be fine! We’ll just go fast, right?
- RG: Wait, am I reading your harness correctly? Are you Rebecca Li?
- BL: …Yes…
- RG: Hey! I’m Trevor, you emailed me about a campsite!
Here’s where we need to flash waaayyy back to the beginning of this post where I was freaking out about finding a campsite. Remember how I desperately messaged a bunch of people on MP? Yep. Of all the walls and all the climbs in Yosemite…here was one of the folks I messaged.
- BL: …This is totally weird…
- CC: Climbing.
- Trevor (formerly RG): General getting-to-know you chatter, weirdness about running into each other.
Camden ran out the rope for pitch one and I followed up shortly thereafter, ending the conversation with Trevor with a generic ‘see you later’ that really means that you’ll likely never see that person again. Right? (Totally wrong, more later). Camden and I finished the climb in the rain (#therewegowinningagain) and rappelled down before the downpour started in earnest. We pizza and ice cream’d again in Curry Village, played backgammon, and did some pretty talented coloring.
The rest of my first Yosemite trip was only slightly less eventful, and really just as riddled with good fortune as the first part. I ended up climbing with almost all Wisconsin-ites (both current and former) the next day and got on my first proper crack climb where I learned that jamming, in most forms, is both super painful and super fun.******
With a first date like that, how could I not fall in love with Yosemite? With raw fingertips and a happy heart, I headed back to San Fran for adult life and work on Monday. I was pretty bummed to be leaving the Valley, but knew that I would be back soon enough. As I mentioned at the beginning of this ridiculously lengthy post, I found myself back in Yosemite just about a month later. However, those stories and details of how Trevor and I meet again will have to come another day.
Lots of love from somewhere in Maine!
*Don’t worry, Mom, the excitement kept me awake until the very end, when I became desperate and began singing out loud. My Disney sing-a-long skills came in handy then.
**Happy dancing is a common pasttime for me. Maybe because I am often happy. Or because I love dancing. Sometimes it may look like I am just wiggling about, but this is what qualifies as dancing when you are as talented as I am.
***Camden is maybe the fastest flip-flop hiker I’ve ever met. Especially on slick, wet downhills. Josh’s stories about needing rest days after long approaches should have warned me.
****The Curry Village Vortex was a place I came to know well in my brief stay in the Valley. This lovely place gave Yosemite an amusement-park-esque feel, complete with a park-loop ride to take in the breathtaking sites (and climber Camp 4), heart-pounding hikes, and overpriced (but totally worth it) bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good edibles. The ‘vortex’ part comes into play when you realize that you’ve inadvertently spent hours in Curry Village eating, chatting, coloring, and gaming your way through the day. It’s a totally weird place where time seems to slip right through your fingers.
*****The people that I climb with are almost always way better than me. Which means that a light climbing day for me can be an active rest day for them. I can’t really articulate how thankful I am for all the people I’ve encountered over the past year. They’ve taught me everything I know and inspired me to keep learning more. SO MANY HUGS FOR YOU ALL. You keep me moving upwards. #stokeishigh
*******Jamming, as best as I can figure out, is literally just shoving whatever part of your body fits in the rock crack, and then twisting, fisting, cupping, stacking or other wise contorting yourself until a balance of tension and friction is achieved that will 1) keep you from slipping out of the crack in the rock face, but 2) still allow you to pull yourself out to move upwards. I literally still have scars from this first experience. Also, there’s this video that you should probably watch if you’re still reading this.