Arrival into Yosemite

Los Angeles is only five hours from Yosemite, but it took us all of two years to finally make the trip. After driving up Route 41 out of Fresno and through the first park tunnel, we were stunned to see what we had been missing out on….

I mean… really!?

The Yosemite Valley Floor is something crazy. With majestically rising granite peaks peppered with pines and sequoias surrounding the valley floor and Merced River, you kind of just have to stop and stare for awhile.

It only costs $20 to bring a car into the park for 7 days. For $40 you can get a yearly pass. So two visits will get your money’s worth… not bad! Not to mention the nicest park rangers were at the gate, welcoming us in with the burliest of beards.

After acting like tourists and setting up our suction cup GoPro mount on our car, we took a few loops around the valley floor before heading to our campground, “Crane Flat.” Crane Flat is located 30 minutes Northwest of the valley floor.

Yosemite has 8 campgrounds at which we could make reservations in advance. By the Grace of Stampabout, we somehow secured the last spot that had availability for our exact trip dates–only two weeks out from arriving! The park opens up reservations for these campgrounds 4 months in advance of your trip dates… and they go FAST.

We set up our tent for the next five days, prepared a fire in our assigned fire pit, cooked some chicken sausage and were sleeping by 9:00pm.

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Chad Soaks Up Some Sun at Crane Flat

Yosemite Mountaineering School

After doing a decent amount of research and calling Zach at the Yosemite Mountaineering School several times to confirm that Chad, Paul, and I could actually complete a climb in Yosemite (with only a 40 foot climb at Point Dume in Malibu under our belt), it seemed as though we would be just fine.

Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service can set you up with beginner classes all the way up to 6-day climbs up El Capitan. They are also the only approved climbing guide service allowed to operate in Yosemite. Classes run from $150 – $350. Guided climbs run from $170 – $4,500.

After reading an article in Men’s Journal Magazine about climbing Cathedral Peak, we decided to go with that one. It looked simple enough, with an awesome opportunity to take one of these pictures:

yosemite_cathedralpeak_001p

We would need to do a 3/4 day climb to test our skills before climbing the peak the next day. We would also need to find out how to film this whole thing while climbing!

Meeting our Guide, Dave

Let’s just say… we matured as climbers very quickly.

We slept poorly the night before. It was probably a combination of sleeping earlier in the night than usual and also the fact that we were not used to sleeping on the ground just yet.

We drove up to Tuolumne Meadows at 8:30am to meet our guide, Dave. It seemed that Dave didn’t get the full information from Zach, whom we reserved the climb through.

Dave asked if we wanted to use any of our own equipment. We replied, “What equipment?”

Dave then asked our shoe sizes and just happened to have close enough sizes for us all.

Dave then asked how much we’ve climbed.  We replied, “Once… twice, counting bouldering?”

Even after these seemingly rookie answers, Dave never once flinched and said, “Great, follow me!”

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The View Down From Stately Pleasure Dome Starting Point

With little to no information on what we were climbing that day, we blindly followed Dave for five minutes until we arrived at our climb, the 4-pitch “Boltway” route on “Stately Pleasure Dome.” Chad, Paul, and I nervously strapped up what we knew how to before following Dave up the base of our climb to our starting location. Honestly, I felt I was going to fall off the side of the mountain on just the approach hike. It wasn’t hard per se, but it also wasn’t a mellow slope to scramble up.

Once we reached our starting point, Dave gave us a lesson in multi-pitch climbing, belaying, and anchor-pulling in about ten minutes. All of sudden, we were now knowledgeable enough for Paul to belay our new instructor, Chad to pull anchors as the last man up, and me to internally freak out about applying everything we just learned in record time.

I have to give credit to Dave, though. It was his calm and friendly demeanor coupled with his confidence that led us to to feel confident enough to do this thing. Since patience isn’t really our thing anyway, I guess this was all for the best, right?!

 

Our 3/4 Day Climb on Stately Pleasure Dome

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Ready to Go

Stampabout is all about adventure, challenging ourselves and stepping out of our element. I can honestly say, climbing up Stately Pleasure Dome created the perfect mix of butterflies and excitement.

In order to oblige to our filming desires, Dave led the way up and was followed by Paul so that Paul could film down at Chad and I. Dave confirmed that filming from below climbers simply gets a bunch of “ass shots” on camera.

Although the first pitch looked easy enough, we could see it in Paul’s face that he was not only a rookie climbing cameraman on this day, but also Dave’s belayer and lifeline. He was in no mood for distraction.

As Paul likes to sing, “Anything you can do, I can do better… with a camera.”

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Paul Does What We Do… But With a Camera

After Dave got to his first pitch, Paul made his way up next. The first pitch was basically a steep scramble. We squeezed through a small vertical gap in the rock and then cruised our way up to a point at which we had to use a crack and straddle our way over to the first ledge.

Not bad.

The second pitch consisted of another simple climb up a large crack. Besides the fact that we were new to this altitude and not quite well-rested, it was all going fairly well.

Once Chad and I reached the top of the second pitch, we realized things were about to get drastically different. We had reached the “bolts” section of the Boltway. Paul wasn’t filming, but rather strapped to a bolt and hanging off the side of the mountain face with nothing below him. Dave hooked us all to the start of the Boltway, so that now we were all just chilling, laying back on our ropes… trusting physics and climbing rope construction with our lives.

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Three Dudes Leaning Back on These Two Bolts

We looked up the face of the mountain to recognize that this third pitch was nothing like the first two. There were no cracks to make things easy. There was no real slope to aid us, but rather a flat near 90-degree face. There were no apparent hand or toe holds.

Dave reminded us that this granite was “sticky” and that we were now heading up the “money pitch.” I’m not sure that he recognized the growing anxiety on our faces.

After Dave made it up to the next practically invisible pitch, Paul started up.

Mind you, all three of us are remembering at this point that I fell climbing 40 foot Point Dume in Malibu. We were now 500 feet up a 700 foot climb with nothing below us. Yeah, we trusted the ropes, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t about to poop ourselves.

Paul spiderman-ed his way up the toughest ten feet right in the beginning and then had no real problem the rest of the way up.

Phew!

My turn was next. I unhooked my carabiner and said a little prayer.

Honestly, at this point, it was about not letting anybody down. I didn’t want to be the reason we didn’t climb Cathedral Peak the next day.

Those first ten feet were crucial. I listened to Dave in my head, saying, “The granite is sticky. Put a lot of shoe on the wall.” Surprisingly, or un-surprisingly, my shoes stuck and I slowly made my way up.

No sweat.

Confidence restored after making it up the “money pitch,” we hung off the wall on the third pitch a little easier.

The fourth and final pitch before a scramble to the summit was only tricky in the beginning because the winds picked up to 30 mph, two climbers caught up to us and were 10 feet to our left (no pressure or anything), and our legs were feeling a bit fatigued at this point.

After finding some sticky holds at the start, I would often have to wait out wind gusts before moving on toward my left where a large crack beckoned. Once I got to the crack, it was just an exercise in “mountain climbers” until meeting up with Dave at the top of the pitch.

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Final Pitch

Once on the ledge, we let out our collective sighs and smiled a bit more.

Finally, we scrambled up two more sections until we reached the summit. Legs burning and fingertips roughed up, we made it!

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Summit!

As we walk-climbed down the side of the dome, we chatted more with Dave about Cathedral Peak the next day.

Dave subsequently gave us the worst news of our five-day trip. We were not going to be able to the climb the next day. A storm was rolling in with a high probability of rain and 60 mph wind gusts, making for nearly impossible climbing conditions.

But not to worry, we will be back for Cathedral… and in the meantime, Dave handed out his personal business cards that may lead to our next adventure… ice climbing!

When one door closes, another opens….


Final Thoughts

  • Yosemite Mountaineering School truly represents the rock climbing community vibe of “chill.” We were anxious in the beginning, but we found Dave a comfortable and confident match. We seemed more like friends than patrons by the end of the climb.
  • Get good sleep the night before, hydrate, and be prepared for an arduous climb thats worth every penny.
  • If you’re rookies like us, get ready to ice up your sore quads and Neosporin your finger tips directly after your climb.
  • Enjoy the “money pitch.” Its the challenge you signed up for.
  • Hang back, let go of your inhibitions, breathe it in and climb!

 


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