Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frustration (and Loathing the US government) in Las Vegas

We were somewhere on Highway 120 on the way out of Yosemite when reality began to kick in: due to the US Federal Government shutting down we were being kicked out of the Valley. Our dreams of climbing El Capitan over, at least for the foreseeable future. We don't seem to have had much luck on this trip. When we we arrived in California it was on fire, which prevented us from spending as much time as we wanted in Tuolumne Meadows. Our original plan was to spend seven week in Yosemite but because of the fire we decided to hire another car and head to Colorado, which then flooded the day before we set off. So we headed to Smith Rock which was okay, but who flies across the Atlantic to go sport climbing, when I could do better climbing in France or Spain for a fraction of the cost.

We finally made it Yosemite with the aim of spending our remaining five weeks in the States there. Arriving in the Valley we drove down to El Cap meadow and saw the Captain for the first time. I don't think I have been so inspired, psyched and excited by a piece of rock. In the days leading up to our arrival Ollie and I had been had arguing about which wall we were going to climb first. As soon as we set our eyes on El Cap we knew it had to be the Nose.

That evening we climbed Nutcracker, a great but quite tricky 5.8 on Manure Pile Buttress. The next two days were spent driving back to SF to return our hire car. Back in the Valley we aided the first pitch of Cosmos at the base of El Cap and practised jugging a fixed rope to get in the swing of things. The next day we soloed a fun 5.6 called Mungenella and climbed the Central Pillar of Frenzy, which was totally brilliant and one of the best Hard VSs I've ever done.

The next day Duncan needed a rest so Ollie and I soloed Royal Arches as our active rest. I founded it to be a little more tiring than I'd anticipated - the pendulum is brilliant. That evening we sorted our rack for the Nose. The next morning we got up early and fixed our ropes to Sickle, which was uneventful apart from the short fall I took on the first pitch when an overtaking party's cam ripped out. (Rather embarrassingly I've taken more aid falls than trad falls this year.) We also saw Mayan Smith-Gobat and Stan Leary set off to break the mixed record. When we got down to El Cap Bridge after fixing they were already there having climbed the whole route (3:30) and descending the East Ledges. Very very impressive!

Our plan was to pack the next day, then jumar up the ropes the following evening and spend the night at Sickle, before climbing the Nose over three days. Originally we were going to do this regardless of the Shutdown. However although the Park Service said they weren't going to arrest climbers who were descending if they changed their minds and we did get arrested it would make re-entering the US very difficult to impossible. And as much as I dislike America and would never want to live here there is some very good climbing here and I don't want risk never being able to visit again for the sake of one route, which will always be there.

We managed to get a lift out of the Valley to Las Vegas, which is surreal. We had one bet on the roulette wheel and lost. I'm never doing that again.  Watching people sit in a darkened room, surrounded by flashing lights, gambling all their money away is depressing. We are staying in a cheap Hotel - it's nice to sleep in a bed for a change and we had no real choice as the official campsite is closed and the only free camping is frequented by Methheads. We climbed at Black Velvet Canyon yesterday, which although very good isn't Yosemite. Hopefully the Republicans and Democrats will sort themselves out before we leave for Patagonia on Nov 1 and we'll get to climb El Cap.

The team and the Captain - I don't think I've ever been this psyched before.
Nutcracker - Duncan seconding and Ollie leading.
Duncan enjoying Central Pillar of Frenzy. 
Ollie with his hand looped through the A0 pendulmn on Royal Arches. I was a big scardey cat and clipped in. 
Duncan leading pitch 4 of the Nose.

End of dream...
Vegas baby!
Paris baby!
Venice baby!
Red Rocks baby!

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