Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Out of the Valley...

I'm currently sitting in a Starbucks en route to Sacramento, drinking my first latte (a pumpkin spice latte to be exact) in a month. Why am I on my way to Sacramento? I'm picking up Lyndsay and Susan from the airport! Visitors....how we love visitors! Susan is going to be sticking around the Valley for a while and Lyndsay is coming for the week and is running the half marathon with me! Hopefully our legs are getting ready to go...the race is in 4 days!
It's so odd to be out of the Valley, driving the van at high speeds getting passed on both sides...yikes! I think I like our slower paced life...if you could call it that...or just the slow speed limits where we spend our time. I've become such a weeny of a driver...I used to be that girl zipping in and out searching for the fastest lane, and now I'm that big white van that everyone is trying hard to get by. I think I pulled over for like 7 cars on the 2 lane windy road heading out of the park. How does that happen?

Tommy and Kevin are working hard still on the climb...they got a couple of rest days due to rain, and are hitting it hard again with ideal temps (cold for me). Yesterday they worked from the ground through pitch 7 (1130am-930pm), and today they are focusing on pitches 8-11, which gets them to the start of the traverse pitches, the crux of the route. I can't even describe how hard these pitches look after being up there with them. Impressive. I hope they can pull it off!!

Here are some photos I promised earlier. If anyone knows how to post pictures onto blogger from an iphone, let me know!

Tommy swinging over to work on a section of the 2nd traverse pitch.

Hanging out on the ledge.

Tommy trying hard with my shadow under him.

Lyndsay. © Corey Rich

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swinging around...

Here we are up on El Cap again. Enjoying the views and the peaceful days up in the sky! We have spent 2 nights and now Tommy and Kevin are working on some pitches on our way down. The wind is gusting very strongly, warning us a storm might be coming. Knowing these guys, if the storm is coming they will need to get nearly drenched with no possibility of anything sticking on this technical climbing before they think about heading down. I guess that's how they are so good at what they do! Tommy is swinging around on a huge fixed line checking out pitch 15 to see if there is any way around a tricky bouldering move and reacquainting himself with the sharp holds before he sacks up and tries putting the sequences together on lead in a little bit. After today they will probably climb around on the bottom of the route and then if the rain comes like the weather app says on our phone we will get out of the valley and load up on some grub.

So I don't think I can upload photos to the blog from my phone, so when we get some Internet service I will post some picture!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finally made it to the top...and bottom of El Cap!

Sunday afternoon we loaded up some heavy packs and made the trek from the Valley floor up the East Ledges to the top of El Capitan!  To any who know, this hike is a bit more than a hike.  You walk a steep uphill for about 45 minutes, then jumar 4 pitches, followed by just over an hour more of uphill slabs.  As we made our way up we caught awesome light shining past El Cap into the Valley as the sun went down.  We took our time taking in the sights, looking over on the Nose just totally captivated by its magnitude and beauty.  Spread across the wall were other climbers working hard, or enjoying this peaceful time on a ledge hundreds of feet in the air.  We reached camp near the lip of the top as it was getting dark where a tent was awaiting us.  We unpacked, cooked up some soup and hit the sack.  Morning light came shining in our tent door and as we pulled ourselves out of sleeping bags a view of Half Dome with snow covered mountains in the back greeted us.  Jay and Kevin were sharing some coffee on a slab in the sunlight while Tommy climbed a tree to get the bag of food down to start making up some oatmeal for breakfast.  I scurried around with my camera trying to capture the beauty that laid before me.  After scarfing some breakfast Kevin and Tommy got their haul bags all ready to lower down to Wino Tower, our next home and their base camp for the season.  Jay and I packed some empty water jugs in packs and hiked out with the mission to locate the spring to get water from.  After a couple of wrong turns, we entered a lush forest on the top of El Cap and located the babbling spring and proceeded to fill Gatorade bottles into gallon jugs.  Upon returning back to camp we loaded up and prepared to head down to the fixed lines that we would be rappelling down about 1100 feet to stay perched in the sky on a tiny granite ledge.  As we reached the edge of the lip we heard a thunderous sound and took a second to process what was going on.  It registered and we hurried faster to see the damage.  A huge rockfall had just happened on the east side of El Capitan and that side of the wall was engulfed in a big dust cloud slowly billowing.  We stood in awe watching it rise and waft, reassuring ourselves that where we were rapping into was a very unlikely place for rockfall.

Jay lowered Tommy down as I lowered hundreds of pounds of gear/food/water/etc. at Tommy's command through the radio.  When Tommy was done clipping directionals and getting the bags in place, Kevin rappelled down fixing the line to the different anchors and when he was set I headed down...a heavy haul bag hooked to my belay loop hanging between my legs.  Rapping over the edge of El Cap is quite an experience...especially the spot that we drop off of.  The lip that we go off of is overhanging so you go from ground to dangling with 3000ft of air between you and the ground.  The exposure combined with the excitement of the independence and responsibility of passing the anchors safely is quite exhilarating!!  After about an hour of lowering, etc I met Kevin and Tommy whooping and hollering at my arrival to Wino Tower.  After getting clipped in to a fixed line on the ledge I watched the guys set up the portaledge and Jay come in for his landing on the ledge.  We made some peanut butter-honey bagel sandwiches and relaxed for a bit.  Life in the sky is pretty nice.

As the wall went into the shade Tommy and Kevin prepped to rap down some more fixed lines and work on the pitches below us.  They climbed into the dark only to return for some dinner and head back down again.  I laid in the port-a-ledge staring at the stars, chatting with Jay who was tucked into his port-a-ledge, thinking about how bizarre it is that I sleep in the sky like this.

We woke up to the sound of a base-jumper zooming by us, but missed seeing it.  Since the sun was on the wall and the temps were rising we lingered in bed a while relaxing and playing on our iphones.  Thank goodness for iphone Sudoku!  After hours of hanging out and occasionally eating the shade was coming and it was time for Jay and I to rap and the guys to start climbing again.  We re-packed everything and again each dropped over the edge on their rappel devices to head down the rope to another spot on the wall.  Jay and I continued to journey down the rest of the length of El Cap.  As the sun was going down and the light was a warm red across the Valley one of the many parties on the wall let out a big hoot and for about 1 full minute there were echoes of everyone's own cry responding to each other.  I hollered a few different times and laughed as the rope fed through my ATC.

Rock fall dust cloud!! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Partly CloudyTonightTomorrowTomorrow Night
Snow ShowerScattered T-StormsClear
Partly CloudySnow ShowerScattered T-StormsClear
Feels Like: 31°LowHighLow
Past 24-hr:
Precip: 0 in
Snow: 0 in
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
If I would have copied and pasted this a few days earlier, it would read day after day after day of T-Storms, Chance of Precip: 100%!  Yikes!!  We are getting very excited for tomorrow night as the chance of precip is down to 0% finally and it says "CLEAR!!"!!  Hopefully this forecast will stay and following tomorrow night things are supposed to start looking up for us!  We are thinking of heading up the East Ledges of El Cap on Friday and staying on top/on the wall for a few days.  I might try to get some running in along the rim of the valley, rappel in and take some photos of the guys working on the upper pitches and then rap back down to where they will be setting up camp and spending a couple of nights in the portaledge.  We climbed again at Jailhouse this morning followed by time in civilization to run some errands and get a new sim card since Tommy dropped his phone off of El Cap already!  Despite the rain, Yosemite is still so breath-taking, and just being out of the Valley 2 days makes me excited to get back tonight!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back to the Valley!

Well, we are on then road again. This time there is a good chance we won't be home for four months! Our first stop was in Jackson for a week long photo camp in which Becca was a student, and I.... Believe it or not, was a model. So while Becca was dialing in the apertures and f-stops, I was flexing my rippling back muscles and flashing my blue steel eyes, Ha! When i was introduced to the class as the model, the general reaction was a mix between nervousness and despair.

"oh man, how are we going to make good pictures of this yahoo."

The instructor staff; on the other hand, was a dream team. They included photographers, Corey Rich, Kieth Ladzinski, Lucas Gilman, And phot editors from the North Face (Scott Wilson) and National Geographic (Ken Geiger). With Cory as the head instructor it was as much of a lesson on sleep deprivation as photography. We got up before the sun came up most days and went to bed around midnight. The fall colors were out in all there glory so there were plenty of opportunities for great photos. Becca soaked up a mind boggling amount of photography information. I even got to escape the classes each day for a few ours of training. By the end of the week I was feeling pretty antsy to get to Yosemite. We jumped in the van and bolted straight to the valley.

Monday morning... Rain! What?! October is supposed to be totally drat in Yosemite. Last spring we endured a snowstorm every week. I was sure this fall would be much drier. We decided to try and be productive and hike a load to the top of El Cap in the rain. If nothing else it would be a nice hike, right? Not quite, we narrowly missing getting washed away by a flash flood on the east ledges. Becca was two pitches above me on the fixed lined when it came. Feeling quite worried I sprinted up the fixed lines only to find her whooping, hollering and snapping photos.

"that was so rad" Becca shouted over the sound of the raging water.

What a woman! I was once again reminded what a lucky husband i am. We brought our packs to the top, then ran down. Bt the time we got back to the van we were properly soaked. The forecast is for a few more days of rain, so we are headed out for some sport climbing at Jailhouse. The cliff is so steep there that one can climb during any kind of weather.