Bill and I had booked flights to SFO a few weeks in advance, for a planned trip to Yosemite to climb North America Wall on El Cap. Subsequently, the “Ferguson Fire”
broke out, covering a hundred thousand acres of Mariposa County and closing The Valley. Much head-scratching and Internet research had various Plan Bs identified, but by the time we came to get packed it was looking like the Valley would reopen on the Tuesday after our arrival (thanks to the efforts of a thousand brave firefighters – thanks guys!)
The usual packing and weeding out process
… resulted in three bags of 23.5kg each plus a couple of overweight carry-on bags.
An uneventful flight on Sunday (direct to SFO – luxury!) had us landed by 3 but the “green lights all the way” vibe turned to amber when it took 3 hours to clear immigration. Then it was on to our well proven schedule of a stop in Tracy for a huge shop at Safeway and a cheap kip at Motel 6 before an early start and the remaining 3 and a half hour drive to Tuolmnee. Tuning into The Hawk on 104.1 FM, the Bob and Tom show provided a familiar soundtrack as we passed the “Yosemite Valley closed” signs on the way, but didn’t get a whif of smoke (though the haze built as we entered the National Park)
Arriving in Tuolmnee we pitched tents
and with a glorious afternoon in prospect, headed over to Fairview Dome to do the Regular Route on the North Face – one of the 50 Classic Routes of North America.
Arriving, we found a couple just finishing the first pitch
This is a 200ft crack with a couple of stiff 5.9 sections and is by some way the hardest on the route. After 4 pitches you reach the commodious Crescent Ledge. Here’s Bill soaking up the view.
… and leading pitch 5
After pitch 8 things mellow out significantly and we simul – climbed the remaining 4 pitches.
We were on top by 6pm, a bit over 4 hours after starting climbing and just short of 24 hours after clearing US immigration! Fairview really does merit the name – stunning panorama over Tuolmnee and the High Sierra. Not too shoddy for almost 1500ft of climbing and a pretty good remedy for jet lag – I slept like a baby!
Next day we planned on another amenable Tuolmnee classic – West Crack on Daff Dome. A leisurely start saw us reaching the base of the route around 11am, just as the first drops of rain fell. The forecast had said 40% chance, and Bill professed that it would soon pass “just a lambing shower”.
15 minutes later and the first claps of thunder were echoing around the dome, as the rain turned to sleat. Friction climbing on wet rock isn’t highly recommended and nor is being on the top of a dome in a lightning storm!
We bailed, struck camp and headed down to the newly reopened Yosemite Valley. Over 30F hotter and really quite smokey, it was a remarkable contrast.
Amazing to be able to just walk on to an empty Camp 4! We’re planning to start fixing on NAW tomorrow and looking forward to having the whole of El Cap to ourselves!