The beers, shower and pizza (plus a dose of ice cream) were every bit as wonderful as anticipated – and the luxury of a humble apple served as a reminder of the monotony of a big wall diet.
In a further “That’s good, in it!” moment, which seemed to summarise our good fortune on much of this trip, I had the following bizarre exchange at the pizza place:
After a lengthy wait for a pizza…
“I’m so sorry, sir, I just dropped one of the slices of your pizza – I can make you a new one or give you a refund”
Me thinks: “Aaargh – need pizza now!” but says “never mind – couldn’t you just refund me a few dollars for the dropped slice?” “I’ll get my manager” “sorry sir, I can only offer you a new pizza or a refund”. Me: “if I take the refund then can I still keep what’s left of the pizza?” “yes, of course!”
Tiredness and beer mean I’m out like a light as soon as I get in the tent, but only managed the usual crappy post-wall sleep (aches and pains despite ODing on Ibuprofen, and interrupted by regular wakening jolts as you readjust position to avoid falling off the ledge, despite being on terra firma). These symptoms continue for a few nights.
Another stunning blue sky morning and it’s time to gather yet more beer and head down to El Cap Meadows for the traditional celebration of being down and being alive, and to relive the adventure of the last few days: 27 pitches, (nearly all C2 and above with 8 of C3 and a final sting in the tail of maybe C4), over 3,000 ft of climbing, 5 nights and just short of 5 days climbing – NAW provided quite a voyage. We also got to visit some cool spots: Big Sur, The Black Dihedral, The Black Cave, Cyclops Eye and The Igloo. Gazing up at the outline of the continent sketched out on the wall above and tracing our journey through these features brings a sense of a job well done.
You can pick out the main features in the photo below…
El Cap is no longer completely empty (though there’s still no one else on the whole of the east half) and we manage to spot four parties on the wall – three on The Nose and one on The Shield. We watch as one of the Nose teams grapples with The King Swing – eventually latching the end of the pendulum and resuming upwards progress; both reminiscing about our own experiences of that famous pitch and offering unheard encouragement and words of advice to the leader above. The guys on The Shield (or maybe a soloist – hard to tell at this distance) are halfway up the headwall, giving us another opportunity to reminisce about perhaps the most spectacular bivvy spot on the planet.
You can just about see them in the image below… If you know where to look!
With one last backwards glance, we leave The Valley (until next time…)
After all that nonsense, Bill and I both felt in need of a holiday so we awarded ourselves a day off to be “normal people”.
Over the Tioga Pass to camp in The Pit in Pleasant Valley above Bishop
Followed by a trip to the ancient Bristlecone Pines
Here’s a picture of an ancient gnarly tough thing…
… standing in front of a four thousand year old tree
Then on to The Devil’s Postpile National Monument
… and a trip to the Mammoth Brewery – for some BEER WITH ALTITUDE
Hard work being a tourist!