Saturday, 22 August 2009


So THE trip is over and I am back in North Wales and I'm not even too upset about the weather, wet and dreary as usual, so the trip can't have gone too badly.
Here's what happened... (roughly);

First stop; Yosemite!! Arriving in the valley I was full of mixed feelings, on the one hand I was nervous and worried: would the valley live up to the ridiculously high expectations?! On the other hand the outrageous amount of granite was getting me pretty giddy. I can't remember everything we did and in what order but the first couple of days were spent doing some free climbing - such valley classics as the Central Pillar of Frenzy, Serenity Crack and Sons of Yesterday, two of my favourite climbs of the trip. I jammed more on each pitch of these routes then I had in a life time of climbing in Britain. My hands were battered!

After a few days we got restless. It was time for a Big Wall (albeit a 'small' one)! South face of Washington column was our target and we planned on doing it in a day. Things started well, but we soon slowed. Having arrived at the bottom of the first aid pitch, Matt had a little fiddle with his etriers and daisies, then takes a a glance towards me, "So what do I do with these then?!" Shouting instructions up to him as he went we slowly made progress. This wall was a steep learning curve for the both of us. With 5 pitches to the top, the rain came in. Determined not to fail on our first big wall, we carried on but after 3 more pitches it was getting silly. We retreated. Boo!

The next Big wall was The Nose. After going to climb at the base of El Cap it was always a danger that we might get too exited about the prospect of The Nose and we did. We did the first pitch of the Nose there and then and decided to get on it the next day completely. On the first day I dropped the set of offset nuts in a squeeze chimney. On the second day I fell and a gear loop got snagged and ripped, the only thing matt caught below was the gear loop itself, missing the rest of our nuts. Ooops! This made things a bit hard, but nothing a little bit of terrifying back cleaning couldn't fix. Matt in particular had a pretty nerve racking pitch leading the 'Glowering Spot' described in the topo as taking 'many nuts.' How he did this without i do not know. A fine lead!! Highlight of the route for me was the king swing. Totally bonkers. It took me about 10 attempts and about 10 crashes into the features beside it and had to request to be lowered more after each one. It was really hard work. It is truly the king of all swings!

We topped out after 3 days climbing anyway having camped at Sickle Ledge, El Cap Tower and Camp V (not sure it deserves 'camp' status though, Matt in particular drawing the short straw and having a bad nights sleep on a small sloping ledge).

After the Nose we stayed in the valley for another 2 weeks with a brief stint to Tuolumne Meadows where we mostly made extremely large fires and hung out away from the valley circus. When we got back we did the Regular North Face route of Half Dome. Not keen on hauling again we decided to the this in a day so we didn't have to take a 'pig.' Having learnt how to short fix in Camp 4 we started a 5 in the morning and topped out just before 7 that evening, This was by far the best route i did in the valley and certainly the most enjoyable. The highlight being the infamous, 'Thank God Ledge' which entails a 30m cruel along a narrowing ledge with an increasingly overhanging side wall. Gripping! Yet sooo fun!

So much happened in the valley I can't remember everything but other stuff we did included the Lost Arrow Spire tyrolean, Royal Arches, East Buttress of El Capitan and lots of swimming in the River.


In my opinion, in terms of free climbing, Squamish blew the Yosemite out of the water. Combined with the chilled atmosphere, less zealous rangers, and small walk-ins I had an awesome time here. The routes were mostly long and followed steep crack, corner and dihedral systems. After meeting with my brother, Tim, in Banff we had a brief Rockies stint before heading over here to find much better rock. One of my favourite routes was the Angels Crest which had steep crack pitches interspersed with easier climbing including the famous 'Achrophobes,' a totally out there knife edge ridge.

Other routes included the Excasperator, Rutabaga, Rock On, Squamish Buttress, Apron strings, The Great Game, Flaming Horses amongst many others, and not forgetting, THE GRAND WALL. Probably Canada's most famous route with such pitches as the split pillar, the sword, perries lie back, and the sail flake all on one route, straight up the middle of the Chief.

After 2 weeks here, we managed to wangle a lift to the Bugaboos with some people we met at the bottom of the Chief, Alex and Gerrad. We spent 4 days here and is definitely the most impressive place I've been. With the huge granite spire sticking out steeply from glaciers and snow fields it's not hard to see why it gets called 'the poor man's patagonia.' We didn't do too much here but we did do teh famous Mc Tech Arete, Pigeon Spire and my Tim did Snowpatch Route on Snowpatch Spire with Gerrad whilst i lied in the sun recover from 2 months of climbing.
...more pictures to follow...........

KIT LIST - Essential Big Wall Equipment

- Stag Chilli. The food of the big wall kings. Make sure you have plenty of tins of this stuff for that end of a day slap up.

- I-pod & MASSIVE speakers. For those long belays and gripping leads, there's nothing better then blasting out some choooons! Rage Against The Machine for that uber psyche! There's nothing cooler.

- King Cobra. 90cents a can and strong. You can't go wrong.

- Sweets. Stuff your pockets full of them. Sours gummies were my favourate. good for psyche.

-Handle-Bar moustache. If you want to be taken seriously as a climber or infact as a human being on a big wall, sporting some locks of glory around your lips is mandatory!!!!

-Base ball Cap. To be worn backwards. This compliments perfectly the moustache.

- Inflatable dinghy. A cruise down the Merced river is the perfect rest day activity. Pick up a crate of the aformentioned King Cobra and chillax to the max!

.....Whatever you take. DON'T DROP IT!!!!!

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