Yosemite 1999
Halfdome from midway up Glacier Point

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Desire, Plans, and Waiting

The idea of Yosemite has been wedged firmly in my head since I started climbing a very short time ago - June, 1998. As is my habit when I get obsessed with something, I read all that I could about climbing. Lots of howto books. Many issues of Climbing and Rock & Ice. And several histories and biographies of people like Royal Robins. From the very beginning, the idea of Yosemite as the place for climbing was drilled into my receiptive brain.

I'd never been to Yosemite. Not as a child, not as an adult. Not for sightseeing or for climbing. Not even for green eggs. It was clear to me that I needed to remedy this. Packing up and heading for Yosemite seemed like a difficult thing, however - finding a partner, getting my gear out there, getting guidebooks, and all the baggage that accompanies such a trip. Unfortunately, by the summer of 1999, I'd been reading the rec.climbing newsgroup for some time, and I'd seen a number of posts from a guy named Karl Baba, who climbed in Yosemite, and guided around the area. Sometimes, a person who had gone climbing with Karl would post a trip report describing the experience, and from all the descriptions, everybody who had climbed with Karl had had an incredible time.

I was intrigued. Karl seemed like a good person from his posts. And more and more of those dratted trip reports kept popping up.

Finally, someone posted one too many of them, and I decided on the spot that I HAD to go to Yosemite, and that this was the perfect way to do it. I'd pack up for a week, get my ass out to Yosemite, climb for all I was worth, and then meander back to my more ordinary life. Within a few days, I'd arranged the time for a 5-day trip with Karl. I think it speaks well of my patience that I scheduled it a month in advance, for August 4th. Or perhaps I was simply a masochist.

The next month was very much like waiting for christmas as a child, but magnified. I already knew what the present was, and by God, I wanted to go to Yosemite right then. I believe that I stopped bouncing up and down shouting, "I'm going to Yosemite!" after a few days, but some of friends might disagree.

New Shoes

Shoes don't ordinarily deserve a section of their own in a trip report, but this was a bit different. I managed to thouroughly wear out both of my other pairs of shoes, and not get them to a resole on time. So, acting like the eternal optimist, I dropped by IME and picked up a pair of Boreal Aces the week before I was scheduled to leave for the trip. I did try to break them in a bit with a few climbs in the Wasatch, but got less than 10 pitches in.

Fresno: From zero to 9000 feet in a cheap Neon

After getting through airport security with strange climbing gear, the new pair of Aces included, packed into a backpack, I picked up an outrageously expensive rental Neon in Fresno. (If you're under 25, don't rent a car at Budget. You pay with blood). With some brief instructions from a friendly stranger at the airport, I started driving to Yosemite National Park.

The drive to Yosemite isn't all that exciting, but it is kind of neat to go from sea-level to several thousand feet in the course of a short afternoon. If you need more details, you're more than welcome to drive it yourself.

Travel within the park itself was a constant alternation between the incredible natural beauty of the surroundings, and the incredible inability of RVs to pull over at 10mph to let the string of 50 cars following them past. Mind you, this was on a Wendesday. Fortunately, the beauty generally won out. My memory of the drive into Yosemite Valley is a pretty pleasant blur of all of the shades of green you can imagine.

El Capitan: Better than a Christmas Tree

One part of the journey was, however, more than memorable. I passed through the giant tunnel which separates Yosemite valley from the southern parts of the park. Before entering this tunnel, the unsuspecting visitor is treated to a brief glimpse of Half Dome rising above the mountain, and it looks quite cool. This soon disappears, and shortly you travel through a very long tunnel. After exiting the tunnel, there are a few tall trees off to the left, which then disappear and leave you face to face with the most stunningly huge vertical rock face in Yosemite: El Capitan, with Half Dome much more obvious above and to its right. I had to pull over to the side of the road, because all I could do was gape at this incredible thing that was just standing there.

Finally, I got back in the car, took a wrong detour through Yosemite Valley (no objections, it's beautiful), and got back in line following overloaded RVs out of the valley to Touloumne Meadows, passing 9000 feet on the way up. Not too shabby - starting the day in Salt Lake, and hitting sea level through 9k. Modern transportation can be fun.

Karl at Tania Lake: The Wonders of Touloumne Granite

Karl on Crescent Arch
Finally, I arrived at the brisk shore of Tania lake, and quickly spotted Karl's converted camper/van, complete with the specified peace stickers. I poked around and enjoyed a typical three-hours-of-driving stretch, then knocked on the door to the van. A friendly voice greeted me: "Dave? C'mon in!". The van smelled of incense, and from the gear inside, looked like it belonged to a climber. Thus did I meet my host for the next four days, Karl Baba.

After the usual chat, Karl asked me what kind of things I was in the mood to climb. Not being familiar with the climbing in Yosemite, I answered that I'd prefer something intro-ish but not boring. Karl suggested that since I'd indicated a love of slab climbing, the Dike Route might be a good warmup. I happily agreed.

The Dike Route starts with relaxed 5.6-ish slab climbing following a right-moving dike; hence the name. The route continues up for several pitches, getting continuously steeper as it rises, and the last section has some 5.9 moves. At this point, I was still deathly afraid of my new Aces, so I was wearing my trusty, but beat-up Zephyrs. The route went quickly - Karl can climb like a madman, and the climbing was well within my ability, so before we could blink, we were at the top. The climb itself was tasty, and well worth its three star rating. The continuous increase in difficulty made for a delightful warmup, and a great introduction to the thin granite climbs which Touloumne has in bundles. When I arrived at the top, Karl commented on the speed with which we'd climbed these pitches. It seemed to start his mind stirring, but I wouldn't find out until later what seeds it had planted.

After the Dike Route, we climbed Needle Spoon, a gorgeous 5.10a calf-burning slab route. We also made excellent time on this route, so with plenty of light left, I tried top-roping an un-named crimpy slab route, somewhere in the 10c-d range. With this climb, Karl seemed to have located the limit of my climbing range, and I happily peeled off a few times before scrounging to the top.

After this, we descended back to the car, and headed back for a refreshing (and invigorating!) dip in Tania lake. Once again, Karl proved correct - the water was cold enough to make wading in a bit of a mental effort, but once in the water it was good to be there. Karl makes a habit of diving in the lake after climbing, and it's an excellent model to follow.

Crescent Arch and Slab Heaven

Second day - crescent arch, wandering around trying to find the climbs, my first 10a lead.
Dave on Crescent Arch

The Yosemite Valley Crack Circuit

Third day - Cracks in the valley. Something-right, something, sachercracker, and that evil 11-something that finished me off.

Couldn't sleep that night.

The Galactic Hitchhiker

Fourth day - the galactic hitchhiker. Wow.
Karl on the Galactic Hitchhiker
For now, Karl has a great TR about both of his ascents of the Galactic Hitchhiker on his website. Karl Baba and Mark Albosta's second ascent of the route information.

Slept for 12 hours that night.

Fifth day - wandering around outside of the park, going home, going running, collapsing in a dead heap.

Someone's picture from the top. This is a fun rock to peek off of. :) http://ucsub.colorado.edu/~chowj/yose4.JPG

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Last updated: Tue Feb 26 03:21:17 EST 2002