All I want for Christmas is a bomber piece*

December 25, 2002

random trip report

(sorry, no photos)

Christmas in the Valley (Yosemite, that is). What a great idea! Thanks to Hamid for having it. Hamid has many great ideas, most of which involve driving somewhere to climb.

Hamid and Mark (who both work at Marmot Mountain Works) went up the night before and stayed in Camp 4. I drove up early with Julie the Poet, and we all met in the Camp 4 parking lot at 10:30. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground and the temperature was in the low 40s. Distant icefall boomed like artillery.

Hamid had underpacked, and had only a pair of sneakers and cotton socks. His feet were wet and cold. He talked boldly of Hard Core Alpine Climbing etc., to a jaded and skeptical audience.

We parked in the Yosemite Lodge lot, crossed the street, walked west a bit, and came to a nice slab. Mark hiked up a steep gully, anchored on a tree, and lowered the rope. Then I top-roped a 5.9 crack and flailed a bit because my shoes were wet (water makes a fine lubricant in the right circumstances).

While Julie tried the 5.9; she made admirable progress, but couldn't get past the crux. Hamid and I moved over and checked out a 5.7. Hamid wanted to lead it but the start was hard and his feet were too cold to climb. I was feeling ambitious so I volunteered to lead it (I had never led anything, nor placed a piece of gear).

The stance for the first piece was awkward and I had to fumble with several pieces before getting in a Friend (which turned out to be too big). Then I powered up 10 feet to a better stance and put in a bomber piece, which was fortunate because I slipped about 3 feet above it and had my very first lead fall (no problem). The rest was straightforward, then a traverse over to a tree which had a nice sling anchor already in place. Hamid lowered me down, and I felt pretty gung-ho.

Hamid went back to the car to warm his feet. Mark (a raw but talented climber) did both routes. His secret: dust the bottoms of his shoes with chalk to dry up the water.

By now it was about 2:30, and we split up. Hamid and Mark did part of Jamcrack and some Church Bowl routes; Mark did his first leading also. Julie and I headed up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, which was completely covered with snow. We made it about halfway up, enough for a great view of Half Dome and the valley.

We rendezvoused with Hamid and Mark and caravaned to Merced, hoping to find an open restaurant. No such luck - as Hamid said, those Mexicans are Hard Core Christians. So we split up and headed back. Julie and I stopped at the Nation's Hamburgers in Tracy, where she introduced me to the term 'Nationwide' as a general word of praise, as in 'Wow, your new jacket is Nationwide'.

* slang: a solid, well-placed piece of protection (nut, active camming device, etc.) used in rock climbing

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