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Trip Report    

Yosemite Valley and Lovers Leap

A weeklong outing for some first-timers in the Valley with a side trip to Lover's Leap on the way back.

  • Sat, May 21, 2022 — Mon, May 30, 2022
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • On Guidebooks:

    Supertopo Yosemite Free Climbs has the most accurate and descriptive topos and route descriptions. We found Sloan's Rock Climbing Yosemite Valley  to have a updated version of all topos but the topos themselves had missing details. The supertopo book might be a bit sandbagged though. 

    Lodging and Logistics:

    You can enter Yosemite NP without a reservation if you're entering past 4:30 or before 6am. For campgrounds, Camp 4 is the cheapest at $10 per person per night but will  have to share sites with other people vs North Pine which is around $30 per night per sight. North Pine and other campground reservations are made ahead of time while Camp 4 is lottery based and then first come first serve. During the week we had a whole site to ourselves but found a lot of people camping without at permit on Saturday night. Showers at camp 4 are free which was a really nice plus. There were lots of mosquitoes during the morning and night. 

    Multipitch Climbs

    • Central Pillar of Frenzy 5.9 5 pitches 5/23, varied climbing from thrutchy first pitch, to the finger crack to the burly 5.7 roof followed by easy 5.8 off width. Started at 7am, got down at 12 to 1 pm. Ran into another party doing the second pitch on the descent.
    • Commitment 5.9 3 pitches 5/23, fun climbing pulling roofs close to camp 4. Start was a bit hard to find. Started around 6:15 topped out around 7:30
    • Royal Arches 5.7 A0, 14 pitches 5/24  50 Classics Climbs of North America, 4: fun easy climb reminiscent of SE buttress of Cathedral in the Pasayten with lots of route finding and back and forth on ledges. Pendulum pitch was fun. East descent.  Started around 8, back to parking lot around 4.
    • Reeds Pinnacle Direct 5.9 2 pitches 5/25, from thin hands to large wavy cracks to a 5.9 offwidth. Too scared mentally to lead the 5.8 squeeze chimney traverse.
    • East Buttress of Middle Cathedral 5.10a 10 pitches 5/27 50 Classics Climbs of North America,  Longer but still fun climbing. 5.10A crowded variation was the most fun climb. Easy descent. Started at 6 back to the base around 1:10. No other parties.
    • Surrealistic Direct 5.10b 2 pitches 5/29, weird insecure 5.9 but may have been due to cold and not used to dikes. Fun 5.10b roof to crack
    • Traveler Buttress 5.9 4 pitches 5/29 50 Classics Climbs of North America, super fun climbing skipped pitch 1 due to a slow party and led the 5.9 OW. Quite secure with a #5. The dike hiking at the top was a nice break from all the crack climbing we did. 
    • The Line 5.9 3 pitches 5/29, Waited for around 2 hours at the base to get on the route, fun climbing. 

    Single Pitch Climbs

      • Five and Dimes 5.10d: pumpy ring lock, set TR
      • Stone Groove 5.10b: pumpy finger crack
      • Copper Penny 5.10a: offwidth, set TR
      • New Diversions 5.10a: tricky thin climbing to knobs
      • Conductor Crack 5.10d: pumpy finger crack. set TR
      • Yin and Yang 5.10d: pumpy layback and finger crack, set TR
      • Lazy Bum 5.10c: thin crack, set TR
      • Bummer 5.10d: hard laybacking, set TR
      • Volkswagen Mechanic 5.10c/d: hard face climb but great to work on footwork to trust slippery smears
      • Keystone Corner 5.8: First yosemite climb
      • Bridgery 5.10a: onsight, some thoughtful moves near the anchor
      • Pee Pee Pillar 5.10a: mix of stemming and thin hands
      • Hari-Kiri 5.10a: fun crack climbing
      • End of the Line 5.10c: interesting mantle followed by pumpy 10a roof
      • Grant’s Crack 5.9: easy 5.9 and short

Yosemite Valley

AJ and I decided to take an extended memorial day weekend trip down to Northern California to check out Yosemite (3 days), Lover's Leap (2 days) and Donner Pass (2 days). We were wowed by Yosemite Valley so we ended up extending our stay by 1 night. Then in the middle of the week, I joked about how rainy Leavenworth is right now which made us double check the weather for Donner Pass and Lover's Leap. Those places too seemed rainy so we ended up extending our trip for another  2 days to max of 7 days. That allowed us to take a break and relax on one of the day without the pressure to climb hard each day. 

It was AJ's first time at Yosemite. I had visited Yosemite on a high school cross country trip 10 years ago but outside of El Cap and Half Dome, I didn't really remember much of other walls. Now that I'm back as a rock climber, AJ and I were constantly impressed by the scale, proximity and number of all the towering walls right next to the valley loop road. Sad to say it made Index and Leavenworth look like a children's playground. 

We luckily got permits for Camp 4, which was a mix of hikers, car campers and some climbers. Right next to Camp was a small crag, Swan Slab, and numerous other boulders. Later in the week, we ran into some climbers from Japan who had climbed Freerider in 3 days. As impressed as I was, they were more impressed with Alex Honnold who they ran into en-route. It only took him 5 hrs to get to where it took them 2 days. 

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AJ eager to check out the Plum crack by Camp 4

Given the stiff grading at Yosemite, we decided to go cragging the first day and checked out Five and Dime. I hadn't done much trad climbing this year so I felt a tiny bit in secure on the 5.8 we jumped on. Luckily the 10a OW and the 10d crack climb next door were easily top rope accessible and we had fun on that. That day was a good reminder that even spring in Yosemite is already quite warm with a high of 70 to 80 which was a shock coming in from WA. We wrapped up with a climb in the New Diversions crag which had another fun 10d we top roped. 

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First pitch of Frenzy with the thrutching and squeeze exit

The following day we decided to jump on Central Pillar of Frenzy. The theme of this trip was that we would wake up early to be the first on a climb and then see no one of the entire climb. Having it be the weekday probably helped. Frenzy had all sorts of climbing from squeeze chimneys, hugging twin cracks, a "5.7" hand crack roof to 5.8 OWs. We rapped the route since we thought no one was on it but in hindsight it would have been better to rap the recommend route climbers left. We finished the day climbing another 5.9 multipitch route close  to Camp 4 called Commitment, given due to pulling some fun roof moves and arriving in camp right as we needed headlamps. The top out for Commitment ends up in a sandy ledge with a lot of loose rock so starting really late when almost no parties were on it was the right call. 

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Negotiating the roof  on Commitment

The next day we did Royal Arches. Route finding was sort of difficult since we didn't know if we were on sandbagged class 4 terrain or actual class 5 terrain. The route wanders back and forth  on ledges so it helped when we caught up to another party ahead of us. Given the heat of the day, I decided to forgo freeing the 5.10b slab pitch and did a fun pendulum instead. The party ahead of us also showed us where the rap anchors were. Just don't try to skip a rap station unless you're 100% sure that it reaches the next on or you will end up with sketchy downclimbing. Finished the day walking around the nice Awahnee hotel and checking out the Yosemite Village Store. There's a outdoor gear store in Curry Village if you last minute forgot a rope or shoes etc. 

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Reed's Pinnacle with the striking white crack in the middle

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Results when you suck at OW.

 Tired from days of climbing, we decided to sleep in the next day and rolled up to Reed's Pinnacle. This was a unique climb one because you can see the polished granite from the road and two the crack was quite wavy. By now, I had gotten used to wide to OW size 5.9 cracks. However I wasn't ready for the third pitch of the regular Reed's Route which involved chimneying through a tunnel with 30+ feet of runout. I missed the piton  but oh well, next time. There was a quality 5.10b crack route which AJ led in the blistering heat. We finished the day at Sentinel Crag and surprisingly ran into other climbers. 

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Camp 4 vibes. The closing and opening of the bathroom door at night was annoying. Bring ear buds. 

Now that we had two additional days, we decided to take a rest day on Thursday. Driving to Oakhurst to resupply and joining the tourists as we hiked up to Bridal Veil and Mist Falls. It was cool to see Half Dome from the back and other odd dome features like Liberty Cap. 
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Pitch 10 of East Buttress before the raps. There's a pitch 11 if you want to top out

After getting used to the Yosemite rock and being pretty comfortable in the 5.9- 5.10a range, we hopped on the East buttress of Middle Cathedral doing the 5.10a "50 crowded variation". Most of the climbing besides the 5.10a pitch wasn't that remarkable but having bolted rap stations was really nice versus having to walk down a bushy gully.  We finished relatively early so we went to check out Lower Cathedral which had a lot of sport climbing and a fun 10c climb. Sadly, on lead I cleared the 10c mantle but whipped on the 10a roof. Gym climbing only does so much to improve footwork. 

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Mock leading for tricky gear placements on Bummer 

The last day, we took it easy to go crag near Camp 4. Visiting Sunnyside Crag to mock lead from 10c and d's. We finally got to climb at Swan Slabs and enjoy the feeling of being hardcore rock climbers with 10s of tourists watching from the nearby trail. 

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Yosemite is definitely a very special place and I can't wait to go back to climb more classics. Several things I learned from this trip were that Yosemite has very wide climbing, so honing in my OW skills is a must. Consistently improving my crack climbing hand and foot technique is also important. Lastly my initial impression of Yosemite was that it was mostly hardcore rock climbing with little to offer to the moderate trad climber but that was not the case. There was plenty of fun rock climbing at all levels. Even more in Tuolumne Meadows which we drove past on our way to Lover's Leap.  Also there's little cell reception in the Valley unless you're at Yosemite Village so it was nice to disconnect from all the noise and just focus on the grandeur or the park, the rock and the climbing. 

Lover's Leap

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Getting ready for Surrealistic Pillar Direct. You can see the dikes in the background

In contrast to the highs of 80s with t-shirt weather in the valley. We woke up to lows of 30s with rain on our way to Lover's Leap. We were a bit hesitant about climbing as there was only one other car in the parking lot but when we went to check out the wall it was dry. We immediately jumped onto Surrealistic Pillar Direct. The 5.9 start felt awkward maybe because I hadn't warmed up or wasn't used to stemming on the dikes. AJ had some trouble with route finding up high and had to run out quite a bit on the dikes as well which seemed to be a theme for this area. However the faceclimbing with the dikes was a nice respite from all the crack climbing we did at Yosemite.  

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Climbers on Corrugation Corner next door

We continued on to Traveler Buttress another 50 classic to find a follower just getting started climbing. After seeing them struggle for 10 minutes to get to the first piece, AJ and I made the right call to walk up to the main ledge and just start from pitch 2. My experience climbing OW in the valley helped but sadly I got my #5 stuck. AJ was able to get it out after freeing each lobe and was definitely worth it tolerating the cold winds on the arete. Funny enough on the next pitch, the highlight pitch where you traverse across on dikes. AJ put a #4 in a crack which also got stuck until AJ was able to get it out by actually prying on the flake to flex so that the #4 was able to move out.  We topped out to a burned forest and continued to the East Wall to climb the Line, a striking crack. There was a party at the base so we ended up waiting in line for the Line. The climbing was thoughtful and it was nice to climb another classic at Lover's Leap, it was a good end to our long climbing trip. 

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Can you guess which route is the Line? 

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Climbing the last bulge on The Line

The drive back on the eastern side of California was nice. Passing idyllic rolling hills, admiring free range cows, passing by Tulelake and looking for the monument to the Japanese Internment Camp that used to be there. As we went north the sky became more and more cloudy and finally we were back in Seattle.