This is a trip report I solicited from another forum. Thought you guys
would also enjoy. The author is Kristin McNamara.
I'm doing this because Tim swears people actually read and enjoy
these. I thought I'd give it a try. Warning, when I can, I write a
NEVER TAKE A SPORT CLIMBER...
It's the middle of August, which turns out to be the worst time to be
in Tuolumne if you're someone like me: namely, the Tuolumne Meadows
Beta Babe. Yes, I've spent the last two months behind a counter
explaining to people that there is no drive through Tenaya canyon,
that they can't get hook ups for their monster RVs, and that mountain
biking is really swell in Mammoth, but not to be done here. In August,
everyone decides that the Valley really is too hot, so they all come
up and visit with me. Easily a thousand people a day are in and out.
Now, everyone thinks that working in the Meadows is a dream, and it
would be, if you could do it part-time, but nope, this is a full-time
operation and I have two days coming up to cram as much classic
climbing as possible in.
At the same time, I have my ol' climbing partner from college coming
back from a ten day trip on the John Muir Trail looking for a good
time. His brother is with him and is so excited to be with the two of
us that he has a shiny new ATC attatched to a pristine harness and is
just waiting to get hauled up something. My partner's the guy that got
me into climbing, but this is the first time that he'd do anything
multipitch and trad. I am very excited for him and can't wait to share
the experience with him.
He is, however, a bit tentative because he's a boulderer at heart and
leads sport if he has to, but trad is a whole different sort of
uninteresting monster. I check with every guide I know, "Is Cathedral
going to be too much for me to be hauling two guys up?" "Nah," they
say,"Easy as pie."
So we get up at 9, but the brother is hungry so it takes us a bit to
get to the Cathedral Lakes parking lot. It also turns out that bro is
totally not recovered from his hiking and his knees hurt really bad.
He makes it about a mile and a half in and decides he can go no
further. My buddy says, "Oh, you can make it." And I go, "If he can't
walk to the base, I sure as hell am not rescuing him off of a six
pitch climb." I hand him my keys and tell him where to find the Looney
Bean in Mammoth and my bud and I head off.
By now we are at the base, and it is noon. Still should be plenty of
time to finish this climb, I'm a fast, old school climber any who. I
rack up, tie in and then my bud goes, "Uh oh."
"My bro had the atc."
Not one to panic, I give him the evil eye and set to making a munter
hitch. No one ever believes me that I know how to do these things, but
see, this is why I do. I instruct him in its use and an hour later we
are finally ready to start. (Had to wait for parties at the bottom,
We start up. Beautiful, easy, perfect hand crack to a tree. My partner
looks down and goes, "Who. Mighty high." Remember, he's a sport
I get going on the next pitch, refresh his memory as to how to use the
Munter, and run it out. I think it was this pitch that I felt I'd gone
a bit off route and it was time to traverse back over to a more
protectable crack. He shouts, "What's taking so long?"
"Just . .. just . . . shut up a minute."
I cross my legs over two edges on a glassy bulge and side step into a
crack. Whew. "That was DEFINITELY not a 5.6 move."
Back up. When I haul him up, he looks a bit shaken. "What gives?"
"I think I'm scared of heights." Come on!!!!!!! He's been climbing for
a year and he just finds out now? No way. "Keep going, I'll be fine."
Start back up. We end up at the chimney of love. A week before, a guy
had attempted climbing the face and decked, the blood stains were
still visible. My friend comes up and is shaking. I spend a while
trying to find him the least exposed belay spot and try to get in the
chimney. And can't.
I'm a big-framed girl. Not horsey or anything, but I definitely have
farm-stock child-baring hips. Put a dozen cams and slings on those
suckers and bustle-wearing women of the 1800s would be proud. I get
in, but just can't commit. I can feel myself peeling backwards.
I get down and try to slide in the other direction. Not so much.
Time's a wastin' and daylight is burning. I look at my watch. Two
hours to sunset. This climb has taken 4 hours???? Yes, every belay, my
partner needs a snack or needs to be assured that this gear will
really hold, but more than an hour a pitch? Ugh. I'm fast and light,
and this dude, is . . . is not.
Okay. SO I have to get into that chimney. I will NOT do the face. The
blood is already spelling bad joo joo for this area. I finally get in
and breathe a sigh of relief. I pull the little bulge and I'm out. A
little farther up we've got a big face. But the chimney is creating a
bunch of rope drag for me. I look around for a belay spot but I've got
nothing. It's up and over or nothing.
I go up on the knobs until I am straining under the pull of the rope.
I literally have to grab slack on the rope, drop it, and move before
it hits the end of the slack. Finally get up to the last pitch and
nestle into a protected belay.
My buddy comes up, and is looking green. It seems that his sloth isn't
just fear. He has Crohne's disease and it is acting up (Inflammatory
intestinal track). We are out of water (because who thought it would
take so long?) and he's getting crampy. I think about not summitting,
it's already twighlight, but I can't go this far without doing it.
As I get up to the block I am praying that the some-time bolt anchors
are in. Please, God, let them be in, I'm dehydrated, stressed, and my
partner is ill and scared. Just this once? No such luck. Oh well, trad
climb, right? I set up an anchor and relax. The sun is setting, the
sky is turning orange and purple and pink. It occurs to me that I
didn't bring a headlamp. (Well, if I'd actually started climbing at 10
as planned, I wouldn't need it, would I?) I haul him up and he won't
even look around, he's so sick and scared. He doesn't think he can
I put him back on belay and lower him. I downclimb the block and we
set out down the backside of Cathedral. I knew we had to double back
the way we came, but the sun was setting and my partner could barely
speak, he was in such pain. The only shot of making it to the road in
a few hours would be to go directly down the side facing the lakes and
find the trail.
We start downclimbing 4th and 5th class slab. At some points it is
really getting dark and I wanted to rope up but he was below me with
the rope. I know I am solid soloing 5.8 for short stints but I'm
scared, worried about my bud, and shaking from the energy I've wasted
all day long.
Somehow I make it down the peak and we trudge through the woods, me
using my natural route-finding ability, looking for the trail. It is
too dark for my friend to see so he follows me and I shout "log" as I
jump obstacles. It feels like it has been an hour in the forest when I
finally find the wide, sandy trail. We both rejoice and take a pee
break. We discuss weather to ditch our stuff or keep going. I vote for
going, so he says, "If we go, I can't stop. You have to make me keep
It's pitch black, no moon or anything, deep in the woods, and I'm
carrying a full rack and rope straining to see the variations in the
trail and calling back any obstacles ahead. My buddy falls over a
couple of times and I think about how Imight have to carry him. I feel
terribly responsible for dragging him up something he shouldn't have
been on (I think the fear of heights brought on the Crohne's more than
the dehydration) and worry that my friends have called SAR.
Three and a half miles later we reach the trail head. Of course, by
now we've remembered that I gave his brother my car, thinking we'd
take the shuttle bus back to my cabin. My feet are tired and my buddy
cant move. He needs to sleep and eat now. We discard our stuff and I
leave him to start running the five miles back to the cabin to get my
Thank God his brother got worried around 9 and drove my car out there
and that I was paying attention. It is hard to identify one's car in
the dark. We whooped joy, hopped in, and I started laughing
hysterically. When we got back to the cabin, my friends had all
assembled and decided that by 2 a.m. if we weren't back, they'd call
SAR. We made it two hours before the deadline.
I hate Cathedral Peak. Next time I am soloing that darn thing. Epics
teach you a lot of stuff like, "Bring extra water and a head lamp."
Also, "Don't take your sport climbing buddies on big alpine climbs."
Weeee . . . if you like this one, more epics to follow.