|Lost Arrow Spire|
Checking out everyone's wall reports got me excited about getting out and doing one myself. And by excited I mean fanatical. A few days before my friend Amy (Cragger- what I call her) and I (Taper- what she calls me) were supposed to get out for a LONG weekend in Sierra, the forecast high up has changed for the worse. Since the Valley was supposed to stay hot/dry, I was able to convince her that attempting a wall is a great idea- for two gumbies that never topped one out.
Without exaggerations, looking at Lost Arrow Spire is one of the reasons I love climbing in Yosemite Valley. The view of the spire with Yosemite Falls booming a few hundred feet to the left never gets old. The thought of actually climbing it did not cross my mind- till I attempted my first wall (Gold Wall-Silent Line variation V C2 5.9). On Gold Wall we got to the point where most people rapell from, it was fun, but something was missing. There was no hauling the pig, most pitches were free-climbed, and most important there was no glorious summit. With a few pitches of aid under my belt I wanted to climb something that would feel more like a real wall. Multiple C2 pitches, natural ledges, interesting offwidth climbing, and a shot at glorious summit sealed the deal- Lost Arrow Spire Direct was our route of choice. In addition, we put aside enough time to spent three nights on the wall.
Complicated logistics of climbing a wall didn't hit me hard till I was driving to Sacramento to pick up some offset cams from my friend Bryan (since than I purchased own full set). From Sac, I drove down to the valley, hiked the falls trail (7.6 miles 2600ft of elevation gain), and fixed two ropes that I carried up with me into the notch with the Lost Arrow Spire itself (don’t forget to tie your ropes to a rock, it gets windy up there). Fixing the ropes into a notch is important to set up the glorious Tyrolean Traverse. Other options are not as fun.
When I got down I tried to hike some of the water to the base of the route, but went up a wrong boulder field. I tried to get back on trail by climbing multiple 5th class headwalls (with 6 gallons of water on my back), but without much success. Getting myself killed before getting on the climb did not sound good at the moment. Multiple little flies, mosquitoes, and summer heat kicked my ass back to the car. Highlight of the day was taking a shower at Curry village and meeting up with my partner.
With HUGE packs (7 gallons was just water), the hike to the base of the route was much more challenging than summit day on Mt. Denali (maybe a bit exaggerated, but not much). To be honest, I am not quite sure how we fit all of our stuff into the haul bag at the base (which I borrowed from Martyr, THANK YOU!).
After we did get to the base of the route and racked up I took the first block of pitches. Pitch 1 had some interesting 5.7 face moves- much harder when there are enough cams, hooks, and other misc crap on you that you feel more like a Christmas tree, than a climber. Second pitch had a bolt ladder, rivets, rivet holes, and a short C2 section. Was my first time hooking a hole of a missing rivet- was a bit scary in the beginning, but by the end of this wall it felt very secure. C2 section wasn’t too challenging- just awkward. Crux of the day came when it was time to haul our bag from the ground. Our Topo said you can use a 60m rope for hauling from the ground, but for some reason it was just a bit too short for us. We had to figure out a way to set our haul system much lower than the anchor. At least I had a chance to practice space hauling! It ate a lot of our time, but ended up being the only major cluster-fk on this climb.
Next came the offwidth pitch. I was able to free climb the OW part till the crux moves by the bolt, from there I yanked, pulled, and aided my way up. Pitch 4 was a bit awkward, but had great placements all the way up. We were happy to get to a huge ledge and eat. To our surprise we weren’t alone- there was mice and a few frogs jumping around. As everyone suggests, the wind picked up and didn't calm down till the sunrise.
Amy started leading her block (P 5-7) while I took it easy and had a day of hanging in my uncomfortable harness. I discovered that my face and neck are sun burned a lot more than I though- it annoyed me for the rest of the climb. I took the last pitch of the day (pitch 8), which had some crack and chimney climbing on it to a nice and exposed ledge. We slept tied into an anchor here.
Started out when the wind stopped blowing. I led P 9, 10, 11 (divided into 2 short pitches), 12, and Amy led what was supposed to be 13. P8 had a weird traversing move. P9 had a small section in the middle that raised my heart rate a few beats.
However, the only short fall I took on the route came on a basic C1 placement higher up. Trying to save time I loaded the placement without testing it and ended up hanging from Metolious adjustable daisy (which caught my fall) on my last piece of gear. Wiggling my way up the squeeze in the end of that pitch sucked with all the gear everywhere. Next pitch was really steep, clean and cool. It required a few cam hooks (not really mandatory, but you might as well!), but mostly offset nuts, micro cams, and a few offsets. In the middle if it was a fun pendulum. Not sure if the hook move to get to the belay ledge was mandatory, but I did not see a way around it.
Next up was pitch 11 which was supposed to have a C2+ section. At the time I was worked by all the stress of climbing a wall, especially the heat. After a quick breather and prayer, I headed up. This pitch took me longer than it should have since I did not know when the C2+ would come, but the aiding never got hard. Amy got challenged by pitch 12 due to not finding the correct patch. In the end, we had a great evening on the ledge between LAS and the rim. Big, fat rat (Amy tried to convince me it's called a pika....ewww) tried to join us for dinner, but I did not feel like sharing. Highlight of the trip was running out of water and making ramen from water that must of been left in the notch by 1964 party. I could have jugged the lines and ran to the creek, but I am too lazy.
To finish the climb, Amy led pitch 13 and I led 14th. Pitch 13 started with an exposed step into a crack and finished with some annoying offwidth. There was an easy hook move and a few offset cam placements part way through the bolt ladder - pitch 14. Last low-5th slab moves were a bit challenging in approach shoes, with all the rope drag. I haul, Amy jugs, tourons are entertained, both of us are on top! Glorious summit-check. Top of the spire is airy, and exposure is amazing. Somehow we figured out how to set up the tyrolean traverse and got to the other side of the rim. While I wait for Amy to traverse the line, someone shares their water with me. Even though I felt like a sun-burned, nasty, ball of hatred, I was happy to answer all the questions that guy asked.
Although we had a blast (trying not to kill each other) on the wall, both of us understood there is no way in hell we can do Nose in a day any time soon! Climbing 5 pitches a day on our best day was a humbling experience...
But than I saw another wall and picked up the guidebook again... : )