Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter Fun in the SUN!

This winter has been a lot different from the usual routine I had going. For majority of my climbing trips I opened up to less onsighting and more falling. In addition, I trained in the gym with a lot more purpose, than for the sake of climbing. Prior to this season I didn't think working a hard section of a single climb or bouldering in the gym would be as fun as moving over a thousand foot rock face. But it did teach me much more about climbing at my limit. In addition, it actually turned out to be fun and shoved a slice of humble pie in my mouth, on pretty much every trip. Highlights of the last several trips include sending the super classic Rostrum (IV 5.11c), onsight of a notorious Yosemite offwidth Twilight Zone (5.10d) and an incredible fingercrack Mr. Natural. Doing a few climbs on Parkline Slab, first 7 pitches of the Astroman, (French) Freeblast, few cool outings to the Ribbon Falls area, a lot of one to two pitch climbs. Also, I finally climbed the Nutcracker and got to repeat the first 5 pitches of the super classic Central Pillar of Frenzy!
Gleb on rappell from top of the Harding Slot
The Rostrum
Attempt to catch the fire-fall effect. Horsetail Falls
Gleb on the way into the Harding Slot
On the first outing to Ribbon Falls Luke and I climbed the first nine pitches of Gates Of Delirium (V 5.12 or 5.11 C1) and on the other Tom and I had hell of a day trying to find the start of Ribbon Candy (IV 5.11c). Neither of those two trips resulted into “sends” or even us completing the routes to the top, but they did provide motivation and foundation for a more glorious return. One of the things that is beneficial about climbing tough routes is coming face to face with your ego. In the beginning I did not take failure well.  Ego does not like to fail, but I came to a conclusion that failing is great. It is an opportunity to learn, nothing more nothing less. Even though ego will always be there to some extend, I feel like I have a lot more grasp over mine at this point. People often claim they fell in love with rock climbing because "there are no rules," but when you examine our little camp fire, you can spot a huge list of rules each climber has, which usually only applies to the guy next door.
View of El Cap from Ribbon Falls area
Luke on Gates Of Delirium (Ribbon Falls wall)
Gleb starting first pitch of the Rostrum 
Small waterfall below Fish Crack
Anyway, on one of the trips I finally sacked up to lead the Twilight Zone. TZ is an offwidth - crack with size that is too narrow to use chimney technique, but too wide for a fist jam. This particular offwidth takes you through several hard sizes, is steep and has sharp flakes at the bottom. Even though it is very often talked about, I have not seen any climbers on it during all of my trips to the Cookie Cliff. Even though lately I tried to jump on climbs that are a bit above my head, I really wanted to onsight the Twilight Zone because supposedly it rarely happens. First pitch was a little burly. I started from a tree on the west side of the buttress. The crack widened to big fists through an overhang and I was lucky to get in a piece of protection before the pump got too severe. When I got to the base I saw the monster, which looked much more intimidating than from further away. This offwidth was so steep that it looked overhanging. When Max made it to the belay ledge I took a few last breaths and dove inside the giant. First section is a short chimney between the wall and a flake that would go right through you if you manage to screw up. I pushed my #6 cam above me as I inched my way up the strenuous beast. The crux of this section was to deal with the steepness and pushing the cam in the same time. Some sections got a little narrow and I would have to loosen the cam up and slide it above using a different aspect of the crack. Maybe hard-men back in the day had it better than us since they did not have to worry about things like pushing cams above their head : ) Chuck Pratt for example only needed a few big bongs for his First Ascent which he practically free soloed. A lead which was way ahead of his time in 1965. Well, I guess these big cams allow average climbers like me to test our technique on test-pieces like TZ. I finally left my #6 as the crack widened to #5 size. I felt pretty comfortable here till it narrowed to #4. At one point I couldn’t jam my knee to move up my hand stack. After a long session of cursing, dealing with a stuck cam, and feeling like I was close to asking for a take, I found a way to jam my calf and move up to a size that was more secure. From there the crack eases up. At the top it got incredibly easy – handjams! One problem was that I did not bring any cams to protect this section. What the hell, it is handjams! I took the pitch to the top running out the last 25 ft. But here was another crux – a bunch of unstable dirt and grass sitting on top of the formation. I couldn't risk a 50+ footer by pulling on this crap. Thank god I was trailing a line and was able to pull up a cam to protect this weird exit. At times I surprise myself with climbs completion of which brings me pleasure.
Me leading Enduro Corner on Astroman (ALMOST got it!)
Luke charging up another cool crack on Gates of Delirium
Got to climb HD this year again!

Unknown climber on 4th pitch of the Rostrum
My partner Catherine on a cool ledge - halfway up Homeworld (9 pitch 5.10+ on Parkline Slab)
There were many more outings to the Cookie Cliff, where steep crack climbing of all sizes could be had. So far I like Butterballs, Hardd and Catchy Corner more than the rest. The Enema was a memorable lead, but did not work out to be a send. Jim Donini's story of running it out from the rest stance on the First Ascent still gives me butterflies in my stomach. Waverly Wafer is still physical even though I managed to redpoint it. But Butterballs spit me off at the top of the sustained finger crack. I was a meter away from a good rest, but the superpump got me in the end. To be honest, I was surprised I got that far, probably was having a good day. Outer Limits is still super fun and so is Catchy. Cragging at Arch rock was also mega fun, but they closed it for Peregrine nesting now. :( 

It is fun to climb with this guy, even when he is not my partner lol
Always excited to climb with Luke! He brings out the best in me lol
Climber on pitch one of Freeblast (Salathe Wall El Cap)
View from Bircheff-Williams or CPoF. Middle Cathedral is AWESOME!
Gleb Rapelling from top of the Enema - STEEP!
On another outing Gleb and I took advantage of Spring-like temperatures in Yosemite and jumped on the super classic Rostrum. I climbed the route in the end of 2013 and was blown away by its steepness and quality. Before I climbed it for the first time I was intimidated by it and expected to fall often, maybe even pull on gear. I did much better than I expected and climbed the route with only two falls, one of which while leading the crux pitch, on the last moves of it to be exact.  After topping out I was super excited about my performance, till I received several texts with the same question – “Did you send?!” Usually when I go climbing my main mission is to challenge my skills, sending feels good, but the long journey is what I enjoy more. No one cared about how much fun I had, if I did better than I expected, or if it was a route I would recommend. Only thing my peers cared about was if I climbed every pitch clean. If I was in sink with my spirituality, like I would like to be, this question wouldn't bother me. But I am not there yet and was left with a bad taste in my mouth. On the drive to the park Gleb and I spent quite some time discussing human ego and emotions. Perfect description for this dilemma is - first world problems! Neither of us expected to “send,”  but I would be a liar if I said I didn't care about improving on my style. The Rostrum is a multi-pitch climbs that I put really high on my 2014 tick list. Getting it clean in January would take an elephant off my back. Since I fell on pitch 4 and 6 on my prior attempt, I took the evens and Gleb took odd pitches. We decided to use a 40M cord and haul our backpack so we could concentrate on the joy of climbing while leading and following. It worked like a charm. Pitches were as good as I could remember. When we got to the crux, both Gleb and I took a turn leading it. Both attempts resulted in yells of joy as we reached the intermediate anchors. Even though all four of the remaining pitches gave us a good fight we topped out just as it got dark with big smiles on our faces. It was awesome to lead our first "5.11c" pitch clean and tick off the legendary Rostrum. We came a long way since our first climb together – a flailathon on North Buttress of Middle Cathedral last spring!
Onsighting crux pitch of Twilight Zone 

Me leading second pitch of Hardd. Got the first, but second spit me off.
Gleb and I after AstroMAN showed us we have to go back to the gym and train harder
Looking up El Cap. Never gets old.
 On the day after we climbed the Rostrum Gleb and I decided to tick Mr. Natural - a long fingercrack on the Glacier Point Apron. It is rated 5.10c or 5.10d depending on the source and approached by 4th class or climbing a 5.9 pitch named Apron Jam. After tasting the glory on the Rostrum I did not even think about the difficulties that Apron Jam would present, but it had plenty. It worked me fairly hard and I barely led the pitch without taking a fall. With an approach pitch like that, I wasn't sure Mr. Natural would be a good idea, but both Gleb and I ended up getting the onsight on lead. The pitch was the longest fingercrack I have done in Yosemite, crux of which was first knuckle jams with some friction climbing and traverse out to the anchor. We ended the day by climbing HARD, RUNOUT SLAB..on TOP ROPE! It was a great way to finish the weekend and I am looking forward to MANY MORE! 


  1. nice blog Vitaliy - great photos

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