Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Windfall to Windchill (V 5.11)

It was a dark Saturday morning and we  were the first car to pull into the Wawona Tunnel parking lot. The view towards Half Dome was as depressing as our mental state - we knew that today our lives would depend on the hard-earned rock climbing skills we polished to perfection at Planet Granite. Over the last two years we bouldered, ran laps on artificial cracks, took Yoga classes, saw children warm up on our projects and spent hours on treadmills. As a final test Gleb and I pinkpointed a yellow 5.11a in a lead cave. We knew that after the clock strikes midnight things might never be the same. I was wondering if the two of us would have a chance to climb as partners ever again. We were about to commit to a notorious Chapman-Worrall route, up a striking wall on the East end of Widow's Tears Amphitheater. Boldness of the First Ascentionists is hard to relate to. We heard they did not leave their quickdraws fixed on the route. In addition, there was a rumor they didn't even bolt the overhanging fist crack. Armed with triple set of Black Diamond X4s, Big Bros, Power Bars and Power Drills we were ready to conquer this giant Yosemite wall by linking up Windfall to Windchill for a total of 13 pitches of TRAD climbing. It was going to be a giant leap into unknown since all we had was a topo from the 1994 Reid Guide. This climb is SO EPICLY OBSCURE, THE SUPERTOPO DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A REFERENCE TO IT!


We pulled into the parking lot sometime much later than we had planned and had a greeting with hundreds of tourists. After putting together a rack we were ready to depart, but after the tourists noticed our "shiny things" and a "climbing rope" they wanted to take pictures. Since both of us are nice guys *cough* ATTENTION WHORES! *cough*, we did not refuse and enjoyed every second of our hard earned fame.

How it really was #NOTDATEPIC

The climb goes up this buttress to the top of Stanford Point #SICKKK!
Widows Tears Amphitheater #HARDMENICECLIMBHERE
Me at the base of the route #RADVIEWDUDE
I told Gleb that I had the approach dialed since I have done it to attempt Widows Tears as an ice climb a few years ago. "About 40 easy minutes," I said, sandbagging us both. After some bushwhacking to the base of the wall it took us a while to traverse the base and find the proper ledge from which the climb begins.
Gleb starting to lead the first pitch (5.10a with really fun climbing) #READY.SET.SEND!
Gleb is super excited about the 5.11 roof #LOOKINSHARPBRO!
View of El Cap and Ribbon Falls #ROCKSNTHANGS!
Gleb leading pitch 2 - 5.11 roof! #SOFT!
Before we got on Windfall we played rock, paper, scissors to divide the leads. I lost, which meant Gleb got pitch one (5.10a lay-back) and two (5.11a-burly roof). On the other hand, I got to lead pitch three (5.8 traverse to the base of an overhang), four (5.11a - overhanging hands, fists and thin hands) and five (5.10c awesome thin hand crack which zigzags up a headwall). 

Aside from a traverse on pitch three, the climbing on Windfall was fantastic. The lichen was present, but not enough to really be noticed. Aside from third we thought the other pitches deserved 4/4 stars. The giant roof and an overhanging crack in a corner took the prize for some of the wildest pitches either of us have done on granite. I did not think there were many pitches that overhang more than The Enema, but on this route I found two!

Widows Tears Amphitheater
Me happy about (barely) sendin the 4th pitch (5.11a). Look at my tag line to understand how overhanging it is.
You can see part of the thin hands start of 5th pitch at the bottom. #WHEREPERMADRAWSAT
Me on pitch 5 (5.10c) #CRANKIN!

We got to the the top of Windfall and Gleb took us to the top of the sixth pitch, an awkward 5.7 chimney. I started climbing up the seventh pitch but had some difficulties locating the 5.10c crack till I climbed up and traversed around a corner and to the left from our belay ledge. This turned out to be one of the best 5.10c pitches I have done in the Valley. Steep fingers and off-hand jamming up a beautiful left-leaning splitter. The crux for me was in the last section before the belay. I had to fight lichen, rope drag, pump but came out on top. Gleb and I thought this pitch wasn't easy. 

Me celebrating on top after leading an incredible 5.10c pitch
Awesome place to hang out #IAMJOHNMUIRBRO
This is the following 5.10a pitch - not bad eh? #SICKMOVES
Looking down at wide climbing at the top of 10a pitch #GNAR
Next pitch was a 5.10a with some interesting climbing. The beginning was especially fun, with finger jamming through a chockstone/loose flake and pulling into a bunch of wide. You pass a tree mid way up and belay under a giant chockstone. Pitch after that was an enjoyable 5.8 squeeze chimney with no pro for a ways. Eventually I got a good piece in and followed the path of least resistance to the belay at the start of a manzanita field. Gleb led us through the 4th class bushwhacking. Personally, I would not even call it class 3. The bushes are so thick that it is hard to move. One would have to work real hard to fall off here. 
Me in the 5.8 chimney #MOREWIDEGNARNOPRO
Gleb on 2nd to last pitch
Looking down at the slab section on the last pitch. My last piece of pro is that shit tree at the start of the ledge #RETROBOLTTHATSHITBRO!
At least the views were still inspiring
Slightly overhanging 5.8 fist crack to finish the climb. YES PLEASE!

Here is when we had a little flash-back from a year ago. When we climbed the Ho Chi Minh trail we looked at the topo of the last pitches and laughed. "Eh a few 5.8s. We will cruise to the top and get down to Pizza deck in an hour." Topo for Windchill mentions "one move 5.10a" and 5.8 climbing to the top of the route. Gleb led the 5.8 pitch prior to last, and I took the 10a pitch to the top of the formation. Even though I will not ruin an experience for those who want to do the route by spraying down the beta, I will mention that this pitch does pack some spice and a fall here would be ugly! 
Gleb on the last moves of the climb #SICKKK!!!
Stanford point is an awesome spot. Another great hike to add to your tick list if you are not into climbing Windchill.
Awesome to see this as you are descending vs several pitches from the summit #NOWWEMAKEOUT

In any case, once you are past this section, very enjoyable section of nearly overhanging fists takes you to the top. Unlike the Ho Chi Minh trail, you do not have to get down the sketchy 4th class ledge system, but take a perfect trail all the way down to Wawona Tunnel parking lot. This climb has incredible views, wild climbing and one is NOT likely to be stuck in line behind other climbers. A great route to put on a tick-list for those who are into incredible climbing off the beaten path. 

BETA: double rack from green alien to BD#4 cam. Three BD.75/1 cams would be nice to have since 5th pitch takes only that size for the anchor. We did not place nuts. Did not bring a #5 cam, and didn't think it was that important to have. #SACKUPBRO!

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