Thursday, August 14, 2008

back to the hills

Finally I was starting to feel more normal, not 100% but good enough to hit the backcountry again. Not quite ready for a death march, I emailed Bob Burd and bailed on Monday's Sierra Challenge peak. I wanted something with a short approach, but with enough technical difficulty and exposure to satisfy my adrenaline junkie side. Even though I had climbed it back in June I decided that the SE Buttress of Cathedral merited a second go around, plus Jascha hadn't been up it before.

With clear skies there was no need for an early start, and given the
popularity of the route it was to our advantage to head out late (such a shame). After waiting in line at the Tioga Pass kiosk for what seemed like forever we made it into the park, parked at the Cathedral Lakes TH, and cruised up the climbers' trail to the base of the route. I could see a number of parties on the face, all at the usual bottleneck, the chimney. Because we were soloing I figured we would be quickly joining the crowd, so I looked for an alternate route on my topo. The 5.6 crack variation to the left of the chimney seemed more palatable than 5.7 slab variation to the right. At least we had options.

We headed up the same way I had gone a few months prior (option C on Supertopo). Jascha quickly acclimated to the frictiony granite laden with cracks and classic Tuolumne knobs. Before long we were standing at the base of the chimney. A
friendly French father and daughter team were about to follow their leader up the left-hand variation on double ropes and another guy was struggling up the chimney on toprope. We weighed our options and decided that it would be faster to head up the regular route once he had finished the chimney section, then pass him on the Class 4 section above.

We passed the other member of the French party, another party of three, and a guy following the final pitch. I was greated with the question "Did you forget your rope?". On the summit we chatted briefly with the other member of the two-person from the S Bay about Eichorn Pinnacle. I was regretting not bringing a route description because while the pinnacle looks nearly impossible to solo from Cathedral I knew there was a hidden exposed 5.4 route somewhere. It seemed like it was worth exploring anyway, so we headed over. The 5.4 route was fairly easy to find (just out of view from the Cathedral traverse) and we headed up, enjoying some airy step across moves and Jascha's favorite: scrunchy, balancy traverses where you have to match your hands and feet. We quickly summited and found Bob's register entry in blood. We later found out the story on summitpost, which involved a missing pen and an ingenious marine (Dave D).

We headed out and made it to Mammoth Mountaineering just in time to find the doors locked for the day.

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