Monthly Archives: February 2011

Things That Last

I’ve just sat down to unlace my climbing shoes. My blue suede shoes that are on their sixth resole and soon to be seventh. In the summer of 2005 I moved to Yosemite to climb the granite walls high into the realms of being human. I needed a good pair of shoes.It wasn’t long after I arrived in the Valley that I met Surfer Bob. We became quick partners and as we climbed up the clean and varied cracks of Yosemite’s lower canyon we talked shop about life. He said if I wanted to learn to climb these wide cracks I needed a solid pair of hightops, I needed the Kaukulator. Only thing was, La Sportiva discontinued the shoe some 10-odd years ago. It could be hard to come by a pair.

I went on a search via the interweb and eventually came upon a pair on Ebay. Someone had bought them for their wife some time ago and they had been sitting in their garage unused. They were brand new and $35. When they arrived they felt like magic shoes. That day I took them on a test run. They were magic; not only could I climb the wides, but I could edge on dimes. I knew these shoes were going to open up a whole new realm of climbing for me.  I also knew that they would wear out and I would be in need of another pair.

I watched Ebay obsessively for another. Nothing for weeks. And then one day as I was walking through El Portal I saw a pair on the dumpster. Someone had discarded them. They were well used but still had life in them. They were broken down but still stiff. They seemed perfect! I carried them home almost skipping with joy. Come to find out they had belonged to Jo Whitford and she had already had them resoled three times. She felt like it was time to let them go.

Since I picked them off the dumpster I’ve come by four more pair, making my collection a total of six. It seems a good idea to stock up on them since they’re discontinued but as this pair has proven – they’re built for the long-haul. I’ve worn these shoes on hundreds of pitches and have had them resoled three times myself. They remain to be my best Yosemite all around shoe.

So, here’s to things that last.

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Separate Reality

Thursday – February 4th

Sitting on my sunlit, cedar porch in El Portal. The flow of the Merced River echoes off the canyon walls. There are signs of the upcoming spring all around – birds chirping in the newly green treetops and little buds littering the limbs of the Buckeyes. Needless to say it is amazing to be here.

I’ve been climbing with Ron (Kauk) all week; going to our old favorites like Catchy Corner, Outer Limits, Cookie Monster and The Phantom. This time of year while the sun still hangs low in the sky but is on its uprise the south-facing cliffs are basked in the golden sunlight most of the day – making for ideal climbing conditions in the cold of winter. We also went to something new, well at least for me. Separate Reality.

I had been pestering Ron all week to go on the Nose with me and for a little while he seemed to be at least thinking about it. But, in the end he proposed a different option of going to another Yosemite classic.

Ron: “Hey bird, have you done Separate Reality yet?”

Me: With ears perking up, “No, actually, I’ve never tried it.”

Ron: “You wanna go?”

And so we came to the compromise of going there instead of the Nose. I was stoked either way.

We rapped yesterday afternoon to the ledge below the roof and upon our arrival we saw that the corner into the roof was dripping wet. The ledge was completely in the shade as the sun had already passed. It was cold, and while the roof was dry it definitely would be cold and wet getting into up into it. I stated that I would rather be there in the sun, since I would be getting a little wet I would rather at least be warm. So, we jugged back out with the agreement of coming back next morning to catch the sun. Around 10am today we rapped back in. It was an amazing experience stepping down onto the sunlit ledge. I was psyched to be about to meet this climb.

As I racked up Ron walked over to the top of Tales of Power and noticed how bad the bolts for the anchor are. Looking around he saw this horn and told me the story of when he topped out Tales for the first time (making the FA). All he had left was a sling and #8 hex – he slung the horn and slotted the hex behind it. As he looked up at the roof and saw what was to become Separate Reality he was amazed at what he had discovered; here was a little something more. He belayed his partner up and they made their way to the base of the corner. Ron went up to right under the roof, looked out at it and lowered down. They exited out the big ledge and to the right around the corner up some other crack. They returned some days later and  began to probe their way out the roof placing hexes. That was 1976.

About a year or so later a photo of Ray Jardine on the roof crack showed up on the cover of a climbing mag in Europe. Wolfgang Gullich had seen a copy and at first couldn’t decipher which way he was supposed to look at the image. When he realized the climber was going out a horizontal roof it changed his perception on what was possible in climbing. Some years later Wolfgang went on to make the first solo ascent of Seperate Reality.

As I sqauted in the perch at the top of the corner I looked out the roof to the jug at the end. The river rushed below. And I pulled into the crack, inspired to be part of the lineage of climbers who had set sail before me. I slipped out a little more than halfway out the roof. My palms pumped out from the jamming. I didn’t onsight it but I was completely blown away by the aesthetics of this climb. I lowered down and Ron pulled the rope as I unlaced my shoes. I took a drink of water as I looked up the canyon at the ice-covered walls. I felt honored to be there, in the ampitheater-like setting getting an upclose view of the canyon below. A few more sips and I relaced my shoes, tied back in and topped out the climb. Ron gave a cheer up to me and I gave out a big Thanks! Another Yosemite Classic had been introduced to me.

Tomorrow I will return to the Eastern Sierra – to the boulders of the Buttermilks and petroglyphs of the Tablelands. It’s a wonderful life to be able to climb these rocks – I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do so.