Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yosemite Day Two: Zossima's Servant

"For the world says:

'You have desires and so satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the most rich and powerful. Don't be afraid of satisfying them and even multiply your desires.' That is the modern doctrine of the world. In that they see freedom. And what follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder; for they have been given rights, but have not been shown the means of satisfying their wants. They maintain that the world is getting more and more united, more and more bound together in brotherly community, as it overcomes distance and sets thoughts flying through the air."

- The voice of Father Zossima as told by Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

As noted in the previous post, at the end of our first day of climbing, "Ratherbe" and I scouted the Church Bowl area in order to determine our second day's climbs and found nothing we could link from the cliff to the guidebook. This ended somewhat of a frustrating day for all of us; none really had a fulfilling first day and it was apparent that we had somewhat different goals: either push the head or calm the soul, with each of us being in an exact linear position in relation to each other, from one extreme to the other. Since we had cragged on Sunday, it was time to get on something longer and easier the next day.

Monday: Five Open Books and Church Bowl

Five Open Books
Munginella (5.6) - Two Pitches - Trad - Make your own anchors - Greg and "Ratherbe" led

Approach: If you are staying in The Valley, then you should have a parking pass that allows you to park at the Yosemite Lodge. If parking there, park at the far left if facing the lodge with the road behind you. You should be right across the street from Lower Yosemite Falls picnic area / restrooms. If staying at Camp 4, then just walk past Swan Slabs, as the walk to the lower falls isn't more than 15 minutes or so. If you don't have a pass, then park in the parallel parking near the Yosemite Falls shuttle stop. One note, if you're not staying at Camp 4, don't park there, as there is a separate parking pass for this campground.

Walk on the paved path toward the falls while looking left and uphill into the trees. Look for a short, brown post with a picture of a carabiner on it. Follow the climber's trail and carabiner posts until you get to the last post that is about 10 feet from the cliff. Look for a small, left-facing corner / ramp that would lead diagonally up to a small tree and ledge if it went all the way up. You'll pass some bushes on the way up. The SuperTopo guide says this is a 3rd class pitch, but I think it is closer to 4th class with maybe a couple of easy 5th class moves. This scramble is technically the first pitch. Belay the next pitch from the shade of the tree.

Pitch One (5.6) - 130 feet - make your own anchor - "Ratherbe" led

Climb the right-facing corner and face past several trees to a small ledge / alcove on the left.

Despite this being the first long(ish) climb of the trip, and with us being completely alone in this area, and despite the need for me to feel as far away from civilization as possible, I started up this route feeling as if I were carrying extra baggage. The peace and calm that I was seeking was staring down at me from above in the form of a blank, void-of-crowds face that was seemingly high above the hordes of tourists snapping pictures of the falls off to my right. This should have been the perfect moment to put the previous day's frustrations behind me, but they persisted in a piercing and oddly both subtle and direct manner. I just couldn't get comfortable, and yet I knew there wasn't another soul other than my own, "PBR"'s, and "Ratherbe"'s near me. The sun will occasionally sap my energy, but rarely my spirits. I can handle low energy well, but only if my spirits are untouched. Somehow it was my attitude that was twisting my soul such that I couldn't focus on the task at hand: enjoying myself. It wasn't the sun and it wasn't the route, but the problem was both enigmatic and real.

Pitch Two (5.6) - 120 feet - make your own anchor - Greg led

Climb the right-facing corner to the shady belay ledge at the top. Be very careful when moving around on the ledge, as the ledge is full of small-to-medium-sized loose rock. It is very easy to simply step onto the ledge and unknowingly knock biner-sized rocks onto anyone who happens to be below.

I seconded the first pitch and "PBR" came up third. "Ratherbe" had found a nice ledge to belay from that had a small amount of shade in the corner. Because I was leading the next pitch, "PBR" crawled into the corner and dozed off for a few minutes.

Whenever I feel stressed I always try to revert back to what I know works best: stay calm, remain relaxed and composed, and listen to my heart. Waiting is the key, and action is the bitter to my preferred sweet and sour. By allowing whatever actions that will happen to occur, I allow myself to gain perspective and the knowledge, understanding, and confidence to tackle whatever it is that is bothering me. So I took a moment, sussed out the route, began to breathe - slowly and methodically, and worked my way up the face and liebacks in my comfortable, deliberate manner. This felt good, and I felt strong all the way up. But it wasn't enough. I needed the pitch to go longer for some reason. When I got to the top, I felt as if I had started on a long process of relieving whatever was eating at me on the inside, but that time had run out on me and there I stood, naked and exposed without a clue as to whether or not it was going to rain. Patience isn't a virtue, as it certainly foils the man who lives and succeeds off instincts and action. It also prohibits me from finding my needed answers when I need to think quickly. How difficult is it to overcome and move beyond the unknown?

I belayed "Ratherbe" and "PBR" to the top, and as soon as they were both safe, "PBR" walked off to find the rap station.

Descent: If your back is to the cliff that you've just climbed up, head up a bit through the trees and left along a path that walks along the top of the cliff. Walk for several minutes and a few hundred yards until the brush downhill on the left begins to fade. You are close to the bolted rap anchors when you can see the base of the cliff again. Rap down the easy slab to the path below (angling right to get even lower). We had two 60m ropes and rapped with ease. The SuperTopo guidebook says that a single 60m rope would work as well.

Being at the top made little difference in how I was feeling. I knew that we'd get another climb in that day, but would it be satisfying? Even the rap felt rushed for me and I snapped when I was told that I had put my rap device on backwards. It was an odd moment for me, because I was clearly wrong. But at the same time I felt as if I just needed to do my own thing; to be wrong, to discover it, and to fix it. Ever feel that moment when you have too many balls in the air and you just want the world to stop, as if you had a pause button and could just cease juggling for a few moments while you collected yourself and composure so that you could later go back to juggling the same balls as before but with a fresh mind? I knew at that point that was what I wanted. I wanted to pause, gather myself and go back without dropping any of the balls. I certainly could have dropped whatever balls I had in the air that were least important, as that would have lessened my load, but remember, I still wasn't sure what it was that was bothering me. So to drop any ball was to drop all balls for the sake of clarity and rebuilding, and sometimes even more patience is needed before making such a knee-jerk decision. I was happy to be able to see the scenery a bit more clearly now, but the view was still being covered up by something I wasn't sure was helpful or not.

"And it's no wonder that instead of gaining freedom they have sunk into slavery, and instead of serving the cause of brotherly love and the union of humanity have fallen, on the contrary, into dissention and isolation... And therefore the idea of the service of humanity, of brotherly love and the solidarity of mankind, is more and more dying out in the world, and indeed this idea is sometimes treated with derision. For how can a man shake off his habits, what can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? He is isolated, and what concern has he with the rest of humanity? They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less."

Church Bowl
Bishop's Terrace (5.8) - Two pitches - Trad - Varied anchors

Approach: Park in the parking lot for the picnic area just down from the Ahwahnee Hotel. There is a large meadow across the street from the picnic area. As a side note, and this may be completely irrelevant because of the threat of bears throughout the park, but we saw a bear here while climbing and we know of at least two other parties who have also seen bears in this exact spot in the past.

Walk toward the cliff until standing at the base. Head right toward a large, cool-looking cave / chimney that is at the base of a small but steep hill. Walk up the hill to the flat ground and find a bench at the top. The direct start to Bishop's Terrace is directly in front of the bench.

Pitch One (5.7) - 100 feet - make your own anchor - Greg bailed and "PBR" led the next day

For the direct start, which is not the preferred start according to the SuperTopo, climb straight up the initial face and small crack to the beginning of an easy gully with steps. At this point, there are two options: climb right up through the 5.7 offwidth (SuperTopo says this requires large gear), or climb left to the hand-crack / lieback. Climb to the top of either crack to a shallow roof that is well below the double cracks on the second pitch. It was this first pitch where I had my problems.

The one thing that Zossima did not have to deal with was a middle class. In his day there was only the wealthy and poor. Sure, there were discrepancies between the extremely rich and simply comfortable, but the disparity between the comfortable and poor was so great that there was clearly a disconnect in the lives of those with means and those without. In today's world, it is easy to tell the difference between one extreme and the other, and it is even easy to distinguish the middle. However, what is difficult to clearly see are the differences between the middles of the middles. In other words, if looking on a scale of one to 10, with one being poor and 10 being rich, in Zossima's day there were only populations in levels one and then four through 10 with nothing in between one and four. Today, people exist in all levels such that it is easy to go from a person who lives at level four and see the difference between his home and his neighbor's level-eight home, but it is not so easy to tell the difference between the other neighbor's level five home. It is this lack of clarity and understanding that traps today's middle class into feeling satisfied and unworthy at the same time. We have been given the freedom to act as we wish, but without the ability to succeed as we wish. There will always be more that we'll want, and we'll look upon our haves with guilt, pride, possession, and a lack thereof all at the same time.

And to prove that, there I was, standing comfortably on the floor of Yosemite Valley on vacation but with a terrible disposition that was turning the gears of frustration and anger into perplexed apathy. The climbing was not what I expected, our goals as a group were not well defined, the weather was stunting our ambitions, and our chemistry was surprisingly only simmering. We could all see the steam flowing from the pot, but none of us was willing to lift the cover.

"Ratherbe" and I had failed to find Bishop's Terrace the day before. "PBR", on the other hand, was having better luck today and clearly able to point out several routes from the guidebook that we felt were good routes to jump on after Bishop's Terrace. Still, we were below the hill and hadn't worked our way to where the start of the route was. It was then that we heard a male voice shout, "Off Belay!" Immediately, I thought that he was shouting from above to someone below him, as opposed to a second telling his leader that the leader was off belay. My initial thought was that maybe the second was still on the ground and maybe that person was on Bishop's Terrace. I told "PBR" and "Ratherbe" that I was going to find out where that party was in order to find the route we all wanted. Soon after the initial shout, however, I heard the following female's voice shout, "O,eff beelayee." Interesting, I thought. That sounds like "Yorky". I scrambled up the hill quickly so that I could catch her before she climbed. As I came up the last few feet, she turned and smiled with "well, where have you been" eyes and said, "hi" in her distinct English accent. I was relieved to see someone I knew whom I felt I could ask about the route. I don't know, maybe that's a weakness of mine, but I'm far more comfortable talking with someone I've already established a rapport with. I asked her which route she was on, and she confirmed that her routes was, in fact, Bishop's Terrace. I was grateful for this knowledge, but because I was still guilty about not meeting up with her that morning, I couldn't bring myself to apologize right away. It was a characterless moment on my part where I asked how her day went and put off what we had climbed until she was forced to ask, knowing full well that that question would lead to, "why didn't you come to Church Bowl this morning like you said you would?" I was, however, glad to hear that she had done a few climbs already and had found a partner who was going to meet up with her the next day. Finally, upon the query that I was hoping to avoid, I told her that we didn't come to Church Bowl that morning because we weren't able to figure out the routes. I will say now that it was a cowardly thing we did. "Yorky", you probably would have been OK to climb with, but, oddly, we felt that you splitting us up into two groups would have slowed us down more than if we had stayed in our own group of three. We decided to not show up that morning at Church Bowl partially for this reason and partially because we couldn't read the guidebook well enough after you left that evening (and Munginella seemed to be an easy-to-find option that "Ratherbe" and I wanted to climb anyway). Looking back on this, I disagree wholeheartedly with our behavior on the first point. We would have been fine with you in our group, especially since we were to learn within a few moments after seeing you that we needed to split up for sanity's sake anyway. People are people regardless of ability, and honesty should have trumped impressions first and foremost. I felt this way from the outset of our decision to not meet you at Church Bowl, and yet I said nothing. I apologize for my behavior at the very least.

After "Yorky" started up, I took the first lead because I didn't want to climb the cracks on the second pitch, and also because I felt that "PBR" did want to climb them. The first pitch was also the easier of the two pitches, and because I was fairly apathetic about the day's activities and conversations (it's amazing how the mid-day sun can aggravate the nerves despite a well-deserved ice cream and enjoyable exhibit on the history of climbing in They Valley), I didn't feel like pushing myself anymore than I had to. Looking back, I really only wanted to get through with the climb. This was a mistake for two reasons: 1) I don't climb for the sake of it but for the pleasure of isolation instead and; 2) I have no business putting other people at risk, and that is what I did by not bringing my head along with me on this climb.

The first section was fun and easy, with one challenging move just above the first piece of gear. The second section, the gully with steps, was nothing to speak of, so I walked up mindlessly to the point where the route splits into the offdwidth to the right and the hand-crack on the left. The hand-crack, by the way, is noted in the SuperTopo as a lieback. Considering I was tired from all of my emotional fury, I didn't want to climb something that was going to require effort. From my curent vantage point, I could only see the offwidth. The move from my location to the hand-crack appeared to be an easy(ish) traverse, but one that would be difficult to return in the other direction if I deemed the hand-crack not within my existing energy bank. Because I could see the offwidth and didn't want to commit myself to an unnecessary lieback, I decided to climb up and check out the offwidth first. I guess that was my second mistake (climbing was the first). Before I climbed I was told, by the guide essentially, that I only needed gear up to three inches for the first pitch. Thinking that I had all the gear I needed, I started looking up and down the wide crack to confirm that I could place the gear that I had on me on this section. But as I looked up, and after I plugged a 3.5 Camalot at the bottom, I realized that this section was not taking only three-inch gear; it required much larger gear than that. I also looked up and noticed that there were no rests all the way up. It was either run it out and go for the top, and thus risking a nasty fall into overhanging tree branches and probably onto a low-angle section of the route (no different than a ledge at that point), or downclimb and traverse over to the hand-crack. I was tired and undecided until I heard "PBR" shout up to me, "Greg, the book says the offwidth requires five-inch pro." Well, I thought, I guess that means I'm doing to lieback.

Because the downclimb to the split was kind of sketchy, I left the 3.5 cam in the offwidth to protect against a potential fall. This meant that someone was going to have to climb the offwidth in order to retrieve the gear. But even though I made an easy transistion to the handcrack, I was so tired upon gaining the bottom of it that I pushed right past it to a pillar-like feature to the left of the crack where I knew that I could rest with good feet on a solid jug. Aha, but then that caused a problem of getting back into the crack. I searched around for a way to "fall" back into the crack, but each move felt too dynamic for me to control. A certain fall was bound to send me swinging off to the right toward the 3.5 cam and into no-man's land (for clarity: I couldn't reach into the crack to place more gear at this point, as I was too far left. That was part of the problem of getting back into the crack, too). I looked up and saw a beautiful face-like feature (a vertical crimp that was less a side-pull and more of a brake to keep me from falling if I decided to swing deliberately from it). I climbed up to the crimp and it felt fine in the direction I was pulling, but terrible in the direction I needed it to pull. Still, I tested it several times because I thought that maybe, if I just trusted it, that I would be able to make the move back to the hand-crack and still be high enough to avoid most of the lieback altogether. This sounded as if it were a good plan in my head, but it never physically felt confident enough to get me to actually commit.

Finally, after several minutes of me thinking the move through, "Ratherbe" shouted up to me and said, "Hey, not to put you off or anything, but a bear just walked past us." Well, that wasn't going to make me climb any faster, but the thought of my main protection against a fall getting mauled by a bear didn't sit well with me. That, and, just as I was about to give up, "Yorky" rapped past me and said, "Hey, Greg, how's it going?" I don't think she meant to be snarky, but I felt as if I had been given a due slap across the face for failing to show up that morning and thus, ditching her. Even if she didn't mean it that way, I made myself take it that way because I deserved it. Plain a simple, at that point, I decided to set up an anchor and bring "PBR" and "Ratherbe" up to where I was.

So, to recap, it was now getting dark, and we still had one-and-a-half pitches to go with all three climbers needing to get to the top. My position on the rock was at about the same height as the 3.5 cam, but I was a good ten feet to the left of the cam. This meant that whoever climbed as the second would have to either retrieve the gear and continue climbing to a new belay station, head directly to the top, or downclimb to the traverse to the handcrack and up to me. My belay stance was not large enough for three people to stand comfortably, and the only anchor I could mentally find at that point was off two shallow cams between the pillar and face and off a sling that was around the very top of the pillar, which had a bit of a spire, if one could call it as such, that was about eight inches tall. The biggest concern about the spire was that the upper part of it felt loose. The base of the spire (i.e. - the top of the pillar but not the top of the spire itself) was not loose (also - the pillar was not free standing, but instead solidly connected to the face). I set my anchor and brought the two up.

"Ratherbe" was the second, and because I had most of the gear that she would need to build an anchor herself, she climbed up to the cam, cleaned it, and downclimbed to the traverse. Once she traversed, she positioned heself to my left and well out of the way of the hand-crack. "PBR" came up as the third and was immediately distraught by the anchor set up that I had built. I admit, it was only set up to handle the fall that a second or third would take. There was nothing preventing me from flying upward in the case of a lead fall. We also had a sharp and confusing discussion about what, in fact, was loose: the pillar or the tip of the pillar (the spire). When it was finally determined that only the spire was loose, "PBR" determined that he was not happy with the anchor I had built and decided that we either had to leave gear and retreat or build a new anchor. We all agreed that it was getting dark, and thusly decided it was best to retreat. "PBR" built a back-up anchor for rapping off just in case my anchor did not hold weight on rappel. Once I and "Ratherbe" had rapped, "PBR" cleaned the backup (because it was now understood that my original anchor was safe to hold weight on rappel) and came down, leaving my sling and his bail biner and another sling of his. It was dark now. I was angry and needed to be alone. "PBR" suggested that we forego cooking and eat at the pizza deck at Curry instead. We all walked off with a nervous quiet, with me staying behind a few extra minutes, and had a disingeniously happy conversation at dinner. It wasn't disingenious because we were all hated each other. It was false because we were trying to move on and yet it was obvious that it was going to be difficult to do so at that moment.

Pitch Two (5.8) - 80 feet - bolted anchors - Greg has not climbed this pitch, so use your guidebook to ensure accuracy

Climb the double cracks to the anchors on top.

Descent: 165 feet to the ground with presumed bolted rap anchors. Two 60m ropes will get you down in one go.

"Alas, put no faith in such a bond of union. Interpreting freedom as the multiplication and rapid satisfaction of desires, men distort their own nature, for many senseless and foolish desires and habits and ridiculous fancies are fostered in them. They live only for mutual envy, for luxury and ostentation."

That night was our last at Curry. We got up early the next day to get in line for one night at Camp 4, just so we could get one more day in The Valley. Despite the fact that it wasn't really discussed until the next day, it was pretty well understood that we needed to split up the next day so that we could actually get some climbing in that we all wanted to do.

In the end, I feel as if I committed spiritual murder, which is a combination of Zossima's sins noted at the top. There was my carelessness that brought to boil our simmering thoughts and emotions, and there was my apathy where there should have strength within. I knew full well that I should have been grateful just to be on vacation during such difficult times, and yet I tore up my possessions in a foolish quest to gain more. This may have been a lesson learned, but it is so much more difficult to accept because it is a mistake that I should not have made. I feel very comfortable with who I am have become over the years, but I never relied on that confidence to get me through such a difficult day.

For all Yosemite Pics, Click Here

No comments: