A trip report from a while back when I did the Rostrum in Yosemite Valley with a couple of friends Doug Sprock and Tom McMillan. The Rostrum is suppose to be one of the best multipitch climbs in The Valley. It is very good. On this trip we got stuck behind a group that was pushing the limits so what should have been an early afternoon finish ended up being an after dark finish. Gear Beta and Pitch Beta will be at the end.
I was running late to pick up Doug and his partner Tom McMillan. Tom was suppose to meet his wife Linda in Yosemite. Work was crazy after dealing with negotiations of whose job we can salvage during a layoff, on top of organizing several program reviews for the various projects that I advise. It was good to be away. After picking up Doug and Tom and grabbing a bit at In and Out Burger, we made good time to Oakdale. One last stop, we had to stop at Tom Frosts house to pick up Tom McMillans climbing gear which he had left with Tom Frost. After spending too much time shooting the breeze, we were on our way again. We crashed the night at the Harding Flats pullout. Sleep was good, but the stars seemed very dim, especially for the moon only being a sliver. I awoke just before the sunrise. It seemed cloudy, but with the rising of the sun with an forboding reddish glow, it was apparent that somewhere fairly close was a wildfire. We made breakfast, packed up and headed into the Valley. The cast of smoke from the wildfires was thick in the air and slightly burned in the lungs.
We made it to the pullout of the Rostrum, damn, there are two other cars there. With a bunch of climbers roping up, we go over to ask their plans. There were a bunch of climbing guides from Italy, and their English nonexistent. We tried to talk to them, and by pointing to the topo, making ridiculous sound effects, and other gestures, figure out that they will be traversing in on the ledge at the half way point. Tom is interested in if they know any mutual friends. Tom starts describing regions of Italy that he has been to and occasionally with a name, the Italians comprehend and shake their heads in agreement. We imagine that it would sound like the teacher on the Snoopy cartoons, waaaa, waaaaaa waaaaa
.. Armond Fischer, waaaaaaa waaaa waaaa. And with the name Armond Fischer, everyone shakes their head in excitement and repeats his name.
We head down the gully from the pull out and onto a flat plan which is actually the top of the climb. On this climb you top out very near your car. After ditching our approach shoes and racking up we head down the gully, past the midpoint ledge, to the rappels. Making the rappels, we comment how we should come back and clean the lichen out of a splitter crack that runs off to the right of the rappel. It looks like it could be hard. Maybe 5.11d or harder.
Getting to the base, we spot two other climbers just starting up the route. Damn, the last thing we wanted. Walking over to the start we rope up and BS while the party ahead of us finish the first pitch. Doug starts the lead on the first pitch which is very deceptive, ok, the whole route is that way. The first pitch is given 5.9 but right off the ground its bizarre.This leads to easier ground which leads to a squeeze chimney, beautiful with a nice hand crack in the back for gear.
The second pitch is mine, and I chose the thin fingers 5.11a variation. It was the choice of that, or a 5.10a lieback flake with no protection or a 5.10d flare. I thought I chose well. It starts out with a delicate face traverse about 6ft (.10c) and then starts up a finger crack with a flake out left to grab. It was really quite fun where you then stem as far to the right and then stem to the right. The finger crack finished all too quickly and it all turned to hands then to really wide hands. After getting the wide section #ss backwards, I move back over and do easy jamming to a small ledge. Doug flies up the pitch and quickly joins me. Doug starts up the next pitch as soon as the guys in front of us get a little bit higher (it was like that all day, climb and wait, climb and wait). Doug floats up the third pitch, giggling like a schoolgirl, going all the way to the ledge at 1/3 height. That man is having too much fun.
We get to the fourth pitch, which is mine. The guys in front of us had only started up it which means I get a lot of rest. Which is good, my hands are cramping since I havent had enough to drink, and this pitch is a thin 5.11c finger crack. Looking up it, it is steep.
I put a few thin nuts on my harness, a few cams up to a red camalot on and start out. The climbing seemed easier then 5.11c but in the beginning you get no feet. After about 20 or 25ft the crack widens out and you can actually get a toe in the crack. The going seemed too easy. At about 2/3rd s height you get a reprieve from jamming by a hole that you can actually wrap your fingers around.
As usual, Doug floats up the pitch, and in no time we are leaning back, waiting for the party ahead of us. In Awe we watch the party ahead of us run the two pitches together. It takes them a while but I see a gleam in Dougs eye. He takes the rack, and he scrambles up the route making the insecure climbing look like a 5.2. In no time is he at the belay station.
As I follow, the higher I go the more insecure the climbing feel. Just as I finish the pitch, I need to go around a small roof. Damn, the feet are like glass and its all liebacking on the arms. Tom follows quickly. The next pitch is his. He wimpers on the glassy traverse to the start of the crack, mumbling something about I remember it being easier and making a few wimpering noises. Looking at the glassy 5.10c traverse, 600ft off the ground I am in awe of all those that solo this route, Peter Croft, Jason Singer, John Bacher, Dave Shultz,
Tom starts up the offwidth and almost immediately gets his knee stuck in the offwidth. After about 15minutes of stuggling , he unsticks his knee and grunts his way up the offwidth. I know Im in trouble. Tom has soloed Generator (5.10dOW) while drunk. As usual Doug floats his way up it. By the time I start with the strugglefest, it is about an hour until sunset. I try to move fast, but schist is it hard for me. Id rather run a couple laps on the 5.11c pitch then a single run on this pitch, it would be less tiring). I get to the top of the pitch and we have 30minutes to sunset.
It wont be pretty. The guys ahead of us are stuck and cant complete the last pitch. Tom grabs the rope and scrambles up the last pitch. He looks really good.
Doug quickly joins him and we make the plan that Tom belays Doug up to the top. Atleast we would have the leader on top before sunset. Just as the sun is setting Doug pulls onto the rim, with his rope, the rope of the two guys in front of us. Doug belays the two guys up, Tom belays me up to the little cave at the top. The pitch was way cool (except for the paragrenine falcon shist). Its a perfect handcrack, with great stemming but overhanging most of the way, and its REALLY overhanging in the last 10ft.
Pulling into the cave I relax in the dark, as Tom follows the last offwidth pitch. While I am waiting for Tom, I watch the lights of the cars 1000ft below me on Hwy 140 along the Merced River. This is a really nice place to be. After about 20minutes. Its my turn. Its sort of funky climbing the last crack in the dark. There is no sense of exposure but I can see nothing except the 3ft which my headlamp illuminates. In the end after a struggle ( since I cant see most of the face holds) I am on top. After that we drop into the gap, then back up, and to our packs. After unracking, we make a short walk in the pitch darkness to our car, staring at how brilliant Mars is. At the car, Tom and Doug down beer after beer (we havent had a thing to drink since noon), but since Im driving I down the sodas. Jason and his partner (the guys ahead of us) offer to buy us beer at the Mountain Lodge Bar and we take them up.
At the bar Tom, Doug and Jason go for beer and I stick to the mellow screwdrivers. Jim Bridwell wanders over and joins us with a french woman that was his client for the weekend. She seemed interested in getting to bed, and was concerned if the Bird stayed and drank with us he would never make it back to the site. We write her site (Site 11) on the Birds hand and promise that hell only stay a while. After a late night of drinks and nachos, we wonder off to our site (Tom gets the VIP site in Lower Pines since his wife is the VP of the American Alpine Club and sets up the evening program at the Mountain Lodge). We fall asleep under the stars, shooting the breeze until the early morning before the exhaustion sets in.
Camalots (or comparable size)
0.3 (blue) 2
0.4 (grey) 2
0.5 (purple) 2
0.75 (green) 2
1.0 (red) 2
2.0 (yellow) 2
3.0 (blue) 1
3.5 (grey) 1
4.0 (purple) -1
1 60m rope
After the ledge on pitch 3, every pitch can be rapped from back to the ledge and from the ledge you can escape right.
Pitch 1: 5.9 to a 5.7 chimney (with a crack that accepts red camalots near the back)
Pitch 2: 3 variations 5.10a and 5.10d offwidth not suggested 5.11a fingers variation suggested- traverse straight across to the finger crack and a flake out left helps starting up the crack
Pitch 3 5.10b/5.10a: splitter and great climbing- go all the way to the ledge (about 150-175ft)
Pitch 4: You can do this pitch differently then described in supertopo: Do the crack to the top of the technical crux of the route (5.11c: soft for the rating).
Pitch 5: From the top of the bolted belay at the top of the crux, traverse left and up the crack past the first anchors (about 40ft up) on the left up the corner to the slimy layback to the next anchors (180ft)
Pitch 6: Traverse by staying low (VERY slimy 5.10c) to offwidth 5.10a: easiest if you start out with butterfly handstacks and then left side into ledge with bolted belay (100ft)
Pitch 7: Past the guano up into the overhanging hands (perfect hands but stem wide: 5.11b: 100ft)
Pitch 8: Traverse right across the butt rounded slab until the end of the roof. Lie back to access the offwidth crack (5.10b) and finish up the offwidth crack (5.9)