Katy Whittaker's California Trip Recap
We have just returned from our three month trip round California which obviously was amazing. Our first stop was the Needles, which is in the Sequoia National Park it is at 8000feet in the middle of no where. The nearest town is about 45min drive up a big windy mountain. It is so beautiful up there, you camp amongst the massive fir trees then have an hour or so walk to get to the rock. Unfortunately I didn't actually manage to climb here because I was ill and just lay in my tent most of the time but the last day I walked to the crag and it looks ace!
Next stop (when I was better) was Tuolumne meadows that have loads of granite domes sticking out of the valley, you can do anything here, from single pitch cragging days, to big multi pitch days out. In the area you can crack climb, do some hardcore glassy granite slabs or some cool conglomerate climbs. We did loads of amazing multi pitch crack climbs, the best bit being when you top out and get to see the view down the valley. One of the best routes was Oz 5.10d and got 5 stars, the classic pitch being a massive corner crack climb.
After some pottering here, we went over to the Incredible Hulk in the High Sierra near a town called Bridgeport. The Hulk is situated up in the mountains at about 11,000 feet with a pretty big walk in (it felt big anyway compared to the Peak District walk ins). Myself, Pete (Hurley) and Ryan (Pasquill) set off the day before so we could get up at first light the next day and start climbing. It took about 4hours to walk in, most of it uphill and carrying big packs. It was worth it though, it is such an amazing piece of rock. We got there just as the sun was setting and ate our tea and kipped at the bottom. We set off the next day on a route called Positive Vibrations 5.11a, climbing faces and lots of cracks, a good (and hard) introduction to the world of granite jamming. It was my biggest multi pitch so far at around 13 pitches and even though we were up at first light we were still rapping off in the dark and then had to do the long walk back down to the car. All in all it was an 18hour day and I had very sore hands (since I didn't tape up) and was absolutely knackered. We had a few days in Yosemite then went to visit some friends in San Fran for the weekend, which was a nice break.
After San Fran it was back to the valley and this time for a month in total. I have obviously seen photos and read articles about Yosemite but until you visit it nothing can describe how massive the cliffs are and how beautiful it really is. Now I didn't have any big goals as I knew I was going to find the climbing tricky in Yosemite. I just wanted to do lots of big days out on classic routes, potentially go up a big wall and do Midnight Lightening. I managed 2 out 3 of these things. We climbed routes like The Nutcracker, East Buttress of El Cap, Higher Cathedral Spire, Drive by Shooting, Royal Arches etc. I also did a big wall and went up Regular Route on Half Dome, unfortunately not free but it was an amazing experience. Four of us spent a squished night half way up the wall on a rocky little ledge then pushed on to the top the next day, we topped out in the dark! It feels really distant and peaceful up there, compared with the busy tourist valley down below. The experience was really tiring and in my last week in the valley I decided just to boulder and managed a couple of classics; Bruce Lee and King Cobra. I didn't though managed Midnight, I made it to the mantel once but was boxed out of my mind and could barely hold on.
A storm was due to hit the valley in the next few days so we sacked it to Joshua Tree, which I have to say is slightly over rated but maybe that was because we had just come from one of the best places in the world. We did do some cool stuff like Ionic Strength 5.12a, White Rastafarian V3 (highball), Slashface V3 (highball), The John Bachar Memorial Problem V5 and Caveman V7 but if you strayed from the classics everything seem quite scrittly an crumbly. We didn't stay long here maybe a week max and then headed to the Buttermilks.
The Buttermilk boulders are situated up in the Sierra Mountains and have the best boulders I have ever climbed on. The climbing is often balancy, requiring technique and body positioning rather than pure strength. It has some amazing highballs from V0 to V13! I wanted to climb everything here, it all looked so good and I didn't want to get involved with a project and miss out on everything else. We stayed here for a month and the highlights include climbing Soul Slinger V9, Checkerboard V8, Fly Boy V6, Pope's Prow V6, Seven Spanish Angels V6, flashing High Plains Drifter V7 and doing various easy highballs.