Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gold Wall, Yosemite - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 12 Weeks Pregnant

In late March, my good friend Brian Collet and I decided to tick a route that both of us had been eyeing for awhile.  Gold Wall (Silent Line), a 9-pitch, 900' 5.10 in the Ribbon Falls Area, seemed like the perfect way to kick off the 2013 Yosemite season.

Luckily for Team Christensen, Andrew's parents were in town and volunteered to stay home with Ainsley so that we could both get some climbing in for the weekend.  Andrew ended up blitzing the South Face of Mt. Watkins with our friend Vlad Sofiyev.  But I digress...

Overall, Gold Wall was a mixture of exactly what we expected at some points, and not at all what we expected in others.  For example, the topo we were using indicated that we were getting ourselves into a route with a poorly-maintained approach and anchors, but right off the bat we were surprised to find a well-groomed trail with probably 100 or so cairns the whole way.  We found that the route had similarly been taken care of, with loads of shiny new anchor bolts and rap rings.

We stuck to our plan of swapping leads the whole way using an 80 meter rope.  I took the sharp end first and linked pitches 1 and 2.  The first 5.9 section off the ground was way more awkward and insecure than I anticipated, which led to an easy bolt ladder (easy if you're stepping in slings) then an awkward 5.10/5.11 flaring crack in pitch 2.  The whole business took me way longer than I thought it would.  Brian then lucked out and got the tiny pitch 3 where the route traverses left to the free variation (Silent Line).  He banged that thing out in like 10 minutes. I was on the hook again for the next 200' pitch (technically pitches 4 and 5), and had a giant grin on my face the whole way up.  The entire thing was essentially a beautiful 5.10 splitter: jam after perfect jam.  Was I in Indian Creek?  My poor thumb muscles that were pumped from jamming seemed to think so every time I clipped a piece of gear.

Pitch 5 was Brian's.  This pitch was by far one of the wildest I've ever done, especially in Yosemite.  Just prior, Brian and I kept looking at the topo and scratching our heads about this pitch.  "Belly crawl?  Hmm.  Wonder what that means."  Turns out, it means exactly that! You climb up an awesome flaring chimney which pinches off at the top inside the rock, leading you to a perfect little hole that you have no choice but to crawl through on your belly until you pop out right back on the face, staring down at nothing but air. Definitely the coolest pitch on the route.

We knocked out the last couple pitches pretty quickly, but were underwhelmed by them and decided that pitch 9, a 5.9 offwidth/chimney didn't sound very enticing, especially as it is customary to rap the route after that pitch.  So after we finished pitch 8, we rapped down feeling extremely grateful that we had opted to take an 80 meter rope rather than a 70, as we used every last bit of the rope length for the last rappel.

We completed the route base-to-base in about 8 hours, starting the climb at 10:20 a.m. and finishing the last rappel at 6:30 p.m.

As for the pregnancy aspect, I admit that I was a bit worried how it would go, especially while I was on the approach.  I had puked just the week before sport climbing, and was feeling over-exhausted and a bit pukey on the hike up.  I ended up going r-e-a-l-l-y slowly the whole approach, and was afraid that my exhaustion would affect my climbing.  Luckily, the moment I lifted off on the first pitch, I felt totally great and continued to feel awesome the rest of the day.  Turns out that for me, pregnancy mainly affects my ability to hike.  (Maybe this is symptomatic of my overall fitness level? Hmm.)

Well, in the end, I found the route to be slightly challenging, a lot of fun, and overall a great way to open this year's Yosemite season.

PS-Sadly, we took almost no pictures on the route.

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