Astroman, or is it Astroboy?

This has got to be the best route I have ever climbed. Or possibly the worst route I ever climbed. It was a tough one for me. I climbed it with Snort. He did it about 10 years ago. Astroman is the fancy name of a route that goes up the North Face of Washington Column, located opposite Half Dome.

The route is 12 pitches, and according to Chris McNamara of Supertopo, "it is one of the best long free routes in the United States". I would say it is THE best long free route that I have ever climbed. The technical crux is pitch 3, called the Boulder Problem, but the hardest part for me was the Harding Slot. You enter it via a move that Chris calls "chickenwing dyno into slot". I did it differently. It's graded 5.10, but the claustrophic squeeze chimney is just desperate. I tried every technique in the book and it took me the better part of an hour, squeezing myself up literally 1 cm at a time. You have to exhale at times to get through and up. I ended up sliding back down a number of times.

From Drop Box

Astroman is graded 5.11c, which is SA grade 23/24. But that climb was hard for me. Maybe it was pitch after pitch of sustained 5.10 and 5.11 climbing (only 3 of the 12 are 5.7-5.9). Or the Harding Slot. But I got a good workout that day.

There's a marvellous article called Astroboy that I just read about Astroman and the Harding Slot.

Sep 17: The Rostrum

Today I did the Rostrum again. This time with Snort. This is the 2nd time I did the route. I didn't mind climbing it twice in a week because it's so good. About a week ago I climbed it with Holly, an American woman, Investment Banker from New York. I lead all the pitches at the time. Today Snort and I traded leads. The route is graded 5.11c. The route must be one the best climbing routes in the world. We have been using a Guide Book called Supertopo, written by Chris Mcnamara. Chris writes "It is hard to imagine a more perfect pillar of rock than the Rostrum. The face averages dead vertical, the cracks are laser-cut and the climb endds on spire-like sumit block." I could not have put it better. The North Face route we did is 8 full-length rope pitches (making it higher than Blouberg, as Snort candidly observed!) . When I did it with Holly I did the Alien Finish, which is 5.12b, my hardest lead so far in Yosemite. I was happy! When I did the route with Snort a week later we alternated leads and did the regular 5.9 off-width. But we had done Snake Hike the day before so I was a bit tired from the previous day. This is a world-classic route.

Sending the Hoover, 5.13a

Today I sent a really hard new route. It's located in Fish Camp. and it's called the Hoover. Robert and Snort were encouraging me all day to give it a try. In the end I flashed it! I would grade it 5.13a/28 SA grade.

Sep 16: Snake Dike - a fun day out up Half Dome

Sep 16: Today Gosia, Snort, Robert and I climbed to the top of Half Dome via a route called Snake Dike. In fact it should be called Snake Hike, more on that later. Robert has been to Yosemite many times. He has been wanting to do this route for a long time. It almost didn't happen. We hiked up in 3 hours in warm, sunny weather. We rope up at the base of Half Dome. There's a German party in front of us. Robert and Charles go first, Gosia and I are 2nd. As we start climbing the weather changes in literally minutes. At the end of the first pitch the wind is just howling, dark blue thunder clouds everywhere. It is starting to rain. Halfdome is notorious for lightning strikes. And climbing wet granite slabs is not my idea of fun at the best of times. So we quickly descend. We decide to wait a while, we do have enough time left to still do the route. It does indeed clear, and an hour later we are off again. We run up 8 pitches of a huge dike. Think "Sands of Time" on Paarl Rock except pink and about one meter wide. The walk down is horrendous. We get back at about 7 pm. A good day: 1,500 m altitude gain, climbed 9 pitches, walked 24 km. I think I will sleep well tonight.

Cracks are hard work!

Yosemite is mostly about cracks: tips, fingers, thin hands, hands, fist, butterfly, off-width, squeeze, chimney. I haven't been using tape because I tried to tape my hands and couldn't do the onsight as my hands couldn't fit in the crack - now my hands just take the punishment. My back and shoulders look even worse from the Slot pitch we did on Astroman. It was hell. The good news about all the cracks: I am finding the lines very aesthetic and the crack lines make route finding really simple. just follow the crack up - duh. Not like Cape Town where you often wander if you are on route or not.

Sep 9: Right Side of the Folly

On Tuesday, Charles (Snort) and I climbed 'The Good Book' a.ka. 'The Right Side of the Folly'. It's arguably one the best layback climbs in Yosemite. Five stars.
It's 6 pitches: 2 pitches of 5.9, then a spectacular layback crack, grade 5.10d, followed by 5.11b tips/layback, a strenuous 5.10c handcrack, last pitch a body-toning 15m runout offwidth without any pro. Character-building.

Sep 10: I did Separate Reality!

Today was a great day. In the morning we all went to Middle Cathedral Peak. I warmed up on Pee Pee Pillar, 5.10a. In the afternoon we headed out to try one of my 'Yosemite tick list projects', a roof jam route called Separate Reality. This legendary rock climb was opened by Ron Kauk in 1978 and is graded 5.12a, SA grade 24 and has been soloed a few times since. The climb is a very strenuous horizontal hand crack through a roof that is split so you can see the sky though the crack. The crux is actually exiting the roof: you have to toe hook with both feet over and around the edge of the roof. On my first attempt I made the mistake of taping up and couldn't do one jam move. On my second attempt I didn't use tape and sent it. Yippeee!!
This was one of my to-do list items and I am so happy I did it.
Check out the great video that Robert took hanging over the edge of the roof. Click on the URL link below to open a new youtube window, or click on the Blogger video image to play it here.

Why I am not a sailor.

Why am I a climber and not a sailor? Many years ago, when I grew up in Hermanus, I went dinghy-sailing. So we are out there and tacking and the boom was about to come smashing over and hit me. So someone shouts "duck". So I asked "Where is this damn duck?". The rest is history.

Sep 7: Midnight Lightning

I arrived in Camp 4 on Wednesday afternoon. Of course I had to try the classic boulder problem called "Midnight Lightning", situated right in the middle of the camp ground. I kept falling off the stupid mantle, it's damn high. Took me a few mornings to get it. I think the problem is graded V8 or 7b+.

Sep 6: Arriving in Yosemite

After overnighting in San Francisco, I had to do some more trains, planes and automobiles.

Or a BART tube ride, then an AMTRAK train to Merced, and from there a big busrid to Yosemite Valley.

Finally, we enter the Valley. Slowly the hills become mountains, and the sheer granite cliffs start appearing.

And then all of a sudden you are in it. The huge vertical cliffs.I am like a school kid in a bus. Going from one side to the other, taking pictures, gawking away. WOW.

and then El Capitan appears. It is HUGE. I think "There is no way I am going near that one!". A little later Half Dome appears.

Sep 5: Getting there.

I managed to get all my climbing and camping gear into one newly purchased huge backback. I was really excited to finally get on the plane. Wow what a flight. Or three flights to be exact. I flew from Cape Town to Jo'burg, then to Paris, then to San Francisco. I watched about 3 movies: Indiana Jones, Sex in the City, slept a bit, watched another movie. 30 hours. Boy was I glad to get off the plane. Nice to be able to stretch the legs again. Then it was a tube ride to friends of friends in San Francisco where I spent the night.