I have been in Yosemite, the crack climbing mecca, for almost three weeks now... I have been doing as much climbing as I can, trying to get fit and improve my crack climbing techniques. I feel like I am slowly becoming proficient at most smaller sized cracks, almost everything up to fist size is ok, but as soon as they get wider than my fist I start to really struggle! I have climbed so many amazing routes since I have been here, I keep coming down from a climb proclaiming that it was "the best pitch I have ever climbed!". I have just been loving the sustained nature of the climbing here, the purity of climbing a single splitter crack running up blank granite wall, and simply climbing for hundreds of meters. Switching leads and just immersing myself into the flow of the route. It is hard to pick which are the best routes I have climbed over the last week, there are all so good! But a couple of the high-lights were "Crimson Cringe" 5.12a (25) and the "West Face of El Capitan" 5.11c (23).
Crimson Cringe is a long, sustained and extremely intimidating route. I was super nervous before heading up it, but I think it was good for me to experience that nervousness and be able to work through it. The route starts with a big run-out on chicken-heads, then comes the crux - a thin finger crack, with big, powerful locks between holds. Then from there on it is pure endurance hand jamming for thirty meters, ending in a powerful lie-back/under-cling traverse. It was the best feeling pulling around that last roof, and clipping the chains of that notorious route!
The "West Face" - my first totally free ascent of El Capitan, was a different challenge. None of the pitches were as hard, but it was a big day - almost twenty pitches of climbing, plus a few hours of steep hiking to get to the base of the route and descend from the top. It was a beautiful and varied climb, with everything from slab climbing to steep, almost "tufa" like, dyke systems, and it just felt incredible to be back on El Cap!