Another Fall in the Valley... / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

This is my favorite time of year, yet it always brings with it a mix of emotions... It is the perfect climbing time, with temperatures getting better and seepage at a minimal. However, this time seems to pass painfully fast - the days getting shorter quickly, the weather more unsettled, with storms becoming ever more frequent, and everyone is talking about the next step in their lives. There is a frenzy of activity in the Valley, as everyone is trying to use the good patches of weather to accomplish their goals for the season, and uncertainty as people who have been family for the six months of summer are all attempting to make plans to move on with their lives.

My season in the Valley has been filled with psych, I have become very comfortable on the slick  granite slabs and perfect splitter cracks of El Capitan and my sights have been broadened. I have begun to see how many more possibilities there are on these beautiful soaring walls. I have spent most of the last few weeks building up my fitness and re-familrizing myself with the crux pitches of the Salathe wall. Two or three in the morning has almost become a normal time to get up, and the near vertical two-hour hike and jumar up East ledges of El Capitan are feeling more like a nice stroll than an grueling ordeal. After several solo morning missions on the Headwall with my mini-traxion, I felt ready to attempt to lead the pitches, and managed to recruit a couple solid climbers to come up there with me.

It was a perfect morning, on the hike up we saw dozens of shooting stars, then a beautiful sunrise over Half Dome… It was a treat for me to share these special moments, which I have experienced many times on my own, with a couple of good friends. Everything went perfectly that morning, the climbing just seemed to flow, and I managed to fire off both pitches of the Headwall on my first attempt. It was an amazing feeling to feel solid and confident on that steep crack in the most beautiful, exposed location I have experienced.

The next step for me was finding a climbing to head up the wall with me from the ground… unfortunately this proved to be rather challenging, so I used the time to do a couple of missions up to try to figure out whether I could climb the original aid variant (instead of the Monster off-width). I managed to figure it all out, and came very close to climbing this pitch. So, when I eventually managed to find someone keen to head up there with, I decided that it was worth at least trying to climb it via this way.

Unfortunately, this ended up being the downfall of this attempt on the Salathe wall. The first day went perfectly, we moved quickly and efficiently up the fist 20 pitches of the wall. However, the next morning things did not quite go to plan… I fell off the last tenuous finger-locks on the original variant several times, then by the time the sun hit, I was physically destroyed, had blown a hole in my finger tip and taken a big flapper off the back of another finger. I ended up climbing the Monster, but had wasted far too much energy to be able to climb the Huber Boulder pitch the next morning. So, with my tail between my legs I descended to rest, grown skin and gather myself for another attempt.

I was feeling a little dejected and lost after this failed attempt and did not feel capable of facing the daunting task of once again persuading someone to come up the wall for several days. So when a friend asked me to come on a speed ascent of the Nose with him, I jumped at the opportunity to get on something else and have some fun. I tried to convince myself that doing 1000 meters of climbing as fast as possible would be a good active rest day…. I am not so sure that this was the case, but it definitely cure me of my depressed mood. It was my first time on the Nose, and also the first time either my partner or I had climbed in this style. It ended up being super fun, when we got up under the great roof I could not stop giggling - I felt like a kid with free-range of a candy store, and it just kept getting better… Endless hand cracks soaring ever upwards, it was so much fun climbing in this continuous style on the most iconic route in the history of Yosemite climbing. We ended up spending 11 hours on the route, and getting back down to the Valley just before the daily thunderstorms hit! Perfect fitness training, but a little more than active rest...

Now, after several more real rest days I am preparing for another attempt on the Salathe, and best of all, I found a climbing partner without even having to try!