As the polyglottal cacophony settles and lights dim, the creatures of the forest start plotting their nightly plundering of anything edible that hasn’t been battened down.
Todd the friendly SkyWest pilot told us he had been up to Halfdome even with ‘the cables being down’ over pizza and beer. We started packing soon afterwards. Using Prusik slings to aid up fixed cables won’t increase our climber cred but we were rewarded with perfect conditions and near solitude on the huge top. For a good while we shared the peak with only Harry the resident Marmot.
Staying at the National Historical Site Camp 4 is on a first come, first serve basis. At the crack of dawn a line forms in front of the booth with upstanding citizens waiting to get a shared campsite. Other climbers just drag in their crashpads after dark and sleep behind your bearbox. Rangers have devised a complex system of rules to make certain that upstanding citizen also have the opportunity to violate any number of regulations at all times. This helps upstanding citizens to feel unconvential and part of the community. These upstanding citizens have already trained their Swedish camp buddies not to pee within earshot of their tent and have discovered where to take free showers.
Every nation has sent a delegation of crack climbers. The Japanese team with their tipi-shaped tent not only sleep in style but also demonstrate superior cooking skills. Dinner was more than eating, it was a celebration of milleniums of Samurai culture in the midst of dirtbag craggers chowing precooked meals straight out of the bag, Russian vodka slamdowns and Swedish burnt sausages with raw onions.
A nocturnal bear and deer patrol carefully cleans any food particles dropped by campers or left on the faces of those sleeping tentless on their crash pads.
Standing in line at the single sink for the two hundred official campers is a lesson in international relations. Do you bow and ask the elder to step in front of you, line up at all, grunt, exchange greetings or let the squirrels clean your pots?
After getting pumped up by Ron Kauk’s personal presentation of his climbing and deep thought nature philosophy film we decided to set off on our first Yosemite multipitch trad climbing adventure. The book mentioned Yosemite Falls pools which we were looking forward to on this hot day. Our approach via the Sunny Side Bench route got us close enough. Some dusty scrambling led us to discover that there was too much water for pool diving so we took stormy showers instead.
Katja on our first pitch of the Nose on El Capitan. We were so awed we decided to forgo the last 30 pitches.