Sunday, May 24, 2015

40th Birthday Party in Yosemite!

The talk of planning something epic for mine and Rhett's fortieth birthdays began a few months before the event. By default I have always been the trip planner. It's always a lot of work and a bit of pressure to plan something cool that is going to be worth everyone's valuable time. As a birthday present Roman took over as the planner for this trip. His skill as a planner singlehandedly inspired this blogpost. 

We all wanted to do some climbing in Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows to be more specific. We set the date of May 1st and 2nd. When Roman realized we had a picked a weekend in which the roads would be closed, he didn't call off the trip like "normal people" would. After all the Dawn Patrol would be offended to be classified as "normal people." Instead he realized that the increased logistical challenges would likely give us the chance to have some ultra classic climbs to ourselves.  
This blogpost chronicles Roman's trip plans exactly.  
I want you to come climbing for my 40th in Tuolumne Meadows!
Rig and I left Rancho Cucamonga a little after 9 pm on Thursday night with backpacking gear, climbing gear, bikes and a bike trailer. The rest of the team had left Salt Lake about five hours earlier with all the same gear.  We both arrived at the closed gate to Yosemite's east boundary at about 3 am. We were surprised to see a park ranger's truck outside the gate and a light on inside the cabin next to the gate. We had hoped to sleep a little at the gate before starting a big day but the park was still closed to both cars and bikes from that side and we couldn't risk a ranger shutting down our plans before they even got started. So we drove back down the road 2 miles until we found a parking lot, got all the gear loaded up and started into the park on bike around 4 am. 

When we got about a quarter mile from the gate we extinguished the headlamps and went under the cover of night. Let's face it breaking rules is exciting. It definitely felt cool sneaking our bikes and gear around the gates. Once we were in we had 8 miles of all downhill to Tuolumne Meadows. As we whipped down the steep canyon road, I think every single one of us winced at least once as we thought of what the ride out would be like. It was a frigid ride in as we rarely pedaled but it was exhilarating. We kept looking at each other and saying "Can you believe we are doing this? Sneaking into Yosemite?"  


We got to Tuolumne meadows right as it was getting light. It was just as we had hoped, completely deserted. The gas station and visitor centers were still boarded up for the winter. There was a set of port-a-johns that must had just been placed for the summer because not one of them had ever been used. They were cleaner than any of our toilettes at home. We each took the unique opportunity to break one in. 
We found a river bed to stash the bikes in, checked Roman's GPS to verify we were at the right trailhead and started towards our first objective, Cathedral Peak. 

It was a perfect morning. We hiked as the sun rose, occasionally stopping to take pictures of the stunning surroundings. It only could have been a better morning if Rigdon was big enough to carry his own share of the gear. Since he wasn't my pack ended up being about 80 pounds. I carried it about half way and then dared Roman to carry it for a while. 

"Hey Roman how would you like to try walking a mile in my shoes or at least a mile with my pack." That was sheer genius on my part because that led to everyone carrying my pack for a while and I never had to put it on again until it was time to pack it out. We hiked the 4 miles in a leisurely 2 hours. 

The scenery is a lot prettier with a lighter pack. 

That put us at the base of Cathedral at 8ish. We set up camp and everyone took a nap except for me and Bram. Looking up at the perfect granite face of Cathedral and seeing no one around made me too pumped to be able to sleep. 

Roman and Rhett racked and ready!
In a recent survey done by Mountain Project they found Cathedral Peak to be one of the most popular climbs in America. Bram and I woke everyone up at 10. We racked up and started climbing around 11 with not a single soul in site. 
Starting up the first pitch.
Belay ledge selfie.
Rig pointing out tomorrow's objective. 

Rig brought his A game. I put him in a couple of spots that were a bit more difficult than the grade but he managed just fine.

The climbing was spectacular. Six full pitches of impeccable granite with a couple of very epic belay ledges and an amazing summit that was only about 4 feet in diameter. I smiled the whole way up and never once felt like I was dragging from being up for 36 straight hours. 

Wayne on the summit block.
Ain't no way I was leaving this picture out!  Stoic brother, stoic! 

We had originally hoped to nab Eichorn's Pinnacle and we had plenty of time but the snow made 
Bram on the summit looking towards Eichorn.
the traverse over sketchy and without crampons we decided it wasn't wise to try. 

We did one rappel that probably wouldn't have been needed without snow and then had an easy hike back to camp. 

Rig and I shared a mountain house and I then had the best night of sleep I have ever had in the backcountry. I think it was mostly due to my sleep debt but also in part to the new sleep pad that Bram got me for Christmas.  

That helmet of Bram's has seen many a technical peak.
With Cathedral Peak conquered, the team was on to Matthes Crest.
We woke up at 6ish the next morning. Re-racked the gear and headed out. 
After a full night's sleep I was feeling about as good as any 40 year old can.

It felt like there were enough features in Tuolumne to keep climbers busy for a life time. 
The hike over had plenty of awesome scenery and picture opts. 

If it seems like there is an overabundance of myself in the pictures that's just because the full 
body orange suit photographs really well. 

When we started to near the base of Matthes we realized that we were going to have some snow issues to get onto the rock. We had only brought three pairs of crampons between the six of us. Three of us went up and then passed the crampons back on a rope to the other three.   

Now tell me the orange pants weren't worth 16 bucks. 
We thought we had identified the start of Matthes but after one pitch of dirty loose rock it was obvious we were not on route. Rig and I climbed up an arĂȘte next to Wayne and Roman. Rig and I's route was more difficult than anything we had climbed the day before on Cathedral.   

Rig with some gritty climbing ahead of him.
The first two pitches were more stressful than anything we had done the day before.

After three pitches we were on top of the crest.  

We simul-climbed the whole traverse.  A few times I felt like racking the rope and soloing in the interest of time but we were prudent and stayed roped up. 
Now for the fun part, the long exposed traverse. (Wayne on lead)

Rig on one of the parts I was glad we were roped up for.

The traverse had a couple of awkward down climbs but nothing too bad. 

Sunset between the notch of the North and South Summits. 

Racing the sun to see who could get down first. 

We hiked back to our camp by Cathedral Peak in the dark.  We arrived back around 10 pm.  Rig and I had hoped to get a text off to Sara and tell her not to expect us to be home until later the next day but we never got a cell signal.  Previously I had told Sara we would probably get off the mountain very late that night and not to worry unless she hadn't heard from me by morning.  No one else had been as optimistic about getting off that night.   Everyone tried to talk Rig and I into staying another night and  hiking out with them in the morning but when you have a track record like I do you don't do anything that might cause your wife any undue stress if you can prevent it.  I knew she would be very worried come morning, which really left me and Rig with no option but to get to the car and drive to somewhere we could send a text that night.  It was going to mean a long night.   

We ate a hot meal and cleaned up camp.  By the time we we're all packed up to hike out it was 11:15.  

Bram insisted on taking this pick before we set out.
We lost the trail quite a few times in the dark and backtracked to find it, but when we lost it the last time and I knew we were close to the road we decided to just head north and walk until we hit the road.  We found the road no problem.  The problem was that we didn't know where we were on the road so we didn't know which way to hike to find our bikes.  We went with my gut instinct which was of course wrong.  We walked for 10 minutes before I realized it was wrong and then we had to walk the ten minutes back plus another five until we found the port a potties which was our landmark to find the bikes.  In the back of my mind I kept wondering if maybe a ranger had caught onto us, found our bikes and confiscated them.  It was a pretty irrational fear but in the middle of night my mind has imagined fears much more irrational than that. 
The bikes were exactly where we had left them.
It was now 1:00 am and we still had the horrendous 8 mile bike ride that was going to gain 2000 feet and between mine and Rigs packs I was towing close to 100 pounds of gear. 

It was going to be a punisher.  Rig would be graduating from Dawn Patrol before he had even finished the eighth grade.  What really made it impressive was he did it without a single complaint.   After about 2 more miserable hours in which I pushed my bike a lot more than I rode it, we finally got to the gate again.  We silently celebrated and snuck around it.  It was two easy miles of  down hill from there.   

We arrived at the car at about 3:00 am.  It only took us 15 frigid minutes to rack the bikes and load the gear.  We drove straight to the 24 hour McDonalds in Bishop and sent a text to Sara at 4:25 am.  She responded to it immediately and I knew it was a darn good thing we hiked out.  We drove straight home getting back to Rancho Cucamonga by 8:40 am and practically to 9:00 church on time.  I didn't even need the can of 5 hour energy Wayne had lent me.  A Coke and sunflower seeds was all the energy drink I needed.    

In our two days in Yosemite we did two of the most iconic alpine climbs the park has to offer and didn't see one single person, not even a ranger, actually especially not a ranger.  Nice planning Roman!  Consider yourself commissioned to plan my 50th and all the ones in-between.  


Derrick said...

I've been waiting for this ever since the pics first started coming out on Instagram. Did not disappoint.

Jared B. said...

Another fantastic post Rang about an epic trip that will be tough to top that's for sure. And I definitely second your praise for the exceptional planning Roman did. The trip was Awesome! I will say that as sweet as the climbing was, for me the best part was hanging with you, Rig and the others. Time with you and your family always makes me want to be a better dad, husband and person (I just do a piss poor job of actually following through with doing it). Simply saying thanks is so woefully inadequate in expressing the appreciation I feel for letting me come, but thanks! And thanks for making me sound like I'm a legit climber (helmet reference), but for anyone reading this know that's total B.S.

Mindy said...

This is a great post! The pictures are amazing. I'm super impressed you and Rigdon did all of that climbing and biking on hardly any sleep and even more impressed you made it to church! Any sleeping in sacrament? Happy 40th!

Grandmacher said...

This is an amazing trip! Can't believe you and Rig hiked out when you did, but I'm really glad you did! I know how Sara felt!!!

Darrell said...

Epic trip for an epic group of Dawn Patrol climbers!

john said...

cool! said...

To begin with, happy 40th! The adventure you decided to undertake is worth its outcome, the photos are incredible and I was watching them all day long)

mackyton said...

40th Birthday Party in Yosemite looks amazing. I am also very interested in hosting such a fun party for my dad’s birthday bash. He will turn 50 in this year and I think hosting such a party at some local San Francisco event venues. Hoping to find a good venue soon.