Author Topic: Winter Wet Denim  (Read 3139 times)

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Offline Didder

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Winter Wet Denim
« on: April 15, 2009, 04:01:16 am »
So I managed to get up to the Valley twice this Winter, got on three routes and topped out on one. But seeing as I had never seriously considered climbing in the Valley in the Winter all in all I was pretty psyched for my first Winter Yosemite climbing season...Thanks Mike for opening my eyes to the "year-round" climbing potential. So after our "secret mission" bail we managed to take the South Face as a consolation prize over a full moon night in January in just around 12 hours. Determined to make another Winter ascent but having missed that insane high pressure period in February I had no choice but to make a last attempt just days before March 21st. The only partner I could recruit was a long time buddy who has never done a wall let alone done any aid climbing.... But Bill was game so I sold him on Wet Denim explaining how it is the ideal first time wall. I casually mentioned to him on the way up that I had tried it two other times in Winter-type conditions and had my ass handed to me.

We drive all day and pull into the Bridelvail parking lot around 4pm, pack up and are on the trail by 5:30.


It all looked good and I was even in shorts. The first 1/2 hour was smooth sailing and we felt great. The wall started to get that killer afternoon sun and it was amazing to be only 30 minutes from the car but feel as if we were in Patagonia.


We began to hear the ice and snow avalanching off the right side of the decent gully and quickly realized it was definately still Winter. The walls below the Widow's Tears were caked in ice and as the sun started to get low on the horizon the temperature began dropping quickly.

Then as we got through the lower boulder field we hit the first solid bit of snow and realized we were in for a slog. It had dumped up until two days before and being as most of the approach is almost always in the shade there had been very little melt. Our bags were huge and our progress slowed to a crawl. Two hours later we reached the bivy site to the right of the approach ramp.


We spent 1/2 and hour stomping down the snow for a spot for the tent, set up camp and discussed our next move. Bill offered to go down for another load and I decided to fix to Ahwahnee so we could get a jump on things in the morning. I had a quick snack geared up and slogged through knee deep+ snow and across iced up ledges to get to the start of the first pitch as it got dark. 4 hours later I climbed on to Ahwahnee Ledge, dozed for a bit then fixed my second line and rapped into the darkness. By the time I managed to get back across the approach ledge and fix a rope down the iced up section to camp it was 3 in the morning and I was glad to be done with a day that had started at 9am in LA.

We woke the next moring, and Bill goes, "Dude you are not going to believe this but I just had a Wet Denim Daydream only it was in my sleep and I wasn't wearing denim..." You gotta be kidding.... how come that never happens to me? I wonder if the first ascent party had a similar experience thus the namesake. The laughter is uncontrollable for at least 5 minutes. Finally we mange to get moving, brew coffee and began to shuttle our gear up the fixed line then across the ledge to the start of the first pitch. Due to the snow and ice, the size of our bags and the condition on some of the fixed lines on the ledge it took us till noon to get climbing. Bill watched in horror as he realized his first task was to lower out 30 feet and jug a free hanging line 200ft. straight up. I have to say despite a few screams and some profanity the dude seriously stepped up. Even though it took us 4 hours we got Bill and all the bags to Ahwahnee.

By now I was realizing that maybe Wet Denim was a bit much for Bill's first wall and at our slow pace I decided to look to the West Face. The avalanches had been pretty steady all day and I was seriously wondering if the decent gully was even a possible route of decent. The idea of rapping the route started seeming like a much safer although more involved alternative.

We had a rest on Ahwahnee and then soaked up the remaining sunlight. I didn't start the traverse pitch until about 1/2 an hour before dark. Luckily I got through the awkward bit just as it got dark. Then the drips started. It seemed like 50 different faucets all started dripping from above at the same time. Every 5 or 10 feet I would traverse into another drip and Bill made it very clear he was starting to get soaked at the belay. I have no idea how this is possible as the wall is so overhanging but needless to say we were dodging drips the whole time till I fixed the lead line at the top of the 6th pitch and rapped back down to Guano ledge.

By now it was close to midnight and we enjoyed some Sapporo's and tuned in the HAWK and were lulled to sleep by classic rock. My bivy tent fit perfectly on Ahwahnee and I actually managed to get a few hours of sleep. By 5 am I was up, brewing coffee, packed my haul bag and had shuttled it over to the anchor on Guano. Bill had not stirred. I started cleaning the two pitches I had fixed the night before and Bill was still asleep. Finally I yelled down for him to get up and get moving. In pure first time big wall style Bill decides to call his wife to check the weather. "Oh hi honey are you guys off yet? You know it's supposed to snow up there tonight." Then I hear it in his voice, "Um dude, do you think we will top out today?" Well I say, at the rate we are going I doubt it so let's get moving." "Um dude I'm feeling pretty worked, I'm pretty happy with how far we got so far but don't think I can take another 2 days of this."

And as if on cue the biggest avalanche yet comes pouring over the wall where the bottom two raps of the gully decent are. It seems like a sign. I look to the West and convince myself that the high Cirrus are threatening and decide we have had a good adventure and it is time to bail. Then starts the whole day of down aiding, lowering the bags, pulling the ropes and more down aiding, etc... you know the drill.




We make it back to our ABC at the start of the approach ledge and down the 4 Foster's Oilcans we had stashed and begin our hike down. About 20 minutes along the base we find the bag we had jetisoned on our decent and it looks like a tube of toothpaste that has been stomped on with gear strewn everywhere.

After cleaning up our yard sale, several more beers and a couple hours of slogging later we shuffle up to the van, dig the other 4 beers out of the bear box hat we had stashed, sort gear, drive to Oakhurst, make it just in time for a HUGE Chinessee food dinner, pop the top and pass out.   


Needless to say I am heading back up in a few weeks with an experienced partner and we are going for WDD in a push....Stay tuned...




« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 10:42:20 am by didder »

skully

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2009, 06:04:13 am »
Adventures! Yeah, someone should have told ya that Ahwanee is exposed to weather. When we were on Heading for Oblivion, it was 4 full days of rain, and we watched That ledge get SOAKED, while we were high & dry(in the Sky). Glad ya made it outa there in one piece!

Arrrggh.

Offline offset

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2009, 08:31:47 am »
nice writeup and prowd bail action!


Offline Didder

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2009, 10:21:20 am »
Thanks guys. Yeah, I just keep telling myself it's all good training... Boo-yah!

Offline Mike.

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2009, 10:50:14 am »
You're frikking mad, B! What idiot would head up there after that kind of storm?





Nice going, pal. I think ya learn more bailing off the Tower than climbing it. I just leaned that again... Great photos and story, thanks. Your ledge fly looks epic! How's it working?
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

skully

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2009, 03:24:28 pm »
Never bailed from the Leaning Tower. Epic just BEGGIN' to happen there.........
Mike's right, though. You can pick up a lot, that way. Along with a new humble pie recipe(arrrggh, J/K).

That'll up the summit desire quotient for next trip. Yowza!

Offline Didder

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2009, 03:48:28 pm »
Nice pic Mike.... classic... Idiot minds think alike!!! Looks like you got way more battered than we did. Did you get up on Roulette?

Gonna be up there again in a few weeks.... hoping to put the staller to use!

Offline Mike.

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2009, 04:20:36 pm »
Good plan, didder. You'll kill it. Right on.

We would have had to start climbing during the storm to finish Roulette in time. Smack dab middle of our window. Looks like the Battle of the Bulge area gets a lot of runoff, and the route in general is not very sheltered. Man, you know it's wet when the Tower is all sopping. It doesn't get like that too often, esp this time of year.

Oy vey, it's been one soggy Spring. We tried to drive up to South Ridge in Idyllwild Sunday and made it about 90 yards up the road.

Glad you're beating your head against the wall, too. Misery loves company!


Yea, wanna polish your bailing skills? Start from the end of P5 on the Tower. Good times...


Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

skully

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2009, 04:29:19 pm »
You poor bastards........hehehe.
Yeah, Mike, good observation.Hey, With the exception of one section of pitch 2, Heading for Oblivion is cool, and RHU.
Could get on that....last 2 pitches are exposed to weather....And the last one is ultra short.
Just thinkin' out loud.........................................................................

Offline Mike.

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2009, 05:29:31 pm »
Twisting yet another knife, eh, skull? Damn your eyes, man! Just when the tick list seems to be getting shorter, it's getting longer. That's what one gets for repeating routes...

How we love the pain. Stop it s'more.


Hey, homie, any write-up on that fab send? The line looks audacious.
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

skully

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Re: Winter Wet Denim
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2009, 06:05:17 pm »
Let me consider my fuzzy brain for a bit..........