As another amazing summer was coming to an end, I found myself counting down the weeks before I go under the knife and after a 2 year wait, finally get my shoulder fixed. Staring down 6 months of physiotherapy before I could once again be out on the rock again, I had to do one last mission as a send off into rehab.
Having never visited the birthplace of slacklining, highlining and big wall climbing, it seemed only fitting to travel to the iconic Yosemite Valley. Spend one week climbing and highlining to find some inspiration to come back after my surgery, stronger than ever before.
Friday, after a long week of work, Spencer, Adam, Bill and myself packed up Spencer’s van with everything we would need for a week in the valley. Taking shifts, we drove the 21 hours straight through the night and rolled into the Yosemite late afternoon on Saturday. As the highway turned a corner we got our first glimpse of the giant walls and we all let out screams of excited. None of us could contain ourselves. The walls were as big and amazing as I imagined.
Not wanting to waist any time, we decided to find somewhere to sleep when that time came, but for now we had 3 hours of sun light and were surrounded by walls. It was time to chalk up and stretch out after the long drive.
As the sun was setting we all hit a brick wall, exhausted from the drive and climbing. We drove about 15 minutes outside the park boundary to find a nice pull out on the side of the highway. We sat around staring up at the amazing stars, eating pasta and making plans for the week. That night the stars were so bright and amazing I had to cover my eyes to get any sleep.
The next morning we went straight to Camp 4 to try our best to get one of the spots that we were sure would open up. After 20 minutes waiting in line, we managed to get the last site that would fit all 4 of us. We spent the rest of the day getting setting up, exploring the valley, a little cragging and some slacklining around the camp.
While driving around the valley, we came across a park ranger who had telescopes setup to watch the climbers high on the walls. Sitting on the railing of the bridge was Alex Honnold. Some tourist, watching the climbers turned to Alex and asked, “Have you ever climbed that”? We all laugh under our breath as Alex innocently replied “A few times”. If only this unknowing tourist knew who he was talking to.
Once we got settled in, without wasting any time, we were sorting our the gear, food and paperwork we would need to tackle our first mission.
Mission 1 – Lost Arrow Spire
With everything we needed to climb the spire and rig the highline, plus water, food and supplies for two days, we hiked up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. After a few long switch back hours, we were at the top staring down at the spire. So proud, so big, so high! Time to get to work.
Tying two ropes together, Adam and I rappelled the 240 feet, passing the knot, down to the notch between the wall and the spire. Adam stepped out, around the corner and with nothing but air below his feet, pushed up the first pitch, past the first bolt ever placed for upward progression.
With only one more aid pitch to the top, we looked out into the valley and could see some ominous looking clouds rolling in. Having not brought any rain gear on the spire, we decided to leave a fixed rope, rappel and come back first thing in the morning to finish the climb.
Fortunately the weather was friendly and we stayed dry. We spent the night under the stars and woke up to frozen sleeping bags and hot coffee. As the sun started to warm things up, we descended back into the notch and up the first pitch. Adam, having only learned to aid climb 2 days before, started up the second pitch. After a few attempts we were unable to push through the blank section that had halted the original spire attempts for 2 years.
Feeling defeated, we started to pack up, but all of a sudden, and by Lucky Chance, things took a turn for the best. Sitting there, packing our bags, ready to head down, when the amazingly fun Lucky Chance came strolling up. “Yeah I’ll give that a shot” he said as he prepared to rappel into the notch. An hour or so later, Lucky was standing on top the spire. The spirit of the group had done a 180. The line was rigged, sun was shining and people crushing.
Coming down well after sun down, we went straight for the closest place that served food and enjoyed copious amounts of expensive Pizza that was all to good.
Returning to the Spire two days later, we again enjoyed another amazing day in the sun. Spencer completed the full man free solo of the spire line like many of his inspirations before him.
Before taking down the line we had the whole crew cross the line and stand atop the spire. With the valley far below in the background, we celebrated a victory over the spire. Such an amazing place I will have to return to, this time with a healed shoulder so I can lead to the top!
Mission 2 – Taft Point
With only one week in the valley, there is no time to rest. As a rest day, we decided to head up to Taft Point. An easy 1mile hike to a ‘walk the line out’ highline with epic exposure. We spent the day playing around, exploring and relaxing in the sun. Spencer, crushing like always, free soloed with the Nose and valley floor as a backdrop making for one of the best photos of the trip.
As the sun went down, the line glowed white under the flash of the camera making for some crazy shots. Hard surfing high above the black that is the nothingness of the exposer shows in the effort on Spencer’s face
We watched a wing suit jumper leap from the cliff edge and disappear behind the wall. No more than 5 minutes later, 4 more parachutes deployed and floated down to the river at the base of the Nose. Just another Wednesday in Yosemite.
Mission 3 – The Rostrum
The Rostrum, home to some famous highlines and more famous climbs. Only a short hike from the road, The Rostrum was said to be a great place to spend the day. Hiking in with all the needed gear for a few lines, we were shocked to find all the anchors stripped of hangers. Bummer! We had a few hangers, but not enough and they were back at the van.
We setup a Tyrolean off trees across to the Rostrum. We took turns zipping back and forth, laughing and enjoying the last day in the valley.
Yosemite Valley is an amazing place. Camp 4 is full of interesting people from all around the world. When we weren’t out highlining we spent our time talking to people, climbing around the camp and playing around on the few slacklines setup. Everyone is very friendly and the attitude relaxed. We enjoyed cold beer around a warm fire with good company every night. Unfortunately the trip had to come to end. I had a date with a surgeon and flight booked to take me there. Until next time Yosemite!
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Written by: Brent Plumley
Special thank you to Bill Hawley for all the amazing photos