It’s so nice to wake up without a strict agenda. To wake up without an alarm, and not battling to get up and get out of bed–in this case a tent. We ate Bob Dog Pizza leftovers for breakfast while we packed up the car. Before Dave and I left we took one last rinse in the creek. When we pulled out of the Lovers Leap Campground onto the 50 towards South Lake, even at 8am on a Saturday, we were well aware of why leaving was a good idea. That place turns into a zoo on the weekends.
When I was in San Diego before the trip I told my good friend Cooper about it one night while we were having coffee, and he mentioned that he and his son would be up in that area on that Saturday, so I had contacted him on Friday evening and we agree’d to meet for breakfast or lunch in Lee Vining at The Epic Cafe.
Dave and I pulled into Lee Vining thirty minutes early, which is pretty typical of me. We burned off some time, and I wrote on my Chromebook at this mellow coffee shop called Mono Cup Coffee.
We had lunch with Cooper, and while we were there I decided to check, just for fun, what our ETA would be for Yosemite. Google notified me that we were thirty-nine minutes outside of the park, and my heart started to jump, and I started to realize that a special moment had arrived.
In the Bears Reach post I had mentioned that I didn’t free solo Bears Reach because the time and situation weren’t right. It would have been too forced, and I just wasn’t in the right place. After our week at Lovers Leap Dave was in dire need of a rest day, and I had agree’d that a rest day would be best, but as we walked back to my car I told him that we were really close to Yosemite, and that I wanted to go free solo Cathedral. He seemed just as psyched about it as I was. The moment was right–it had arrived.
So we headed to Yosemite, and I rushed off on the trail. At first we split up, because he said he really didn’t feel like trying to keep up with me, but in my rush I missed the trailhead, and before I knew it I was feeling completely hopeless, and turned back hoping to find Dave. I did find Dave right at the fork of the trailhead I’d missed. Volunteers had actually made it a real trail since last I’d been, and I didn’t recognize it from the mangy climbers trail it was last time.
Last time I climbed Cathedral it was with a partner and a rope, and my partner was having a very bad day and just wanted to get up and down as fast as possible, so I rope gunned up the entire peak as fast as I could, not enjoying the aesthetic quality of the rock or environment I was in. When we got to the top, there was a line for the summit, and we forewent topping it out. Cathedral peak only has a 5×5 block for a summit, and it requires a down climb to get off. With the down climbing being roughly as difficult as any of the climbing on the entire peak, you can see why this would cause some issues.
We arrived to a mountain swarming with people, but I didn’t have to worry about people, because I was ropeless. I put on my rock shoes, set my iPod to my special playlist, and I took off, just ahead of a roped party, sprinting the first three pitches following the Peter Croft route. When I started getting up a ways and passing party after party I had to stop and take it all in for a second. This was absolutely amazing climbing, and the epitome of why ropeless climbing is so awesome. I climbed up–left and found this absolutely beautiful and exposed traverse onto an arete which rose up to the summit block.
And there I was, standing on the top of a peak that John Muir referred to as Church, by myself, and unbelievable psyched to be alive. A grin broke out across my face that stayed there for hours, and eventually that smile lasted so long and was so intense that it started to hurt.
I descended back to the base where I met back up with Dave and we made our way out, talking about the sweetness of life, and our future hopes and dreams, and boyish mountain ambitions among the greats in mountain climbing history. Later I’d look back on this and realize it was one of the best moments of my entire life.