I was frothing when getting back to the car after soloing Cathedral. It was like I was high. I had a fever, and the only prescription was more mountains. I was also really hungry. We had talked about going to Holcomb Valley, and messaged a group of friends from the climbing class from the previous semester to see if any of them were interested in meeting us up there to climb. I wish that I had known what a junk show that place was before I’d done that, but it was super cool to meet with our friends Matt and Colin, even if it was for only a half day before I threw in the towel on the trip. A Los Angeles sport climbing crowd will do that–at least to me.
As we drove south through Mammoth on the 395 I couldn’t take my eyes off the mountains to the west. An epic alpine ridge here, and a perfectly dry couloir rising two thousand feet to a thirteen thousand foot summit there. It was impossible to not notice and keep my eyes off of the endless sea of granite, and my mind for visualizing the infinite potential that were were no more than thirty minutes away. I could feel that anxious feeling starting to seep in like I was losing an opportunity that I’d never have again. Of course this is a symptom of my addiction to this lifestyle, and my pursuits in the mountains.
In truth, I had to respect Dave’s boundaries. Six days prior–Monday–was his first trad and multi-pitch climb of his life, and not only was it is first, but it was shortly followed by two more, totally twelve pitches on perfect Tahquitz granite. The second day was followed by more of the same, and then concluded with an eight hour drive to Lovers Leap, and in the morning we woke up and did it all over again, minus the drive. The next day was more of the same, and the day after. Saturday, which was supposed to be a rest day, I dragged him through the high country of Tuolomne on the John Muir Trail for seven miles so I could free solo the Southeast Buttress of Cathedral. He never once complained. He never pissed me off. Dave, as little experience he had, had become one of the best climbing partners, and adventure buddies I’d ever had.
As we drove on I couldn’t get the thought of Mexican food out of my head, so we did some research on the drive and found a good spot recommended by none other than Peter Croft (my freaking hero). We ate in Bishop, where it was over 100 degrees, and I tried to persuade Dave into staying up there. He did not give me the answer than I wanted, but he gave the right answer–the honest one. He really did need rest, and I needed to accept that.
I drove down 395 South like I was possessed. With the smoke filling the air from all the fires on the Sierra Eastside I really did feel like a bat out of hell. We arrived in Holcomb Valley late and woke up early. The small makeshift sport crag was underwhelming, and I hate to be that guy to say it. I know a lot of people who really enjoy that crag, and I guess it’s a step up from a climbing gym, but not by much. By noon Sunday I had deflated. I was ready to go home. That or go back to Tahquitz for two more days.
We headed home. Dave stood his ground, and that was the right decision.
I had joked with Dave while we were in Tahoe, like my mentor had joked with me after my first trip to Yosemite, that he was officially ruined. I told him that rock climbing would never be the same, and he would never be able to settle on lackluster rock having experienced the real deal. On our way south back to San Diego Dave agreed. He said, “You were right, dude, I’m ruined.”
A lot of people don’t understand. They can’t help but wonder, “Why all the trips?” If you asked Dave he could tell you. It’s remarkable just how much better alpine style multipitch trad climbing is, and it’s hard to find that kind of stuff anywhere shy of the High Sierra (in California). It’s truly world class, and is internationally renown for being the best. And it’s in our backyard.
The process began, and I worked to decompress. I remembered that this mecca of alpine granite and world class big walls is in my backyard, and I can return whenever I please. During the Winter I can continue to hone my technical skills in Joshua Tree, and I can maintain my multipitch efficiency in Red Rock.
And I guess I wouldn’t take my opinion on Holcomb Valley Pinnacles too seriously, because trad climbing is just a different sport. I just don’t get psyched on those short little bolted routes. I love the mountains. I love big pitches, and long continuous features. I like trashing in cracks, and burling up chimneys, and jamming up hand cracks, and smearing up huge blank run out friction slabs.
In the end, just follow your heart and go climb something. I don’t care if it’s in a gym, the progression of life, or on rock–just keep climbing up in life.