Skull Queen Happy Birthday to me
May 12-14 2012
Lea approached me asking if I wanted to do a big wall with her. She had always been interested, had all her personal gear and was super motivated; so I said sure. We chose Skull Queen on Washington Column in Yosemite. It was a good choice because it is just hard enough to keep things interesting (two pitches go at C2+), the right length to do in two to three days (one night bivy and one night on the ledge) and easy to rap the line if things got tough or weather got nasty. So we settled on it, sorted out the gear and were ready to rock.
I arrived in the Valley and slept in backpackers campground at 3:30am. Woke up at 8am and met Lea to pack the bag. We shoved in sandwiches, VONS bags with Kitty Litter, snacks, sleeping bags etc...We parked at the Ahwahnee hotel and hiked in to the base of the column. There was a party a few pitches above us but other than that, the route was clear. Sleeping in was a good idea. We climbed up to dinner ledge and the I fixed the Kor Roof. Right when I got back down, Lea busted out a birthday sash and some cupcakes with candles. We sang "happy birthday" and chowed down. Lea also was in charge of the food and made some risotto and mac and cheese for dinner. Good thing I wasn't in charge of that; or else we would have fruit cups and granola bars for each meal.
We woke up around 8am and got moving. Some of the pitches took longer than expected and we were constantly readjusting our bivy plans. I tried to link pitches 6 and 7 and during the link up I was confronted by my first major obstacle. A flared 5.8 squeeze chimney. The chimney was short (only couple of feet) and I still wanted to link pitches, so I attempted it with a full aid rack, a backpack and a lot of slack in the rope from being far from the belayer- not smart. After almost shitting my pants, I down climbed and set up the anchor. I then took a minimal rack and squirmed through it. Next was the C2+ pitch. It went micro nut, micro nut, small cam...then repeat for a 50 foot seam! Then followed by some rivets and bolts and then some C2. SUPER FUN with bomber small cam placements. Really fun. I then lead some C2, fixed a line, rap cleaned and we set up our ledge. It took some rope management and some ingenuity to make the ledge and bag fit on the pitch. We set everything up before dark, ate some food and then crashed. This left only one C2+ pitch and a 5.10c finger crack to end the last day.
|Curry Dinner Night 2|
We woke up at 6:50am to get a bit of a jump start on the day. We packed up the ledge and jugged up the start of the 10th pitch. This pitch was not as fun as the 8th pitch. It was sketchy. At one point the only way to make forward progress was to place a nut deep in a 12 inch hollow flake that reverberated with every bounce test. No bueno. After i got past that section, I wanted to back clean my nut so that if I fell, I wouldn't send the flake down on Lea. But the nut was pretty tight, so I left it for Lea to clean and didn't clip it. Some tension traversing and some free moves got me to the belay. I then sent the final pitch, shuttled loads to the summit, rested for thirty minutes and we were ready to head down. Three and a half hours later (we setup a handline and two rappels during the descent for safety - we both had very heavy loads), we were in Curry Village having beers and loving life!
Top of Pitch 10
|Lea Cleaning the 10th pitch|
|Lea topping out the final pitch|
*Keylock Beaners on cams may not be good-we lost 3 cams from auto-unclipping from my waist
*Didn't hammer on the route although I hand placed a large beak
*Sucks for women on walls because of trying to pee with a freshette
*Remind me why I climb walls? My hand were swollen, my body hurt and I felt like shit when I was done - but I still want more...
*BD C4's are useless unless the are .75 and up. C3's are shitty aid pieces. Metolius offsets and non offsets confused me as they all looked alike
*Same grade, but much harder than The Prow
*The descent was easy to find - we set up raps and handlines for safety, which was smart
*I wore gloves for the first time - it was helpful for my hands
*Next time bring nail clipper and climbing solve and cut hangnails and moisturize each night
*Hard Candys rock on walls
*Walkie Talkies are nice, but don't be on channel 1 unless you want to hear tourists shouting at each other
*Chimneys still scare me
*Climbing a wall with two people is less of a cluster fuck than three people but you have one less person to carry stuff on the approach and descent
*C2+ isn't that bad. I wonder how C3 will be :)
*Poop Tubes are nice
*Why am I still hauling my urine?
*Lea rocked it - super energetic and optimistic and did great for her first wall