Wednesday morning, the four of us woke, packed up camp, and drove down to The Valley to buy coffee and make breakfast. Gretchen and Jax would be heading out later that afternoon, heading to Oakdale, where they would fly out of the next day. We spent the morning sitting around on camp chairs and rocks relaxing and recounting the fun and adventures of the last week.
As much as we do like each other, it is fun to have friends around as well. We enjoyed having our four friends around, and were sad to see them all leave. Maybe that is why we were so putzy on Wednesday. We did not do much other than lay around under the trees, look at climbing guidebooks, nap, eat, and update the blog. We did finally motivate ourselves to take a walk to the post office, something we had been wanting to do for days. On our way back to the car later that evening, we stopped to take some pictures on the edge of a meadow as the sun was setting on Half Dome. You just can’t get enough of that view! There were also several mule deer having an evening snack in the meadow, not far from us.
Thursday, we slept in until just after 7:00. We made our way down to The Valley, planning on climbing After Six, a 5-pitch 5.6 climb on Manure Pile Buttress. The sky was looking a bit dark and cloudy, and weather reports were calling for thunderstorms in the afternoon. So instead of committing to the climb, we decided to get coffee and re-evaluate our plans. Dave set his eyes on a 3-pitch, 5.6, The Grack , on the Glacier Point Apron. The approach would begin at the Trailhead Parking Lot, just down the road from where we sat in Curry Village.
When Alex said “OK,” we moved car to the parking lot and geared up. The short 15-minute approach left us both hot and dripping with sweat. We quickly found the start of the climb, and Dave got started on lead. He thanked the Snake Dike for making him comfortable with the terrain he faced on pitch 1. Before long, he was at the belay and Alex was making her way up the pitch. Pitch 2 was everything we read it would be, and awesome 165 foot long splitter crack on a low angle. Gear was abundant, and countless times, Dave would stop, turn around and shout down to Alex how awesome the climbing was. Alex found the pitch equally enjoyable, and commented that she would have even been happy leading that pitch. Dave started up pitch 3, which felt short, being only about 80 feet, compared to pitch 2. Alex had been taking off her climbing shoes at belays, as she was breaking in a new pair, but Dave felt she could climb this pitch bare foot. It had some smooth and runout sections, but she was able to easily make it up the pitch even without the aid of the sticky rubber of her climbing shoes, thanks to her “toe-edging” skills and channeling of her "inner-Doug".
Standing at the anchors, we pulled out our second rope, and decided to simul-rap down, since the rappel terrain was easy and storm clouds were starting to move in. It was a fantastically fun rappel down the granite slabs next to each other. Almost perfectly timed, as our feet reached the dirt, a rumble of thunder was heard in the distance. We quickly put on our approach shoes, wrapped up the ropes, and made our way down the descent trail with gear clinging and clanging from the harnesses we still wore. It is always amazing how much faster Alex can move down a trail when thunder rumbles!
Light drops of rain fell as we made our way through the trees; hopefully we could make it to the car and get the gear in before it really starts to pour! With a about a hundred yards to go on a flat hiking trail, the rain began to fall more heavily, and we made a mad dash for the car. We quickly threw the ropes in the back, pulled off our helmets, chalk bags, and harnesses, and through them in the side doors, and jumped in the front. We high-fived as we closed our doors, giddy and excited about how well the morning had gone, and how much fun we had both climbing and rappelling. After the rain slowed, we moved our car to a parking lot closer to the Village center. As I sit here typing, the rain has again begun to fall, thunder is booming, lighting is flashing in the distance, and we are glad we are not on the side of a rock face!