I met up with Robert in Lone Pine and we drove up to Tuolumne from there. I had never been to Yosemite before and so I looked out at the night wondering what new views may be hidden. We bivied among the trees at the trailhead and the brisk air was a harbinger of autumn.
We were up at before dawn, made coffee and ate breakfast—for me, peanut butter and jelly—organized our gear for the day and set off. Up and down the main trail looking for the turn off to Cathedral Peak, we were shown the way by some fellow climbers as the dawn began lighting the forest. We hiked along a stream and Cathedral came into view above the trees like an enormous steeple, glowing brightly in the morning sun.
At the base of the Southeast Buttress I decided to take the first lead. The rock was beautiful, featured and cracked, liebacks and jams I delighted in the climbing. I lead the odd numbers of our 5 pitches and on the last pitch ended on a summit no bigger than several feet. We down climbed some class 4 rock and I thought about John Muir in the late 1800’s coming here to pray up this magnificent peak.
As we hiked away from the mountain, only a short distance in front of us a large male black bear appeared. He calmly glanced at us with curious eyes sat in his formidable head and we gave him his space as he sauntered past and into the woods on the other side of the trail, reveling in the rarity of such a serene encounter.
The day was perfect and we found a bee infested camp site available at the supposedly full camp ground. We talked about plans for the following day as I realized something physically and mentally was off. While on an intellectual level I knew the proposed route was doable, but I began to feel tense and unsure. While I also knew there was no pressure, I felt it anyway. And then doubt. That night I could hardly sleep and felt restless.
Up early again we drove towards the climb, and nothing felt good. Meanwhile Robert had complete calm and confidence. But I felt like was struggling against everything—my physical state, motivation and fear. Finally Robert asked, “How are you feeling about this?” I replied, “The way I’m feeling, I’ll do it, but this might be it for me for the weekend.” I had felt at the time I’d go all out and do it, but physically and mentally not sure what else I could muster if we did the route. But we talked and decided on making for a mellower day.
We headed to Dozier Dome and climbed Holdless Horror at 5.6 and Bull Dozier at 5.7, sufficiently mellow and slowly a more positive state of mind began to emerge. I still felt somewhat off as some clouds began to roll in. Maybe it was doubt and fear, maybe I just needed a good meal instead of peanut butter and jelly and crappy dehydrated camp food. Maybe I was just struggling with the knowledge that I needed to rethink my career path and the wrestling my way into the unknown and allowing to impact my whole state of being. We got substantial lunch and finished the day with some single pitch climbing.
We decided that our last day we would do Tenaya Peak. We admired the Northwest Buttress from the lake as late afternoon slowly shifted to evening. I slept uneasily though and woke feeling unrested, still off and once again unsure. We talked about heading back without the climb but gear was assembled and we set off anyway. On the approach I felt increasingly tired and not completely well, but we pushed onward and feeling changed once on the route. The feel of the granite, the climbing movement I started to feel that I was in fact in a place I wanted to be. We climbed, looking for a place that seemed hard enough to rope up, passing the “unprotected” 5.5 friction slab crux without noticing. The climbing was a joy and went smoothly and quickly. We looked and realized the summit was just above and one last exposed move deposited us there, realizing we had just unintentionally free-soloed the route. From the summit at looked at the panorama of Yosemite and felt like myself again.