For Part 1 click HERE
Sandbagging has many forms – sometimes it can be seen a mile away, others the climber has to come home after bailing and read online forum boards to find out just how badly he was lied to by the guy at the gear shop.
While in the car I had convinced Keith of many things. It was a good idea to start hiking towards Cathedral at 2. There wouldn’t be crowds this late in the day. The climbing is not exposed and will not be difficult for him.
A quick mantle and I was on top of the last few summit boulders with the rest of the horde. I had sandbagged myself and was dragging a really tired dude up to a cramped tiny summit.
I had to get him up and off, but with several parties on top of the dinner-table sized summit I had to invent something else beside the classic strategy of building an anchor and bringing him up to me on top.
Just below the leaning blocks that make the tippy-top was a small ledge. My partner was surprisingly slow, despite moving quickly lower on the route and on the approach hike. I casually brought in slack as other parties began Queuing up above. There are many variations that all lead to the inevitable bottle neck, and here our intrepid adventurer’s who had been out of sight gathered tightly along the little blocks. Armed with armloads of slack and a furrowed brow they stared at each other, hoping to scorn themselves ahead of the traffic jam to join the glorious summit disco.
It was a fun thing to watch, just out of peripheral but within earshot. The slack started to build up below me and stacking it on my foot in a crack wasn’t cutting it. A slight stance adjustment and I could lean out and talk to the rest of the group above.
Now, before I discuss why my advice was not appreciably received, let me explain something about classic easy routes in Yosemite on a Saturday. Every important life-altering event a climber has to go through, each major epic that gets shared on Facebook and earns a book deal – these events all happen on Cathedral Peak on weekends. The shell-shocked look on the faces of the summit crowd as they noticed me perched below wasn’t unlike the look I had myself, six years earlier. Later in the day, losing sunlight with my Mom on my very first alpine route… I had that look myself. I am not casting judgement so much as wondering at the weirdness it is, the Cathedral Peak Epic. The CPE fears no one.
Needless to say not a single Alpinist agreed to rappel a single line to the trail, below the talus and fourth class and exposed slabs. Despite my re-assurance that it would expedite the log jam if people rode my 10 millimeter line down 180 feet to 2nd class talus and armed with the information that they each had been leading on thinner ropes all day there were no takers. No matter, we’ll take the ride ourselves.
Besides, it’s common to get your rope stuck on a flake on loose 5th on alpine rappels, and Keith fixed it before I down-climbed to him anyway. Totally a safe method, right?
We hiked casually back to the car in the beautiful fading daylight to hollers of “Off Belay” and “WHAT?” That whole time I couldn’t help but remember the last time I had hiked this trail while it was dark. Back in 2007, with my Mom in tow, I felt real stress. Like those other parties, not wanting to make the decisions they knew they had to make. I hadn’t felt that up in Tuolumne for a little while, and wondered if I might get some of that humbling tomorrow, on Crescent Arch.
I’ll walk you with me, bulging eyeballs and all, in Part 3. The Library is closing… 🙂