time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Tuolumne Meadows Take 3 (or Tucker ditches work and comes climbing)

September 28th, 2008 by liz

On Tuesday night I talked to Tucker. “What are the chances of you ditching work and coming climbing with me this weekend?” I asked. “Excellent. See you Thursday evening,” he replied.

Tucker arrived from LA on Thursday night smelling of salt. “I had to stop on the way to go surfing,” he explained. After a quick shower and a pile of nachos, we hopped in the car and headed out for Yosemite. Our plan was to climb in the valley if it was cool enough, and otherwise drive up to Tuolumne Meadows. When we got to the gate of Yosemite, the whiteboard indicated that the high temperature in the valley for the day was in the 90s. To the Meadows!

We woke up at 10am when the sun hit the tent and warmed it up to way too hot for down sleeping bags. Our task for the day: West Country (5.7). West Country is a 4-pitch climb up the Stately Pleasure Dome overlooking Tenaya Lake, with amazing views the whole way up. I started the climb by leading the fairly straight-forward first pitch. When Tucker got to the belay, I racked him up and sent him up what the guide-book called “a slippery and tenuous 5.7 lieback, which comes as a rude surprise for many leaders.” He made it about 1/3 of the way up, and then decided it was a bit much for his first lead in 6 months. I mocked him a bit and then hopped on lead. The dihedral was really shallow and my small fingers barely fit in. I was pretty scared myself, but I couldn’t let on or we’d never make it to the top. Finally I made it to the bolts and Tucker followed me up. We were both shaking a little, but we were only halfway up and had to keep going.

Tucker leads the second pitch of West Country
Tucker leads the second pitch of West Country.

I once again racked Tucker up and sent off to lead the third pitch. It was a 140′ slab with 3 bolts. Despite the runout, Tucker made it up without too much trouble, and then it was my turn to lead the fourth pitch. The fourth pitch was a beautiful right-leaning crack, and soon we were at the top. The view of Tenaya lake, Tenaya peak, and the surrounding area was awesome. After a steep descent down slippery slabs, we headed off to make dinner and plans for the next day.

We set off Saturday morning intending to climb West Crack (5.9), but when we arrived at the base there was already a party of three on the route and 3 parties of two waiting to start. We decided that we really didn’t want to spend all day waiting around at the base of a climb, so we headed off to Tenaya Peak, which the day before Tucker had decided would be a sweet climb. We simul-climbed with a 200 ft. rope, which resulted in a painful amount of rope drag. By the time we were nearing the summit, Tucker was super-excited. “I really wanted to just go to the top from here, but the rope drag was killing me,” he explained at the last belay station. “Can I keep leading?” he asked. I sent him off again, and he practically flew to the top. It seems that the way to make him a confident leader is to put a cool summit in front of him.

We hung out at the top for a few minutes soaking in the views. As we were sitting on the summit, Tucker said, “This peak makes the whole long drive up here from LA worth it.” Unfortunately, we had to move off quickly, as we could see some thunderstorms brewing in the distance. The descent was painful, but we finally made it down to the lake and back to the car. That night, we managed to eat enough food for 4 people.

Tucker on the summit of Tenaya Peak
Tucker on the summit of Tenaya Peak. Look, he’s glowing!

We woke up this morning to puffy, white, thunderstorm-brewing clouds. We wouldn’t be climbing anything tall for fear of becoming fleshy lightening-rods, so we decided on a quick climb up Puppy Crack (5.6) which turned out to be the only steep finger/hand crack we climbed all weekend. It was short and sweet, and then we headed to the beach for a picnic and swim. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the clouds were obscuring the sun, and the chilly wind made us think twice about jumping in the water. We decided to head back to civilization after three great days of pure Tuolumne.

I leave you with this picture of Tucker, the only person I’ve ever met who can make two different tie-dyes and Hawaiian swim trunks match.

Tucker the super-hippy

For more pictures from this adventure, visit the gallery.

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