By Jim Herson
My resolve for a more rigorous partner screening notwithstanding -- they need a pulse -- I let Greg belay me last weekend. This monumental lapse of judgment occurred after he stooped so low as to have his lovely wife, Saint Annie, plead his pathetic case. Annie, well past any reasonable breaking point, was desperate for some quiet, reflective time with her two toddler sons, Psycho #1 and Psycho #2. So for her birthday I took Greggie off her hands which I would have done even if she hadn't offered me a year's worth of tasty chocolate desserts.
As usual it was Chandlee who destroyed my exquisitely planned weekend. Heading up Old Priest Grade early Sunday evening I was almost giddy in anticipation of an early arrival and a full night's sleep. Suddenly a green Toyota cruiser with a big goofy guy and a very blond woman careens by, slams on the brakes, and makes a hair-ball U-turn on the blind side of a hairpin turn. Obviously it was Chan. So I pulled over, turned off my already very hot VW van engine, and watched Chan's nutty twin go whizzing back up the hill without so much as a wave. I got back into the van and -- forgetting that things really heat up once the engine is turned off -- I restarted the van and BOOM! I exploded a plastic radiator fitting and purged the entire cooling system. Surprisingly the selection of all night, VW parts stores on the Sunday evening of Memorial day weekend in Big Oak Flat [population 43] turns out to be limited. I hitched up the hill and convinced the one guy working in the one open gas station in Big Oak Flat to call up his girl friend and have her watch the store while he runs home and digs through his garage for two 1-1/4" PVC pipes and hose clamps. He finds two 1" pipes and a handful of small hose clamps. I duct tape the 1" pipes into 1-1/4" pipes, concatenate 8 tiny hose clamps into 4 usable clamps, plug the remaining hole with a screw, duct tape the entire mess together and, 4 hours after starting up Old Priest Grade, I continue onto the park for the normal late arrival/no sleep shenanigans.
By the time I hooked up with Greg the next morning my blood pressure had almost returned to a measurable state. As usual Greg quickly pushed it back off the scale. Our original plan was to slog back up the East Ledges to settle a bitter score with the Salathe Headwall. (Peteman and I did the Salathe a few weeks ago where I was soundly rejected on the Headwall opening up all kinds of old wounds.) Anyway I had barely started sauteing the shiitake mushroom omelets before Greg started whining and moaning about the hike etc. In my severely weakened mental state and knowing Greg's tendency to pass out above 6,000' I quickly gave up on the idea of climbing the finest pitch in the Valley. Instead I reluctantly agreed to jug to Heart and climb to pitch 24 to settle a bitter score with that darn Teflon Corner. Only this time I was armed with an extra pair of magic shoes specifically designed to stick to that slimy corner.
The climbing to P24 was excellent and fun as usual other than blowing the post-crux exit move on P19 and throwing an embarrassingly long wobbler. No worries -- my goal for the day was still the Teflon Corner in my magic shoes. At the Spire Greg dissed my rack so I led linking from the Spire to the base of pitch 24 with his 58M rope and come up 2M short of the anchors. Fortunately a nice party on P24 took pity and tossed the gumbies a tie in cord. At this point the pack weighed less than a pound with a few candy bars (I hadn't eaten all day and I was starving) and the magic shoes. Guess who left the pack on the Spire?! Had I any mental energy left I would have lost it but after the van and dealing with Greg all day there were no reserves left to tap. Dejected I headed up the Teflon Corner and slipped off giving me the prestigious "red-circle". Greg followed and we then rapped back to the ground, stopping at the Spire to pick up the magic shoes.
In El Cap Meadows I hooked up with Konstantin - finally a good, stable partner -- and sent Greg packing back to the bay area with Konstantin's wife. The next day Konstantin and I had a pleasant, whine free hike to the top and rapped into the Headwall. Unfortunately the party we met on P24 was below the roof all day so we couldn't rap down any further. I worked out the opening headwall moves and then redpointed both headwall pitches. I had forgotten just how much fun the Headwall is.
We headed out of the Valley fairly late. Climbing 120 out of the Valley we smelled something so we pull off and found my PVC hack had blown apart, all the water had emptied (although the temp gauge hadn't moved?) and the engine was toast. Ouch! Suddenly a very expensive weekend. We bivied at the Crane Flat gas station and Konstantin's wife drove *back* up early the next morning to rescue us. We had the van towed back to the bay area and just to round out this mechanically disastrous weekend the tow truck then blew a clutch.
The damage to the van is repairable for a small fortune. However the Salathe obsession has been resurrected and won't go away at any price. So, after Konstantin and I make one more trip down the Headwall -- it's just that good! -- I want to try a serious attempt from the bottom. Any takers?
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From: Hal You know Jim, you have way too many "car" adventures. Much better to keep the adventures to the "out of car" end of things. I was in the mountains this past weekend, shivering most of Sunday while climbing Thunderbolt Peak. Hal.
From: Annie Jim, oh my god.....what a story. you should just take a month off to lower your stress level. -Annie
From: Peter Sauteeing omlettes huh? Next thing you know you'll be hiking with a bread-sheathed knife in your pack. Yikes, that sucks about the van -- haven't heard a good Hearse-van story for years! P
From: Greg Jim: Congratulations on an e-mail that didn't once mention a retaining wall! (If anyone is feeling depressed, give Jim a call and cheer yourself up.) Greg
From: Clint Dear Jim, Thanks for sending your entertaining trip report. It has been awhile, but I'm glad to see you are still in great shape on the Salathe'. >... other than blowing the post-crux exit move on P19 >and throwing an embarrassingly long wobbler. No worries -- Does this mean you nearly redpointed P19? Or that you had some hangs, but lobbed off near the top? Of course, you had already redpointed it back in '98, so I can see how it wasn't the focus. >Guess who left the pack on the Spire?! Bummer. Oh, well, rotkreis is pretty good without the magic shoes and lack of sleep, etc. >The damage to the van is repairable for a small fortune. It's amazing that you made it to the Valley and back without extra days, under the circumstances! >However the Salathe obsession has been resurrected and won't go >away at any price. So, after Konstantin and I make one more trip >down the Headwall -- it's just that good! -- I want to try a serious >attempt from the bottom. Any takers? I wish I was in decent enough shape to even consider myself as a potential target of your offer! But of course, I'd probably fail the pulse test on the hike to the base. And the cramps would set in before El Cap Spire. So I'll have to stay in my easy chair for now :-) . Unless you get really desperate and have multiple extra days to spend. Sincerely, Clint
From: Chandlee Ah, the good old days, when I wasn't on the sharp side of Jim's piercing wit. Perhaps I (or my lookalike) should have pushed that van to the other side of the road...? Definitely a wild adventure. With innovative repairs. My only disappointment was that there were no Power Bar wrappers involved in the radiator hose repairs. (Although you might have been able to get away with Power Bars alone - no wrapper!) > Any takers? OK, ok, I'll take. But I was kind of counting on that comfy van bivvy, morning cappuccino, and those nicely sauteed shiitake... Good job on p19 and the headwall! --squeeze