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Another Ed and Zorba Epic Adventure


Submitted by zee on 2002-12-15 | Last Modified on 2007-11-25

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 0 | Comments: 6 | Views: 5379

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Yosemite Sunset by Randy Wenzel.
Ed Tom and I headed out to California, to spend TG with his sisters in Modesto, and to climb in the wonderland known as Yosemite!

We arrived at San Francisco airport and were collected by Ed’s sisters Anna and Judy. First we stopped by REI for some supplies, warm clothing and chemical heaters for pocket warmers. After which we swung in for Vietnamese noodles at the best spot in San Fran, according to the locals. After which we picked up Heike, Judy’s beloved, and cruised on to Erin and Anna’s house where we ate, drank, and made merry. Crashed out and cruised on in the morning to Modesto to enjoy a splendid TG with Heike and Judy. It was gut filling and awesome, we whiled away the day with Football, Cirque de Soles, and food for the soul. It was a great thanks giving.

In the morning Ed and I sprang out of bed around 5am. Bags packed and thoughts of conquering Valley giants, we jumped in the trusty pathfinder and cruised out towards Yosemite. On our way we stopped at a small town, whose name eludes me, for a cup of java and juice. We also bought some last minute provisions, water and natures valley bars. We arrived in the Yosemite Valley around 7am, the Sun was shining, and the valley glowed in an ‘eavenly light. It was awesome; our first true glimpse was of half dome hunched in the distance, awaiting our eager attempts to summit its gracious back.

We drove our way down the windy descent into the Valley and gapped slack jawed at the awesome cliffs that glowered on all sides. Realization that everything everyone ever said about Yosemite was true, struck us like a three million ton wet sock, filled with granite. At numerous intervals we would stop and stare and take pictures of the various valley giants.

After a while we cruised into Yosemite village and checked out the grocery store, picked out some more provisions, trail mix, and tuna snack packs. Looked around a bit more then decided to climb something. We had already targeted some easy stuff with short approaches and first on the list was the “Nutcracker”. We arrived at the climb around 10am, ahead of some other groups. We geared up and jumped on the rock. Ed led up the first pitch, and made me grateful that my rope gun (Ed) was in full effect. His hand jamming, grunting and contorted styles, made me realize that we don’t climb anywhere near enough crack! Ed cruised around the roof section and out of sight. Deciding that a 5.7 was unworthy of me hurting my feet over, I leave my “Guide Almighty” approach boots on. The first twenty feet is cruisy and no problem whatsoever. Then I hit the crack and it decides I need a decent ass whooping, at which point I realize I suck at crack climbing. I layback half way up the crack and then wedge myself into it, for a rest…about 10 minutes later, I feel fit enough to continue. Laybacking like a fiend I manage to schlep my way around the roof to the comfortable ledge were Ed is chilling. Another rest, then I grab some gear from Ed and continue on my way. The second pitch is a super easy ramp, 5.4, I place one piece of pro, just for practice, and hell why not, can’t hurt. The next ledge is HUGE, enough for a squad to camp out on. I sling a couple of boulders and settle in to belay Ed up. The view is beginning to sweeten up, the sun is shining and we are well above the top of the tree line, the Valley is surreal. As Ed is strolling up, we are joined by a Yosemite hard man, easy to pick out by the gray hair, the casual strut, the polite demeanor, and the twenty year old rope!!! Ed joins me on the ledge as the third of their four man team arrives. We chat for a bit, and discuss the Valley and how much it rocks! They look askance at a rappel rig set up on one of the boulders I had slung, and were showing signs of anxiety, at which point I offered to loan them gear to set up their rig, that we would disassemble once they were safely on Terra Firma! They were grateful and trundled on their merry way, at which point Ed headed up pitch three!

This pitch started out a little to the right of the ledge, on an easy crack section which felt a lot more like face climbing then the first pitch. This thin crack, and slabbish face climbing led to another layback section. After this there is a really cool horn, which Ed had slung for protection, for some reason it seems out of place on this otherwise smooth and slabbish route, but offers the reassurance of slung protection. At the third belay station, Ed had set up a beautiful set of equalized pro. This was the first time I have stood in a trad pro only belay station and felt 100% confident to fully weight it and bounce around as desired. It was a really cool feeling and makes me feel like I have eeked a little bit closer to being a true trad fiend. The fourth pitch had views to die for, from the very first move to the roof section and beyond, the views of Half Dome and the Valley in general are phenomenal. Much of the belay and climb of the pitch are vague as they are overwhelmed by the memory of the view. At the start of the fifth pitch there is the crux section of the climb. Which is also the first real vertical section since the first pitch. The crux ends in a funky mantle move, which starts with a matched pull-up and a right leg crank up. Ed banged his knee on it, making the move look awkward, but far from difficult, despite the grim potential 15 foot fall onto the slab below. I however attempted to make the mantle move without reversing my hands after the pull up, which made my hands really hurt and made cranking my foot up impossible, so I took a fall, which was crappy, but oh well that’s what the freaking rope is for. Excuse 1. Hurt wrist had kept me off rock for 2 months. Excuse 2. I suck at granite crack and slab. Enough said.

After the climb we chilled on top and enjoyed the views, taking happy snaps and eating. It was fairly chilly at this point and we were happy to have the new coats and gear. The descent down into the gully seemed like the hard section was in the beginning with some scrambling down boulders. However we soon discovered that it is a whole skill to walk on a think layer of pine needles down a steep slope. We slipped and slid our way down to the trusty pathfinder. It had definitely gotten to the point of cold, we were still kinda hungry, and I was in need of libations…next stop the Yosemite Lodge, where we discovered mulled wine and crappy salsa, Mexico and Texas do have the best salsa in the world, well at least better than the Yosemite Lodge…but the Lodge has mulled wine good enough to kill for!

After warming up we drove over to the famous Yosemite Camp 4, which wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, a lot less bohemian then I had envisioned. We bumbled around trying to figure out where to camp when a nice chap, although a bit of a wimp, invited us to join him at his campsite, which we happily did. Especially since he already had a roaring fire and beer! So we settled in and chatted about our adventures of the day, and about our plans for the next day. A couple of chicks were also chilling at the campsite, they were from the Bay area (Oakland baby!) and were there on a random “check out the national forests” adventure. Apparently they would pull national parks out of a hat and then go scope them out, pretty cool idea really. So we chatted about life and liberty and the pursuit and occasional attainment of happiness. The dude perked up at one point and said “what was that?” in a way that makes you think “this guy is about to flick my nose” or “make me look like a fool? There aint nothing there ya big woosie!”. But he had the look of sincerity on his face, and he had thus far proved himself to be a very sincere kinda guy. So I turn around and look where he has his light shone, and sure as hell there is something there! It is big, fury and brown! I would normally say it was a bear of some sort, but as every one knows the only kind of bears in Yosemite are black, and this one is most definitely brown! So we go to investigate a little closer…ok a lot closer, and we trail behind this bear for a good 200 feet or so, at about ten-fifteen feet away. The bear gets kinda annoyed with us, the flashlights and all, turns around and vocalizes its displeasure…we decide that we should let nature get back with the bear, and that maybe we ought not be following a five hundred pound critter with big teeth and claws. So we cruise back to the fire, I was really stoked about my first encounter with a big burly bear. It was really cool. We drank more beer and bragged about or bear encounter, and decided that having conquered the Nutcracker, we should definitely take up the Snake Dike challenge. We figure that the topo says a 4 hr approach 4 hour climb and four hour return. All of which sounds like a breeze, at least around the campfire, fed and warm.

WE wake up late, it is cold and misty. Drag ourselves to the Curry parking lot and I realize that the bathroom is calling. So after taking care of maintenance and picking up some coffee, we set off on the approach to Snake Dike on the South West wall of Half Dome around 8am. The first mile to the first bridge, has a whole lot of pretty streams and rock formations, as well as enough bouldering to keep the gym rats happy for life! We have worked up enough of a sweat to strip the jackets, and when we hit the first set of stairs, the trudging begins. After about 599 steps we come to the first waterfall, which was really cool, we had been merrily snapping pictures as we bounded along the path in the cool crisp Yosemite air. Ed took a number of pictures of the waterfall, as he seemed to be particularly interested in the water falling phenomenon. After this brief interlude we continued to trudge up another 323 steps, which brought us to the top of the aforementioned water fall. Another spectacular Yosemite view. And on with the trudging. Around a bend over the second bridge past the Emerald pool, no swimming permitted, damnit!!! Along a nice little forested path, with waterfall in the background and we arrive at the second waterfall and step section numero tres! 700 weary steps later brings us to the top of said second waterfall, where we encounter ice, two darling little girls, their pissed off mama and there dad who is cheery, but weary and warns not to go back to camp on the John Muir trail due to the large icicles which where breaking off and attempting to kill passing hikers. Storing this info for the return trip we skip along realizing that we were now just around the corner from Snake Dike! We bump into a dude who has been out in the woods for five days and he tells us the time is now 10:25, which is excellent we figure, we are almost there and it only took as a little over 2 hrs! So we listen to his yarn of back country adventure, and decide it is time to cut across the shoulder of the closest hill and make a bee line for Half Dome. This delivers a scramble over boulders and down the backside of a fairly impressive granite dome. The back country views out to the high plains and the far off snow capped Sierra mountains, is spectacular and would have taken my breath away had I not already been breathless! We took some pictures and continued on.

On the back of the dome we met a couple of fellow climbers from Sonoma who were headed to Snake Dike also. We arrived in a wooded area around Lost Lake and picked up a trail that looked like it was headed in the right direction. Hitting our zone and keeping our own pace (Ed quickly outpaced me) we trudge on through the woods, I was beginning to feel weary but glad that Half dome was right there!!! The winding forest path soon gives way to the Slabs. These are glacially polished Yosemite granite slabs at about 60 degree angles, which lead up to the base of Half Domes Southern face. The Southern face is sheer and looks unforgiving. The fact that there are only a handful of routes up this spectacular face, speaks to its intimidating nature. The slabs turn out to be a royal pain in the proverbial…wait no not the proverbial, it really does hurt your ass! At the top of the slabs we bump into our friends again, Michael and Seth, whom we proceed to beg food from. We hadn’t thought to bring enough food and we were burning a lot of joules! After snacking on trail mix and half eaten tuna, we continued the weary slog. We came across the burnt ashes and blackened scrub from the recent fires on the back of Half Dome. The little wiry bushes that grow all over Yosemite seem to be barely scathed by the flames in places, a tribute to their hardiness. We finally reach the base and our fellow hiker’s guide book says to continue left further than you think…so we do, and after a while they holler back at us that we have gone waaaaayyyy past it. So we cruise back and they point out the route to us. They have decided that it is altogether to cold and late to start the battle up the rock. So they say farewell and start the horrible descent back the way we had just come. We on the contrary saddle up, and Ed heads for the heavens. It is really bloody cold at this point and I decide it is time to throw on the sweater under the wind jacket, and throw in a couple of hand warmers for good measure. By the time Ed has traveled half way up the first pitch it is snowing with a relative amount of vigor. It is also starting to be a tad blustery. I mention that maybe snow and 700 meter (2000 ft) climbs are not the best mix. Ed as usual belittles my fear and tells me to gather my nuts and meet him at the belay station. So once again deciding against the climbing shoes I start my ascent in my “Guide Almighty” approach boots. By the time I reach the belay station, I am well aware of the fact that the epic, although already 5 hours long, was just beginning, and that retreat was not in Ed’s plan. And so we continued upward.

The route is basically a ladder after the first pitch. It varies between one of those ladders that has the single pole and rungs on the outside, and the kind of ladder that is a vertical slab of wood laid at a 70-80 degree angle with no rungs at all. Ed led the whole thing, as I was being a cowardly, cold, wimp’o’maniac of 5 excuses…1) out of training 2) suck at granite 3)broken hip 4) bloody cold 5) altitude…and trust me if Ed hadn’t been there to call me a wimp, I would have come up with more excuses. The first four pitches were challenging, with thin finger moves at times and a slew of smearing foot work on nothing but friction. Around the end of the fourth pitch Ed decided to drop his camera which bounded towards the base of the climb, carrying with it all the pretty pictures of water falls and me climbing, damnit!!! Some of the leads are definitely what one would call “run out”, that is whole 150 pitches without protection. Meaning a potential 300 foot cheese grating, not a pleasant thought. Ed and his trusty nerves of steal, plus foot warmers, did the trick however and only on the last pitch, at the beginning, a traverse section, did he show some signs of nervous fatigue. Deciding to play it safe so close to the end of the route he descended a little after the traverse and found a way up that he was more comfortable with. Once again I was amazed at Ed’s unswerving lack of fear, and total dedication to going to the limit. After an indeterminate time, about 4 hours, we finished out the last of the protected section, just as it was getting dark. The climb had been fun and the never ending sea of granite surrounded us the whole way. The views out into the back country and the Sierras was spectacular. Our picnic of Tuna and Crackers 3000 feet above the Valley floor, as dusk descended and the lights in the Yosemite village flickered on, was surreal, and made me realize how damn lucky I was to be there. The pain of the last 9 hours faded some, but those distant lights, made me realize how much further we had yet to go, not to mention the uncertainty of the path back. Finishing the last of our dinner, we backed up our gear, stood stiffly and started the painful 300 meters (1000 foot) of class 3-4 unprotected climbing as the night descended upon us. For me every step was agony and I eventually slowed to a step every four seconds, which, much as the mountaineering book had promised, ate away the distance. At various intervals I forced Ed to stop and let me rest, we also took this opportunity to look upon the black velvet sky with its diamond strewn expanse and the valley as it filled with frosty fog. Ed took the rope about halfway up which made the going a little easier, but the slowly decreasing gradient of the slab made it truly wonderful! When Ed found the first of the cairns indicating the top of the Dome, relief flooded my soul and the long kept dream of climbing Half Dome became a thing of reality. Looking down on the Valley and out into the mountains, I realized that arriving in the deepest dark of a clear cold night, was the most spectacular timing I could have hoped for, how many people have seen the sea of white foaming fog blanketing the valley? Or the crystal lights from atop the Dome? Or the distant white shadows of the snow capped mountains? It was awesome, beautiful and cold.

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Power Stemming on Miur. Photo by Tim Kemple.
The hand warmers had turned out to be a spectacular selection. They had kept our hands warm on the climb after touching the freezing rock, and they now kept my body warm as they radiated under my woolen sweater. We started looking for the chain back down, and realizing that we may end up going in circles, we stopped and picked out a line of stars to show us which way we were pointed after we ascended. Having done so, I promptly got turned around and headed back the way we had come following the line of cairns. Ed only convinced me of my error by pointing at the stars and boldly announcing my dumb assedness. After a while we found the chains and clipped in with our slings. Then began the slow cold descent into darkness. The wind was not howling any more and the further down we descended, the warmer it became. We stopped once more on the way down to rest and admire the view from this side of the Dome, again a wondrous nightscape was laid before us. We eventually reached the end of the chains and for the third time rejoiced at having reached a survival point. We were standing in the saddle of the dome and were not sure which side led down to the valley floor, which appeared to still be another several hundred feet below us. Ignoring Ed’s insistence that we should descend one of the saddle shoulders, I convinced him that we should at least take a look on the other side of the small dome. We ascended and wandered towards the back of it, and there spied a distant campfire at what appeared to be the base of the dome. So we set off down the slope, and low and behold a guiding cairn appeared. Thus began the first of the descending step sections. Every step was a painful step, which I, now on the fringes of delusional, began to see as steps leading into Moria, and could feel the pain of those poor little hobbits. My legs were beyond the point were rational pain made anymore sense, when the tree tops came level with our eyes and the forest floor appeared in front of us. We trundled along towards the fire, deciding we should thank these back country wanderers for guiding us down the Dome. We met them and they invited us to join them by their fire, and offered us apples and carrots. Accepting their hospitality and their carrots, we chatted about our adventure thus far and ask about their wanderings. They told us they were pre-med students from Stanford out enjoying the park for the weekend. The ground and night were so cold that sitting motionless around the fire chilled us to the bone. After about twenty minutes I was freezing and looking at Ed could tell he was ready to warm up to, so we said our fair wells and asked for directions to the path back, which once found we promptly lost! Thus began the hike back to camp during the 12th hour of our journey.

The path which we thought we were following swiftly gave way to the pine needle slopes we had encountered the previous day on the Nutcracker descent. We followed game trails and kept our landmark, the Dome, to our right. After about 2 hours of following this descending trails into the night forest, and numerous looks at our crappy map, Ed determined that we should head down hill into the valley proper, once there we couldn’t fail to miss the path, and if we did we would hit the river at which point we would know to turn around. So the descent began. We followed it to what seemed like a place where it leveled out. I was exhausted, my legs hurts, my lungs burnt and the tissue surrounding my heart felt like it was going to rapture. I had said it at the top of Half Dome, that I needed to rest when we got to the nice soft pine needles, and now we were surrounded by nice soft pine needles. So we stopped and took a quick 10-15 minute respite, with a tinge of sleep. Waking from a fugues reminisce dream, chilled, we stood and continued our trudging down and west, towards what we hoped was the second falls. After a few hours of this descending forest trudging, we came across a boulder field, interspersed with trees and shrubbery, all we needed now where some Knights of Ne and it would have been a truly torturous adventure! We descended and scrambled and zigged and zagged and trudged ever on. Some time around this part of the trek I ran out of water, and had thoughts of collapsing and letting Ed go get search and rescue. After another couple of hours and another short break we stumbled upon familiar turf, Lost Lake! Our luck seemed good, then we came across the path we had ascended earlier, gleaming like a shining path of luminescence. Our fates were sealed, we would survive to live with our grueling pains, dehydration, hunger pangs, and have a great story to tell, we were jubilant and talked about how we might make it back for mulled wine and naked women! Oh how swiftly we had forgotten the earlier pains of the four hour hike to get here on the ascent.

In an attempt to avoid the first dome we had hiked earlier, were we had met Mike and Seth, we hooked left keeping the lake to our left and cut right after what seemed like the right amount of distance. Having left the path we wandered a good 45 minutes to an hour before Ed shook me out of my robotic like trudging to give me the understanding that we were now no further from half dome then we had been. Looking up I realized he was correct. So we hiked up the valley wall to try and see where the hell we were, the beautiful trees were making it bloody hard to see the silhouetted domes. After this we realized we had somehow gotten turned around. So after another quick nap, we got up and descended again, our minds a little clearer and not so mechanical. We again came across the lake, and again the path, this time we would not depart from it, and so after another period of time we came to a new path, which as we had hoped led us around the dome we had wanted to avoid, and dumped us at a big boulder with a cairn on top. After another 20 minutes of searching for the main path, Ed found it. Now we truly were convinced that the ordeal was over and that we would not be sleeping in the cold forest till dawn, we made bets at this point as to when we would get back, I hazarded at four in the morning, Ed dilly dallied on a time so I changed the bet to before or after 4, Ed took after and I reckoned before. Thus began the slow and painful march back to the falls.

It took us about 45 minutes to get back to the second falls, and the second set of descending stairs. What had earlier felt like 700 stairs now felt like a hellish eternity of an infinite series of painful leg motions. After a period of time tortured by the descent of those uneven, slick stairs, with the edge plunging into the darkness of the waterfalls roar, we came to the flat pine needled section which led towards the first falls. At some point we wandered off to the left a ways, following the river. Realizing that we had gone astray, we collapsed and listened to the river trickle by. We slept, and I for one did not want to get up, neither did Ed. But the idea of loosing the bet drove me to my feet, and we trudged on through the night. We came to the second bridge by the Emerald pools, which my parched lips craved to drink. But I remembered that the water in these streams is polluted from the thousands of trekkers who walk this path and urinate in the soil. Having not brought a filtration system or bug killing pills, my parched throat would consume my mind over the next three hours or so. We came to the top of the first falls and the last of the descending step sections. If the previous had seemed an infinite amount of distance to descend, these seemed that to the power of infinity. When we reached the point were earlier in the day Ed had snapped photos at the base of the falls, my mind was streaming off into its own little patch of the universe. We had said barely a word for hours, my throat screamed to be slated, and my legs had formed a union with my lungs and heart, to convince my will that they would most definitely go on strike very bloody soon if I didn’t quit with this never ending step descending stuff. My mind quieted the rebellious elements of my soul with dreams of water, food and above all sleep in a warm soft place where survival was a lot more certain. Thus convince, though not happy, my body carried on down the last infinity of steps, and we came to the first bridge, only one more mile and we would be down, Ed was trying to tell me this, and somewhere it registered that he was really trying to convince himself that it was only another mile. Thus we trudged onward, and it hurt more and more the closer we got to the end of that long winding mile. About an eighth of a mile before the end I saw a little pond of water that was formed from a pipe coming out of the wall. I didn’t care where this water had been, I had survived Nile water once, I could survive whatever little &#$$& California bugs this water contained. So I drank a couple of hands of water, and continued on. We finally reached the end of the trail, and found the road, which following the trend of the night had gotten longer. We saw the first toilet at the Happy Isle area, and happy we were indeed that there was running water inside. We drank deeply and weary and upset that there was still some trudging left, we trudged onward. Finally we found the pathfinder, and to Ed’s great relief it had not been opened like a can of cheap sardines by a bear after trail mix. I too was glad, but more because I didn’t have to chase down a bear to get my trail mix. We collapsed, drank ate and threw gear in the back. It was 3:56, somehow the fact that I had guessed our arrival time made me happy despite the fact that had been 20hrs, since that bitter-sweet cup of coffee.

Ed drove at a dashing 3 mph back to camp and almost killed us a couple of times due to the fact that his legs were upset and refused to behave. The heater was cranked and we sat in the parking lot for a while. I started into the late stages of extreme fatigue shock, shaking uncontrollably. At some point we decided that we had to move once more before we could sleep, and so we trudged to the tents and collapsed.

Waking the next day around noon, we did not need any convincing that climbing today was most definitely off the list of preferred activities. Leaving a note at camp four, offering a reward of ten bucks, for anyone who found our camera we backed up our tents and hoped in the trusty pathfinder. We drove around a bit, looked at the Ansel Adams museum, and ate some food, which burned our upper palettes for some reason (anybody out there know why extreme lack of food hurts your palette when you try to eat again?). We then drove with the hope of going to check out the Tuolumne fields. But it was not to be so, the roads were closed for winter, and so we headed back to civilization, Ed’s sisters, Simpsons and airplanes.

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6 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 give_r
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 2007-11-26
Sick!
 climbingaggie03
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 2007-11-26
That is an epic on snake dike. I've done it twice and love the climb, but hate the hike. I can't imagine spending 20 hours out there! Those are two of my favorite yos climbs though, great story.
 vegastradguy
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 2007-11-28
damn, now thats a big day out!
 saphius
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 2007-11-29
Wow, that's insanely crazy.

Sounds like a blast :) Glad you decided to share the story!
 cheekemonkey
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 2007-12-06
typical ed-venture!!
 Zeee
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 2013-09-25
Ed and Z Epix - Chapter 1 - I had just moved to Clear Lake, Texas, to work for NASA Houston Mission Control. I had started going to the rock climbing gym and had made a few friends. I had met Ed a couple of times, and had heard about the multipitch sport routes in Mexico. When I tested the waters with a few of the gym regulars, none were too keen, as I was new on the scene and somewhat of a rookie on rock. Ed however was up for Mexico, so we planned our first trip to the Potrero. With excitement we met in the parking lot at work on Friday and jumped in the 96 Camero to head south of the border. Despite having only spent a few occasions hanging out, Ed and I filled the trip from Houston, through San Antonio, down to the Border crossing at Nuevo Laredo, with talk of past climbing, future projects, and plenty of space geek nonsense! This was the first time I truly got exposed to Ed’s jokes. As the hours rolled by, and I10 stretched out in either direction, Ed found plenty of opportunities to test my mental agility in understanding his jokes. We arrived at the border crossing in the evening after 4 hours of driving, checking out the USA side of the bridge and crossing the Rio Grande under a gigantic USA flag. Tired and stiff we parked in the dodgy car park outside a monolithic, lit, immigration building. We walked into the building, large and long, with rows of counters, and lines filled with a mainly Mexican mix of folks waiting for visas into Mexico. The heat in the evening was sweltering, and the sweaty immigration building stank as the fans swished think air around the wash of people. We stood in lines looking confused, and attempting our best Spenglish; after about 2 hours we had navigated to the front of the third line, and finally got our visas. With papers sorted we headed through the streets of NL in the night. As we drove out of the parking lot we went the wrong way and ended up boxed into a wired off section of the lot, with no way out! We turned around and found the proper exit, along the fence near the Rio Grande dividing Mexico and the USA. The fence is filled with little white crosses, carved with names of those who died attempting to swim the river. As we entered the detritus of NL, a typical border town, we got immediately lost on a small alley. People in rags with children at hip, watched as we drove past. I was starting to get the feeling my Camaro might lose some wheels. A few twists and turns later we past a border patrol, who we asked for directions. They waved vaguely down a side street, at which point a young man jumped on the hood of the car and directed us to the main street. Our guide hopped off and we headed down the grand boulevard out of town and to the final border check point into Mexico. The Mexican border guards searched the car, and finding nothing but rope, harnesses, and other climbing gear, waved us through. We were in Mexico! The highway between NL and Monterey runs through an expansive basin filled with Joshua trees for as far as the eye can see, but at night it turns inky black, and the roads with no lines sink into the dark and become almost impossible to distinguish from the night. On and on we drove in the pitch black, right onto the Mexican equivalent of a major bypass, not sure if we were lost or not, but with Ed as my trusty navigator and co-driver, we finally pulled past the stench of the tanning factory, and into the township of Hidalgo to the north of Monterey, 14 hours after leaving work. It was well past 2am by the time we got into Homero’s camp site, and after setting up our tents we settled in for a few hours’ sleep. As the heat of Hidalgo filled our tents, heated by the burning Mexican sun, I woke and opened the tent. Looking out through the flap up at the main wall of the Potrero, was a once in a lifetime experience. Like the first day in mission control, where you sort of pinch yourself. The early morning light cast a shadow on the main wall, and the white limestone, covered in a green swatch of cactus, glowed in glory. Ed and I arose and greeted the day with a quick snack and gathering of our gear. New shiny quick draws and clean 60 meter ropes, a clear sign of our uninitiated status. As we filled our camelbacks Ed asked if we should take a head lamp, but deciding we had plenty of daylight, and wanting to travel light, we left them with the car. We headed to Space Boyz, our chosen first climb. Neither one of us had ever done any real multipitch, but I knew someone who had told me about it, and that somehow convinced us that I was the more experienced climber. The Potrero was rumoured to be the best place to learn multipitch, on safe bolts, for tens of pitches. We found one of the locals at Homero’s and bought a copy of the guide for 5 bucks US. With that and a spring in our step we headed into the canyon. The canyon has rows of canyons filled with scree slopes, and dozens of single and multipitch sport routes everywhere. The rock is loose and evidence of rock fall is everywhere. The Potrero has been known to spit rocks the size of small cars at the unwary. The Potrero is formed by a wild river that comes out of a bowl to the north. The east wall hosts the famous Jungle Wall, with some of the easier multipitch climbs on low angle slab, leading to a vertical headwall, and towering topouts. The jingle of quick draws quickened our steps as we greeted other climbers heading in for the day. We crossed the bridge with a keen eye on the pool, which even early in the hot Mexican day, looked inviting. The Sol shed pulled into view, and we got our first glimpse of the 1000 feet we were proposing to climb. A daunting endless sea of limestone, with clear streaks through the cliff dwelling cactus giving away the routes. We gaped slack jawed at the hugeness, as we quickly found the start of Space Boyz and saddled up our gear. Still convinced I was the lead climber, I headed up the first pitch. Clipping through the first few bolts feels awesome, the holds are big and the wall not quite vertical, easy and invigorating. The first pitch is long, and the distance between bolts begins to increase near the top, with 5 meter runouts still consuming 10 quick draws to the anchors. I clip into the wall and begin to flake the rope across my leg. This takes longer than expected as I learn the first lesson of multi, rope work requires technique. Ed is up the line in no time and with a quick smile, and a nod he heads up the next pitch. Ed cruises through the second and after suffering similar learning experiences with rope management, he gets me on belay and I head up after him. The limestone on the lower pitches is covered in cactus. Climbers have cleared most all of it along the bolted lines, making for excellent low grade climbing. When I get to Ed, he has figured out a clever way to flake the rope over his foot; one of the first lessons he would teach me. We steadily chip away at the lower pitches, resting and talking in between pitches, struggling with rope management, but getting better with each pitch. It takes us 4 hours to get through the easier sections when we reach the bivvy ledge on the top of the fifth pitch. There are massive anchor bolts leading around on a ledge to an arête. The arête opens onto an open book feature, with an intimidating line of bolts heading up over a small roof to more open book climbing. This is the crux pitch, still convinced I should lead, and with the wind blowing up the cliff, I step onto the rock and head up. The climbing is exposed with the 5 pitches, 150 meters, of rock already below us, the section of rock looks down about 100 meters onto the bottom of the next line, Black Cats Bone. Scared witless I dog my way up the line, only achieving a sense of style after the roof, and heading up with the world between my legs so far away, spanning between the pages of the rock. I arrive at the ledge, take my shoes off and try to compose myself before settling in to belay Ed up. He is there in a flash, although thankfully he is smiling with exhaustion and agreeing that the pitch was awesome and difficult! Looking at the sun and the time, and feeling a wee bit intimidated after the crux pitch, I note that we are only 30 minutes from our turnaround time. This is the time when we will not get down in daylight. After a brief discussion, in which Ed pointed out that he was going to the top “it’s only four pitches to go!” Ed saddled up and headed back out left onto the headwall. This was the first time I bore witness to Ed’s grit. He never quit; come darkness, rain, exhaustion, or fatigue, he would push on to the limit, which I was quickly realising was higher than mine! He seemed to fly up the vertical wall and out of sight. Before long, I could hear he cry out over the growing wind, that he had reached the belay. Out I headed and up the long wall. The climbing is spectacular through this section, with fewer cactus, and monster views. As the sun was dimming, I reached Ed at the hanging belay. We were starting to get a maniacal tilt to our mood, with the giddy heights of our ascent. I headed up the wall, and weary, pulling on gear, I reached my first hanging belay. As Ed followed up, and I fumbled with the rope, the sun drew further to the west, and the wind blew in blustering bursts. Ed continued up after barely a pause and reached the top section of the headwall. He excitedly hollered out, and I followed him up. The ledge at the top led through some low grade cactus scrub to the final pitch up a low grade top out. We reached the top and the daylight was dimming. We rejoiced and ate our first top out tuna. Realising time was against us we tarried only briefly to enjoy the moment atop our first multipitch. We were elated! I was eager to get to the big ledge on the fifth pitch before proper night fall, the thought of descending filled me with a mix of fear and desire for beer. Rappeling a Potrero multipitch on the Jungle wall, is like throwi more...

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