This past weekend, myself and a couple friends from the bay drove out to Tuolumne Meadows. Tuolumne is the awe-inspiring link between yosemite and the Eastern Sierras. Up until now I had only driven through it on my way to and from Bishop. Since temperatures for the past couple months have been hovering in the 80′s and 90′s around most of northern California, I’ve been pretty reluctant to go bouldering. I was eager to break that lull and check out two world class problems up in the high country that I had done my research on.
After driving up most of the way the night before, Josh Horsely and myself met up with the newest addition to our PGSF setting crew (and my new training partner) Mark Heal and his girlfriend Gia, as well as my buddy-in-chief Randall Hill who made the short jaunt from his new crib in Bishop. Our first stop was Drug Dome, which houses the classic 4 pitch 10d dihedral OZ. In the talus underneath the dome sit several large blocs, one of which holds a borderline 4-star problem in the hard V10 to easy V11 range put up by Charlie Barrett in Fall of 2010. I had seen a clip of this problem on youtube a few months prior and was very surprised I had never heard anyone talk about it. My curiosity peaked when our buddy Will Fraker repeated the rig for its assumed second ascent last week; it was reassuring to know people were still pulling down in the dead heat of summer.
Randy, Josh and I warmed up on the only other problem we found around with chalk on it, a tweaky V5 that at least got the blood flowing. We came prepared; Randy and Josh both hauled up two big pads, while I brought up my big Asana and two little ones. As we were getting ready to give it a whirl, Mark and Gia showed up fashionably late with two more chunks of foam. Charlie’s 8a comment reads “One of my favorites, so psyched. May be easier if you can crimp.” While I don’t generally call myself a crimper, the four of us were definitely built for it, and we set right to work. It was nice to have the weird talus-filled landing luxuriously padded-out and we quickly made links to the two-move upper crux, a weird lurp to a right handed razor, a quick six-finger match, and a spooky stab out to a good left handed sloper. Mark, after doing a couple pull-ups, nearly flashed after barely missing the good part of the sloper. Within an hour, Mark, Randy and myself all found the top, while josh dry-fired on the final dead-point and started losing power quickly. Next time, mate.
Afterwards, we made our way over to Puppy Dome where we sought and finally found the infamous Thunderbird. This seldom repeated test piece was put up by Chris Sharma a decade ago. Having not graded it, speculation put the problem in the V12/13 range. Several subsequent ascents brought it down somewhere between hard V11 and solid 12. Either way, the problem is a beautiful black and white streaked overhang, chock-full of gnarly crimpers and terrible slopes. Within a couple tries I gained the first slopey lip, chalked up, and readied myself for the extremely technical stand-up onto the slab. I reached up to the terrible xenolith sloper-edge, gauged the grease factor, and decided to back off. Even with 9 pads, a weird fall onto the arete opposite the problem could be costly. No worse for the wear, we turned our attention to the gorgeous creek running nearby and lounged around in the waning daylight. Mark even went for a swim!
We finished the night off with a surprisingly excellent meal at the best gas station I’ve ever been to, the Mobil in Lee Vining, followed by a bottle of wine a-piece for Randy and myself, and moonlit chill fest under the stars with good people. I hope the Fall is half as radical.