The shaded, pine covered trail quickly turned to a rough as we head up to the base of El Cap via the Zodiac Talus field. In the scorching sun, with overly heavy packs, this approach was heinous. Dave, though not happy, kept it together, while Alex was visibly unhappy as she struggled to keep from toppling over as she stepped from boulder to boulder. The approach was taking far longer that it should have and the route was in full sun. When we reached the base of the supposed climb, we realized why. The climb we just walked to was NOT the climb we meant to do today, it was Pacific Ocean, the climb we planned for Monday. Alex had been questioning Dave when they started the approach about where they were going since this did not seem to be what she remembered from the previous evening’s planning session. Regardless, they had something to climb, just not on the day they intended.
Once geared up, Dave began aiding the first pitch (C1 or 11C). Climbing in Yosemite for the first time and aid climbing somewhere he NEEDED to use aid gear was a bit nerve-racking for the belayer and the initial exposure of being on El Cap for the climber. Alex breathed a sigh of relief when she finally heard, “OFF BELAY, ALEX!”
When Dave returned to the ground, the pair retreated to the shade of a tree for a snack, water, and to make Father’s Day phone calls. Cell service has been patchy at best while in the park, but up on the cliffs the service seemed best. While Alex was on the phone, she heard Dave very calmly say “Alex, there is a snake, we should move.” Alex very quickly realized it was a rattle snake and moving was a good idea. Alex got off the phone, telling her mom “I’ll call you right back… nothing’s wrongs…. There’s just a snake….. ummm… it’s a rattlesnake… so, yeah, it is poisonous…. Call you right back!” The snake slithered among our gear for awhile before finally making its retreat.
Alex called her parents back, explaining the situation, and probably giving her mom one more thing to worry about all summer. As the talked, she heard Dave say “Uhh… Alex…” She knew from his tone that something was wrong, but she needed to stay calm. OH CRAP! Rattlesnake right next to the rock she was sitting on. She quickly scurried away while trying not to startle her mom on the other end of the phone. This snake was persistent! He once again slithered amongst our gear near the start of the route… the route which Alex still needed to ascend and clean. Finally, our “friend” slithered far enough away that Alex could begin ascending while Dave kept an eye on his location.
Ironically, by the time Alex rappelled and Dave ascended, the sun make a quick retreat and left the wall in shade. Dave cleaned not only their remaining pieces of gear, but also freed a blue offset nut left by a previous party. That plus the hook he found on the ground while Alex was ascending made today a +2 day for gear!
The pair loaded there packs and started their way down the “worst approach ever with heavy packs.” You can guess who made that quote…. Apparently it was an overall rough day!