Wed, Jun 6, 2012
We did not get an early start. I changed the original 5a start plan to 6a when I saw the overnight temp report, but even then we didn't get our act together until nearly 6:45a. Adam had slept somewhere outside the east side of the park while I had slept quite happily for most of the night in the back of the van at the Cathedral Lakes TH. Adam needed some time to get his head and gear in proper order. We took about an hour and a half to hike the trail at a leisurely pace. We noted new NPS signs near the peak that are attempting to limit the number of use trails that have sprouted up over the years on this very popular peak.
We were the first to arrive at the base after 8a, the next party showing up when we had started the first pitch. We spent half an hour getting our gear ready, even without setting up an anchor. I spent ten minutes climbing the first pitch which included a really great hand crack, the best on the whole route. I would then sit at my perch at the base of a small, gnarled tree for more than an hour, growing bored and impatient despite the magnificent setting. The delay was mainly due to Adam being new to placing gear and lead climbing. Though slow, his gear placement was excellent and he did a fine job setting up his first anchor with three pieces of gear, nicely equalized. I had to confess to Adam that I'm really a crappy climber. I don't have the patience to spend so much time setting up bomber anchors, happy to wrap a sling around a tree and call it good. When I'm honest with myself I admit that I'd rather climb fast than safe. I rationalize it by telling myself that these wilderness climbs are low-angled stuff that aren't going to take hard falls on the rope allowing one to get away with hasty anchor setups. I didn't place much pro on lead myself, two pieces at most, just to protect the harder moves. And so our leads couldn't have been much different - ten minutes for me, 45-60 minutes for Adam. I'll have to encourage him to climb with other partners so that my laziness doesn't become habit with him.
We spent just under 4 hours on the route, making five pitches of it. A second party that started shortly after us got well behind, but a third party consisting of two roped climbers and a soloist came later and reached the summit at the same time as us. One end of their rope was a guy working SAR in Tuolumne Meadows, the other end was his sister Bea. He was only using the rope because Mom wouldn't be happy to learn he was taking chances with sis, but it seemed likely he could have soloed the route as easily as his friend did. So too could Bea.
After coiling our rope and descending the summit block, we followed the group of three over to Eichorn Pinnacle. Here they all roped up for the short single pitch to the airy summit. They were already rappeling down by the time Adam and I were just starting up. I placed two quickdraws in conjunction with a couple of old pitons found on the route, reaching the top just after the others had pulled their rope down. Adam was atop by 2p, barely an hour since leaving Cathedral's summit. The old summit register was gone, though the aluminum box placed by the SRC remained. Inside was a newer register only a few years old, one of the fancier ones to be found in the Sierra, complete with engraved nameplate. It was apparently left in memory of a young female climber, probably Chinese given the last name - "Chen". There were also two shiny new bolts alongside the rusty ones I remember from previous ascents, and we used the newer ones to rap off the north side of the summit after we had taken a nice rest atop to take in the views and add our names to the register.
Once down, we continued down the class 3 West Face, a tricky bit of slab climbing that more than one party has chosen to rappel instead. In fact at one rappel anchor I found a nice locking carabiner that had been used to rap off, an expensive sort of rap ring, that. Had it been me I would have simply rapped off the cord that was tied around the tree and saved the carabiner. It took most of an hour to descend the face, getting us down to the forest shortly before 3:30p. Seeing as we still had plenty of daylight, it was not hard to talk Adam into some extracurricular miles to visit a few nearby domes. Though I didn't really couch it in terms that offered him a choice, but more like, "Hey, you don't mind a few extra miles, do you?"
Medlicott Dome is located less than a mile west of the Cathedral Lakes Trail (also the JMT). It's one of the more massive domes in Yosemite with at least 4 sub-peaks. The highest point lies to the northeast while the point indicated on the topo and on my GPS is the second highest, about a quarter mile to the south. Just to be sure, I set us on a course to hit both of them. I didn't give Adam this little detail and as we were climbing the lower of the two he looked to his right and asked, "So what's that one over there?" I told him not to worry, we'd visit that one too. He was beginning to have the look of being hoodwinked.
It was not hard to climb to the middle summit from the west, an easy romp through forest with some rough-textured slabs for the last semi-steep section. It was 4:10p when we topped out, with fine views of Cathedral Peak to the east, Echo Ridge and Peaks to the southeast, Tenaya Peak and Lake to the southwest, Mt. Hoffmann and Tuolumne Peak to the west. Half Dome could be seen in the distance to the southwest. The forested Tuolumne Meadows was to the northeast and the double summit of Medlicott's highest sub-peak to the north.
It took less than 20 minutes to cover the distance between the two summits. The highest point was the westernmost of two points, separated by a small gap largely filled with old snow. It was just before 4:30p when we reached the highest rock, again all class 2. From here we had a swell view of Fairview Dome to the northeast. It rises more than 600ft from the surrounding forest and looks imposing on all sides. The more popular climbing routes are on the north and west faces, but even the easiest route, the South Slope, is steep, slabby class 2-3.
After desecending the northeast slabs of Medlicott, we spent almost an hour through the forest over undulating terrain to reach the base of Fairview on its south side. We found the slabs hecka steep and tiring towards the end of the day and Adam fell some minutes behind during the ascent. Like Medlicott, it has very fine views from its summit. In particular, the view east to Tuolumne Meadows is unmatched and well worth the effort to reach it. Cathedral and especially Unicorn Peak stand out as well. I had heard rumor some years ago about an interesting scramble up to Fairview, and we found this on the Northeast Ridge that we used to descend. From the top it looks to cliff out fairly quickly and at least one rap sling testified that others had chosen not to downclimb the route. But we found the only spicy section near the top, going class 3-4 for a short traverse across a steep slab before becoming a rather enjoyable class 3 scramble down the rest of the ridgeline. Things stayed interesting right to the end where a convenient ramp led off the last cliffy area before reaching the sandy slopes at a saddle where we again started down through forest.
We spent about fifteen minutes on our downhill course towards the northeast before intersecting the trail that runs along the south side of SR120. Five minutes later we were back to the trailhead just after 6:30p. Though it had been nearly 12 hours that we were out, it was not all that hard of a day - much of the time had been spent sitting around in belaying each other up the technical routes on Cathedral and Eichorn. We drove back down SR120 to Yosemite Valley where we planned to spend the next few days. We had pizza at Curry Village (our dinnertime fare for three of the four nights there), then took our chances sleeping in the back of our vehicles. I decided to stay where I was at Curry Village while Adam drove over to the Yosemite Lodge where he found quieter conditions. Luckily we weren't disturbed by either bear or ranger during the night and slept quite well...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Cathedral Peak - Eichorn Pinnacle - Medlicott Dome - Fairview Dome
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