This five-pitch route features what is widely considered the best 5.10 pitch in the Sierra; it is as close to perfect as anything I’ve ever climbed.
I almost didn’t go. I said that I needed to work, which was only partially true. Actually, I was scared. I was nervous about the approach that the guidebook promised was 2-3 hours. I was afraid of the “loose, steep gulley” that led to the base of the climb. I was nervous about the route itself – about getting lost, about the exposure, about loose rock. I was worried about not being able to keep up with the group, about holding everyone back.
In fact, it was fine. I kept up. The approach took us 90 minutes. The gulley was no big deal, and actually, kind of fun. The routefinding was tricky, but manageable, and the exposure was mild. The day was casual; the climbing stellar, not scary. I found a groove I thought I'd lost. I discovered strengths I'd forgotten about. I remembered that I love the mountains, the experience outweighing the possibility of danger.
And as I sat on a comfortable ledge in the warm Sierra sun and belayed Alex on the second pitch, I thought, "I can’t imagine missing this day."
And it struck me: this place takes patience. The routes wander, the approaches climb gradually. The descents require care, the stream-crossings caution. The Sierra is a place to take things slowly, to reflect, to consider.
Gary Snyder knew that. Here's a representation of his awareness:
Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout
Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.