After attempting Salathe and Zodiac without success on El Cap in October, 2017, my climbing partner left the Valley back to Canada. This is my third trip to Yosemite within a year and I wanted to try something different. A crash course with Maria who rope soloed Zodiac a year earlier, I spent 4 nights rope soloed Ten Days After 5.8 A2+ 12 pitches on Washington Column. It was a wild vertical camping experience belayed by a haul bag. I hammered beaks and pitons, hanging on copperheads in all shapes and sizes, climbed a 30m wet pitch with algae mixed with dissolved rock, got rope horribly stuck on pitch 6 and down aided and re-climbed the whole pitch and did some pretty sick pendulum swings with a haul bag and a portaledge.
Tips on visiting Yosemite the first time:
Learn how to climb cracks beforehand. Jamming is a staple on granite trad climbs. It is hard to find pure crack in NZ to practice on but there are ample amount of routes in Ti Point, Waipapa, Whaganui Bay and Kawakawa Bay to bust out the jams. To help with learning to jam, tape your hands, use comfortable flat shoes, e.g. oversized club shoes, and resist the use of face holds.
Two sets of cam up to Camalot #4 and a set of offset wires will get you up many free and aid routes in Yosemite. Some routes require triple on certain cam sizes, but you can usually borrow or pick-up secondhand ones dirt cheap at Camp 4. Sunday morning climbers’ coffee at Midnight Lightning boulder is a good place to buy or sell gear. Small and medium size offset cams are extremely useful on aid routes and you can also get them secondhand at Camp 4 sometimes.
Get a pair of comfortably stiff, flat climbing shoes for jamming and aiding. Your toes can be completely flat in these shoes because they are so stiff. Shoes like La Sportiva TC Pro, Scarpa Techno X, Evole The General are good examples. They are pricey so budget it in. You can’t find these type shoes in NZ, since people never need to jam their toes in cracks in NZ, so buy them in States or online.
Practice how to aid before you go. You can practice aid on any climbs, even on sport routes with the use of hooks and cheater sticks. Practice aid in your approach shoes or boots on slabby climbs first. However practice aiding overhangs and roofs are essential, too. Really good online resource is www.vdiffclimbing.com and even better, find someone to show you the rope.
Practice jumaring and hauling. There are a lot of skills involve on jumaring and cleaning gear on a steep route. Know how to lower-out is essential and you need to practice it before doing it for real otherwise you might end up need a rescue. http://www.vdiffclimbing.com/bigwall-following
Spend few weeks at Squamish is arguably the best way to learn climb granite cracks and practice aid. World class climbing, short approach, cheap living, great climbing community and you are automatically cool if you are from New Zealand.
Yosemite can be a circus, no doubt. Thousands of tourists, hounders of climbers, traffic jam, queuing up for climbs, too hot, too cold...etc. No matter how prepared you are if it’s your first time there you will be shocked! Climbs and the crowds can easily shut you down so stay psyched is the key. Just remember to take care of your wellbeing in the Valley, get up early and be the first on the climb always helps with your psych and give you more time on the climb, warm-up on climbs well below your grade to get used to the climbing style, besides most climbs below 5.10 are sandbags. Just remember having fun and adventure is why you are there. If you find it hard to be in the Valley the first time, it’s pretty much the same for all the other first timers and the second trip will be much easier.