Article written by Jordan Kessler and Cary Bedinghaus
Adventure begins when your plans end, right? In that case the entire trip was one big adventure. Months on planning on climbing in Yosemite boiled down to a crummy streak of winter weather and low temps which nearly ensured too wet of conditions to climb. I unpacked the extra rope and gear for big days out and loaded the pack with a ton of draws and camping equipment for a trip to Bishop instead. Fast forward and I land in Fresno and meet Cary at a friends. Over tacos and modelos we poured over weather reports, which in the last day began to show some better weather in the Valley. Our plans may have changed to Bishop, but our hearts were always set on Yosemite. Without hesitation we knew any chance in Yosemite was worth it.
Driving in during a blizzard, our stoke remained high. This will melt off! It will be dry by the end of the week and we’ll be set! Instead, we awoke the next morning to a snow dusted valley floor which was incredibly beautiful. After scrambling around and checking potential route options we decided to climb any shorter dry classics and hope by the end of the week that Royal Arches would be dry enough for a send. We spent the afternoon bumming gear from Cary’s friends while the sun came on strong and the winds went to work drying off the granite slabs. We were antsy, and deciding between a hike or an easy climb, we grabbed the rope and headed off toward sunnyside bench. A quick simul climb up and we were elated to be climbing on day one. Things were looking up, still wet, but at least we were climbing.
The next couple days was spent simuling around valley classics. After 6 and After 7, Munginella, and Keystone Corner got me acquainted with the distinct Yosemite style while Cary cruised on his home turf. Sure, most climbs had wet bands we either had to avoid or aid through, but we were having a blast. A crack climbers dream, we jammed our way up splitter crack systems, balanced through invisible foot smears, and mantled over ledges well above the tourist laden valley floor. We were in the zone and climbing efficiently. Every day we checked Royal Arches and it seemed a little dryer each time.
We decided that even if we had to bail, it was worth the shot. Most sections looked pretty good but there were definite water streaks in at least two of the upper pitches, and the slab walk off remained unknown. We headed out optimistic to find the first offwidth pitch… running with water. Sliding our way up, we removed our now soaked jackets after hitting dry land. Simuling through pitches of easy terrain, the occasional sequence or two to keep things interesting. Further upward we progressed around large flakes, huge ledges, and fun jams along moderate angles. Best of all, outside of the first pitch, we were staying pretty dry.
As the terrain became steeper we stopped and began pitching out sections. Streaks of running water kept things interesting as we moved around or carefully through them. The middle pitches were an absolute blast with everything from balancy slabs and splitter cracks, to a bouldery sequence through flared pin scars. We were making good time and approached the pendulum pitch before we knew it. That’s right... pendulum pitch! A blank section of wall separates the dihedral you just finished climbing from a beautiful incut horizontal flake. We opted for what most parties will do, clipped into a fixed rope, and did the pendulum swing across the section into the flake. Swinging through the air hundreds of feet from the ground was exhilarating and unlike any climb I had ever done before. The adventure wasn't over though, as there was what may as well have been a vertical river running through the horizontal band we had to traverse. Hand jamming through a literal waterfall, water rushed around our hands, down our arms, soaked our core, and collected in our shoes leaving us smiling from ear to ear where other may have found misery. This was type 2 fun at its finest. It sure wasn’t what we planned, yet everything we could have wanted.
After emptying the water out of our shoes and snacking on some gummies, we took off again on the upper slabs. The adventure continued as the next dihedral was soaked. Progressing as far up as possible, we had to improvise. With a cordelette and a locker, Cary lasso’d a dead tree branch which would make any cowboy proud. With that and other aid trickery, we pulled on anything we could to get through. Shout out to that dead tree branch for making it another day for us! Compression moves around “the spear”, laybacks, and more splitter hands followed as and we approached the top. Pausing to take in the surroundings for a second was incredible. Sentinel peak standing tall across the way, the Merced running through the valley, and Half Dome towering over the landscape was breathtaking. A blank traversing across the upper slabs was the final step and although not difficult, it was terrifying for my east coast steep sandstone pulling self. Soggy and tired we finished, gobbled down anything we had to eat, and refilled out water on a spring run off before embarking on the walk off descent.
A few hours later we were back on the valley floor devouring a pizza and sipping on some IPA 395’s while reminiscing the day and trying to stay awake. We had gotten way more than we bargained for but a perfect day nonetheless. We didn't to anything difficult, we didn't free the climb, and while we moved quickly we certainly didn't set any speed records. What we did was have an amazing adventure on a classic all to ourselves. We improvised and adapted to conditions where others may have bailed. And we totally crushed a large pizza pizza in a matter of minutes. We had one hell of an adventure and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Plus, if we had to grade the climb we would say our day went at an astonishing first for the valley of 5.7 A0 Class II Whitewater!