Text and pictures © 2003-2020 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2018/10/17
"The silence of the mountain is even more beautiful once the birds are quiet." — Taisen Deshimaru, Japanese zen master.
Left: North Face of Fairview Dome. The route is in large crack system visible right in the middle.
Right: Cold Start on the regular route of Fairview Dome.
Moving our way south after climbing near Tahoe, we are back to Tuolumne, 8 years after I stood in line at the base of the classic Regular Route. This time we are ready and start early. At the base I take a quick look at the topo and I see 5.5 for the first pitch, so I keep my ski gloves on and elect to climb the left crack. It's polished, the gear is hard to place and near the end, jamming my gloves in after having placed only 2 pieces, I tend to find it harder than 5.5; a thought confirmed at the belay where a better look at the bad xerox of the route gives it a 'slippery smooth 5.9'. Doh!
Left: Jenny high up the regular route of Fairview Dome, finally reaching the sun.
Right: Jenny nearing the summit of Fairview Dome.
After the first few pitches the climbing itself gets easy but all the small ledges and quick climbing get hard on Jenny's knees. She limps all the way down the beautiful descent. She's going to take a while to recover from this one. But at least we got one long route after 3 weeks of road trip and only short pitches ticked so far...
Left: Lucky Streak (5.11d) follows the crack system.
Right: Jenny on the 5.10 section of pitch 2.
Three weeks later, getting somewhat tired of the Yosemite crowds, we are back to Tuolumne's Fairview Dome, for a route we saw coming down 2 weeks earlier: Lucky Streak. A nice crack with tons of polished knobs. The first pitch is a warm up. The second one gets you in tune with a steep section before the belay.
Left: (A different) Guillaume belaying Vincent on the crux of Lucky Streak.
Right: Jenny on the slippery layback after the crux of Lucky Streak.
The crux is short, right off the belay, and not bad but that pitch stays hard placing tiny pro with slippery foot placements all the way. We are in 3 teams: Vincent and Guillaume, a guide just arrived from Chamonix the day before, still hazy from the time shift; us in the middle; Frank and Vanessa below. We keep trading equipment and film and photograph each others on the various sequences. But that's not the real reason we went back to Tuolumne...
Left: Pitch 4 of Lucky Streak.
Left: North dome in the sunset.
Right: Vincent starting in the right mood for the crux: stepping on bolts !
PS: Yes I know that North Dome is in Yosemite, but we did the Tuolumne approach, that's why I put it on this page.
Besides the Steck-Salathé, there's another route I was thinking of doing with Vincent: the slabby Crest Jewel Direct as he's a specialist of slabs. But although the approach is long, Jenny's knees are doing better and she wants to do it too. Yes, the approach seems to be a problem: we talk with two parties before going and they both got lost in North Dome Gully, and came back without even finding the route. So we decide to do the Porcupine approach from Tuolumne, all flat except the last bit. And just to be sure, we also forget the guidebook ! Once on the summit of North Dome, we drop down into the gully west of it, quickly loosing the trail into a maze of manzanila bushes and ending up with scrapes all over.
At the base of the face we see a bolt at the start of an improbable smooth slab. This must be it. Vincent gears up, climb a little crack and reaches the old rusty bolt with a final: "I'm not going any further !" He doesn't usually behave like that, so after some coercive attempts, I try to put together some vague recollections (I looked at the guidebook but, as usual, I haven't read it before doing the approach) and, further left, find a line of shiny new bolts. Crest Jewel Direct it is. Hopefully.
Left: Vincent leading the upper slab of Crest Jewel Direct.
Right: Jenny and Vincent coming up the easier last pitch.
Poor Vincent breaks a nail on the first pitch and uses it as an excuse to pull on the bolts of the 10d crux of the 3rd pitch. This route is unique in that in 14 pitches there's never a crack (don't take any trad gear with you, it's only dead weight), never a good hold, not even a crimper, never a good ledge: all smears, barely noticeable pockets, dykes or slopers. And the fact that what you can run no-handed on second will sketch you out on lead. Well, still that 10d crux is way hard, but so is the upper 5.8 pitch if you happen to have a strong crosswinds (like me)... This route is also a feet killer: arching soles, aching tendons, crushed toes, all worsened by the fact that there isn't a single comfortable belay. I tried every position: standing tied up, facing down, sitting, laying down...
And between the sun and the dry wind, our two liters of water each are gone way too fast. On my first lead pitches, I'm scared by the lack of holds, but after a while my brain just goes numb and I stop thinking about it. Yes, a beautiful route, but in the end we are bored by its monotony and just want out, even with the breath-taking view on the north-west face of Half Dome.
Right: Jenny near the summit of Crest Jewel Direct with Half Dome in the background.