Pack straps cut into my shoulders as I pull up spongy fixed lines towards Half Dome's NW face. "I'm off the rope!" I yell, smearing up a slab and into a tangle of manzanita. Streaks of water paint the 2,000 foot face above us and smear their way through rocks and trees to the Valley below. "This is so rad!," Kyle exclaims as he thrashes towards me. "This is what it's all about brother," I counter as we both absorb the scale of wall above. It's Kyle's first time in one of the greatest rock arenas on earth, Yosemite Valley.
Although Kyle O'meara had never climbed more than 5 pitches off the deck, I never hesitated to ask him to join me for a free attempt of H-Dome. His drive and athleticism stood up to the task. Fortunetely, the weird finger injuries that slowed us during the months leading to this trip were healed enough to attempt the route. Unfortunetely,the recent break from rock scaling had taken a toll on prowess. We both knew it was a bit silly to expect to arrive in Yosemite and fire a free ascent our first day in the Valley. That noted, we had to try.
Kyle taking in the view
The next morning I kicked steps up a grimy snow cone and started jamming the first pitch. I was immediatly flooded with the purity of perfect granite. Hooping and hollering up shady stone, we cut over into the first free variation. I led off into a stout pitch of wide 5.11. Out of shape and lacking flow, I stalled for a minute as my feet oozed off the slick dimples I stemmed between.
You should see this wall mom! Nothing like a chat with folks under H-Dome...
Attitude is everything and just to be attached to this big, beautiful wall was special enough. I let the free ascent go and catapulted up ledgy scrambling, into shadowed chimneys, and onto a headwall of glittereing corners. The sun burned our skin and sucked the moisture from our mouths. Wind blown water droplets from the melting summit snow patch provided the only relief from our firey circumstance. Later, we scrambled to an empty summit, the sun just leaving the sky. Kyle beamed with joy through the dehydration. It was hard to believe he had never climbed in Yosemite.
Even though we didn't achieve our goal of free climbing the route, I was proud of our effort. We had believed it was possible, entered the arena, and gave it everything we had. We'll be back soon, in shape and familiar with the terrain. The rope will never be weighted and we will follow our fingers to the top of the mountain.