Deja vu: Garrett on the Robbin's Traverse in 2010, Erica in 2004
During the past week I climbed in the Yosemite Valley for the first time in over six-years. I've climbed in the Valley very little, but had one of the more significant climbs (at the time) of my career there. In 2004 Erica and I tried to climb Half Dome RNWF in a day. At the time we were pretty green. Though I had climbed for years, I started leading sport routes in 2002 and plugging gear in 2003. So I had only trad climbed for about a year prior to attempting this route. Erica had been leading gear routes for longer but neither of us were world-beaters.
Long story short, Erica and I approached and fixed the first pitch on day-1 then tried to fix and fire on day-2. We didn't climb fast enough and we found ourselves climbing in the night by pitch 16. We made the Big Sandy ledge on top of pitch 17 and had a forced bivouac. We ran out of water on day-2 and spent a big chunk of day-3 climbing the remaining pitches (7?) before descending back to the base of the face and collapsing. On day-4 we stumbled into Curry Village, pizza, beer, etc. At the time I felt like we could have done better. We went slow when we could have gone faster, we could have started earlier, etc. My impression of the route is that it wasn't that bad, we could have, should have had it.
Six years later I wanted to get back on the route just to see how much easier it would be, to cruise where I had faltered, to measure what I am against what I was.
Garrett and I did the climb much faster. We climbed it valley-to-valley in ~18 hours but could have easily shaved off 5-6 hours (stuck behind parties 2-3 hours, took the longer but easier descent 2 hours, linking different pitches 1 hour, faster movement in daylight 1 hour). While the climb is almost entirely 5.9 or easier, it was still surprisingly heads up. There were head scratching moments figuring out traversing moves or transitions from aid-to-free and gut-busting squeeze chimney sections. Nothing felt too hard, or too scary, or run out etc. But it didn't feel that, easy.
Returning to the scene of one of my career's defining moments wasn't what I expected. Six years ago unable to sleep, I stayed up all night in fear of the coming day. Today I slept, well. The fear was gone... it was just another climb. While I am a much stronger climber today than I was years ago, I wonder in which aspects am I stronger? Obviously I can pull harder moves, I'm smarter, I make more right decisions and less mistakes. Still, I wonder if my head or my heart is not as strong. Six year's later what is my new Half Dome? What climb will put the fear of the unknown back into me and push me to edge of my physical and technical limits?
Perhaps the years have taught me something about my abilities and exposed unknown resources. However, something tells me I'm not challenging myself the way I once did. Perhaps I'm stronger as a climber in every way but poorer in ambition and desire?
I don't know... but I think I need a new Half Dome.