In spanish, they have the concept of a “cordada,” which literally means “roped together.” A cordada is sort of the same thing as a belay partner, but implies a closer friendship/partnership. My favorite translation is courtesy of one of my Chilean friends, who did not know anything about the common phrase “partners in crime” before she coined “partners in climb.” Just excellent.
After the first two weeks of roadtripping through some desert-y national parks with just my three Chilean friends, we spent a week in Yosemite with Will and two of his closest friends. The main activity of the week was climbing Half Dome, one of the most prominent features in Yosemite Valley (fun fact: it’s also the inspiration for the North Face logo).
It started off with a bit of faff, since getting permits for all seven of us to be able to sleep at the very popular campsite that’s almost exactly halfway between the valley floor trailhead and the top of Half Dome was tricky. The original plan was to hike up on Monday afternoon, sleep overnight at the campsite, do the climb starting early on Tuesday, and then either come down Tuesday night or Wednesday morning depending on how the climb goes. Unfortunately, when I went to go pick up permits, the park rangers said that Half Dome was going to be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for some work (specifically, they were going to put up the cables that are part of the regular hiking trail up the back side of the dome), so we had to scramble to find permits to be able to hike in on Wednesday and climb on Thursday. Very last-minute, but luckily the park ranger I was chatting with (whose real legal name is Sierra Wild and self-describes as the “Disney princess of Yosemite”) was very useful and found some permits for us to go up later in the week.
The change of plans ended up being a good thing because it gave us some extra time to practice climbing with three people on one rope. Both Naty and Coni had done their first-ever multipitch climb in Red Rock Canyon two weeks prior, so it was useful to go over rope management and hanging belays and how to clean an anchor and such. Plus we we had plenty of time to get our backpacks all packed up and take a dip in the Merced river on Wednesday morning before hiking up.
Once we got onto the rock early Thursday morning, things pretty much went as expected. Will was leading the first group and took a fun photo of the rest of us strung out behind. The part of Half Dome that we actually climbed is the side of the dome that can be seen in the first photo below, not the super vertical face but the slightly slope-ier part next to it. The hiking trail for all the chumps goes up up the slightly less vertical part of the dome that’s on the opposite side and can’t be seen in the photo. The route we climbed is called Snake Dike, since the name of the extruded rock feature that the route mostly follows is called a dike (seen in the two climbing photos below). It feels more like a dragon spine to me, but one with pretty severe scoliosis. Once you climb up ~800 ft in 8 pitches with a rope, there are another 1000 ft of slab to walk up, which is just a brutal ending for calves that are already on fire from hanging out at very small belay ledges. (I feel like that sounds a fair bit sketchier than it actually is; I promise it’s all very safe.)
We eventually made it, and Nick posited that it is likely the fastest ever 7-person ascent of Snake Dike once you consider the fact that no one climbs a route like that with such a big group so it’s likely also the first 7-person ascent. Caveats aside, I’ll take the win.
The way down was less eventful minus the wrong turn I made right at the end to send me and the three Chileans down a horse trail. If you look closely at the map the horse trail doesn’t look any longer than the normal one, but I didn’t have a map with me at the time (rookie mistake) and was navigating primarily via radio with the three boys who were already back at camp did have a map. It ended up okay but since I didn’t know the trail it felt devastatingly long at 10pm. Sorry chicas.
Other highlights from the trip include bopping about Lower Yosemite Fall and raiding the bookstore for some beautifully illustrated books that my friends wanted to take back as souvenirs. I also climbed a super fun 5-pitch route called Super Slide with Pía, her very second trad multipitch ever (i.e. placing our own gear instead of climbing on bolts) since her first one was earlier in the week on a different route in Yosemite. We made a lizard friend at the top of pitch 2, one of the most brightly-colored animals I’ve ever seen in the park and quite possibly poisonous. The crux of the climb came at the end of the last pitch, and you can tell because suddenly the camalots that I’m placing in the crack to clip the rope to start to get a lot closer together than normal, meaning I’m just a wee bit scared.
Once we got home from Yosemite, the final week of the trip was spent chilling and climbing and paddleboarding in Tahoe, and everyone went home on Saturday. It’s nice to relax but I miss my friends; it’s a bit weird having such an empty house after a full month of spanish chatter all day every day. We don’t all live in La Serena anymore (Coni is living in Canada and Pía lives in the south of Chile in Puerto Natales), so we’ll have to wait until the next big adventure to be all together again. Don’t worry, we’re already dreaming.