Lost Arrow Tip

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Many Not So Pretty Words

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley rigging the Tyrolean on the summit of Lost Arrow Spire. June 6, 2004. TR here.


Travelocity is an evil invention. The travel deals arrive through email at the most vulnerable of moments: at work. This time it was an advertisement for cheap flights to Sacramento……..hmmmmm, that’s pretty close to the Valley… As I finished punching in the credit card info., I knew we would be attempting the Lost Arrow Tip route in a month – a climb I’ve been eyeing for over a year now.

The week before the trip, Shirley and I went to a local crag after work to remind ourselves on how to efficiently pass a knot on rappel – a skill required to reach the start of the Lost Arrow Tip route. It’s no rocket science but certainly can be a time-consuming pain in the ass. On Friday, the departure day, a brilliant idea had occurred to me: let’s just save time by getting some long line and foregoing the whole knot-passing business. Rushed out and got 300 feet (at a nice discount) of 3/8 inch static rope. Now we were really committed to the climb.

By the time we made it to the Valley it was 4 pm on Saturday. For better or worse, we decided to park at Curry Village and take the bus to the trailhead. Quite a task to squeeze with our huge packs onto the park bus loaded with tourons. We decided to go light – 300 feet of static line, 2 60m ropes, bear container, bivies, and about a million other things. All in all, we nearly maxed out Alaska’s luggage weight limitations and now it was all coming along with us on the 4 mile (2700′ gain) hike up Yosemite Falls Trail – light is right. We started the hike up at 5pm and by 7:30 were setting up our camp just before the bridge atop Upper Yosemite Falls. Our camp was less than a mile from Yosemite Point and the start of the Lost Arrow Tip route. There were other parties bivying in the area. We assumed that we’d be racing other climbers to the start of the climb in the morning.

Though we did not talk about it at first, there was an air of anticipation as we cooked up the Ramen noodles on Saturday night. This was to be my second real aid lead (not counting the one or two bolt ladders) and the first to carry a “C1+” or “C2” rating (the C2 came from Supertopo). It was certainly going to be one of the most exposed climbs we’ve done to date. Our desire to nail it was strong – the sight of the spire in photos never failed to impress me.

Morning arrived and we were soon hiking up to Yosemite Point. From the railings at the overlook, a quick hike down led us to a small stand of trees just above the point where the rim has a notch. Although we could not really see the spire, we were pretty sure we had the right 15 foot juniper tree in front of us (you can see the spire if you hike 75 feet further down along the edge of the rim). I fixed the static line directly to the tree, set up for rappel and had an “Oh-shit” moment as I realized that one of the leg loops on my harness was just about wasted. It rubbed through to the point where I just tore off the excess strap with my hand. Fortunately I was able to “fix it” by pulling in more strap.

The long – but knot-free – rappel brought us to the notch on the backside of the Spire. Not too impressive from this vantage point. Shirley came down and we tied in with the lead rope. We also had a second 60 m rope which was to serve a dual purpose: (1) it would do away with any need for Shirley to lower off or pendulum after cleaning a piece on a traverse move and (2) we might need two ropes for the “limp Tyrolean” traverse (a term coined by Craig Peer when I described the procedure we used) off the summit.

The start of the first pitch is a bit disappointing – feels like many other climbs in that there’s a terrace system about 100+ feet below as you step off the belay ledge – nothing ridiculous exposure-wise. One or two simple gear moves starting off a semi-loose flake (nice, deep pin scars in a small dihedral) bring you to a bolt ladder. Few more bolts and you’re in some mandatory 5.7 free terrain (move or two involving a big pocket). A large ledge materializes shortly above as you pass from shadow and into direct sunlight – the off-width section begins at the far left end of the ledge. The off-width is rated 5.10 – for me it was C1 very secure if a bit awkward (sort of bulging). Soon, I was topping out on Salathe Ledge and very much trying to avoid touching a large boulder teetering right above the off-width.

Salathe Ledge is spacious and comfortable. The belay consists of three new bolts. Shirley comes up with the static line in tow and soon we are working hard to sort out the cluster of ropes and aiders. My left eye feels as though some sand fell into it. Keep rubbing it. Couple of pictures, few sips of water, and it’s time for me to find the beginning of pitch 2…..OK, a few more pictures. Where exactly does P2 start? Finally notice a nice bolt at the far left edge of Salathe Ledge. Clip in, step up expecting to see the route clearly laid out in front of me. Instead, all I find is some old shoe lace slings hanging from an old peg at the beginning of a shallow finger crack. This is the point from which the climb derives its reputation for sudden exposure – the moment you step beyond the left edge of Salathe Ledge, you have 1000+ feet of vertical wall and air below your feet. You also have Upper Yosemite Falls roaring to your left and spawning beautiful rainbows down below. 15 feet above I spot a bolt – “screw it”. I reach for the clip stick, slither my way onto and up the aiders hanging on the shoelace, reach high and clip the bolt. I soon find myself hanging form it and scratching my head as to what I should do next? My eyes, not accustomed to looking for aid placements, cannot spot the next move? The only option it seems is to make a large leftward step where a secure 1″ cam can be placed under a flake. I do so and spot a hangerless bolt about 8-10 feet above me. I’m done cheating with the clip stick. With a bit of poking around I find a placement for my smallest Alien. It’s not pretty as only 2 lobes fit into the shallow crack but seems to work well enough for me to gain 3 more vertical feet towards the hangerless bolt. Few feet higher I feel out a nice, positive hand pocket. Now the only problem is that there doesn’t seem to be much for feet. I don’t have the desire to try and free it. It occurs to me that now might be the time to scratch up that brand new hook purchased few weeks earlier with this climb in mind. As I poke around with the hook, I realize that I should’ve gotten a larger one. The hook I have sits on the lip of the pocket instead of sinking in around its positive edge. Gently apply my weight to the hook placement and to my surprise it holds! I now have gained enough ground to clip the hangerless bolt. The “C2” section is over! The remaining 100 feet or so are straight forward – mostly a fixed gear ladder (bolts, pitons, and one fused in nut). My left eye seems to be getting worse but in my focused state of mind I keep putting it aside – keep thinking that some dirt got in there….keep rubbing. I soon find myself clipping in the last piton and doing some easy friction moves to reach the white granite summit of Lost Arrow Spire. I bring up Shirley who enjoys the exposure and views of the pitch (despite earlier reservations that “it’s all jummaring!”).

Once again, we sort the ropes and start rigging for our return trip to the rim. We set up a double rope rap using the cluster of webbings presumably equalizing 5 or 6 bolts on the spire and reinforce the set-up with our own material including several old lockers. I clip my aiders to the fixed rim rope (now pulled tightly), tie in back up and start the rap. It’s an exhilarating feeling as you start moving horizontally across the void, feet dangling. I snap a couple of photos. The wind starts up again and it gently rocks me sideways. Just as I start enjoying the ride back it’s over. I’m on the other side and faced with the 80 foot jug to the top of the rim. As soon as I top out, I run over to a point lower on the rim from where I can snap pictures of Shirley on the Spire summit as she’s setting up her return ride. Shirley enjoys the traverse portion of the return trip – pausing in the middle to let me snap a photo or two. Soon we’re both back at the juniper anchor pulling all the ropes back. I now realize that my left eye is seeing just “fog”. Shirley tells me that it’s totally red.

Quick hike back to camp, a brief rest and once again we’re facing the endless switchbacks of the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. The hike down is uneventful. We stop once again to admire the Spire from below. The hike down takes an hour and half. As we approach the trailhead at about 8pm, we’re worried that the Yosemite City bus system might not be running any longer at this hour. Not looking forward to having to hike back to Curry! To our great relief, the buses run till 10pm. A brief 45 minutes later (the bus system sucks….they’ll need a subway soon) we’re at Curry Village buying Red Bulls for the drive back. I’m about 80+% blind in my left eye now seeing nothing but light blurs from headlights. Shirley faces having to do the long drive back to Sacramento. We get to the outskirts of the city at about 12:45am on Monday. Normally we’d sleep in the car till our 6:30am flight but we’re planning on heading straight back to work. We splurge on the always luxurious Motel 6. Shower, two hours of sleep, and we’re back in hell known as work…..Oh well, next weekend is coming!

Photo Essay

Lost Arrow Spire

Lost Arrow Spire and Yosemite Falls (June 2006).


Lost Arrow Spire

Yosemite Falls and the Lost Arrow Spire from the trailhead (June 2004).


Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley relaxing in our humble camp near the top of Upper Yosemite Falls after our climb of the Lost Arrow Tip - and anticipating the pain in the a** hike down the endless switchbacks.... This is a great campsite in a shallow, flat depression atop slabs (invisible from trail) - close to water and under the open skies (June 6, 2004).


Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley racking up in preparation to climbing the Tip route on Lost Arrow Spire. This is at the rim (June 2004).


Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley rapping into the notch between the Spire and the parent cliff (June 2004).


Lost Arrow Tip

Looking back at Shirley belaying me from the notch. This is the start of the Lost Arrow Tip route (June 2004).


Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley jummaring up to an intermediate ledge on P1 of Lost Arrow Tip. The ledge is about 30 feet below Salathe Ledge. The 5.10 OW crack begins on this ledge and brings one to Salathe. The block in the foreground is loose and teeters on the edge - watch the rope or you might drop it on your second's head (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley topping out on P1 of Lost Arrow Tip route (Salathe Ledge, June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Yours truly atop the Salathe Ledge on the Lost Arrow Tip route. Very comfy belay, three new bomber bolts. Hard to make oneself get off this to start P2 (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley belaying me on pitch 2 of Lost Arrow Tip from the comfy Salathe Ledge (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Nice exposure on the lower 2/3rds of P2 - the wall is largely dead vertical for 1000+ feet (?). Photo taken during the crux (C1+ or C2??) moves of the Lost Arrow Tip climb. Photo taken while hanging on the excitement-enhancing "bomber" C2 hook move (inset). Also in the photo - my nuts (tested to the limit on this climb, June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Beginning the lead of P2 of Lost Arrow Tip. Shot taken during the crux C1+/C2 section. Shirley is belaying me atop Salathe ledge (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Upper Yosemite falls as seen from 2/3rds up P2 of Lost Arrow Tip. Perpetual rainbows - what a climb (June 6, 2004)!!!!

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley topping out on blinding white granite summit of Lost Arrow Spire after our climb of Lost Arrow Tip. Note the Yosemite Falls trail visible in lower left corner of photo - I'm guessing c. 1000-1200 feet below (?) (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

The view down during the mid-air return trip to the rim following our climb of Lost Arrow Tip. Upper Yosemite Falls can be seen crashing down 1000' (?) below (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley sunbathing on the summit of Lost Arrow Spire following our climb of Lost Arrow Tip route and watching me sweat on the final jummar section back up to the rim. Ropes are fluttering in the afternoon breeze (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley rigging the Tyrolean on the summit of Lost Arrow Spire. June 6, 2004. TR here.

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley on the summit of Lost Arrow Spire after our climb of Lost Arrow Tip (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley setting up for the Tyrolean traverse back to the rim from the summit of Lost Arrow Spire. June 6, 2004.

Lost Arrow Tip

A closeup of Shirley on the return to the rim trip following our climb of Lost Arrow Tip.....nothing but air - an unforgettable route (June 6, 2004)!!!!

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley doing the "limp tyrolean" traverse from summit of Lost Arrow Spire back to rim following our climb of Lost Arrow Tip (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley beginning the jummar portion of our "limp tyrolean traverse" from Lost Arrow Spire summit following our climb of Lost Arrow Tip (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley topping out on the rim after our climb of Lost Arrow Tip (June 6, 2004).

Lost Arrow Spire

Yosemite Falls and the Lost Arrow Spire (in profile) during our hike out (June 2004).

Lost Arrow Tip

Shirley waiting for the Yosemite Valley shuttle bus after our climb of Lost Arrow Tip...thought we were going to miss the last one and be a tad late for work but we made it. Submitted for an old TR (June 6, 2004).

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