SCARPA employee Artley Goodhart took a week off and headed to Yosemite to finally try the climb he’s been dreaming about for years: El Capitan’s Freerider. But what happens when you don’t achieve your goal?
Recently I attempted a project on El Capitan in Yosemite that I’ve been eyeing for years. After training for six months, I was ready to give Freerider (5.12d, 35 pitches) a go. But a day before we left, we saw that Mother Nature had other plans. We made some adjustments to the game plan, but our one-week window was already a little tight.
The day we arrived, we made the three-hour drive from Oakland, skipped the Camp Four scene and jugged up to Heart Ledges to set up base camp. Our new strategy was to rap down early the next morning to work on Freeblast, the first 1,000 feet of Freerider. That section went down without too much trouble, and slept on the ledges that night, but that was all we would get from El Cap this time around. The next morning a three-day storm rolled in and forced us to a Plan B.
The decision to forgo a project I had been thinking about for years and training for six months did not come easily, but after cursing the skies and remembering past Yosemite trips spent waiting out storms, we decided to make some lemonade out of the windy, rainy lemons. Instead, we turned what was going to be a hardcore projecting mission into a relaxing road trip. First stop: Bishop for some sport cragging, world-class bouldering, and beers by the campfire.
Bishop is a striking desert landscape back dropped by the beautiful alpine of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We drove into town and went straight to climbing in Owens River Gorge—super fun, sustained, crimpy sport routes. That night we slept in the Buttermilks and planned to do some bouldering the next day before the storm from Yosemite was forecasted to arrive.
Once the rain settled in, we continued our road trip onward to Lake Tahoe, intending to climb at Lover’s Leap, but unfortunately the weather was waiting for us this time.
After staying one step ahead of the rain, it had finally caught us and there was no dry climbing within a day’s drive. The bad weather turned what would have been a hardcore projecting mission into a mini tour of the Sierras. Even though Freerider has to wait another year, I’m armed with a better strategy after our recon. My psyche is sky-high, and I can’t find any downside to a sweet road trip with a good buddy.