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Re: Middle Earth

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Middle Earth
October 27, 2013 10:34PM
On Saturday my wife and I did the Middle Earth canyoneering route, which starts at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls and descends the gorge between the Upper & Lower Falls, punctuated by a 400' rappel down Lower Yosemite Falls. Overall it entailed 10 rappels and three swims.

We climbed the Sunnyside Bench Regular Route (5.4, three pitches) then scrambled up a few hundred yards of class 2-3 slabs to get to the base of Upper Yosemite Falls.

Along the way we got a few glimpses down into the gorge to see what we were getting ourselves into.

The Falls were completely dry. There were some people slacklining between the viewing platform and the opposite side of Yosemite Creek.

The base of Upper Yosemite Falls feels like a place that is not made for humans. The evidence of the constant barrage of water, rocks and ice falling 1400 feet is all around you. Polished slabs, huge potholes, and very recent rockfall debris.

The cave at the base is pretty cool though.

Once you start walking down the gorge you come to the first rappel pretty quickly.

There was some delicate downclimbing, which was really more like controlled sliding on the highly polished granite.

Better watch your step on the slippery rock though, just after this edge is a 200 foot drop and the first long rappel.

Shortly after that point the swims start. I don't have that many photos of the inside of the actual gorge past this point since the camera was stowed away in a drybag. Would've been a good opportunity to borrow somebody's GoPro. Here is a shot of me rappelling to a small ledge before the second swim. The water was cold enough that we were both shivering after getting out.

Here's a shot looking down on the final swim, beyond which is the edge at the top of Lower Yosemite Falls.

After the last swim we did some push-ups and jumping jacks to warm back up, then did two 200-foot rappels just to the right of the watercourse of the lower falls, much to the delight of the tourists looking on from the bridge below. The first rappel anchor for the lower falls was on a cool perch, not bigger than 18 inches square, with a clear view 400 feet to the ground below.

This YouTube video has some good shots of the middle part of the gorge where I didn't take any photos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4-lZvdqNdg

This was an awesome adventure, right up there with climbing Lost Arrow Spire and tyrolean traversing back to the rim, which we did in 2011. I'll definitely look at the falls a little differently now.
Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 12:06AM
Sweet! Very nice. Did you get to do the pool jumps or was water too low for that?
Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 08:46AM
We didn't do the jumps. The water was pretty murky so we couldn't tell how deep it was or if it was safe to jump. In fact even when I was in the pools I couldn't tell how deep they were... all I know is I didn't touch bottom when I slid into the water. Fortunately there were little ledges to stand on just above the water so getting the ropes down from the rappels was straightforward.
Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 05:03AM
Spectacular! I'm green with envy.
avatar Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 06:53AM
Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 08:34AM
Thanks for moving it to the right forum chick-on. Didn't realize that there was a new forum here.

Also a bonus TR that I posted on BPL from Chain Lakes, that I didn't have time to re-post here last week: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=83243

Also, the fall colors were great in the valley this weekend. Lots of yellow everywhere. I am guessing it will be gone soon though, the winds were blowing down many leaves and this storm will probably take out what's left.
avatar Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 11:50AM
Not reaaaally to give you a hard time... but don't you need to go another 3 miles upstream to
visit the headwaters of SF Merced?
smiling smiley

(as you perhaps saw... it's wellllll worth the effort)

Tanks for Sharon

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Middle Earth
October 28, 2013 12:46PM
Yeah... my criteria are pretty arbitrary. The original plan was to head all the way up to below Merced Peak, go over that shoulder I asked you about, then take Buena Vista Crest back. But with all the snow and a late start we decided to cut it short. I'll definitely go back and do the original itinerary to see Buena Vista crest so I'll tag the true headwaters eventually. smiling smiley

I also cheated a little to include the Lyell Fork of the Merced as I've only been up to Foerster Creek and Lewis Creek. Haven't explored up Hutchings or any of the Peak Forks or Echo Creek. Fixing that is on the to-do list as well.

Can you think of anything else major that should get added to that list? I need to spend another hour on hillmap.com and figure out what I missed. Of course there are hundreds of smaller creeks that are not included... not sure how to quantify the cut-off.
avatar Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 08:06AM
It's a neat goal. I like it. As I know you know but I'll say it anyway...
The upper reaches of nearly every canyon you can think of is worth the effort...
So pretty much you should do every single canyon you can get into in your
lifetime. And then do them all again.
Personally I've moved on to touching all the bodies of water in the park.
(finished the named lakes last year)
And going up all the peaks and all the x / marked points. And traversing
the entirety of every canyon in the park.
Lots lots lots lots.... of great stuff to explore...
I figure that will keep me busy for another 10 years or so.

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 09:54AM
Just watched the video - stupid questions to follow:

1) How do you drill holes in solid granite for those anchor
bolt things to hold on to?
2) So, you tie your rope on to an anchor bolt and lower
yourself to a lower elevation. How do you get the rope
untied from the bolt and retrieve it?

Still green with envy.
Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 10:34AM
I'm certainly not the expert but got to do a little bit of Canyoneering/Big Wall Climbing a couple years ago in Yosemite. The short answer to your second question: If you have a 200 foot rappel, you have to have at least a 400 foot rope. You don't "tie your rope on to an anchor" instead you loop it through and pull it back out after the rappel.
Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 10:35AM
Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 11:41AM
Yep. We brought two 200 foot ropes and tied them together. This allowed us to rappel 200 feet on two strands of rope, then pull the ropes down at the end.

Installing bolts is done with a hand drill and a hammer like steelcup mentioned, though it's generally only done by experts on the first ascent/descent of a route. The rest of us get to piggyback on their hard work and use the bolts that are already in place.
Re: Middle Earth
October 29, 2013 03:24PM
Thanks for the info. It must take a while to "drill" even a single hole.

Once in a while, we see pictures of climbers tied onto an eyebolt on a big wall, with
a dizzying drop beneath their feet. Obviously, that bolt got pounded into place somehow.
But, with one hand on the drill and one swinging the hammer, it does make a non-climber
like myself wonder what kept the driller from falling.

I'd probably get halfway to the top of El Cap, only to realize that I'd left the hammer
in the parking lot.
avatar Re: Middle Earth
November 02, 2013 01:55PM
That Youtube clip was amazing!

I really want to learn how to do that, it looks incredible, and right up my street! I think I have just added this to my "to do list"

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