In Thanks

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Bob Harrington is kind enough to carry an enormous sack of gear to the base of the wall at seven in the morning. We will begin perhaps 100 yards uphill from Fairest of All. I ask him if he's sure he doesn't want to come along, thinking of the work he put into the route thus far. No, he says, simply and without a trace of envy, he must be in the Valley later in the day. Clevenger takes off at the first lead; it is his third time over the pitch and my second. There is one short section of 5.9. Then we begin the haul. In the sack are an embarrassing assortment of goods, including two sleeping bags, two hammocks, probably thirty bolts, ten drills, food, water, chalk, and no less than three pairs of shoes in addition to those already on our feet! High on the proposed line is an enormous, leaning arch which promises difficult crack climbing; so we carry crack shoes as well as the face-climbing shoes we are wearing.

Even this ballast tank of brazen aids fails to quell all our fears. Vern claims his bowels are bubbling. Mine are jumbled too, probably because I didn't sleep most of the night, too fearful and excited about the sweep of this wall.

The next pitch is sweet and simple, straight up over the golden glaze of undulations so characteristic of Tuolumne rock. Above, blue begins to steep the gray morning sky. Again we haul Santa's sack. As Vern leads the next pitch, again 5.9, I hang, butt out, in the belay seat, looking down on the 70-degrec rock, goosebumps flaring up over my head and neck. Ten fewer knobs and we might not even be here!

Soon we join the beginning of the last pitch Kamps and I had managed to climb in 1968. He and I had arrived at this point from several erratically weaving pitches over poorer rock, coming up far to the right of our present line. Vern leads it, remarking again how solid is the 5.10. In following, I smirk to myself at the thought that we were climbing such things eight years ago.

We stand on a dike at the end of the pitch and look around. I recall that the dike runs intermittently left all the way to the regular route, several hundred yards away. A girdle traverse crosses my mind!

Looking up, I see Clevenger and Harrington have created the most remarkable pitch to date in all of Tuolumne. There are no cracks or knobs for forty feet, only scattered, sharp edges the width of pencil lead, with perhaps a few the width of a pencil itself. Most of the seven bolls protecting the sixty-fool pitch clearly were placed in the middle of 5.8 or 5.9 moves.

I am reminded of the many Tuolumne first ascents Kamps and I did where we stood below an improbable section nervously talking until we pushed the climbing into the realm of possibility. How alone, if not adolescent, we seemed then, thrilled and jangled by the thought of no one to see or help us, only the domes standing witness, their polish gleaming like the eyes of cold and riveted fathers. We moved gingerly under the stare, and the Meadows gave us, together or with others, glorious routes: Chartres, Vision, Sweet Jesus, Lucky Streaks, Fairest of All, and more. Why, I wonder, were there just enough holds to allow us to climb, as if the rock were fashioned by benevolent beings?