American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, Free Climbing

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Free climbing. Yosemite 2002 was the setting for what I can only call a dream season. In the spring Jake Whittaker and I freed the Psychedelic Wall on Sentinel Rock—solid 5.12. This route was first ascended by Boche and Hennek in 1966. Memorable sections include a 5.12c sloper crack traverse, a 12c slab boulder problem, and a 12' roof that goes from squeeze to offwidth to fists to hands to fingers.

In the summer José Pereyra and I freed The Medicine Wall (a.k.a. The Uncertainty Principle), also on Sentinel. This entailed five completely new pitches, but also freed existing aid pitches of several routes, including the first three pitches of a line first attempted by Steve Roadie and Ben “Wa” Zartman, and four pitches of Early Times (FA by Bryan “Coiler” Kay and Josh Thompson). The route joins with the North Face (FA Frost and Robbins, 1962; FFA Thaw and Wainwright, 1995) for one pitch in the middle, and for the two summiting pitches.

We rated the Medicine Wall 5.13a, or really hard 5.12. The crux pitch was bolted on the lead and provided 80' of brilliant, slightly overhanging face climbing. But perhaps the finest pitch is the second, which starts with 100' of 45° overhanging hands, leading to a short, hard offwidth section, to tight fingers, and finally to an overhanging, run-out boltless face. Both the Medicine Wall and Psychedelic Wall were redpointed, no falls, in a day, after being freed from the ground up over weeks of effort, using fixed lines. On both routes I swapped pitches with my partner and had the pleasure of leading the respective cruxes.

As fall gave way to winter, I managed a three-pitch variation to the Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock. I redpointed pitches one and three, but managed only a pinkpoint of the prize pitch, a 50' roof 800' off the ground. This pitch, the “Gravity Ceiling” (5.13a), and the preceding one were first aid climbed by Brian Kay, Mark “TBag” Garbarinni, and Johnny “B” Blair. The Gravity Ceiling is, hands down, the single most impressive pitch of freeclimbing I have ever had the pleasure of playing on, and seems destined to become a megaclassic.

As winter rolled around, I found my world crushed by the news that Jose Pereyra had passed away. Jose was not only one of the best finger-crack climbers the world has known, but he was the most realized, spiritually in-tune person I have known. I am very thankful that he and I shared the experience of freeing the Medicine Wall, before he moved on to bigger and better things. I dedicate all of these climbs to José; may his soulful, honest, penetrating spirit inspire climbers for centuries to come.

Cedar Wright, AAC

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