As Canucks, Will Stanhope and I spent Thanksgiving up on the big stone, eating Mac and Cheese and getting harassed by beady eyed ring tailed cats.  We drank Scotch under the stars, smoked a stogie, and listened to The Tragically Hip on the ipod.  Frankly, and not to sound too soulful,  it was one of the most peaceful couple of days I’ve had since my honeymoon.  When the full darkness of night finally sets in and you look out over the expanse, you can see headlamps spread out from the bottom of the Valley floor all the way up to the rim, and along the parks entire length.  They look just as enchanting as the stars in the sky and you know there is plenty of adventure happening all around.  Oddly, that’s a comforting feeling for me.  This place is HUGE.  Click image below.

Twice we rapped in on the Prophet and tried the A1 Beauty pitch, (No 13 on the 14 pitch climb).  It’s a horrendously thin left leaning crack, and the feet are so atrocious, it may as well be overhanging.   During three hefty burns each, we worked out the desperate moves on the seam, but have failed to make any substantial links.  The only section we haven’t tried are the long powerful pulls towards the anchor.  That’s when the gear, as well as the feet, run out for good, and the only thing that will get a leader to the top is pure momentum.  Hesitate for a second and you’re off, back down to that razor sharp arete you spent the last 20 minutes trying to get to.  It’s an exhausting pitch, alluring, terrifying, and exciting.

If you have never read Leo Houlding’s account of his and Jason Pickles route, the Prophet, in Rock and Ice issue #192,  then run (don’t walk) and get a copy from the magazine, or from a friend.  It is by far and away one of the best pieces of climbing literature written in the last few years.  The film by Posing Productions is also one of the best rock documentaries on the shelf, but as so often the case, the internal dialogue is possibly more gripping than the real life footage.  His writing (like his climbing) is far from cliche, he has original thoughts and ideas and he expresses them with humor and a no bullshit attitude. This is definitely a hero worshiping blog post, make no mistake, but if you’ve ever wondered what makes one of the boldest climbers of the last decade and half tick, then read this article.  You’ll put it down knowing what separates Leo from most climbers.  The story is an honest look at his career development, his ideals, and his real deal struggle to climb what he says “may be the hardest thing he’s ever done”!  “We had no choice. Jason and I are neither cowards, nor fools, yet once again we flirted with the line that Bridwell had warned me of all those years before”.  This is one of many favorite quotes.  It’s a story about pushing his own personal limits, and creating his own little piece of history and if that’s not a story worth reading – I don’t know what is.

When talking to Leo via email today, he asks Will our opinion on the grade and says he called it “5.13d R, Old School”.  Will and I wholeheartedly agree.  There is nothing soft about it.  This is not your typical 13d, coming from one of the greatest granite technicians of this generation.  We’ll go back tomorrow and have another stab at it, but we have to be careful about project fever, we can’t get too wrapped up on one pitch otherwise we lose sight of what’s around us and may even lose motivation.  On something so big and serious, success is measured in small increments, we need to keep it fresh, that’s the idea anyway.

Now as the holiday weekend has passed, I reflect on what I’m grateful for, and happily it’s always the same, my family for their constant love and support, my incredible and incredibly gorgeous wife for too many reasons to list, my friends for always giving me a hard time, and for the wild and natural places of the world, which moves many to keep daring, dreaming and screaming with joy.

Hope you like the pictures.  Click to enlarge.  God speed.

Crossing the boarder like a boss.

A stop over in Portland OR, to get some local coffee, imported from local countries, served by local people.

Stir crazy after 15 hours, but getting stoked to drop into to Cali town.

A sight that never gets old, even though we do.

Not a minute to spare, coiling my new Sterling 300 foot static cord for the big hike.

Day one, the calm before the storm, but still stoked.

The never disappointing Half Dome, always framed perfectly by the surrounding landscape.

By the way, ike many folks, I have to hustle a living anyway I can, so please keep in mind that all my images are for sale at a very reasonable price if you’d like a print!  winky face, smiley face:)

Coffee.  Because you can’t put a price on morale.

A frosty morning in the meadow.

The Valley is a place of extreme’s, cold nights, hot rays, delicate plants and sharp blocky rocks.

Will sitting out a little gut rot, possibly from the river water, but like a rock star, still eager to get after it.

  • Darrell

    Nice shots Sonnie. When you pulling out the GoPro and giving us some POV Prophet Action? Get well soon Will.

  • Dino

    Great post, really inspiring. Good luck!

  • Vivian

    Thank you for sharing! Yosemite never ceases to astound. Gives me joy looking at these pictures here in NYC 🙂

  • Kyle

    Cool read! Looks like a great trip…

  • GREAT pictures! Makes my “wide angle” lens seem silly! Sounds like a great adventure with a good friend too, good luck with The Prophet.

  • After my heart rate returned to normal(from the running) I was able to read the incredible accounts of the numerous ground up attempt to get the prophet to go, thanks for the literature recommendation!!

  • Sonnie

    Thanks Guys, Will is much better now after a little R and R in Lake Tahoe! We went up on the wall today ground up for the first time, just between me and you, I fear Leo might be a mad man, quite literally speaking. Very scary.

    Luke, I’m glad you enjoyed the article mate, I would not mislead you to just an average read. Props to Mr.Houlding and Rock and Ice for putting that out there.