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#746751 - 11/26/07 12:45 PM [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 *****
willstrickland Offline

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 3535
TRs: 7 Photos: 109
Loc: Joshua Tree
Trip: Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5

Date: 9/30/2007

Trip Report:
Cocaine Corner: An eight year love affair.

How do you write a trip report about 15 feet of climbing? Usually, you don't. But this one was different. This one bouted me off and on for eight years.

Summer 1998: I roll into the valley for the first time, feeling strong but slack jawed and intimidated by the huge walls. I work my way up through alot of long moderate classics, but am most intrigued by the bouldering where I can pull hard without worrying about taking whippers on gear.

Of course Midnight Lightning is the grand prize, but well beyond me at this point in my climbing career. But just on the edge of camp, on the main circuit, is a beautiful slanting arete with a low angle face on one side and a vertical face on the other. It's gorgeous, a fantastic line, perfectly cleaved with just enough tiny feet to look reasonable. The drop zone has a horrendous chopper block sticking up a few feet, directly under the crux, which has claimed many broken ankles and legs.

With a partner I start working it and holy shit, this thing is hard right off the ground. Slippery, technical, and powerful. It must be 90 degrees in the ditch, and with nothing but slopers for the left hand, conditions are grim. But we work it almost every afternoon anyway. At the end of the trip, I've got the bottom wired and am almost halfway up, thinking I'm close. Little do I know that the crux is yet to come.

Spring 1999: Ahh, back in the ditch. More long moderate classics, a first valley wall route, and more bouldering. Many classic problems go down for the first time, but it takes me an entire session just to work out the bottom sequence that I'd done the previous year. Shortly after, a tendon pulley explodes on a tips crack, and my hard pulling is over for the season. Back to the moderate classics, ibuprofen, and alot of tape.

Summer 2000: More wall routes, harder free climbs, and finally the Lightning goes down after falling off the mantle at least 15 times. I should be ecstatic. I am not. Cocaine Corner resists all attempts. I've still not made it to the crux move.

Fall 2001: I've only got a week or so this time. An El Cap route gets started, but we bail at pitch 4. I try to do Half Dome in a day, and we never even get onto the route itself after marching up the slabs. I work on the problem a few times, but my head and heart is not in it. I hate this place, I want to be anywhere besides here.

Fall 2003: On my way to Alaska for a three year job stint, I'll be damned if I'm driving from Atlanta to Alaska without spending time in the ditch. I try it a couple of times while looking for a wall partner. I can't even do the bottom anymore. A wall gets done, but takes so much out of me that I lay in the meadow drinking King Cobras for a day or two afterwards and then leave. I won't see the valley again for 3 1/2 years.

Spring 2007: After quitting my job the previous fall, and spending all winter climbing in Joshua Tree, I somehow score a position as a Camp 4 campground host. I arrive to cold, wet, snowy conditions in early April. I'm feeling reasonably strong, fit, and tuned. Showing some euros around the bouldering circuit one blustery afternoon, we tick classic after classic, from slabs to mantles to aretes to cracks. Initial Friction, Blue Suede Shoes, Bachar Cracker, Ament Arete, Kor Face all get done . We lounge on pads near the Dominator, directly across from Cocaine Corner, drinking Olde E tallboys, talking maximum shit.

Restless, I boot up and work out the bottom sequence. It's about 40 degrees with a slight breeze. Amazing what good conditions will do. Soon I'm at the crux but can't commit. Over the next week or two I put in a couple of sessions on it by myself between free soloing and seeking out the few longer climbs that are dry and sunny. I've got the section up to the crux ruthelessly wired. A plan is hatched to get 3 pads, and the biggest spotter I know, a 6'2" german kid named Martin who we call the Bezerker, and come back the next day. Overnight, a warm front rolls in with some rain and temps rise 20 degrees. By the time everything dries out, it's in the 80s and too hot for the sloping arete holds. "Shit! Now I'll have to wait until October to have a chance".

September 2007: I climb in the ditch until August, go to Vedauwoo to climb wide cracks for a month, then Darrington, Leavenworth, two weeks of bouldering and fly fishing in Bishop, and at the end of Sept, go back over the pass for the Yosemite Facelift cleanup event. My only goal is Cocaine Corner.

After picking up trash for a day, I set to work. Temps are good, but ten degrees colder would be perfect. I have the bottom wired and show up late one afternoon to see Uncle Stu and some YOSAR guys with a stack of pads over the chopper block. We work it together and I am sticking the extremely tenuous crux move, but falling off the last move with my hand brushing the top jug over and over. I do some other problems and after firing Bachar Cracker again am feeling pretty good watching friends work this classic crack problem...until Sweeney does the Cracker like it's 5.6 and then repeats it in flip-flops.

Two days later I'm back at the Corner, to find James Lucas (the kid who decked free soloing North Overhang at Josh) and crew working it. What luck! I rarely see people working it, and the multiple pads and spotters makes commiting at the crux trivial. But I do no better, falling off the last move over and over.

The forecast calls for cooling temps by the weekend. I have only a few more days, and Saturday is the best chance for a crowd with pads to be there.

Saturday, September 29 2007: I show up mid afternoon, crank the iPod, and wait. Sure enough, an hour or two later a posse of pad people come rolling through and I join in the crew. We warm up on alot of things and then go to the corner. I see a climber who has it wired use a subly different sequence at the crux. I fall off three more times. The crew is about to wrap it up for the day. They ask if I want to try a couple more times before they split with all the pads. I clear up my vision with a little glaucoma medication and nod yes.

Cleaning my shoes, cranking some Crystal Method on the headphones, and zoning out I get into a meditative breathing rhythm. The jacket comes off, and I pull into the bottom moves that I know so well. I botch a sequence, but recover and hit the giant high step in control, pulling to the crux. Chalking off a good foothold, the murmur of the crowd gets louder. It's the usual cacophany of "C'MON!"s and "You Got It!"s. I paste my foot onto the black diorite sloper, adjust my hands on the arete, a high upside down thumbcatch pinch for the right, and a subtle more acute angle on the arete for a pinch with the left down low. Rocking onto the sloper foothold I squeeze the arete with all I've got and stab my left foot up onto another smear. The foot sticks and I'm stable. Adjusting the right foot up two inches, there is only the final move to the jug remaining.

Normally, the yelling and enouragement from the spotters doesn't do much for me. I tune it out and only notice the general hum and roar, the volume, the urgency. But this time was different. As I'm contemplating adjusting my feet again, a girl is yelling "LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT IT!". I look up at the jug and it's right there, just at the end of my reach. Forget moving the feet again, I lunge. As my hand latches the top it's like waking up from a dream. The roar rising from the crowd blends with the one coming from my chest and I'm standing on top, vibrating, stoked.

I must have sat at the bottom for an hour afterwards, trying to make sense of it all. What will I do now? The eight year project is over. Am I happy to have finally done it, or sad that the process is over? Is it a validation of my improving skills, or just a load of attempts and good conditions? I leave the valley with these questions still swirling.

Cocaine Corner V5, Camp4, Yosemite Valley:

Gear Notes:
A few pads and spotters.

Approach Notes:
Two minute walk from the center of Camp4 along the old horse trail.

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#746765 - 11/26/07 01:17 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: willstrickland]
DRep Offline
addicted to

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 508
TRs: 6 Photos: 62
Loc: Valley of the shadow of crappy...
surreal man, Feel it. coolest TR of a boulder problem I've ever read. Congratulations.

#746784 - 11/26/07 01:49 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: willstrickland]
billcoe Offline
Spray Master

Registered: 10/02/02
Posts: 11948
TRs: 4 Photos: 872
Loc: pdx

That looks familiar from over 20 years ago, but I don't think I did it. (before crash pads were used, a day bouldering alone it's easy to back off and do something else:-)

Some of those early valley guys were crazy strong.

Nice job sticking it!

#746787 - 11/26/07 01:54 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: willstrickland]
kevbone Offline
Sick Spray Bird

Registered: 12/31/04
Posts: 15445
TRs: 3 Photos: 291
Loc: land of the little people.
Awesome trip report.
All you need is love.....

#746800 - 11/26/07 02:29 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: kevbone]
Alex Offline

Registered: 10/18/00
Posts: 4676
TRs: 23 Photos: 116
Loc: Seattle, WA, USA
Inspiring TR Will! Makes me reconsider Bouldering as a form of climbing!

#746802 - 11/26/07 02:33 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: Alex]
pink Offline

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 8494
TRs: 1 Photos: 368
i miss the valley

#746817 - 11/26/07 02:54 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: pink]
Hayduke Offline

Registered: 09/16/01
Posts: 84
TRs: 0 Photos: 2
Loc: Seattle, WA
Two thumbs up. I've got to get back...

#746821 - 11/26/07 03:06 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: Hayduke]
Stefan Offline

Registered: 04/16/01
Posts: 2230
TRs: 7 Photos: 9
Loc: the circus
Excellent read. I like the suspensfull build up.
Namaste - Whatever your outer appearance, I see and greet the soul in you.

#747049 - 11/27/07 08:46 AM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: Stefan]
warrior1515 Offline

Registered: 04/01/06
Posts: 46
TRs: 0 Photos: 20
Loc: Bend
Nice work. Great read

#747256 - 11/27/07 07:26 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: warrior1515]
TeleRoss Offline
addicted to

Registered: 06/24/03
Posts: 696
TRs: 37 Photos: 288
Loc: green room
Pebble wrestling
All I do is surf now...but might make a guest appearance on a mountain or two near you wink

#747292 - 11/27/07 09:45 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: willstrickland]
Sherri Offline

Registered: 06/20/06
Posts: 1976
TRs: 6 Photos: 124
Loc: Olympic Peninsula
To paraphrase Lord Mansfield:

A climb is like a love affair. Any fool can start it, but to end it requires considerable skill.

#747296 - 11/27/07 10:13 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: Sherri]
rmncwrtr Offline

Registered: 12/20/06
Posts: 1219
TRs: 2 Photos: 127
Loc: SW Washington
Sherri pm'd me this link and I'm so happy she did. What a cool TR. Congrats!
"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" - Lucy Van Pelt

#747314 - 11/28/07 12:04 AM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/2007 [Re: rmncwrtr]
Dechristo Offline
Spray Master

Registered: 08/09/04
Posts: 10304
TRs: 0 Photos: 22
Loc: between Valhallas
admirable tenacity
chock full o' Higgs boson particles

#747337 - 11/28/07 08:37 AM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: willstrickland]
powdrx Offline

Registered: 05/23/05
Posts: 90
TRs: 5 Photos: 7
Loc: In a haze of Powder
I love Glaucoma mediaction!!! Great TR!!

#747397 - 11/28/07 11:39 AM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: powdrx]
sweatinoutliquor Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/15/04
Posts: 761
TRs: 4 Photos: 91
Loc: Local Boyz
Dude, this is funny, but was just down in the valley over thanksgiving, and I was wondering around the camp 4 boulders trying to find a problem that I could do (totally suck at bouldering, didn't even have a pad or any idea what ratings were). I found this exact problem, took a look at it and thought "hmmm, doesn't look that steep on one side, lots of chalk on it... yeah, I got this no prob". Of course I couldn't even do one move. I'm back for two days and I find out that it was a climber who is much better than me's eight year project.

Anyway, congrats man, and thanks for the great read!
When all else fails, play dead

#747965 - 11/29/07 07:14 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: sweatinoutliquor]
backclipped Offline

Registered: 11/11/04
Posts: 156
TRs: 0 Photos: 0
Loc: Bend, OR
I read alot. I mean, I read ALOT. And, man, that was the sickest thing I've read on a climbing website for quite some time. Good read...good fucking read. Perhaps you'll find your face on one of those inspirational posters you see in doctor and guidance councelor offices. You know, the ones that showcase a word and attempt to define it with a photo of someone doing some inspirational shit. Your word will be Perserverance.

Cheers and congrats.

#748840 - 12/02/07 11:47 PM Re: [TR] Yosemite Valley - Cocaine Corner V5 9/30/ [Re: willstrickland]
olyclimber Offline

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 25303
TRs: 47 Photos: 895
Loc: In Love with You
nice piece of writing Will! inspiring.


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