This trip began in September 2003, and finished in October, 2004. A group of friends was sitting on top of Half Dome after having climbed the cables. We'd left Upper Pines Campground at dawn, and had a nice hike in past Vernal and Nevada Falls. While lounging on top I happened to turn my gaze to the east. "Hey, Kathy, what's that?" "Mt. Starr King", she said. She told me her story of climbing it many years ago. "You could lead that," she said.
It was a nice looking dome, far away from the crowds of the valley. Kathy said it was a long approach from Glacier Point Road. Sounded sweet!
When I told Mary Jo about it, she was just as intrigued. This would
become our top goal for 2004! Checking our calendar, we saw that there
was an SCMA trip scheduled for October 8-11. Perfect. The weather
would be just right for the valley, and the club would pick up the
camping fee. It just gets better and better. The only drawback was
having to wait until October.
The night before we were to leave for Yosemite, R.J. called with bad news. He would not be able to make the trip. This changed our plans as well, as I was unwilling to go ahead with the traverse. I have the the old school prejudice against descending a route that you didn't ascend. So the SE route it would be.
After arriving in Upper Pines Campground, we set up camp, and went looking for club members. We ran into Judy Rittenhouse and Dave German and started yakking. When they heard of our plans to try Starr King, they became interested. Judy had never been up there, and Dave was intrigued by R.J.'s idea of a traverse. They were free Sunday, so it was decided to go for it. We'd leave early Sunday morning and drive to the Mono Meadows trailhead.
Mary Jo and I spent Saturday on a walking tour of the valley. Saturday evening we were in the bags early to be ready for our dawn start.
Sunday morning, we had a quick breakfast and walked to Dave and Judy's camp site. Dave and Judy had the same idea. Eventually we bumped into each other and were off. While driving by El Capitan in the early morning darkness we saw headlamps high on the rock.
At 7 Am we arrived at the trailhead parking, and set off for Starr King. We were armed with a small rack of protection: a set of wired stoppers, and a few cams. We had added two extra number 2 Camalots, heeding the warning in Oliver's trip report. We brought along a set of 60 m twin ropes, purchased earlier in the year just for this trip.
The day proved perfect for the hike in, as we hiked in through a landscape of forest and dome.
We were just in awe of the beautiful country and scenery we were traveling through. We caught another view of the small dome we had seen earlier.
As we approached the NE side, it got brushier even as our route steepened.
The first pitch was around 75 feet long. It was a remarkably blank slab that offered no place to set protection. Fortunately it was low angle, and well featured. The climbing was quite easy actually. I got to the belay stance, and was able to place a couple of very good stoppers. I belayed Judy and Mary Jo up one at a time. They both jogged up this pitch, and just about wore my arm out.
The second pitch was around 50 meters long. It followed a crack that started thin, and soon widened out to a consistent 2" wide. The number 2 Camaolots worked great here. I also got purple and green Metolius Power Cams to work here. More number 2 Camalots would have been very welcome right about here. At places, vegetation filled the crack, at which point I stepped out onto the slab, which was quite easy. At an obvious belay stance, I stopped and brought up Mary Jo and Judy. Again, they showed no mercy on my poor arm.
The last pitch is easy fourth class, but we stayed roped up. I wondered up the slab a bit, and set a belay anchor right below the summit talus. After bringing up Judy, she belayed Mary Jo, while I scrambled up to the summit. Expecting to find Dave alone, instead I found that he had company. Mischa and Etsuko from the Bay Area had climbed the SE Saddle route.
We all enjoyed lunch and the terrific view,