Since moving to the Bay Area at the end of 2005 I have been afforded the luxury of living a mere 4 hour drive from one of the most historical climbing destinations in the history of climbing and some of the best granite in the world–Yosemite.

El Cap as seen from the road into the Valley.

Coming from Southern California and climbing mostly in Bishop and Hueco in the past, I wasn’t used to the subtle and technical nature of the granite in Yosemite and avoided going there at first. Much like a self taught musician or dancer being reprimanded for the bad habits and sloppy technique that comes without a classical education, I was hesitant to subject myself to the flailing that was a constant reminder of my lack of technique  and poise on this demanding and very technical style of granite. But eventually I started going and with much patience I began to learn the way. It has proven to be the best learning experience I’ve ever had and one that continues to shape my climbing to this day.

The early days of climbing in Yosemite on Cocaine Corner (V5).

This weekend marked a very distinctive moment for me in my 11 years of climbing. I managed to send one of my hardest climbs to date–Drive On (V11). Drive On is near the Indian Caves in Yosemite Valley and was first put up by Randy Puro in May of 2005 who gave it the tentative grade of “hard V10.” CLICK HERE for the original report on the BetaBase blog. Since then a slew of strong climbers have repeated the highball and the consensus grade is now considered to be V11 according to those that have climbed it.

Video stills of Drive On from a previous weekend from Anthony Lapomardo

Video still of Drive On from a previous weekend by Anthony Lapomardo

This beautiful 20 foot face is suspended between two boulders and is gently overhung with small flat and sloping crimps and although it’s very technically demanding it’s also very powerful. Needless to say, this climb was my style to a tee and I still found it very difficult. I first worked on it last Fall with some bad beta but later that season I was lucky to get a chance to work it with Thomasina Pidgeon and found her beta to be much better. After watching her send gracefully I had a very good attempt where I fell on the very last move to the jug at the top. Snow came that evening and ended the season and so began a very impatient 3 month wait to get back on it again after coming painfully close before.

Drive On (V11).

Fast forward to this season…February has brought surprisingly good conditions in the Valley. Usually it’s too snowy/wet and conditions are anywhere from heinous to less than ideal. This weekend was certainly no exception, in fact we couldn’t have asked for better conditions here in Yosemite. I spent the last trip (two weeks ago) re-learning the beta and even coming very close again before falling at the top with my friend Bruno filming. Saturday we headed out there late and dew point hit making the air humid and the climb feel slimy. No send. Sunday we headed out earlier and precisely at 3:16pm the climb went into the shade and I pulled on with Bruno filming from the top again. I thought I was going to have to put up a fight, I was prepared to give it everything I had because this climb was one failed attempt away from getting under my skin but before I pulled on I made myself clear my mind and without thinking I climbed. I grabbed every hold perfectly, executed every move flawlessly and for a moment in time I was perfect. Topping it out was almost anti-climactic because it felt so easy. Something just clicked and I was standing on the top hugging my friend Bruno.  Another dream climb on my list DONE. Unreal.

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”-Lao Tzu


Here is a list of some of the Dream Climbs I have managed to climb for myself, all of which have their own significance and all of which are very meanginful to me in their own way;

-Thriller (V10)

-The Force (V9/10)

-Zodiac (V10)

-The Seam (V11)

-The Pugilist (V9)

-Tombstone (V9)

-Greenerer Pastures (V9)

-Orion (V8)

-Midnight Lightning (V8)

-No Holds Barred (V7)

-Blue Suede Shoes (V5)

-Cocaine Corner (V5)

Thriller. photo by Damon Corso

Tombstone. photo Susanica Tam

The Force. photo John Dickey

This isn’t everything I’ve done in Yosemite but just some of the more personally significant climbs I have done. I have poured my heart and soul into these climbs and they all mean a lot to me. The story never stops though and it’s time to turn the page! This year (The Year of the 11!!!!) is already looking very promising and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!

Here is the video of Drive On:

Here is a very good related TED Talk that gave me goosebumps, especially at the end. Definitely watch this if you have a few minutes.

Here is a video of my ascent of The Force by John Dickey

Here are some other photos from the weekend.

Bruno on Atlantis (V6)

Ethan Pringle rapping off Dogwood (V12) during a night session.

Yosemite moss.

The Force (V9/10)

Bruno on The Force.

Bruno on The Force

Bruno on The Force

Bruno on Orion (V8)

The Valley at sunset.

7 responses to “YOSEMITE VALLEY

  1. Pingback: Drive On (V11) Repeated By Natasha Barnes | Climbing Narcissist·

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention YOSEMITE VALLEY | Natasha Barnes Climbing Blog -- Topsy.com·

  3. way to go natasha!! one more of the proudest lines in the valley under your belt now! oh and by the way… I watched the TED talk and I’m pretty inspired now. that was deep. whenever I can’t find new beta I will watch that video.

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