Bridal Veil - Groom's Variation - Retro Trip Report
This is a retro report of a scorching day in August 2007, when Thanh and I climbed what turned out to be parts of a new line just to the right of Bridal Veil East - The Groom's Variation 5.10- A1. The route is one and a half stars out of three for route quality, three stars for location/view, possibly only climbable in a drought year, about 11 pitches (partly due to us being clueless), if you have a decent topo - should be not too hard to find. The true Bridal Veil East chimney route goes up the obvious chimney to the left. The BV East chimneys didn't look like fun, so somehow we convinced ourselves that the route we were on was actually a route. It was 90 degrees out, we didn't have enough water (3 liters between 2 ppl), we climbed up a few new pitches between existing stuff, and drank out of Bridal Veil Creek... and didn't get sick.
Photos and a topo of sorts are available on my smugmug page.
If this variation gets enough traffic this year (drought conditions!), it could be a two star fun line. A moderate 5.10, very short aid sections that could go free, short approach. Watch out for people down below in the pool. I incorrectly posted earlier that this wasn't a good route to do on weekends - that is the case w/ say 10 Years After and the Lower Yosemite Falls area, but not here - just don't drop rocks on swimmers below.
We started up fairly early - 8AM? No tourists were out yet. The approach involved hiking first to the observation platform below Bridal Veil, and then following the mostly dry creek bed up to the base of the water fall. Just hiking up to the pool at the base of the fall is worth it - really cool area most folks never see.
We weren't entirely sure where to start. There's a shoulder of sorts above and left of the pool. The route could start up left. Or, you can start right out of the pool that the falls flow into. We chose the start out of the pool area. A few hours later this would be filled with tourists splashing about. The pool is chilly, but on a 95 degree August afternoon, quite welcome.
The following pic can be found in greater detail on Photos my smugmug page.. The route we did is in red. The blue indicates what we think the topo indicated.
Thanh lead up the first pitch quickly - perhaps 5.8 up to some slings! Aha there was an anchor. Pitch 2 followed a 5.9 wide crack, a bit on the gravely/loose side, but what a cool place to be. By then it was already heating up - daytime high of 90-95 predicted. Fortunately this route is shaded until about 2PM. And down low you get the mist from the falls cooling you off - a natural AC system!
Pitch 3 required a short traversal left. Straight up above the top of 2 looked ugly, grassy and loose. Thanh led the short traverse and then (after some time setting a tricky belay), fired up pitch 4 - probably 5.9. We though we were on BV East - totally on something else. Just looking at the BV Chimney, we were definitely having more fun. It was fun climbing and (if you squint enough) any route will resemble another topo somewhat. Pitch 5 was a rampy traverse up and right. There was a pleasant, and solid belay on a 2' ledgy area at the end.
From the top of 5, we thought we had several options - in the above photo, it's where the three branches start. Idea one, marked in blue, shows one potential option cutting right around a OW looking block (probably requiring a big bro or run out). The other possible option was straight up, also in blue, thin and grassy. (We thought we were on BV East, so we thought these were actual options. For all we know, they're impossible). Thanh gave both a good shot, found the traverse right too scary, and straight up grass filled with no pro. It was pretty hot, and the rock had some lose spots - better to back off than get hurt in a serious fall. We only had one rope (maybe not so good on a mystery route), but enough gear if we needed to bail. So Thanh went the only way he could, and traversed left to possibly a wide crack alternative.
The next lead was mine - a mystery pitch that followed over a roof that had once been climbed! It continued, perhaps 5.10b up a crack, and right to a spooky hanging belay with some rap slings. With some very tricky/careful work, I had a solid belay. The belay (top of 6) could be dangerous if you are new to trad pro in the valley, so be careful.
The last party who made it to the top of 6 (our variant), had probably bailed. It was mid afternoon by now, we were in the sun, and low on water. From here, bailing would have meant leaving gear. Rather than bail, Thanh fought his way up the next (definitely new) pitch. From the belay, it felt like someone was pouring a bag of potting soil down the back of my shirt. This is probably where, with enough traffic and clean up, the route would be really cool. Following it was pretty fun - good stemming, harder 5.10 climbing. When I reached the belay Thanh was covered in dirt and totally dehydrated. He was out of water - so we dug into my second liter. I was grumbly that he'd only brought 1 liter on a day predicted to be 90 out, but all was way more than forgiven since he'd lead through the previous vertical garden of pitch(7).
Our belay at the top of 7 was more or less above what we thought was original route - NOT! It does appear that our pitch 7 is somewhere near the Aqua Variation. Aqua goes right, we went up.
From here, I lead up to an alcove. Given the heat, and dehydration, 5.8 probably felt like 5.10. Thanh lead 9 up an overhung hand crack - we figured this was the infamous "Midget Chimney" (HAR! - Midget Chimney is 100yds to the left in a chimney system). By now it was getting dark. I followed up by headlamp to find Thanh belaying in a tree with some kind of back up pro. From here the original route may have branched right. I continued up a short pitch on aid up a chimney - A1 with small aliens. The pitch might have gone free.
Last pitch - number 11. Thanh was severely dehydrated from his hour+ blast up pitch 7 - a new Yosemite pitch! So I continued on aid - up a crack and out a roof! This last pitch resembles Overhang Bypass or Commitment. It's probably easy, but given my state, it was time to stand in slings. After some thrashing on aid it was over. Thanh followed up. It was 10PM.
We opted to thrash through the Manzanita down to the river and drink directly out of BridalVeil Creek. The thinking was that while Giardia would hurt, taking a fall in the Gunsight Gully would be far worse. The thrash was no fun - I have a permanent scar on my right arm now from a nasty gash. We hiked a ways up the creek - so to stay far enough from the actual falls. After drinking about a liter or so of un-purified Yosemite creek water and filling up, we thrashed through the Manzanita, up to the Gunsight Gully. I'd been down this a few week earlier (also out of water) after topping Lower Cathedral's East Buttress. We took it slow down the Gunsight, one fixed rope downclimb and two rappels, some more hiking, we were at the car by 2AM.
The next morning I was on the phone with Kaiser - turns out that until you show symptoms of anything, you're SOL. Two years later - no Giardia. Unfortunately, my wife Cleo (we were married a month earlier) emailed all our friends about the incident announcing had severe intestinal distress...
Overall, a fun route. If you can move fast, and bring enough water, you're in good shape. We had some hand crack sized stuff along and #4 Camalot. The aliens came in handy as well.
I was married a month before this - dubbing this minor variation "The Groom's Variation". Given other wide-crack nightmare sounding reports, it sure sounds like we found a relatively fun line up the wall.