Dave's bachelor party

October 15-17, 2010

When Dave told us that he and Polly were getting married, I confess that I was immediately psyched for the bachelor party. I knew the right celebration for Dave would not hinge on strippers and overpriced bottles of Grey Goose but rather a long sufferfest in the mountains. In other words, my kind of party.

I have to admit that I started throwing out ideas even before Dave asked me to be his best man. After my role became official, I hatched a plan in September that I hoped would wear Dave into the ground while also being maximally inclusive to the rest of us: a multi-day, multi-sport relay in Yosemite in which Dave would complete every leg and the rest of us could pick and choose whichever activities suited us.

The adventure would start on Friday, October 15th with Dave and Alex climbing Steck-Salathe in the Valley. The rest of the weekend, as it turned out, got complicated:

Day Plan A
made in September
Plan B
made Friday afternoon
Plan C - as executed
made Saturday night
Steck-Salathe Steck-Salathe Steck-Salathe
- Bike Valley floor to Tuolumne Meadows (55mi., 6500')
- Swim Tenaya Lake (1.0mi)
- Tenaya Peak
- Cathedral Peak
- Eichorn's Pinnacle
- Tenaya Peak
- Cathedral Peak
- Eichorn's Pinnacle
- Tenaya Peak
- Matthes Crest
- Cathedral Peak
- Swim Tenaya Lake (1.0mi.)
- Bike Valley floor to Tuolumne Meadows (55mi., 6500')
- Run Tuolumne Meadows to Valley floor (21.4mi.)
- Bike Crane Flat to Tenaya Lake (33mi.)
- Swim Tenaya Lake (1.0mi.)
- Run Tenaya Lake to Valley floor (~16mi.)

Friday, October 15:

Dave and Alex headed out to the Valley on Thursday night, and woke up at 4:00am Friday to start Steck-Salathe. I had hoped that ~15 pitches of brutally physical squeeze chimneys would sufficiently pre-tire Dave for the rest of the weekend (turns out I was wrong). Alex was a champ for stepping up to the challenge despite his claim of having not climbed in the previous few months and being horribly out of shape.

The weather for the weekend was looking clear when they left Palo Alto, but on Friday, with them on the route and me still at my desk at school checking weather.gov and attempting to herd the other participants together, the forecast started to turn bad, with a 40% (read: 100%) chance of rain and/or snow predicted for Tuolumne on Sunday. That meant me spending my afternoon scrambling to arrange a new schedule, and by the end of the day, Plan B was born.

Even with a plan in mind, I was downright nervous on Friday evening: I hadn't had much time to evaluate the new plan or iron out all the logistics, the weather was looking increasingly uncertain, and most of all, I'd impulsively decided to up the ante by adding in 20 miles of running. (Later, during the car ride, I talked over the numbers with Chris - who did the New Zealand Ironman two years ago - and we realized that I'd inadvertently proposed what basically amounted to a half-Ironman: 40% of the swim, 40% of the bike and 80% of the run.) The fact that I was coming down with a cold didn't help my confidence. At 5pm I stopped by our department happy hour, but instead of my usual beer or three, I knocked back a 32oz. Gatorade and headed home to finish packing.

At this point, the rest of the invitees had bailed due to laziness (I kid), and Chris and I found ourselves the only ones heading out to rendezvous with Dave and Alex. We loaded up my trusty Subaru, Pokey, with an awesome cross-section of sporting equipment and started driving.

Shortly after leaving Palo Alto, Dave and Alex called; they'd finished the climb, and although they were still an hour from the base, they had cell service and hoped we'd be able to order food for them at the Pizza Deck before it closed. Needless to say, they were dismayed that we were still four hours away. We gave them a few details of our new plan and arranged to meet them at 7:30am at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead in Tuolumne. Chris and I got to Harden Flat outside the park entrance around 11:00pm and slept there.

Saturday, October 16:

Chris and I woke up half an hour late due to a miscommunication about who was setting an alarm, and we floored it up to Tuolumne as fast as Pokey would allow. We met Dave and Alex and wasted a good half hour in exuberant chatter about their Steck-Salathe climb and the agenda for the next two days. We were pleased to see that they were in fine shape after their 15 hour day. They'd sent the route in good form, with no falls or aiding, and Dave only touching gear after getting off route and needing to back-track.

When we finally got down to business, we racked up for the day, left one car in the Meadows, drove the other car to Tenaya Lake, and were crossing the beach towards Tenaya Peak at the leisurely hour of 9:15am.

Ok, weirdos.

The goal for the day was to link some alpine moderates as a rest day in between Steck-Salathe and Sunday's triathlon. We'd all been up Tenaya except Dave, so route-finding was easy, and the climb was as fun as I remembered. I roped up with Alex and we were on the summit at 11:30am after two long simul-pitches.

Unfortunately, we'd agreed to meet Jim at the base of Cathedral at 11:00am, so we were already late (or so we thought). After some obligatory summit photos, Alex started hiking back to the car for some beauty rest, and Dave, Chris and I set off cross-country towards Cathedral Peak. We arrived at the base at 1:15pm, feeling bad for making Jim wait two hours for us, only to see him arrive sweating and apologetic within five minutes of us -- uncannily, we were both 2 hours and 15 minutes late.

Clouds rolling in on the approach to Cathedral Peak.

Dave and I roped up together, and as I started up, the clouds started rolling in more heavily and we could see snow falling to the north, so Chris and Jim started hiking around the peak in order to reach Eichorn's Pinnacle more directly; their goal for the afternoon was to install a plaque on Eichorn's in remembrance of our friend Chris Chan. When Dave and I topped out on Cathedral at 3-something after two simul-pitches, there was already a crowd on top of the Pinnacle. We headed over in increasingly cold weather and found a nice little Stanford Alpine Club gathering. In total there were ten of us that were there for the installation of the plaque.

Dave scrambles over to Eichorn's Pinnacle.

We were back at the cars at 6:00pm, and quickly headed down to Lee Vining for pizza and beer at the Mobil. We struggled to get a weather forecast on Chris' phone, and what we managed to see didn't look good: the chance of precipitation for Sunday was up to 80%, starting early in the day, with possible thunderstorms, possible snow accumulation, and the possibility of Tioga Pass closing (with us on the wrong side if we weren't careful). After an hour of head-scratching attempts at planning (a farmer has a goose, a fox, and a bag of grain and needs to cross a river...) we arrived at Plan C.

We slept in Lee Vining where it would be lower and hence warmer, but it turned out to be plenty warm. The first showers came a few hours after we went to sleep, and the tree I was sleeping under provided insufficient shelter. It wasn't raining hard enough, and I was too lazy, to get up and get in Chris' tent, so I pulled my sleeping bag over my head to keep the rain drops splashing on my face from keeping me awake and hoped the rain would stop shortly. It did, and I was dry when I woke up. Dave was less confident, or more proactive--he got up and spent the rest of the night sleeping in his car. (I still don't understand how he sleeps in a Jetta.)

Sunday, October 16:


We woke up at 4:30am and were on the road by 5:00. Good timing, too; it started raining ten minutes into the drive. At Tioga Pass (9940'), it was falling as sleet. The rain slackened off a bit later, to our relief. We reached Crane Flat at first light, got our bikes ready to go, and attempted to get the right gear in the right cars for the remainder of the day. Alex graciously bowed out of the day's festivities and thus provided the invaluable service of driving support and car shuttles, so it was only Dave, Chris and I that set off on our bikes at 7:20am.

The 33-mile ride (5800' vertical) up to Tenaya breezed by in 2 hours 20 minutes. We got rained on a little bit but we dried out quickly in the high, dry air. The traffic was light given the lateness of the season and the earliness in the day, not to mention the approaching storm. I wasn't as bothered by the lack of a shoulder as I'd anticipated.

Elevation profile for our ride.

We met Alex and Pokey at the east end of Tenaya Lake at 10:00am, and he and I loaded the bikes in the back while Dave and Chris suited up for their swim.

It was an impressive sight watching them wade out into the frigid water. Alex and I took turns driving the car and walking the shoreline on lifeguard duty, and the guys made steady progress. Chris was the stronger swimmer (sorry, Dave), and he could be seen making strong crawl strokes a few yards ahead of Dave, whose head bobbed above the surface as he breast-stroked his way across the lake. Apparently, it was so cold that they had a hard time keeping their heads in the water. Next time: hoods.

They took 40 minutes to cross the 1 mile lake, and they were in high spirits when they got out of the water. Quickly though they started slurring their words and over the next 20 minutes their movements grew clumsy and they began shivering despite now being dry and clothed. They tried to eat, but Dave had trouble getting food down and admitted to feeling like throwing up. Fortunately Alex and I were warm and comfortable and hence able to keep an observant and critical eye on their state of health. Eventually the jackets, blankets and food got them warm, and we suited up for the run.

The trail from Tenaya to the Valley is around 16 miles. We took one backpack with 2 liters of Gatorade, some gu packets and some bars. At 12:10pm, 40 minutes after Dave and Chris got out of the lake, Dave, Chris and I started running. We arranged to meet Alex at the Glacier Point parking lot, and he drove the car full of bikes back to Crane Flat, where he swapped Pokey for Dave's Jetta in order to seat four (yes, this was a logistical headache).

Exactly six minutes after starting the run, lightning lit up the sky and a huge peal of thunder rang out. The timing was perfect--all along we said that we didn't mind rain as long as the run was underway when it started, and that's precisely how it worked out. It rained on and off for the rest of the day, but it was easy to keep warm as long as we kept moving. The trail gained a lot of elevation initially, but once we were past Cloud's Rest the trail started losing serious vert. We ticked off the miles, and the rain picked up as we got lower into the Valley. Around Vernal Falls we split up, with Dave and I taking the longer but less slippery John Muir Trail for the final few miles, while Chris took the more direct but steeper Mist Trail.

Half Dome!

I'd never hiked on any of Yosemite's major hiking trails, nor been to any of the non-climbing scenic destinations, and this was quite the introduction. The rain and mist and clouds shrouding the cliffs put the landscape in a dreamy state that I'd never experienced in the Valley. Dave and I sprinted down the final few miles from Nevada Falls at a nearly out of control pace, scaring plenty of soggy tourists. By the last mile my knees were screaming as I struggled to keep up with Dave. I felt a little disappointed that our attempt to tire Dave out completely had failed, since he finished the day stronger than any of us.

At Happy Isles, Dave proclaimed, "Real men ford the river!" and strolled right into the Merced.

Elevation profile for our run.

We got to the Glacier Point parking lot 3 hours and 48 minutes after leaving Tenaya. It was only 4:00pm. Alex was waiting with a much-appreciated box of still-warm pizza. Chris arrived 20 minutes later, and we happily changed into dry clothes, packed up the car, and headed out, stopping to admire Sentinel and marvel and Dave and Alex's climb of two days prior.

We had dinner at Priest Station, and by that time it was pouring rain.

Comparing battle wounds.

On Monday morning I attempted to pay penance for dodging the swim by doing a mile in the pool. Later in the day Alex reported that Dave had slept in the car all the way back from dinner: "Guess he was a little tired after all."