Dancing With Shiva
When I turned 40 years old, I celebrated by self-flagellation on a scary punishing route that made me late for the only birthday party I'd had in decades.

By divine non-coincidence, I learned my friend Dan Dingle had put up a new, unrepeated route on North Dome about the same time my partner for the birthday epic turned 40 himself. Young buck no Mo'!

It only seemed proper that he should pass through some fitting crucible on this crossroads into senility. I would have liked for him to endure something similarly wretched as “Wild Thing” but the problem was, I'd have to go with him!

So we set our sights on the second ascent of Dan's route, “Nataraj.” (grade IV 13 pitches, 5.10b A0) Nataraj is the Sanskrit name for the “Dancing Shiva,” which symbolizes God creating, maintaining and destroying the universe, and conquering ignorance, in a great cosmic dance. Coincidentally, I was very close with a wonderful Indian Yogi, now dancing off in the universe himself, who wanted to nickname me “Nataraj.” I had to do this route.

Plus, it was the closest two mediocre climbers could get to glory without actually paying dues humping loads, buying bolts, and investing sweat and tears putting up a route in the first place. Thanks Dan and crew.

Days were getting shorter, and our guns were low caliber to start with, so we decided it would be bonding to stage the climb from the top of Royal Arches. Sadly the spring was reported to be dry so we had to carry water and bivy gear up the route so we could start fresh the next day. Lummox was late to my house in Wawona on day one. By the time we reached the valley, we ran into Hans Florine and Yuji who had already climbed the Nose and hiked down! It took them 2:48 or so for the climb, and already feeling old, knew we'd have to struggle to equal their time on the Arches.

After the first 5.7 variation pitch on the Arches, we climbed solo with fairly heavy packs (I had almost 2 gallons of water) I was mocked by finding a full water bottle on the climb and also noticing that the spring had been replenished enough that we could have pumped water from it. There was also the nagging feeling that Lummox, having done the route probably 100 times fewer than I had, might fall to his death and I'd have to break the good news to his wife that she didn't have to worry about his aged condition any longer.

Fortunately, we both survived, felt kinda worked, but enjoyed catching up on our lives under the stars in the incomparable valley. Our time on the route probably matched Hans and Yuji's nose time. Take that Old guys! They didn't even have to carry bivy gear!

It was a brrr cool night so we started hiking at about 730 am and managed to arrive at the base of the climb a little slower than it takes Potter to send the whole Arches car to car.

Oh well. I cheat better than Lummox so he elected me to tackle the first pitch with a bit of 5.10 and some A0. Being older and stupider, I hadn't even realized that set me up to lead 4 of the 5 5.10 pitches on the route.

The lower pitches have some sections of A0 and 5.10 climbing. It's both unfortunate and strangely fun to ape up bolted sections in disregard of preconception of climbing Puritanism. The first ascent party could have pushed the free climbing to 5.11 or even 5.12 and still had A0 sections, but the whole character of the climb suits a modest 5.10 climber's skills and esthetic, so I commend Dan Dingle and his friends for putting up a climb for more people to enjoy. Dan virtually owns North Dome, having been on the first ascent of Crest Jewel, Dakshina, and Crest Jewel Direct, so naturally, his creation fits right in with the character of the rest of the routes.

The angle of the route kicks back a bit in the middle section. You have to do long runouts on 5.7 and the bolts are not easily visible from the belay. You have to have faith that they are there. They are, but I actually had to downclimb 25 feet to a belay that I managed to bypass. There are plans to add rap links to belays to faciliate retreat and that might help you find them too.

It was a lovely climb. North Dome has splendid granite and arguably the finest views of a valley climb. There is no sense of vehicles buzzing around at your feet. We did see helicopters buzzing around checking out the previous days rockfall right of the Glacier Point apron. Choppers always seem to show up when I'm at some crux! In this case, I had climbed up too high and left at a 5.10 crux and had to pussyfoot with little hope of success over right to regain the line. Holding on harder to nothing was not an option. Hold my breath and hope the nubbins under my feet would bite into the rubber.

Miraculously I made it. I was determined not to fall so I could play the game of a clean ascent. With all the 5.10 behind us, I felt it was in the bag. Fate has a way of humbling a person though, and on the next pitch, I was casually standing cleaning a quickdraw while following and suddenly slipped. I like to think I caught myself after a few feet but I'm probably fooling myself. Best to be humble anyway. Sometimes the Native Americans would weave elaborate, perfectionist baskets and intentionally include a flaw to protect them from excess pride and hubris. I tried to equate my little slip with such ego insurance.

I'm pleased and sad to report that no other great mishaps confronted us on our journey; sad for the reader, good for the old guys! Our climb was just one out of a million magical yet merely challenging adventures for two brothers to share on the grand stage of nature. Nataraj was spinning the drama of creation and dissolution against the backdrop of eternity. We danced on stone to celebrate our existence strung between our birth and inevitable death. Friendship, adventure, and beauty: how grateful we are for the blessings received on the dance floor of golden granite.

Nataraj Topo and Beta

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The great and powerful Lummox Solo on the Arches and on the Penji Moves
Baba AO on Pitch one
Lummox at Pitch 2 Anchors Dakshina Roof on the Right.
Lummox following Pitch 3 Lummox Leading Pitch 12
Lummox (Mark Albosta) and Baba