James Lu­cas ex­pe­ri­ences “pink rain” on the Rostrum.


IN SEPTEM­BER 2007, I en­coun­tered a new kind of Yosemite rain. My friend John Sch­mid, a pe­di­atric nurse, and I left Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, be­fore dawn, driv­ing through thun­der­storms to the Val­ley. Our goal was Beg­gar’s But­tress, a nine-pitch 5.11c. Dou­ble-fist­ing en­ergy drinks and chew­ing ni­co­tine gum, John tore up the moun­tain roads in his Subaru while I white-knuck­led in the pas­sen­ger seat.

We power-hiked to the climb amidst a swirling mass of gray clouds. Then the rain started. I pored through the guide­book, want­ing this trip to be more than just a soggy day hike. A route caught my eye: Kauku­la­tor, an 80-foot sin­gle pitch 5.11c on the west face of the Rostrum that had a pro­tec­tive cap­stone roof. “Stays dry in a light rain,” I read to John from the book. Per­fect. We marched to the Rostrum. Hopped up on caf­feine and ni­co­tine, John jit­tered through Kauku­la­tor’s off-fin­gers and thin-hand jams, then be­low the an­chor hit a 12-foot stretch of “5.10c of­fwidth”— which in the Val­ley can mean any­thing. I shud­dered watch­ing John thrutch up the 4.5” maw, groan­ing oc­ca­sion­ally. As he reached the an­chors, the rain in­ten­si­fied, along with ad­vanc­ing thun­der.

As I low­ered John, he hollered, “Stop!” I as­sumed he was hav­ing trou­ble pulling out a cam. But no, this was some­thing else: John braced his feet against the rock, leaned back, and then BLECH!!! A tor­rent of pink vomit flooded out of his mouth. BLECH!!! Again, mix­ing with the rain, a nox­ious cas­cade that for­tu­nately fell out past me. John had been pushed over the edge by the en­ergy drinks, the ni­co­tine, the early start, the drive, and the dif­fi­cult of­fwidth.

Af­ter he dry-heaved a few more times, I low­ered John back to the be­lay. My hag­gard friend looked at me and said, “I think we for­got our hik­ing per­mits at the Lodge.”

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