Manure Pile Engagement

We had a very, very special trip to Yosemite to throw a top of the rock engagement party for our dear friends Matt and Emily!

It all started a couple years ago when young, single Emily told me, and every one of our friends, about an amazing engagement party she had climbed into on top of Manure Pile Buttress in Yosemite (or Ranger Rock for the more aesthetically inclined). She told me dang, I would love to have an engagement party up there.

Cut to: a year later, Emily and Matt were just two friends on a fateful Red Rocks trip. The two of them picked me and Marty up from the airport and were giggling HARD. Marty and I gave each other knowing looks ;). Fast forward to September 2023, when Matt told us he was going to propose! We immediately got to work planning a surprise engagement party for Emily, just as she had always dreamed. 

Red Rocks 2021: just two acquaintances having a reallyyyy good time with each other 😉

We had to be sneaky with our planning because Emily is a smart one. The name of our coordination meeting was “Flap Actuators — dynamic and control”, and the group text was called “Marty’s Famous Beans Forum” The crew drove up Friday morning, having all stopped location sharing with Emily so she wouldn’t get suspicious. Matt ended up proposing just a couple days before the party, and Emily said Yes! To get Emily to the top, Matt convinced her that he wanted to take engagement photos up there, and that Cathie and Harry would come help.

Meanwhile, we packed oodles of charcuterie supplies, watermelon, snacks, a cake, flowers, candles, a big table, two benches, and more into backpacks and haul bags. Aurora had taken charge of decorations, and had really outdone herself — making a homemade sign, getting flowers, making a card — what a gal!

As soon as Cathie and Emily were out of sight climbing , Matt and Harry ran over to give us the ok to start hiking. We embarked and got slightly lost, but after some good bush whacking, we made it to the top, table and all.

The great schlep commenced! =

We quickly got to work assembling the table, chairs, lights, charcuterie board, etc, etc. We also made sure none of the charcuterie foods were poisonous.

I mean, look at this spread!

We were all set up, then Marty and Alan made us hide—  saying we had to be ready to surprise Emily as soon as she popped over the edge. Alan would like to note that if we hadn’t hid, we would have definitely eaten the entire charcuterie board.

Hiding in the bushes
Marty getting as close as he can to the action

Emily topped out, saw the table and later told us her first thought was, whattt is someone having an engagement party?? But then Matt and Harry revealed that that someone was her, and we were all there too!!! Much rejoicing commenced- we hugged, we danced, we popped bottles, and we eventually got the whole story of how the proposal went.

Matt re-enacting the proposal!
Popping bottles with a nut tool

As climbers topped out, we handed them cups of champagne and cookies, and beckoned them to join the party. Eventually, Hans Florine showed up! He was tickled by the outrageousness of the scene in front of him, and enjoyed some fresh watermelon with us. We got rowdy!

No party is complete without a round of “put cathie in the haul bag”
start of the night dancing

End of the night dancing
The betrothed!

Finally, as the sun set, we held hands and had a little candle lit seance to close the evening, then hiked down in the dark to meet up with Matt’s parents Barb and Greg. They had prepared a feast for us. I had a life changing bruschetta from Greg — he told us the trick is to rub the bread with garlic before toasting. My mind was blown.

We brought a lottt of food
Back at the campground, where Barb and Greg had set up a cozy little spot


The party didn’t stop on Friday though! In the morning we all gathered at Barb and Greg’s campground and had a delicious breakfast on a cloudy valley morning,

Getting a master class in campground cooking from the Epperson’s
the world’s bestest boy, Lincoln <3

Towards the end of breakfast Alan came up to Mel and said Mel, Matt and I are leaving right now to simul Royal Arches before the rain hits. I overheard and said to Mel, gee that sounds fun, should we go too? Mel, who is literally always down to climb, said yeah of course! So we racked up and walked over to the start of Royal arches with the boys. 

We hiked over, and the boys set off with us close behind. I led until the top of the first real finger crack, then Mel and I switched. Right as Mel was in a slightly slippery layback, it started raining. Frick. Mel’s an animal though, and she kept churning through the pitches. We did the pendulum as mini waterfalls ran down the rock, and Mel got to another slippery lieback right as it started DUMPING. Fortunately, it was still quite warm out, and not too windy, so Mel sucked it up and kept going. I actually was enjoying myself quite a bit, climbing in the warm late summer rain made it feel like a proper adventure…..also Mel was the one leading during all of the downpours :P.

see that mist? That’s the downpour about to wreck us.

By some stroke of luck it stopped raining by the time I was leading some of the upper slab pitches, and the rock was even mostly dry by the end! We made it to the rap anchors, appreciated the view, then started the raps down, having made it to the top in around 3 hours.

Summit selfie with the very brave and very strong Mel!
Safe and sound and wet after the raps

We jumped in the river which felt amazing after the muggy afternoon descent. We returned to camp and promptly consumed a thousand calories worth of ramen, salad, sandwiches, homemade fudge, and chips. Mel, Alan and I headed over to Sentinel Creek to try and catch Cathie, Aurora, and Ally before they left. We got there right as they were wrapping up on Mañana. I hopped on, and did better than my last attempt, but no sending. Alan meanwhile cruised up Ying yang, and Mel easily cleaned up Mañana. We headed back to camp pooped but stoked.

We met up with the Boyz (Marty, Harry, and Nate) who had been fishing all day. Notably they were fishing, not catching, having not gotten a single bite all day. They still had a marvelous time though, and when we went back to the swimming hole, Marty spotted some rises and couldn’t help but whip out the rod once more. He and Nate ended up fishing until dark while the rest of us went back to camp to start preparing dinner. They caught one tiny fish! First fish of the trip.

Swimming and also bathing
Matt caught a crayfish. I was less excited

Harry and Cathie had brought their portable pizza oven, and that night dished up some camp pizza! The pizzas were delicious, with the notable exception of my special pizza.

Which was EXTRA DELICIOUS. The base was asian chili oil mixed with minced garlic, and this was topped with ricotta, mozzarella, and peaches. I finished it all off with a healthy dose of arugula. People liked my pizza so much that they could only eat one bite before filling up and putting the slice back to share with others. Weird.

Second day of Campground Cooking Masterclass


Cathie and I wanted to try hard before our trip to the Hulk, so we set off to climb Moratorium (11b) up on Schultz’s ridge. We were so concerned about beating the afternoon rain forecast that halfway up the climb I realized I had forgotten to put on sunscreen! Meanwhile, the sun was out in full force and it was getting pretty toasty. I decided to risk it, mostly because I didn’t want to hike down and back up.

I took the first lead, and the first pitch was absolutely stellar -> a perfect crack in a clean corner of grey gold granite. My head game has been a little weak from not climbing outside as much, so I took twice. Meanwhile Cathie was _crushing_, and breezed up the first pitch and her lead on the second pitch. Finally, we were both a little nervous about the final 11b pitch, but since I had convinced us to get on Moratorium, I knew I had to take the lead. The crux was strenuous but doable, and the whole pitch protected super well. No sends this time, but I was stoked to be able to work through the fear and pull good moves on the climb. We rapped down, and agreed at the base that Moratorium we had to come back for the send!

big cheesin on the big ledge

We hustled down to meet up with our friends over in El Cap meadow. Marty, Alan and Nate had teamed up to climb Central Pillar of Frenzy, along with Mel and Aurora. Nate tried to claim that it was shirts vs. skins and that the boys were team shirts. Mel and Aurora ended up on team shirts as well though.

Valley views just cannot be beat
Nate absolutely styling it

We found them all by the river, and joined in for lunch and a swim. Then, the fish started jumping, taunting Harry Nate and Marty with their fishy closeness. You know what happened next. Harry waded in as far as he could go, desperately casting to the fish. Nate was jumping, shouting, pointing, and casting on the riverbank. Marty ran in fully clothed, rod in hand. Eventually, Marty landed a little fish, and Harry got a fish on the line! They were both so pleased, and Marty remarked that he didn’t know he could experience Yosemite like this — as a fisherman through its rivers instead of as a climber through its rocks.

non-fishers casually enjoying the Merced
Fisherpeople obsessed with one thing, and one thing only

We eventually bid farewell to our friends by the river, and hopped in our cars back to the city. We didn’t say bye for long though, because we all ended up back at our house for some tasty tasty Mission Chinese. We chowed down in our living room, then said our real good byes. It was such a special weekend celebrating Matt and Emily!

Living room feast!

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