Thursday, December 25, 2008

DDTV - Loco Layering!

Happy Holidays from the D&D crew! Here's a zany layering video we made in a fit of glee.

YouTube: High - Low

Can you name all the layers we've donned?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Earth and Sun say: "Winter is Here"

If the intense winter weather of the last couple weeks wasn't enough to convince you, yesterday the winter solstice officially passed. Thanks to a delightful 23.5 degree tilt to the Earth's axis, we experience these changes in season each year as we round the sun.

For those of us in the Bay Area, the onset of winter means brutally cold temperatures in the 40's, and light to moderate rains. Though our winter looks like spring or fall in many other places, just a few hours east of here, in the beloved Sierra Nevada, we are often blessed with a thick, stable snowpack in all but the driest of years. That means skiing and snowshoeing for us here at D&D!

Wet and rainy winter weather in the Bay Area means.....

That means that every time it has rained since late November, I get giddy with joy at the prospect some of that moisture might be punching through to the mountains and blanketing them in snow. I've been checking forecasts and satellites religiously. I regularly scope out the Sugar Bowl and Yosemite webcams just to get a little taste. I'm busy these weekends leading up to the holidays, but after that, it's on!

Image Credit: MODIS AQUA "Daily Afternoon" December 22, 2008 -- NASA
...a delightful dusting of snow in the Sierra

What a great place to live where you almost never have to deal with freezing weather, except when you choose to. In Dallas we would have winter storms a couple times a year, yet we were infinitely far from winter recreation; what a tease! Here, we can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing from November or December until late spring, sometimes early summer in the right places.

This winter we plan to:
  • Take Amber downhill skiing for the first time
  • Try snow camping for the first time
  • Become more confident on cross-country skis
  • Learn more about winter weather, snow conditions, & avalanches
  • Make safe snowshoe ascents of some moderate peaks

Time to get out and enjoy the snow again!

So whatever you believe the reason for the season is, don't underestimate the influence of that 23.5 degree tilt, on the seasons Earth creates as we circle the Sun. As we gather with friends and family, we celebrate that the days once again grow longer. As we enjoy winters splendor in the out-of-doors, be thankful the days don't grow longer too fast, and be grateful winter is only really beginning. I hope everyone finds some way to enjoy this season, no matter where you live.

(note: Southern Hemisphere excluded... it is NOT winter there!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Recent Event - TBS4 @ GWPC

November 21, 2008

A couple of weeks ago we participated in the TBS 4 bouldering competition at the Great Western Power Company climbing gym in Oakland. We had a blast. The gym was packed to the brim with people all trying their skills on the new bouldering routes. Eric, Kenneth, and I all competed under the beginner category, although Kenneth might have been fibbing a little. He's slightly better than a beginner.

Some roped problems were replaced with bouldering problems.

Eric and I attempted most of the VOs and a couple of V1s. I've never seen so many people crammed into that tiny gym. The entire bouldering wall had been replaced with new routes for the competition, and everyone was eager to climb. Eric finished most of the VOs with little trouble, but I only finished a few. Eric struggled with a few V2s, and Kenneth conquered some of the harder routes that were above our level.

The new routes on the GWPC bouldering wall.

I fought with a VO in the corner about five times without ever finishing it, but the next time I went to the gym to try it, I completed it. I did try a V1 that night, and finished it the first time I tried it! Did I mention the flow of pizza and beer? That alone can make the competition well worth a shot. This competition was my first, but probably not my last. I was a little sore the next day, but it was worth it. Competitions are a great way to test your level of climbing, and to enjoy a fun night out trying to out-climb your friends. I may have come in last place, but I had a great deal of fun doing it, and that's all that matters. Here are the results of the competition.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Indian Cove Turkey Days

Trip Report - Joshua Tree National Park
Indian Cove area
November 27 - 30, 2008

The park is named for an abundance of these goofy-looking trees

Climbers' Holiday

Earlier this year, Amber and I decided that since it wasn't a good time to go to Texas this year for the Holidays, we'd spend one holiday with her family, and for the other, do something for ourselves. As it turned out, we'd be doing our own thing over the break for Thanksgiving, and in October, got invited along to Joshua Tree with the D.O.A. and some of their friends.

Kenenth, also invited, rode down with us and we met up with everyone in the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park. Indian Cove is a sheltered nook in the rocks just south of Twenty-nine Palms, outside of the 'main' park road. It's a good spot because the campsites are reservable, and Indian Cove is lower elevation and more sheltered from the wind and cold. There is a lot more climbing in the 'main park' but Indian Cove still has boulders and walls as far as the eye can see; more than enough to keep you busy.

Landscape typical of Indian Cove

We thought at first the place might be pretty empty, but, as it turns out, Thanksgiving is a popular climbers' holiday in Joshua Tree. There was a large proportion of climbers camped all throughout the campground, and the group areas were full of climbing clubs of varying degrees of formality. Luckily it had just rained the day before, so some people still bailed on their plans. It was close to full but not packed, and it was never too hard to get on a climb.

After arriving post-sunset on Thanksgiving Day, we feasted on stove-top stuffing, gravy, and foil-packet chicken. The we headed over to the Rock-Rendevous (a Bay Area club) group site, to share and feast on delicious pies. Throughout the weekend we had an excess of pie. Never before has there been so much pie consumed on a camping trip. If you like pie, I suggest going camping at Thanksgiving. Everyone will bring pie.

Our campsite, nestled amongst the rock

Lazy Lead

Feeling a little blown out from the drive, and not wishing to repeat the depletion of the last few trips, Amber and I decided to take it a little easier, since we were "on vacation". We went for a scrambling hike partway up rattlesnake canyon, which really helped loosen me up. Later we were ready to start climbing, but everyone had taken off so we had to find something the two of us could handle on our own.

Joshua Tree is primarily a trad climbing area, so we looked for something easy enough for me to lead. The rock there is awesome, similar Quartz Monzonite as you find in the Alabama Hills. Its a rock with great friction, but rough on clothing and skin as it has huge, sharp quartz crystals. The main difference to the Alabama hills, besides some differences in weathering, is the lack of bolts at Joshua Tree. There are few bolted climbs, and even fewer with top anchor/rappell bolts. It's important to scope out the descent before you head up and always take enough gear to build an anchor.

So we found this 5.3 "Double Crack" on the short wall that seemed easy enough, but turned out to be awfully awkward. It tested my skills as a leader, and even though I've worked leads on harder routes, was the hardest lead I've done to date. The main issue was awkward stances, and me spending a lot of time trying to get solid placements in the irregular rock. Amber also had some difficulty while cleaning. She slipped onto the rope a bit at one point, but that's no big deal when you're roped from above. Just as we finished, our friends showed up from their climb, and Amber and I really enjoyed the notion we had done that short climb "all by ourselves".

Kenneth leading the 'Double Crack' the next day

Leading ate a lot of my mental and physical energy up, and I was a bit shaken by how difficult that climb had seemed for a 5.3. As we later learned, no one takes the numbers too seriously for the low-grade climbs at Joshua Tree; turns out they're extremely inconsistent (for a variety of reasons). Obviously we eyed up the crack ourselves and we're comfortable with it but some of the harder rated climbs on the same wall may have been easier. Enough frustration (and joy) for the day, it was time to head back to camp and recharge with a belly full of chili and wine.

Rocky Relaxation

After a great nights sleep on our new 'car camping' pads, we were ready to go at it again. We tried to find some friends of Kenneth's in the main park. They didn't show, but we found the war zone aftermath of the CHAOS (Berkeley club) campsite. The wind had thrown their chairs in the fire and the stragglers that morning looked a bit shell-shocked. We took some pictures of the park, grabbed a snack and firewood at the gas station, and headed back to Indian Cove were the weather was much, much nicer (i.e. not windy and cold).

Stunning view of San Gorgonio from inside the main park

We did a couple more climbs on the short wall with Kenneth (he didn't lead much the day before so he wanted time to play with his gear). One was a fist crack that turned out to be super fun, and not nearly as awkward as the day before. It was a good mixture of climbing and relaxation for the weekend and I was glad I didn't beat myself up too much.

Belaying attentively, with the not so bad 'crowds' in the background

Amber giving it to a fist crack... Look at that awesome fist jam!

Since we'd had a late lunch, we screwed around a long time at camp that evening. Kenneth, Amber and I made up a gear placement practice drinking game. Well it wasn't much of a drinking game, but it was still fun. Our campsite was surrounded by features and boulders, flakes and cracks, and we were able to find placements for almost everything we pulled off the racks. It was fun and we all learned a little bit by having each other test the placements.

Kenneth cleaning up after all the fun

That night around the campfire, all the climbers traded the days stories, and shared thoughts and tips about climbing (and a lot of beer and wine). It was a great trip, but we'd wished we could have stayed a little longer. Especially as that would have helped us avoid the horrendous holiday traffic on I-5 the next day. Despite the fact it took almost 11 hours (3 hours extra) to get home, we stayed cheerful and upbeat as we rode out of a near-perfect holiday weekend.

Photo Gallery:
Indian Cove (Joshua Tree)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gear Review - Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3

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Big Agnes - Seedhouse SL3
Ultralight 3-Season Tent

Seedhouse SL3 (fly-off) at a backpacking camp

The Seedhouse SL3 is one of the finest tents I have ever had the pleasure of using. It took a really long time to pick out a new tent earlier this year, and I'm excited to finally have enough experience with it to write a review. While it is billed as a three-person tent, it (like most others in this class) is really intended for 2 people who like a lot of space (like Amber and I). You could however, house a third person in a real pinch.

Seedhouse SL3 fly door open

We looked at a number of 2 and 3 person backpacking tents. Especially those from the North Face, Sierra Designs, Marmot and MSR. In the end, the Big Agnes was the most enticing. It has a simple, no-nonsense, freestanding design that gives a ton of space, good weather resistance, and an extremely light packing weight (around 5 lbs.). There is also a non-superlight version for those of you looking to save a few bucks and gain a few ounces.

Seedhouse SL3 side view (notice pole structure)

Although it is freestanding, you'll want to guy the fly out whenever possible, which really doesn't take too long. This gives you a drum-tight weather shell, and good ventilation. Many of the other tents we looked at have dual doors, which is a deal-breaker for some, but we don't have any trouble getting in and out he main door. We also purchased the footprint, which is nice as you can set the tent up in various configurations, or put it together fly first in a downpour to keep the tent body dry.

Seedhouse SL3 sealed up

I've heard other reviewers complain about condensation, since there aren't any dedicated vents. I don't find it to be a big problem. The fly door unzips from the top or bottom, and you can easily vent well properly buy opening a hole at the top of the fly door. Also, since the materials are impervious on both sides, you can easily wipe it down with a camp towel if you're in a hurry and it is moist. As long as you are careful to seat all the pole joints correctly, and not hook things in the mesh, it will be a tough little tent.

Seedhouse SL3 reflective guy-outs

We haven't yet had the tent out in truly heavy weather, but it has weather light rain and moderate winds quite well. It doesnt flop around like our old dome tent, and although we bought it for backpacking, we now take it almost every time we go car camping. Something about it's cocoon-like shape makes for a comforting nights sleep. Well worth the price, and if you look hard enough, you may even find it on sale!

  • Low packing weight for class
  • Easy clip & pole set-up
  • Double-sealed fly and footprint
  • Very cozy

  • Superlight materials demand respect
  • Only one door / entrance
  • Can require creative condensation management
External Links:
  • Sleeping capacity - 3
  • Average minimum weight - 3 lb. 15 oz.
  • Average packaged weight - 4 lbs. 8 oz.
  • Floor dimensions - 90 x 73 inches
  • Peak height - 46 inches
  • Floor area - 36 square feet
  • Vestibule area - 11 square feet
  • Canopy fabric - Nylon mesh
  • Rainfly fabric - Coated nylon ripstop
  • Floor fabric - Coated nylon ripstop
  • Doors - 1
  • Number of poles - 3
  • Pole material - Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL
  • Pole diameter - 8.2 millimeters
  • Packed size - 8 x 20 inches

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Consumnes Topropes with the D.O.A.

Action Report - Climbing at Consumnes River Gorge
Placerville, California
November 8, 2008

Amber starting Popcorn (5.6/5.7)

On Saturday, November 8th, we headed up to the Consumes River Gorge near Placerville, for a day of toprope fun. There was a threat of rain in the air, so we worked to get as much in by just setting topropes and working around the main area. We met up with some of the D.O.A. as well as some of the usual suspects such as squishy and a_reqieum.

Consumnes is a popular winter crag as it seems to be too hot in the summer, but is low enough to stay climbable most of the winter. Many other parties were on the adjacent routes and it was a day of share and share alike! Amber climbed a nice 5.7 crack and another route called "Popcorn". She performed really well, even though she had a bit of a sniffle.

The short, fun hand crack of pleasure!

Kenneth and I worked up this 5.8 hand crack he eyed on the Great Flake, and we climbed it handily once we figured out the bouldery start. Several others climbed it later. After that I worked on two of the harder routes I've tried. I was able to climb them both, but had to hangdog before finishing.

Test Piece (5.8) is a fairly straightforward lieback, but it takes a lot of energy. Dinkum (5.9) was my favorite. It has a substantial finger-crack section that is strenuous but fun. The feet give out in the middle, so you have to be fully prepared to crack-climb. The trouble I had with both climbs came in sections where there was a large chunky hole in the climb that required a shift in technique. I'll be more preared for that in the future. Maybe one day I can climb it blindfolded like Nat.

D.O.A. Porn Stars on a trad climbing adventure

After the climbs we headed to D.O.A. Headquarters for pizza, wine, and a racous screening of Team America: World Police. We were just in time too. No sooner did we load up the cars than it started to pour! A highly successful day of climbing, too bad I was sore for 4 days! Check out the photo gallery for a lot more action!

Photo Gallery:
Consumnes River Gorge

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Review - Off The Wall: Death in Yosemite

Authors: Michael P. Ghiglieri & Charles R. "Butch" Farabee; Jr.

A few months ago I finished an amazing book called Off The Wall: Death In Yosemite. It catalogs every recorded death in Yosemite since the 1800s. This book is ridiculously thick, but I couldn't put it down. The stories are split into categories by which the deaths happened. It has every possible scenario you could imagine, and more.

It sounds like a morbid topic, but I actually found this book to be extremely informative. Most of the gruesome stories paint a picture of bad decision making. This is a skill that's very important to have when one is hanging out in nature. Common sense is not a gift that everyone has, but this book can teach you the basics. Small things count in the wilderness, for example, never leaving your group. I can't tell you how many stories started with, "and somehow the group got split up."

Reading about the demise of others is a great way to teach awareness and problem solving. The book was written by former Yosemite Search and Rescue members, and their insight to these horrible accidents make you realize how precious life really is. They have seen it all, and most have lived to tell about it.

If you travel outdoors, I highly suggest this book. It's a tough read sometimes and can get graphic, but the lessons I took away are priceless. Humans are curious by nature, but not always ready for what nature has to throw at them. It might sound cliche´, but the Eagle Scouts and Boy Scouts of America have it right, always be prepared. Most of the deaths in this book were very preventable and being prepared could have made the difference. Any outdoor enthusiast should have this book on their shelf right next to Mountaineering: The Freedom Of The Hills. It could just save your life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Alabama Hills Shootout

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Trip Report - Alabama Hills ShootoutLone Pine, California
October 24-26, 2008

Eric climbing a 5.6

Kenneth met us early in the morning so we could get going. The drive was beautiful and we made some nice stops along the way. We stopped in Bishop to eat some amazing Carl's Jr., and to pick up a gift for Nareg's birthday at Schat's Bakery. After a long but picturesque drive we ended up in Lone Pine, the home of the Alabama Hills.

Our first route of the morning

The Alabama hills are a historical site where many films and TV shows have been filmed. It looks like a scene from space with red volcanic rocks sprouting from every direction and Mt. Whitney towering in the background. The Lone Ranger and Star Trek VII were both filmed there, and many people have enjoyed some really fun climbing. We rolled in and found Sara and Micah who had already found us some great sites. While waiting for everyone else to show up, we cracked some beers and sat around the fire ring. Friday was Traves' birthday so we had a cake and some balloons ready for him.

A beautiful view of the Alabama Hills

On Saturday morning we enjoyed some spray on pancakes and headed out to go climb. We found some great routes just off of Movie Flat road. The group started with a 5.6 climb called "Jackie's Rack", and Kenneth led it. This was a really fun crack climb with lots of great holds and places to jam. Sara, Candida, and Eric mock led this climb before moving on to some harder routes. Even Keeley got in on the action and climbed half way up the 5.6 on her first time ever rock climbing!

Kenneth leading a 5.6 crack

The next climb we tried to conquer was a 5.7 called the "Birthday Butt Crack". The crux was at the beginning of this climb and that made it super tricky. I fell off of it, but Candida was able to lead it and everyone else had a great time figuring out the hand cracks all the way to the top. Later in the afternoon, some of the gang headed over to another climb around the corner, and I led my first climb! It was a treacherous 5.3 sport climb that had a lot of smearing involved. It was fun, but still nerve racking to be leading anything for the first time.

Keely climbing "Jackie's Rack" and Kenneth climbing "Birthday Butt Crack"

That evening we headed back to camp and met up with Sean and Elisa. Eric, Kenneth, and I made yummy burgers, and then we all sat around the camp fire for the usual desert of s'mores and scotch. So good.

The night sky over our campsite

The next day after enjoying the rest of our spray-on pancakes, we gathered up the crew and headed to a climbing area just around the bend from where we climbed the previous day. We found a 5.7 and a 5.8 climb right next to each other, so Kenneth and Candida led them and set up a top rope. Eric and I found a 5.6 climb across from the others, so Eric decided to lead it. He got a little spooked towards the top, because the holds got slim and the rock was flaky. Sean finished leading it for him and we all climbed away. I had a great time on the 5.6, it was a lot of smearing with small painful holds, but I think it prepared me for some harder climbing.

Sean belaying Eric

The day came to an end for Eric, Kenneth, and myself because we had to travel almost 7 hours to get home. The rest of the people we were camping with ended meeting up with the others we left behind, and got in on some of the climbing action. There were some more first time climbers who joined in on the fun, and Sara lead a 5.7! I'm so sorry we missed that.

Candida on the left (5.7) and Kenneth on the right (5.8)

This trip was so fun, and I loved being in such a picturesque area. It was like being in an old western, or on another planet. The colors of the desert always blow my mind, and the rock there also gave us a little taste for what to expect in Joshua Tree. See everyone at Thanksgiving!

Having fun with shadows
Related Story:
  • Alabama Hills Mini-Movie (coming soon)

Photo Gallery:

Alabama Hills

Friday, November 7, 2008

Knapsack II: Knapsack on Lead

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Action Report - Lover's Leap, Knapsack on HogsbackTwin Bridges, California
October 19, 2008

Amber on knapsack

We finally headed up north to climb Knapsack again! I promised myself that I would never climb it again, but of course I became a better climber, so off we went! I had a lot of fun on this climb, but Eric was a little stressed because he had to lead the climb. This was Eric's first big lead, and he did a great job. I think the only drawback was that Sean (Squishy) had to pee the whole time, and Eric slipped a little once, nearly falling. This climb is easy, but it's high off the ground so leading it can be stressful.

Eric belaying at his best

I found that my climbing ability had improved greatly, and I didn't almost cry, like the first time. Knapsack is a great place to learn multi-pitch climbing, and I highly recommend this climb to any new climber. After the climb we enjoyed some lunch and waited for Kenneth and Topher to come back from climbing Bear's Reach. I can't wait to try some other climbs on hogsback, or somewhere else at Lover's Leap.

Sean (Squishy) climbing knapsack

Eric's Thoughts:
Knapsack is pretty easy climb, but leading is really tough, especially when you're new to it. I had to balance making safe and effective placements with making sure I didn't "sew it up". Otherwise you could run out of gear. There were a couple moments where I was more stressed than usual, but all in all it was a fun climb and it was nice to be in charge. Seeing how much easier it had become for Amber since our first time, and doing most of the "work" between the two of us really made my day.

Related Story:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yosemite Epic

Trip Report - Yosemite National Park
October 4 - 6, 2008

Travelin' Blues

Earlier this month we embarked on what would be an epic three-day weekend in Yosemite Valley. For starters, the backlog of chores from already having climbed in the Sierra several weekends in a row (maybe even a month straight), coupled with a busy week at work and school, left us far behind schedule on Friday night.

A classic Yosemite vista

Considering we were ahead of schedule the week before, we didn't take it too harshly. We decided to take our time packing Friday night and leave when we pleased Saturday morning. We knew it would be raining a good part of the day Saturday in Yosemite, so we weren't in too big a rush. Somewhere in all the confusion though, we managed to leave our new camera sitting on the bookshelf at home. Thanks to Dave for any pictures I have here.

Rainy Day Hangout Brigade

Originally we had planned on arriving much earlier, but we rolled into Yosemite Valley around 2pm, and immediately met up with some friends at the LeConte boulders. Due to the rain there was no free-climbing to be done, but one of the LeConte boulders has a large, overhanging face on it with a bolt ladder. Squishy and a_requiem were there getting an aid-climbing lesson from some other Summitposters we were meeting up with (a.k.a. D.O.A., the Decadent Outdoor Adventurers).

Since the area was a bit sheltered from the rain, it was a great place to hang out! We even had a handful of other climbers stop buy and shoot the bull with us. We split off for dinner and met back up with everyone later for some fireside wine drinking, beta-sharing, valley gossip, and tech tips. The wine flowed like water, and eventually I had to have a few beers to "bring it down a notch".

Sunny Day Doldrums

We were staying at Curry Village, just down the way from the others at Housekeeping Camp. Amber and I were staying a day longer as Dave and Christi, friends from Texas, were on their way to meet us after working that week in San Jose. Since we needed time to do the tourist thing with them later, Amber and I hit the Curry breakfast buffet first thing in the morning and went to do some top-roping at Swan Slab.

Curry Village tent cabins at night

The crack we were working was dry enough to climb, and we both had some measure of success on it, but the wet sands underneath were sticking to our shoes and making smearing more like walking on ball bearings. It was a disappointing climbing session, but par for the course as far as things going wrong that weekend. On our way back to Curry we stopped by Housekeeping to say bye to our friends and the D.O.A. crew, who were just heading out to climb on the Glacier Point Apron before leaving for the weekend.

Now it was time to chill out and wait for Dave and Christi to arrive. Seems like they were having the same luck we were. They blew by one wrong turn coming around to the 120, and got sidetracked about two hours trying to rectify their GPS with their google maps directions. Wasn't a big loss for us, as we spent a lot of time looking through books at the mountain shop and picking up a little extra gear.

Picnic lunch near the Glacier Point Apron

Sunday Fun Day

When they finally arrived we headed over near the apron for lunch. We couldn't pick out our friends, but saw many parties up on the climbs. Dave and Christi were very excited to be there; they spend a lot of time traveling but only rarely get to go on vacation. When lunch was finished we poked around the Valley floor, took pictures of climbers high on El Cap, and then poked around Lower Yosemite Falls.

Christi spotting parties on the walls

Climbers and gear high on El Cap

The massive face of the Captain

Amber and I got the idea to scope out a climb near Lower Yosemite Falls that heads up on top to Sunnyside Bench. It's called the regular route, and its three pitches of climbing, mostly class 4, that maxes out at 5.4. Since we had just gotten some new cams before we came, we actually had a sufficient rack for the climb, and it's a walk-off so we didn't need two ropes (which is the case for many Yosemite climbs). Dave and Christi were talking about riding bikes around on Monday and suggested we go ahead and give the climb a shot!

Lower Yosemite Falls

Amber and I had a crappy dinner the night before, but Sunday night, the Curry Buffet did not fail to satisfy. As long as it isn't too busy (which it often is) it's a killer place to eat in the valley. If you've been hiking or climbing all day, nothing satisfies like the endless options of a buffet! Plus, the ensuing food coma makes it easy to sleep the night away. I really enjoy the process of doing food for camping trips and being self-sufficient, but sometimes its just worth it to go the lazy route and this was one of those times.

The setting sun highlights the valley walls

Monday Morning Mayhem

After breakfast Monday, we headed over to the Regular Route on Sunnyside Bench. We were psyched, and well-fed, and the climbing was easy enough that it wasn't too stressful to be out on lead (my first real lead). I thought the 4th class chimney was a little more like 5.2-5.3, but the topo was accurate, and the route is speckled with trees which can really help simplify things. The funniest section is the "tricky boulder problem" in the easy second pitch. You're practically hiking, then you come up to this short, awkward wall. It was the hardest move on the route, but you're on top of a big ledge and not exposed at all, so its safe to give it a few tries.

We climbed to the top of the first ledge, Sunnyside Bench

After that you come into the hardest, most exposed pitch. The views, even from the belays we're just stunning. It's hard to describe the beauty of the valley when you're just partway off the floor. The route then climbs up and around onto a different weakness in the face, over 5.4 territory with great placements for gear, then across a really fun airy traverse and up a wide but easy low-angle crack.

That last section is probably 5.0. I had to run it out a bit, which made me nervous, but it wasn't too sketchy. It would have been nice to have a #3 Camalot (I ordered one the next day. Amber followed up the last bit, and then we had to scramble around to the descent trail. It took a little route-finding, but the book was pretty accurate, and crossing the bench gave us a little while longer with the great views.

Here are Amber's thoughts on the climb:

There is only one way to see Yosemite, and that is from the walls of the valley. This climb was rated very easy, but it was still challenging. We never were fully exposed until the end of the climb, but that's when the reality kicks in that you are around 500 feet above the valley floor. At first it was an easy scramble start with a pain in the ass chimney. The chimney would have been a lot easier if I didn't have a backpack, but I made it up anyway.

The weirdest part of the climb was the random bouldering problem in the middle. It took me three tries, but I finally got up that too. I enjoyed this climb a lot, and would do it again in a heartbeat. I recommend it as a first climb for anyone interested in dabbling in Yosemite multi-pitch.

Amber enjoying a silly moment near the Kossmobile

Delicate Descent

It ended up taking us a lot longer than we thought, but we talked to Dave via radio so they weren't worried. Afterward we all had a great picnic lunch in the sunshine over between El Cap and Manure Pile Buttress. By then it was time for one more trip around the Valley, and then back to reality. But it turns out we got one last treat!

The majestic Clark Range from Crane Flat fire lookout

The road to the Crane Flat Fire Lookout was still open for the day! I had been trying to describe all weekend how the valley walls are just the beginning and that there is equal majesty in the high country, but it's so hard to put in words. We just barely caught them while the gate was open, so we got lucky and got to drive right up to the lookout! It was a beautiful day and Tower Peak (I think) and the Clark Range seemed as close as ever. While it's always important to listen to that sense of things going wrong when hiking or climbing in the mountains, sometimes life gets stressful just to remind you later how truly awesome it can be!

A day or two after we left, a major rockfall ripped loose of glacier point and destroyed part of Curry Village. Several were injured, but no one was seriously hurt. It serves as a reminder that even in the Valley, mother nature rules Yosemite...

Photo Gallery:
Dave's Yosemite Pics

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stanislaus Climbing Weekend

Trip Report - Climbing/Camping at Spicer Terraces
Spicer Reservoir, California
September 27-28, 2008

CJ belaying Eric on the off-width

We had the lovely opportunity to go on a brief climbing trip with some pals. Dan, Shenoa, CJ, Jackie, Eric and I all met up in the Stanislaus Forrest, near Bear Valley, and we had a blast. It was "camp for free" weekend, and we were camped near deer hunters and drunk teachers. The weather was amazing, and the company was right.

Shenoa Climbing the finger jam-lie back

On day one, we headed over to Spicer terraces, and took our chances with some crack climbs. The others tackled a challenging half width crack, and a finger crack with a lieback, while I focused on climbing the 5.7 crack in the middle of the terraces. While watching everyone cringe and yell on the half width, I realized it was most likely not at my level of climbing, just yet. I learned how to repel again, and used a prussic for the first time. Why would I have done it any other way? Our day was completed by a nice camp fire, chili, and the drunk teachers offering us their strong margaritas.

Dan on the 5.7 crack

Day two was a little less organized because of time restraints, but it was still enjoyable. The gang headed out to box canyon, and we found some great climbing. Eric got to lead a sport climb for the first time, and I mock led it! Some of the crew didn't get to climb because we ran out of time, but it was exciting to find a new destination for climbing in the Sierras! At the end of the day, CJ, Jackie, Eric, and I went to Hell's Kitchen, and did a little bouldering. We enjoyed our late lunch on a big rock, and watched some storm clouds rush in. It started to rain after an hour or so, and we decided it was a good time to end our trip there.

Jackie bouldering while the rain clouds roll in

Besides some of the time restraints, and the speeding ticket Eric got on the way down the mountain, this was a pretty successful trip. The Sierras are an unpredictable place, but also a very beautiful place. It's great to live so close to epic climbing locations. Next stop, Yosemite Valley!

This is what I call the torso jam

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