Monday, August 25, 2008

Sierra Summer - Photo Albums Posted!

Our trip galleries are up on Picasa now.  We would have liked to have more pictures, but we forgot the battery charger.  It's amazing we were able to make it last so long! (turning the display off and using the viewfinder really helped)...  A few of the Mt. Dana pictures were taken with a disposable 35mm.

Bear Valley Adventure Sports Festival

Twin Lakes/ Matterhorn Peak attempt

Yosemite August 2008

Tuolumne / Mt. Dana

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 6-7 Bear Trails

We were not able to post the last couple of days, because we were in the high country of Yosemite, and they don't have any internet access. On Wednesday night, we had another encounter with a bear! We could hear our campsite neighbors start banging pots and pans together, and yelling from all sides of the campground, so we knew we had a bear checking around for food.

After we went into our tent for the night, we heard rangers explain to the tent next to us that there was a "very large bear" in the area. Then we heard him say, "there he is!" and we realized that the bear was running full speed towards our tent! We heard him gallop by, but by the time we unzipped our tent, he was gone. The ranger said that the bear was about 400 pounds. WOW!

On Thursday we attempted to climb Mt. Dana, but we missed the trail by a long shot, and ended up following bear trails through the wilderness for about two hours. After realizing that we were nowhere near the trail, we gave up and spent the rest of the day at Tanaya Lake, soaking in the atmosphere. That night we enjoyed a fun campfire program at our campground, and learned all about bears, and hiking in the high sierras.

We finally found a ranger who explained where the actual trail for Mt. Dana started, so on Friday we finally were able to climb Mt. Dana. It was 3000 ft up to the top, and as one lady explained at the top, it was a puffer. When you climb up to 13,000 feet, the air is very thin, and it almost feels like you are drunk or something when you reach around 12,000 feet.

Once at the top, we signed the register, ate lunch, and enjoyed the view. It was amazing! We were the first people up there that day, so we got to watch all the other hikers come up the mountain after us. We were most likely the only people that day that had the peak to ourselves for about half an hour. It took us a while to get downhill though, because it's so steep. Mt. Dana was beautiful, and we got to see about a dozen Marmots!

We decided to put a cap on our trip and end it on Friday, so that we could beat the weekend Yosemite traffic. We had a great trip, with lots of excitement and adventure, and we can't wait to do it again sometime!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day Five - Camp 4

After having a few hairy moments of our own on the Trans-Sierra highways earlier in the week, we couldn't help but rescue a stranded motorist last night on the Tioga Road. We were coming back from the valley pretty late, having cleaned up, and done some laundry and shopping, when we came across a the owner of a stalled Jeep Cherokee spraying it's coolant all over the side of the road.

I think a lot of people don't fully realize how often there isn't any cell coverage for an emergency in the high-country. Luckily for Miles, a San Francisco resident, Amber and I came along to give him a lift to the nearest pay phone. He was on his way to meet some friends for a three-week backpacking trip on the John Muir trail. We did learn one important tip from him, which is to carry a phone card, something we'll surely be doing in the future. He got a hold of AAA and was able to get a tow to Lee Vining that night. We hope he still was able to meet his friends and has a great journey on the trail.

When we woke up this morning we discovered our camping bin had been toppled over and rifled through. Apparently there was a bear making good work of White Wolf campground last night. One of our neighbors had his cooler stolen as they were unpacking and we found paw prints around our car! Luckily we had properly stored our food and the bear neither woke us, or caused any damage to any of our gear. So remember: BEAR SAFETY PAYS OFF!

We spent most of the day today bouldering, a form of rock climbing done on short boulders with a pad underneath instead of a rope. It's a great practice because it allows you to work on technique without the usual constraints of moving gingerly to conserve energy on a long route. We picked up a pad last night, and bouldered this morning all around Curry Village. We worked on only the easiest problems, but they were still pretty tough for us.

We took a break from bouldering to walk across the valley floor, grab some lunch, talk to the rangers about hiking in the high country, and got to check out a great rock climbing exhibit at the Yosemite Museum. After our break the technique really started to set in. We did sever easy problems at Camp 4 and Swan Slabs, and were much more sucessfull. Amber said she had the most fun so far at Camp 4 and Swan Slabs. The climbs were challenging in that you really have to read the rock for the best place to put your hands and feet. Hopefully this will turn into gains in our roped route climbing too!

So now we're chilling out in this posh lounge, doing some recon. for hiking in the high country tomorrow, and writing this post. Time for us to head out of the valley, back up to White Wolf, and grub!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day Four - Poaching Internet

Hey Everyone! We found a great campsite just outside of the Valley, called White Wolf. Today we had coffee with a park ranger, and climbed a little in the Valley. A secret inside source let us in on the best place to poach internet, and it's one of the classiest establishments in the park! We are going to do some housekeeping type stuff and head back to our campground to get ready for tomorrow, another big day in Yosemite!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day Three

After a close call with the oil fill cap lodged in the shift mechanism, and a fire near the Sonora Pass, we thought nothing else could go wrong yesterday, but the Twin Lakes area had the worst selection of campsites ever.

Our campground was plagued by demonic, intermittant wind gust which kept me up all night and made today harder thanit needed to be.

We were well short of summiting Matterhorn Peak. We got off trail a couple times and burned out all our scrambling energy before the real fun began. Regardless it as an epic, beautiful 8.5 hr. Hike!

A little beaten but not broken, we have decided we've had enough of Twin Lakes and are now headed to find some camping somewhere on the 120...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day one and two

Hey everyone! We had a lot of fun playing frisbee golf, watching a little kid win the bouldering contest, and eating BBQ in Bear Valley on Saturday. Today we climed some amazing cracks, at Spicer Terraces. On the way to our new destination, we saw a fire in the Sanora pass, so we changed plans, and we're heading to Twin Lakes to dayhike Matterhorn Peak instead, which means we won't be backpacking Tower Peak this time around.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sierra Summer - 'Live Blog'


We are headed up to the mountains for a week to squeeze in some fun before the summer's up and work and school start going full-tilt again for the two of us. We have some pretty ambitious plans and have spent a lot of time prepping in the evenings recently for this ridiculous camping trip.

We'll be visiting Bear Valley for their Adventure Sports Festival, then heading for a major hike to Tower Peak. After that we will step it down a notch and spend time rock climbing and relaxing somewhere in Yosemite National Park (midweek of course!). After that who knows? Not very much is set in stone besides campin', adventurin' and chowin' down on all the yummy camp food we've thrown together.

So the big announcement is we'll be 'live blogging' and posting updates during the trip as much as possible. We may even be able to upload a few pictures during the trip! Please tune in throughout the week to find out what we've been up to!

Here's a couple pictures to whet your appetite:

Yosemite Valley

View of Yosemite high country in winter (including Tower Peak in right side, extremely distant)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bay Area Climbing Weekend

Action Report - Climbing at Castle Rock State Park
Los Gatos, CA
August 9, 2008

We met up with some friends of ours who recently got married, and got to climb with them for the first time. I remember watching them climb last November at Pinnacles National Monument, and thinking they might be a bit looney, but your perspective shifts quite quickly once you start climbing. We climbed three interesting routes, several of which must have been sandbagged, but were fun nonetheless. The sandstone quality at Castle Rock was much higher than at Stoney Point, and the shade made it a heck of a lot cooler. The funnest route of the day was a 5.8 dihedral on the backside of Castle Rock proper, which starts with huge pockets and goes up to a mean undercling/hidden blind foothold/mantle type thing at the crux. Onfortunately we had other obligations to attend to so we couldn't stay all day and had to bug out around 3.

East Bay Climbing
August 10, 2008
Berkeley / Oakland, CA

We decided to get a little more outdoor practice in at the local hotspot, Cragmont Park, where we did our outdoor climbing lesson. We worked a while on getting through the hand-jam to undercling transition in the 5.7 route, then started getting hungry. Feeling a little too psyched from working on outdoor stuff all weekend, we ran a few errands, got lunch, and headed to our climbing gym to round out our workout and wear ourselves out.

Friday, August 8, 2008

SoCal Climbing: Stoney Point

Action Report - Climbing at Stoney Point
Los Angeles (Chatsworth), CA
August 3, 2008

[[ fyi... action reports are brief versions of trip reports or other updates from Amber and I when we don't have a good reason to do a full write up or don't have pictures (like when we're the only climbers), etc... ]]

We made a trip down to the LA area for Amber's little nephew's second birthday party and decided it would be fun to do some rock climbing on the way out of town. Turns out one of the popular LA crags is smack dab inbetween her brother's house and her parent's house!

We picked up Chris Owen's guide to Stoney Point (allegedly the most scenic place in Los Angeles) and hit the crag Sunday morning. We set up an anchor and climbed an easy chimney route on the back wall, then played on one of the boulders. Climbing on the sandstone in the heat was a bit of a pain, but it was still a fun day. We stopped on the way out of town to stuff ourselves on chicken nachos and fish tacos, then hightailed it back to the bay area.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Desolation Exploration - Knapsack Crack

Trip Report - Desolation Area
Part II - Knapsack Crack (5.5, 3 pitches)
July 26 - 27, 2008

Wind, rock, rubber, rope. All travel in the mountains has a way of making obvious the interplay of natural elements, but nothing focuses the elements inside yourself like technical climbing. The second day of our Desolation Wilderness weekend would test our focus and resolve, while we worked through many personal firsts and put our skills to the test.

Knapsack Crack from the base of the climb

After parting from camp, we headed down to the highway and up to Lover's Leap (not part of the wilderness, but in the general area). Between the Leap and the highway there is a smaller dome feature known as 'The Hogsback'. We would be trying our hands (and feet) at the easiest route up the technical face, the 300' Knapsack Crack (5.5). We'd be climbing with the help of our friend Sean, who would be leading the climb, placing gear and building anchors.

Gearing up for the climb

As for Amber and I, Knapsack was our first trad follow, our first multi-pitch, our first climb on granite, and our first long pitches. I got the pleasure of cleaning Sean's gear on the way up, which gave me new respect for the work the leaders go through. The biggest difference to other climbing we've done is how committing it is. After you leave the first belay, there is no easy lowering back to the start of the climb. Up is the only reasonable direction of travel, so it's important to be mentally and physically confident of your ability to finish the climb.

Sean leading the first pitch while I belay

Climbing in a party of three can be complicated, but it was a good complement to our staggered skill levels. After a short, but heavily laden approach hike, we were at the base of the climb. We flaked out both ropes and geared up, then I belayed Sean up to a sturdy tree that would serve as the first belay anchor. I followed Sean, pulling out all of the gear he had placed on lead, while dragging up a second rope for Amber. At the anchor I clipped in, and then belayed Amber up the easy first pitch.

Amber enjoying a rest at the first belay

The second pitch is much longer (at least 120') and contains the crux of the climb. Sean took his time on the sharp end and placed plenty of solid gear. At some point we noticed a small piece of gear spinning earthward from Sean's position. Turn's out it was his belay device! I think it was bad Karma for making fun of our keeper slings ( although it was scarier for me than for him). It was no big deal though, this is exactly what the Munter Hitch is for! I don't remember a whole lot about climbing the second pitch, besides feeling a little stuck below the crux, and spending a lot of time perched on a tenuous foothold trying to yank out a blue tri-cam.

Typical view from Knapsack Crack

The climb itself is far less than vertical, and most of the climb is spent in a sort of body-sized crack with a myriad of both face holds and crack holds. The crux of the climb are the tight spots where the crack constricts, and you basically have to crawl out of the crack onto slopey footholds on the face. Amber was stoked about the climb at the bottom, and was relatively comfortable with the exposure on the face, but she did get a little flustered coming over the crux.

Amber working her way out of one of the crux sections

It's an understandible reaction, anytime you climb something for the first time, there is the significant challenge of decoding the route. Even if something is well within your ability, you need to stay sharp enough to figure out a sequence. Sometimes it's as simple as just taking a few seconds to relax and breathe. Sometimes you get adrenalized instead, giving your body that shock-boost to get moving again. Although you'd rather be calm and in control than adrenalized and making dicey moves, it got Amber and I over that pitch and there was little risk of either of us taking a bad fall being belayed from above.

Sean taking in the exposure at the second belay

Most beginners would find the second belay station a bit unnerving, just a handful of cam placements above a narrow foot ledge, but we had never seen a more welcoming place. The last pitch we so easy and slopey that you could practically run up it. I felt a bit cheated after having to talk myself up the second pitch. Amber had a huge smile as she came over the top and we all buzzed from the energy of the climb. We talked a bit about the climb and celebrated being on top, but I could tell it would take a while for the intensity of the experience to really set in. Since the climb we have noticed a big improvement in mental and physical composure in our gym climbing. Outdoor climbing and gym climbing really can go hand-in-hand.

Amber topping out the climb

On top we hung out for a while, had some snacks, tried to eat lunch, and practiced placing gear in some of the boulders up top. Still starving, and a little pumped, we packed the gear up, scrambled down the back of Hogsback, and walked back to the car.
Walking on level ground never felt so weird, I felt a bit like I had sea legs when we showed up at the Strawberry Lodge. Even though we had just half-snacked on our lunches, we were all so hungry that we headed straight to Strawberry Lodge's restaurant. We tried like hell to wash all the granite and chalk off our hands then promptly inhaled some much needed hot food and cold beer!

Album Link:
Knapsack Crack 5.5

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Desolation Exploration - Lyon's Lake

Trip Report - Desolation Area
Part I - Lyon's Lake
July 26 - 27, 2008

Climbing in the desolation wilderness never gets old! Sean, Lis, Eric and I all took a mini-break from the world, and headed up North to spend a day in the wilderness. We decided on Lyon's Lake as our destination, to enjoy the beauty of a mountain lake. The trail was a mere 10 miles round trip, and a lot of the terrain was rocky.

View of the creek from the trail

This was also Lis's first 10 mile hike, and along the way we had some fabulous sights to take in! The wild flowers were in full bloom, and we were surrounded by bouquets of purple, blue, red, orange, yellow, and pink flowers. We headed up the trail at 9 am, so the sunlight was perfect for taking pictures. The trail followed a creek for the first part of the hike, and it added beautifully to the already gorgeous setting.

Wild Flowers

At the fork for Lyon's lake, Eric and I split from the group. We were going to attempt a climb to Mt. Price, so we took off ahead of the others to gain distance. The trail rises steeply here, to Lyon's lake and above to Price. We were running out of time, but we decided to see how far we could get, so we scrambled up the slabs of granite towards Mt. Price, and enjoyed the view of the lake from above.

View from the granite slabs

Eric and I returned to Lyons Lake to meet up with the others, and to take a dip in the clear, cool water. We had enjoyed our lunch here earlier and now shared a bottle of wine.

Eric and I swimming

The hike down was easy and went smoothly. The entire group was exhausted from the long day of trekking, so we snagged a nearby campsite to call home for the night. Next stop, knapsack, for some serious climbing!

Eric and I on top of the slabbed granite

Photo Gallery:
Lyons Lake Hike

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