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
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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.

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