Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuolumne - September 2009

Trip Report - Climbing in Tuolumne Meadows
September, 2009

Our most recent trip to Tuolumne was on the last weekend the campsites were open for the season, which is a great time of year to go. Around this time the weather starts to get a little colder, the leaves start changing colors, and the rain storms have stopped coming so regularly. We met up with a bunch of people there, and had a fantastic time trying some new types of climbing. Eric and I are usually interested in crack or face climbing, but this time we took our mad skills over to some slabby rock. Nat was with us, and he finally helped us find the bolts on pothole dome.

Eric belaying me on pothole dome

Slab climbing is a lot different than other types of climbing, and requires some interesting skill. The routes we chose on pothole were not very hard routes, but they were challenging and fun! We had some outdoor newbies with us as well as some seasoned climbers, so we had fun showing off our mad skills while learning new techniques too! Nat, Kenneth, and James attempted a crazy 5.11b overhanging wonder climb, that ended up giving the fellows some trouble. The climb also took our rope as it's victim after Kenneth took a mean fall on it...but it was only six feet from the end so we can still use it for top roping. After pothole dome on the first day, we hung out at Tanaya lake for lunch before hitting up puppy dome for some super fun, and always challenging, crack climbing.

Nat on the crux of a 5.11b

Puppy dome is one of my favorite places to feel the happy stinging sensation of crack climbing. We took some newbie climber friends of ours to our favorite crack, and watched them learn some new techniques. Other climbers were on our favorite crack when we got there, so we attempted to climb another crack just to the right of it. We found this climb challenging, but Rosie was able to fight her way to the top in true crack climbing fashion! Our crack cleared of people after flailing on the first crack, so I scurried up it quickly before the sun finished setting. We were there until dark, and then scurried back to camp for some well deserved dinner and s'mores.

Eric repelling

On the last day we headed over to a climb that is just off the street near daft dome. Here the climb was an interesting mix or crack and slab, with the slab part giving us only little tiny knobbies to use for our hands and feet. It was definitely something I've never done before, but I had a lot of fun learning how to use each knob effectively. The trick seemed to be remembering to keep your weight over your feet evenly with out sticking your butt out too much. Tiny toes and sides of the feet came in handy for this, because it seemed that most of the control was gained in the foot placements.

Eric climbing the crystals

We will be heading to the Valley for our next trip, and this time it will be including our new dog, Mr. Dickie. We hope he loves Yosemite as much as we do, and look forward to teaching him how to boulder... just kidding, but you can always dream, right?

Photo Gallery:
Toulumne BACON+

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gear Review - AeroPress Coffee Maker

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Aerobie AeroPress
Innovative lightweight coffee press
Car camping, travel, breakfast

AeroPress magic
Last Christmas I received an amazing gift from Eric. It's my handy dandy new coffee maker for camping, the Aerobie AeroPress . Usually when we go camping I find myself drinking watered down coffee-flavored something. Our friends Dan and Shenoa introduced us to this new magic coffee maker when we went camping a little over a year ago. It looks like a huge syringe, and at first I didn't understand exactly how it works. It looks more like something you would find in a hospital than something you would find in a cafe. However, this crazy plastic contraption makes an amazing cup of joe.

The way it works is pretty revolutionary... I think. First you boil water, futuristic, I know. Next take one of the round filters and place it in the bottom removable part of the syringe. Next pour coffee (pre-ground) into the top of the syringe after screwing on the filter piece. Next wait for the water to boil.....When the water is done, place the syringe over a mug or sierra cup. Next, pour the water into the top of the syringe directly into the coffee grounds. Here comes the fun part- grab the plunger part of the syringe and push it into the other part of the device. Slowly press down until all of the water has emptied into your cup. The important thing is to go slow, because if you go too fast, the coffee will not have enough time brew during the process. After, enjoy it like an espresso with out adding any water to it, or make it an Americano by adding some boiling water to it. This will make it taste more like coffee and less strong. Add sugar, milk, sweetener, or powdered milk for added flavor. Enjoy!

Brewing sideshow
The cool thing about this device is that it is small, light weight, and makes amazing coffee. The filters are re-usable, so you can easily make two or three cups of coffee with one filter. The AeroPress is really most practical for car camping. It would be too bulky for backpacking, and also requires quite a bit of coffee. However, the AeroPress is a time saver because it only takes the amount of time to boil water to get a cup of coffee ready. It's practically instant coffee with real coffee grounds! We have even use the AeroPress at home on occasion, when we wanted an espresso type drink. This was definitely one of the best Christmas presents I ever got, and a great value for all the amazing cups of coffee it produces. A great buy!

  • Makes great coffee
  • Reusable filters
  • Time efficient
  • Easy to clean
  • Uses a lot of grounds
  • Not great for large groups
  • Brewing time - 1 min.
  • Minimum weight - 10 oz.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Art Of Constant Walking

Trip Report - Backpacking in the Hover Wilderness
September, 2009

Recently Eric, Kenneth and I adventured into the wilderness to seek solitude, and to break our long distance walking records. We also recently moved into another apartment, which Eric and I have come to realize, is a lot like backpacking. We moved from one apartment in our complex into another - It was one of the easiest moves we have ever done because there was no truck, no boxes, and it reminded us a lot of backpacking because you put your stuff on your back.. Walk. Take all the stuff out of your pack. Pack it back in. Walk. Repeat. It took us just as long to move into a new apartment, as it did to backpack 22 miles. Two Days.

Getting ready to go

On this most recent trip, we attempted to backpack to Tower Peak. We drove up to the area the night before and slept in the car (with a bivy for Kenneth.) As it turns out, most of the people we saw on the trail the first day did the same thing. A group had already beaten us to the trail-head backpacker's parking lot, and were setting up camp for the night on the hard asphalt. The next day, everyone was excited and we hit the trail bright eyed and bushy tailed. That was a long day. It seems like we hiked forever, and we weren't entirely sure if we were making good time or not. Our original goal was either the upper meadows, or Tower Lake. We didn't make it as far as Tower Lake.

Pretty Lake

After hiking 11 miles on the first day, we were pooped...to say the leased. All three of us decided it would be a good idea to sleep on top of a raised area in the medow. We found proof that people had camped here before from an old fire ring. We made dinner, cleaned up, and went to bed. After midnight we were awaken by the sound of large animals in our camp. I heard what sounded like a deer hoof, and I figured it was no big deal. Then I heard more... like five more. It sounded like these animals were throwing a party. Rocks were being tossed, trees were being bucked, and the curiosity of a few large sounding deer had taken over our camp. Eventually, Kenneth ripped open his tent and scared away the culprits.

In the morning we awoke to the aftermath of the deer. A chewed up REI walking stick, knocked over gear, and a cozy I had spilled food on chewed up and left 10-15 feet away from where I had left it. We had been ambushed by a gang of curious deer, taking advantage of a beautiful full moon lit night.

Chewed on Kenneth

The next day we were sore, and still pretty tired. We decided to take advantage of the three day weekend by hiking out the second day so we could spend Monday resting. It was a good choice. Even though Eric and I had been doing cardio at the gym to prepare for this trek, we hadn't actually been hiking in a while. This was a great reminder to our bodies that we should probably hike more.

Eric and Kenneth resting

It was a long second day, but we made it back alive, in one piece, without injury and that's what matters. We had a lot of fun backpacking in the sierra for the first time, enjoing all the wonders that create it's allure (including the boisterious wildlife!) I guess in a way backpacking got us ready for moving, it worked the right muscles and prepaired us for the hard work of walking back and forth carring stuff. Even though we didn't get all the way to Tower Peak, it was worth it. Every damn mile.

Kenneth in all his glory

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Night of the Living Deer


I'm sitting here on my lunch break, writing a brief update on the weekend's backpacking trip, in a feeble attempt to be timely.

We never reached Tower Peak. In fact, we never saw it again after the first few miles in Leavitt Meadow. As Kenneth so profoundly put it near the beginning of the trek, "that looks far away".

Out intended, and unreached, destination. Yes, it does look far away.

But we did have a blast! We made it most of the way to our planned destination, sleeping in Piute Meadows instead of at Tower Lake, but the hike took it's toll on Amber and I, seeing as how we had done little hiking lately to get into proper condition. Still we charged hard, and did about 11 miles each day, "uphill both ways", with heavy packs.

Kenneth adjusting his pack in Piute Meadows

The need to be functional today for work precluded the sanity of any summit attempt we might have made. In addition, we experience an event we can only describe as "Night of the Living Deer" that motivated us to attempt to move camp or hike out on Sunday. Regardless, we had a lot of fun and Upper Piute Meadows was spectacular, and we can't wait to plan another backpacking trip (and maybe one a bit more leisurely).

A full trip report should be coming soon...

Related Posts:

Photo Gallery:
Piute Meadows Backpacking

And now for something completely different:

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tower Calls...

As I write this, we are already on our way to the Sierra for a long-anticipated backpacking, peakbagging adventure. Kenneth, Amber, and I are off to attempt Tower Peak in the Hoover Wilderness, some 15 miles distance from the Leavitt Meadows trailhead.

Tower Peak in the far distance, this is taken from near where we will start

It was the sight of Tower Peak that 'piqued' my interest in climbing and mountaineering, though I didn't know it at the time. Researching the peak exposed me to many resources I now find invaluable. So, I have high hopes for this venture to be a sort of culmination of the other adventures we've had in the meantime, summit or not.

But there is one bit I'm a little apprehensive over. Backpacking.

Amber sporting a pack in the Los Padres

Though I camped a lot growing up, I never did any backpacking. Not until two springs ago when Amber and I went on a trek through the Los Padres near Santa Barbara. What a nightmare that turned out to be! Overgrown trails, bushwacking through steep canyons of Poison Oak (to which I am highly allergic), and a painful last two miles night-hiking out so as to be able to shower off the allergens.

Really the poison oak was only a couple mile-ish sections, with really beautiful trail the rest of the way. But it was enough to create psychological misery. And on top of all that, the camera broke after we passed the point we had dayhiked before!

Last year's backpacking camp, before the madness

Nope, we were beaten. And sick of hiking for a while after that. In fact, that is how we discovered rock climbing! But in the end we're very excited about this trip, even if we need to drag our asses a ways in there to get up this thing.

So wish us luck! And we'll report back!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gym Progress

Gym Climb Progress Report
August 2009

When I first started to climb a little over a year ago, I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into. I knew I really liked the feeling of getting to the top of a climb, even if I was still on the baby wall, but I never really understood the package you get when you enter the climbing world. No one warned me about the bruised knees and the bumped elbows,or the emotion that comes along with the experience of pushing yourself to the limit. I guess it turns out that I don't really mind that stuff, as long as I feel that I'm moving forward in the process.

Great Western Power Company

I've been growing into a decent climber, but it always takes me a little longer to get things flowing when I'm learning "the ropes" of a new hobby.... OK, pun intended. I fondly remember the day I finally made the last move on that baby wall 5.7 route in the corner at GWPC. That thing kicked my ass for weeks! But I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, and nailed it. Now I struggle with '5.10a' and 'b' instead, however I still fall off of 5.7s every now and then on a bad day. I still have much to learn, but so far I have gained a great deal of knowledge about technique. Now I just have to figure out how to apply that knowledge while I'm climbing indoors, and out.

Nice long arms

Legs. Legs are important. If you don't use them, you are not climbing. Without legs you are just doing a bunch of pull ups on a rock wall, and I'm not very good at doing pull ups -nor do I care for them. As a beginner I didn't have a very good concept about how climbing works. I was mainly using my primal instincts and thought hand holds were the most important feature. This turned out to be a very false perception. Not only must legs be used to push up on, one also has to keep an eye on where your feet are. Looking up will only get you so far up a wall.

Remember to look at your feet

Arms. Using your arms effectively is also important. I learned that without straight arms I become pumped, fall more, and have a horrible time trying to climb some of the easiest routes. A lot of my progress in the last 6 months or so has been mainly due to straight arms. If I'm flailing around, it's probably because my arms aren't straight, specifically my left arm. It has a tendency to do whatever the hell it wants. Dealing with that was actually stunting my progress for a while, but now I have learned to catch the arm behavior, and correct it.

Eric brought a Flip camera to the gym the other night, and we filmed each other climbing. It was a huge help, and great confidence booster, to watch myself climb. I was able to see where my climbing was stellar, and where I needed improvement. I suggest taking pictures or video of yourself if you need feedback, or just want to watch yourself in all of your amazingness. It work wonders!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gear Review - REI Camp Bed 2.5

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REI - Camp Bed 2.5
Self-inflating sleeping pad
Oversized, side-sleepers, car camping


Many people prefer doing it in beds, but others occasionally venture away from them. Some people can sleep face-down on the floor. Many of us are side sleepers and really need something to cushion our shoulders and hips. After several years of using and abusing a thicker-than-a-raft style inflatable mattress (not unlike this), I decided we needed something a that would be more dependable and less likely to leave you deflated or hammocking.

Two Camp Beds stacked up with our superlight tent

Enter the REI Camp Bed 2.5. Thing is a large oversized self-inflating pad. Rolled up, these are a bigger than your a PVC air mattress, with two being somewhat bulky. Luckily, they are pretty lightweight, and make up for their bulk in comfort. Once you spread them out, they are no longer bulky. They are large enough and thick enough to feel luxurious on a nice, flat camp spot, but they have a low profile in the tent. This means you might get away with squeezing them in a backpacking-size tent. Which are often simpler, and more cozy than a big car-camping tent. You should be able to get a pair of them into any tent at least 50 inches wide.

The two oversized pads fit great in our "3 person" tent

The biggest complaint I have about the Camp Bed 2.5, is that I often overinflate the pad when topping it off with a few breaths before bed. Now, I inflate it firm, then bleed some air out to tweak my comfort and maximize the coosh. So far the nylon fabric seems much tougher than the exteriors of hollow, inflatable mattresses; I've not yet had to use the included repair patch.

But the best thing is getting a pretty killer night's sleep. It has enough padding for even a pretty hefty side sleeper, and keeps your arm from falling asleep. It insulates you from the ground well, due to the combination of foam and airspace, and has enough room to move around and sleep in different positions. Despite the bulk (which is reallly not that bad) these pads garuntee a pleasanty experience when car camping. We even use them for house guests sometimes. They are worth their weight in golden slumber.

Note: REI seems to have updated the product line to have both a regular 2.5 and an extra-large. The model we have is almost identical to the regular, but the specs may slightly.

  • Tons of cushion
  • Fairly light for size
  • Tough outer material
  • Great spare bed for guests
  • Bulky even when packed
  • Proper storage requires space
  • Only convenient for drive-up camp sites
  • Dimensions - 72 x 25 x 2.5 inches
  • Average weight - 3 lbs. 14 oz.
  • R-Value - 5.6
  • Insulation - Foam
  • Packed size - 5.5 x 26 inches
  • Design type - Inflatable
  • Shape - Rectangular
Related Posts:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To the Leap!

Trip Report – Lover's Leap
July 2009
Guest Blogger: Kenneth Davenport

Our good friend Kenneth and some of his fellow climbing buddies headed up to Lover's leap this past month. He spent the time taking a newbie on trad, and climbing some sweet 5.10 climbs. They experienced all sorts of situations, and it seems like they had a blast doing it! The Leap always brings an adventure with unpredictable weather, lines at the routes, stellar climbs, and more. Below, Kenneth describes their adventure in his own words-

The infamous stretcher

On Friday evening Chris drove up and got a campsite- however there were still some available on Saturday morning. Joss, James, Sarah, and I arrived late and bivvied.On Saturday Chris led Pop Bottle with Joss and myself following, then we futzed about figuring out whether to do Haystack in the hottest part of the day with two parties of two ahead of us already. We ran into a Seth (with dog Annie) and a Chad who work at Marmot, and we discussed options for short climbs.

Kenneth climbing

We all went to Surrealistic Pillar and I decided that I wanted to lead it. It was fun and challenging, but I bootied a UK nut on the way up. I went way past the first belay and ended up on top of a choss pillar. It turns out there were spots to build an anchor either there or 50 ft of down climbing below. The sky was looking bloated, and Chris decided that if it started raining she would not climb. She let Joss go, and by the time she got up to where I was, we were getting horizontal rain. With zero percent chance of precipitation in the forecast!! I rearranged the anchor with minimal cams and nuts and leaver biners, and we rapped off. Joss was a little nervous since she'd never rappelled before but I walked her through it. We auto blocked her setup, gave her gloves, and with Chris giving a her a fireman's belay, she got down safely. I pulled one of my cams from the anchor and left a solid .75 C4 and the bootied nut, and rapped down.

Chris climbing

When we got back to camp we ran into folks Topher knew (and we recognized from the gym). The Marmot dudes also came by with a couple sixers to share. I passed around the bourbon and we sat under trees to chillax, lament, play with Annie, take pictures, and set up tents before heading to the Strawberry Lodge for dinner. Cooking outdoors in the rain didn't sound appealing at this point. By the time we were finished eating however, the rain had stopped.

Who wants to boulder?

Chris and I woke up early Sunday to retrieve my gear off Surrealistic Pillar, and we found a party of three ahead of us on it at the first belay station. We hollered at 'em that we needed to bail yesterday and left gear, and not to touch it, and they acknowledged. I let Chris lead the first pitch, since we now knew where the first belay was. It was a heady pitch and Chris took her time but nailed it. Joss showed up for moral support and a photo op while Chris was setting the anchor.


I led the rest of the climb, bootied my own gear (humming the Final Fantasy battle victory music as I did so), down-climbed back down the chosspile, watched a lizard of a climber leading an impressive-looking .11something nearby, traversed around the arete, and ran the hell out of the last 150 feet of 5.5 dike-hiking. I think I set 3 or 4 pieces and slung a horn though. I barely had enough rope to build an anchor in a safe spot at the top.

Kenneth busting a move

After topping out we went back to camp, packed up, ate avocado, brie and tomato on flat bread, moved crap to the car, and hiked up to the Main Wall to look at stuff. James and Sarah tried an 5.11a sport route on Tombstone Ledge and lobbed off a couple times before calling it done. Before that they'd talked me into leading a 5.10a sport route called Arctic Breeze. I flashed it and Chris, Sarah and I ran laps on it afterward. After the long hike down, we bade farewell to Chris and headed to Z Pies before the long drive home. YUM!**

Lovers's Leap by Joss

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DDTV: Cracking Spicer

Duration 7:53

First official video with our fancy-pants camera. Also, shooting on rappel made for more appropriate shots than the butt-dominated fare you get on the ground. Be sure to check out the HD version if you have a very fast connection.

YouTube: Regular - HD Huge

This is climbing the easy 5.6 at Spicer Terraces on toprope. This was originally intended just as a test of our HD camera, but ended up getting considerably more time invested into it. I wanted to try a specific editing style, which may have drained the "action" a little bit, but it's still a fun video and a vast improvement over our earlier videos. I'm hoping there will be a couple more to come in this vein.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gear Review - prAna Zion Shorts

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prAna - Stretch Zion Short (men's)
Cargo short / climbing short / stretchy synthetic
Size reviewed: XL

the prAna Stretch Zion Short

Rarely is a piece of outdoor clothing, that you buy for a specific purpose, so well suited to everything else that you do that it ends up being the go-to item in your arsenal on any given weekend. The prAna Stretch Zion Short has turned out to be one of those surprising garments, one that doesn't seem to ever quit or let you down.

Half the surprise is that I would probably have never bought these if they hadn't been on clearance at the time. I had wanted something better than gym shorts for climbing outdoors, but hadn't been looking real seriously. My criteria were pretty simple: stretchy, tough, and not made from cotton. Boy, did these shorts ever fit the bill! They are mostly nylon, like most good hiking and outdoor pants, but with a touch of Spandex to make them completely climber-friendly.

See? Very stretchy!

They are laid out much like any other cargo short, and the bottom pockets zip for extra security (think car keys, ID, etc.). Also, they've done something in the weave that makes them tough-as-nails, even compared to a lot of other nylon pants. They are, top-to-bottom, almost everything you could ask for in a climbing short.

These shorts don't bat an eye at apparel-shredding quartz monzonite

And then some, since I've become accustomed to their giving and stretchy nature, they have now become my favorite shorts for hiking as well. My only complaint is that occasionally they feel a little warm, and could possible breathe better, and I do think that regular belt loops would be an improvement.

A technical fit that is still comfortable and relaxed at the end of the day

So, while I initially though prAna was just trendy gym-wear for boulderers and yogaholics, I stand corrected and impressed at the quality outdoor garment they've produced. I would gladly pay full price for another pair, and if anyone wants to cough up a donation, I'd love to review the ful-length Zion Pant as well (hint-hint, prAna).

  • Tough
  • Stretchy
  • Pockets
  • No belt loops
  • Gets dirty quicker than some other pants

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fun In The Yosemite Sun

Trip Report - Yosemite With Eric's Parents
Toulumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park, CA
July 16-19, 2009

It was a warm weekend in the park, but once again we found ourselves having a blast. I was able to see some things in Yosemite I've never seen before, and visited some good ole' fashion tourist attractions. Eric, his parents, and I hopped in a rented SUV and headed towards the park.We stayed at a hotel just outside Yosemite named the Evergreen Lodge. Eric's parents booked a family suite, and it was very nicely decorated. There was no TV in our hotel suite, but who needs it when you have ping pong, hammocks, pool, foosball, board games, and a full bar? Not me!

The view from Crane Flat fire lookout

The first afternoon we visited our favorite fire lookout just before Crane Flat. It was fun to show the Clark Range to Eric's parents. The fire lookout is the best place to learn the layout of the park. After we checked out the views, we headed down to the Giant Sequoia trees just a mile from the road near Crane Flat. We walked down the one mile path and found some pretty cool trees with an amazing history. Bigger, taller, and heavier than any living thing on earth ever.... pretty impressive. I made sure to give one a big hug.

Eric walking by a huge Giant Sequoia

Later that afternoon we drove out to Hetch Hetchy. The scenery was beautiful! I can't believe I've never been there before. The drive in felt long due to the anticipation of driving into a beautiful hidden valley tucked in the shadows of its popular neighbor. The valley there is gorgeous. Its just as impressive as Yosemite Valley proper, just a lot smaller. I would love to spend more time there, but this time we were in a hurry because we had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant that night. It was yummy.

Hetch Hetchy Dam

The next day we headed to Tuolumne for some climbing. Eric and I tried to climb at pothole dome, but we failed to find the bolts for the top rope climbs. It was kinda annoying knowing we were just missing the bolts right in front of our faces. It was getting pretty warm so we had lunch and then hung out at Tenaya Lake. While we were there a Search and Rescue volunteer approached our picnic table to tell us that lightning storms were coming. She was doing a preventive program warning people of the dangers of being in Tuolumne during the summer months. That's a really smart way to get people in tune with weather in the wilderness, and in tune with safety.

Eric checking out the view with his Dad

The last day there we headed into the valley during the morning so we would beat the heat of the afternoon. We parked at Camp Curry and did the tourist thing- hop on a valley bus and see the sights! We visited the dried up Mirror Lake, Yosemite Falls, El Captain, Bridal Veil and Camp Curry. Everyone had a great time and we all came back with some amazing memories. I can't wait until the Fall when we get to do it again! Eric and I are very Lucky to live so close to a place many people will only visit once in their lifetime.

Janelle and Phil- Eric's awesome parents

Photo Gallery:
Yosemite July 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer already?!

Trip Report - Hiking Mt. Hoffmann
Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA
June 27, 2009

Well, the solstice has passed, and Summer is now in full swing. Amber and I decided it was time to get away for the weekend, and get up into the mountains (not that there isn't plenty of this planned for the upcoming weeks).

Mt. Conness from above May Lake, this is the kind of thing that gets us going!

Over the first half of this year, we've been slowly adapting our newer adventuremobile, the PT Cruiser, to meet our needs. One thing we've toyed with is a solution for sleeping in the back. Needless to say, we've tinkered and tested and now got it down. You can expect a more detailed post on this in the future.

Friday night, Amber and I threw a ton of gear, and some meager rations into the car and yanked the back seats out. Did I mention a ton of gear? Seemed so, since we had no idea what we would do up there, but without the seats or passengers it was quite manageable.

Our luxurious accommodations (I'm not doing a good job of pretending to sleep)

So we drove late into the night, up and over the pass, and found a secluded place to pull off and crash in the car. The next morning we awoke to grand mountains along the Tioga road, still peppered with snowfields. We were meeting Dirk and his climbing partner at the Toulumne campground office bright and early, so I cooked up some oatmeal while Amber reserved a campsite, and just short of coin flips, decided to try a hike.

We'd been in Toulumne just a few weeks before, but nothing was open yet and this time it bustled with activity! We stashed our food safely at the May Lakes trailhead and headed up towards Mt. Hoffmann. Hoffmann is considered pretty easy for a Sierra peak, but it turned out to be just the adventure we bargained for.

May Lake, where the use trail leaves the official park trails

Amber checks out the Clark Range, at an early rest break

It's not a particularly long hike, nor is the gain excessive (~2000ft), but it had a little of everything. First we had to DEET-up to drive away the voracious mosquito squadrons (they do not travel alone). We wound around the south side of the lake and found the first of many small snowfields to cross. Thankfully the snow was soft, and easy to cross (with steps in many places).

Amber hiking up one of the more significant snowfields

On one of the snowfields we met a hiker, now named "Polly Prissy-Pants", who had turned back due to "horrifying clouds of mosquito" in the talus above. Though we did meet with some tiring switchbacks, the mosquitoes never worsened, so perhaps he had no DEET or just should have waited for things to warm up a bit.

At times we've had trouble hiking above 9000ft, but sleeping up near the pass the night before really helped. We were able to hike pretty consistently without really "feeling" the elevation. Though there were a good amount of switchbacks and snowfields, there were also nice flats where you could get a bit of a break. One reason to recommend this hike is that, not too far in, you get GREAT VIEWS of parts of Toulumne and Yosemite Valley, and as you wind your way up, they just get better. Eventually revealing every major range in the park! (and some might be surprised that Half Dome looks a bit puny from above)

The false summits of Hoffmann

We though we were heading for the large formations overhead, but this was not the true summit. At one point you round a switchback onto the large summit plateau and the true summit (with antenna) becomes apparent. Though it was a bit further away, we made it to the base quite quickly. There should be a class-2 scramble to the top from there, but almost everyone ended up using their hands enough to make it class-3. With careful route-finding you could probably keep it class-2. Though we were alone almost the entire time we were on the trail, we shared the summit with several other parties.

The west side of the formidable Sawtooth Ridge, seen through a gap in the summit plateau

Hikers crossing the summit plateau, Lyell and friends in the background

For such a tame hike, Hoffman treats you to precipitous drops on the other sides of the summit. It sits at near the center of the park geographically, and also treats you to amazing views. You can see Half Dome and Clouds rest, the Cathedral Range, Mt. Dana on the Sierra Crest, the domes of Toulumne Meadows, the Lyell group, the Clark Range, the Sawtooth Ridge and Tower Peak. A view like that inspires you to keep working to try more peaks.

Amber and I savor our success on the summit!

While our marmot friend scurries away from the excitement...

Tower Peak I have seen on several occasions, and it is striking in being a bit of a loaner. We hope to hike it this fall, on a backpacking trip. Another that is particularly striking is Mt. Clark. Remote and more difficult, it is extremely striking, and near the top of my list. Yosemite is just a small portion of the Sierra. There is more variety and adventure waiting for the hiker or climber than could be fully appreciated in a lifetime. Just another reason I like to play like it's my big back yard.

Tower peak from Mt. Hoffmann's summit

Savoring a day well spent, above Mono Lake

But enough pontificating, hungry and starting to lose steam on the summit, we celebrated briefly then promptly headed back down. It was a long return, and I'd guess the whole trip was around 7 miles. The last mile was especially long. Though it wasn't a super tough hike, we have been doing lots of other activities so weren't particularly warmed up for it. In the end it was just the right length, not leaving us particularly sore. We drove down to Mono Lake to have a few beers before meeting people at Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner. Sunday we'd do a few rock climbs, bask in the beautiful Toulumne weather, and head home.

Photo Gallery:
Mt. Hoffmann / T.M.