Archive for the '02 Rock Climbing' Category

Fall Rock Climbing!!

I just finished what is likely to be my last alpine trip for the season this weekend. The day we said goodbye in Bishop it was just reaching 70 degrees. Fall is here, the aspens have turned golden, and the top of the peaks are dusted with snow. Its time to break out the skis, sharpen the tools, and get ready for another winter…
Forget that – let’s go rock climbing!
Seriously, now that its getting damn cold in the mountains, the temperatures in the valleys just can’t be beat. We’re talking highs in the 60’s and 70’s, folks. That means if you want to come to Bishop and work on your technical climbing skills, it won’t get any better then Clark’s Canyon and Owens River Gorge for clipping bolts, and Little Egypt for clipping gear.

Want to go out for a little more “expedition” experience? El Potrero Chico, outside of Monterey, Mexico, is where its at. We’d stay at the Posada, which features a full community kitchen, rooms with private baths, and if you don’t want to cook Luis’ Mom has a fantastic restaurant on the premises. Just next door is the best coffee and the rock climbing is less then 15 minutes walk up the road. El Potrero is an incredible formation of limestone, known most famously for its multi-pitch routes. The only caveat emptor: The climbing starts at 5.8, and is dominantly 5.10. You should be ready to follow 5.10b if you really want to make the most out of a week here.
Does that sound like a little much? Then there is someplace just as big but closer than you may think – Red Rocks, Nevada. Located just outside of Las Vegas, this place is equally famous for incredible multi-pitch trad routes – especially those below 5.10. If you are still working on your technique, but want to climb longer routes, then this is the place to go. We can either stay at the group campsite from 24-28 October, or at a single site any other time, or you can stay in a hotel in town and be driven out to the climbing daily – the Strip is less then 30 minutes away!!
But multi-pitch routes aren’t for every one. Maybe you just want to work on your technique in an incredible desert setting, only a few hours drive from Los Angeles. It can only mean Joshua Tree National Park. With over 1000 individual routes to choose from, this is the place to work on your climbing. They say if you can climb the grade in J-Tree, you can climb anywhere. And like Red Rocks, camping or hotels are possible.
But not everyone lives in LA – some of us are lucky enough to live near San Francisco Bay. And for us, we have Lover’s Leap and Donner Summit. Both are great destinations for single to four pitch climbs up to 5.9 in difficulty. Both have camping and hotel options nearby: Lover’s Leap looks down on the historic stage stop of Strawberry and the Strawberry Inn and Restaurant. Donner Summit is only a few mile west of the historic and adventure summit town of Truckee.
So that’s what is on my mind, as I wait for the snow to really fall and skiing to start at my new ski area: Alpine Meadows. Until then, you can count on my heading out and enjoying cool air and warm rock this fall. Interested in joining me? Send me a comment with your email and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours.


An evening at the Rockzilla Gym

Afterwords, we went around the corner for beers and mexican food. The cold glasses tingled against my worked tips. My knuckles seemed to squeak and grind as my finger curled around the bottle. My forearms complained as I squeezed the lime, and my biceps joined in as I lifted the glass.

Tomorrow, my shoulders will protest when I reach over for the seat belt, and my lats will argue when I pull the belt to the buckle. And later my back will demand that I get out and move around, because it will be growing stiff from all the sitting from the drive to Alta Peak.

It was worth every Aleve.

Statistics: Rockzilla Gym. V0 x2, V0+ x1, V1 x2, V1+ x1, attempts on V1 and V2 boulder problems, and on 5.10b and 5.10b/c. Fall practice on the lead wall.


I woke up to the chilly morning air at the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon, wondering what I was doing today. I was supposed to climb with a new partner today, but we hadn’t talked about it since Wednesday and I wondered if she was even up in the Meadows. I piled back into my car, shivering violently as I started the motor and cranked up the heater, even though the temperature gauge was sitting below C. Whatever.

A stop at the Mobil filled my coffee mug with wake-the-f-up juice, and I was on the road again to the Meadows. I pulled through the gate and fell in love with Toulumne Meadows all over again.

At the TM Store I bought another cup of coffee and left my maybe-climbing partner a voicemail, before pulling over to the visitor center and re-organizing the incredible pile of junk that was overflowing from the back of the Subaru. By the time I was done she had called and canceled – injuries to a ring-pulley and motivation-psyche to blame – so I got ready to commit to a solo climb I’ve thought about for a while.

I called PG from the carpark, who grilled me: where? what? Thankfully, she didn’t try to tell me that I shouldn’t go. I clipped a pair of shoes and chalk bag to my belt, put on a pair of headphones, intentionally left my watch in the car, and started hiking.

About 30 minutes later I was cursing as I realized that I missed the climbers’ trail and started running back down the trail, stopping and scanning carefully each time the faintest mouse track slipped away from the main trail. I ran into three guys, who suspiciously had that “look”, and opted to take the trail that they were debating about. Five minutes later they slipped in front of me from a second trail and I slowed down a bit to give myself some solitary and enjoyed the walk up gray slabs and through the dry woods. Climbing the slopes near the bottom of the tower, I passed one of them armed with a very threatening and professional-looking SLR camera. Hmmm.

At the bottom of the face I ran into the other two fellows – we said our greetings, made jokes about how all the cool kids were here, and then looked up at the audience. I counted at least three teams ahead of us, using traditional methods to protect their climbing. We quietly strapped on shoes, said our goodbyes, and one-by-one we started to solo up the cracks and overlaps. I caught up with the first team on pitch one, and then took a left-hand variation to avoid a second team on pitch two. I pulled through a flaring corner over a bulge while an older climber watched silently as he belayed his partner. On pitch three, the famous chimney, I climbed a thin crack and knobs to the left again to avoid getting entangled with the third team, who cheerfully let me pass on the fourth pitch. I had to really focus on the next five feet, committing to the knobs and edges and ignoring the feeling of 400 feet hanging under my heels. The fifth pitch featured an unprotectable knobby face finish and I was suddenly on the summit, still on the heals of the two soloists in front me.
When we descended, they broke right to join their photographer friend on the ridge while I 3rd-classed over to the smaller Eichorn Pinnacle, a 2-pitch 5.4 that featured 200+ feet of exposure. Fun moves past ancient pins lead to a pedestal finish, with the win whipping my shirt and hair. How cool. I looked over and saw the photographer pointing his camera my way, and waved.

Just as I finished down-climbing, I felt something slide down my shirt and watched in dismay as my prayer-bead bracelet – a gift from PG – slide down the sloping ledges. I watched intently until it stopped on a ledge about 75 feet below, retrieved my approach shoes, and headed down to get it. As I descended, I watched the two other soloists and the cameraman begin to step down the west slopes – a maneuver not mentioned in any guidebook.

I decided to follow their lead, suspecting that the descent would lead to a trail following the bottom of the valley below. Sure enough, cairns led to open forest and then the trail appeared unexpectedly. A fun run down the trail, around the north buttress wall, and soon I was back to my car.

Statistics: South East Face of Cathedral Peak and North Face of Eichorn Pinacle, 7 pitches up to 5.7 with variations. 5:10 hours car-to-car. Musical accompaniment by Built to Spill.

TNB at Rockzilla, Napa, Ca.

The clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and the temperatures stayed low today. PG and I had planned a vague “outside climbing” trip to an undetermined location for today. Face with weather considered grim only by California standards we woke up to our alarm, looked out the window, and…
Burrowed down deeper into our warm down comforter and four down pillows to sleep in. How weak, eh?
Oh well. We did rally in the evening to take three of PG’s classmates – Anita, Jen, and Liz – to the nearest, and coolest, indoor gym: Rockzilla in Napa. PG swears that this place feels like Vertical World in Seattle before the move (from Fremont to the Locks). We haven’t been there more than once a quarter, but every time the owner Wayne greats us with a grin and a gruff, “Hey – where the hell have you been?!”
This was the first time PG’s friends have been climbing up anything, so we showed them a little about climbing, how to tie in, and belaying. They completely dug it. This semester their class has every other Tuesday off, so we nicked the Tuesday Night Bouldering title from Rock & Ice magazine.
In between keeping them from maiming themselves or others on the slabby beginner wall, I snuck in a few ascents on some V1 problems and 5.10b climbs. Felt pretty good about it too, until PG came by, waltzed up whatever it was that I had labored on, and called it, “5.9 for sure.”
After a fun three hours the girls were tired, so we zipped back to Vallejo for sodas and pizza at Napoli. Perhaps we didn’t wake up with the sun, but we didn’t completey give up the ghost, either.

Statistics: Rockzilla Gym, Napa, California. V0 x3, V1 x4, and 5.10b x3, with PG, Anita, Jen, and Liz.

June Climbs

Its summer time, and all the guides on the Sierra East Side are slammed with work – but we’re not complaining! My June was highlighted by a possible FA and a guided ascent of the rarely climbed Moynier Couloir on Mt. Thompson.

I had a free day off on 5 June, so I decided to make it a “training day” and climb something I look at every time I hike to Whitney: The Impala. This rock spur of Mt. Carillon towers over Lower Boy Scout Lake, the lower false summit appearing as a distinct spire. Last September I was part of a three-man team that climbed a new route on the shield of rock to the right, on a formation we named “The Springbok”. As we climbed we could look over to the left and scope a long rock ridge that climbed almost directly to the Impala’s false summit. I wanted to climb this ridge.

Remarkably, both formations have relatively few routes, despite a short approach, solid rock, and obvious presence. The Springbok had only one other line, The Winged Horse, a III 5.8 A3 route that splits the face right down the middle, established by Beckey and Miller in 1970. Our route from last summer, Adios Yahoos, is a 4+ pitch II 5.8 A0 route following cracks and a low roof directly to the summit. It could be freed at a low 5.10 if anyone gives it a go.

I hiked up in quick time to Upper Boy Scout Lake, before turning and descending down to the Impala. In the future, I’ll probably approach from the right side instead or from the glacier slabs between UBS and LBS, but I wanted the perspectives as I neared the ridge. It also gave me a chance to scope out the other two routes that are documented on the Impala, both II 5.7: the Diagonal Route and the South Face. The East Ridge started at a perfect notch on the far right side of the face, and I started up a long line of cracks. Twice I was stumped by notches that forced me to descend onto the South Face briefly to get around and regained the ridge. At the very top, perhaps 30m from the summit blocks in view, I chose to follow a ledge system around onto the South Face for the last time and then climbed onto the summit. I couldn’t find any register, so I tore my permit in half and wrote a quick note, pinning it down with a rock. I goofed and called it the Ibex, and didn’t realize that this was the false summit until I got down that evening. Descent was simple – a 4th class chimney and ledge system led to another notch on the backside, then following sands and slabs lead back to the bottom of the South Face. I figured the route was approximately 800 feet long, and graded it II 5.7.

PG came out just a few days later for a weekend away from school, and I finally got to show her the Whitney Portal, where we climbed my favorite 5.8, the 6 pitch Premier Route on Premier Buttress (III 5.8 A0, or 5.10b).

I also got to guide the rarely climbed Moynier Couloir on Mt. Thompson. This route is usually melted out by the time other alpine ice climbs are in shape. But this year SMC decided to attempt guiding these routes in earlier summer conditions, and we found awesome climbs! The Moynier Couloir featured three pitches of gradually steppening ice climbing, then a steep short ice step around one chock stone on pitch 4 followed by a mixed 5.6 step around a second chock stone on pitch 5. Incredibly climbing up a narrow line. Really good times!

I actually haven’t had time to climb anything else, or run for that matter. My sister and her husband brought my 2 year-old nephew out for a visit, and I’ve been working ever since! You can read about those adventures on the Sierra Mountain Center Blog. So that’s that.




5 June 2008. East Ridge, The Impala, II 5.7, 800 feet. Possible First Ascent and solo.

8 June 2008. Premier Route, Premier Buttress, III 5.8 A0 with PG.

25 June 2008. Moynier Couloir, III 5.6 AI3 Mixed. Guided ascent with one client.

Another Trip to Mickey’s Beach

After my last ski tour, I was feeling a bit guilty about leaving Montana at home – did it show?

So I took him back to our new favorite beach, Mickey’s, for some rock & surf. I mean, seriously, is there anything wrong in the world when someone looks at you like this?

Statistics: Mickey’s Beach. The Cave Boulder: Red Tide, V0R. Orange Budha Boulder: Hammerhead, V0; #26, V1; #29, V0 (alt. stand start).

Bouldering at Mickey’s Beach, Fool’s Day, April

Can you really call it bouldering if you leave the house late and miss low tide? If you miss the first turn that would have shortened the drive by 20 minutes? How about the second turn into the parking area?

Can you still call it bouldering if you take the short hike down to the water’s edge and find most of the problems being lapped by the incoming waves? What if you only climb one V1 problem before the setting sun turns you into a spectator instead of the actor?

Is it bouldering if you spent more time playing with your dog in the surf then climbing? And talking with your girlfriend who was taking endless photos of the dog, the surf, and the sunset?

Is it still bouldering after dark, when you lazily drive into town and find the best cafe there? With all you can eat pasta and salad, cold beer, and live surf music? Finish the dinner admiring the artwork on the wall – she likes the one of the traffic jam, you like the painting of the golden wave – over a slice of the best chocolate cake in years, the icing perfectly complementing the cake without being overdone and perfectly in step with a pint of stout?

Can it be bouldering as you drive back home, this time making all the right turns, the inside of the car still smelling of the ocean because of the wet dog in the back, finally opening the door in the dark?

Why not?

Statistics: V1, Problem #1.5 (not documented in the guide). Trailside Boulder, Mickey’s Beach. Success on the 5th attempt.

banner photo: antarctica / mark allen

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