Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lavender Towers

While climbing in the creek last week, Luke and Tim pointed out a few towers.  So this week I drove back out to check them out.  I ended up climbing the Lavender Towers.  

Hike up wash until you encounter a ridge line that heads straight to the base of the towers. 40 min to base with a heavy pack. The approach pitches start right of the towers and ascend the gulley behind the towers.  Cairn marks the start.

Pitch 1- 
Climb up and right on loose blocks and ledges then left into a chimney to its top. Walk down the slope to the gulley.  100ish feet, gear belay, 5.easy.  

Pitch 2- 
Climb up a crack system to under a giant chockstone. Traverse right on the face then up to on top of the chock stone.   Hike up slope to a shrub/tree belay. 60ish feet, 5.7. (The route on West Lavender starts in the notch and climbs the north face).
Pitch 3- 
Climb loose terrain up the gulley to the next lower angle terrain. Belay at tree/shrubs. 60' 5.7.
Pitch 4- 
Climb up the shallow rotten corner that starts out wide. Continue up to the two giant chock stones. Move right and mantel onto the right side of the first. Traverse up and left across the chockstone. Step left onto the small arĂȘte and climb up to the notch on friable rock. Climb North Lavender first so the rope pulls clean on the way down.  Scramble across the loose notch and climb the south face of North Lavender passing two protection bolts on the way.  Belay at 2 bolts.  The summit is a 15' scramble away.  5.9+ C1.  Enjoy the view and scope out South Lavender. 
Rappel 50' to notch and build a gear anchor.
Pitch 5- 
Once back at the notch aid up the thin north facing crack on South Lavender.  The crack gradually widens to #1 and is capped with blocks. Mantel up and right on to ledge avoiding the blocks. Move right across the ledge 10' and climb the short wide crack to a small ledge. Carefully traverse left around to the NE face. Place gear in a horizontal crack and face climb to the top of the tower. Belay at two bolts on the NW side.  5.9 C1
Rappel 200' to the top of pitch 2. 
Pitch 6- 
Climb up to notch then onto a spaced out bolt ladder on the north face of West Lavender. Belay is two bolts. (One of which is the last bolt in the bolt ladder.  An additional bolt on the summit would be a nice addition.)  
Rappel 100' to the ground, landing 100' left of where you started.

Double set of cams from .1-3 camalot, single 4 & 6, single set of stoppers, runners, two 60m ropes.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Plan G......and F

Jeff and I met Trevor and Emily while getting permits to climb the Incredible Hulk last summer.  Since we were both climbing the hulk twice we were able to hang out around camp for a few evenings and talk about our shared love of desert towers.
Then in January Emily joined Amanda and I for a few days of Limestone sport climbing at the Homestead.  Trevor unfortunately was unable to join us on that trip.
Finally after some failed attempts our schedules meshed and Amanda, Trevor, Emily and I were able to plan a trip to Moab.  We decided on Horsethief Tower which is on the wrong side of the Green River.  Luckily Trevor had a raft from his dad.
Happy times pumping up the raft with Horsethief in the background!

Sad times moments later when the raft exploded.
 The weather was cold enough that a swim across the river was out so we took some time to brainstorm our options.
Amanda and Emily.
After looking at many other options, both in person and in the guidebook we settled on Thracian Mare and The Ark.  Not surprisingly Eric's description for the 'North Face' route on Thracian Mare wasn't exactly spot on.  We kept moving and climbed the Ark, which went smoothly with Trevor and Emily leading.  We were going to call it a day and head back to the truck but last minute decided to check out the "North Face" route.  After 100' of climbing I yelled down to Trevor that the pitch 1 anchor was only 20' away.  He promptly responded that I had only used half the rope.  Damn.  That was logic I couldn't argue with.  So, wanting to be a good partner I pushed on past the anchor and linked both pitches.
Starting up Thracian Mare
We made it back to camp but only after the sun had set and the wind and rain had gotten nasty.  We decided to pack up camp and head to town for some well deserved food.  Can't wait for the next adventure with this crew!
L to R Aphrodite, Zeus, Ark, Moses, Thracian Mare.
Oh yeah and some people in the foreground.

El Protrero Chico

Protrero is a classic climbing area that I had been hearing about for years.  It had always been on the list of places to check out but things never worked out.  So last fall when our longtime friends told us they were going to make a trip Amanda and I promptly invited ourselves.  
Geoff and Janice drove down from Los Alamos with their two dogs and camper, while we flew.  Amanda had tweaked her finger before the trip but fortunately the angle of many of the routes in Potrero puts most of your weight on your feet.   Super fun to hang with good friends and check out a world class climbing destination!
Amanda following 'Pancho Villa Rides Again'.

Hiking up past the 'Outrage Wall' to the 'Surf Bowl'.

Geoff climbing up the cleared highway on 'Space Boyz'. 

Janice high on 'Space Boyz'.


Amanda crushing on 'Don Quixote'.

Still can't figure out why Amanda insists on calling climbing trips "vacations".

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Checking out the remains of the burned fire lookout on top of  the Magician.
After climbing the Chouinard-Herbert in the morning, Matt and I headed down to Visalia to meet up with Brad and food shop.  In the excitement of seeing Brad again and heading to a new climbing area we forgot to get directions to the Needles.  Google maps took us to the wrong spot, and by that time we were well out of cell service.  We drove around in the dark looking for signs to help us.  A dirt road appeared and not knowing where it lead, we took it. 4 miles later we were on another paved road and amazingly on the right track.  We made it to the TH parking lot late enough to wake everyone up as we were setting up our tent...sorry.
Matt climbing into the warmth.
There was a cold front coming though the area so we woke up to frost.  After a slow start we made it out of the parking lot and down the trail.  Without thinking Brad and I followed Matt up the stairs to the location of the old fire lookout.  Although it was a great view and cool to checkout, as we walked back down the stairs we wished we would have left all our ropes and gear at the bottom.

Brad resting after 'Thin Ice'.
With the cold temps we decided on 'Thin Ice' since it was in the sun.  Thanks to a 10 year old crusher we found the base and were assured it was a "fun route".  Matt dragged Brad and I up to the top of The Sorcerer and and then we rappelled to the base of The Charlatan.  We climbed 'Spooky' to exit, the top of which is one of the coolest sections of granite climbing I've gotten on.
Following 'Spooky'.
After the obligatory ascent of The Charlatan Spire we walked back to the notch to figure out what was next.  Brad was destroyed and said he was done.  Matt and I settled on 'Airy Interlude' and asked if Brad would help us carry some gear down.  Once at the base we talked him into climbing the first 5.8 pitch with the promise that he could just walk off from the top of the first.  There was no walk off and Brad continued to the top with the help of the occasional cam handhold.  

'Airy Interlude'
 The next morning after some breakfast Brad headed home and Matt and I headed for the VRG.  We made a quick stop to break up the drive and get a couple pitches in and then pushed on home.
Great Times!

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Elise, Matt and I crammed into my little Mazda and headed west.  There wasn't going to me much leg room on this trip.  Matt and I were heading on a California climbing trip and we were shuttling Elise back to Yosemite where Bill had been spending the season guiding.  To add to the cramped courters I was sick.  Think coughing up phlegm and body aches.  I had basically not left my house for the 5 days before we left hoping that I would get better but it didn't happen.  We stopped to sleep in the Chuckwalla Wall parking lot just outside of St. George.  While Matt and I each had two sleeping pads, Elise didn't have any.  She thought we were just sleeping in the dirt and thus proceeded to not say anything and just sleep straight on the dirt and gravel parking lot.  Burly. 
Elise on the crux of West Crack on DAFF Dome
The first day on Yosemite Matt dragged me up the West Face of El Cap.  I wouldn't be surprised if the next team to climb the route found it harder than .11c.  I'm sure all that phlegm I was hacking up must have made the route slick.  
The next day we headed up to Tuolomne to climb West Crack on DAFF(Dome Across From Fairview) Dome and hangout with Bill and Elise.  It was a great route and was nice to get out of the heat of the Valley.  
Top of DAFF Dome
On our third day in Yosemite Matt and I did Lurking Fear.  Matt had done it once years before but I'd never been up it.  We topped out in 10hrs 45min, which felt good since we weren't rushing.  Out of the 20 pitches I only lead 5.  I was feeling better but still wasn't 100%.  After hiking over El Cap's summit and down the East Ledges twice in 3 days we decided that was enough of that for the trip.
Pitch 14 on Lurking Fear
Day 4 was a rest day.  Afterwards I always regret rest days.  We should have done some climbing but we did laundry and ate instead.
Day 5 we climbed the Chouinard-Herbert on the Sentinel.  I'm not sure how the C-H and the West Face are the same rating.  Maybe its all the fixed pins but the C-H felt much easier.  After a quick shower we headed out of the Valley to meet up with Brad and then to the Needles....

Powell Plateau, Steamboat Mtn., and Boot Mesa

After a quick run down to see Amanda in Phoenix I met John on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.   I hopped in John's FJ and navigated as he drove the twisty dirt roads through patches of rain to Swamp Point.  With the moonlight we could make out Steamboat Mountain.  As I fell asleep under the FJ I hoped that the darkness was making Steamboat look farther away than it actually was.

NW corner of the Powell Plateau 
We woke a few hours before dawn and started down the N. Bass trail to a saddle where we veered off the N. Bass and continued to the Powell Plateau.  Once on top of the plateau we headed for the NW corner to find a way down through the cliffs to access the Steamboat-Powell saddle.  Unfortunately, we didn't choose correctly the first time and got cliffed out.  After hiking back up and traversing a bunch we were able to find a break in the cliff that we could descend.
Descending to the Steamboat-Powell Saddle
Luckily with the great view from the saddle Steamboat went smoothly.  Now we just had to put our heads down and reverse our steps all the way back to the TH as the the heat of the day intensified.    
Steamboat Mountain
Day 2 was supposed to be an attempt on Mt. Hayden but the road out to Imperial Point was closed so we headed to the Navajo Reservation to check out Boot Mesa.
Moki Steps
 John had his eye on Boot Mesa, last year I had looked at it for him to see if I thought we could get up it.  A bowl on west side looked promising.  Zig zagging back and forth we were able to climb up through 5-6  cliff bands.  Although the rock was soft, loose and often wasn't easily protectable the climbing was moderate probably topping out around 5.8.
John near the summit with Agathla Peak in the distance.
The top offered amazing views of Monument Valley, Agathla and the rest of the Navajo Reservation. Since we didn't have any bolts or pins the descent required a little trickery but with a little patience we figured it out.
Great climbing with you John!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hulk, Dana, Tuolumne

Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk in the high sierra of California has been on my radar for a long time.  This summer I finally got the the opportunity to check it out.  I joined up with Jeff at the Bridgeport Ranger Station in the evening and bivied in the parking lot.  Jeff got up early and moved his pad and sleeping bag to in front of the door and fell back asleep.  We weren't taking any chances since it's first come first serve for permits.  While waiting for the station to open we had the pleasure of meeting Trevor and Emily who are also desert tower connoisseurs and heading to climb the hulk.  That afternoon Jeff and I hiked in and set up camp below the Hulk.  Jeff's long time friend Tony was coming in the next day so we climbed Positive Vibrations while it was just Jeff and I .  I've noticed a trend with Jeff were he underestimates his abilities and then crushes when it's game time.  Positive Vibrations was no different.  Before the climb he had his doubts but when he was on route he made it look easy.  
Jeff on the crux of Positive Vibrations
 After climbing the stellar route Positive Vibes, we rappelled the Venturi Effect and met Tony at our camp.  Tony has been climbing for decades and is super fun to be around.  We geared up for the Red Dihederal the next day.   We didn't get an alpine start which unfortunately put us behind a slow crew sporting big packs with mountaineering boots strapped to the outside and metal water bottles hanging off their harnesses.  No wonder they were moving slow!  We finally got passed them and bolted for the top.
Summit shot after Red Dihederal
 After the descent Jeff and I headed back to the TH leaving Tony to walk out at his own pace.  We headed back to Bridgeport for some food then back to the ranger station to bivy once again in their lot.  Jeff wanted a rest day but since Bill and Elise couldn't meet us for one more day he sucked it up and climbed the Third Pillar of Dana with me.
Jeff on the final pitch of the 3rd Pillar of Dana
 Any route that claims it's last pitch is the best in the universe, is a must do.  The only downside to the experience came on the last pitch when I said, "Jeff, watch this!".  Instead of looking up and witnessing my sweet all points off dyno he looked down to grab his camera.  So, I guess it didn't actually happen since he didn't see it, and more importantly didn't capture it on film.
Elise on the crux of OZ.
 After the Third Pillar, Jeff was adamant that he was taking a rest day so we headed to the Tuolumne store to meet Bill and Elise.  While waiting for them to drive up from the Valley, the highlight of my trip occurred.  I got to meet Dan Bailey and Matt Fraser!!!  Obviously way cooler then any climbing California has to offer.  Well maybe not, but pretty cool.
It's always great to see Bill and Elise.  Unfortunetly, Bill's feet weren't feeling great so while Elise and I climbed OZ on Drug Dome he hung out with Jeff at Tenaya Lake.  OZ was a great route even if I did feel like Bill and Jeff had sandbagged us a little bit.
Jeff on Fairview Dome.
Bill and Elise had to get back to reality the next day and Jeff was all rested up so we decided to get on the ultra classic Regular Route on Fairview Dome.  Once again we didn't get an alpine start and got stuck behind a slow party.  After a few hours of awaiting we finally passed the party by climbing a dirty runout pitch to the right of the actual route.  We climbed the final 8 pitches and descended.  While walking past the base of the route on our way back to the car we noticed that the party we had passed had made it up 1.5 pitches since we passed them.  Hopefully they had headlamps.

What a great trip, made better by old friends and new friends!