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!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Grand Canyon Temples

1hr of hiking to get this view of Holy Grail. 
I'd been asleep for an hour when I woke at 22:30 to John's vehicle ending it's drive with an hour of four wheeling to meet me at Swamp Lake.  I couldn't see the lake when I drove up but my GPS had said I was close and that was good enough for me.  John deffinetly couldn't see a lake, but was working on the assumption that my truck would be where I said it would be 3 days ago when we'd texted last.  We left the vehicles at 04:00 to try and avoid as much of the 90-100 degree temps as possible.  Unfortunetly starting in the dark made navigating past the New Mexico Locust difficult.  If you are unfamiliar with New Mexico Locust as I was, I'd suggest Carharts, chaps, and a machete before getting anywhere close to them.  Imagine overhead thickets of bushes with inch long thorns.  As we had hoped the sun rose as we got to our descent route off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We could see our objective Holy Grail Temple in the distance.  This obscure peak is guarded by miles of bushwhacking, scrambling, route finding, an approach rappel and 3 pitches of rock climbing up to 5.8 in difficulty.  The first pitch was one of the loosest I'd climbed and demands that the climber not pull out on holds but instead only push down and in if possible.  With a lot of care we got up safely arriving on the summit of Holy Grail Temple at 10:15.  
Foot prints in the rock on pitch 3.
The heat was mildly heinous but we knew the return route.  We'd left a rope fixed where we rappelled on the approach and ascending it went smoothly.  I drank the last of my 5 liters of water as the vehicles came into view. Perfect timing!  We arrived back at the vehicles at 16:15 having hiked 13.8 miles.  After getting some food, water and rest it was time to move camp for tomorrows objective.  An hour an a half of rough roads got us to camp in a beautiful meadow.  That night with the temps as high as they were I didn't bother to heat up my canned soup.  Instead I just popped the top and ate it at the cool and refreshing temp of 90 degrees. 
Sunset on the North Rim.
Again at 04:00 we left on what would be a 18.5 mile day to do Shiva Temple.  Although more miles, Shiva was easier because it lacked the bushwhacking and technical difficulties of Holy Grail.  We arrived at the summit at 09:00 and found the classic milk containers.  On our return trip I somehow got off the cairned trail and missed the drainage we were supposed to take back up to the North Rim.  So instead of backtracking we bushwhacked and scrambled up a different drainage.  Luckily that was the end of the days difficulties and we arrived back at the vehicles at 14:40.  Just enough time to go grab some ice cream from the Grand Canyon Lodge!
These are leftovers from the 1937 Shiva Temple Expedition
hosted by the American Museum of Natural History.
Zoroaster and Brahma just barely visible in the distance. 
The last day entailed tagging two summits, Juno and Jupiter.  Although our distance hiked was less than the previous two days at only 13 miles, it ended up being the most draining of the 3 days.  Surely because it was our third day on but also because of the increased heat.  We left the TH at 04:30 hoping to have light for the route finding off the rim.  Unfortunetly the confusing directions caused us to get off route only a half hour into the day. After some thrashing around we found the correct gulley and made our descent.  To get down off the rim and past the Coconino band we had to rappel and leave a rope fixed for our return.  While descending the slope to reach the saddle we heard the rattle of a snake a few feet away and made the hasty decision to change course.  We reached the Juno summit at 08:30 and Jupiter at 09:30. Nothing about the terrain was that difficult but the heat drains energy quickly and we were exhausted by the time we reached the TH at 14:45.  John and I parted ways and started our long drives home, ending another great trip to the Grand Canyon!
John making quick work of the fixed line
 on the way out.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cochise Stronghold

In early May Amanda and I were able to get away for a few days to climb.  The forecast was pretty horrid for most of the western states so we headed south 9hrs to Cochise Stronghold where the weather looked a little breezy but was at least it was warm and dry.  With only 4 days off it was a lot of sweat to sweet but the draw of a new area convinced us.  Plus Amanda hadn't been climbing much and wanted to get in some milage before we headed to Spain at the end of that week.
She picked me up from work in Farmington as my shift was ending at the Fire Department.  Long road trips are great for us to catch up and talk about things that we normally either don't make a priority or don't have time to discuss.  We pulled in that evening and found a campsite under a big shade tree that you might expect in the serengeti.
Amanda on 'Ewephoria'.
The next day we hiked to The Sheepshead and got on a classic called 'Ewephoria'.  Amanda prefers powerful, steep, single pitch sport climbing on limestone or sandstone.  Where as Cochise is slabby, multi pitch, trad climbing on granite.  There may have even been the occasional, "this is why I fucking hate climbing" comment dropped a few times throughout the day.  Luckily having known Amanda for 16+ years I know that what she is really trying to say is, "This is great! Lets do more!"  With this in mind I suggested that we climb a route called 'Mystery of the Desert' on The Muttenhead next.
Pouty Pants
As the weather report had predicted it was dry but windy.  We had set up our large 4 person car camping tent when we arrived but decided instead of listening to the tent rustling all night that we would sleep in the car.  So we pulled the cooler, climbing gear and camping gear out of our little Mazda 3 and piled it into the tent.  Needless to say we slept soundly in the back of our little hatchback both nights.
The next morning we packed up camp and headed out to Whale Dome where we climbed a route called 'Mody Dick'.  Although the hike was a little farther than anticipated the climbing was fun and varied.

With that our climbing was at an end and we started the long haul back to Durango, spending the night half way back at a small campground in rural New Mexico.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fisher Towers Link Up

Matt and I got to Moab to climb some towers a couple weeks ago.  Check out the attached link...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ames Ice Hose

Both Amanda and Jeff climbed Ames Ice Hose the other day after over a decade break from ice climbing!
A few weeks ago Gordon was in town and wanted to give ice climbing a go.  I knew that Jeff hadn't been in quite a while so I invited him as well.  The 4 of us spent a couple hours at Cascade Canyon north of Durango remembering how to climb frozen water.
Fact: 'Duck Lips' reduces pump.
 Fast forward a couple weeks. We drove up to Ophir on a Thursday hoping to avoid crowds.  Unfortunetly a crew from Ouray beat us to the parking lot.
Random trail head dog leading the way.
Ouray crew.
The Ouray crew was on the first pitch when we rolled up to the base.  We waited until they were off the pitch one anchor.  Killing time by listening to Pandora and drinking tea.
Pitch 3
 Both Amanda and Jeff seriously crushed it.  Super impressive performances on a sustained San Juan Classic.
All smiles on the hike out.
I didn't sleep much before the climb so I was pretty beat by the time we got back home.  I was in bed asleep by 6.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tiki Part 2

Since climbing Tiki Tower a couple weeks ago I've talked to Jeff a bit about the first ascent.  In November 1991 Jeff Widen, Mitch Allen, Paul Frank and Fred Lifton all hiked up to Tiki Tower to climb it.  Paul and Fred stayed at the saddle on top of the first pitch while Mitch and Jeff pushed the route two more pitches to the summit.  The stance on top of pitch two isn't very large so Paul and Fred were likely waiting below until they could jug a line to the summit.  The last pitch however is a bolt ladder, so by the time Jeff topped out it was well past dark as he remembers.  Mitch cleaned the pitch and met Jeff on the summit.  Paul and Fred likely cold from sitting in the saddle for hours wanted nothing but to rappel to the ground and warm up.
The tower itself is named after a small tiki that Mitch brought all the way to the summit.  Jeff and I were looking through his slides from the trip and were disappointed that he didn't have any photos of the actual tiki.
Fast forward a week, to a phone call from Brad.  Every week Brad hosts a monday night bouldering session at his home wall in Three Rivers, CA.  A new climber recently moved to the area and came to the bouldering session last monday night, his name is Mitch.  Brad and Mitch ended up bullshitting about climbing and Mitch says that he climbed a desert tower years ago.  An obscure one named Tiki Tower!  Turns out the Mitch is Mitch Allen and he still has the tiki 24 years later.  What a small world.
Tiki Tower's namesake.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grand Gulch Spire

I've had my eye on Grand Gulch Spire for years.  This summer I actually planned the trip to Grand Gulch, but last minute decided to climb the Popes Nose instead, since it was 100+ degrees in the desert.  Even though the first ascent was in June, I decided that it would be better to climb the tower in late fall when things were cooler.  Especially since I wanted to approach the tower via a 10 mile hike from Collins Spring as opposed to the .5 mile walk from the San Juan River.  Most people raft down the San Juan and pull over at Grand Gulch to climb the tower.  Logistically rafting is more complicated for me since I don't own a raft.
Water falls in Grand Gulch
Geoff did some research by calling the BLM office in the area to get current conditions on the road into Collins Spring.  They told him that the road was basically impassible and that there was a giant rock slide so the river wasn't accessible from above.  We decided that we would just hike farther and carry all of our water with us.  Luckily we found the road to be dry and although a little rough here and there Geoff thought he could have gotten his Subaru to the TH.  I left the TH with 7 liters of water and Geoff had 8.  Funnily enough there was a ton of flowing water in Grand Gulch, pot holes full of water, and the rock slide was easily crossed.
Pitch 4 traverse
Summit! Luckily no headlamps were needed.
We got to the base of the the tower with enough light that we decided to do the route that evening.  We started climbing at about 2pm and were back on the ground around 5pm.  The route was wide, a little dirty, and chossy in spots but to be expected on a tower that doesn't get climbed that often.  We slept right at the base of the route and in the morning went down to check out the river.  We had walked 10 miles and could see the San Juan River from the tower, we figured we might as well go down to it.  After that we started the long hike back to the truck.  Our legs were feeling the miles from the day before and although our packs were lighter than the hike in, they were still heavy.  It's hard to go light when the rack is a double set through #5 and one #6.
Grand Gulch Spire
Once again, not surprisingly, Geoff and I had a great time adventuring in an amazing area!