Thursday, October 27, 2016

Needles

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

Yosemite

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.
Summit! 
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!

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...

http://www.rockandice.com/climbing-news/durango-climbers-linkup-six-fisher-towers-in-under-24-hours