Monday, July 27, 2009

Ridge Running in the Palisades

It ain't too often that you get to spend the entire day climbing, but never leaving the summit.  I just spent a few days off in between courses out in the Palisades region of the Sierras, climbing one of the phenomenal ridges which string together FIVE 14,000ft. peaks over a 1.5 mile traverse.  
I hiked in with my partner Matt, looking up at dark clouds which didn't give me a lot of confidence in our proposed itinerary, but kept my mouth shut as we pounded trail up past blue glacial lakes en route to our camp at Sam Mack Lake below the Palisade Glacier.
While I cooked our delicious Tasty Bite Punjab Choley,  Matt landed a small brown trout from the lake and we loaded up for the long day to come.  

Morning hits the Crest.

Waking up early in the a.m. got us moving up the glacier towards the North Couloir of Thunderbolt Peak, hoping to dispatch this first crux before the snow began to get too soft.  This turned out to be a wise decision, as there was a large (but not recent) slab avalanche that had swept down the couloir, and which made crossing the bergschrund an interesting activity.

Looking out from the N Ridge of Thunderbolt.

A view of things to come

The rock quality on this route is surprisingly good.  

My favorite section of the whole traverse, climbing down from the summit of Polemonium.

Once on the main ridge, the climbing just seemed to flow into a perfect mix of classic alpine rock (loose!), amazing exposure and breathtaking summits (Thunderbolt Peak, Starlight Peak, North Palisade, Polemonium Peak and Mount Sill), the tallest being North Palisade at 
14, 242ft.

Obligatory posing atop Mount Sill.  Our route directly behind me.

After 14 hours on the move, we made it back to our camp, thirsty and worn out.  A quick hike out the next morning would reward us with hot springs and cold Tecates outside Mammoth as we watched a huge storm move in and enshroud the mountains in a blanket of dark clouds.

Thanks for checking this out.  The summer ain't over yet though folks!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Peaks, Passes and Trails: 22 Days in the Heart of the Sierra

Living and working in the beautiful Sierra Nevada has been a dream come true.  This past month, I had the opportunity to instruct a 22 day mountaineering course in the heart of the High Country, located in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Every day brought us deeper into the wild and higher above the tree line.  The peaks are high, the trails steep, and the distances are great.  The beauty of this area is indescribable, and the amount of snow still present gave it that distinct alpine feel that the Sierra has always been able to capture for me. With any luck some of these photos will inspire others to take a personal journey and discover what lies amidst this range of light.

A cold view west from Twin Peaks after a snowstorm.

Taking it all in at Pear Lake.

Eagle Scout Peak

Suncups and Lawson Peak

Campsite in the Upper Nine Lakes Basin

Angel's Wings and Valhalla rising above Hamilton Lake

Lonely Peak aka the Scimitar