Friday, September 30, 2011

Sierra Ice Climbing- North Peak Couloir

It has been a little while since plugging in any updates or trip reports, mainly because I haven't had a free moment since around June! The fall guiding season on the Eastside was pretty heavy, with a lot of time spent going up and down the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to access Mt. Whitney and Mt. Russell. But in late August, what seems like an eternity ago now, I had a precious few days of R&R which I spent bolt clipping in Mammoth, hot-tubbing in the Owens Valley, and convincing my friend Mateo to come over and sink some front-points into the North Couloir on North Peak.

North Peak has really easy access compared to everything else in the Sierra, which is good, because we met early, and I only had time to drink one cup of coffee. The approach is mellow, winding around Saddlebag Lake and then cuts a beeline through the 20 Lakes Basin. Kinda pretty.

Then you get to the couloir and you are stoked! Tools? Check. Crampons? Check. Bluebird sky and sun on your back? Double check. This ain't ice climbing in winter folks. No need for a thermos of cocoa or triple puffy parkas.

The climb itself is about 800 feet long and around 45-50 degrees, of which we pitched out the initial bergschrund zone and simul-climbed the remainder.

A little rock scramble puts you on the top, and voila! Killer views for as far as the eyes can see.
It's too bad that after climbing such a bitchin' little couloir you can't end it with a romp up one of the finest alpine ridge runs in the Sierra...

Mateo, posing down hard.

Wait! You can! Immediately after decending from North Peak, you have 2 options: Go down, and slog your way back to the car like some fool, or continue up along the ridge to climb the North Ridge on Mt. Conness (5.6). If you choose option 1, God help you.
The North Ridge is a mellow, cruiser outing on bullet granite, with a couple fun downclimbs thown in to spice things up a bit.
Moving quickly through this varied terrain on such a gorgeous day is THE reason I climb mountains.

We got back down to the car at Saddlebag in the afternoon, and Mateo had to jet so that he could go continue working on his Master's Thesis on why youth need to reconnect with nature for health and well-being. I think we discoved the answers.

A couple days later I was waking up at the Shepard Hot Springs outside of Mammoth and was lucky enough to take some shots of a hot air ballooninst taking off on an Eastside scenic flight. Pretty cool place to drink your morning coffee.

For now, over and out. Ryan.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sierra Art Cards For Sale!

At the beginning of the spring, after a long season of sitting around waiting for weather windows in Patagonia, I decided to go sport climbing. This was a bad choice. I got severe tendonitis in both elbows and had to give up on a lot of big summer climbing plans. But there was a flipside; the amount of free time I was allowed gave me a chance to get back into a passion which I have ignored for the sake of climbing over the past years.

Since early summer, I have completed around 25 or 30 postcard sized watercolor and pen landscapes, from Ahwahnee Meadow down to the talus below Black Kaweah. I have shared them with only a few people, wanting to build up a small collection that could be shown as a whole. A few days ago I chose 5 of my personal favorites and have begun making them into greeting cards.

As I begin preparation for yet another season getting blown off the towers at the end of the world, I hope to sell these sets of cards to help get me down there, as well as to share this stuff with a larger community.

Set of 5 4"x6" cards including envelopes will be sold for $15 shipped, and as I get more established, more of the other cards will be printed and made available. Paypal works great. To order contact
Thanks for the support! Ryan