Thursday, November 29, 2012

Birthday Climb-a-thon and Asado!

Hey there Sports Fans- The days are getting shorter here and the snow is starting to really stick, which means that despite trying to avoid it for the last 5 years, I find myself looking ahead at a winter full of skiing, ice climbing and the occasional bolt clipping mission to the Gorge instead of venturing down to Patagonia to climb and adventure.  This has been a tough call to make, but in the end I just lacked the stoke which has kept me going down there, and being able to stay here and climb as much ice as possible is going to set me up for success for my next big objective down there (keeping my lips shut as to what it is for now!)
So to celebrate my birthday this year, I tried to climb as many routes down in the Gorge as my elbows would allow and then hosted a nice little asado for my friends, cooking up a bunch of meat and drinking some good wine!  I only got in 12 routes before being pumped silly, but it was a lot of fun and we had a good crew show up.  

Our crew at the Great Wall of China


Carne, Empanadas, Vino Tinto?  Check!

So with a Mammoth season pass in hand, a new pair of backcountry skis ready to go, and ice tools sharp and ready for the freeze, I am getting fired up for a real winter!  

And don't forget, Sierra Mountain Center offers the finest guiding on the Eastside, so if you want to climb waterfall ice, visit our exclusive backcountry hut for ski or snowshoeing, or are looking for custom guiding, call Connie in the office and book your winter trip soon!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

After getting down from Fine Jade, we packed up our stuff and headed into Moab for a tasty salmon burger before we hit the road towards Zion.  I know, seafood in the desert ain't the brightest idea- at least it wasn't sushi!  Jen took the long haul trucker shift and almost got us there that night but we decided to crash out somewhere north of Cedar City up a dirt road that probably would be an ideal site for a Unabomber type shack.

Once we got to Zion we were blown away.  The colors are going off right now; the maples are popping out in greens, yellows, oranges and reds.  I had previously been excited about jumping on one of Zion's classic moderate wall routes and doing some longer free climbs, but after so many days of punishing enduro climbing, a little bit of R&R sounded a whole lots more enticing.  We did a little bit of climbing, getting in a route called the Headache which is 3 pitches of near perfect hands- a really nice way to finish off a nice long climbing trip, but mainly we just hung out by the river, and drank lots of coffee during long lazy mornings. 
The coolest thing we did by far was definitely walking up the Narrows from the Temple of Sinewava.  The Virgin River cuts a massive gorge through the soft sandstone, creating a narrow chasm that funnels the rivers- the Narrows hike takes you up into the maw of this gorge.  Maybe 75% of the hike is in the water, and with a temperature of 46 degrees, it might be worth renting a pair of neoprene booties and wetsuit bottoms if you go.  We didn't, but then again, we are very, very hardcore.


This guy was just out for a stroll too!

All good things must come to an end at some point though, so we said so long to Zion and headed back home via Death Valley and the Saline Valley hotsprings, an idyllic hippie oasis which takes a good amount of motivation to get to, but is a great place to unwind after a long road trip.  

Yep.  That's the kiddie pool.

Inyos in the background, palm trees, and lying on the grass- pretty much what everyone thinks of when they hear Death Valley.

That's right, a Koi Pond too. 

And it's still Nevada, so if you want to drink beer and sit on the hood, that's cool.

Stoked to have had such a great trip and climbed so much rock during the last month and a half, but am looking forward to seeing the snow start to pile up out front.

Costumes at the Creek- Wham Bam Hand Jam!

After decompressing at home in Mammoth for several days, having nightmares about coiling ropes, Jen and I packed up a few tons of car camping gear, firewood and >3.2% beer and headed off to the sandstone splitter capital of the known world, Indian Creek, UT.  I feel ashamed and embarrased that I had never before visited to Creek, even after making a few trips to the Moab area.  This place absolutely tore my doors off.  

I was stoked that a couple of my good friends, Geoff Schellens and Troutman were also out there and we constructed a major command center campsite that served as our basecamp for 10 days of jamming, locking, chicken winging and hand stacking.  

Power Wall, Second Meat Wall, Battle of the Bulge, Supercrack Buttess, any of these cliffs would be area super classics of they existed anywhere else, but at the Creek, they are just another cliff stacked with splitters.  Pick a crack size, put 8-10 of the same size Camalot on your harness, and start plugging!  

Jen starts chopping away on Crack Attack 5.11-

The crack starts attacking right back!

 The climbing is steep and the routes are long, requiring technique and endurance, both of which I lack in.  So the curve was steep, but among some of the classic routes we got on were Tofu Crack, Incredible Hand Crack, Top Sirloin, Crack Attack and Gorilla Crack.

The best part though, was the Halloween party up at Supercrack Buttress!  Everybody showed up wearing their costumes, some of which made the climbs significantly harder!  

It's GO TIME! 

Caped crusading on Incredible Hand Crack 5.10

Jen demonstrates a proper troiseme for us

Captain America/Geoff Schellens.  See Lost Arrow Spire TR for more spandex shenanigans!

 After Halloween, we were pretty worked, and headed north to Moab to get a little higher off the ground and climb in Castle Valley on the famous Fine Jade route on the Rectory opposite Castleton Tower.  Despite a restless sleep next to the roadside in Castle Valley and a classic episode of sandbagging by Mr. Jim Donini, we managed to get our tired butts up the thing.  The climbing on Fine Jade was stout but of very high quality, with views of the La Sals, Fisher Towers and Arches NP, the route is not to be missed.

Castleton Tower
The Rectory, the Priest and Sistor Superior Group

Jen approaching the Rectory.  Fine Jade ascends the narrow face in the front.

RocTober 2012!

So I hate beginning blog posts by saying "it has been a long time since the last post, so here you are...", but DAMN!  I have been so busy with work and play since the last post about Angel Wings that I have had scarcely a moment to update Life in the Vertical.  So with that said, here you are, the latest installments of semi-nomadic dirtbag ramblings...

September was rough; 4 trips up Mount Whitney, 3 of those with our group being the only ones up there, a rarity for sure. Then at the beginning of October I drove out to the climbing and casino mecca of the West, Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, NV with Jen in order to climb a bunch and train for my upcoming AMGA Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam.

I hadn't climbed in Red Rock for 5 or 6 years, so it was interesting to get used to sandstone climbing again after spending so much time on granite.  There is definitely a learning curve to the soft stone, and becoming comfortable with protecting the thin patina face climbing with thin wires is an art to be sure.  We got on some classic routes such as Triassic Sands, Wholesome Fullback, the Fox, Y2k and Frigid Air Buttress before deciding we needed a break before my course.
Jen seconds the first pitch of Wholesome Fullback

Since we were in Vegas, what better way to relax than to take in some of the nightlife?  Jen had gotten us amazing tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Mystere show, and if you have't seen a Cirque show, I can only say,"what are you waiting for?!"  These amazing acrobats make us climbers look like couch potatoes!  And the entertainment of people watching on the Strip is pretty hard to beat too!

Mount Wilson and Cactus Flower Tower as we approached to climb Cinnamon Hedgehog on CFT.

Jen took off the next day and I got ready for my RGC- 10 days of guiding assignments, examination, and evaluation.  A couple of the days were rained out, which was perhaps a blessing in disguise, since the rest of the course would prove to be pretty draining.  We climbed some excellent routes, learned a lot, and got a lot of feedback to enhance our guiding and to get us ready for the next steps in the AMGA programs.  I am happy to say that I passed my Aspirant Exam and am now signed up for my final Rock Guide Exam in April.

I went back to Mammoth for 6 days to relax, not think about climbing, and started packing for a 2 week stint in the desert.... 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Get yourself some cards while you still can!

So it is looking like I still have about 15 sets of greeting cards (click above on "store" for more info on them), and by purchasing a set or more, you will be contributing directly to my winter plans of going to the Great White North (Canada) to sink some front points in the greatest ice climbing known to man! 
And I'll even put these last sets on sale!  How's about $12 shipped per set, and $10 per set if you order 3 or more?  Cheap! 

On a Wing and a Prayer


Everything about Angel Wings is big.  The approach, the climb, the roof, the cracks- there is a reason why the South Arete Direct has a special place on the High Sierra Hardman Ticklist.  
After approaching for 18 miles along the High Sierra Trail, you finally hit basecamp at Hamilton Lake and can gaze up at the massive walls of Valhalla- Angel Wings, Cherubim Dome and Hamilton Dome all rise up precipitously out of the lake forming a deep hall of highly featured granite.
What makes it even sweeter is when your climbing partner, Matt Meinzer, just happens to be friends with the trail crew stationed at Hamilton Lake and they put you up in the nicest digs imaginable!
For two days after hiking in the weather was a bit unpredictable, so we hung out around the lake reading,  playing on pool toys in the lake, drinking beer and frying up all the fresh trout we could catch!  Trail crew rocks!

Base camp scene.  Books, New Yorkers, PBR, what more do you need?!

After we were fully relaxed and rested, we got after the matter at hand, the South Arete Direct on Angel Wings.  Put up by in 1991 by perennial badass Dave Nettle and partner Jim Nowak, this route probably gets climbed by one party per season, and it shows.  Watching Matt lead the first pitch, nut tool in action digging out grass and dirt from the cracks, before launching into burly squeeze chimneys, I started feeling the Anti-Stoke rumbling pretty good.  It was probably just the under-hydrated Mountain House meal I had eaten the night before, but the effect was the same.


Oh, you say my feet are going to scorch for the next 11 hours?  Better massage them now...

 Once we got about 600' up the route we came face to face with the crux, the Black Roof.  It is given 5.11+ on the topo, but I can only imagine how hard onsighting the roof while gardening it would be.  As it was it was probably A2+ before the wild unprotectable knob traverse above the roof into the chimney system.  It was super hot and our feet were excited to get out of the black rock bands.

So much squeeze chimneying meant the camera stayed in the oack most of the day...

Upon reaching the chimneys and climbing out onto the South Arete proper, the rock changes into a very featured, yet brittle, orange Red Rocks kind of experience.  But with more grass and less gear.
Six more long pitches of fairly demanding climbing got us up to the top of the pillar and to the true summit of Angel Wings.  

We chose to take a little longer but more obvious descent off the north side down to the Lone Pine Creek trail, and made it back to camp just as it got dark.  Our friends Galen and Nick monkey called us into camp and greeted us with a hot meal of pork chops and veggies, with a bottle of whiskey to wash it all down.  Didn't I say that Trail Crew rocks?!


I have to work in a couple days so I hiked out solo and drove back to Mammoth in one day, stoked to have ticked off a major climb in my Sierra bucket list.

Thanks again to Matt, Galen (full given name Galen Alpine, how COOL is that?!) and Nick, and even to Dave and Jim (despite the fact that I was cursing their names on"Jim's Double Fisted Cracks" pitch!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Update: No SIESTA!

The summer season has me in its claws, and there is no escape, at least not until October, when I am looking forward to finally sleeping.  
The past month has been spent climbing Mt. Whitney a few times, Crystal Crag here and there, organizing a helicopter rescue off Mt. Lyell, and clipping bolts at the Gong Show during my scarce time off.
The next month looks even hairier- 6 Whitney trips, Mt. Russell, a personal trip to the Angel Wings in Sequoia, and a Temple Crag trip.  Whoa.  
Wish me luck out there, and pick up on the good mountain vibes coming your way!


Friday, June 29, 2012

Adventure Climbing= Keep Your Helmet On!

From the cabin at the top of the hill in Old Mammoth, comes another installment of the Eastside Report!  This past week's theme has been Adventure! Climbing... with ascents of an obscurity on the Third Pillar of Dana as well as a backcountry classic.  Success was had on both projects, and my quota for loose and otherwise consequential climbing has been met for at least a little while.

Lenticular Limbo is a bold free route on one of the finer pieces of Sierran granite, put up by hardmen Peter Mayfield and Scott Grafton in 1980, and likely climbed very seldom since.  There is a pretty good Supertopo thread about LL here:  Lenticular Limbo Thread with some great FA history by Mayfield.

Either way, I was stoked to get out and try it, especially given the lack of available info.  Taylor Lamoureaux and I climbed it in a casual day from Mammoth, finding several difficult cruxes, likely much harder to protect with 1980 hardware, and more than one spot where a fall would have serious consequences.  Lucky for us the mountain gods were smiling that day!

Once we joined up with the regular route's final pitch and a half, we were psyched!  A couple of the nicest splitter alpine pitches around to top off a great day before soft-serve ice cream at Mono Cone!

A whole day later, I found myself hiking up the most heinous dusty shaley switchbacks out of Pine Creek with Jen Reynolds, en route to climb the North Buttress of Merriam Peak, a route which has been getting quite a bit of press lately proclaiming it's reputation for being a backcountry gem.

After spending the afternoon dipping our flies in the recently thawed Royce Lakes, with no luck, we ate some tacos sans fish, had a tasty hot toddy and relaxed with a bright moon overhead.


Mt. Humphrey's from Royce Lakes

The next day was long.  We climbed the route, encountering much more looseness than we would have expected, trundled a very large block that luckily did not detach fully when I grabbed it, and generally tried to keep having fun despite a brisk wind.  The triple cracks pitch and the final 5.10 corner/layback pitch are both some of the cooler pitches I have led in the mountains, but don't be fooled by the number of people who have climbed this recently, it is still an alpine route and you need to keep your head on you, all the way to the top.


It was a long hike out, 10 miles or so, dropping 6,000ft before we pulled into my favorite taco truck in Bishop, Taqueria mi Guadalajara for late nite burritos.

Keep climbing, keep it safe.  Ryan