Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dawn Patrol - Radiology Department, Dec 22

Rather than passionately paddling into waves too big for my liking, I was up before the sun and driving to Palo Alto to get an MRI on my ankle.  I spent a few days staring at my phone, waiting for my doctor to call and tell me if my ski season is over or not.  Luckily, I'm in the clear and it feels good.  The big question is whether bodyboarding is in my future or not. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Aaaaand my ski season might be over

Busted ankle.  MRI in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great Whale Cove, Dec 14

Dawn patrol again.  This time, Jimmy and I drove down to Kelly St. but it was too small, so we drove back up to Great Whale Cove.  I've never been there before, and it is a gorgeous secluded cove below a windy section of Route 1.  There is a convenient channel along a cliff band that eliminates the need for duck diving.  However, the waves are still scary like most places I've been to in California!  I ate it bad on a sizable drop and did some inverted tumbling that was actually not too unpleasant.  The waves are getting bigger this week, so I'll be backing off for a few days, but Tory and I might head out this weekend.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Just got one - this should be fun!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Northstar, Dec 3

The conditions were fast with relatively little ice, thus making it prime for skiing fast.
Sometimes you just need to do pushups near the lift line.

Dawn Patrol, Dec 5

It was dark out, and I was surprisingly awake despite a weekend of skiing and general debauchery in Tahoe.  I drove in silence to Jimmy's house in the Sunset, and we jammed his board in my car.  The morning wave conditions were shroud in the mystery of darkness but some light shimmered off some peaks as we approached Half Moon Bay.  Eli was waiting in his car, and we inspected the waves from the bluff just as a nice clean set rolled through.

The cold penetrated through the 4mm neoprene before I even got in the water, and sent shivers down my spine as I paddled out.  The waves were not huge - in fact, they were smaller than my previous outing at Kelly Street.  However, they broke ferociously strong on the shallow bar, scaring my east coast weak-wave sensibilities.

A few big sets rolled by and Eli caught a few nice waves, and I kept on the sidelines waiting for my opportunity.  Instead, I missed paddling over a set wave and got pulled over the falls for a nice churning adventure in the dishwasher.  I was disoriented and shivering when I popped to the surface.  Damn the water was cold.

Time passed, and I still couldn't psyche myself into catching a wave, including one late abort on a nice wave I probably would have had a great ride on.  By 8:15, it was time to head in, and I caught a small right, which left me tumbling in the closeout.  We ran to the car, and that HOT shower at work helped offset the cold morning.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Smooth Transition

I'm almost certain I have touched real rock for the last time this season after 20 amazing days outdoors.  Blogs are starting to buzz with snow forecasts, retrospectives of last winter, and all kinds of media to pump up the community for the upcoming ski season.  I'm planning on doing more backcountry this year, as I grew tired of the scene at places like Squaw, despite it being the home to my best lines I've ever had.  I already have a healthy list of ski days down on paper, so let the fun begin!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Grotto, Nov 14

Blurry eyed and conflicted about the early morning and lack of sleep, I make way to Scott's and fall into the comfy leather seats of his BMW suv. It was technically my turn to drive, but I'm certainly not unhappy that the approach requires a car with more ground clearance than my recently fixed Mazda.

Horses and massively rutted out roads were the norm on the drive.
The drive wasn't bad, nor was the approach over a mossy and alien-feeling talus slope. The Grotto isn't much alien feeling than the talus. It is sunken below the surrounding land, and fridge-sized basalt columns jut up from the ground and dissolve into a jumbly overhang. I ignored the pumpy face climbs in favor of the steep hand and finger cracks, leading all the 8s and 9s there while failing after a burst cuticle and two cams up a 10b.
AC Devil Dog runs up the column in the middle of the frame.  Lots of smeary bear hugging is involved to get up it.

There is no question I'll be coming back soon as this is likely my favorite climbing spot less than 3 hours from home. I want to finish Three Fingered Jack without blood loss, and I need to lead AC Devil Dog.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dawn Patrol at Ocean Beach, Nov 10

This is a new one for me!  I met Jimmy at 6:00am and we got out right as the sun was replacing the moon.  The waves were clean shoulder high peaks with an offshore wind.  It was great conditions to introduce me to Ocean Beach and dawn patrolling.  I caught 5-6 nice waves, even though at 7:30 or so the waves started to tail off as the tide was coming in.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Adventure Enabling Happenings

I'm picking up my previously damaged car tomorrow, and will be using it for the next few weekends to sneak in some climbing before the snow hits.  My knee feels good, I don't have glass in my foot, and the temperatures are right for sending!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tahoe Climbing, Oct 16

Shortly before the accident, Scott and I went to Lover's Leap for a day trip.  We had intended on staying at the Leap, but ended up at Phantom Spires due to wet rock.  Neither of us had been there, and we LOVED Candyland (10c).  That is certainly one of the best 10s around.
Scott with Candyland's hilarious and fun protruding holds in the background

After doing a few climbs, we went back to the Leap, approaching from a "secret" entrance closer to East Wall.  We climbed The Line (9), which was an awesome, sustained, and clean line (hence the name).  I fell a few times at the bottom crux, and we had communication problems due to wind near the top.  The lack of communication caused me to drop a cam during a tenuous section.  Stupid.
Scott somewhere on the first pitch of The Line

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Really Down for the Count

I got t boned two blocks from home on Monday. A meth head hit me right at my driver's side door, doing 9000 dollars in damage. She was out of her mind and told me that she could get my car fixed in 45 minutes.  She bailed after getting agitated in the ambulance, and bailed, leaving me with a deductible, a bloody forehead, and what is likely glass embedded in my foot. The last one really sucks since I can't put weight on my heel without extreme pain.  Part of me wants to write something eloquent, but this bullshit doesn't need any more attention than it has already gotten.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Waiting Game

I've had reasonably annoying tendinitis in my left knee for about a month now.  It seemed to come about by hiking with a heavy pack, and I first noticed it on the long hikes in Shuteye.  It seems like almost everything aggravates it, so I've been taking it easy.  Lame.

On the plus side, the ski season is fast approaching!  It looks like some people skinned up in Tahoe!  I hope my knee is completely healed by the time the resorts all open, and the backcountry conditions are good.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mountain Hardwear Makes Unreliable Gear

I have an issue with Mountain Hardwear. It is pretty well summarized by my Yelp review:

I feel like I was completely scammed by Mountain Hardwear after purchasing a nearly wholesale-priced Argon jacket at the semi-annual sale. The seams delaminated almost immediately, which for a waterproof jacket is an absurd malfunction. I sent it back to the repair department, fully knowing that it wasn't covered by warranty since it was purchased at the sale. However, since I paid nearly wholesale, and in general outdoor companies unconditionally stand by their products, I thought I would at least get it repaired for free, even though I preferred a new jacket all together. Unfortunately, this was not the case, as I had to pay $20 for the repair.

To add insult to injury, I was informed by a MH representative that the products sold at the sale are often demo versions made with inferior materials and construction. This "quality of construction" was not evident upon purchase, as it seemed to be a production version of the jacket.

In all, Mountain Hardwear made a killing on selling me a crappy demo jacket at nearly wholesale price and were unwilling to own up to selling me an inferior product that failed with moderate use. Hopefully the repair will hold up, but if it doesn't I'll buy a new jacket from a more reputable brand. There is no way I'll ever purchase another piece of gear from them again as I do not want gear failures to further affect my outdoor activities, and there are plenty of companies that offer superior build quality, and better customer support.

Frankly, I feel like there is no reason to support a company that produces low quality gear such as Mountain Hardwear proved to do for me. It is a very competitive market with many companies providing nearly the same set of products, so there is no reason to support one that is so clearly inferior. Take Scarpa, for example. I've had the same pair of hiking boots since 2003, and they still work perfectly fine. This experience set the precedence for quality, and now I own Scarpa for all of my footwear, and couldn't be happier.

Scarpa is a brand I trust

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bodyboarding at Half Moon Bay, Sept 24

Tyson got me to come down to Half Moon really early, but it was worth it.  The waves were chest-head with some overhead sets, with some rights and lefts and relatively glassy conditions.  It had been many many years since I had been out in overhead surf, so I was cautious, especially after getting tumbled trying to get back out.  I caught a few nice waves, but let lots go because I was too chicken to commit to the drop.  They were breaking hard in fairly shallow water, so at least my fears were somewhat justified.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, Sept 21

There is something I really like about road running that just isn't satisfied by any of my other athletic pursuits.  It is the perfect venue to push oneself to the utmost limit while maintain a certain level of safety.  Sure, you can hurt yourself running, but going balls to the wall while climbing can be a dangerous endeavor.  I leave it all on the asphalt when I run a race.

I left work early and ran home only to beat all my coworkers to the race.  We chatted and waited around of a while while the other 9000 or so people poured in from various parts of the city.  Kyle (my running partner and cubemate) and I lined up in the "Red" group, which than we run.  We humbly inched our way back from the front.  After a brief and hilariously non-sequitur techno filled workout routine from a sponsor gym, we were off.

The race started at a blistering pace, but I was far too amped to realize it.  I was generally keeping up with the people in my group, with the occasional incredibly fast running blowing by me.  Luckily, my knee wasn't bothering me as it was wrapped up in a brace after several weeks of intermittent pain.  Thus, the stage was set to burn out hard with the limiting factor squarely on my ability to endure typical running pain, and not tendonitis.

The course looped all over around ATT Park, about as much as my mind jumped from subject to subject as I fought for each mile.  After about 17 minutes, the first runners finished in blazingly fast time.  Yep, college runners...real runners, and certainly not me.  I knew I had roughly 10 minutes left, but my body was starting to succumb and I noticed more people passing me every minute.  I kept pushing thinking my pace was lacking, but the 3 mile marker read 23 minutes, which for me, is astonishingly fast and by far my PR.

The last half mile was painful, partially after the fact that I knew I had a great time in the bag.  I clenched my teeth, thought about running, thought about thinking about running, thought about painful things, and generally tried to keep running.  When I finally saw the finish line, I was lucky that our team captain, Max, saw me and cheered me on.  It was the drive I needed, and I crossed the finish line, nauseous and sucking down air.  The pain past, and I realized that I had a great time, 26:53, which puts me at around 7:40/mile!

I met up with coworkers, then Kyle, Sharada, and I walked to Source, which is a fun and eclectic vegetarian (almost vegan) place nearby.  My knee was hurting,but I was feeling great, and it was exciting to eat great food with two fellow vegetarians.  After a great meal, we disbanded and I walked with a slight hobble to MUNI.

I need to do more races!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The new camera is here!

And I'm digging this iPhone blogging app!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some random stuff

I enabled anonymous comments.  I'm not sure if anyone actually wanted to comment on my posts, but now you can rather easily!

I'm not going on any trips this weekend, not for the next few weeks, most likely.  I have what is ostensibly the most important work related presentation of my life to give in a few weeks, and preparation is going to eat up a lot of time.  I might post some gear-related things, or some fun old pictures, I dunno.  Frankly, I'm looking to expand the blog in general to encompass things other than just my trips.

In addition, I'm thinking about new ways to write about my trips.  Narratives can be tedious to write, and I never know how much detail to go into since a lot of it is probably boring.  I find myself really excited about fleshing out little vignettes from trips, but not all the filler between.  After I fight through the filler, I'm too lazy and disinterested to proofread what I've written, so I post away.  I've been finding that the quality of my writing has gone down as a result, so I'm thinking about doing much more brief narratives, or photo-centric stories of my trips.  That way, I can focus on the portions of writing I like, which may not give the full story, but will hopefully be descriptive and engaging enough to convey aspects of the trips.  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pushing the Comfort Zone in Tuolumne, Sept 10-11

A large group of us were fortunate enough to have 3 campsites, thanks to Justin for reserving them.  Scott bailed last minute, and I was left contemplating an early night to bed at home in San Francisco or taking a right hand turn at 92 on the way home from work.  The thoughts of some Tuolumne dome climbing and packrafting got the best of me, and I settled in for the 4.5 hours of road time.  I stopped in Oakdale for some food, and pushed it to the campground, arriving when people were still awake.

The weather forecast for the weekend was iffy at best, and was the basis for Scott not coming along.  Regardless, we headed out Saturday morning to climb on Northwest Books (5.6) on Lembert Dome.  Unfortunately, there were incredibly slow people ahead of us, who appeared to also be rather inexperienced due to them leaving a stuck link cam in what was a stupid and expensive mistake.  Warren and I eventually roped up with uncertain weather looming above.  This was his first trad climb, but he is a very solid climber, so I wasn't worried in the least.  However, at the top of the second pitch, thunder did jostle me, and I yelled down for him to hurry up (with some expletives in there for good measure).  We finished and were on the ground just as the rain started, which luckily didn't last long.  We headed to Low Profile Dome, partially due to the fact I have wanted to try Golfer's Route (5.7), but also because the climbs there have easy retreats.  I started up Golfer's, made it through 90 feet of sweet knob pulling with minimal protection, and the clouds rolled in angry and ready to spit.  We bailed and retreated to the car with a massive hail storm close on its heels, leaving Tyndall and Kenny without climbing a single pitch all day.  Dinner was calling us, so we drove to Saddlebag lake to leave a note to the other group that we were going to The Mobile.  I love the food there, enough so that I bought a silly "The Mobile" tshirt.

Day two.  Bring on the packrafting and more shitty weather.  Justin and I packed up the rafts and everyone else, and headed to Lyell Canyon to hike up and "float" down.  You'll see why "float" is in quotes soon enough.  Everyone was a bit slow for our tastes, so we blasted ahead, hiking 5 miles or so, scoping the whitewater as we went.  We noted 4 critical no goes, namely what I'll call "Big Tree Across the Water", "Sand Island Next to Real Island", "Bridge" and "Campground".  Besides those, there were a variety of nice drops, slides, and chutes to play with, but many areas appeared to be rather shallow.

Shit the water was cold when we put in.  Immediately, we hit some class I+ waves and a nice deep water float afterward.  That was not to last, and soon enough we were dragging our asses and expensive boats on thankfully smooth granite boulders.  I laughed after the first section of getting extricating ourselves from the boats to drag them along in the middle of the river.  Justin wasn't wet at all while I was soaked!  Well, that wasn't to last either as it started raining and the temperature dropped to the high 40s.  The butt dragging continued and our worries of ruining our boats were replaced with fears of hypothermia.

The first major rapid came as a 3 foot drop.  I was in lead and nervous, but paddled strong and felt a good rush I was took the plunge.  Not too bad.  Justin followed without issue.  Then, it was more butt dragging, furious paddling, pushing rocks, standing and dragging, and portages.  Ah, portages.  We had lots of those, and lots of removing packs from rafts, and reattaching them.  Towards the end, we got lazy with said portages, and would just drag the boats with our packs attached.  We hit a few more nice rapids with some scoping involved, namely a few nice steep drops with good pools below, and a long slide without much water.  We hit all of our mandatory portages around dangerous rapids, and as we approached the campground, the misery really set in.  One last major rapid (a sharp left turn with some nice volume coming off some rocks) left my boat filled to the brim with water.  I was done.  We tried to laugh as we played with various techniques for lifting our butts off the water, which involved laying down on the raft to distribute weight.  The truth of the matter was, this sucked.  Ok, it was type 2 fun, and I had a blast, but as we portaged one last time, I know we both felt like badasses for doing a rare (not allowed) descent of a river.

I crashed hard as I waited for Justin to figure out if Erica and Dave were still there.  I got very cold and started shivering, and was generally angry at myself for walking to the trailhead.  Justin said I had a blank stare on my face and looked like death.  Luckily, they made room in the car to drive me back to the campground where I quickly, and systematically threw my wet crap in the car.   I pounded an immense quantity of junk food while blasting the heat in my car as I drove back to San Francisco.  After an hour or so, I started to feel human again, and started thinking about the damage I did to my poor packraft.  Luckily, it was left mainly unscathed, except for a few dings in the bottom, one of which was likely the "screwdriver effect" when I was stuck spinning on a sharp rock.  Damn, these boats are durable! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shuteye, Sept 3-5

I've been climbing a lot recently, enough such that I'm not even really unpacking my stuff, and I'm feeling rushed to get blog posts done before another trip starts.  If I don't get my post done before another trip starts, I'll certainly never write it.  I'm going to bang this one out before I head off to Tuolumne this Friday.  Here goes!

Ok, so clearly, I didn't fulfill that previous paragraph's goal.  Yikes.

Sahara picking an appropriately sized branch.

Scott and I drove out to the remote and utterly beautiful Shuteye Ridge area on Saturday morning, caravaning with his friends Rob and Julie and their dog Sahara.  Sahara likes to carry large sticks while approaching climbs, sticks that are far too large for a dog to carry.  The drive continued up rutted out forest roads until we reached a nice clearing below Big Sleep and Crocodile.

Rob on a 5.9 or 5.10a or so at Crocodile

Scott and I started off on a "5.10" at Crocodile.  It deserves quotes because it wasn't a was 11b.  That is not a warmup for me, and surprisingly, Scott took a small lead fall on it.  Crocodile had some nice single pitch sport routes, most of which had sections with loose, abrasive and unappealing rock.  We lead a bunch of easier climbs, and I top roped some hard ones, including a roof with some hilariously loose flakes that will be coming off really soon.  On the way back to camp, Scott and I sent a nice v1 that could be a first ascent.  Ya know, fuck it.  I'm gonna call it "Wide Eyed".  I'm claiming my territory. 
Scott trying the sit start (probably v4-ish) to the uber-classic new bouldering problem Wide Eyed (v1)

Day two started with hazy directions to an awesome and remote crag.  After misreading poorly signed dirt roads, and making wrong turns, we ended up on the way, which entailed major off-roading appropriate for only the most prepared vehicles.  Needless to say, Scott didn't want to break an axle in the middle of nowhere, so we backed up the steep slope, tires skidding and 4 wheel drive kicking ass.

Scott utilizing the Beamer's 4wd to escape the horrendous roads

We chose a 3 mile hike with 2000 feet of elevation gain, which we thought would lead to Grey Eagle or one of the other domes near the main Shuteye area.  It was a painful hike, but luckily we had Emitt along.  He is a funny dog.  He likes to eat cake (a cheap red velvet cake I bought at Safeway) and pounce around in the manzanita bushes like a dog on a pogo stick with a mission to catch small critters none of us can see.  Luckily, he is a laid back crag dog, and sleeps in the shade with we party on the rocks, which was the case when we reached.  We got some more well-protected sport climbing in high on the ridge, but this time the holds were solid and the texture was friendly.

Julie leading a 5.9
The last day started with a stuffed up nose from the excessive dust and dry heat.  Scott and I make the short hike up to Big Sleep and scoped the routes, finding nothing until I spotted a single bolt, which we guessed was for Afternoon Nap (5.7).  It had a wonderful mixture of spicy runouts, solid grippy slab, runnel stemming, dike climbing, and chicken head grabbingt.  The one down side was the lack of protection where we probably only had 20-30 pieces of pro for the entire 1000 feet.  Regardless, the cruxes were reasonably well protected, but it still had us gasping on good rests in order to collect our mind for the next runout.
Me pondering the early runouts on Afternoon Nap (5.7)

I'm excited to visit Shuteye again.  It'd be fun to put up some lines on the untapped rock, which in the Sierras is quite abnormal.  At least now we know why this place is so under-climbed.  Big hikes, bad roads, primitive camping, and long drives all detract from visitors, but it keeps the place feeling pleasantly unspoiled.
Sunset from our campsite

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dear Blog, I have not forgotten you!

I have been too busy going on trips, trying to write about trips, cleaning up from trips, and dreaming about trips to get any posts done.  Trust me, I have stuff written, I think about what I'll write while driving, and I will write posts in the future!  Yeah!  For now, I have a huge mess from Yosemite to take care of...
All kinds of gear drying in my bathroom

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ring Mountain, Aug 27

The gorgeous views from Turtle Rock
Ok, so it is no secret that I am not the biggest fan of the climbing areas in the immediate Bay Area.  There are a few nice sport routes at Boyscout Rock near Mount Diablo, and I like the two 11s on Billy Goat at Castle Rock, but there is certainly no equivalent of Lincoln Woods for San Francisco.  I burned through most of the Bay Area climbs I am capable of doing in my first few years in the area, and since then have sucked it up and gone to the Sierras.  I was having a lazy Saturday, and didn't want to go to the gym, so I went to do some solo bouldering at Ring Mountain. 

There are a bunch of highball v0-v1s at Turtle Rock
I last went there 6 years ago with my friend Dave, and his high school buddy, Andy.  I started out at Split Rock, where I played around on the traverse, then did Split Slab (5.6).  Yes, that is 5.6, and not v0 or is a bit high, but very easy.  Next, I did all of the v1s at Turtle Rock, then hiked around a bit after.  These two boulders are in a spectacular setting with great views of Mt Tam, Mount Diablo in the distance, East Bay, and San Francisco (which was socked in with fog).  The climbing is generally ok, but the feet are all quite polished, and the rock quality isn't always the best.  Overall, it is definitely worth a visit for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A new rugged point and shoot!

Nikon Rumors is reporting that Nikon is about to release a new rugged point and shoot!  The stats on this one seem superior to anything on the market (1080p @30fps AND 720p @60fps, 16mp, etc).  Also, it has a cool method for switching modes where you can shake the camera to change parameters!  This makes me feel a bit better about losing my camera on Unicorn.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Squamish, Aug 12-14

The Vancouver Convention center: my home for 3 days.  This place felt like a real life architectural drawing.  After thinking about photon beams and volume rendering for 3 days straight, I did a 180 and headed into the mountains.
If my job and education have taught me anything, it is that the unknown is interesting and alluring.  It was hard to keep this in mind while driving north on 99 away from Vancouver and into the anxiety inducing unknown.  It was getting dark, and I didn't have a campsite, and all I knew was that I was heading for a big cliff an hour and change away.  I found the cliff after narrowly missing crashing my car after gawking at the golden hour light raining down on the mountain-lined Howe Sound.  The parking lot was surprisingly full for a Thursday night, as my frantic search for an empty site ensued.  I'm pretty sure I snatched the last one from a local leaving for a few days.
I definitely shouldn't be taking pictures from my car.

I met James that night while in the parking lot brushing my teeth.  He excitedly approached me, guidebook in hand as I stumbled over words and tried not to spray toothpaste spit in his face.  He flipped through the pages pointing out 15 pitch 5.10s, that I responded to with mumbles about doing some 5.8s.  We settled on Calculus Crack (5.8), and extensions if we were feeling ambitious.
Looking north from Memorial Ledge

I woke up early to head to town to finish my transformation dirtbag climber by purchasing the obligatory block of cheese as my main source of food for the remainder of the trip.  James and I met up in the parking lot at 9am, bushwacked our way through the first two pitches of Calculus where the fun began with a cruxy finger crack.  I wobbled a bit on lead but pushed through, and we finished up near Memorial Ledge.  After talking to a couple of foul-mouthed Canadians, I decided to hit Memorial Crack (5.9).  It felt easier than Calculus with a few funny toe jams at the crux. 

We noticed that we could continue all the way up to the top of the Chief at 5.9, but we weren't sure about how to avoid 10c, so we walked off and went to town to get some beta on Skywalker (5.9) at Shannon Falls.   We figured, starting late would result in no lines at the recently-cleaned classic.  The problem is, there were lines.  And slow climbers.  In fact, they were even slower than those Jacob and I had found at the Leap the week before.  We bailed after the first pitch, and both lead the foot and hand tiring, but amazingly classic line, Klahanie Crack (5.7).  After getting some good food at the Howe Sound Brewery, I passed out in my tent.  700+ feet of climbing crack for the day is tiring!
James cleaning Klahanie Crack

I started day two solo with a bouldering pad on my back.  I walked into the Grand Wall bouldering area, and quickly realized it woulnd't be hard to find people to climb with since all the classic problems were occupied by friendly looking groups.  I met a BC local, Chris, warming up on a v2, who I followed to do some easy climbs with, namely the classic v0, Fried Ant.  He gave me the beta for Anatomy Lesson (v3), which went easily.  Titanic (another classic v3) didn't go as well, and I couldn't get past the first few moves even after 10 tries and lots of encouragement from friendly folks from Pennsylvania.  Mildly discouraged, I moved on and sent the classic v2, Slingshot.  By 4 pm, my fingers were shot, so I called it a day.
Taking down my tent :-(

Sunday was my last in Squamish, and I woke up sore as hell from the previous day's bouldering.  I packed up my quiet campsite, and headed back into the Grand Wall area alone.  Early on, I ran into Jody, a nice older guy who lives in a van and travels the west coast climbing.  He showed me around and helped me with beta on a variety of v2s.  I tried a nice v3, Bobo Jones, and while I made good progress on the Lincoln Woods-esque traverse, I couldn't finish it.  Next trip!  My best send came right at the end when I finished the rather highball Old and Serious (v3) without a spotter and with several large falls.  That was a good place to end it, but I tried a v2 slab afterward, and bailed without the send to head back to the airport.
Old and Serious - mildly serious, but not that bad
I'm pretty convinced at this point that Squamish is my favorite climbing area I have been to.  The rock is grippy in ways you don't see much in Yosemite, and the climbs are friendlier without tons of chimneys or laybacks.  I love straight in cracks and bouldering with nice landings, and Squamish delivers.  I have so many projects I want to finish now, and three days was not enough to fully explore this gem.  I'll be coming back again soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gear Explosion!

The gear explosion in its full glory

Two months of weekend excursions has left me with a rather large gear explosion on my floor.  I promised myself that I had to clean it up before writing my Squamish trip report.

Holy $#!+ it is gone!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cache Creek, Aug 7

Ok, I'm really short on time here, but this post simply won't happen if I don't get it written up today since I'm heading off to Vancouver for the week early tomorrow morning.  Justin, Josh, Erica and I went to do the Rumsey section of Cache Creek.  We got an early start, and were ready to hit the water around 9:30am.  Erica and Josh rented an inflatable kayak, while Justin and I brought our packrafts. 
This field of thorny/painful bushes were freaking awful.

While they got set up with their kayak, Justin and I hiked upstream for a half mile, crossed over some rusty barbed wire, then ran through a field of pricker bushes on private land to get a bit more of rapids in.  Things started off quickly with my first self-navigated class II section, but Justin and I pulled through, quickly realizing the utility of the spray deck. 
Me trying to avoid being seen while putting in...people seemed to be serious about their private land up there

We reached Erica and Josh's put-in site, but they weren't there since they had thought we had already started.  We booked it upstream, not knowing if they thought we were in front of them or not.  Luckily, we ran into them waiting 10 minutes later.  From here, the four of us enjoyed the various sections of class II-class III- whitewater, stopping occasionally to dump water from our boats, eat food, and swim around in the rapids. 
Staying close together in some fun rapids

There were two bridges during the section, with terrific rapids following both.  The first bridge (a dam?) required a portage, and had a sustained and awesome II+ section that followed.  I was paddling through when I heard two guys on a rock screaming to me "HELP HIM OOOOUUUT!"  I look over and Justin's blue packraft was upside down floating next to me.  "SHIT" I thought, but then I saw his smiling face pop up out of the water between my raft and his.  He was fine, but swam the entire rapid, repeatedly trying to get into his raft.  The backpack made it difficult to flip over in the water, and the constant laughter I was enduring made it difficult to concentrate on the rapids. 
Justin trying to get back into his raft after his wet exit adventure

The second bridge had the only class III section, with a guide telling everyone to stay right.  This was shorter than the superior II+, but also really fun with some very fast moving water and a big hole. 

It was a good mix of adrenaline pumping action and napping in the boats
After this, we had some more fun IIs and general good times before we left.  We headed to Napa where we ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Ubuntu.  It is probably the best vegetarian food I've ever had during my lifelong career as a non meat eater.  One tip: get the "family style" meal - it lets everyone try many of their dishes in very large quantity.  SO GOOD!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lover's Leap, July 31

Looking towards the main cliff band at the Leap.  Unfortunately, this is my only photo, and it was taken with my iPhone. :-(
Jacob and I were planning on climbing Whiskey Bill (5.7) on Fresno Dome, which is a rather unknown climb not currently published in guidebooks.  I've heard about it through the grapevine and on various websites, and the solid granite and dramatic chickenheads were enticing.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast was dicey with thunderstorms on the prowl, so we headed to Lover's Leap on Sunday to knock off some classic climbs I've wanted to do for ages.

We woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday morning to darkness and a pile of climbing gear to shepherd into my car.  We arrived at the Leap parking lot just as all the hungover climbers were waking up and sorting gear.  This seemed like a great opportunity to jump on the classic climbs, and we booked it up to Corrugation Corner (5.7).  Jacob wasn't particularly happy with the strenuous approach, and was convinced there was an easier way to the base.  Unfortunately, there isn't, but our early morning exertion meant we were the first ones on one of the most popular climbs in California.

The climb starts out with sustained, but well protected stemming.  This was my first experience with the famously steep dikes of the Leap since my usual hangout at the more mellow Hogsback doesn't feature this formation quite as prominently.  Even when it is steep, the dikes protrude out and provide nice horizontal footholds, thus reducing those fear-inducing tenuous stances.  The first pitch ended after a nice and exposed hand traverse to a great belay ledge.  The second pitch continued up the dihedral to the famously exposed 5.7 arete.  Everyone says it is the steepest 5.7 anywhere, but I'm not sure if those individuals have climbed High Exposure at the Gunks, which is steeper and rated 5.6.  Regardless, this is an incredible pitch with tons of exposure, and runout moves on a pointy arete.  It ended with a laughter-inducing belly flop move onto a sloping ledge to belay from.  I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard while climbing.

The third pitch started with a stupid 5.7 chimney.  I hate chimneys, and luckily this one was easy since it had many holds inside it.  Regardless, I could only get 1 piece in the first 20 or so feet when I exited the chimney onto an exposed ledgy hand traverse.  I had been dangling my pack from my harness for the chimney, so I threw it back on, climbed a bit more, placed a nut, and went to grab a sling from my shoulder.  Whoops, my pack was now over the slings in what had become a topological nightmare.  My feet weren't quite so good, and I was rather runout now, so I very carefully took my pack off and reordered it with my slings.  With all the nervous clipping and careful movement, my chalk bag belt become undone and I watched it fly down past Jacob after I clipped the gear.  This was unfortunate since I've been known to chalk up often enough to warrant keeping a large laundry bottle of chalk in my car at all times.  There was no turning back, so I continued up, but the crack felt way harder than the mellow 3rd pitch described in the guidebook.  It was a steep and technical crack with very little pro and mediocre feet.  Regardless, I didn't think much of it, but later realized this was the 5.8 variation.

Jacob and I finished Corrugation, ate some lunch, then went to the base of Bear's Reach to finish our day of classic 5.7s.  Unfortunately, there was a group just starting, but given that it was still early and we'd been efficient thus far, we decided to wait it out.  The group commented that they weren't the fastest in the world, but we had no idea they'd be as slow as they were.  In fact, I don't know if I've ever seen a group as naturally slow and lazy as they were.  We waited for an hour or so and they hadn't really finished the first pitch, so we left them and the dark clouds overhead to go to Hogwild.  This ended up being a fun 5.7 pitch with runout tough face moves and sparse gear placements leading to a fun hand and finger crack.  We had a long drive back home, so we left the remaining sunlight to hit to road back to San Francisco.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Justin got his packraft!

I'm no longer the only one with a packraft!  Let the adventures begin!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Narragansett, July 23

I had a rude awakening from my very alert and excited Mom at 6am last Saturday.  I hadn't gotten more than a few hours of sweaty sleep in my sauna-like room, but she insisted that I was going to the ocean with her and Rich.  I tried to get out of it citing an exhausting night of Settlers of Catan with my high school friends, but a minor tantrum on her part had me dragging my body out of bed and into some trunks.

Shortly before getting pummeled!

We got to the beach when it was still empty considering the exceedingly hot weather, and I headed right for the inlet, still pissed off from my interrupted sleep.  My anger washed away into the clean knee to waist waves and 70 degree water when I dove in for my first wave.  I haven't bodyboarded since 2006, but this was once what climbing is for me today, and I was psyched for the abnormally ridable summer waves.  I used to come to Narragansett, Nantasket and other local beaches for the infrequently awesome waves of the Nor'Easter season each year.  I pulled into some small closeout barrels and rode some longer shoulders when I could find them.  I got a few good sessions in before we left the heat and afternoon crowds to head back to MA.
Enjoying the small waves

Friday, July 22, 2011

Floodwood, July 17-19

I arrived bleary eyed and annoyed at flight delays Friday morning in Boston, and was immediately whisked away by my Mom and Rich to upstate New York for my cousin's pre-wedding party.  It was a flurry of hanging out with family, and watching fireworks exploding overhead in the best non-professional display I've ever seen.  On Saturday, everyone headed to Green Lakes State Park for the wedding, which was a beautiful ceremony and reception overlooking the water from an old stone building.  We danced, drank, ate great food, then walked around Turning Stone Casino until 1am.

We had a quick brunch at my aunt and uncle's house on Sunday morning, then Rich, my Mom, and I drove three or so hours to Rich's family camp off of Floodwood Pond in the lakes region in the Adirondacks.  The camp is composed of a small shack 15 feet from the water with a propane stove, a few propane lamps, a bunch of boats and beds, and no running water or power.  In other words, this is your perfect escape from a life in front of a computer screen.  We decided not to sleep in the shack, and instead packed up our tents and boated over to a neighboring island to setup our base camp.  Afterward, we went for a quick kayaking trip down Floodwood to the outlet.  The scenery here is gorgeous with remote lakes and waterways, yet we had the comfort of quinoa patties with spaghetti thanks to the camp's well-equiped kitchen.
Heading out to the island on Floodwood

None of us slept too well Sunday night due to an epic thunderstorm that rained hell onto our tents.  At around 6am, a massive thunder strike scared us all, and the ensuing downpour made me question my tent's stability.  Luckily, I fell back asleep, and awoke to calm weather and a five lake loop on the agenda for the day's activities.  The loop consisted of paddling across 5 lakes with 5 different portages involved.  We went from Polliwog, to Follensby Clear, to Horseshoe to Little Polliwog, then back to Polliwog.  The packraft came in handy on the portages, but was certainly tough to paddle for extended periods of time.  It doesn't track nearly as well as a kayak, and is much slower, but that is more than made up for with its portability.  We were treated to a variety of wildlife, including a Bald Eagle, Great Blue Herons, and Loons.  Afterward, we swam in the cold water at the Floodwood inlet, then had dinner and a much more uneventful night with far more sleep.
My Mom near the start of the loop
Tuesday started with beautiful weather, and the unfortunate need for us to pack up and leave.  We did a quick paddle to another Floodwood inlet, this one being long with rather swift water.  When we made it to the connecting pond, there was a line of 20 or so people waiting to make their way to Floodwood!  According to Rich, this is an exception number of people considering how remote this place is.  We played around a bit, and I practiced jumping in and out of the packraft while my Mom swam after dramatically falling out of her kayak.  We made our way down the swift-ish water, and packed up the car and left.  We stopped to gawk at the climbing areas around Keene Pass, which is another trip in the making.  

Goodbye, Floodwood!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big Chief, July 9-10

We had a staggered start to the trip, with Nick, Emily, and Jess leaving San Francisco early Friday, and myself, Chris, Mike, Jeremy, (another) Emily, and Banjo leaving later that night.  Banjo is Jeremy and Emily's adorable whippet puppy, who spent the majority of the trip distracting us from climbing with his brutal attacks on his squeaky duck.  After an annoyingly tiring drive, we crashed at the spacious campsite at Donner Memorial State Park.
Banjo ravenously eats flowers for a few minutes, then sleep for an hour. 
On Saturday morning, we wove our way through vacation home lined Truckee streets to a 5 mile dirt road, which lead to the Big Chief parking lot.  A mile long logging road lead us to our first stop of the trip, Center Wall.  The two classic 5.9s Warpath and Warpaint had long lines, so we went around the corner to bask in the pleasant shade at Mini Buttress.  Things got off to a rough start when the abrasive hand jam on the start to Wampum (5.8) spit me off as a rude introduction to the crag  Luckily, I got through the move and cruised the rest, and others found superior beta for the first few moves.  
Jeremy on Wampum (5.8)
After Jeremy climbed Wampum, Jess was tentative, but ready to take the sharp end.  She had some trouble with the start, so I jumped up and clipped the first bolt.  Some local guy was climbing next to us with who appeared to be his significant other warned me that I was back clipping.  It was a rather rushed observation since it wasn't backclipped and I wasn't climbing.  His inattention became even more evident when he was spraying to us about climbing with first ascentionists and other crap, then when his climber yelled "ready to lower", he payed out slack and dropped her 20 feet onto a slab.  Luckily she was ok, but it could have been more than the relationship disaster it so clearly was.  The obnoxious climber syndrome continued later when another group dropped a rope on my head.  I complained to him, but he said, "I yelled rope...", and I retorted, "yeah, right as it hit my head".  After a bit more climbing, we left for the Safeway in Truckee to acquire grillables for the evening.

Emily navigating the dihedral on ___ (5.9)
Day two started with breaking down camp, and once again driving along the long dirt road.  We went to Light Deprivation Buttress, which offered freedom from crowds deep in the woods.  The climbs seemed rather untouched with little chalk and plenty of sharp holds.  We started out with a couple 5.9s, including the terrific Infra-Red, which involves some crack moves around a corner then up an arete with a steep reachy crux.  We did a few more climbs, including a 10a, Una-Bomber with a bolt every 4 feet!

Mike leading the arete on Infra-Red

After laziness set in, we packed up and hit the dirt road.  About half way in, I heard what appeared to be someone with very large hands scratching their nails on a very big chalkboard coming from my right front tire.  We jacked the car up, and removed the tire to reveal a piece of wood stuck between the rotor and some flange fixed to the wheel.  All told, the extraction went smoothly, and we were on our way for some dinner and coffee loading for the drive home.

The evil piece of wood stuck behind my brakes
Now, it is off to the east coast for a wedding and some quality down time with my Mom, friends, and packraft.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My packraft came today!  More on this next week after I get back from the Daks. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Long Weekend in the Sierras, July 2-4

Saturday - Unicorn Peak
The destination: Unicorn Peak (10823 ft) rises 2300 ft above SR120.  We climbed the spire on the right side of the peak.

Justin, Andrew and I missed much of the inevitable pre-long-weekend traffic by leaving the Bay around 9pm on Friday for the long ride to meet Erica in June Lake.  After a late arrival at the campsite, we got a bit of shuteye before getting up and heading off to Lee Vining for breakfast at Nicely's.  By noon, we had skis on our backs, climbing gear in packs, and a 2.5 mile bushwack through a decomposing forest littered with 6 foot high melting snow piles waiting for us.

Postholing with 40 lbs on my back for 2.5 miles?  Maybe I'll bring a lighter rope next time.
Needless to say, it was a painful slog, but when we rose above treeline, the bowl and pinnacle of Unicorn stood in front of us and rejuvenated the drive for the summit.

Erica stayed near the base of the bowl while Andrew and I skinned up the steep slope.  It didn't take long to gain the summit ridge, and Andrew skied off as I met Justin who walked up to the base of the pinnacle without skis.
Andrew skiing down the suncups from the summit ridge of Unicorn Peak

This rendezvous required 3rd and maybe 4th class traversing along the ridge with loose snow thinly covering rocks, offering to break my ankle at a minutes notice.  When I met Justin, he was sitting in what was practically a small cave in the snow he had accidentally stepped into, which was hilarious to everyone but him.  We roped up, and I lead past the 4th (easy 5th?) class sections to the summit, where I promptly realized I had dropped my new camera in the flurry of swapping footwear between approach shoes, climbing shoes, and ski boots.  It was getting late and we were feeling the pressures of the committing downclimb and waning afternoon sun in the face of fatigue and solitude on the peak.  I reluctantly left my camera among the marmots and beautiful views of the Cathedral range, and we started our descent.
Justin on the summit of Unicorn with Cockscomb and Cathedral in the background

Justin hiked down, and I made my way back to my skis along the summit blocks wearing my climbing shoes this time, hence avoiding the perilous snow traps.  I skied off the summit, met up with Erica, Andrew and Justin, and we skinned our way back through the trees to our car, arriving just as it got dark.    Everyone was dehydrated, hungry as we started the long drive to Mammoth to get food, but lucked out when we noticed the Mobile station was open.  Those are some damn good fish tacos!

Sunday - Sport Climbing at Al's Garage
We got a later start today, and decided to do some sport climbing on typical Eastern Sierra's volcanic rock at Al's Garage.  All of the climbs here were set by a fellow Planet Granite Belmont climber, Alan Hirahara, who normally bolts well-protected climbs, so we weren't too worried about runouts.  After a good bit of driving and walking on rough dirt roads, we arrived at the base of a 5.8, Kill the Buddah, that was a bit crumbly, but offered interesting moves.  Andrew took the lead, and we all climbed it.  Justin's mysterious fear of climbing set in after a few moves, even though he was protected by top rope and has climbed far sketchier stuff (including leading a Tuolumne offwidth chimney).  I think there is a large equation that results in Justin either climbing or not, with variables including how well fed he is, ambient temperature, the color of the rock, and perhaps what his magic 8 ball says he should do.  Frankly, none of us know, but he was done for the day after following the 5.8.
Erica climbing at Al's Garage

I lead East Side Daze (5.9) afterward, which was a fun and long pitch.  The heat was getting to us, so Andrew followed, and took the climb down.  We headed to Mammoth Lakes for dinner, but first Andrew and I took a quick (ie: very very quick) swim in 40 something degree water in a recently melted out lake.
Andrew frantically making his way back to the dock to escape the near-freezing water

Monday - Skiing Near Saddlebag Lake

We all woke up at sunrise, and I had a mild hangover from the bag of wine we finished around the campfire the night before.  Erica and Andrew set off to hike Cathedral Lake, while Justin and I went to the Saddlebag Lake area in hopes of ticking off White Mountain.  The trail was tough to follow, but we had a stream for a handrail until we reached treeline.  After switching to skis and trekking out a bit, we realized that our destination was not White Mountain, and was in fact a peak we couldn't identify.  The actual White Mountain was way waaaay in the distance, and we didn't have much drive to push on with the slippery melting snow and massive suncups.  We took a quick drop 400 or so foot drop off of the side of Mt Galore and headed back to the car.  Later on, we realized our original goal was "False White", so it seems we aren't the only ones to make that mistake.
Never again will you deceive us, False White!  But we might ski down you because you look really cool.

We left after soaking up some sun in the parking lot for a while.  Out 40 minutes into the drive, I realized I had left Justin's bear canister back at Saddlebag.  Damnit, this was not a good trip for me losing stuff!  Thanks to Erica and Justin for all the pictures.