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.