Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Long Awaited Outdoor Climb at The Grotto, Nov 30

It has been since early August since I last climbed outdoors, so I was very excited as we made the drive out to Table Mountain early in the morning.  It was a nice big crew joining along as we greeted the horses at the parking lot and made the long approach to the cliffs.  We climbed a bunch of trad routes I had done before, and I finally lead a climb on Ort Wall across the way.  It felt very gym like and easy for a 10b.  Best of all, I finally got a burn on AC Devil Dog after years of wanting to try it.  First, I belayed Cori up it, who finished it, making it her hardest outdoor climb yet.  I didn't feel up to leading it given the insecure nature, so I went for it on top rope, having 1 fall, and slapping a lot of arete edges.

After a while at the cliffs, Chris and I headed up to Welcome Wall to setup an 11b, Uncle Remus.  Chris was rock solid on lead until the last move, where he took several short lead falls.  Upon finish it, he was sketched out by the anchor, which was fine for top roping, but would prove to be sketchy for rappelling due to the very rusted lap links.  As it got dark, I went past lichen covered holds, piles of bird shit, and surprisingly interesting moves before struggling through the crux.  The anchor proved to be as bad as Chris had said, and as I fiddled with leaving a biner and sling to backup the bad chain, I got several face fulls of rust dust.  Needless to say, I was happy to be back on the ground after my rappel.

We hiked out in the dark, admiring the clear skies and stars that we normally don't see in the Bay Area.  We stopped in Oakdale for dinner at a Mexican restaurant that served portions 2-3 times larger than expected.  Needless to say, we had leftovers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On the Mend at The Hook, Nov 16

It has been over a month since my last post, which reflects how hard I succumbed to my persistent cough and subsequent excruciatingly painful rib injury.  Two weekends ago was the first time I felt well enough to do anything for along time, and Cori and I went on two long urban hikes, including going up Mount Sutro, which was surprisingly pretty and devoid of people, and not surprisingly eerie in the dark.

Now that my ribs have mostly healed, only the funniest Arrested Development jokes send pain down my side, and even though I can't sleep on my stomach, I can apparently surf reasonably well.  I tried my new 7'2" hybrid at the Hook on Saturday since Cori and I were down in Santa Cruz for a concert on Friday.  It was extremely crowded, but I caught a few, and really enjoyed the lower volume, more responsive feel of my new board.

On Sunday, I climbed for the first time in many weeks, which resulted in a bit more rib pain, but left me feeling good with a handful of v4s under my belt in a surprisingly good session.  I might try running this week, which would be a first since my foot started hurting after Bay to Breakers.  The lack of exercise has really been getting me down, and I am determined to turn things around.  The real icing on the cake would be to get out climbing in the Sierras before the snow and rain keeps most crags unclimbable.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bolinas, Oct 14

I finally has a good surf session!  It has been a while, but the waves were pleasantly in the waist+ range at Bolinas. I had a 3 or so hour session with two very nice long lefts and a variety of decent rights and shorter lefts. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Surfing after work, Oct 4

I was excited by the warm weather and decent waves, so I left my dark cubicle and headed to Linda Mar. The waves ended up looking pretty bad with closeouts and long lulls across the beach. I opted to surf near the south end, but couldn't catch anything decent. I moved to the Docks area where there was some competition from longboard ers. The waves were clean, but weak and I couldn't catch any.  I left the surf as it got dark, empty handed. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Surfing, Sept 14, Sept 22, Sept 29

Ok, I had to write about my last three surf sessions.  I've gone the past three weekends, with a mixture of waves.  This weekend, Cori and I had some decent waves at the southern most part of Linda Mar when everything else was closeout.  Last weekend, I went out to Linda Mar by myself while Cori was in NJ, and it wasn't huge, nor very good but I caught a nice few waves in warm weather.  The weekend before that, I went to Bolinas where there were beautiful peeling lefts at the Channel, with a large group of good surfers at the one takeoff spot.  I didn't catch any good ones, but I went to the patch and paddled hard for the soft rollers, and caught a nice 30 second unbroken left.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Burning Man, August 28-Sept 1

I went, and it was more awesome than I expected.  The scale of everything (artwork, sound, lights, number of people, effort, etc) was awe inspiring.  I wrote a long post about it, but I'm going to hold off throwing it up here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Perhaps The Last Routine Surf Report - Linda Mar, Sept 8

Surfing is becoming a more common thing these days, and I'm not sure every single session on small closeouts at Linda Mar warrants a blog post.  That being said, Cori and I got out at sunset for a quick surf in heavy fog.  The waves were barely rideable, but it was nice to get out since neither of us had been surfing since Baja.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Baja Sur, August 10-18

This has been the most packed few months I've maybe ever had.  It started in early July with a trip to Yosemite, then I went to SIGGRAPH, then Yosemite again, then Baja, next friends visiting SF, and finally I'm leaving for Burning Man in two days.  I have pages of notes from Baja but will likely never publish them, so here are some takeaways from the trip.  Now if my cough would only go away before I hit the playa...

Fingernails grow fast when not biting them at my desk in a dark cubicle, and I like when my brain moves slower without computers in my face all day.

There are no gas stations anywhere even close to a dirt road on the East Cape.

Don't touch the bottom when surfing a reef break.  Ouch.

The Cabo San Lucas coast guard apparently don't like it when you snorkel out into the open water near large boats.

Stay away from downtown Cabo.  It is painfully touristy and gross.
Rent a car and bring snorkel gear rather than take an expensive boat with limited time in the water.

Trust the young, tough-looking local locksmith when he says your locked out car won't be broken into despite everyone saying it will.  He probably has connections and helped you out.

Driving on washboard for an hour (or two) rocks your core.

Most of the good things on East Cape require driving on washboard.

Speaking of driving, dirt roads suck, but aren't nearly as scary as eroded paved roads where they will unexpectedly drop off into a car-destroying put 6 inches from your tire.

Margaritas are best with fresh squeezed oranges and home grown limes.

Coastal rainstorms at 3am are spectacular if not disorienting.

Palapas are not waterproof.

Palapa cough lasts longer than you'd expect.

Tom Curren makes a mean surfboard.

It is best to follow your instinct and not trust the illegal cock fighting ring leader's request for a ride for himself and his  large backpack wielding friend when he stops your car on an otherwise desolate dirt road.

Eating regular meals is a good thing, but when in doubt, having peanut butter, bread, nuts, and Lara Bars go a long way.

The best way to check the surf is by opening your eyes and tiling your head.

Be weary of stray dogs.  Some are nice, others are nicer, and others like to get rowdy and bite after being nice.

Octopuses are the most amazing thing to see while snorkeling.  Nothing else compares.

Packrafts are an indispensable adventure tool, but kind of scary in open water with two people and a (literal) boatload of gear.

Even in quiet artsy towns, people will try to screw you over and make you pay too much for things.

Small beach breaks are good at breaking toes and tweaking knees at the end of a trip.

Old hippie couples living off the grid in the scorching Mexican desert are the quintessential model for self-reliance and are inspiring to spend time with.

It took meditating on a scary reef break surf every day for me to find comfort in the waves, but when it came, I enjoyed surfing more than I ever have.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Turning 30 in Yosemite, July 31-August 4

Ahhh, I love Tuolumne!
We went back to Tuolumne to celebrate my 30th birthday in style with fancy fruit, climbing, friends and an abundance of sunshine.  We arrived at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground early in the morning on my birthday (August 1), and found Chris stumbling to the bathroom, half awake.  He and his girlfriend, Kira, made the drive up from San Diego earlier that day.
Kira on the approach to Bunny Slopes
After a surprisingly cold night, we started my birthday with some breakfast, and then headed to Bunny Slopes to climb Hot Crossed Buns, a runout but easy slab with great views of Pywiak Dome.  The approach was longer than expected because of our circuitous route, but never the less was easy.  After having lunch at the campground, we went to Puppy Dome for some crack climbing on Puppy Crack.  This was Chris' first crack climb, and he did excellent as did Cori and Kira too.  It is a nice short hand crack, which I sewed up for fun on lead.  The views from the top were gorgeous as the light approached the golden hour.
Chris working up his first ever crack climb on Puppy Dome.
We cooked a nice dinner, had a few beers, and then went back for the durian, which did not live up to expectations with its onion-like flavor.  Maybe I was dissuaded after Cori tried to give me a rotten/custard-y part that was the most foul tasting thing I've ever put in my mouth.  Right as we were going to bed, my cousin, Ben, showed up and slept sans-tent.
Posing with the durian before tasting the awfulness.
 We started Friday with a late morning hike up to the base of Northwest Books on Lembert dome.  We waited for a group to finish the first pitch, and in the process Chris left to go back to the campsite.  Kira and Ben were planning on climbing together, but Kira decided to join up with Chris, so Ben, Cori and I roped up.  I had led the climb a few years ago, rushed by impending thunder.  This time, we had clear skies and two ropes.  I got stuck at the bolt on the first pitch when cam got stuck on the sling attached to the bolt.  After some frustrated wiggling, I freed myself and finished the pitch.  The second pitch had more rope drag than I've ever experienced, and ended with a serious tricep workout belaying Ben and Cori.  I finished the climb, and we played around on the summit, getting back to the car as the sun started to set.   That night, Nick, Jacob, and Mike arrived, ready for the weekend.
At the end of the second pitch on Lembert Dome.

This was rather close to the edge of the cliff at the top of Northwest Books on Lembert Dome.
Our group was getting larger, but on Saturday morning it was cut down by one when Ben left to head back to the bay area.  We did a late morning hike up the Lyell Fork, crossing the river 1.5 or so miles to hike up a small dome we saw in the distance.  The views from the top were impressive despite being only 50 or so feet above the river.
We climbed a small dome!
Cori needed to get some work done, so we split off from the group to find internet while everyone else setup a rope at Pothole Dome.  We traveled down the road towards Lee Vining, finding cellphone service a mile or so from the Mobile.  Cori downloaded the necessary data, and we headed back to our friends just in time to try out some moderate slab at the far end of Pothole.  After everyone had their turn, we made our way to the other anchors closer to the parking.  There was a large group of Germans guided by a very angry guy who kept yelling at the kids in the group.  The mother was a horrible belayer, and we helped her use better technique.  Observing their constant bickering and screaming was far more entertaining than the crappy climb we setup, and we kept waiting for the next explosive argument.

Kyle and Sharada had arrived once we got back to the campsite.  We spent the night eating and drinking around the campfire, and my friend Reuben, his roommate and a friend came as well.  It was a nice evening, and we ate many whiskey-soaked marshmallows over a hot fire.
Cori trying hard to stifle laughing at the ridiculousness around us.
 Reuben et. al. left in the morning, as did Chris and Kira.  The rest of us headed to DAFF Dome to sample the easy cracks.  We messed up the approach, which took 2 or 3 times longer than expected, but we arrived and immediately setup a climb.  I took a small fall on the slippery opening moves, but was able to finish without a problem.  The setting at the South Flank is gorgeous with sweeping views of the meadows, and Fairview Dome smack dab in the middle.  At the end of the day after everyone had left for San Francisco, Cori and I did Alimony Crack, which was a fun 5.8 handcrack.
Kyle rocked one of the Guide Cracks for his very first outdoor climb ever!
 It was a great birthday, and I felt very fortunate that so many of my awesome friends made the trek out to one of my favorite places.  Birthday or not, I'm hoping I can make this a yearly tradition, even if it means snagging campsites months in advance.
Cori jamming at the very end of Alimony Cracks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Truly Epic July 4th in the Sierras, July 3-7

Editor's Note: This post has all the info I want except for a few pictures, and is very unpolished, but it must do for now as I have a busy week before my birthday in Tuolumne.

We got a late start out of San Francisco after solving the eternal puzzle of fitting gear into a small car with 4 people in tow.  Good thing Cori has a roof rack!  We got into camp at June Lake very late, and passed out.
Cori on the first pitch of Golfer's Route
Cori, Shomsy and I drove to Tuolumne Meadows to find some climbing.  We decided on Golfer's Route (5.7R), which is something I've wanted to climb for a while ever since bailing after the first pitch due to bad weather.  This was also a good first multipitch for Cori since there were bolted belays, and only two pitches. I climbed the first pitch, and belayed Cori, who was having trouble with the altitude and felt insecure on the slippery knobs that blanketed the two pitches.  We stopped for a while at the end of the first pitch to track the dark storm clouds behind us.  Luckily, they seemed to be moving past, so we finished the climb, and rappelled down.  By the time we made it to the Mobil, it was raining, which ended up cleaning off my rainfly nicely. 
Cori and I hanging out at the first belay on Golfer's Route.
The next day started slow, as we spent a good bit of time hanging out by the water where Cori and I played around in the high winds on the packraft.  It was surprising how stable the thing was with two people, although I don't think we could have fit gear in as well!  
Getting ready for some shallow water packrafting!
Cori working her way up Iris Slab.
Later in the day, Cori, Shomsy and I drove to Iris Slab, which is the home to a bombproof granite finger cracks.  I led a 5.7, Get Up Stand Up, which was slippery, but interesting until I got spooked after I knocked off a foothold.  I didn't even realize what I had done, and thought I had simply lost an edge, but when I looked down I saw Cori ducking out of the path of the rock.  She took hard on the rope, and almost yanked me off, but we both recovered, she put on a helmet, and I finished the pitch.  Back at the campground, Amanda and Ryan had arrived after a longer than expected drive.  I hung out for a while before crashing early to get up for the next day.

I woke up at 4 am to a quiet and dark tent with the West Ridge of Mt Conness on my mind.  My alarm was going to be ringing in 10 minutes, so I was able to escape the tent with my prepacked gear without waking Cori up.  I met Justin and Buddy at the Pine Cliff store a few minutes later, and we drove in the pitch black to the Sawmill Campground parking lot.
Early morning light on the approach to the West Ridge.
As the sun started to rise, the four of us started the hike towards the Carnegie Institute, which is a dilapidated building with a fancy name and marks roughly when the good trail turns into backcounty.  We meandered past the building through boggy wet terrain full of mosquitoes   The climbing started to get steeper, and eventually Scott and I broke away from Buddy and Justin.  As we gained the ridgeline that separates the national park from the national forest, Scott and I took alternative routes on the snowfield.  Scott went way left, and ended up free soloing some easy yet terrifying 4th and 5th class for a few hundred feet in his approach sandals.
Scott recounting his harrowing tale of unexpectedly free soloing in sandals.

A boggy area on the approach.

There were many fields of beautiful wild flowers on the approach.
I was the first to make it to the ridge, and as I waited I ducked back down and found shelter from the strong wind behind some rocks.  We all met up on the ridge and had a snack.  It was clear Buddy was lagging behind, and he started to question continuing since he wasn't feeling well.  We encouraged him to continue the hike out, and he obliged.  

Our route was quite different from the suggested approach in the guidebooks.  We were aiming to skirt the summit ridge by hiking around to the base rather than going up near the summit and back down through a random gully.  This was a mistake as it was much longer than we anticipated.  We arrived that the base tired after a lot of talus hopping and routefindng.

As we racked up, we heard "ROCK!" and watched as a massive chunk rained down on us from a team high above on the ridge.  I ducked under a little cavern as it broke into pieces and showered around us.  We decided on having two rope teams: Scott and I climbing together, and Justin heading up with Buddy.  Scott took the first lead, and took the steepest and most difficult looking first pitch.  

Justin leading one of the early pitches.
As I approached Scott at the first belay, it became abundantly clear how difficult this climb would be.  The wind was blowing at 40 mph making verbal communication impossible, and we were not going fast yet had 1400 vertical feet of climbing remaining.  I took the second lead, meandered up some 5.6 rock until I found a shitty belay, and started to haul Scott up.  As I was belaying, I heard Buddy yell "FALLING!" next to me as he lead the pitch.  I looked over to see him tumbling down the rock after taking a fall from some loose rock breaking off.  His pro held and the rope stopped him 30 feet later, luckily leaving him only with a banged up and bloody ankle.

Seeing that freaked me out, and as I climbed the next few pitches with the howling wind almost knocking me off, fear and anxiety set in, leaving me wondering how we would finish the climb.  The pitches went by and the 5.6 climbing eased off to easy 5th class, and I found composure as the wind settled down, so I started leading again.  There were interesting pitches with down climbing, ridge straddling, and stemming across 1000 feet of exposure.  

Eventually, as the sun started to get lower and lower in the sky, we realized we needed to start simulclimbing.  Justin and Buddy had already commenced it, and Scott and I decided it  was time for us to do it too.  I was apprehensive at first since I have never done it, but it seemed much faster, but turned out not to be since we had only a single set of cams and nuts, which isn't enough protection to go very far while simulclimbing   

The 4 of us met up at the next belay, and make the unanimous decision to start a rope team of 4 people, giving all the gear (2 sets of nuts, triples of cams) to Scott to forge ahead.  We sorted the tangled gear and ropes, figuring out the tie in spots, and launched into the last 700 feet of climbing as the sun got lower and lower in the sky.  

Climbing in a group of 4 was tricky.  There were numerous times when someone would stop and bring the progress of all 4 of us to a grinding halt.  To make matters worse, I was carrying the spare rope on my back in an uncomfortable way as it was perched pushing my neck down and forward.  Every move made my neck hurt more and more and I spent a lot of the last bit of climbing cursing the shitty situation.

We stopped once and as the sun set over the sierras, we put headlamps on.  It was a beautiful but terrifying sight.  Silence and an orange sky - the most beautiful location for the sun setting imaginable, yet we shouldn't be viewing it.  No one should.  I started to get worried about finishing in the dark since we all wanted to at least be done with the technical climbing before it was pitch black.

As the darkness ensued, we reached the end of the 5th class, so we unroped and started up the last 400 feet of 3rd class until we reached the summit, exhausted and weary, yet not even close to done.  At 10:30 pm we signed the summit register, and had already been out for over 12 hours  None of us had much water left, and I gave parts of my remaining water to people.  We had one last tricky part, which was the summit descent, which is a steep, narrow, and sandy section of 4th class downclimbing with 1000+ foot drops on either side into darkness.  I had the rope on my back, which kept catching on my feet, so needless to say, I was terrified beyond belief as I gingerly navigated the ridge.  

Once off the steep parts, we were home free from all the technical parts of the climb, with "only" a few thousand feet of descent left in the day spread out over 5 miles.  Buddy was far behind us, and Justin was far in front, which was sometimes difficult to follow as the exhausting and dehydration got worse.  It was a sea of talus, bushwacking and route finding without water until we reached a stream where we filtered some water with Justin's MSR.  It was refreshing, which along with some snacks woke us all up a bit.

We trudged on into the night at an increasingly slow pace, stopping every so often for a break.  I'd sometimes lay on my back and watch the stars twinkle in the moonless night.  Much like watching the sunset, the sky sucked you in with beauty, but my mind fought back with the will to escape the mountain and not fall asleep.  By this point, I was hallucination, thinking shadows were faces and a rock was a small bear.  While I knew these things weren't true, my brain couldn't help but indulge in the fantasy.  Apparently, neither could others as some thought there was music playing in the distance and voices.  

We continued on, Justin leading the way, and all of us relying on his navigation skills in the pitch black.  We were relieved when familiar trails were in front of us, which gave away to the campground leading us to the cars.  The last stretch of road before we saw the car felt like an eternity, and when I finally reached the car at 4:30 am, I couldn't have been happier.

Justin drove me bavck to Pine Cliff, and my sleep it he car was interrupted only by the occasional swerve due to him liekyl dozing off in the drivers seat as we made our way down 120 towards 395.  The sun started to rise as I woke Cori up, and fell asleep for a few hours, before waking up at 8 to go for a swim.  The cool water washed away 25 hours worth of sweat, and sunblock.  I was strangely alert, which confused everyone as I told the account of the previous 25 hours as I ate dinner for breakfast.  The eating continued as I had a huge meal at the Mobil, reminding me of how few calorie I had taken in the day before.  As we passed through the park, I fell asleep and was in and out of consciousness for the rest of the drive home.  All of us were still in shorts and a t shirt, having grown accustomed to the warm weather over the past few days.  When I opened the car door in Twin Peaks to help unload Emerson and Shomsy's gear, the cold wind hit me like a ton of bricks.  Yep, we were back in SF!

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Surfboard at Pacifica!!, July 15

Tried out my 30th birthday present from my Mom.  It is a 7'6" Vernor egg-ish shape, and it was great!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beautiful Weather and Good Surf, June 29-30

I got in the water twice this weekend.  Saturday had clean waves, sunny and warm weather and heavy crowds.  I got a few hours in, and caught a bunch of nice waves while improving my person-dodging skills.  On Sunday, Cori and I went out in the later afternoon, and caught a bunch of bigger albeit more messy waves.  And, to finish things off, we ate at the Taco Bell.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Abnormally fun surfing, June 26

It was almost 6pm, and the Linda Mar surf cam was showing clear skies and clean conditions.  I quickly finished up my work, and was in the water in about an hour, paddling out at the southern part of the beach.   Even though it was crowded, it was mostly fathers with young kids, non of whom were catching many waves.  I was apprehensive about surfing after my last horrible experience at Bolinas where 5 hours of driving left me without waves or a blog post.  All of that washed away after I caught my first wave, which was a nice long left with a fast and small inside section.  I was able to paddle for almost every wave I wanted, and my arms were limp as the sun started to set and the crowd thinned out.  I got nearly two hours of warm, sunny, and clean surf.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Climbing Loose Rock in Auburn, June 23

Nick, Emily, Jess, Chris, Cori and I met in Auburn midday Sunday for some sport climbing.  We warmed up on a few short lines at Memorial Wall, then headed up the hill to Wreckage Wall to try some longer routes.  We did a few, and the rock had very suspect quality with loose and dirty holds.  The 10c, Obliteration Divine, had some of the most loose rock I've seen in recent times, and I took a TR fall when my foothold broke!
Nick leading a very loose climb

The weather ended up holding off,  and we got a good session in despite the occasional sprinkle, thus making it pleasantly cooler than normal for the time of year.  We went to the brewery for beer and food afterward, and got back to the city late.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two Years of Mind Bogglin' Bloggin'!

As of June 8th it has been two years of blogging.  Despite my slowed pace and lack of effort on the writing recently, I've still been doing trips and trying to at least post some pictures here and there.  It has been a fun ride, and I'm happy to continue for a while, and hopefully start posting more good pictures.  Just like last year, here are my favorites from the past 12 months.

Climbing in the Sierras

Thousand Islands Lake Packrafting

Sykes Hot Springs

Camping and Skiing in the Lassen Backcountry

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sierras, May 25-27


Cori and I got an early start from San Francisco, and headed straight to the Valley with a stop at El Agave in Oakdale for breakfast burritos.  This was her first (literal: the burritos were good!) taste of Yosemite climbing tradition, and before we knew it she got her second dose with broad views of The Rostrum, the Merced River, and countless other cliffs as we parked and headed up to Knob Hill.  It is fun to see someone witness all the huge cliffs for the very first time; Yosemite is unlike anywhere, and Cori was properly overwhelmed by the vast cliffs before we even made to the gigantic walls of the Valley proper.
Cori making her way up Sloth Wall
Sloth Wall looked like a nice 5.7 in the guidebook with a long pitch of easy knobs.  I finished the pitch with little trouble, but the crux move down low reminded me how uncomfortably different Yosemite climbing is with its slippery polished granite and cracks.  I truly missed this place, as it has been almost two years since I've climbed in Yosemite Valley; a place I feel more comfortable at than almost anywhere that far from home.  Cori worked her way up the pitch, stopping and gazing at the valley below every so often.  When she met me at the belay, she told me two important things.  First is she couldn't get one of my new x4 cams out, so I'd have to try to extract it later on.  Second, she needed to pee, and badly.  There were no good ledges, nor anywhere she could easily get to besides the rappel tree...  A sudden shift in the wind provided my lower legs with a little shower as I looked away.
The top of Sloth Wall.
Cori took the first rappel after much discussion since she had only rappelled once before, that time without the inevitable tangled rope management.  She did great, except I heard a yell that she reached the end of the rope, and all I could think of was "FUCK, this is going to be bad, and why did the guidebook say it was a 90 footer??"  Luckily, she found she could swing over to the hillside abutting the climb.  I lowered down to see two people starting to rack up, one of whom wanted to try to get my stuck cam.  I was determined, though, and rapped to the end of the rope, hung upside down and jiggled the thing free.  In what has to be one of the most incredible bouts of coincidence of all time, one of the two climbers starting up Sloth Wall was someone I went to high school with, and hadn't seen for probably 10 years.
An arch in front  of the Royal Arches.
Cori and I made our way into the Valley, but were quickly confronted with a parking lot of traffic on the loop.  The road was so backed up people were turning their cars off and wandering around in the streets.  We eventually extricated ourselves from the mess by pulling into the Camp 4 parking lot where we played around on the boulders and gawked at Midnight Lighting before heading out to camp in Mammoth.
Finishing up a 5.6 or so hand crack in camp 4

Cori rocking some hard moves in street shoes in camp 4.


In continuing the theme of the trip of a sampling of different styles of climbing, Cori and I headed out to The Sherwin Plateau to find some remote bouldering.  I had heard of The Church of Lost and Found boulder long ago, and it has been on my tick list for years, so we made The Catacombs near Tom's Place our target.  The approach was the typical maze of poorly marked and barely visible fire roads flanked by sage bushes scratching the hell out of my car like fingers on a chalk board for almost an hour.  We drove, read directions, looked at maps, and became very frustrated about the lack of clarity of our position.  We turned around and were ready to give up after driving on another nondescript road we recognized a landmark at Pocketopia.  We reworked the directions and found our way to the elusive Catacombs, realizing when we turned around, we were probably 2-3 minutes away from the parking lot.
Are we lost?  As it ends up, we were not.
I was excited to get on some rock after sitting in a car traversing dusty roads for the better part of an hour.  We setup and quickly did a few v0-v1 problems, including Cori's first outdoor bouldering problem ever!  The rock was a bit friable at the top, but the interesting, albeit sharp, pockets were reminiscent of gym climbing.  We dragged the pads around, hopping from one little pocketed alcove to another.  Eventually, I onsighted my first v4, Todd's New Standard, which felt very soft for the grade, but was very similar to the types of problems I have been doing at the gym.
Cori after topping out her first outdoor bouldering problem.

There are lots of cool little side cut alcoves in the Catacombs.

Cori finishing up a v0.
After exploring the main Catacombs area, we headed out to the main target: The Church of Lost and Found.  The guidebook gives purposely vague directions to this iconic boulder, saying you need to follow a path for "5 minutes??".  We scoped the valley rim as we walked along the path, and eventually the rectilinear boulder with the highly chalked arete stood below us, perched on the edge of the Owens River Valley.  It was very eerily isolated, and extremely windy, not to mention much higher than expected.  We carefully placed the pads, and I gave it a go, only to fall into Cori's great spot after unexpectedly ripping off of a small foot.  This was a really hard v1!  I got too spooked when the howling wind gave me another slab fall, and was very bummed at not getting my goal climb.  On the walk back, I found a fun looking overhung prow, and onsighted the unknown problem, which was probably a v2.
On sighting a cool overhung boulder I found.  Probably v1 or v2.
After arriving back at the main area, we still had daylight and the will to explore, so we plunged into The Caverns, which is a unclimbable collection of huge and tightly packed boulders that form small caverns you have to crawl through.  It reminded me of Puragtory Chasm, which was the first place I ever had serious anxiety from being in enclosed spaces, but luckily there wasn't anything too tight of a squeeze here. 

About to explore through The Caverns.

Deep inside The Caverns as golden hour approaches.

We finished the night with pizza in downtown Mammoth Lakes, and Cori did a study session in the Sierra Nevada Lodge, which has a great lounge to poach while camping and needing internet.


The weather forecast didn't look good on Monday morning, and we started the day going to the Looney Bean so Cori could have another study session.  While she worked, I cleaned up the car and re-racked gear for some multi pitch trad, which  would be the grand finale of the trip.  We left Mammoth, and headed to the Meadows as the clouds engulfed us. I stated to pull out gear, tentatively gazing to the sky expecting to feel raindrops.  After grabbing my rope, the sky opened up, and we bailed on Northwest Books.  We hiked up to the base of the climb, and did the 3rd class approach to right below the first pitch.  It never rained too hard, but it was just enough to make the idea of walking off the dome in the rain extremely scary.
It is raining, but we are at Lembert Dome!

Cori trys to get out of the way of my panorama.
A picture near the first belay station for Northwest Books.

Olmsted Point headstand!

I can do headstands too!  Or not.
Upon giving up on Lembert, dome, we decided to head back to the Bay Area, but that wasn't without a stop at Olmsted Point, whose views were significantly reduced by the clouds.  The drive out of the park was filled with the typical extremely slow drivers and those willing to risk death to pass them.  120 is truly adventure driving.  We stopped for dinner and one last study session in Oakdale.  Cori holed up at a Starbucks, with a 11pm deadline to meet.  She got me a sugary tea drink, and I walked around the  town as she finished her assignment.  Needless to say, there isn't much in Oakdale, with my highlight being following a stray dog and seeing a poker club.  Oh and some big silos.  I walked back past the Starbucks here and there, and as the night rolled on, the sugar rush from he drink left me crashing as Cori finished the assignment.  We made our away back to San Francisco, assignment done and weary, but excited for more climbing in the near future.

My best find while Cori studied.