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.