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.