Monday, January 8, 2018

Mt Carillon (13,552')

I had an enjoyable weekend peak bagging out in the Whitney zone with Mitch. I am in the midst of a 6 month training program for Denali, and with the holiday break nearing the end, I wanted to take advantage of the dry, warm weather and get out on one more peak before classes start-up again. 

Dry weather?
 I really didn't have any particular objective in mind, I just wanted to stretch my legs, gain some altitude and camp out in the cold. We decided on heading up to Mt. Carillon and Mt Russell, since neither of us had climbed those peaks. 

We met up Friday night, and had a leisurely start on Saturday, following a hearty breakfast at the Mt. Whitney restaurant in Lone Pine.  

After weeks of high-pressure on the Sierra, the weather started to change on Saturday, with high winds and a low pressure system bringing cold air and snow to the mountains.  Mitch pulled out his pocket-inter-web machine, and confirmed that the weather was supposed to improve on Sunday, before a massive storm system moves in on Monday.  So we headed up to our planned bivy site at Upper Boy Scout lake.

Mitch capturing the moments in the snow
Home sweet home.
Since we arrived at our camp fairly early, and the weather has too heinous to bother going for the summit on Saturday, we busied ourselves by constructing a rock-walled kitchen and hiked around the area.

Kitchen shelter construction

Looking down on our camp
 We were in bed by dark and up around 4:30am the next day for our ascent. I didn't feel very good upon waking, a headache, lack of appetite, maybe mild AMS? Its been a while since I felt so poorly on the mountain. But I sucked it up, and we headed off.

Heading up in early morning - Photo credit - M. Quiring
 We reached the Russell-Carillon col around sunrise, and we were greeted with beautiful views of Mt. Whitney and Mt. Russell.

Mt Whitney at sunrise
Mitch shooting stills

 We headed over to Mt. Carillon, I was not sure exactly where the summit was, so we ended up traversing the entire west ridge before finding the true summit (oops!)

Mitch on Mt. Carillon's west ridge after the first false summit.
Hmmm, where the heck is the summit? - Photo credit - M. Quiring
Eventually we found the true summit, way the heck over on the far side of the ridge. 

Mitch on the top
Summit selfie!
We then looked over at Mt. Russell, the next logical objective. Although I really wanted to climb it, the truth was I felt like garbage. I was weak, and nauseous. I climbed more than 15 peaks last year, and felt great for every one, but once in a while the altitude hits me hard.  I am a bit disappointed with my body's performance on this trip, but sometimes that's how it roles, so I asked Mitch if we could head down. Russell will have to wait. Thanks Mitch for understanding!

Whitney (left) - Russell (right) - next time.....
We blasted down the trail and back to Lone Pine for some yummy burritos! First peak of 2018, winter might finally be settling into the Sierra's. Looking forward to some serious winter ascents once the snows are here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Northern Ontario Ice

My hometown is a secret climbing heaven. While California and Rockies climbers descend in droves on crowded ice falls, climbers in my hometown quietly enjoy some of the best ice climbing east of the Canadian Rockies.

White Lightning (WI3) -- a local classic

This sleepy town has some of the best climbing east of the Rockies!

I go home to visit family and friends, but as a bonus, I get to strap on the crampons and ice tools, and get in some ice climbing with my brother. I even somehow convinced Teresa to get out ice climbing as well. 

We climbed a bunch of moderate classics over 3 days, and didn't see another climber the entire time. Amazing. The first thing we climbed was White Lightning, a beautiful 60 meter ice climb a 10 minute drive from town, up on Mt. McKay.

Teresa working the moves on White Lightning
Kyle on a variation
Of course, we did things other than ice climb! We brought Teresa to the Hoito for breakfast. A Thunder Bay landmark. The Hoito is a Finnish restaurant, founded in 1918 and might be the oldest, continuously operated Co-op owned restaurant in Canada. The service is slow, but the food is good!

Ready to eat?

The family - waiting patiently for Finnish pancakes!

  The next climbing day we headed out to Orient Bay, which is a 90 minute drive from town. Orient Bay is amazing, the area holds ~60 ice climbs, several of them greater than 120 meters in height, with most of climbs being less than a 20 minute walk from the road. If Orient Bay were located near a major city center, it would be as famous as Hyalite Canyon or even Ouray! But, being in Northwestern Ontario, you are pretty much guaranteed to have the place to yourself most days. No Lee Vinning style TR cluster fu@k here!

The routes range from easy beginner routes routes like Tempest (WI2) and Cascade Falls (WI3) to amazing spectacular pillars and test-pieces like Parallax (WI5) and Reflection Wall (WI5) -- something for everyone

One interesting and unique feature of the local ice, is that it tends to have a yellow color. I believe this is because of the minerals in the rock.

Tempest (WI2)- Easy classic!

Teresa climbs Tempest - note how close the road is!
We climbed a couple of easy ice climbs, enjoying the warm (-8 C) weather. 

Approaching Cascade Falls

Belay slave!
Kyle leading up Cascade Falls

On the last climbing day, Teresa was ready for a break, so Kyle and I headed out to Squaw Bay for a quick afternoon climb. It turned out to be my favorite climb of the whole trip. The climb was called Alpine Outing, a very interesting 2 pitch climb up into a gully system.

Super fun climb in Squaw Bay
Squaw Bay is really neat place to climb. Its located right on Lake Superior, and the climbs are a short walk from the road. It has an almost alpine feel to the place, despite a very short approach and being only a few minutes from town.

Squaw Bay - Sleeping Giant in the background

Kyle led the climb, making it look easy. The crux section is very thin, and requires a bit rock gear to protect it, and you actually use the rock band along with the ice to climb through the difficult section. It does not look hard from the ground, but it is deceptively steep, and also much longer than it looks. 

Kyle places a screw before committing to the crux moves
We reached the first belay, and Kyle fired off the second pitch. The next pitch sort of goes around the corner and climbs up a narrow ice filled gully, which ends with a fairly difficult and interesting steep section.

The narrow ice gully on the 2nd pitch

Final tricky section before exiting the climb
The top of the climb was glorious. The sun was shining, and there were terrific views of the lake. 

Kyle rigs the rappel at the top of Alpine Outing
We headed down, and then back to town for more family visiting time. 

Along with Christmas arrived, came a cold snap of -20  to -30 C temperatures, so that's it for ice climbing this trip. 

We did a bunch of visiting of old friends (and their various children) including Scott and Sarah, Eli and Sarah as well Chris and Carolyn. Its always great to see how everyone is doing, and nice that old friends can take times out of their busy lives to catch up.

Teresa and I also braved arctic temperatures to explore Thunder Bay's recently renovated water front.  Its very nice and I'm sure a lovely place to hang out when its not -25 C


Frozen water-front

 On Boxing day, the temps dipped even further with wind-chill approaching -35 C. I decided it would be a good idea to test out my Alaska gear by going a quick hike up Mt. McKay (1,450'). Mt McKay is the largest "mountain" in the Nor Wester Mountains which ring Thunder Bay. Its on First Nation lands, and has two distinct plateaus, the first having a lookout and structures for the First Nations, and a flat topped summit. 

Summit plateau of Mt McKay as seen from the lookout. First Nations Pow Wow structure in the foreground

It was a quick (~ 45 min) jaunt up about 1000' to the summit. It was extremely cold, but double mountaineering boots, and my Rab Xenon + buffs kept me toasty warm on the ascent.

I have not climbed Mt McKay since I was 12 years old. It seemed to big at the time!

Very cold summit selfie

Looking down on Thunder Bay from the Summit of Mt McKay

It was a wonderful visit home, lovely to see family and friends. As always climbing with my brother is a special treat, I'm glad that our passions converge on something we can both enjoy together.

Its always great to see some of my oldest friends, catch-up and see how much has changed. Looking forward to my next visit!

Bye TBay! Until next time!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fresno Dome - December Sun

A high pressure ridge sitting out on the Pacific ocean had meant weeks of sunny warm weather in California, when it should be wet and snowing. Taking full advantage of this beautiful weather, I have spent the past 2 weekends at one my favorite climbing venues - Fresno Dome. Normally by this time of year it would be way to cold to climb there, and the road would be closed from snow, but not this year!

There was only a tiny bit of snow on the approach trail and the road. The dome itself was totally clear, warm and sunny. Feeling more like Sept or Oct than December!

Approaching Fresno Dome

The only snow -- in the shade on the North side of the dome

Last weekend Teresa, Michelle Johnson, Penny and Bart headed out for a mellow day of climbing.  First off was - Giggity Giggity, and enjoyable 5.8 face and crack climb

Michelle on Giggity giggity.

Bart supervises

 We then set up a top-rope on "Bitch Stewie" (5.11+) - a delightful corner/crack system with a tricky stem box start. Very fun. 

Michelle in the stem crux of Bitch Stewie (5.11+)
Master belay
We then headed over to the East face, and I led up the first pitch of Mule Train. Sadly the pitch was greater than 35 meters, resulting in some shenanigans for me to get back down. Teresa and Michelle didn't get to climb it. We then finished the day with some easy leading and hard top roping on the Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah buttress. A great day!

The next weekend, the weather still great. Back to Fresno Dome. Since I did not get to complete Mule Train, which is one of the classic old routes on Fresno Dome, Teresa and I decided to head back and climb the whole route to the summit (Mule Train, II, 5.9 PG13)

Mule Train
The climbing on Mule Train, was fun - run-out but very easy. Giant features to climb on!

Teresa climbs up a sea of chicken heads
Pitch 2

Good times!
The 3rd pitch was the crux, some spicy technical slab. 

Pitch 3
Pitch 4
We relaxed and enjoyed some lunch on the summit. Yet another classic Fresno Dome Multi-pitch completed. 

 After lunch, we packed up and headed back down and around to the West Face. There we gave the difficult "Time Lapse (II, 5.11b) a shot. It was one of the hardest leads I have done, I fell at the crux so will have to return and try it again clean. Very challenging face climbing.

Time Lapse - 5.11b
Old bolt on the West Face
After climbing Time Lapse, we called it a day, and headed back home. I spend a fair amount of time admiring the climbs on the West Face, so much to climb there. It might have to wait for next season, unless this high pressure system stays around a bit longer!

Routes on the West face!

Bye Fresno Dome and your beautiful Pine Cones!