Sunday, July 2, 2017

Empire Mountain (11,550')

I hate long weekends in the summer. So these "holiday" weekends, when people flock to the mountains with their kids, and giant groups of people are somewhat annoying to me. 
 The crowds, the traffic, *sigh*.
I really wanted to avoid the big popular spots, the Eastern Sierra, Yosemite etc.

I am spoiled, since I have no regular work schedule in the summer months, I can pretty much make any weekend a long weekend if I want. So Teresa and I decided to make it a "regular" weekend, and do a long weekend next weekend, when everyone else is back to their normal schedule. 

On Saturday we went climbing out a Chilkoot lake. It was hot, and really not the best spot to bring the dog. The climbing was ok, but my motivation was low, so we really didn't get in very many routes. I'll have to go back sometime when its not so hot out.


Teresa and Penny examine Chilkoot Lake
Teresa works out the tricky start to a 5.10b at the Half-day dome. 
On Sunday, I headed back out to Mineral king to hike up an easy peak in the region. I decided on Empire Mountain, I wanted something pretty easy that would just take a few hours, and it fit the bill.


Route up Empire Mt. 
It was an enjoyable, easy peak. I hiked up to Timber gap from the Sawtooth trailhead, then traversed onto typical class 2 Sierra talus, gaining the northwest (NW) ridge. The ridge was quite nice, a little bot of scrambling. Eventualy found the summit, and enjoyed the views of Mineral King, Sawtooth Peak and Farewell gap. Very relaxing, I had the peak to myself,  and signed the summit register.


Hiking up towards Timber Gap


A snowy Farewell Gap
Sawtooth peak and Monarch Lakes
Summit register
I descended down the West face. I boot skied down snow slopes, and found the remains of Empire mine. There was a cool cave sink hole cave near the entrance to the mine. 


Bottom of the West face


Sinkhole
I was back the car by 1pm, and a long drive home in the heat. Great little mountain.



Monday, June 12, 2017

Mt. Rainier (14,411') - Disappointment Cleaver

My brother and I met up for our third annual summer climbing trip. This year we set our sights on Mt. Rainier in Washington state. I packed up the Subaru and set-out for the 15+ hour drive to Seattle. 

Mt Rainier emerges from the clouds

One of the problems with Rainier is that its famous for bad weather. In fact, my trip to climb it last year resulted in us bailing because of a complete whiteout on the summit.

The forecast was not looking great, so we lounged around Seattle for a bit, Kyle bought like 25 different coats at a variety of gear stores. 

Can you own too many coats? Probably not.
The forecast improved slightly so we headed over to the mountain to pick up permits, hike around some and do some "training" in crevasse rescue.  The weather was not looking great, so we decided to forego our ambitions of climbing Liberty Ridge. Instead we opted for the Disappointment Cleaver, which is the trade route on the mountain.

The weather is improving! We really should actually climb something.
The following day we packed up are bags and were off to the mountain. Despite being a weekend, the parking lot was not too busy. I guess the gnarly forecast scared a lot of people off. The cold weather was a blessing, the snow was fairly firm as we started up. 

Not too busy!
The weather was nice at first, but a white-out formed for some time while we climbed the Muir snowfield. I must say, its a bit of a boring slog up that snowfield to camp Muir. Low angle, and it seems to go on forever. 

Heading up the Muir snow field - whiteout starting to form

Kyle and an unknown skier heading into the cloud.

We reached Camp Muir. For some reason I didn't really take any pictures there. We chatted with some Colorado climbers, and headed off to bed at 6 pm. Our plan was to get an alpine start, if thee weather as good - climb the mountain, if not - sleep and try the next day. 

Kyle prepares for bed.
We woke up at 2:30 am to clear skies. We roped up (the rest of the climb is glaciated) and were off climbing within an hour. As the light started to arrive, we were treated to fantastic views. This is why I climb mountains, there is nothing else like it.

Climbing at dawn
We climbed the Disappointment Cleaver (a rocky ridge that splits the glacier), then moved onto the giant ice cap that covers the summit plateau. There were a few steep moves up a bergshrund and some seasonal snow-bridges across crevasses. It was extremely cold, around 0F (-18C). After the cleaver I put on my heavy down coat and kept it on for the duration of the climb. 

We were well above the clouds, with great views of the other Cascade volcanoes, Mt. Adam, Mt St Helen and even Mt. Hood.

More early morning views
 
Very cold climbing. See Mt Adams back there?

There was another steep section which had fixed pickets. We caught up to the Colorado climbers and chatted with them for a while. Since the sun was out, and the views were great, I stopped to snap some more photos. 

Endless beauty

Kyle is looking cool

Chilly!

Eventually we crested the ice cap and reached the crater at the top. We traversed across the flat crater towards the high point. There were some volcanic vents and dry rock on the other side just below the top.

Volcanic crater.

Volcanic vents and the register just below the true summit

We reached the summit! Yay! A guy kindly shared some very cold beer with us. We enjoyed the windy, cold summit for a time before heading back. 

Brothers on the summit!
 Due to me taking a short nap, we got stuck behind a large guided group, this slowed things somewhat until we could pass them. Once past them, we made good time back to our camp at the Muir snowfield. 

Guided party ahead of us on the descent

Yup - still looks purdy.
I took another nap, then we busted down camp and slogged our way back down to the parking lot. The temps were high, it was sunny, so the snow was slushy - it was really tiring, but at least we got to slide down some of the slopes on our bums.

Who's cool?
Descending the fun way
After 13 hours we were back at the car. Then is was off to RMI for some pizza a beer!

This is the best way to end mountaineering trips

We still had a few days, so we drove over to Leavenworth for a few days of rock climbing. 

Leavenworth - climbing or beering?

I was a little run down, so we mostly just went craging. We didn't end up climbing the famous Snow Creek Wall, but it was an enjoyable few days. Really nice crack climbing. We even had a goat hang out with us while we climbed one day. 



Gotcha - Goats are a problem

Hey buddy!
Kyle crushing it

I was too lazy to climb that
Sadly all good things come to end. I dropped Kyle off in Seattle, and he flew home. Hopefully we will have another adventure together soon. Its really nice that he and I get to share these annual little adventure together. 

See you next time bro!

I headed off to Victoria to meet up with Teresa and her family. It was her brothers' wedding, and we had a nice few days there before heading back to work and back to reality.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Red Eagle - Triple Dihedral and a Day at the beach

I love the summer, such a great weekend, one day at the ocean, the next day climbing a beautiful 500 foot truly traditional rock climb. 
People give Fresno a bad-rap, but I seriously love that I can do all of this as day trips from my house!

On Saturday we had a pleasant rest day hanging out at the dog beach. Penny had a blast, peeing on seaweed clumps chasing birds, smelling dog bums, digging holes. She certainly know how to have a good time.


Penny enjoying the beach


Creek crossings in the mist.


Peeing on seaweed, Now that's fun.

After such a restful day, on Sunday it was time to climb something on my great tick list. We opted to head out to Red Eagle, and give the Triple Dihedral a crack. 

We drove up to the crag, and enjoyed the long approach up an old logging road and then over a creek up towards what I consider to be the best set of crags in Shuteye. There must be 500 climbs in the area, and it is so quiet. Its weird. The rock quality is terrific, and there is a mixture of easy, moderate and very hard climb. There are also climbs up to 600 feet tall, and no crowds. HEAVEN, for yours truly.


Let's go climb that!
On the approach. Grey Eagle in the background
After 30-40 min, we reached the base of Grey Eagle, with the magnificent Wingfeather (II, 5.8) - I had climbed it last year, so we continued along towards the next formation - Red Eagle


Wingfeather - Ascends this magnificent tower. 5.8 does not get better. if you have not climbed, do it, soon!
We bushwhacked, crossed another stream, and then meandered across a lingering snow field to find the base our our chosen climb  - The Triple Dihedral on Red Eagle. 


Its not SoYo without a mandatory bushwhack.
Navigating a lingering snow field
We stopped to admire some climbers taking a crack at Thunderstruck (5.11c) -- looked like some hard climbing!


Unknown climber on Thunderstruck (5.11c)
We racked up, and looked up the climb. Yep that's obvious, follow the cracks next to the dihedral. No bolts, no fixed anchors. A pure gear climb. Lovely.


Looking up at P2 of the triple dihedral
Pitch 1 was a short easy crack, and then we were into the 5.8 dihedral. It was a bit dirty, a bit sandbagged, and the gear was a bit awkward. But good climbing. Pitch 3 was supposed to be easier, but had sustained 5.8 climbing, including a bit of a spicy runout. Good times!


Teresa manages the rope

Creative gear

I'll confess, I was slightly terrified on the comiting runout. I have been doing too much sport climbing lately! After the crux on pitch 3, the difficulties eased and it was cruiser 5.6 to the next belay.
Teresa and the very comfortable pitch 3 belay



Teresa nearing the end of pitch 3
At the end of pitch 3, the guidebook said to traverse under the roof toward the next dihedral. This looked to be low quality, with algae/moss filled cracks, so I went straight up and belayed beneath a headwall. we then we straight through the headwall, with some harder than expected moves (maybe 5.9-5.10a). This was followed by some easy slab to the top of the formation

One of the great things of climbing here is the magnificent views, one side Shuteye ridge, the other the great peaks of the Eastern Sierra. So nice, so relaxing!


Always so nice in Shuteye
Eastern Sierra in the distance

We relaxed on the top for a while, ate some lunch and enjoyed the sun. It was such a nice day, such a peaceful climb, this is truly what I live for - a adventure with the one I love, life does not get better than this.


Views from the top


Can life get any better? I don't think so
We found some rap bolts, tied our ropes together and with trepidation rappelled into the unknown. (Our route, and rap route are shown in the beta photo at the end of the post). 

3 double rope rappels found us safely back to where we had started. 


On the way down
We traversed back across the snow field, and headed down to the car. 


The snowfield - Tese's crux


Our trusty steed - Washouts are no match for you
Overall -- great moderate route. Its really nice that there were no bolts, fixed anchors or other blemishes. I am not sure how far we deviated from the original 1976 route, the guidebook description would have led us up some junky, mossy looking cracks, and the way we went was pleasant. The headwall we took was only slightly more difficult than the stated grade of the climb. Shown below is the route we took, and how we rapped the route:


Beta photo - How we climbed the route.