Saturday, December 24, 2016

Expedition Prep - Pico de Orizaba

This will be my last blog post for 2016, and what a year it has been. I think I have done more in the past year in terms of adventure than in the previous 5 years combined!

We are packing up for our first ever international mountaineering expedition. Myself, Teresa, Troy and Michael are traveling to Mexico to make attempts on the following mountains

1) Pico de Orizaba (18,701') - 3rd highest mountain in North American

2)  Ixtaccihuatl (17,340') - 7th highest mountain in North America.

Both are glaciated volcanoes, and will for all of us be our first time to high altitude (i.e. above 15,000').

Pico de Orizaba - 3rd highest mountain in North America. Photo courtesy - Summitpost (alexsuv)
 For me, organizing a international expedition was a new experience and a interesting exercise in logistics. We did not hire a guide, but to make life easier did hire an outfitter. They are picking us up, and providing food/accommodations in town. We are also staying with them when not on the mountain, but we get to climb the peak ourselves.

This is what 3000$ in Mexican Pesos looks like

Here is my complete gear list for the trip:


·      Merino wool base layer – zip-top (icebreaker, light    weight)
·      Zip top, mid weight – (synthetic, target brand!)
·      Synthetic REI brand T-shirt
·      Patagonia R1 Hoody
·      Icebreaker Merino 250 bottom base layer
·      3 pairs synthetic underwear (ex-officio)
·      Socks – 1 pair mountaineering weight (REI), 1 pair trekking weight (Smart-wool), 1 pair light weight (REI), 1 merino liner sock (REI)
·      Softshell pants (OR cirque)
·      Regular pants (Prana Zion stretch) – worn on plane
·      Shell pants (Marmot Precip)
·      Shell coat (Marmot minimalist)
·      Mid-weight down parka (Rab Neutrino Endurance)
·      Mid-layer coat, synthetic (OR Cathode hoody)
·      Softshell gloves (OR PL400)
·      Midweight gloves (OR arête)
·      Heavy mitts (BD Mercury mitts)
·      Winter buff
·      Glacier glasses (Julbo explorer)
·      Mountaineering boots (La Sportiva Nepal Cube)
·      Hiking shoes (Solomon X-ultra II)
·      Sun hat
·      Fleece toque (REI brand)

Mountaineering Equipment
·      Ice axe (Petzl summit evo)
·      Mountaineering crampons, 12 pts (BD Sabertooth, old      model)
·      Mountaineering harness (BD couloir)
·      Ice screws (3) (22cm Petzl Laser Speed)
·      BD Ice clipper
·      Micro-traction
·      Tiblock
·      Foot-loop (120 cm)
·      Prussiks (2)
·      Pulley
·      4 carabineers (2 locking, 2 non-locking)
·      Cordellette (20’, 6mm)
·      ATC
·      30 meter 8mm rope (Mammut Pheonix dry)
·      Trekking Pole (BD alpine cork)
·      Helmet (BD Half-dome)


·      4 season free standing Tent (MH Direkt II)
·      0F Sleeping bag (MH Phantom 0)
·      Sleeping pad (Therm-a-rest neoair X-therm)
·      Camp stove (MSR Dragonfly)
·      Camp Pot – GSI Bugaboo
·      Plastic fork and spoon
·      Collapsible bowl
·      Insulated coffee mug (GSI)
·      Headlamp with fresh batteries (BD Storm)
·      Knife (swiss army)

·      50L pack (Deuter ACT Lite, 40+10)
·      90L Duffle bag (Patagonia Blackhole)
·      30L Carryon day pack (BD speed 30)

·      toothpaste
·      toothbrush
·      sunscreen SPF 100
·      hand sanitizer
·      shampoo
·      soap
·      conditioner
·      deodorant
·      lip balm – spf15

·      Anti-dierrehals
·      Diamox
·      Aspirin

·      Snickers (2)
·      Goo (2)
·      Instant coffee (8)

Miscellanous items

·      Camera (Sony RX100 MKII)
·      GPS (Garmin 60Cx)
·      Foot warmers (2 each)
·      Hand warmers (2 each)
·      Tenacious tape – repair tape
·      Passports + green cards
·      Copies of immigration documents
·      Water bottles (2 each)

Important items

Everything on the floor

We are psyched to go!

Duffle is packed

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Directions - Winter Cragging

I had an enjoyable weekend of winter cragging, nothing epic or crazy, just a fun relaxing weekend of sport climbing. We spent the weekend climbing with Beau and Kate. As always they were super fun to climb with, the combination of a positive attitude and a high level of stoke results in a good time!

Saturday, we headed over to Squarenail, and blasted out a bunch of moderate slab climbs. Fun!

Hello Squarenail!

Kate belays Beau as he attempts to onsight a 5.9

I tried setting up a solo top rope system with my mini-traction. It worked terrific! I am a bit psyched to use this system ice climbing, and on top-ropable projects, so I don't bore my partners to death working routes!

Me on my solo top rope. Cool!

Weighting the rope
Beau getting his slab on

We spent a solid 4-5 hours climbing, banging out a large number of routes. The sun went behind the clouds, and it got a bit chilly, but that did not slow the stoke.

Coming down from Lounge Lizard (5.10b) the hardest climb on the wall. 
On Sunday, we headed out to Kernville with Beau and Kate for another day of climbing. Although Teresa and I had climbed there last winter, we had really only sampled one (and only ok) climb. With a new guidebook published, we were psyched to go there again.

We arrived around 10am, and had 2 surprises in the climbing parking lot:

 1) We ran into my former climbing partner Jared Spaniol. That was a bit awkward, we are not really on speaking terms after he ditched me as a partner. I had tried to patch things up with him earlier in the year via e-mail, but he ignored me. Maybe sometime in the future we will patch things up.

 Luckily, they went off to climb the slab that Teresa and I had climbed last year. I was not interested in going there again so we did not see each other again in the day. 
Its sort of like running into an ex-girlfriend. The climbing world is weird.

2) We ran into the Kernville guidebook author Herb Laeger. He was a super friendly and psyched guy! He was all stoked about a new route he had put up last week! So I hoped into his truck, and he showed me where the climb was. 

We decided to try Herb's new climb (maybe I got the 2nd ascent?) A 5.9 bolt/gear climb right next to the road. Really nice nice climbing on good rock. The climb had about 7 bolts and 2 cam placements.

Herb's new climb - 5.9 taking the "nose" of the formation

We then headed over to the "Globule". First I led "Allison's Dream" (5.8) another mixed gear/bolt climb. Again, another really interesting climb, slabby start to a crack. Fun!

The globule - 5.8 to the right

Next, I onsighted "Maybe I'll skip the roof" (5.10b), again an ultra-fun mixed gear and blot climb. It had a nice super technical crux and the end. LOVED it!

Kate starts up the climb
Kate approaches the crux sequence of "Maybe I'll skip the roof" 5.10b

We had a short break, and then we split up to climb different objectives. Beau and Kate headed over to climb "Wywonna's Big Brown Beaver" (5.7) at the Rusty Nail wall, and Teresa and I headed over to climb at the Middle Cliff.

Lunch break

Enjoying views of the Kern River Valley
The climbing at the Middle cliff was AWESOME. Basically it was super-technical, well protected slab/face climbing, my absolute favourite. I onsighted 2 climbs, Kernville Chopper (5.10b) and The Kern mantle (5.10c), both were super fun. I was on a bit of a climbing high. I did a 2nd lap on the mantle. The sun dipped behind the hills at 3:30 or so, and the temps dropped.

Penny was wiped out so we loaded her up in the backpack and headed down to meet up with Beau and Kate for a trip to the pub. 

What a super fun weekend! I am looking forward to our next climbing trip with Beau and Kate

Puppy ride!