Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter climbing with my sweetie

Its Sunday, the sun is shining, spring is here, and the roads up to Shuteye are starting to be clear of snow. Time for a trip to Chiquito Dome. At 4000' elevation, it is usually one of the first big climbing areas in Shuteye to dry off. My best climbing partner and I (i.e. my awesome super wife!) took the 90 min drive to the dome.

When we arrived, the temps were perfect, near 70 degrees, sunny, not too hot, not too cold. We first blasted up "Not advertised" a 500 foot tall, 5 pitch 5.9. Oh ya. The views of Grey eagle and Shuteye ridge were terrific.

Tese coming up the first pitch

Typical views from our climb
We topped out on the dome, and had a nice snack near the summit boulder

Summit snack!

Well, it is Easter

We opted for the walk off, and hiked down a drainage. We noticed some cool purple flowers growing right in the decomposed granite. One of the best things about climbing this time of year is all the spring wildflowers! There are not there very long, so it was great to see them in their full blooming glory

How are these growing in the gravel?

On our way down we caught a glimpse of another couple climbing the route. Nice to see other climbers out enjoying this amazing day! We only have so much time on this Earth, every second should be devoted to doing what we are passionate about. Don't want to waste my life sitting on the couch!

Other climbers on pitch 3
After getting to the base, I was feeling lazy, so rather than walk to the other side of the dome, we headed up a nearby route, "Too old to be bold" a 4 pitch 5.10c. The climb is good and sustained, with 3 pitches being 5.10. 3 distinct cruxes, 5.10a, 5.10c and 5.10b. I have done the climb before, but its been a while. We blasted up for another 400' of climbing.

After the crux on "Too old to be bold"
We rapelled off the climb around 4pm. Back in the car by 5, and home around 6:30. All in all, not too bad.

Heading down after a good fight
What a great day! Fantastic way to end Spring Break. Next weekend, back into the mountains.....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thunder Bay Ice Climbing and Family -- Part II

Day -- 4 -March 21st. Today started early, 7 am then a 1.5 hour drive out to Nipigon. We crossed the infamous bridge that split Canada in half for a few days, and then stopped on the way for some iconic Canadian cuisine. 

Canadian Cuisine

The infamous bridge

Today we climbed at Orient Bay. The most famous of Thunder Bay ice cragging areas. We started at the far end with Andromeda Weeps (WI4-). This climb sits in the shade, and was bitterly cold. Apparently all of my Canadian toughness has been melted out mild California weather. Being above my pay grade, Kyle led this one. We did both pitches. The ice was rock hard, a reminder of what Thunder Bay ice climbing can be like. No wussy plastic California ice here.

Kyle rocking Andromeda Weeps

We stopped for a quick lunch, then headed over to climb Tempest (WI2+). Its a massive apron of ice, a full 60 meter rope pitch to the top. This being in my pay grade, I took a turn on lead.

Mega classic: Tempest

Me heading up Tempest

It was great to get back into the sun, and warm up my wussy body. Final climb of the day, Amy R (WI2+). Another easy climb for me to lead. Thanks to Kyle for letting me get so much lead practice on these easy moderates.

Thanks Bro!
My 3rd ice lead of the trip!

Kyle examining some of the ice formations.

After a long day of climbing, another awesome Mom cooked meal followed by a couple of hours of catching up with one of my oldest friends (Eli Nix). Tomorrow the plan is to head to Kama Bay

Day 5 -- March 22nd - Today we headed out to Kama Bay, another classic ice climbing crag. First up was Thermocules, a WI3+ in a neat chimney/gully. Some vertical steps then a tricky umbrella crux exit. Very cool. As per formula, Kyle led through it without breaking a sweat.

Views at Kama Bay

Thermocules. Notice the death ice block up to the right
We hiked over to Hell's Chimney which looked wild, and a bit above my skill level, so instead we headed back to car, and drive over a few km to hike into some ice climbs hidden in the trees. These climbs had a super interesting approach, where we hiked up a frozen creek bed, climbing short ice steps as we went. On the way up Kyle's crampon fell off, and he took a whipper on the WI1 approach

Crampon Fail

On the approach

Toping out one of the approach steps

We arrived at the climbs, and did a couple of laps, one up a WI3+/-WI4 line, then another WI3 line. Super fun!

Kyle demonstrating the proper tripod climbing technique

Almost up!
I was exhausted after today's climb. Three days straight of climbing is starting to wear me down a bit. Only one more day in town, so tomorrow's plan is to climb in the morning then visit Chris in the afternoon. I wish I had a few more days! Its been such an amazing week. Living life by following your passion is the most enriching, and full filling experience possible.

Day 6 -- March 23rd. Last Day! 
Feeling a bit sad today, its been such a great trip. I could use a few more days. For the last day of climbing we decided to take a bit easy, so that I would have some free time in the afternoon for time visiting. We drove over to climb Feaver Falls (WI3).  From the road, the climb looks fairly close, but its actually a bit of a trek to the base!

Feaver Falls in the distance
The approach goes up a steep snow gully, with waist deep snow, and -18C temperatures (that 0F for my m'errican friends). Finally some of the cold Thunder Bay winter weather I remember! All the recent fresh temps created a frozen layer on the climb that would come flying off when hit with ice tools. A bit sketchy!

Kyle racking up in the cold
Feaver Falls

A very fun climb despite the weird conditions. We slid down the hill, then to the Neebing Road House for some burgers and beer!

Beer time!
After climbing I paid a visit to Chris, another old friend. It was great to see him doing so well. Dinner at the Keg with the family in the evening. Overall a great trip. I wish I had more time. Its back to the granite domes of California, and a pile of grading tomorrow.

Food with the Family

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thunder Bay -- Family and Ice Climbing -- Part I

This is the hair of a good climber

Its been a while since I have been home. This year I decided that Spring break might be a nice time to visit, much cheaper to fly than Christmas. Pay a visit to the family, some old friends and as a bonus  hopefully climb some ice

Day 1 - March 18th -- Fail. Wind out in San Francisco delayed my initial flight out of Fresno, because of the delay I missed all my connecting flights, so back home. I ended up going to the climbing comp at the gym, but I was really not feeling so great. I managed to onsight a couple of 5.11c, but flailed on the 5.11d. Left early. I really need to work on how to focus and perform even when I am not feeling that well, and when there is a crowd.

Day 2 -- March 19th -- Managed to get out Fresno. My redirected flights really suck, Fresno to SFO, SFO to Houston, Houston to Toronto, Toronto to Thunder Bay. Oh man. Could be worse, at least they didn't' send me to Ulan Baator. 

Success! A plane! 
Day 3 -- March 20th -- Alright, time finally, got to swing my ice tools. Beautiful day. Kyle brought me out to Squaw Bay first to climb April Showers (WI3). I've never climbed anything like it. A narrow gully of ice, almost a chimney. Ultra-ultra fun. When we arrived at the base, I almost got hit by some falling rock! Mental note: Always wear a freakin helmet. 

April Showers. A fun ice filled ice gully!
Almost hit by that rock!

Kyle led the entire climb, a full 60 meter pitch. I'm really impressed by his maturity and progression as a climber. The first pitch was in thin, "mixed" condition, he led through it like a boss. The climbing was really interesting. You sort of stem off some rock bands while climbing up steep ice steps in a gully.

Kyle's pumped to lead

The view on top of the climb were terrific. Squaw Bay is an amazing place to climb, so nice to see Lake Superior, like a giant fresh water ocean

Squaw Bay

Kyle on the summit
Me on the summit

After April Shower, we move the car and hiked up to Ice Stud, an ultra classic WI2 on Mt McKay. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were shocked to see the very recent remains of a stolen burnt out a car. A reminder of the tough economic times that have hit my home town. Some hikers called the wreck into the police, so we were free to continue up to the climb

Burnt out wreck

I have not led an ice climb in 8 years, and even then I only led maybe 1-2 climbs. Ice stud looked like a perfect way for me to cut my leading teeth, so off I went. The first pitch starts with a short steep section, then a big flat ledge, followed by some bulges, then a 1-2 body length steep section. I was a bit nervous, but the climbing was easy, stable and really no big deal. 
Me leading the first pitch of Ice Stud (WI2)

Negotiating the steep step on the first pitch
The second pitch of the climb is a long ice ramp which ended in a steep umbrella step. Very interesting climbing. I headed up, my second lead in 8 years. I smashed through the umbella, sending a rain of big ice down (sorry Kyle!)

Starting the second pitch
Staring to battle the weird umbrella section

We topped out, another awesome Thunder Bay ice climb! I am so pumped to have completed a ice lead, big confidence booster. We headed to Mom and Dad's condo, time for a nice home cooked meal, and some Canadian Beer!

The family enjoying a Mom cooked meal!

Canadian beer. I miss you
Time for bed, looking forward to another day tomorrow. Off to Orient Bay, the Jewel of Northern Ontario ice climbing. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Day in Kernville

With the forecast calling for rain on Friday and Sunday, it was looking like it was not going to be a weekend for any serious climbing. So what to do? Stay at home and do chores? Well that sounds lame. Instead Teresa and I decided to do a bit of exploring. We have driven down highway 178 through Kern Canyon and past Lake Isabella a few times heading back from Bishop and Lone Pine, but have never stopped. So we decided to head up that way on Saturday to do some hiking and maybe some climbing.

We were in the car by 8am and on our way down highway 99. We pulled into Kernville 2.5 hours later. Its a quaint little town on the Kern River. Its well known mostly for white water river rafting, fishing and mountain biking.  It does also have some world famous climbing nearby, the Needles.

The Needles. Snowed in for now. We'll have to check these out this summer
We decided to try hiking the Cannell Meadows trail, which is a 22 mile hike into the hills above Kernville. It starts just a couple miles north of town and was easy to find. Being National Forest land, the trail allows dogs, mountain bikes, and even moto bikes. All we ran into were a couple of hikers and a tiny Chihuahua

Trail head
The hike was pleasant and very easy, sort of rolling into the foot hills on an old road.

Easy hiking
After a few kilometers Penny was having issues. She is defiantly getting older, it was a little sad to see our little buddy having such a rough time. So we turned around after about 4 km.

Penny before getting tired
We went back to the parking lot, ate some lunch, then decided to head over to Kernville Rock (a.k.a. Kernville slab) for some climbing for the rest of the afternoon.

Kernville Rock
The first thing we climbed was the "Lieback" a 5.5. Now I knew from the internet that this thing was sandbagged, and was more like a 5.8. It was a beautiful looking crack/dihedral system that does up the slab for 2 pitches.

Racking up the Lieback

Top of pitch 1! Hi!

The climb was TERRIFIC. Absolutely amazing. For sure harder than 5.5, but not very scary, and really not that difficult. Great gear, good hand jams, and a crimping/stemming crux move. We topped out, enjoyed the views of the river then rapped back to the ground.

Lovely views of the Kern River
I then flailed on a 5.10+ finger crack, and we called it a day. My research on Mountainproject indicated we should hit up the local brewpub so that is just what we did.

Yes, this is where the beta said to go
Deep fried pickles. Yum!
The beer and food were fantastic! We ordered some deep fried pickles. And some aweseome entrees, and a amber ale that was so good, I needed to have 2!
mmmm.. beer

pulled pork tacos... mmmmm
Kernville is  fun little place, on my list of favorite California towns. We'll have to head back sometime, climb the needles, hike a bit further, and sample some more beer