Sunday, September 25, 2016

Moro Rock and Franklin Pass

It annoys me when climbs thwart me. Last weekend, Teresa and I bush-wacked in to to try and climb the south face of Moro Rock, an ultra-classic adventure multi-pitch climb.

After 90 min of bush whacking we found the base, and..... no belay device! Then, 90 min more of bush whacking back to the top. FAIL.

Fast forward 1 week, I get a message from Mitchell Quiring, a young climber who I met on Matthes Crest a couple of weeks ago, and a friend of Troy and Michael. He was looking to go climbing, sweet, Moro rock round 2. 

South Face - 7 pitches of
The approach for round 2 only took 30 min. We racked-up, this time no belay device malfunction, and I headed up the first pitch.

Looking up at the 1st pitch (little tree up above is the start)
The first 30 feet were a runout slab, I vacillated for a while then set off. Once in the perfect hand crack the fun began. A 35 meter pitch brought me to a small ledge. I decided to move a dangerous death block out of the way, and while doing so crushed my finger, ouch! It turned blue and is still numb a day later. Fortunately the climbing was easy, so the finger injury was not a big problem.

My finger looks weird
Then off on pitch 2, an easy open book. After that we were on a huge ledge covered with boulders and vegetation. We unroped, and pitch 3 was a bush-whack, and chimney boulder problem to the base of the next pitch.

Mitchell managing the rope on the bush-whack pitch.
Mitchell at the top of pitch 2
We located the next pitch, and Mitchell took over the lead.

The rest of the climb looms above us

Mitchell takes the sharp end
The pitch ended at another belay, and we caught up with a trio of climber from Santa Barbara. The next pitch looked intimidating and we were not exactly sure where to go.

The green headwall
After an aborted start, Mitchell found the correct way, and led up the best pitch on the whole climb. A great face protected by a finger crack, then a wildly exposed step into a wide chimney system. I am a bit jealous that I did not get the pitch, so much fun!

Mitchell heading into the fun pitch.
After the fun pitch, I took over to lead the next three short pitches. I led up a short section of chimney then onto a great ledge with a 2 both anchor. Now the views were fantastic!

Mitchell toping out the chimney pitch
Cool views of Castle rocks

Best part of climbing - New friends!
The next pitch was my specialty, run out slab. About 70-80 feet of slab protected by 2 new bolts. Nice. Easy, with a cruxy 5.7 move to transition into a weird ramp system.

Looking down on pitch 5

Santa Barbra dudes on the slab pitch
I led the last pitch, and then a couple hundred feet of class 2 ridge.

Last pitch
Mitchell on the class 2 slabs
Class 2 slabs
We eventually arrived at the main trail to some tourist awe. Weird, I think people were a bit shocked to see 2 climber pop up beyond the railings on the cliff!

A great day, awesome t climb with Mitchell, for sure a psyched talented climber, lots of potential for many future cool trips!

On Sunday, it was time for some endurance. With Teresa coming to climb Pico de Orizaba in December, she has signed on for 15 weeks of training. 

As a start, we went to Mineral King to do a nice big hike into Franklin Pass. A 17 mile round trip hike past some great alpine lakes to an elevation of 11,000'.

I love Mineral King, its so quiet, and such a beautiful place.

Start of the hike. Spirits are high

We headed up towards Farewell gap, then took a fork towards Franklin pass. On the way we spied some cute grouse.

Cute grouse!
rest break
We passed Franklin lakes and slugged up sandy switchbacks to to Franklin Pass.

Looking down at Franklin lakes
Florence Peak above Franklin pass
Teresa coming down Franklin pass
We had a great hike, about 7 hours for the 17 miles. Good workout! Next time we will bag a summit!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ice climbing in September? - North Peak

So you can go ice climbing in California? In September? Even though its 100 degrees outside in Fresno? Yes! That's right! 

Fall is alpine ice season. If there is a good snow fall, it sticks around in couloirs, melts in the summer, and with the cooling temps in the Fall at night, freezes and turns into ice!

With global warming, and years of drought most of the alpine ice in California fails to form anymore, but with last years regular snowfall, there was some hope. I have been waiting patiently to see if the NE couloir on North Peak would form ice. This year, for this first time in several years there was ice!

NE couloir of North Peak. See that blue ice?
While I am psyched for alpine ice, it has been difficult to find partners who share that interest. Luckily, Michael is becoming increasingly stoked for alpine climbing in general, and was very excited to try his hand at some ice climbing!

We drove up to Touolmne Sat night, bivied on the side of the road, and were up at 4am on Sunday, and on the trail by 5-5:30. The approach starts at Saddlebag lake, and is pretty easy, most of it being on a well maintained trail. We had splendid views of North Peak and Mt Conness on the approach in the early morning light. 

North Peak. Our route lies below those snow patches
Mt Conness in the early morning
It was not long before we had nice views of the couloir, from a distance it looked intimidating, but up close looked like nice moderate angle ice. Similar to some easy waterfall ice I have climbed in Thunder Bay.

Base of the couloir
We pulled out the ice screws, cams, pitons. Put on our crampons, pulled out the ice tools and oped up. I lead up the snow cone to the base of the ice chute. The snow was steep neve, really hard, un-protectable, but easy. We simul-climbed until I popped over the bergshrund, and was able to build a cam anchor on the wall. I then belayed Michael up.

Michael popping over the bergshrund. 
Then it was time for the real deal. I led out left into the couloir. The first part was more neve, but then turned into rock hard alpine ice. Yeeee haw!

Heading over the bergshrund again to gain the couloir
Stoked to be ice climbing in September!

I built an ice screw anchor, and brought Michael up. The next pitch was the money pitch. A full 60 meter rope stretching pitch of rock hard ice. Calf-burning fun! The positioning of my ice screw anchor below was not the best, and I showered Michael with ice debris while I climbed (sorry Michael!, but I am still an ice n00b). I placed about 6 ice screws for pro, then traversed across the couloir to a rock feature. I could not quite make it, and Michael had to simul climb a bit. 

I constructed a rather dubious anchor consisting of a snow-picket, 2 small cams in crumby rock, and tied off my ice tools.

Dubious anchor?
Michael coming up the money pitch
The next pitch consisted of a short section of ice that was like butter (sooo nice to climb), then back into the neve for 1.5 pitches.

Looking up at the butter ice. Of so nice.

Soon, we were at the top of the couloir.  Super fun, I wish the couloir had another thousand feet of ice. I bet when the entire thing fills with ice its even more amazing. 

The climbing was easy, the hardest thing about it was dealing with the burning calf muscles!

I even placed a KB
Once we were at the top of the couloir, the weather was taking a serious turn for the worse. A Thunder storm had enveloped Mt. Conness.

Approaching weather
We decided to forgo the 200 feet of 3rd class to the summit, elected to avoid the risk of a lighting strike, and headed down the scree back towards the car. 

Mega-fun climbing! Three weekends in a row for me of terrific alpine climbing. I love living here. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mt Starr King

This labor day long weekend was our 7th wedding anniversary. I have been away for so many weekends in a row, this one was all for Teresa!

We decided to do a day of sport climbing at Hawk Dome, to climb an easy mountain, and then take a rest day. Sounds like a great way to celebrate. 

For the mountain, we set our sights on Mt Starr King. I though it would be an easy day, but ended up being a harder day than I expected.

Anniversary climb - Mt Starr King. 
We started on Saturday with a day of sport climbing at Hawk Dome. Very fun, we climbed about 6 climbs. The highlight for me was on-sighting a 5.10c sport climb.  Although I have led many 5.10c, I have rarely been able to on-sight them, especially if they are steep like this one! We also did a couple of really nice 5.10a and some easier climbs.  I also explored the West face of Fresno Dome, looks really good.

After climbing we meandered down to the local, easy to find swimming hole, and splashed in the water. 

Cool swimming hole

Puppy relaxing after a swim 
On Sunday, we woke up really early and headed to Yosemite to climb Mt. Starr King. Sometimes called the "other Half-Dome" Mt Starr King is a large granite dome that is actually taller than Half-Dome, and located a few miles north of its more famous neighbour.

The approach started off really easy on the Mono trail, we made good time, and I thought the approach was going to be a breeze.

Yup that's it. Not too far away.
After ~4 miles on trail, we headed cross-country towards the dome. We ended up in a field of Manzitas, and the bush-whacking began. 

Bush-whacking begins
We headed up a Manzita filled gully towards a saddle the left of the South summit. It was a big of a slog. Spirits dropped a bit. After thrashing up the slopes for a 90 minutes of so, we made it to the saddle, then time for some class 2 slabs. Finally away far the bushes!

Up the class 2 slabs.
We arrived at the south summit, and then we had to descend to the SE saddle, below the headwall leading to the higher north summit. Teresa took a brief nap, while I scouted the route. Looked really fun! About 120 meters of low 5th class slab. Perfect.

Looking back at the South Summit
Headwall to the North Summit. Fun rock climbing to be had
After Teresa's nap, I racked up and headed up the climb. Very easy climbing, I only placed a single cam in a full 60 meter pitch. Very conveniently there was a webbing and cord in situ for an anchor.

Top of the 1st pitch
Then a second pitch of easy climbing, another belay, a few hundred feet of 3rd class, then the summit!


Alpinist wife
We then rapped the route, and began the long hike out.

Comfy rap stance
Cool tree on the descent
A great day, and a great way to celebrate 7 wonderful years being married to my partner in life, science, and adventure.