Friday, November 10, 2017

Day at Danland

I am almost hesitant to post on the internet about Danland. Its such a great climbing area, and its still on the down-low, so not many climber visit. This makes it into one of my favorite places to climb, a huge variety of cracks and slabs, and no one around.

Michael and I headed up there on the holiday Friday for a super enjoyable day of craging. As per usual, we were the only climbers there.

Danland. Photo credit - M. Putnam
 First up on the list, Hot Wing - a bolted 2-pitch 5.9 chimney -- cool. I led the first pitch, for sure the lesser of the 2 pitches.  The rock on P1 was of dubious quality. Easy climbing brought me to a nice belay stance on top of a pinnacle. Fortunately pitch 2 look glorious. A steep, well bolted chminey on good rock. Michael took the lead, the climbing was moderate but a but burly through the crux

Michael - Look at that chimney technique! Photo credit - M. Putnam
Cam on Hot Wing. Photo credit - M. Putnam

Looking down the chimney - Photo Credit M. Putnam

Next up - Foggy bottom, a short 5.9 traverse. An easy lead, but fun!

Sweet - Moderate traverse. Photo credit - M. Putnam
 Then was the highlight of the day - Sky Walker, a extremely interesting 5.10+. The climb starts in a crack and then traverses across a bolted face following a slick dike. Very unusual - the follower was almost as exposed as the leader. At one point in the climb, you actually down climb and then back up again.

Starting up the crack
Delicate traversing - Photo credit M. Putnam

Approaching the belay. Nice.

Such a great climb! We then headed over to Lizard Run (5.12) a perma-drawed sport climb, took some whips at the crux and packed it in for the day. Super fun day, a great way to start the weekend!

Psyched! Photo credit - M. Putnam

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Laurel Mountain (11,812') - NE Gully - E Ridge variation (III, 5.2)

This weekend  I had originally planned to climb the Dana couloir with someone from SMC, but a last minute snow storm closed highway 120 putting the kibosh on that trip.

 I had already packed the car up, and was psyched to get in another mountain before the winter snows set it. I consulted my Big Tick List, looking for something interesting that I could solo, and settled on the north east gully of Laurel Mountain. The guidebook describes the routes as being "part canyoneering part mountain climbing". The gully ascends more than 3000 feet of 3rd class to low 5th class rock with only a 2 mile approach. Peter Croft rates the route at 5.2, but with only short sections of "difficult" climbing Perfect for a solo outing. 

I took the long drive around, spent a night in my car near Bishop, and I was hiking into the mountain out of convict lake by 8 am.  The approach hikes skirts the north shore of convict lake. A well maintained trail with beautiful views of Mt Morrison, and lovely fall colors. 

Mt. Morrison in the early morning
 After a short hike I entered into the NE gully, which as advertised is a canyon cut into the limestone of the mountain. The crux of the route appeared pretty early, with some 5th class climbing up a 20 foot cliff in the canyon. The climbing is easy, but you really would not want to blow it.

the crux
After pulling the crux it was an enjoyable scramble interrupted by brief sections of 4th class climbing all on excellent rock. Following about 1000' of  climbing I emerged from the main gully onto a wide open section of slabs

Climbing good rock in the gully
A sea of grey slabs

At this point I "decided" (i.e. went the wrong way) to head left into another gully system that ultimately brought me the the east ridge. Although this was not the "correct" way, it ended up being fortuitous, as the route avoided the scree garbage on the upper 1/3 of the NE gully system, and resulted in 1/4 mile of exposed, 4th class ridge climbing. Mark Thomas calls this variation the "Wombat variation" (see below)

NE Gully of Laurel Mountain, I took the variation in green
The new gully system was shaded, and had a fair amount of new snow. My feet got pretty cold as I was just wearing approach shoes. There was some loose rock, and a bit of interesting scrambling.

A cruxy section in the snowy gully on the "Wombat" variation
Eventually I popped out directly on the east ridge, just below a false summit. I moved onto the ridge, and climbed up to the top of the false summit. The climbing was fairly engaging, with a few short sections of easy 5th class and fairly sustained 4th class climbing.

Looking down from the east ridge

A steep section of 4th class leading up to the false summit
I reached the top of the false summit, and then headed towards the main summit. I was disappointed to find that I had to make a short but steep and exposed down-climb to gain a col. This was fairly scary, but the rock was good and it was fairly short. 

The remainder of the east ridge was easy 3rd class scrambling on loose blocks, which eventually transitioned to class 2 scree walking. I also spotted the scree slope I should have been climbing! I'm glad I ended up on the ridge, I think it made for a more enjoyable climb.

Scree leading to the summit. The bully to the right of the snow is where I should have been

Class 2 section

Cool rocks

 I was on the summit ~3 hours after starting, even with getting lost. Not bad for a wussy, out of shape guy. Since I had so much of the day left, I hung on top, surfed the internet (I had 3G on top!) and enjoyed the clear views around me. 

Red Slate Mountain - still holding lots of snow

Mammoth mountain in the foreground. Ritter in the back?

summit register
After loitering in the sun for about 70-90 minutes I began the descent down the North ridge. At first it was fairly enjoyable, with occasional views of the face I had just climbed.

Starting down - Convict lake and Owens valley below

Mt Morrison (left) and Laurel Mountain (center/right)

However the descent turned fairly heinous, with maybe 1500' of descent on loose garbage, steep scree. I ended up rolling my ankle several times which was fairly painful. This is the downside to approach shoes - no ankle support. 

I reached the convict lake parking lot in about 2 hours. I sat in the sun, and enjoyed a beer. What a great day. 

I had originally planned to go solo another mountain on Sunday, but my ankle was swollen and fairly painful. So I packed it up and headed up after an enjoyable diner at the Whoa Nellie Deli

I hope I get in at least one more mountain trip this year, but with winter fast approaching , my November fairly booked, and my neglect of rock climbing this might be the last peak I summit in 2017. 

Veggie chilly - good way to the trip


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Traverse - Rainbow Mt - Florence Pk - Pk 12,116 - Tulare Pk

Winter is coming quickly, and I wanted to get in a few more peaks before the snow falls. I thought about going to the Tollhouse Faceoff event, but decided not to go. I'm really not great with crowds. For me climbing is about going out with 1-2 people and sharing an adventure, I'm not a huge fan of the festival style climbing. 

I went into Mineral king for the day to try and traverse the entire cirque around Franklin lakes, which includes 4 mountains. 

Lower Franklin Lake. Florence Peak in behind.
 After a quick hike up the ~8 miles near Franklin pass, I headed off the trail for a 1 mile detour to climb up Rainbow Mountain (12,043'). It was quick easy class 2 scramble to the summit. I didn't linger very long, and backtracked to the main trail.

Rainbow Mountain from as seen from Franklin Lakes
I then headed up to the trail, cresting Franklin pass. I headed over towards the Southwest ridge of Florence Peak (12,432'). The ridge is an easy class 2 scramble from the surprisingly flat plateau around Franklin Pass.

Looking down the SW ridge of Florence
Summit of Florence!
I flipped through the summit register, and saw some familiar names

Florence summit register
I was feeling great, so I traversed the summit crest of Florence and down climbed the NE ridge. The descent down the ridge was very interesting, fairly sustain class 3 climbing, much better than the ascent on the other side.

Summit crest of Florence
Final section of NE ridge
Next up was the unnamed peak at 12,116', which I affectionate dub "kitty litter peak". The beautiful granite on Florence peak turned into some sort of garbage, tedious volcanic rock. I didn't find any sumit register. I took a right and headed down the ridge  towards the last peak of the day, Tulare Peak (11,654').

Looking back at Florence and Peak 12,116 from Tulare Peak.
I signed the empty summit register on Tulare peak (I guess its not climbed not very often)

First entry in the register!
I then booked it back to the car, descending the far slope of Tulare Peak and joining the Farewell gap trail. A great outing!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Graveyard Peak (11,520') and Graveyard Lakes

I had a very enjoyable weekend of backpacking and scrambling with my little family. Teresa and I had not actually done a single backpacking trip all summer, so she picked up her copy of Sierra South Backcountry guide book and went looking for a trip that met the following criteria

1) Not too far from Fresno
2) Dog friendly so Penny could come
3) Less than 10 miles one way

She found that the Graveyard Lakes trail heading out from Lake Edison fit the bill. I consulted Google Earth, and found a variety of potential peaks to climb based out of the lakes basin. 

Graveyard Lake #1
 We packed up the Subaru and drove to the trailhead Friday night after work. We had a cozy night sleeping in the back of the car, and were up around 7am. After leisurely breakfast and coffee, we hit the trail by 9am.

Off we go!
 The trail meandered through forest, meadows and stream crossings for about 7 miles with ~2500' of elevation gain. A great leg stretcher, Penny had a great time!


We arrived at the first lake in the basin around noon. So we stopped and cooked up some Ramen noodles for lunch.  

Arriving at the first lake
 Teresa and Penny settled in for a nap, and I decided to head further up into the basin and try and climb the only named peak in the area, Graveyard Peak.

Nap time
 I made my way up through the lakes. A truly beautiful spot. And the best part, there was not another soul around. After spending last weekend in the chaos of humanity in Yosemite, it was nice to have some solitude. 

Graveyard Lakes. Graveyard Peak is the choss-pile on the right.

Graveyard Lakes
I made my up towards Graveyard peak. I was surpirsed to find a large snow field and snow filled couloir. Amazing that this late in the season there was still so much snow on North facing aspects. A testement to just how much snow fell last winter.

Amazing! Still snow!
 I started up some class 2/3 rock slopes making way up towards Graveyard Peak. The top of the peak was a long crest with a clear high point. At first it seemed that this might be another typical Sierra Class 2 talus slog, but some hope for interesting climbing appeared. 
I headed towards the lower end of the crest, because it looked like there might be some interesting climbing on the crest it self. 

Approaching the crest of Graveyard Peak -- Maybe some interesting climbing ahead?
 There was also some great views of the Graveyard lakes, as well as some other near by formations like Devil's Bathtub. 

Looking down on Graveyard Lakes

Devil's Bathtub (right) and Lake Edison (left)
 Once I hit the crest, I was not disappointed. What looked like a choss-pile below revealed itself to be a perfect knife-edge ridge climb. Maybe 2000' of 4th class "sidewalk in the sky" on golden sierra granite leading to a tiny summit. AMAZING! What a pleasant surprise. I love a good scramble. Moving rope-less over moderate terrain is one my favorite things to do. Off I went!

Looking ahead at the beautiful knife-edge ridge
The climbing was super-fun. It was possible to basically stay directly on the ridge-crest with moves ranging from 3rd class to 4th class. Crack climbs up blocks, slab climbing, all on perfect stone. It was possible to control the exposure if desired by down climbing, but why bother?

Perfect 4th class ridge climbing
I had such a good time. Eventually after about 25 min of scrambling I reached the tiny summit of Graveyard Peak. 

Approaching the summit block!

Such good climbing along this ridge!


I down climbed the Northeast ridge, and headed back to camp. Teresa, Penny and I enjoyed sitting by the lake and delicous meal of beans and rice. With Fall fully arrive in the Sierra's it was below freezing by the time the sun headed down so, we were in bed by 7pm!

The next morning we had a leisurely start, sitting by the perfectly reflective lake, enjoying our coffee. I am so used to climbing peaks car-to-car, this was a nice change. Its good to take your time and just take some moments to enjoy the stunning beauty of the Sierras.

Is it time for breakfast?

Perfect reflections on the lake

Morning at the Graveyard lake #1
We packed up and made our way back to the car.  What a great weekend, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Ready to tackle the work week, and maybe more importantly my psyche is starting to return...

post-hike beers