Thursday, December 27, 2007

What a cold, dark month it's been..

We've spent most of December chasing the warm weather and sitting out the winter storms. We started off in the McDowell mountains near Scottsdale, where Mike showed me some of the old climbs he used to do. Left is a picture of me on top of a big boulder near Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale. We then took refuge for 5 days at Mike's friend's house in Phoenix to escape the heavy rainstorm.

We then headed to Queen Creek, which is reportedly Arizona's premier sport climbing area. Again, it was quite cold, and the volcanic tuff was rough on our hands. Also the campground was quite sketchy - perhaps the proximity of a large urban area to a free campground attracted many undesirables. We worried about leaving our trailer during the day without supervision since every ratty car that drove by stopped and stared for a while.

One of the local climbers told us about a limestone sport area called the Homestead, which is at a bit lower elevation. So we decided to try our luck there and jackpot! We found an area we liked! The cliffs mostly face east and north, so we concentrated on the east facing cliffs where the weather was quite comfortable until early afternoon. It's a fantastic area, but it doesn't see much traffic - I think because it's a little farther away from the major urban areas and because it requires a four wheel drive truck to navigate a pretty rough road. Here is a picture of Mike on the Welcome Wall.

The last week we've been in Taylor, AZ, spending Christmas with Mike's family. It's definitely nice to get out of the cold for a while. We will probably head back down to the Homestead area tomorrow as the weather is supposed to warm up again.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

Mike asks as I start up the first pitch of "Falling Ross". We're at Granite Mountain near Prescott, AZ. I did want to do it, but Mike was making me nervous by asking me such questions. I decided to continue, despite my doubt. It's a difficult first pitch, and a harder second pitch. The crux about a third up the climb, and when I get to it, it takes me a while to figure out how to get through it. It's a long pitch too..about 140 feet. After I make it through the crux, there's no turning back, and although the difficulty eases off a little, it's still a bit sketchy and a bit run out. After a fair amount of squealing, I make it to the top without too much more trouble. However, the second pitch is considerably more difficult and it takes a quite a while to work through it and get to the top. I am sympathetic with the pitch namesake "Ross", as I fall quite a bit on the second pitch as well.
In any case, the climbing here at Granite Mountain is spectacular despite some desparate groveling through the pitches. To the left you can see part of the excellent quality rock you can enjoy here. In fact, there are not a huge number of climbs, but almost all them are worth doing. The weather has been mostly sunny, but the wind has been quite cold and it's very cold at night, so we are about to move down to lower elevation even though there are still several climbs I'd like to try here. The campground hosts a pack a feral cats, one of which Mike tries to convince me to adopt and take on our trip with us. I don't think it's such a good idea, so we had to desert "Mr. Coyote Bait", as Mike refers to his hopeful pet. Since yesterday, we are lucky to be able to take shelter indoors, with one of Mike's local friends. Tomorrow I think we'll head south. I sign off, in search of better weather.

Friday, November 23, 2007

And that's what Wonderland is all about..

Mike replies as we trudge out of Wonderland (one of the climbing areas) after a hard day of scrambling. I commented, "it seems like a lot of work for a few short climbs.." We had just spent the entire day scrambling through boulder fields, literally over, under and through tunnels to find our target climbs - and we ended up only doing 2 short climbs!

It's my first trip to Joshua Tree and while the camping and the weather are quite nice, I'm not so enamored with the climbing. If long scrambles through huge boulder fields to get to a few scrudgy, short and generally run out climbs is your cup of tea, then Joshua Tree is the place for you!

On the positive note, we met some nice people (including rockgrrl! where there should be a picture of Mike climbing), saw some beautiful scenery and in town, they have a great climbing shop and a bar with wireless Internet access. The campground is also quite nice, the picture to the left shows a campground cliff where people climb up to watch the sunset.

We are currently on our way to Granite Mountain, near Prescott AZ, so I sign off now in search of better climbing!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Owens River Gorge

We spent one week at Owens River Gorge during the last week of October. I think it was a perfect time to be there. The altitude is quite high, so it was very cold at nights. The rock quality was excellent and as I mentioned before, very well bolted, which was a very nice change from other areas we visited. Mike is climbing here in the Cental Gorge - I forget which climb. There are so many climbs here you could spend a lot of time perusing them all. The access is nice too - although you have to hike down some steep trails to the gorge, it doesn't take too long. The camping here is nice too - first, it's free because it's in the National Forest. You can see a picture of our campsite to the left. If you get bored you can go into Bishop to enjoy some of the restaurants and also a good climbing store.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Owens River Gorge

After a week back in Yosemite, we decided it was time to head over the pass before it closed. I wanted to do some sport climbing for a change, so we spent a week at Owen's River Gorge outside of Bishop.

It's a veritable sport climber's paradise, although I guess I don't have too much to compare to since I've only been sport climbing at two other areas - Snoqualmie (which doesn't really count I don't think..) and Smith Rock, where I only spent a few days. The rock is relatively steep, and mostly edgy with some cracks (lined by bolts of course!)

In any case, it was bitterly cold at night, but warm during the daytime in the sun, which of course it was sunny everyday. The gorge is quite deep and the sun passes over quickly, so you're either in the hot sun or the cold shade. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the week we spent climbing there. I could have stayed a few more days, but Mike was anxious to get to Joshua Tree, where we are now. It's a lot warmer here, which is a nice change from all the places we've been in the past couple months.

Will post photos and more info later - we have to get back to camp before dark!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Our Adventures #1 (by Mike)

Marin beginning the fingers crux of Dancing Yogi, Paradise Forks, AZ
So After I had made the drive to Arizona (over many days) and picked Marin up at Sky Harbor in Phoenix we spent several days in Taylor, AZ. to be a part of my sister’s wedding. It was great to see the family after such a longtime away. I did, however, leave with a nasty respiratory bug which left me somewhat debilitated for the following couple of weeks.
We then traveled to Paradise Forks where we found a wonderful (and free) campsite on the edge of a nice meadow near a spring and a short walk from the climbing. We only had one good thundershower display which was a little disappointing. The climbing here spanked us and spanked us hard! We both struggled to climb 5.9 cracks and took many falls over the week spent here. We did manage to do some harder climbs and a tough top-rope or two though still left quite humbled. Visit this link for more info and a cute forum string called “Spanking at the Forks.” The experience was a stark reminder of the stiff rating as well as the standard of climbing I was able to do in younger, stronger days (or perhaps Paradise Forks remains one of the last bastions of old school bravado). At any rate, it was pleasurable to find things hadn’t changed much at all since I had last climbed there in 1986.
While there we also dug up a couple old friends in Flagstaff and had a nice dinner. Connections with other friends we will see on our return to AZ were also gained. Our next stop is Yosemite.
After a long haul to Lone Pine, CA we made camp in the Alabama Hills below the Eastern escarpment of the Sierra. It was the last free camping we would see for sometime before paying high rent in Yosemite.
Alabama Hills with Lone Pine Peak (left) and Mt. Whitney (right)
Tuolumne Meadows was kind of a bust. I was still feeling lousy and Marin seemed to be succumbing to my illness. When camp was set we thought it best to take the next day as a rest day. We had no idea that it was to be the last nice day in the Meadows for some time. The following day was cold, windy and eventually snowy. Though we climbed nothing in the Meadows it was a treat to be there for the first snow. It also turned out to be a good opportunity to mentor Marin in the fine art of being a skilled “scumbag climber.” As the exodus of campers began and continued for several days we scavenged firewood and miscellaneous other items abandoned. Marin quickly gained proficiency and became a skilled firewood collector. We also were honored to have nightly visits (and an occasional daytime visit)
by a rather handsome bear. On our first meeting Marin had proclaimed that the bear was not a pet AND, could snap my neck just-like-that! All while I’m encouraging her to get a closer photograph. The next day the bear was boldly patrolling our camp and Marin smartly held a pot of beef and rice out toward the bear while banging it with a spoon to urge him on to other camps (or was she calling him to dinner, I’m still unsure). After a few days trying to wait-out the weather we packed it in and headed for the warmer Yosemite Valley.
Marin atop the Five Open Books after completing The Surprise 5.10
Of course the Valley floor camping was booked but for a couple of days here and there. So, since we did not want to pack up camp every couple of days we took a site in Crane Flat CG and did the daily 15-20 minute drive to the Valley climbing. Many pitches of climbing were done (46 in all) during the 11/2 to 2-weeks we were there, the longest being the Royal Arches (very crowded). Marin did several amazing and very bold leads. One, in particular, Goodrich Pinnacle (5.9+R), on Glacier Point Apron. The descent from Goodrich Pinnacle (right). She led the fourth pitch, a desperately run-out slab of perhaps the most slippery glacier polish I have encountered. She was kind of freaked after passing through the crux with a couple of falls and seeing the long (though easier) run to the belay. She has true courage and will! Some other fine climbs we did included The Commitment, Chicken pie, Boneheads, The Surprise and La Casita Right. On our return October 21 we will hope to do some longer routes on Middle and Higher Cathedral Rocks and perhaps a short wall on Washington column.
Next, San Francisco and the flight to Austin, TX to attend Marin’s sister’s wedding. We stayed in San Francisco with another of Marin’s sisters and her family which was very nice. A year or two ago Marin and I had visited and built a small climbing wall for their kids which I hopped on several times since arriving. Anyway, we are in S.F. now and will leave for Yosemite tomorrow (Oct. 21) and stay until either the weather is unbearable or the rangers toss us out. Then….who knows???
Marin leading on the crux pitch of The Commitment

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I love San Francisco!

The week after the wedding, Mike and I stayed at my sister's house in the SFO area. I met Alyson and Melissa in the afternoon in SFO. We walked up Fillmore Street, which is the Pacific Heights area to do some shopping. It had great stores and it was our lucky day as they were having a cocktail party at Betsey Johnson's with our favorite black cherry Effen vodka. Here is Alyson, modelling one of Betsey's dresses.

I thought this sheep herder vest would be a perfect outfit for Melissa, but she thought it was ridiculous.

The shopping was excellent. For example, if you go there you can buy cute little trinkets like this:

Later we headed to PlumpJack to meet Shelly for a delicious dinner. We thought we would like to live in one of the cute apartments in Pacific Heights like this. Maybe someday...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Wedding..

Miracle of all miracles, the wedding went off flawlessly. Melissa and I never thought we would make it, but in fact it was perfect. Here are some of my favorite photos from the wedding. Mike took most of them because I was in the wedding.

First off, the bride is escorted down the aisle. Note, my mom made this beautiful wedding dress. Very nice handiwork!

Next, the sisters snuggle up with the bride and our new brother-in-law.

Lanie poses with me and the cake. Although I was the primary cake maker, almost everyone helped out with the cake, so I have to give everyone several credits for helping with the cake. Aunt Helene did the flower decorations, which helped cover the many imperfections! In the end, it was delicious, and we had so much cake left over that we saved to the top 2 layers! The happy couple froze the top layer for their first anniversary. I hope it freezes well!

The happy husband says, "Awesome! I'm married!" Felipe is excited to be married to Lanie.

To top off the night, the bride and groom kick off the dancing.

They had a great band, and we had an excellent time dancing for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Preparations..

I arrived in Redwood City,CA on October 2nd, to head down to Texas for my sister's wedding. I was going down 10 days in advance to help prepare - I had three main tasks: to make my bridesmaid's skirt, make my sister's bridesmaid's skirt, and to make the wedding cake. I thought I would have plenty of time...
Luckily, my Mom and other sister arrived the same day I did. So there were three of us down there (besides the bride!) preparing for the wedding. We all worked furiously to get our chores done.

The bride also had a lot of work to do. She made her veil, and here's the bride sewing the ring bearer pillows.

Mom was trapped in the bathroom for two full days working on the flower arrangements. She did almost all of the flowers for the wedding, and the remainder were done by our Aunt.

Melissa silver leafed the cake platter that Dad made. Here are Melissa and Lanie showing off their handiwork. The cake platter subsequently exploded due to unknown complications. Luckily, that happened after the wedding was over!

Melissa arranged the bachelorette party on Thursday night before the wedding. Our target dance floor was the Broken Spoke, a famous two step bar in Austin. Felipe was on call to bring friends down to dance with us. Reliably, he kept his word and showed up with friends in tow. I'm not sure the bride and groom should be dancing at her bachelorette party, but it was nice of him to watch out for us!

The rehearsal and subsequent dinner was on Friday. Here Dad practices walking Lanie down the aisle. Notice her cute matching bag and gloves. We were all frantic about the remaining chores, however, we took a pause to enjoy a mariachi band at a delicious Tex Mex restaurant. The rehearsal party was arranged by Felipe's parents and was a nice break.

After a very late night by all, the bridesmaids went downtown to get our hair done for the wedding. Here's a lovely picture of the bride getting her hair done. And of course, the baby bridesmaid is below.

I still had lots of work to finish on the cake. In fact, I had to assembly the entire cake and decorate it. I was a bit desperate, and everyone was rushing around to help me finish. In fact, I finished it up about ten minutes before the ceremony was about to begin. It seemed like a miracle that we completed the preparations on Saturday, but we did. Next up.. the wedding.

Monday, September 17, 2007

After a week at the Forks, both Mike and I are exhausted. The climbing here is super steep and strenuous. This is the Prow area, which although we didn't climb it, it should give you an idea of what the various climbs look like, since they pretty much all look like this. My whole body hurts and I have little gobis (gobi = open wound) all over my hands. I have one minor achievement on my last day: I managed to push and paw up two climbs without whining or whimpering. As I took this picture, we watched two climbers rappel down to do a climb on the Prow, and noticed they had forgotten their climbing rope at the top of the cliff. We found this quite amusing since just two days prior, I had done the exact same thing!

By Saturday, we have taken as much beating as we can endure. So we packed up on Sunday and started the drive to CA. We are camping just outside of Lone Pine in the Alabama Hills and we'll be heading to Tuoloumne Meadows later today.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Paradise Forks

After the wedding, we headed to Paradise Forks which is just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. It's a basalt canyon with some beautiful cracks.

The first day we headed to the Pillow area. And here's a picture on our first climb of the trip. It doesn't look too hard.. but I'm finding the climbing here extremely challenging! The cracks are really smooth inside, so it feels slippery to both my hands and feet. So far I haven't climbed one climb without falling! On the bright side, hopefully this is a good lesson for me in crack climbing. Mike used to climb here when he was in college and actually developed some of the climbs in this area, so he's enjoying being back here.

The area is on Forest Service land, and we found a beautiful camping spot. Right now we're in the monsoon season here, so we've had a couple days where it rained in the afternoon. I'm not sure when we're moving on..we might head down to Prescott or we might head to CA to get to Tuoloumne before it gets too cold.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Taylor, AZ

I flew down to Phoenix on Wednesday, where Mike picked me up at the airport. We spent the next 2 days finishing up odds and ends and helping get ready for Mike's sister's wedding. Here's a picture of the beautiful bride.
On Sunday we headed off towards Flagstaff to climb at Paradise Forks. Unfortunately Mike has picked up an illness, which has hampered our climbing a bit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Last Day @ MS!

Has finally arrived! I won't spend too much time here talking about MS, but I'll just say it's been a very enriching experience both personally and professionally.

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Arizona to meet Mike and start our climbing journey. It's hard to imagine that after today, I'll no longer be coming to work everyday. I am sure I'll adjust. We're first headed to AZ to attend Mike's sister's wedding. Then we'll spend some time climbing around Flagstaff and Prescott before heading up to Yosemite. Tune back in for more climbing stories!