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