Monday, February 4, 2008

Our Adventures Chapter 2: by Mike

Well, where were we now? Headed back to Yosemite I believe, and that we did. It was all a little disappointing though as we the weather was frequently marginal, our moods were a bit down and attitudes not the best (I think I was kind of stressed by the time in big cities and all. Anyway we didn’t get on the longer routes and actually left after having been there about a week.

Owens River Gorge
So we drove over Tuolumne and through Tioga Pass and onto Bishop, CA and prepared for a little sport climbing action at Owens River Gorge. While I was still stuck in a funk, Marin seemed to excel on the sport routes in The Gorge, firing many 5.10s. While I just could not get into the climbing there, I did hone my belaying skills rope handling for Marin.
The rock there in The Gorge was a volcanic tuff that, while looking like a choss heap (as most sport areas do to me anyway) it was in reality quite sound. And, the Gorge itself is quite an impressive feature…the hikes into the various sections were attention gitters. Though we met and saw climbers everyday it did not feel overly crowded though I can imagine popular areas sometimes feeling a little busy. This is I think were we first encountered “gang climbing”. See, you have your pairs or threesomes and a group of 8-12 people appear and never split into smaller groups, rather they all do the same one or two climbs and are often a little over stimulating. We would see this again in Joshua Tree, the next stop.

Joshua Tree National Park
Once a National Monument, Joshua Tree is now a National Park since, I believe, 2004. It is beginning to look like one too! More paved roads, paved parking lots, crowds (huge on the weekends), pay to get in, pay to camp and water you can buy for about fifty cents for roughly twelve gallons at the main entrance (have your jugs open and catch all you can while the water spills forth). Not having been here for roughly 25-years these were big changes to me (especially the crowds and roads with large paved parking lots). The Winnebago surfing still lives though…some things never change. Still beautiful too, especially in the evening (see the intro photo and the photo to the right).
Now, almost every evening as the sun approached its resting time near all people made a brief pilgrimage to their vista point. Some climbed high while others moved to the border of rock and desert. There was no wrong place to be at that time of day. It really was something to see so many people sharing those most inspiringly beautiful and quiet moments of the day. Sad to think though that the frequency and intensity of these most remarkable evening displays may have a great deal to do with the proximity to LA’s air pollution. I tried not to think about that too much.
We met several Australians and a number of Canadians along with some of the more local climbing crowd. We find that in large measure people are tending to keep to their own groups. We did though meet some very nice folks while there.
As for the climbing…well let me tell you a thing or two or three about that. The weekends were overrun with climbers and tourists (they're not pets you know!). The classics of the old days were rarely crowded and seemed harder than they used to be (Marin following Diamond Dogs 5.10 at left. The rock was as coarse and hard on the hands as it ever was. And, you can still wander for near the entire day looking for some routes (like in the Wonderland).
The weather was amazing and we were sorry to leave but thought we should get some climbing time in at Granite Mountain (near Prescott, AZ) before the run of good climbing weather and temperature turned the corner toward winter. That will come in Chapter Three which is on-belay and following quickly (if not immediately).

No comments: