Monday, December 1, 2008


Yehaw... The Valley! I left for Yosemite the day after I got back from the Bugaboos, September 14th. I drove down with my Mom, who flew back home out of Santa Clara, where I picked up my older brother, Kevin, for a weekend of climbing. I was dog tired, and still jazzed about the wild, free alpine, so driving into Yosemite was a real shock. There were no campsites left, and the park rangers were out patrolling, so we drove back out of the Valley, just to find a place to sleep. The next day, we wandered around, got aquainted ourselves with the valley proper, and picked up groceries. That night, Camp 4 was still full. The next day, we headed over early enough, and got a site. Then we went and climbed Sunny Side Bench, a short 5.4 with a looong walk off. Then we headed back to camp and barbequed some kosher dogs and bagels. The next day, Kevin had to head back to school, so we drove back, and spent the night at his dorm suite. The next morning, I hit the road back to Camp 4. I met up with some friends a few days later, and climbed a few days with them. Then I pinched a nerve in my foot on Sloth Wall, and ended up nearly crippled until I left for home on the 30th. Still got in a bit of aiding, and a lot of litter clean up with the Yosemite Facelift. The slideshows at night were fantastic! I saw a lot of big names... Which is cool- it is sooo motivating to be near people who get after it hard. Oh, and I befriended a lizard. So, in a nutshell, I was nearly skunked by a foot injury... Pretty much the story of my life right now.

The Bugaboos!!

Ever since Matt told me about his trip to the Bugaboos in May, I'd been itching to check it out. Steep, pristine alpine granite calls climbers like dinner bells call cowboys. I made up my mind that I'd go the first two weeks of December. I just needed to find a partner. I started by asking around work... Matt and Eric seemed pretty jazzed about the whole idea. Eric dropped off the face of the earth though, and I didn't hear from him all summer. Matt on the other hand, is fairly dependable, so we sorted out exact dates, and planned it out. Then Climbing did an article on the Needles down in California, and pretty soon, Matt didn't want anything to do with the Bugaboos. Yikes! That was a week before I wanted to leave! So I called Max, my trusty partner on Ingalls. A wild coincidence, the two weeks I had off for the trip happened to align perfectly with the time he had taken off to get prepped for school. Parfait!! So Max was in. I had my wisdom teeth pulled 5 days before we left, had helo-hoist training the next day, helped a friend move the next, worked the next two, and hit the road September 2nd. My parents had fixed us a huge dinner, so we didn't get on the road until almost 9. We drove almost to border crossing in Idaho, stopped at around 3 am, slept until sunrise in a gas station parking lot, and hit the road again. Once we were at the trail head, we wrapped the car in chicken wire, logs, and rocks... it looked like a demilitarized zone... no critter was getting past it! NO WAY, NO HOW! It took everything I had just to get my pack on... but we hit the trail. On the way in, we stopped at the Kain Hut to fix dinner. A storm blew threw as we ate... we lucked out! With the fresh snow, the trail was a little obscured, though, and we wandered until midnight at the elevation we expected to find Applebee at, with no luck. Finally, exhausted, we bivvied on a boulder, and shivered through a clear night. I woke up first, and low and behold, the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the Applebee toilet. It was a little embarrassing!! We were only a few hundred yards from where we wanted to be!! So we threw our packs together, and stumbled over. We found an awesome campsite, well protected from the wind, and right next to the critter boxes and gear tree. The weather looked like it was holding, and the baro pressure looked decent, so we made up day packs and headed up to the Bugaboo Snowpatch Couloir to do a little bit of Pigeon Spire recon. We made it 80% up the col before we found the bergshrund. It was 5 or 6 feet wide, and went all the way from Snowpatch to Bugaboo. Plus, the conditions weren't hot- it was 2' of packing peanuts consistency dry snow over black ice. No Bueno. With no snow or ice pro, we decided it was a bad idea and started back down. The wind had really started to pick up, though, and a heavy crust started to form. In the 3o minutes it took to descend the col, it went from blower snow, to thin, hardly noticeable crust, to breakable crust, to sometimes breakable crust. When we got down to the moraine, the weather system was still a ways out, and with the climbing day spent, we sat down, told stories, had an epic snowball fight, and then wandered back to camp for dinner. Day three we sat in the tent and waited out the system that had blown in the day before. Day four looked a lot like day three, but I pulled out Battleship, and we sharpened our elementary level "strategery". Day 5 was spent in the same fashion, day 6 we did a little bit of cragging around the camp. Day 7 we did McTech Arete, Day 8 we sat out weather. Day 9 we fired Westside story, and day 10 we went for Lion's Way with Tom and Micah. Then we headed out. The walk out seemed to take forever, and the packs seemed to weigh just as much as they did going in. Returning to the car was bittersweet. It had been such a great trip. We drove most of the way home, stopped for the night, and made it the rest of the way back the next morning, just in time for me to shower and run off to a friends wedding, with a hot peach cobbler for the potluck in one hand, and garden gnomes as a wedding gift in the other.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

REI Garage Sales

I work at Marmot Mountain Works. I get really sick deals on gear... Not gonna lie. When a customer returns something, we give them their money back, and send the item to the manufacturer for warranty. When somebody returns something to REI, they give them their money back and then sell the item for around 10% of its origional cost back to the members. REI loses a ton of money this way, but it creates some ridiculously awesome opportunities for great deals. So I've been hitting up the sales lately, and stocking up on awesome for the winter climbing season.

Night Climbing

I've spent a lot of days in the alpine recently, with the Tooth, and Ingalls. My ankle has been getting worse again, though, so I needed a way to get out climbing without quite so much walking. Cragging and gym climbing is the solution. But neither hold nearly so much appeal as the back country rocks. I had to figure out how to make clipping bolts interesting. Sitting next to Alie on the way to the gym, explaining my dilemma, and the lack of motivation that bolts offer, it took about all of 30 seconds before I offered up a solution: the dark. If sport climbing was boring during the day, how was it at night? It had to be more interesting.... It was! We met up with Lily after Mexican food with the SAR crew, and started climbing. By this time, it was around 10:30 or 11... and completely dark. Just how we wanted it. Turned out, I was the only one who led. Leading bolts, meh. Leading gear, pretty sweet. Leading bolts in the dark... WOW! Ya! Waaay more interesting than day-time sport clipping, and that's for sure. So I set up top-ropes for the rest of the gang on an 5.8, 5.9, and 5.6. Fighting the mice was the toughest part. The rodents decided that if they couldn't beat us, that they would join us, so they stuck around, and let us pet them. That was aweseome. We did laps until we were stupid tired, which put us around 3:30 in the morning. Alie and I took down the climbs, while I organized the gear. Then we did sun salutations on the trestle. AWESOME! The whole valley was lit up with the very beginnings of the light of the new day. After yoga, we wandered over to Nevermind Wall and bouldered around before heading back to our bags. We took an hour nap at the base of Write-off Rock, and then headed back down the trail, dodging the camp kids walking up the trail. Back at the parking lot, we ran into Ian, a good friend of Alie and mine. Then, Max, my partner for Ingalls drove up! We had the whole gang. But poor Ian was trying to size harnesses for that day's clients, so we let him get back to work while Max and J headed off to fire Negatherion. We stopped at Krispy Kreme on the way back, and I picked up a box of 'nuts for the family. Back at home, Alie and I laid around for a good couple of hours, just being tired. But then I realized that I had Dosage III on Netflix (rad climbing movie), so we watched that. And while the credits were rolling, we looked at each other, and said almost in unison that we weren't done climbing yet for the day and that we should hit up the gym. Off we went! We were pretty worked over, already, so Alie (only been climbing for a month!!) hit up some 5.8's and then got too pumped on a 5.9. I took laps on 5.9's until I realized that my toenail was falling off, took a break, then hit up a healthy dose of 5.10's to get worked stupid. It worked. Then, feeling pretty good, I hopped on a 5.11, and fired all but the last move. We were both whooped, so we headed over to the vertical 5.7 to finish ourselves off. I think I only got 3 laps in before I called "uncle". Happily defeated, we headed back home and slept 14 hours.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A really long day

So here's the story. I got off crutches last Thursday, went to Squamish on Friday, got home at 1 in the morning on Monday, and got up again at 10:30 to climb the Tooth with Alie, another girl from KCESAR. We stopped at REI in Issaquah to pick up a nut tool, and replace the cordalette that I had sacrificed in Squamish to back up the rappel to belay ledge at the Upper Malamute. So onward we went. We had heard that there was a mission going on up at High Point at exit 20 off I-90, so we stopped in to see how that was going, ate a bunch of the Operation Leader's wheat thins, and went on our merry way to Snoqualmie Pass. Finally there, we parked in the middle Alpental lot, right below the gate. We unloaded the car, packed up the gear, and hit the trail. We were both in sneakers, expecting somewhat minimal snow, beings the end of July and all. Along the trail, Alie's stomach was reacting to the chicken she had brought along, so we made slow time getting up to the Source Lake Overlook. From there, it was clear that we would be in snow up to the base of the climb. Turns out, Alie really hadn't walked in snow before. So I gave her one of my trekking poles, we took it slow, and I kicked nice steps around the descending traverse of the bowl, taking pictures of the incredible view as Alie made her way along, experiencing snow travel for the first time. Once around the bowl, we started to make our way up the snow choked gully. That took a while too. Finally, we popped our heads out of the trees into a gorgeous, snowy basin, looking right up at the Tooth. There was an initial flat spot, a quick steeper spot, another flat spot with a cairn and a bunch of giant boulders, and then a longer slog up to the gendarme. Alie declared that this was no longer fun, so I walked even slower, stopped even more frequently, and kicked even better steps. That seemed to be enough, and she kept moving. Once up to the gendarme, one crosses around the southwest side to a rocky traverse, and then back up and around to Pineapple pass, a narrow, steep notch in the rock at the base of the Tooth, peppered with gorgeous purple wildflowers, and surrounded by incredible views; West to Mt. Rainier, and East back towards Source Lake. So I racked up and set out. Alie, mind you, is overcoming a crippling fear of exposure. So I lead up, and get her on belay. Alie makes her way up. The sun's around a foot and a half off the horizon. I explain that we need to pick up the pace. This is Alie's 5th time rock climbing, so despite my impatience, her speed is explainable and expectable. I think I took a more direct route than suggested on the 2nd pitch, which held a cruxy move, slowing the lead down momentarily as I placed the magical green #12 stopper. The process slowed down even more as my friend pulled first the crux, and then the mantle. We needed to be going faster. The third pitch went smoothly, albeit slowly. The fourth and final pitch marked the beginning of the drama. A #0.4 camalot, that beautiful, secure, purpley-grey bit of cnc magic was just past Alie's reach into a horizontal crack. I shouted down that it needed to be moved to the right, to where the crack flared. So, instead of fishing her pinky fingers in there, or using the nut tool to hook the trigger wires, she hammered it back and to the right. My precious pro was then overcammed and slammed deeper into trouble. She shouted back that it wasn't coming out, so I suggested that she climb up. She did, and then I had her lower me back to my shiny amigo. I wiggled my little fingers in there to the trigger, but to no avail, that sucker was WAAAY over cammed. So, I got a rock and hammered it towards freedom. No luck. Even after 20 minutes of nut tool weilding, knuckle bashing, liberation warfare, my precious 0.4 remained stuck. I kissed it goodbye, willing that somebody, somehow, would be able to free it one day, add it to their own rack, and put it to good use. I climbed back up, admired the sunset in a hurry, found the rap station, set an anchor on the tree, belayed Alie to it, clipped her in, stacked the rappel for Alie's sake, rapped to next station, gave Alie a fireman's belay, pulled the ropes, and repeated the process. But the rope got stuck. So I led back up on the other half, unstuck it, down climbed, and THEN repeated the process once more, this time all the way to the packs at Pineapple Pass. Now, it was dark, and I slapped my headlamp over my helmet and threw on another layer as I packed up my things for the next two raps off the pass. Once again, down I went. It took 30 harrowing and terrifying seconds to find the second rappel station. But there it was, and so I clipped in, and hollered up to Alie that she was free to go. The 2nd rappel went smoothly, and set us at the edge of the steep snow field. I coiled up the rope in a hurry, threw it in my pack, and set out. I cut and kicked some lovely steps in the icy snow, and started making my way down. By this time, the warm front had moved in, and we were swallowed up into the belly of a cloud, destroying what visibility I had with my dying headlamp in the middle of the night. We had to stay within 20 or 30 feet of each other to be able to see the light coming off each others lights. I traversed over and down towards the middle of the basin which hadn't been as shaded earlier in the day. As I expected, it was softer, and made for slightly quicker travel. We made our way slowly down, covering our lights every few minutes, barely able to make out the shape of the basin. Once we got down to the flat spot, a break in the clouds revealed that we were indeed headed exactly as we planned to. So onward we went towards the gully that would drop up into Source Lake Basin. As we got to the gully, we had to cross the edge of the river, from the snow to the dirt, I hopped across via a stepping stone. A stepping stone that turned out to be 3 and a half feet under the water. It's true, LED lights, especially ones that are almost out of battery, don't offer much in the way of depth perception. I scramled back out, shaking the icy water out of my pant legs. Adrenaline is pretty warming, and softshell pants dry pretty quick, so I was still in good shape. My phone had rung just as I clambered out of the water, so I called my mother back to let her know that I was on my way out, and that I would call her back when I made it to the trail. Onward we went, still slowly, scrumbling down the really steep snowy gully, through super thick pine trees, and out in to the basin. Turns out we went down the gnarlier of the two gullies. 10 points for unnecessary suffering. The sky was starting to clear, revealing absolutely spectacular stars right above us, and the clouds even opened briefly to reveal a full yellow moon. We began the ascending traverse of Source Lake Basin. We were making really slow time, back on the icy snow. I was getting good at making steps, and Alie, despite exhaustion, was starting to get a bit more comfortable following them. After a while, we passed one of our landmarks- a boulder that had fallen and putty knifed a bunch of snow down with it. That was pretty orienting, and we cut higher up the slope. Next, we crossed the talus field. At the other side of the talus, we still didn't see our boot track, so we headed farther up hill to where our earlier steps intersected the rock field. Then, it was just a matter of walking along to the base of the water running down the rocks, where we would meet our trail. And sure enough, there it was. I kissed a downed log. It was beautiful. I was damp, we were both tired, and yet barring spontaneous injury, we were going to make it out! All we had left was to cruise the 1.5 mi back to the cars. We split the last of the water, and hauled ass down the trail. The car was so beautiful and inviting. We hopped in, cruised down to North Bend where we picked up enough gas and food to make it back to my house. Back at home a little after 3am on Tuesday, we fell fast asleep, glad to be warm and dry. Despite having had a rough time, I'd had a blast. It's always fun to catch a glimpse of your own meddle.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

So while I was up at Washington pass, I got hit by a rock a little
bigger than a grapefruit. It was party inflicted from a few
switchbacks up the trail. It came rocketing down and hit me hard
enough that it knocked me down, even though I was standing on the ankle that it hit. I
hobbled out for a mile and a half down the steeper part of the trail
( on the descent from south early winter spire) but then the
instructor of the course decided (widely) that I shouldn't be putting
weight on it and gave me a piggyback ride the rest of the rest of the
two miles. Ian, I am eternally grateful!!!!! Once I got home, I had to
teach a 4 day rock class, where I had to hike around a mile each day.
That wasn't doing it any good though, so on Wednesday I went to get x-
rays. Nothing was obviously broken , but they did pick up some blood
pooling up on my tibia, not to mention a lot of soft tissue slush (a
technical term). The pain continued to double daily though, so back I
went for more xrays. Still nothing other than the tibial hematoma
showing up on the x ray, so that's good, but now they've got me
wrapping my ankle all special, icing it a whole bunch, and walking
around on crutches for a week. Never fear, though. I should be back
in action soon enough. I've just got to make it to Thursday, my next
day off.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Leavenworth, Washington Pass

So in an effort to climb trad more effectively, efficiently, and stylishly, I signed myself up for Mountain Madness' Alpine Rock Seminar. We started out at O'Grady's in Leavenworth, spent a few days there, and then tooled up to Washington Pass in the North Cascades. It was incredible!!! The climbing was awesome- super textured granite with slabs, chimneys, splitters, and off width. Ian, our guide and instructor was a human encyclopedia, a patient teacher, and a bank of stories. I had such an awesome time. I learned a bunch too!!!! I can't wait for my ankle to heal up. I've gotta go climbing!