Drives, hills, trees, routes, pump.
After leaving familiar Bend and passing by the snowed in (and currently snowing) pass near Crater Lake we descended into a wild and scenic stretch of road I had never explored before. Ziggin and zaggin around twisting turns we followed the roaring Rogue River through old growth forest that slowly changed from Douglas Fir to Oak and Madrone. After a solid days drive we stopped in the Siskiou National Forest about 4 miles in on a quiet ridge line road. The bus found a nice level spot for the night in a broad turnout leading to a closed road.
That evening I started reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. In one of the first chapters Arthur Dent is spending his days laying in front of his house so the city can’t bulldoze his house. That morning Robyn and I awoke to heavy machinery and in a dream like state I watched a big yellow dozer unload and approach our bus in the early morning light. I rubbed my eyes till it was real and thought how much more at ease I felt in this case rather than being in a tent.
Descending from our hillside camp we had big plans to tour the redwoods. We must have said “wow” and “holy shit!” about a dozen times each as we entered the park. Strapping on our running shoes we fast forwarded our hike and ran two loops weaving and bobbing through the giant stands of trees a some standing for nearly 2,000 years and bulging up to 20 feet in diameter. On down the coast we marveled at the fact that yes indeed we were standing on the California coast overlooking the ocean and remembered back to what a distant idea the Yukon was.
After a stop at our first California brewery, we wished we hadn’t.. If you are ever passing McKinnleyville you are doing about the only thing I can recommend in that area – keep driving. One stand out for me was the Kona Coffee Porter winner of the 2004 Great American Beer Festival award for best coffee infused beer. Down the 101 a bit more however was Arcata home to Humbolt State University. The town was bustling with dirty hippies and vagrants, strange boutiques and shops, all huddled about a central plaza. Certainly a pleasant little town and served to supply us with our climbing guide to Trinity Aretes about 3 hours to the East.
A pit stop in the roadside town of Willow Creek gave us a chance to re-supply and soon we were gaining elevation as we followed a hand drawn map and directions into the Trinity National Forest. Laying eyes on Trinity was nothing short of inspiring. The grey-blue limestone leapt from the old growth and towered high above us in a proud crown. Waves of clouds shrouding the summits would form and dissipate just as soon as you would notice them giving the spires a larger than life appearance. Our camp couldn’t have been more convenient as we could see the summit right out the windows of the bus.
Fighting our way to the base with the somewhat unclear topos we had we ran into Dave and Nieru, a couple of climbers up visiting for the weekend from San Francisco. They immediately struck us as great people and we shared draws, leads, and beta as we explored a new area together. Later that day another couple climbers arrived, this time locals from Arcata named Ryan and Austin and that evening we all gathered around the campfire sharing beers and stories of sends, friends, and far away places.
The climbing at Trinity is really cool. Long and mind numbingly pumpy routes ascend a super textured limestone studded with pockets, complex coral cracks and seams. Nearly every route had us saying ” good god I am pumped! I can’t remember the last time I was this pumped!” as I lowered off an onsight of one wandering 70 ft 5.10d I looked at my poor forearms and lamented to Robyn that they looked like fat fish bellies. This led to our new term for being pumped aka “salmon bellied” at the end of a route. High notes included Robyn’s impressive flash of Shemale 5.10b on only her 3rd ever limestone lead, and several worthwhile high tens and elevens that tested us at the start with technical cruxes and then laid on the pump at the end as you crested the 80-90ft mark on the route. I sent my hardest mixed line to date with an onsight of Indian Summer 5.11b, a proud line with a thin technical crux at the start leading to an overhanging headwall in a wildly exposed juggy crack to a shared anchor on an arête.
Two days of enduro-pump and the fact that we exhausted our morning warm-up routes has us bidding Trinity a fond farewell tomorrow morning. One last campfire with our new friends tonight and it’s off to new adventures. Mt Shasta and Lassen Volcanic Park are on the horizon.