Pop goes the pulley?

After a day of warmups at Wild Iris and a few moderate routes to start the morning Robyn and I moved to the “Rode Hard Wall” which contained a nice group of mid elevens and twelves.

Midway through my onsight attempt I was unknowingly gearing up for a crux on the wrong climb. I had seen draws hanging from what I thought was the classic Wind and Rattlesnakes but was instead a one move wonder called Tomahawk Slam that used a shallow 2 finger pocket and tricky feet. Adjusting my weight left, then right, and back to my left I gritted my teeth and pulled down on my middle and ring finger. Just then I heard a POP! and slunk down from the crux grasping my hand. At first I thought it was my knuckle but soon my finger went temporarily numb and weak. Without knowing the seriousness of the pop, I lowered, pulled the rope, and sent the route after shifting the crux move to my pointer and middle finger. Unbeknownst to me at the time it will likely be my last climb for at least a month.

The pain I have is in the A4 region.

I have never had a finger injury before, at least none as pronounced as this, so I really have no idea what to expect or even how to diagnose my problem. A quick online search from the library brought up some images of the ligaments and pulleys in the hand. From what i gathered, pulleys are involved in stabilizing the ligaments in your fingers. A common climbing injury is to damage the A2 pulley between your first and second knuckles near the base of your hand. In my case the pain is more located on the A4 pulley between my second and third knuckles. Although I can’t offer a full diagnosis of the problem, I am in the odd position of being able to live this moment over and over through video which I can share if you guys are in to that sort of thing..

Symptoms:

1) Loud crack or pop in left ring finger at knuckle nearest the finger nail.
2) Sore and stiff the next day. Pain in knuckle has gone away but a general feeling of weakness and soreness prevails between my second and third knuckle. No noticeable swelling or bruising occurred.
3) After a days rest I tried taping my finger between the second and third knuckles. This didn’t seem to do much and I was still feeling weak and having to avoid pulling with the finger in any way. After two climbs on top rope I decided to throw in the towel and let it rest for the foreseeable future.

Here is a good summary my mom found. Looks like we will continue on our Wyoming tour and head to Ten Sleep to get Robyn on some climbs. She is climbing stronger than ever and made some amazing onsight links on an 11c yesterday. With some rest and more attempts she would have had this one in the bag for sure. I will shift my focus a bit more toward pictures and books, or maybe just picture-books. We are joining forces with Steve and some of his friends in Ten Sleep so Robyn will have plenty of people to keep the climbing psych up!

The Desert Unknown

Hatching May Flies billowed from the Colorado River in a desert snow storm. Our new friend Mark a local Ichthyologist was amazed at their numbers. Beez, a fast looking dog with endless energy, raced up and down the banks of the river snapping and twisting after the swarm of powder white bugs. Robyn and I sat with Heidi and her friend Ben  nursing a cold growler of Moab Brewing Company Pale Ale as the evening sun lit up the red rimrock bluffs to our North. Ben pointed out some of his favorite rockclimbs, pinnacles and desert towers soaring up several hundred feet from the canyon floor. All Robyn and I could do was stare in awe – neither one of us had seen a landscape like this before.

A perfect night along the Colorado River.

Sunset in the Colorado River Canyon.

“You guys should climb Owl Rock before you go. You can’t come to the desert without bagging a tower” Ben said. “I’ll give you doubles between #1 and #2, you guys will do awesome. Just turn right at Balanced Rock and drive a mile to an overlook. The route is right there, you can’t miss it!”

Robyn and I finished the growler and sat sporting underwear in lawn chairs as stars came out and the heat of the day’s sun lingered in the canyon. It was far to hot to sleep so I amused myself with long exposure shots on our camera. Only after the 5th or 6th car went by illuminating me standing on the side of the road in my underwear did it occur to me that I might actually be scaring the shit out of people.

Stars in the desert.

Messing around with cars.

I looked at the clock, 4AM and it was finally cool enough to fall asleep, just two hours later the alarm went off. If we were going to find this tower and make an ascent, we needed to get up early to beat the heat. Word-of-mouth directions and route descriptions led us to the base by 8AM and I found myself pulling on the starting holds of our first desert climb. Owl Rock is a one pitch 5.8 tower in Arches National Park. The tower rests on a relative high-point and although it can be done in one pitch the summit and exposure of the climb were quite surprising. The stone was red and smooth at first, but with a fine grained sand paper feel. The moves were between large bread loafs and hand jams to a perfect mushroom top summit. The view from the top was vast including several arches and red rock domes. The landscape here is so unique to us. Fields of cactus meet scrubby forests and river canyons streak away for miles lined with red rock cliffs.

Starting up our first desert climb.

Robyn on the summit of Owl Rock on a beautiful morning in Arches National Park.

Arches National Park

Near Sand Arch in Arches National Park.

We spent the remainder of the day touring the park before retreating from the heat back to the beach along the Colorado for a refreshing dip. Before arriving in Utah we had an idea we may like to climb at an area called Mill Creek. Essentially all we knew about Mill Creek was that it existed somewhere in Utah and was supposed to have amazing rock. Hand drawn map in my pocket we left Salt Lake, over the Wasatch and into the desert interior toward Moab. Driving to the desert when Salt Lake was hovering near 100F seemed like a death wish, but rumor had it that Mill Creek’s higher elevation and shaded slot canyon remained cool even when Moab was boiling.

After an exhausting drive we arrived at Mill Creek and proceeded to hike a half mile down the wrong canyon before catching a view of the crags the next drainage over. Bushwhacking our way to the top we fought briar patches and dusty cattle trails till our exposed arms and legs dripped with blood and stinging sweat. This mistake set the tone for our afternoon. The climbs at Mill Creek are held behind some mysterious veil for out-of-towners. Somewhere along our bushwhack we lost our hand drawn map to the briar bushes and were forced to navigate by vague descriptions and memories of online photos. The routes seemed hard, the air was muggy and bolts were used sparingly. In short, we were exhausted, flustered and intimidated. The climbing was beautiful, but ground-up onsight climbing was not to be taken lightly.

One of the most amazing lines I have ever seen. Prosthetics 5.13d

The following morning, rested and with no doubt where we needed to go, we felt much more relaxed. The morning temps were cooler, and we ran into a local who pointed us toward some tens and elevens to try along with this wisdom “When you know all the beta the routes can seem like 5.10, but if you don’t it seems fucking impossible.” With more realistic expectations akin more to trad climbing than sport climbing we set out and completed 3 excellent routes. The rock is minimally featured for large stretches broken up by flat crimps and occasional ladders of  featured pockets.

Limited online research before arriving had Robyn and I drooling over a photo we had seen of a 5.11b/c route called “Ferns Have Feelings Too”. After a morning of confidence builders we were ready to step it up a notch, so I waited for a cloud to roll over before setting to it. A smeary dihedral led to a thin face up to some nice in-cut crimps and a small rest. High stepping and arching my back under an awkward bulge I felt the ground tugging at me from my precarious clipping stance. Safely clipped, I continued on to a better hold before the feet disappeared and I was forced into an off balance high step which put the kibosh on my onsight attempt. The day prior I would have finished the route off and brushed it aside, but with a bit more confidence and patience I pulled the rope, rested as Robyn worked the route, and sent it second go!

The crux section of Ferns Have Feelings Too.

Robyn flashed our first two routes and cleanly top-roped a third before making some impressive links on Ferns. Feeling accomplished, we had regained our confidence and decided to celebrate with a shared Vincent car wash shower and a sampler from the Moab Brewing Company.

Possibly the most VW’s I have ever seen in one spot.

2,000 year old petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock.

Some wildflowers we picked in the La Sal Mountains.

The endless cracks of The Creek… We will return.

Robyn overlooking the endless backcountry hiking potential at Canyon Lands National Park.

For an unexpected plunge into the desert unknown, our swing through Moab turned into one of the most enjoyable stops on the trip. The scenery was incredible, the access to recreation was top notch and the town was really just a pleasant place to hang out in. Moab had friendly people, a bustling but not overbearing main drag, a skatepark, ballpark, swimming pool, and Chinese food by the scoop! What else does a small town need? Our last day in town was spent touring Canyon Lands National Park and then catching a late movie to wait for cooler temps before setting out across the desert back to Salt Lake. With Maple Canyon ablaze and plans with friends changing left and right, our minds are again wandering to the next destination of our trip – Lander, Wyoming. One more weekend here with friends and it’s off to the wild west.

Bishop, California.

Leaving Bishop and entering new territory (insert fist pound here), I can’t help but look back on our time spent in the dry, desert country of central California. Upon first glance and unenthusiastically so, we were a bit disappointed in our surroundings. Bishop has been a lumbering idea in the rear of our noggins for months, now. We’ve been anxiously anticipating our first visit, fabricating all sorts of ideas as to the looks of this place. Unfortunately so, we arrived to find nothing too exciting or appealing. The overcrowded 395 divided this seemingly unique town in two. Coasting down Main Street, we were greeted by convenient and thrifty pit stops: McDonalds, Subway, and Starbucks; these mega franchises built to please the weekend traveler and trailer maggot. We also couldn’t escape air so hot and dry to fry even our roughest elbow skin (all at first glance).

The commotion and heat was exhausting. All I could think about was re-fueling Vincent and taking the nearest exit out of Inyo County.  Certainly, first impressions can be rough.  I will be the first to admit, I wasn’t impressed with the town, at all. Yes, the mountains were spectacular, glowing in cool hues of evening light, and there were vast acres of dry landscape, rich with sage and sand at every turn, but to me, the town lost its quaint, curb appeal to convenience and cheap gasoline. With wavering emotions, we wanted to escape the desert and fast-forward through this leg of our trip. Instead, we convinced ourselves to hang around for a few days, climb the acclaimed sport routes and Buttermilk boulder problems, and try to meet some of the locals. Maybe, just maybe, our first impressions would evolve in to something greater and more memorable.

Much to our surprise, we lingered around the Bishop area for nearly a week! The variety of climbing routes and accessible boulder problems were much too good to skip out on, and thanks to our Bishop-specific, daily routine, we found some delight in Bishop (even with outrageous temperatures). To beat the heat, we would wake early and devour our breakfast, usually fresh pressed coffee and chalky oats. Then, we would immediately wrap up our belongings and coast in to town, where we would fritter away with mini household tasks, like laundry, website updates, email replies, editing photos, car washes and more. During this time, the unrelenting heat finally gave in and a pleasant, gentle breeze arrived to whisk it away. By 4pm, we were hiking some sandy trail to a new crag. This was exactly what we envisioned Bishop to be (and hoped for), a mecca of intoxicating rock routes to satisfy all of our climbing desires. And that’s just it. A place where the rock and routes are undeniably beautiful and inspiring, a place to send hard problems, and a place that is a gateway to other exceptional climbing crags, like Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite, and Clark Canyon. Bishop is a good place to visit and for 3,600 residents, it’s a place to call home. We will soon discover our own ‘home-sweet-home’ and hopefully, we will get to frequent one of the best climbing meccas in the world: Bishop, California.

Vincent showing off his new tat.

We liked exploring Bishop and the surrounding areas. We met wonderful people and laid eyes on Mother Nature’s finest creations. We had an amazing weekend with our great friend, Falco, hiking through some phenomenal, high alpine terrain. We laughed until our bellies ached, climbed copious amounts of solid rock, and learned a great deal. Overall, our experience was a positive, happy one. First impressions can be rudimentary. I know mine was.  I am very thankful to have spent some time exploring the area and will positively visit again (insert fist pound here).

Robyn eyes up our first climb at Owen’s – Nirvana 5.10a

Psyching up for the upper section of the 135′ 5.11c Tsunami.

Climbing chalk is a must on hot, Bishop days.

Ethan on his send of the Roadside Rail Problem V3.

Robyn topping out in the surreal boulders of the Buttermilks.

Hiking into Bishop Lake.

Our camp at Bishop Lake.

Although Bishop was 90F it was windy and in the 50′s here at 11,000ft. We found a nice protected rock shelf and soaked in the last of the evening sun.

Falco casually crushing.

Dinner in the Inyo National Forest just above the canyon rim.

Tacos with all the fixins.

A viewpoint in Great Basin National Park made for a peaceful lunch stop.

Stella Lake – Great Basin National Park, NV

Skunk flowers

 

The Mecca

No one can argue the importance of Yosemite to rock climbing.  This is climbing’s greatest stage, and while some places go in and out of fashion (France and Spain come to mind) Yosemite’s colossal granite walls and central location in an area teeming with talented climbers assure it will remain at the forefront for decades to come.

Dropping a dizzying 6,000 feet from Tuolumne Meadows we darted out to the small town of Groveland, CA for a resupply before entering Yosemite’s most famous valley. Although I had been here once before with my folks when I was younger, the granite walls now told a story of climbing history around every corner.

Astroman, The Sentinel, Half Dome and of course El Cap, soared above the bus in dramatic fashion.  Only days before the meadow had been filled with cheering onlookers as a new speed record had been set on “The Nose” of El Cap. A route, which once took 45 days, has been rehearsed and climbed in only 2hr 23min!!

Vincent sits below the tower of The Sentinel.

Yosemite Falls (2,425ft) is the 6th tallest waterfall in the world.

Working in the Whitney Museum at PWSCC in Valdez one afternoon I scoured the Internet for climbing news as an older couple strolled in to have a look around. The woman seemed interested in the exhibits, diligently reading every sign and carving her way through each display. The man, a quiet and stout looking guy with stark white hair and a pleasant face, paced the exhibit and returned to the desk to strike up a conversation. We made the usual small talk but my mind wandered slowly back to climbing. In a roundabout way I was able to turn the conversation such that I could mention rock climbing, desperate to talk to anyone about my fading pastime as the rain continued to pummel the crumbling Chugach stone out my window. To my surprise the man lit up. He was a rock climber too and casually mentioned Yosemite and some first ascents in the area. “Oh yeah? Where at?” I asked. “You heard of The Nose on El Cap?” he replied.

Asking a climber if they had heard of The Nose was like asking a guy shooting hoops if had heard of Michael Jordan. Turns out I was talking to Wayne Merry who accompanied George Whitmore, and shared leads with Warren Harding on the 47 day first ascent back in 1958. When he slipped away to find his wife, I quickly googled him, printed a picture and asked for his autograph.

The iconic lightning bolt and boulder problem “Midnight Lightning” sits among the tents of climbers at Camp 4. This is likely the most documented boulder problem in the world.

El Capitan. Home to the most famous climbing route in the world “The Nose”.

Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore.

Now in The Valley, looking up at El Cap and hearing the yells between climbers as they followed in Wayne’s path I wondered what it would be like setting up a port-a-ledge for the night. Hanging in a hammock, wearing your harness to bed and then swinging your feet over the edge to watch the sunrise the following morning. Most groups these days take about a week to complete the route and for most it will be their crowning achievement.

The weather in the valley was much hotter than up in Tuolumne. The crowds were thicker, and in the heat of the day the walls seemed to focus the sunbeams down on the small roads below. We found ourselves yearning for the open meadows, cooler temperatures, and expansive views we enjoyed the week prior, and decided to bid The Valley farewell knowing we would return someday. Yosemite offers more than classic rock climbs. Yosemite offers a feeling of history, a sense of pride in the accomplishments of fellow climbers, and undeniable tangible challenges on either side of the road. At this point in our climbing careers we don’t feel the urge to drop everything and train for a push on El Cap, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind.

Alpine Domes

A short but sweet tour of Mammoth Lakes led us on a drive of its perimeter. There seem to be few settings for a town in this world that can match that of Mammoth Lakes. Nestled up against the Sierra the town sits at 8,000 ft with another 4,000 vertical leading to nearby peaks dotted with alpine lakes. A mere 10 minutes from town lead to any number of beautiful lakes, streams, crags and waterfalls. On the to-do list in town was to catch up on some emails, grab some beers from the brewery and get more ice for the cooler.

Tasks accomplished we drove Vincent back up 395, this time opting for a scenic loop-road detour toward the refreshingly small town of June Lake, home of June Mountain ski resort. What an amazing place this was. The loop road continued through several smaller lakes walled on all sides by large granite moraines before opening into a broad sagebrush filled valley. A sharp left turn onto a gravel road and we followed signs toward Walker Lake. As we gained elevation the valley began to narrow and we entered a small plateau dotted with large Ponderosa Pines. Parking Vincent for the night among the old growth in a pleasant grassy meadow was certainly the most tranquil spot we have found so far.

The morning came quickly and our minds started to flutter with thoughts of entering Yosemite that afternoon.  Purchasing our annual park pass we turned west on highway 120 and began climbing Tioga Pass. Vincent chugged along in 2nd gear at about 26 mph as we steadily climbed to the entrance gate at 9,945 ft. As we coasted through Tuolumne Meadows for the first time, granite domes appeared on all sides of the road sweeping gradually from sidewalks to sheer faces. Suddenly years of climbing magazines, photos, lore and legends seemed to rise from either side of the road. I quickly became overwhelmed at the expanse of granite to be explored and needed to pull over a few times to quell my excitement. Robyn poured over our new Tuolumne Free Climbs guidebook seeking out moderate multi-pitch routes to add to our tick list. Ducking back out of the park and pulling off the road into National Forest land for the night we set up camp at 9,000 ft in a small gravel lot backing up to a rushing creek. Trad gear splayed out in piles on the floor of the bus, we decided to climb the Medlicott Dome via the 4 pitch 5.8 Shagadellic. Racked-up, gear in piles, dinner, and a couple Mammoth Lakes brews in our bellies we poured over guides and climbing magazines until crawling in bed – alarm set for 5 am.

Chuggin up Tioga Pass!

Vincent and Robyn visit Yosemite for the first time!

A restless night behind us Vincent again coasted down Tioga Pass into silent Tuolumne meadows. Alone at the parking lot, we followed a winding trail, gradually rising to switchbacks through granite blocks to the base of the Medlicott Dome. “Holy shit”, was my first thought. A granite expanse stretched in either direction and arched into the sky above. Armed with a small topo map and plenty on adrenaline we flaked the rope at the base of our first Yosemite multi-pitch. Multi-pitch routes at Revelstoke, Smith Rocks, and Castle Crags had all prepared us for the moment, but the history of Yosemite and the legends of our sport who established these climbs were at the forefront of my mind.

Medlicott Dome soaking in the afternoon light.

Pitch one was a nice corner to a bolted belay before a seemingly featureless undulation of slabby granite above. I have often tried to convey such expanse when describing the scale of Alaskan peaks but always fall short. In a snowy landscape with only the largest of features protruding from the snow distances and size in Alaska seem nearly impossible to judge. 20 minutes ahead turns to 40 min, 2 hours? This same sense of dizzying scale accompanied Robyn and I into the 2nd and 3rd pitches of Shagadelic. I would turn and look down to see Robyn belaying, she looked so close, but nearly at the end of my rope we stretched pitches to 150-180 feet in length. A new style of climbing was required, one that tested our footwork and mental toughness much more than our grip strength.  Rounding the summit we were excited and elated. We had done it. A 3rd class scramble to the true summit for some photos and a beautiful walk down the south side with views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome below brought us back to the meadow by 2PM.

Second pitch of Shagadelic. The two middle pitches were 300 feet of slick quarts knobs and mantle moves.

Summit shot after our first climb in Yosemite.

Tuolumne Meadows from the top of Medlicott Dome.

A stunning and unexpected lake on the summit of Medlicott.

Back at the car we could spot some climbers heading up Shagadelic.

Delicious Mammoth Brewing Company beers to celebrate after our first Yosemite Dome!

Tuolumne was a special place to be. Camping climbing and hiking between 8,000 and 11,000 feet, we were getting well acclimatized after spending 2 years at sea level. The hikes to domes led us through alpine meadows studded with granite boulders and swaths of wildflowers. Creeks gushed past boulders and dropped from pool to pool – our soundtrack as we hiked by.  After our success on Medlicott we had another beautiful day summiting Dozier Dome before lunch, and spending the afternoon slacklining in the meadow below. As we walked through the meadows the iconic summit of Cathedral Peak soared in the distance. Long before arriving in Yosemite we had dreamed of climbing the SE Buttress, a mega-classic 700’ 5.6 alpine route leading to a 5’ by 5’ pinnacle summit at 10,911 ft.  Staring up from the meadow we decided it was time to give this classic a go.

Robyn exiting the 165 foot finger crack pitch on Dozier Dome.

The view from our bedroom on Tioga Pass (9,500 ft)

Cathedral Peak in the morning sun.

At 4 AM the alarm went off. I groaned, rolled over and fumbled in the dark to turn it off. Two days earlier Alex Honnold and Hans Florine had done the same on their way to setting the speed record on The Nose of El Cap. Though cameras and fans didn’t greet us at the trailhead we were just as focused as we made our way to the base. Greeting one other group who arrived just minutes before, we opted for one of the many variations which all bottlenecked for the last pitch. Simul-climbing the first 300 feet put Robyn and I ahead of the other group and we were well on our way up the 3rd pitch before the crowds began to file in for their shot at the top.

Rob at the belay after the standout 3rd pitch.

Robyn on the cozy belay ledge before the final pitch!

Some of the most incredible climbing of our lives took us up past a steep dihedral and offwidth and past large dynamic moves on perfect stone to an exposed belay on a beak overhanging the valley below. One fast pair of climbers met us on the last pitch but ran short of rope for the summit and at 11:00 AM I found myself alone on the top setting up a belay for Robyn. Together we enjoyed an incredible view down the valley, past Half Dome and beyond – blue lakes and grey domes in all directions. Before we new it we had descended from the summit to the saddle to soak up some morning sun and revel in our success as lines of climbers formed at the base of the route. The ascent seemed surreal and went by far to quickly and as with all summits we felt honored and humbled to have been granted safe passage. We don’t belong in these places, at least not for long, and for me that is part of the appeal. To spend even just a few hours in an environment such as that, hanging 700’ over the valley below brings with it feelings that are hard to describe. Amazement at the beauty is underlined with a deep respect for the mountain environment. We weren’t the fastest, boldest or most talented climbers in Yosemite that day but we were certainly among the proudest. That’s one of the great things about rockclimbing. Each climb presents a unique feeling and challenge to a climber. For Robyn and I Cathedral Peak represents another great achievement and a highlight of our time spent in California.

Sitting atop Cathedral Peak. The last moves that straddle this pinnacle were exposed as hell!

The world dropping away. Happy summit shot!

View from the saddle after our summit of Cathedral Peak.

Clark Canyon

This has been one of my favorite legs of the trip. With great memories and ample happy vibes stored in our pockets, we anxiously traveled out of Tahoe, and farther away from too many people and god-awful traffic. Shortly after, we entered what I believe to be some of the prettiest terrain out there. Imagine fragrant pine (Jeffrey and Ponderosa), sweet juniper bushes, and sage tickling your senses. This arid, high desert landscape was meant for me. Patches of Quaking Aspen and pristine building-sized boulders line 395, which kindly guided us to our next destination. This place is truly magical. It’s in the middle of nowhere and everywhere in the nowhere, it is seemingly wild, pure, and beautiful.

Vincent chug-a-lugs over one of many passes in the Sierra.

Lake Mary, a short 10 minutes from Mammoth Lakes. Stunning scenery!

Aside from the unbelievably giant Redwoods, this California scenic drive is immeasurable to any other California pit stop we’ve seen to date. Gobs and gobs of must-see views and unique terrain spread vastly over hill sides and mountain tops. Valleys, marshy meadows, and sub-alpine granitic fields have been an uber pleasant welcome as we traveled south bound toward the cozy mountain town of Mammoth Lakes. Taking a small detour east, we excitedly made our way to the next climbing hot spot: Clark Canyon. After climbing at Clark for only two days, I would like to add to my original statement. Clark Canyon is definitely a ‘hot’ spot, but its also really neat. The nicely featured crag emulates the best of two fine climbing meccas: Smith Rock and the Red River Gorge.

We weren’t good at getting pictures in Clark but this is from the parking area. We did get some good video footage though!

Morning coffee was spent pouring over our new guide to rock climbs in the Mammoth area.

For example, Smith is known for its overly technical tuff rock that’s loaded with chicken head-knobby features and delicate moves. The Red, on the other hand, attracts vagrant climbers from all over, with the promise of solid rock on overly-hanging rock bluffs and multi-featured face climbs. Both areas are excellent for climbing; some of the most classic routes in the world can be found at both, and a little taste of both can be found at Clark Canyon.

With this kind of combination, we had a fantastic stay at Clark Canyon. Etrain logged another epic send – Dirty Dancing, 12b. Second go, he climbed through some sharp, fingery crimps, moving precariously through the crux and on up to the overhanging plates that tacked on the pump. He rolled over the top bulge to clip the anchors, displaying a victorious smile and later that evening, celebrating with fresh brews in Mammoth!

It was really inspiring to watch him analyze the route, work out the moves, and go for the send! Motivated and feeling sharp, I jumped on a pocket-pulling, tricky 10b called Pocket Pool, and to my surprise, flashed it right out of the sheets! Toward the top, this route rounded out to thin lip features and I found my arms lookin’ like salmon bellies as I clipped the chains. The dull pump felt really good and only had me craving more. With that, I tied back in and flashed a longer 10a called Craters, also loaded with silly pockets and thin plate-like features. It was a fine route that added to our already wonderful morning.

Next, we hiked down the sandy climbers trail, weaving in and out of brushy shrubs, over to an interesting 11a called Woodywhacker. This burly-lookin’ route turned out to be pretty cool. It started with round ledge-like features and finished with more small overhanging pockets. Unfortunately, this route went back and forth from solid rock to rotten rock, and although fun, it is no five star classic. Planning on only a half day due to high temperatures and blazing sunshine, we ended our morning here.  We said adios to Clark Canyon and took Vincent south, back on 395, right in to Mammoth Lakes. We’ve heard some good rumors and stories about the area and plan to tour the cozy mountain town, possibly hike around some lakes, try a sampler of Mammoth brews and enjoy a tasty dinner, and get lost in another phenomenal Sierra sunset.

Fresh is best.

Starting to reap the benefits of the growing season! YUM!

Cooking atop a bear locker at our free camp in Clark Canyon Campground.

Robyn rinsing off the dust from two days of crushing in Clark Canyon.

Sweet sunset or not, here’s hoping you have a very pleasant evening with a crisp brew in hand..

Favorite small brewery of California thus far. Only demerit is that you can’t fill a growler from another brewery. Reasoning was some blather about labeling…

Cheers.

A Wild Turn of Events

After a perfect night at our discrete snowpark camp near Echo Lake summit, we enjoyed coffee in the sun before heading out to climb at Berkley Camp. The real Berkley Camp is a camp for kids run by the city of Berkley during the summer months before the road closes for snow. The approach brings you past the main office, along some cabins and a basketball court before descending a steep hill to the base of the crag. A small selection of climbs offer varied routes up nice granite walls. A morning of climbing led us to a break in the shade at the base of the cliff for lunch. Munching quietly on our wraps we heard a jingle from above and looked up to see another climber threading his rope on the anchors next to ours. When he arrived  at the base we made the usual small talk – Where are you from? Names? Etc. This time however, after revealing that we were moving down from Alaska a huge smile crossed our new friends face. “Hey!” he said, “I am Chris Caylor’s friend!” all of the sudden a name leapt from my mouth and connected immediately to a face. “PHU! No way!” Phu is an old friend from Moscow and we have many mutual friends. The last summer we spent in Moscow Phu attended our weekly Moscow Dinner Train gatherings and we figured it had been over 5 years since we had seen each other. Phu was immediately a ball of energy wanting to show us around to his favorite climbs in the area. Before we knew it we were making plans to pack up for an evening session just 20 minutes down the road at Phantom Spires. “Heidi lives in the area you know? Let’s text her and see if she wants to climb with us!” In the years after Moscow it has been hard work to keep track of where all our friends ended up. Heidi was on the Vandal Snowboarding Team with me at U of I and was another friend I hadn’t seen since graduation in 2007.

The hardest 10c of the trip Salt Water Flush, at Berkley Camp.

Now this may not seem all that unlikely of an event but the obscurity of this little crag in the woods made it seem pretty damn improbable. This crag may get 4 visits a week, and our paths just happened to overlap. As we packed up we heard another party approach the top of the cliff and they started making small talk with Phu. Not too strange that they should know each other I thought, climbing communities are usually pretty tight knit. Then I heard Phu from the top of the crag, “You aren’t going to believe who is at the base of the cliff!” Astonished, I watched as Heidi came strolling up to the crag. Hugs all around. “You got Phu’s text!?” I asked. “What? Noooo…” “Wait. You mean you were coming to go climbing here before you heard from Phu?!” “Yeah!”

So to unimaginable odds, Robyn and I ran into 2 friends from Idaho in less than an hour whom we hadn’t seen in 5 years. This was no coincidence. We were supposed to all meet up, so to make the most of it we planned to meet after Phantom Spires for beers and a BBQ at Heidi’s house. We finished packing and followed Phu to his car as he excitedly described his favorite climb at Phantom, “Possibly the best 5.10 in Tahoe” he said.

Not 20 minutes later and the spires came into view on a steep hillside. Large blocks and spires projected from the ridge like scales in all directions. As we approached, the rock revealed itself in the evening sun. Well featured immaculate granite, but something was different. A closer look had our jaws dropping. We had never seen rock like this before. Blank slates of granite held the expected vertical crack systems, but also included basketball sized rocks (xenoliths as we learned from the Smith Guide) spaced perfectly up the pillars. Only a picture can really show their size, but halfway up our first route Candyland 5.10c Robyn was able to turn and sit down on one of the features amidst an otherwise tabletop smooth face.

The well named Phantom Spires. Look for the climbers in the foreground for scale.

Robyn on the amazing 5.10c Candyland.

The features on this route were hard to believe.

Ethan leading the 5.10d Candyass.

Inspired by the climbing on Candyland I set my sights on Candyass 5.10d, a nice sport route using similar features along the left side of the wall before reaching an airy topout traverse to the Candyland anchors. My lead was not only fun but rewarding as someone had left two draws near the top of the climb where it runs out to the summit ledge of the spire. Back in S. Lake Tahoe a BBQ and a lot of catching up were in order. We stopped to grab some food and beer at a market in Meyers and headed to Heidi’s house for some great food, beers and stories. Thanks for having us!

Phu, Ellie and Robyn enjoying the fine feast put on by Tai and Heidi.

The following morning Heidi, Phu, Robyn and I set out for Lover’s Leap. Considered one of the premiere multi-pitch trad crags in the country, The Leap was a must stop and another step up in our mental and technical trad skills. Phu had climbed several of the lines there and was a great guide to have for the day. In his mind there was only one way the day could go for first timers at The Leap – Surrealistic Pillar to Corrugation Corner. the Leap is separated into roughly three sections, the east, main, and lower walls. Surrealistic Pillar 5.7 ascends three-hundred feet up two long pitches to the summit of the lower buttress. Unreal granite stone crisscrossed with dikes (see picture for an idea) led to a nice stance below a crack. The second pitch is where it really gets wild. After 30 feet, an ill-protected traverse has you pulling around a corner and onto a runout 5.5 face which Phu calls the “dike hiking” section. It’s a good thing it’s a hike though since the last 100 feet is protected at the midway point by a girth-hitched horn.

Leapers Team 1

Leapers Team 2

The Main Wall at The Leap

The rock was certainly some of the coolest we have ever climbed.

Trad gear is pretty fun.

Phu leading the first pitch of Surrealistic Pillar.

Robyn on Surrealistic Pillar.

At the summit of the Lower Buttress and Surrealistic Pillar 5.7

From the summit of the lower buttress the day was really just getting underway. A short hike to the base of the main wall and we were treated with our first view of Corrugation Corner. I could describe the route but the guidebook does such a good job I will paraphrase.

“Corrugation Corner is one of the steepest granite 5.7′s anywhere. Instead of climbing the main corner the route often follows a horrendously exposed arête. The cruxes are 5.7 but psychologically they often feel much harder.”

Possibly the best route of our trip so far, Corrugation Corner 5.8. Look hard at the sharp right turn in the route toward the top. You can see a little dot of a lead climber in the traverse crux of the final pitch.

Robyn on the amazing 2nd pitch of Corrugation Corner.

Robyn on the final pitch of Corrugation Corner.

Heidi taking in the exposure as she tops out the main wall at Lovers Leap.

Final moves for the summit.

Phu in a 40 foot runout to the top.

Phu belaying up Heidi to end the day.

Sun going down, overlooking the east wall of Lovers Leap.

Robyn pondering the separation from her legs.

Stemming, jamming, and dike-hiking, this route has it all plus amazing exposure. The second pitch began with a 5.7 chimney to a hollow flake traverse to the base of a insanely exposed arête. The arête climbs past 3 ring bolts spaced at 20 foot intervals before crawling into an alcove for a belay. At the summit all four of us were all smiles as we took in the last few minutes of sunshine on a glorious sunny Sierra evening. Even the the walk off from the top was enjoyable, switchbacking through old growth and past rushing clear streams lined with granite boulders. Thanks to the hand of fate and some great friends, Lover’s Leap was certainly a highlight of our trip.

Refreshing and Free.

Thinking and writing creatively can often be tough. I learned a few tricks early on in college that helps me gather and organize my thoughts. Instead of typing, I went traditional. I used pen and paper to write most of this post, and although messy, it felt good to write, and scribble, and write some more.

This is how Rob's mind looks on paper.

Anyhoooooo……

After nearly three weeks sans shower, we finally took advantage of the pleasant morning away from climbing to scrub, shampoo, and lather up in a small creek just outside of Lake Tahoe. It was definitely not the ideal way to wake up; bathing in chilly creek water that undoubtedly carries icy melt water down the mountain side, but nonetheless, it was indeed: refreshing, much needed, and free (a huge attraction when living on a tight travel budget).

One of the most important kitchen items.

Morning coffee and creek bath aside, we tacked on another rest day and are hoping to meet up with Charlie, E’s longtime friend and co-counselor from New Jersey. If not, maybe we’ll make plans to grab a beer-sampler from one of Tahoe’s finest breweries, or snag a new 22oz-er to satiate our bellies (at least a tiny bit) while we make dinner, and then.. you guessed it… We’re off for more climbing!

Our climbing plans consist of a few fine and noteworthy items. 1) Locate sweet camp spot near crag and make said spot homey. 2) Find granite crag and climb inspiring routes until our fingers and bodies are tingling with tendery-soreness. 3) …is really a list of multiple happy things: eat good food, enjoy tasty beverages, laugh until our bellies ache, love life and each other, and live simply.

With our list established and agreed upon, we’ll kick off our new crag-travel-adventures by camping near Echo Lake and climbing some beautiful granite routes 30 minutes south of Lake Tahoe. Though small, only a six-pitch sport crag, this pit stop will provide us with the perfect break from driving and some afternoon exercise our minds and bodies desperately crave. According to our South Lake Tahoe Guide Book, these routes are “..all on great rock and are well-protected with bolts,” which in my mind translates to fine, granite roadside gems! We are thrilled!

In Vincent news, the handsome fella handles sneaky curves and bumpy back roads like a champ (gravel, broken pavement, or dirty loggin’ roads-he’s got it)! Speaking of champ, California finally stepped up to the plate and delivered some tasty brews from a smaller-scale brewery. Unlike Cali’s two major and fantastic breweries, Chico’s finest Sierra Nevada, and Sonoma County’s delicious Lagunitas, until today, the Golden State lacked tastefully zesty, small and local craft beers (at least according to our palates).

The Double Nut Brown Porter by Mammoth Brewing Company is super scrumptious and is tackling the deliciously small-California-craft brewery void, one beer at a time. Although we’ve only sampled one of their brews, it was phenomenal, and according to down-grader Davis-Etrain, “I’d stock my cellar with that!” And, if that statement weren’t enough to persuade you, maybe a tiny bit of background information will be just the ticket.

The Nut Brown Porter! Nice work Mammoth!

This jumbo beer is considered a ‘local’s favorite,’ and brewed at a high elevation of 8,000 feet. Mammoth has crafted this coffee-licious, chocolatey thick porter that will make your mouth sing. A special ingredient includes only the freshest alpine water from high atop the mighty Sierra! That said, we highly recommend you give this unique and delightful brew a try. You’ll fall in love…

Falling in love with our camp spot is not exactly what happened; however, it wasn’t too shabby, either. After settling in to a nice and cozy, back woods sno-park lot for the night and possibly the next day or so; inevitably, climbing talk is floating between us – ‘What routes do you want to get on first?’ or ‘Let’s work these routes and then project that one.’ So far, E has his sights set on a techy and bouldery 12b, while I hope to get more climbing mileage in on harder routes and more leading. It should be super fun and we’re stoked!

Camping in the sno-park near Echo Lakes above Tahoe.

Spicy black bean burgers with fixin's

Yippppppeeeeeeeeeeee!

WELCOME TO SQUALLYWOOD!

I’m gonna type the SHIT outta this!! (Please spend some quality time watching GNAR <here> to better understand that outburst and likely other allusions throughout this post.) Did we really just pass Squaw Valley? Whoa. It was one of those moments when our location seemed wild, surprising… unbelievable? Squaw and Tahoe, especially growing up as a consumer of all things Snowboarding, seems as much of a mythical place as Valdez did upon our first climb through Thompson Pass. We have entered a highly anticipated leg of the trip, which will take us south, down the Eastern Sierra via Truckee, Tahoe, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite and Bishop before cutting into Nevada on our way to Salt Lake. Through our combine travels we have very little or no experience with the Sierra, and honestly without the aid of our atlas I couldn’t tell you the closest town to our south, where the border with Nevada is or how Arizona fits into the picture.

Rolling into Truckee our minds shifted to a place to camp for the night. Climbing the scenic highway 40 to the top of historic Donner Pass we found our spot for the next few days under a lift line of the Donner Ski Ranch. In every direction deserted ski lifts stretched to summits dotted with north facing snowdrifts. Heading to town the first morning we came back with a spankin’ new guidebook titled Rockclimbs of North Tahoe and set out for granite climbing 101.

Morning sunshine streaming in the back of the bus at our Donner Ski Ranch camp.

In a nutshell Donner summit scared the living shit out of me on all but 2 climbs. Robyn and I are primarily sport climbers that frequent well-protected face climbs up featured rock. Our experience on granite is limited to only a few climbs at the City of Rocks in Idaho, and our crack climbing skills are nil. Donner’s ethic is still one of “the leader must not fall” and bolts are used only sparingly on un-protectable slab and fissure-less faces. Even though there are bolts, however, I felt they were more focused on keeping me from rolling down Donner Pass, and only mildly interested in keeping me from meeting the ground.

This climb took two weeks off my life. After skittering up the techy face I was about to lose it turning the arete onto the slab finish. Made in Japan 5.11a

The majority of our time at Donner was spent at Space Wall, a lesser-visited granite buttress hanging above highway 40 and overlooking the town of Truckee and Donner Lake to our East. The rock at Space Wall as with the other areas at Donner was stunningly beautiful. Solid, and well featured, the routes followed spaced bolts up an orange, white and black streaked wall. Robyn took to the granite quite well and after toproping Moonshadow 5.10d she sent it clean on her second lead attempt – Robyn’s hardest redpoint of the trip!  Before continuing south to Lake Tahoe we decided to check out one more crag in the area to get some more familiar sport climbing clip-up’s in. Big Chief is a sport crag located just outside Truckee along the rim of Truckee River Canyon. After Donner’s long runouts and insecure technical granite, Big Chief was a nice change of pace. Blobby looking turrets of volcanic rock protruded out of the ridgeline soaking in the afternoon sun and well traveled routes provided decent climbing and a good excuse to hang out in the peaceful forest for a couple days.

Vincent is hardcore. All this melted the following day but it snowed hard and piled up about two inches of fresh by morning. This was our camp while climbing at Big Chief.

And they have torpedo tall boys!

One morning on our way back to town from Big Chief we saw a bobcat cross right in front of us and then walk away slowly into the bushes not 35 yards away. For both of us this was an exciting first!

Back down from Big Chief we washed off Vincent, refilled our water and headed south to Lake Tahoe, another iconic destination of the west and I can see why. Mild temps, bountiful sunshine, green grass and large stands of trees surround the deep blue lake. We were fortunate to stumble upon some climbing near Emerald Cove and spent a relaxing two days exploring the water falls, and forest strewn with large granite blocks. One evening after a great day of climbing we brought a couple Sierra Nevada’s down to a perch beside Eagle Falls and sat soaking in the low angle sun as it cast orange light across the lake. With unending sunshine and cool temps we seem to have hit Tahoe during one of its most spectacular seasons.

Robyn along Eagle Falls, Emerald Cove. Did I mention Sierra Nevada's in a CAN!?

Spending an incredible afternoon with Robyn at Eagle Falls overlooking Lake Tahoe.

A beautiful old snag near Eagle Falls.

Upper Eagle Falls.

This place was gushing clear water around polished granite leading down to Lake Tahoe.

Prepping a dinner of mac & cheese, chicken sausage, sautéed onions and green beans.

The only shot we got of Mayhem Cove. Two really awesome routes behind me were some of the best of the trip!

The parking at Emerald Cove. We stayed here two nights to explore Eagle Falls, and to climb at Mayhem Cove.

Unfortunately the opportunities to enjoy the lake are hampered by the string of private property and infrequent public beach access points (for a fee of course). The popularity of this area seems to create a local need to protect what’s theirs with ever bigger fences, locked gates and larger and LARGER “NO TRESPASSING” signs.  This poses a problem for Vincent as well. He only wants to find a nice grassy pullout to rest his wheels, but even the National Forest land is dotted with private property and gates, no parking and no trespassing signs. Even when we finally did find a place to park for the night, a disgruntled camp host (out of his jurisdiction I might add) grumpily shooed us away. Here are my late night ramblings after that event:

In the book The Giver by Lois Lowry there are certain infractions of the rules of the community that are more serious than others. For instance, teaching a “seven” (seven year old) to ride a bike before the community gives him/her one at the age of nine is almost expected. Even in this dictatorship of a community, which leaves no flexibility to express ones individuality, petty rules such as this are almost planted there to bent. Now Robyn and I are by no means habitual rule breakers but we are “dogs must be on leash at all times” rule benders.  Even so, in most cases a rule bender is actually the one to ask for a literal interpretation of the law being bent. Such was my urge when a power tripping campground host knocked on our door at 9:30PM telling us we couldn’t camp where we were and by the number of times he mentioned it, calling the Sherriff would be his pleasure. The words “dispersal camping” along with the simple facts that we were out of his campground, in forest service land, and nowhere was there posted a “no camping” ban for this area seemed to fall on deaf ears. I feel that I have been around long enough now to know that a person’s demeanor is in large part due to his surrounding and upbringing. Lets just hope this camp host is from Alabama and doesn’t taint my impression of Tahoe natives.

As it turns out, although he couldn’t give us a reason why, he was correct in telling us we couldn’t camp there. Apparently the entire Tahoe Basin is closed to camping, National Forest or not. Of course a minor setback such as this one simply allowed us to explore a little further down the road, and sit this morning along a beautiful creek in a grassy meadow. The sun beaming through the open sliding door as I sipped my coffee and laughed at Robyn prancing about trying to dry off after a brisk (probably an understatement) bathing session in the stream. Blips like the disgruntled camp host are just that – blips.  It reminds me to keep the big picture in mind, and appreciate the enormity of the adventure we are on.

A great Volkswagen-Dog combo. Someday we will have a similar match.

This afternoon we are meeting with an old friend I met through YMCA camp in New Jersey. Way back when (2004) I hitched along with Mary for a summer working at a camp called Fairview Lake. I was a co-counselor with Charlie that summer and haven’t seen him since. Through the wonders of Facebook we will be getting the grand tour over the next couple days. Charlie lives in Reno but grew up in Truckee and promised to show us some bouldering and hidden beaches on the lake. What a treat! Speaking of treats, it’s my turn for a dip. So here’s to big adventures, lasting friendships and sharing both with the people you love.

Shasta and Castle Crags

The road to Shasta climbed and fell and then climbed again as we passed through the Trinity National Forest and along several coastal rivers. In one last attention grabbing finale the 7% grade down to Whiskeytown (an actual place, not just a state of mind) pitched and banked it’s way down a dizzying 9 mile stretch with back-to-back 20 mph curves. This along with the twisty descent from Trinity Aretes left Robyn feeling like a 12 year old after riding The Zipper for the 14th time at the state fair. We took a breather at a campground  along the road, had a snack, and finished out our stint on the 299 to Redding.

Redding is at the junction of 299 and I-5. It’s unfortunate we didn’t really get to head into town because the junction of these two roads produced a kind of human that was less than enjoyable to be around. We high tailed it north as quick as possible and arrived along the shore of Lake Shasta by lunch time. Being the weekend you can imagine the mad house we found but who can blame them. It was a perfect 75F in the shade and warm enough to swim in the sun. House boats were moored in strings 60 boats long, and the lake glowed an emerald green right up to the red sand beaches…

First impressions likely get more weight in forming opinions then they deserve, regardless Mt. Shasta both mountain and town were aglow in the low evening light as we arrived. Mt Shasta towers above its surroundings at an elevation of 14,180 ft. The streets of town were well taken care of, and quaint homes lined the streets full of happy residents walking dogs and enjoying outdoor seating at one of several eateries and pubs along the main drag. We spent 3 great nights in Mt. Shasta, taking time to scope rentals, job listings and nearby towns. We have long singled out Mt. Shasta as a possible ending town for our trip as it is one of the few western towns to provide an avalanche center in which I could land a forecasting position. This, along with its charm, and proximity to mountains, rivers, lakes and climbing have elevated Mt. Shasta as the place to beat.

We spent two nights at this spot just minutes from downtown.

Enjoying outdoor seating and happy hour at The Goat. We tried one of Mt. Shasta Brewing Companies beers on tap "Weed Ale" and it was quite good!

I got a hold of Nick, a forecaster at the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and went in one morning to get a feel for the office and any opportunities they may have to incorporate me into the fold for next season. The reception I got was very welcoming but of course the story of the center (as with most these days) was a lack of funding. They currently have 2 unfilled full time positions open but money is no guarantee. In the end we agreed that if Shasta was our final choice of where to live they would be happy to work on building a position and find funding. Odds are that it will be mostly volunteer to start, but the opportunity to work in the system will be a valuable resume builder. We also drove a few miles north to the nearby town of Weed, CA home to the College of the Siskious. School was out for the summer, but the college was very charming perched among large trees and a welcoming green lawn. With the college only minutes away, and two small communities to provide options for work, Robyn will have several options to pursue for employment.

Reading in the morning sun.

Walking the streets of beautiful Mt. Shasta.

So. Town is charming? Check. Career opportunities? Check. Good skiing? Check. What about climbing?

Well my internet searches before visiting we’re coming back slim, and this seemed as if it could be the only downfall of the area. Enter Styles, the owner of a gear shop called Base Camp. Styles enthusiastically debunked the myth that climbing was scarce. He pulled out a guidebook he was currently working on and proceeded to show us a few areas within 2 hours that boasted well over 300 routes. There was basalt rimrock, overhanging pump-fest limestone and the iconic skyline of Castle Crags Wilderness dotted with adventurous granite domes. To get a taste of something different we decided to check out Castle Crags, our eyes set on the objective of climbing Mt. Hubris (aka the Ogre) via the 6 pitch 5.6 route Cosmic Wall.

Hand drawn map in hand we loaded our packs with trad gear and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail climbing 3,000 feet in about 4 miles before rounding a bend and laying eyes on the crags. Before leaving the trailhead Nick from the avalanche center invited us to dinner, and since it was already 3:30 PM or so we decided to scramble atop some of the rocks to get a view and to verify that we were in fact on the correct trail before stashing our gear and planning to return in the morning.

Castle Dome

Beautiful views of Mt. Shasta can be found nearly everywhere around this area.

Back in town, we got a hold of Nick and met him at his cool little home halfway between Shasta and Weed. We enjoyed a great BBQ on the back patio and met his wife Hany (sorry if that is spelled wrong..) as well as a handful of friends that all came to enjoy the evening with us. A few of his friends were guides on Mt. Shasta and others worked for the forest service and all seemed to be down to earth great people. It’s funny too, that all the people I really got to talk to in Mt. Shasta spoke of how great the recreation was without having the “scene” of the more popular destinations. This is something Robyn and I are looking for as well, a great location without the mass influx of tourism and glam. That evening we parked the bus in Nick and Hany’s driveway and planned an early rise for our trek back to Castle Crags. Thanks a ton to Nick, Hany, Drew and Drew, Paula and Brett for entertaining us! Shasta is certainly the location to beat in our search for a new home.

Back to the crags and stashed gear, we lugged up the final ridge line to Mt. Hubris and bushwhacked our way to the descent gully. Here we left our packs full of anything we wouldn’t need on our route, pulled on our harnesses, racked up, lathered on some sun screen and scrambled to the base of the Cosmic Wall. For us, the Cosmic Wall represented a huge leap forward in our climbing skills. Placing gear, route finding and packing for a day on the wall is much different than our average single pitch crag day. Most documents show the Cosmic Wall as a 6 pitch route, but others suggest 5 with some simul-climbing to eliminate a pitch and hanging belay. Simul-climbing is when the leader and second climb simultaneously. The leader places the gear and the second cleans it, all at the same time rather than the leader climbing to a belay, stopping and belaying the second up. If done safely and correctly simul-climbing can save enormous amounts of time. Robyn and I gave this technique a go and were able to stretch the first and third pitches to 200 ft each allowing a more natural belay ledge at the end of each. Although the entire route was amazing, the 4th and 5th pitches certainly standout in my mind. Pitch 4 was straight vertical following a juggy flake system that ate mid-size cams and led to the final belay notch. The final knife ridge was the most exposed climbing we have ever done. It was quite literally a knife ridge. Hands on the ridge and feet on either side. Placing gear as I went it was a dizzying feeling to reach down near my feet to clip as several hundred feet of exposure fell away on either side. Snapping some photos at the summit, signing the summit register and taking in the views of Shasta and the massive spires of granite to our West was a great feeling we will never forget. All in all, the day was a big one. we left the car at 8:00 AM hiked for 3 hours, stayed on route (including a leisurely lunch at the top of the 3rd pitch) for 5 hours and returned to Vincent at 7:00 PM. Including the previous day we hiked 16 miles gaining more than 6,000 ft.

Top of the first pitch on the Cosmic Wall.

Robyn mid route on the Cosmic Wall.

Basking in the exposure of the summit.

Topping out the final pitch!!

Nearly 6 months to the day after losing 19% of my body weight to Type 1 Diabetes I am back on top! Robyn and I learn a bit every day. I couldn't do it without her!

Robyn filling out the summit log.

Our route to the summit of Mt. Hubris via Cosmic Wall 5.6

A great achievement and a wonderful feeling to share together. Summit of Mt. Hubris.

From the Summit of Mt. Hubris the crags extend on and on to the West.

Our time in Mt. Shasta was amazing. We enjoyed perfect sunny skies, friendly faces, a wild adventure climb and some quality rest days as well. Currently I am sitting in front of the Truckee Library and we plan to climb some hard granite at Donner Summit this afternoon to prep us for Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows. We wanted to stop at Mt. Lassen National Park but it was still closed due to snow :( I forget that the mountains around here are pretty high elevation. Mt Lassen is over 10,000 ft and there is still a good amount of snow above 8 or 9,000 at this point despite the low snow season in the Sierra. That’s all for now, Robyn is itching to get back on her route Moon Shadow 5.10d - here’s hoping the next post reports a send!