Monday, June 28, 2010

Rest and Recovery

We spent our last day in Bishop bouldering at the Sads, and it was a sad day indeed. Both because were were about to leave and also because we could barely climb anything. We had been regularly climbing 3 or 4 days in a row between rest days and it was taking it's toll. We needed a break.

Luckily Kristal had already planned to fly home for the next weekend, so I took the opportunity to visit my friend Carol in San Diego. Most of my days were spent at the beach, enjoying the balmy weather. Life was rough.

Here's Carol running on the beach with their new puppy Beau.

Two random surfers making the most of the last bit of daylight.

We went kayaking on the ocean one day. Did I mention how rough life was.

Watching the cormorants diving for fish was pretty cool. I managed to snag of pic of one of them in mid dive.

I could definitely relate to the seals, lying around in the sun all day.

Kristal on the other hand had the pleasure of dealing with cancelled flights and sleeping in the airport in Chicago on the way home. I felt bad for her so when she returned we decided to take an extra day off so she could also enjoy some beach time. We drove up the coast through Los Angeles and spent a night camping outside of Malibu.

Here's a couple of stand up paddle boarders cruising on by.

Kristal enjoying a nice walk on the beach.

In the end we took 8 much needed days off. Refreshed and rejuvenated we were ready to get back on the rock. Next stop, somewhere in the High Sierras.......

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Projects, Revelations and Classics


We spent two and half weeks in Bishop, mostly bouldering. It was nice to be in one place for so long (well, relative to all our other stops) because it gave us an opportunity to work on some problems for more than a day. Up until now we never really had a chance to have projects. If a problem didn't go on it's first few attempts, well, it would have to wait for the next trip.

Here's me throwing for the final hold on Iron Man V4. I gave this a go on each visit to the Buttermilks until it went on the third day.

After a few visits to the Happy's, Kristal managed to snag her first V5, Son of Claudius Rufus, below.


At the Catacombs we became enlightened in the art of arete climbing on The Church of the Lost and Found. Here I am on the right side of the arete, which goes at V1.

Climbing on the left side of the arete goes at V3. Throughout the entire trip, we'd been a bit stymied with aretes, and after a few pathetic attempts on the left side I thought the trend would continue. Then Kristal busted out with one of her occasional bits of beta wisdom, 'just start with the high right foot'. Boom, sent on the next attempt.


There are many (many!) amazing problems in Bishop. We spent a lot of the time chasing down problems that were highly rated in the guidebook....

Heavenly Path V1, an awesome featured slab with a little bit of height to spice things up.

Birthday Skyline V3, one of several awesome problems on the Birthday boulders.

Kristal after climbing Monkey Dihedral V2, contemplating the downclimb. Always make sure you know how to get down!

Here's me on one of the many nice problems on the Five and Dime boulder.

Kristal on an unnamed, easy slab, still super fun despite it's anonymity.

By the end of our stay in Bishop, we were pretty much climbed out. We'd been climbing pretty hard for the last two and a half months and the accumulated fatigue was starting to take it's toll. We were in need of a break. Next up, a week at the beach....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Quest for Better Friction

In addition to the sheer quantity of bouldering, the variety of climbing available around Bishop is stunning. This is helped in large part by the differing rock types available to climb on. Although not the prettiest rock to look at, the Volcanic Tuff of the Happies, Sads and areas on the Sherwin Plateau provide endless types of holds to crank on.

At the Happies, here is Kristal exercising the full extend of her reach on the aptly named, and super fun, Slap Happy V3.

At the Sads, me desperately reaching for a crimp on Water Colors V7.

At the Catacombs on the Sherwin Plateau, Kristal on Todd's New Standard V4, one of the many pocketed problems in the area.

The Quartz Monzonite of the Buttermilks is entirely different. When we first drove up we looked at each other and said, 'Cool, we're back in Joshua Tree' and although the formations aren't as large or numerous, the rock type and bouldering style is the same. Translating to: have fun climbing anything in the heat.

Here's me demonstrating the first move of Buttermilk Stem V1 as Phil looks on.

We had a few days of really nice temperatures, but also managed to hit a few days that pushed over 100 F in Bishop itself. We employed several strategies to beat the heat of the day, the most obvious one being evening and early morning sessions. Those that knew my schedule in my working days might be surprise to know that yes, I can get out of bed around 5am.

Here's Kristal in the Buttermilks racing the rising sun on Birthday Direct V3.

The differing elevations of the various areas, ranging from 4000 ft to 8500 ft also meant we could escape to higher elevations. Here Kristal is bearing down on one of the micro crimps of Dude V9 in Rock Creek, guaranteed to beat the heat at 8500 ft.

We also spent a couple of days sport climbing in Owens River Gorge, where the cliffs in the shade offered a cool escape from the sun.

Visiting Bishop in the summer has many advantages, unfortunately good friction isn't one of them. If you are interested in having an awesome time, come any time of the year. If you are interested in bouldering hard, you'd best come in the winter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bishop, California

Alright, I’m just going to throw it out there. Bishop, California is a boulderer’s paradise.

First off, we snagged an awesome campsite right beside the Owen’s River. After a solid month in the desert, we were both pretty stoked to go swimming, despite the fact the water is only slightly above freezing. Here’s a pic of Jason trying to muster up the nerve to submerge himself.

As an added bonus, our neighbors left us a bit of firewood.

The awesomness of our campsite is only slightly marred by the pair of raccoons that terrorize us on a nightly basis. They rummage around, steal food and leave muddy tracks on the windshield. And at one point I woke up and looked out the window to find a raccoon trying to pull the tent down. So not impressed.

The surrounding area is spectacular as well. Bishop is nestled in a valley encircled by snow-capped mountains and the weather patterns in the Sierras seem to provide unusual sunsets.

A little searching can lead to some beautiful hidden spots. Our friend Phil found the perfect hangout near his campsite right near the Buttermilks: a waterfall, sandy beach and shady grove in a slot canyon.

If beautiful scenery, nice camping and convenient amenities aren’t enough to make a great climbing destination, after a long day climbing I’m pretty sure nothing is better than a soak in a hot spring.

Oh, yeah, and the climbing is pretty good too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

We didn't spend a lot of time bouldering in Red Rocks due to my manky ankle. Climbing on it was fine, but I wasn't going to aggravate it with any more awkward falls. It wasn't much of a loss anyway. Although there is some good bouldering to be found, it pales in comparison to the epic trad climbing.

We checked out a couple of the many small bouldering areas spread throughout the area, but most of our effort was spent at the Kraft Boulders in Calico Basin. Here's me on the Poker Chips V0, a super fun jug haul.

And here's me getting set for the big move to the jug on one of the classics of the area, The Pearl V4.

In total we spent 11 days in Red Rocks, and got on some incredible multi-pitch trad lines. By far the tallest routes I have ever climbed, with some awesome feelings of exposure. I remember being terrified at the top of the first pitch of some nondescript trad route last year at the Gunks in New York. I look forward to going back sometime to see if anything has changed.

As much fun as the climbing was in Red Rocks we had to press on. Next up - Bishop, California - Bouldering Mecca. We've actually already been in Bishop for 2 weeks, and I've finally caught the blog up to where we actually are. I won't say much now other than this place is incredible. Here's a teaser, our new friend Phil and I getting ready to crush Iron Man V4 in the Buttermilks, with the Eastern Sierras in the background.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marvels, Mankles, Wind and Snow


Thanks to friends of Kristal's, we had vouchers for 2 free nights at the Paris hotel on the strip. After a few days of camping outside the city we decided to move into town and take a rest day. After a month and a half on the road it was pretty awesome to sleep in a bed and have unlimited showers. I must of had 4 showers in the 2 days we were there. We decided to live it up a little and take in a show, and snagged some cheap tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Vegas grew tiresome pretty quickly though (aside from the awesome amenities). With it's overpriced food, over the top atmosphere, and hoards of tourists it wasn't long before I was itching to escape the madness.

Las Vegas, City of Wind

We thought we learned what windy meant when we were in Hueco, but Red Rocks taught us differently. On the night after our stay on the strip we headed back to the campground to set up again. To say it was windy was a bit of an understatement. I had set up our little tent in Hueco while it was windy so I knew the drill - stake out the tent first, then put the poles and the fly on. The wind had other ideas. By the time we had it mostly set up all of the stakes had been pulled from the ground and two of the tent poles were bent. We barely managed to take it back down without getting blown away. We slept in the car that night.

For most of our stay it was too windy to comfortably hang out outside. Here is Kristal preparing dinner in our makeshift kitchen in the car.

The Quest for Pho

Those that climb with us in Ottawa know that we regularly head for Pho after a session in the gym. Like, multiple times a week. Needless to say we were pretty excited to find a Pho restaurant on the strip while we were there. We new it would be overpriced, but we didn't care, we hadn't had Pho since we left! Unfortunately, as with most things in Vegas, it was a cheap imitation of the original. The rice wraps had obviously been sitting in a fridge all day, the bean sprouts were old and soggy, the 'rare' beef was tough and overcooked and the soup itself was adequate at best. It was so disappointing that at our first opportunity we found out where Chinatown was, drove back into town the next day and had some excellent Pho at a nice little restaurant. Half the price, but ten times as good.

Engineering Marvels

On our last day at Joshua Tree I managed to roll my ankle pretty badly dropping off one of the few problems there that had a crappy landing. Although it has mostly healed it has now been termed a Mankle (Manky Ankle) by Kristal. We took an extra rest day after arriving in Vegas to give it a break and visited the Hoover Dam. Kristal was quite amused at how excited I was to see a big lump of concrete, but seriously, it is awesome. The pictures don't do the scale justice.

The two east water intake towers. You can also see the high watermark of the lake.

The west spillway.

The west spillway drainage tunnel. 50 feet in diameter! Awesome.

Inclement Weather

We had our first rain day in over a month while at Red Rocks. That brings the grand total up to 3 in the first two months of the trip. It will be hard to go back home, where rain is a regular occurrence.

There's a storm a brewing.

Yes, this is snow.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Winds of Change

The early part of our trip was heavily loaded with bouldering. At Joshua Tree that started to change, as the trad climbing is incredible. Kristal was chomping at the bit to get on some awesome crack climbs.

One of the awesome things about Joshua Tree is the amount of climbing (and bouldering) that can be found right in the Hidden Valley campground. Here is Kristal just after we climbed Hands Off 5.8. You can see our tent in the lower left.

Here's me at the top of Hemmingway Buttress, just after we climbed Feltonian Physics 5.8, one of the many incredible climbs on this face.

Kristal excercising some creative rope management techniques, preparing for the rap down after climbing Double Dogleg 5.7.

We spent 10 days in Joshua Tree, our longest stay at any destination yet. We could have easily stayed longer, but more desert destinations awaited, and the temperatures were steadily rising. The next stop was Red Rocks, just outside of Las Vegas, another trad climbing playground with incredible multipitch routes.

The first one we got on was Birdland 5.7 (6 pitches, 560 feet). Here's me on the awesome 5th pitch.

Me just before my first trad lead of the trip, on Physical Grafitti 5.6 (2 pitches, 310 feet).

And here's a shot from the top of the awesome climb Frogland 5.8 (6 pitches, 770 feet), with Las Vegas in the background.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park - Part 2 - Life

Unlike a lot of the desert we encountered on our way here, and even the areas immediately surrounding it, Joshua Tree is beautiful. The cool rock formations dot the landscape like islands in the sea.

The desert plants are in full bloom.

Hummingbirds flit about, and ground squirrels terrorize the campers. Seriously, these little guys are relentless, and have unfortunately adapted to gnawing through all manner of containers to get to food and water.

And of course Joshua Trees themselves have got to be about the coolest looking tree I've ever seen, like some strange creature from a Dr. Suess story.

Evidence of the people that passed here before is all over the place. Pictographs, petroglyphs and grinding holes are easily found for anyone that cares to look. By the end of our stay we would pop into every cave we encountered, excited to catch a glimpse of the past. Super cool.