Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ups and Downs

We've been in Bishop now for just over two weeks, yet the end is still not in sight.  In some ways it is tempting to move on.  The long trad routes and warmer temps at Red Rocks beckon to us, but the list of problems we want to get on here seems to just keep growing!  There are so many awesome boulder problems here, it is easy to see why this is one of our favourite destinations.

In the last week we've had some ups and downs.  Our Ottawa crew lost a member, as Kelly's time with us sadly came to an end.  She flew back home to Ottawa a few days ago, but not before dispatching her hardest send here: Carrot Top, V3.

While working some problems in the area, we saw what has been the cutest scene of the entire trip.  A father was out bouldering with his kids, one of which was his tiny daughter, seen here making short work of what to us is a nice warmup problem.  To her it must feel like a ridiculous highball!

Kristal and I made another trip up to the awesome natural hot springs.  Thanks to the snowfall from the last storm she was able to put her cross country skis to use and make short work of the approach.

The views up there are pretty stunning.

We got on some more excellent problems, one of the most striking being Atari, V6.  It's got a pretty spicy landing, which makes the moves a bit exhilarating.  Here I am working on it (photo courtesy of Kelly).

Phil and JM spent more time working one of their projects, the excellent Soul Slinger, V9.  Here is Phil on the opening moves.

While the rest of the gang look on.

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago another storm system blew in, bringing more rain, snow and cold temperatures.

It chased us back into the motel for a couple of nights, but the next few days are looking good.  After two days off we are rested up again and good to go.  Can't wait to get back on the rock!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Since our last post, it's gotten pretty chilly here.

Instead of suffering through cold weather camping, we've all splurged and moved into a motel (at least temporarily). I'm thoroughly enjoying life on the inside; internet, movies, digital monopoly and daily hot showers are such a luxury!

Despite a couple of snow storms, the bouldering has still been pretty great. Jason and I and the crew from Ottawa have spent a couple days in the Happys, working on projects and enjoying some easy high stuff. Here I am on Althea, V0.

Our friend Chance, trad climbing master, novice boulderer, also joined us. He seems to have taken to the bouldering pretty well; we even caught him brushing holds (photo courtesy of Kelly).

Today, we decided to brave the snow and head up to the Buttermilks. All the north facing problems were covered in snow and ice, but we still got on some great lines. Here's Phil on Saigon, V6:

 Kelly, mastering her highball skills on the Sunshine Boulder.

 Jason, showing us how friction slab is done on Yo! Basecamp, V0+.

 Me, on the painful crimps of the Leary Bard Arete, V5.

And JM working the moves on Bubba Gump, V10, while Karl spots attentively.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back in Bishop

The drive from Joshua Tree to Bishop was highlighted by an unexpected supper in the small town of Ridgecrest.  As we were driving through, looking for some acceptable form of fast food, Kristal spied a Vietnamese restaurant out of the corner of her eye.  Glorious Pho!  It didn't compare to back home, but we gave it a solid 3 stars, which seemed perfectly acceptable for being in the middle of nowhere in the desert.

Upon arriving in Bishop it was awesome to see our friends from Ottawa who were already down here.  In many ways it feels a lot like we are just going out for local bouldering sessions back home, but we are in California!  Pretty cool.  In addition to providing a welcome increase in the social aspect of our sessions, the additional pads and spotters makes jumping on many problems much more comfortable.  Here is Karl, JM and Phil chilling out and enjoying the sun with Kristal.

Here is JM sending Molly, V5.

And Karl working through the low pockets of the same problem.

Here is Phil working the moves of Pow Pow, V8, which he made short work of during his next session on it.

A few days ago Kelly also flew in, to join in the fun for a couple of weeks.

The surrounding mountains are much more snow covered than they were during our visit last June.  Here is Kristal standing atop the Golden boulder after climbing an unnamed V1.

One big difference we noticed since our last visit is that many of the highball problems don't actually seem that high to us anymore.  On our last day in the Buttermilks last year we looked at The Hunk, V2, but didn't have the nerve to try it.  Here is Kristal making short work of the 20+ foot problem, despite the not so attentive spotting techniques of JM.

The weather has been awesome, up until yesterday at least, when a storm blew through and dumped a bunch of rain.  The forecast for the next few days isn't looking much better, as another storm system is on its way.  Hopefully will we be able to get a decent session in tomorrow before the next round of precipitation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leaving Joshua Tree

Today was our last day at Joshua Tree.  Another week has gone by with more awesome climbing and bouldering.  We've pushed some of our climbing limits, and sent several boulder projects from last year.  Despite some chilly evenings, and some windy days, the weather has been pretty awesome.  Kristal's parents showed up a few days ago and once again joined in the fun.  I'll let the pictures do most of the talking...

Me leading Sail Away, 5.8-.

Kristal's dad Lyle, following Kristal up Toe Jam, 5.7.

Lyle has just started leading trad, and here he is on his first trad lead, Beginner's Two, 5.2.

We climbed it as two parties of two.  Here is Kristal leading it, being belayed by her mom.

Kristal on Junior, V0-.

Me on Piano Rock Crack, also V0-.

During one outing into the back country we found some cool gourds, and a LOT of tics, all over the place.  Most of the gourds were already dried up and hollowed out, but we did find a few still in one piece.  It was pretty strange finding these in the desert.

It's always hard to leave amazing destinations like Joshua Tree, but the time has come.  Tomorrow we leave for Bishop, where friends from Ottawa are already cranking hard.  We can't wait to join them!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Return to Joshua Tree

We've been in Joshua Tree for a week now.

The last time we were here was way back in May of last year.  Back then the summer heat was already creeping in.  Climbing in the sun was unthinkable, and getting up anything requiring friction seemed impossible.  With that in mind, we were pretty excited to return during a season with more favourable climbing conditions.

Here I am frictioning my way up South Corner, V0, a compression slab problem with no holds.  This would have been impossible for us on our last visit.

Climbing in the sun is now comfortable, and often required when the days are chilly and the wind picks up.  Here is Kristal on the first pitch of Mental Physics, 5.7+.  It climbed a super cool hand crack, which ended at the top of the first pitch.  Pitch two continued with 80 feet of unprotected slabby face climbing with 1 bolt.  Spicy!

And here she is at the top.

Although most of the routes here are single pitch, we've been seeking out multi-pitch climbs to jump on.  One such climb was Dappled Mare, 5.8, 3 pitches, which we climbed during a pretty warm day.  Despite it being the end of January we still got a bit of that baking in the sun feeling.  Here is Kristal about to embark on the third pitch.

One of the advantages of being here during the on season is that we meet a lot of other climbing bums doing the 'circuit'.  We met Chance in Cochise Stronghold, and he showed up at Joshua Tree shortly after we did.  He was nice enough to join us for a couple of days and be our rope gun.  Here he is leading Tumbling Rainbow, 5.9.

In addition to being a super cool dude he's a pretty strong climber, so led a number of harder climbs for us to follow.  Here is Kristal nearing the top of one burly fist crack he lead, Fisticuffs, 5.10b.

So far we've spent 4 days climbing and 2 days bouldering.  It's been fun jumping on problems we tried last time and seeing what a difference the conditions make.  Which of course varies depending on the type of problem.  Here I am at the top of our favourite off-width boulder problem, Hobbit Hole Offwidth, V0-, which still felt as burly as last time we were here.

One disadvantage of being here in the winter is that it can get pretty cold.  Here is Kristal taking a break from bouldering in a makeshift crash pad tent.

Today for example, we are taking a rest day, because the high is 4 degrees Celsius and the gusts are up to 50 km/h.  Not comfortable climbing conditions, even in the sun.  Thankfully the forecast is looking more favorable.  Can't wait to get back on the rock!