Monday, November 28, 2011

Ice Climbing, Lee Vining CA

 Approach: Heinous. Ice: In, but thin in most places. Beta & Pics below provided by Dale Apgar.

 Dale Climbing this weekend  Photo Credit: Bryan Tucker

Friday, November 18, 2011

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas Rock Climbing

Red Rock Sunrise.  Chad B. Photo
How did you get into rock climbing?  How about alpine climbing?  Which came first?  Seems as though the answer to those questions for most people falls into one of two categories.   If you start out rock climbing, the photos and stories you are exposed to romanticize alpine climbing.  That romantic view is inspiring, we can't deny that.  On the other hand, if you start out trekking through the mountains, seeking high and beautiful peaks, eventually you will come upon some terrain that requires some technical know-how.  Acquiring the body of knowledge and experience that technical terrain requires can be quite a journey.  Modern, accessible rock climbing forms the foundation of the entire body of technical skills.  Chad, a die-hard mountaineer, fits solidly in this latter category.  The mountains inspire Chad.  Hiking or scrambling.  Well-known peaks or the more obscure.  High mountains or shorter.  Chad digs them all.  This past summer Chad and I encountered a fair amount of more technical terrain in the High Sierra.  
Hiking to the Brass Wall.  Chad B. Photo

Chad is self-aware, motivated and organized.  He saw the challenge (acquiring technical climbing skills), discovered the opportunity (our November Red Rock trip), and executed (3 days in Red Rock, a combo of technical training and big mileage).  Setting quite an example of focus and fun, Chad has it figured out.  Chad has big aspirations, but enjoys every moment of even the most mundane "training".  We weren't "training for the ultimate training day".  We were just out doing it with a bit of an agenda.

As for the agenda...  Day 1 we hit the Brass Wall in Pine Creek for some top-rope mileage and movement skills.

Day 2 was rope-geeking in Calico Basin.  We dialed in up-travel transitions and some improvised ascension practice.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Calico Basin.  Chad B. Photo

Upper Solar Slab.  J. Porter Photo

The third day we raced the loop road and a particularly fast crowd of accomplished climbers to, and then up, Solar Slab.  I'm pretty sure Solar Slab in its entirety is my favorite route in Red Rock.  Just thousands of feet of beautiful, sustained moderate climbing.  Yee Haw!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Glen Plake & Howie Schwartz Ski Black Divide

Journey to the Black Divide- Part One

UIAGM Ski and Mountain Guide, Howie Schwartz and professional skiing ambassador, Glen Plake get together for some adventure skiing in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, California, in search of "probable" first descents.

Part 1 features a discussion on tips for setting up a successful multiday ski mountaineering tour in the Sierra. Supported by Outdoor Research, Sierra Mountain Guides, and Sage to Summit.

Stay tuned, part 2 coming out soon.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Late Season Climbing in the Owens Valley- Rocks!

In late fall, I hear alpinist and skier types complain when the first snows of the season start to stick to the mountainsides. Hopes for one more high altitude rock climb before the end of season are dashed, and impatience for the backcountry skiing sets in during this hiatus from the high country. These addictions can only be fed by wallowing on talus covered in 10 inches of faceted snow, generally alone (since you are the only one who thinks this sounds fun) or perhaps Mammoth Mountain opens one meandering white ribbon of death upon which you can be entertained for a good 45 minutes just to claim you skied in November this year. It seems rare that this 'tween season is very long in the Eastern Sierra. As excited to ski as I always am, I still sometimes find myself wishing it was longer.
 Trish in Alabama Hills; Photo Credit: Weston Walker

The 'tween season forces us to capitalize on the best of what we have way down near the bottom of the Owens Valley. There is perhaps no better place and time for rock climbing than the Eastern Sierra in late fall. I was just down in the Owens River Gorge yesterday discussing this with a British couple, when one of them said, "You don't have to explain it to us. Last Fall we accidentally spent a month here!" I have heard international climbers proudly proclaim such statements without shadow of doubt as, "We will be climbing in Bishop every Fall for the rest of our lives," and "As far as I am concerned, the Buttermilks are hands down the best bouldering venue in the world." Legendary masters of stone such as Peter Croft, Lisa Rands, Chris Sharma, Doug Robinson, John Fischer, Bob Harrington, and many others have made their homes here, either for a good while or more permanently. Croft points out, "Bishop has more climbable weather days than any major climbing venue in the country." He is right. Even J-Tree and Red Rock are more often either too hot or too cold throughout the year. There are literally thousands of accessible sport, trad, and mixed routes in the Valley, plus more bouldering problems than you can hang on in a lifetime, on multiple rock types. Bishop is a hard place for a rock climber to get bored, and an easy place to stay strong all year without having to pull on plastic.
Climbing in the Owens River Gorge

That's cool if you are more concerned with keeping up with the jonesers on Mammoth Mountain this Fall, or perhaps donning those ripped, nylon, knee-high gaiters you still have from before the advent of soft shell pants. On the other hand, don't obsess so much that you forget to take advantage of the season when we can, without missing a great day of snowsports, put on a T-shirt and bask in the sun on a desert boulder or sparkling granite wall, or feel the pumpy burn that hurts so good on a steep, pocketed wall of welded tuff. This time of year, with the sun relatively low in the sky, and the dusting of snow on the foreground Sierra peaks, the world of rocks and mountains sparkle with the colors of the Earth and the warmest hues of sunlight. It reminds you how inspiring life is and how lucky we are to be able to commune with nature as we do.
Peter Croft in the Buttermilks

If you are thinking of a rock climbing weekend getaway while you wait for the snow, give us a call or shoot us an email. Peter Croft is going to be leading some very special winter climbing events this year! And we are stoked to rock climb with you anytime this winter, especially when the high country is too stormy, or your legs are too tired from skiing. Fly direct to Mammoth from LA or the Bay Area! We'll even arrange a pick up for you at the airport. Happy Turkey Day everyone!