Thursday, October 11, 2012

Scramblers/Senders- Kids Climbing Program

Summer 2012 flew by as I had so much fun teaching rock climbing to almost fifty kids from the Eastern Sierra. We had a great mix of ages and abilities, some climbed for the first time and others returned to further develop their skills. In all of the returning climbers I saw an amazing step forward. It was great to see the kids taking climbing seriously, taking responsibility for their learning and turning into real rock climbers. The new kids jumped right into the mix and showed an amazing ability to learn and grow over the five weeks of our program. The motivation these kids have is incredible! Together they learned new knots, hitches, how to belay each other, how to rappel, move more efficiently on the rock and much more.

The reward for me as an instructor is seeing the beaming faces of these children. Maybe they just climbed to the top of a route that they found challenging, or they might have just mastered a new knot or belayed for the first time, their excitement and enthusiasm is priceless. There are endless opportunities for each child to learn and succeed in a supportive environment on the rocks.

So hopefully I will see you and your children for our Summer 2013 program. If you have any questions on how to sign up don't hesitate to contact the office 760.648.1122
~Guide Barbara Wanner

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Europe Trekking Part 2

Another stellar week in the Italian Dolomites! Dan and I hiked a good portion of the Alta Via 1 trek, staying at several stunning alpine huts along the way. My favorite was Rifugio Lavarella – great food, relaxing ambiance, pleasant staff, and a traditional Finnish sauna to relax your muscles at the end of a long day’s hike.

Exploring a bit off the beaten track, we hiked up to a high point above the Lavarella hut. A small rock rolled across the trail in front of me, so I glanced uphill. Nothing. Curious, I thought. It didn’t seem like somewhere I would see rockfall. Something would have had to kick it to get it rolling. I stopped again, and looked more intently this time. After a moment, I saw something move. Chamois. First just one, hiding in its stillness. Then a second appeared, blotting out the sun – and casting a perfect silhouette. Then a third. They skipped up the ridgeline faster even than Ueli Steck – and with one last glance back at us, they were gone. But not before I got a few postcard shots of their charming, distinctive outline along a striking blue backdrop.

The next day, we watched a world-class rescue on a peak we hiked by. A climber had fallen, and within an hour, he had been plucked by a helicopter and flown down to town. Impressive technical rescue teams here.

This week, we are back in town for some day hikes to cover some of the highlights of the region we didn’t see on Alta Via 1.

~SMG Guide Lyra Pierotti

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dolomites 2012! - Part 2

Evening light on the Fanes and Tofana Groups featuring 3 of our classic via ferratas 

Wynne and Jill on Day 1
“Can we please stop somewhere?” asked Kellie in a shaky voice as we drove up the pass on day 1 of our week long via ferrata mega tour in the Italian Dolomites. The trailhead was around 5 minutes away, but Heidi the taxi driver pulled over promptly, which was good because it turned out that Kellie was very suddenly and violently suffering some acute gastroenteritis of unknown origin picked up on her travels. It was fortunate that Taylor, (see Dolomites Part 1) stayed with us to join this via ferrata trip because he taught us the verb “bullfrogging” and because he had very fast reflexes when Kellie needed to quickly exit the van for another round on the way up to the pass. It was clear that she wasn’t going to join us on our adventure that day so Heidi took her back down to town while Jill, Wynne, Taylor, and I went up for an excellent warm-up day on the Ferrata Tridentina, a beautiful route that ascends a steep cliff alongside an alpine waterfall. During a nice lunch at the top at the Pisciadu Hut we learned that Kellie had a much different adventure that day. Her illness got worse on the way down and she took a ride in a helicopter to a nearby hospital. Fortunately she got much better quickly but the doctors kept her overnight to make sure her health was ok. She was given the go ahead by the doc to join us the next day. We were all very concerned but it is amazing that she was able to be so active less than 24 hours after being hospitalized, a testimony to her spirit and fortitude, as well as the modern Western medical system. We met her at the end of day 2 at the Lagazuoi Hut. On our way to meet her we hiked a scenic trail to the steep and technical Ferrata Tomaselli. We hiked past WWI ruins to the Lagazuoi Hut where we met Kellie and enjoyed a fantastic dinner and an epic sunset all together.
Wynne, Jill, & Taylor on Ferrata Tridentina

Via Ferratas (iron paths) are manufactured routes through the mountains equipped on steep and exposed walls with steel cables and anchors. With special equipment we can clip to the cables and keep ourselves attached to the mountainside. Most of the via ferrata in the Dolomites follow historic routes used by the Italian and Austrian militaries back in WWI. They have been modernized and maintained for the mountain adventurers that these routes now attract. Via ferratas are often incredibly scenic and can be long and physical, requiring several hours of activity. Moving on a via ferrata route feels like cross between steep hiking and rock climbing. The moves can be steep and sometimes difficult for the average hiker, but there is always the equivalent of a ladder rung where foot and hand holds are needed. Such an amazing way to tour the mountains!

Typical Dolomites snack stop
On this trip we planned to take on 6 classic via ferrata routes and a climb of Mt. Antelao in a week as we toured across the Dolomites. This was planned ambitiously and optimistically. Surprisingly, we had perfect sunny weather for every day! Although various physical and medical ailments conspired to drive us off our itinerary and impede our enjoyment, this group remained outstandingly flexible, strong, and high spirited. In addition to members of our team summitting Antelao, Tofana di Rozes, & Tofana di Mezzo, we also collectively managed to enjoy the following classic ferratas:
  •         Tridentina
  •         Tomaselli
  •         Lipella
  •         Pomedes
  •         Berti
  •         & Dibona

An awesome team!
This is in addition to a day spent by 4 of us to check out the town of Cortina for some great food and window shopping. We enjoyed spectacular sunsets and sunrises, incredible local food, cappuccinos galore, and more chocolate than any person should ingest in a week. We saw sheep, goats, and chamois. Tons of moving history in the mountains. The only raindrops we felt the whole week were a few minutes after reaching our destination on the last day as we sat down to one last cappuccino and torte together. This group was so easygoing and hilarious and I really enjoyed everyone’s company - many great laughs! Thanks Taylor, Jill, Wynne, and Kellie for a most memorable and incredible tour of the Dolomites 2012!

More photos:

SMG Guide Lyra Pierotti on the Ferrata Berti

Taylor on the Ferrata Olivieri

Jill approaches Ferrata Tomaselli

WWI bunker on Lagazuoi

Approach to the Ferrata Lipella

Ferrata Lipella starts in a war tunnel for 300 vertical meters

Kellie & Wynne take on the cables of the Ferrata Lipella

Beautiful day on Ferrata Pomedes

The sun deck near the summit of Tofana di Mezzo

Taking a break on a hike down to Cortina

Approach to the historic San Marco hut. Mt. Antelao behind

Jill high on the N ridge of Antelao, 2nd highest peak in the Dolomites

Sheep on the approach to Ferrata Berti

Civilized approach to the Lorenzi Hut

Lunch break at the shelter on Ferrata Dibona
WWI ruins on the ridge of Ferrata Dibona

The start of Ferrata Dibona

Jill in the balcony at the finish at Ospitale!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summery Summary, Part 3: "Listers"

Jed's final post of the summer.  After one more Palisades trip he'll head to Washington for an AMGA exam.  He'll be back in October:  Bring on couloirs and rock climbing!

Forgive me, but I like to find themes that unify chunks of time in my memory.  My summer, 2012 has been easily divisible by 4: Part 1- Sweet sending.  Part 2- Big traversing.  Part 3- Family time.  Finally, this latter portion of my personal summer, has been chock-full of peak-bagging "listers".  I have spent a ton of time in the mountains with you folks who seek out the ticklists.  State high-pointers, county high-pointers, threshold listers (14ers, 13ers, 12ers, 11ers, even 10ers... yes, I'm serious), run-a-marathon-in-every-staters... the list of listers could go on and on.  Each person's lists are different, each persons motivations are personal, and everyone's tactics are unique.  What unites all of you is that you feel the need to somehow apologize for who you are.  And that's a shame.  Own it!  Find that motivation, go beyond what you think you can do, visit those places that no one else visits.  Rest assured that you are not alone and that we do not think you are ridiculous.  

Peakbagger extraordinaire, Teresa G. nearing the summit of Dragon Peak.  #840 something out of the "highest 1000 peaks in the contiguous US".  Shazam!

Cardio monster Joe L. on Thunderbolt's summit block.  Tough to get time away from work and family? Trying to climb all the lower 48 14ers and all the state highpoints and run a marathon in each state?  Just be uber fit, duh.
Fascinated with the lists?  Looking to go beyond the 14ers?  Yeah me too.  Teresa introduced me to  To say "the list goes on" is an understatement.  


Cancel the return flight

by: Guide Lyra Pierotti

I think I made a big mistake purchasing a round trip plane ticket for my trip to the Dolomites. Should have just gotten a one-way.

I just about passed out on our descent from Passo Falzarego. It may have been from having to skip lunch and run in cirlces to buy my bus ticket here and catch it there after finally locating the one person who could tetris together my complicated transportation needs; or perhaps the jet lag was catching up to me again; I suppose it could have been the fumes from the German cyclists who were airing out their socks in the bar at the passo; or perhaps again, it was just that stunning. I like to think the latter.

Either way, after a lovely couple of days visiting my mom and family friends Cate and Walt in Venice, I finally arrived in Badia, otherwise known at Abtei. In the south Tyrol, everything is in Italian and German. I had much more luck using Abtei. No idea why, but here I am. Abtei. Don't say Badia, everyone gets confused.
Stay tuned for some more spectacular photos (no compliment to myself, I think I could close my eyes and click the shutter and have a beautiful shot), and plenty of adventures as my client, Dan and I explore this mountainous Italo-German fusion land.

I am hoping to find this fusion beneficial to both cultures: perhaps buses and trains will run on schedule despite the fact that I'm still in Italy; and maybe the Germans have gotten a lesson in olfactory aesthetics.

Friday, August 31, 2012

SMG Dolomites 2012! Part 1

The Italian Dolomites: where mountain culture and geology converge to facilitate the most outstanding and accessible alpine rock climbing adventure opportunities on Earth. A climber from the Eastern Sierra can really appreciate the contrast here. At home we have craggy and sometimes snowy high peaks juxtaposed against the desert of the Owens Valley. Here in the Dolomites we see steep, gray-orange peaks and spires rising above lush, rolling green valleys. In these valleys are little hamlets situated perfectly to welcome happy climbers and alpinists as they return from vertical adventures. As is standard in the Italian Alps, the food and drink is off the charts and the people are all beautiful and friendly. The climbing is almost to good to be believed. Climbs are steep and juggy, even the easy ones. The easier it is, the less fixed protection it has, and often the pro includes ancient and/or dubious pins. Runouts are long, and falling is not really an option on the easier pitches. On the other hand, there are decent anchors available where they are truly needed. The balance of equipage keeps the adventure level high, requires well-developed climbing skill, and preserves a character of climbing here that celebrates a connection to the spirit of more than a century of vertical exploration here. I challenge any real rock climber to resist the lure of climbing in such an enchanting place, given the opportunity.

Taylor Samuels is one of our regular and most beloved VIP guests at Sierra Mountain Guides. He is constantly prodding us to increase the adventure level on mountain trips. This spring we took him to the most remote and incredible ski venue on Earth - the Wrangells in Alaska with our Alaskan partners at Wild Alpine, so this summer we needed to follow that with something extra exciting. Of course, we scheduled a climbing trip to the Dolomites partnered with our friends at Holimites.

We enjoyed 6 outstanding days before inevitably getting shut down by a little weather, and in that time we managed a 2500 foot via ferrata (iron path) route and almost 50 pitches of technical rock climbing between 5.6 and 5.10, all while visiting WWI ruins, mountain huts, eating amazing food, and of course, enjoying some (ok a lot of) perfectly prepared cappuccinos. The pictures tell the story better than words...

Ferrata Tridentina. Good way to shake the jet lag.


Warming up after a rainy 4 pitch climb up Torre Grande 
Taylor engages a local laderhoser

On the 14 pitch classic Vinatzer Route on the 3rd Sella Tower
Top of the 3rd Sella Tower
Summit Register: "'I Want 2 Piss of Toast' Says Pizza Man"
South Ridge of Hexenstein. Major WWI military peak with a fortress on the top.
Taylor was into Euro conversion vans.
Dibona Hut
Gelato at the hut
Our second night warranted a swig of the hutkeepers homemade Grappa.
Approach to Tofana de Rozes. We climbed the First Buttress, the sharp one with sun hitting the very top of it.
Some anchors can be made acceptable with a little rigging...
...and some cannot. Italian humor.
Loving it about 250 meters up the Tofana route.
High in the Dolimites.
Giussani Hut

Traverse of the Falzarego Towers
Made it down for cappuccino just before the rain.
Taylor haggles for a van