Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Yosemite: The Grack and Running El Capitan

View of the valley and Half Dome from Eagle Peak

Kimber and I got invited to go to Yosemite for the weekend with four of her girlfriends. We headed out Friday evening around 5:30pm and didn't get to the Upper Pines Campground until around 10pm. It was great just hanging out around the fire with friends.

Moriah, Audrey, Leslea, Nate, Kimber (L to R)

Saturday morning I got up and was on the Yosemite Falls Trailhead by 7:50am. I would have got up earlier but didn't end up going to bed until around 1am. The first 3.2miles were straight up, consisting of slippery rock steps and loose sand. Once I was on the rim the climb became more gradual and I took a little off chute trail to summit out on Eagle Peak (7779ft) which provided some awesome views of the valley.

Area surrounding Yosemite Falls trail. 

Yosemite Falls trail.

I trucked on another 2 miles and eventually made it to the top of El Capitan (7569ft). The summit didn't have a sheer ledge as I had hoped and sloped down through some gnar before getting to the edge. I opted not to swack down as I was short on time. My run out was uneventful and I felt great except I rolled my ankle while running along the road at the bottom right in front of a car. No injury but why is it always right in front of people?

El Capitan from the Valley. 

Totals Distance: approx. 18 miles
Total Elevation Gain: approx. 4900ft
Total Time: approx. 4hrs 50min

Later that evening after a nice nap on our huge air mattress with Kimber (when we car camp we go all out) we hiked up and climbed a famous route called "The Grack". Luckily there wasn't much of a line and we were able to get on it right away. It is supposed to be done in 3 pitches but we sort of did it in two. I lead the first pitch up some really easy low 5th class and belayed Kimber up, maxing out our 70m rope. The second pitch consisted of a thin hands to fingers low angle crack the petered out at the top. I tried to pitch it out to the top but we ran short by about 15ft and was forced to climb across a slabby face to a left facing 4th class ledge where I belayed Kimber up a few pieces on a half hip/half crappy nut. I finished it out and hooked into the chains to finish belaying Kimber. She did great, except her shoes were really tight, having not brought he looser fitting ones that she uses for multipitch. We both and fun and the setting was fabulous!

Me leading the 2nd pitch of "The Grack". 

Kimber following 2nd pitch. 

Kimber wondering why she hasn't been wearing stretchy pants to climb since the beginning. 

Sunday morning we almost got onto another famous climb, Bishop's Terrace at the Chruch Bowl, but it took longer to find and we didn't have time to wait in line. Maybe next time. We had a nice drive back and stopped in Walnut Creek so Kimber could do a family holiday photo shoot. Then we rushed home to show an apartment in an open house. Busy. Kimber brought home some kind of a stomach bug which had her over the toilet all night and Tuesday morning it hit me. Not fun.

Upper Pines campground. 

Liz and Kimber at the base of "Bishop's Terrace", before we bailed. 

Yosemite: Nutcracker

With the park being closed for the previous 2 weeks due to the government shutdown, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get back to Yosemite before leaving for 3 months of externships.  Luckily the park opened a few days before we had planned to go. With school, rotations, managing the apartment and whatnot our only option was to make a day trip. Binh picked me up around 7am Saturday morning and we were in the park by 11 and racking up to climb Nutcracker. The park was much quieter than we had imagined. I sort of thought it would be extra busy due to the closure. The weather was beautiful, clear skies and temperatures in the high 50's.

The Nutcracker is a 5 pitch, 500' climb in Yosemite Valley that is named such because it was one of the first climbs to be climbed protected with nuts, which was done by Royal Robbins in 1967. Binh and I took 3 sets of nuts (and a bunch of cams) with and thought that we might try to do the whole thing with only nuts. This thought was scrapped on the first pitch.

I gave Binh the first pitch which included him jumping over a wide off-width section which he had climbed above and a horizontal greasy under-cling. I took the second pitch which was a walk up ramp which traversed to a platform where we caught up to a couple from Los Angeles. They were having a hard time and we waited around, allowing a team of four Polish climbers to catch up. After the LA couple had finished the pitch I lead up a few various small finger to thin hand cracks and ended up continuing off route setting a belay and then leading another off route pitch up some vegetative features to the crux of the route.

The crux was a semi-good protected corner that required a committing reach up to a huge ledge and then a mantle move to get up on top of the ledge. Luckily you can just watch me do it on this awesome video that the girl from LA took of me climbing it. The rest of the climb was some easier linking crack systems that took me to top out. It was a great climb and the views of the valley were phenomenal! At the top we met a dude from Texas who soloed up an adjacent route and had been living in the valley for 6 months. Nice guy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

NorCal Trinity Alps: 4 Lakes Loop

Even though I recently learned that Christopher Columbus did many not so awesome things (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day) and that his story has been whitewashed to the max like too many stories I have been taught in my life (others of which I have not based my knowledge on blog posts like I did here, but on credible primary sources), Kimber and I decided to celebrate Columbus Day by exploring the mountains of northern California.

We decided to hit the road Sunday morning early as Kimber had spent Saturday shooting a wedding in San Francisco and didn't get home until around 11pm. We headed to the Trinity Alps, 5 hours north of the Bay Area. The Trinity Alps are a beautiful mountain range to the northwest of Redding, CA and are a bit of a hidden gem. We needed a trip to get away from the busy city and enjoy nature and some time alone....and I planned the trip around a sweet run!

Kimber started shaking her head when we were driving into what appeared to be a deserted wilderness because I have this tendency of over planning adventures and she is well aware of it. We made it to the trail head where we luckily found a random camping spot about a half mile up the dirt road and pitched camp, car camping style (huge air mattress, camp chairs, firewood, table, cabin tent...etc). We spent the afternoon just basking in the woods wrapped in sleeping bags, drinking hot cocoa, reading thought stimulating books and discussing life. It was nice. We even wrapped up the night with a freaking old (like black and white old) Halloween movie on the laptop while sitting next to the campfire.

The  next morning I got up and ran the 4 Lakes Loop. It is a loop in the heart of the alpine wilderness that goes around Siligo Peak (8162ft) and in the process passes by 4 beautiful lakes. The loop is accessed by 6 mile, 4,100ft climb up Long's Canyon, making the round trip approximately 18 miles.

Up Long's Canyon.

Looking down Long's Canyon

The Long's Canyon climb consisted of dispersed forest that opened up into multiple meadows surrounded by towering red and granite peaks. The start of the loop is at Deer Creek Pass which gives you an awesome view before you drop down toward Deer Lake followed by steep switch backs up the NE face of Mt. Siligo.  At the saddle I had the option of climbing another 350ft to the top of Silgo but decided to pass because I had slept in a bit longer than I had planned and needed to get back. From the saddle I traversed around the back side of Siligo able to view Diamond Lake and then up another saddle and down into Luello Lake. Somewhere around there is where my GPS watch died. I think I slept with it running because it was only at 22% when I awoke. Bummer! The climb back up from Luello to Deer Creek pass was significant and I took it at a quick hike. I then  ran down Long's and eventually met up with Kimber who had started up the canyon much later and we finished running back down to the trail-head together. It was a gorgeous run.

Looking down at Deer Lake from Deer Creek Pass.
I always debate to myself if trips like this are worth it because we drive for so long and only get about 24hrs there. I never regret them when they are over so I think I am making the right decision to go.

Mt. Siligo from Deer Lake

Total distance: approx 18 miles
Total elevation gain: approx 5,800ft
Total time: approx 5hrs.