Tuesday, July 26, 2011

tuolumne enduro sesh

Jeb and I have our sights set on some long routes in the eastern Sierra, so when we had two days of time off that lined up, it was on!  Plenty of time for 3 classic routes.  We met in a supermarket parking long in Minden, piled climbing gear and nutritious food into my car, and headed south towards Tuolumne meadows.


After camping in Lee Vining for a few hours, we rolled through the Yosemite eastern entrance station just before sunrise.  After a few miles of cross country hiking, we crossed a final snowfield to reach the southern end of Matthes Crest.


We stopped for a quick, energy-dense brunch at a saddle as the warm sun was finally creeping towards us.


490 calories in a single serving!  For only $1!  That's right, Hostess fruit* pies are the ultimate energy food.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Clif Bar.
    *Hostess fruit pies are not believed to contain any fruit


I am an aspiring extreme pie eater.


Energized by High Fructose Corn Syrup, now referred to by the processed food industry PR department as "corn sugar", Jeb took the lead up the first pitch.


After a section of steep climbing to reach the crest, we saw why Matthes is known as a classic climb.  A full mile of wandering knife-edge ridge!  


Most of the time we could travel quickly along the ridge, but there were short sections of technical climbing and downclimbing to keep us on our toes.


Jeb demonstrating some of the coolest climbing on the route.  Traversing with hands on the ridge actually felt incredibly secure because of the unique, knobby texture of the granite in Tuolumne.


The south pinnacle afforded awesome views of the Clark range and surrounding high country.


The south summit is a common end-point for the climb, but we took Peter Croft's words to heart, believing that a traverse only counts if you go from one end to the other!  Jeb consulted our photocopied route description for beta on how to proceed north (it's a ridge, just keep going!).


The intimidating north pinnacle.  The was the view that made us wonder "how are we going to get up that?", but once we got close the route became clear and we were on top reading the summit register in no time.


A prime example of the knobs that make Tuolumne climbing so unique.


The north half of the ridge had less opportunities for walking, but lots of moderate climbing with cool step-across moves like Jeb shows off here.

One of the coolest features of the north half of the crest (and really, the whole ridge), it the "rock cornice".  Here I am peering down trying to figure out how far it actually overhangs, my best guess was 15'!


After 6 hours of climbing, we were able to walk off the north end of the crest.  It felt great to relax and be on flat ground for a little while!


We hiked over a saddle between the Echo peaks, and were treated to a great view of the entire Matthes Crest.


As well as our next objective for the day, Cathedral peak.  The southeast buttress route follows the sun/shade line.


After several hours on the move, and with more to come, I was pretty zonked and obviously forgot to include the summit of Cathedral in this photo.  Exhaustion also led me to make silly statements like "this is going to be a cruise" and "we'll definitely finish in less than an hour".  


Three hours after starting up and after a few routefinding errors, harder-than-expected climbing and rope drag thrashing, we finally reached the top of Cathedral Peak.  Jeb had enough gas in the tank to muster a blue-steel pose, luckily.


Beautiful sunset alpenglow lit up the Cathedral range and Budd Lake as we headed down the trail, racing the last sunlight of the day.  We bumbled around in the "dusk" reached my car at the trailhead without headlamps though, so it doesn't count as getting down late!  We got to town 5 minutes before closing time as the BBQ shop, and stuffed our faces with delicious food to fuel up for the next days' outing, Fairview Dome. 

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The Regular route on Fairview, an awesome line right up the gut of the 1000' dome.


Jeb leads off toward a bright future at the start of the third pitch.


At the start of our weekend, that blister was intact and my skin was smoothe and ready for cosmetics commercials.  I guess 15 hours or so of climbing aren't the same as a manicure.  Although I read on wikipedia that Yosemite's domes are created by exfoliation joints in granite, so maybe there is still synergy between skin care and rock climbing waiting to be found!  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfoliation_(geology))


Two happy and exhausted climbers on the summit of Fairview dome.  My level of exhaustion became clear when I fell on perfectly flat forest ground during the walk back to the trailhead, tripping on two rocks during a single step and ending up face down in the dirt.  Perfect timing, thanks for a fun weekend Jareb!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rockin' the 'Rado

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A visit to Colorado started with several days in Boulder meeting up with old friends, hiking around the Flatirons and Eldorado canyon, and cutting a rug at Erica's sister Rachel's wedding.  Then we hit the road, driving over Independence pass (a paved road, 12,000 feet!) to Aspen.

After a big snowfall this winter, there was plenty of water to make everything green.  The valley was beautiful, flowers were in bloom, and the rivers were running big.

But we were headed to the alpine!    Erica points out Castleabra peak in the distance.  This peak rises right up from Conundrum hot springs, where we camped for 2 nights.  We spent most of our first day of climbing thinking this was actually Castle . . . 

On the road again . . .

The further up the valley we got, the wetter the trail became.  For the last few miles, the "trail" was actually a tributary of Conundrum Creek.  Erica was much smarter than I, and brought Chacos.

We set up camp on a cool rock outcropping above the hot springs.  The noise from the river below was awesome, and made it easier to forget we were camped next to a bunch of other folks.  After a nice long soak in the hot springs, we cooked up a delicious couscous dinner (the food so nice they named it twice!) and crawled into our sleeping bags.  The alarm was set for 4:30.


It turns out, it was set for 4:30 pacific time, so we woke up a bit late but quickly made coffee, breakfast and were on the trail.  Within a half hour we had reached the snowline, donned crampons, and were headed up into the cirque between Castle and Conundrum.  As we climbed, we watched beautiful alpenglow crawl down the peaks on the opposite side of the valley as the sun climbed over the ridge.


We reached the top of a snow couloir, excited to be on the ridge towards the summit.  Unfortunately, we realized our earlier peak identification error, and we were between Castle and Castleabra, not Castle and Conundrum.  The cliff above blocked us from climbing over to Castle Peak.


The ridge to Castle was loaded with other obstacles as well.  If we had reached the Castle/Conundrum saddle, a trail links the two peaks and would have given access to both.


Even after discovering our routefinding error, Erica had the energy to strike badass mountaineer poses.  It was too late in the day to safely climb over to the correct route, so we chalked our morning up as reconnaissance, and decided to come back the next morning after another rejuvenating hot springs soak.


After setting our alarm even earlier, we again climbed up frozen snow as the sun rose.  This picture was taken just after a cheery, hot-coffee-deprived Erica insisted "I do NOT want my picture taken right now".  Searching for a way up Conundrum Peak (normally climbed from the other side of the mountain . . . ), we found a steep snow couloir that led to a few hundred feet of talus scrambling, and then the summit.


We finally made it!  After struggling with sub-optimal climbing conditions, we were both excited to be on the summit of Conundrum, enjoying awesome views of the Elk mountains.


Erica snapped this cool photo of me exploring the far end of Conundrum's long, narrow summit plateau. Just below me, the Conundrum couloir drops off for a few thousand feet, and was still packed with snow.  We've gotta bring skis next time!


Remembering that we not only had to descend to our camp, but walk out 9 miles to the trailhead and then drive to Boulder, we headed back down to the valley in suncupped snow.  The far side of the valley shows one of many waterfalls caused by massive snowpack left over from this year's long, snowy winter.


We managed a quick soak in the hot spring, packed up camp, and headed down the trail towards our car, cold beer, and burritos.  Looking back up the trail, we could see a thunderstorm brewing.  We tried to outrun it, but ended up getting pretty wet.  All part of the Rocky Mountain experience!


Conundrum peak is second from the right, and we were excited to enjoy the view as we headed home.  Two happy adventurers!

Full photo gallery here.