Saturday, May 31, 2008

valley fever

The whole point of moving to Bishop was to take advantage of alpine season. Unfortunately, after only two peaks recent storms pushed the real season start out even further. Cragging and bouldering in the Owens Valley weren't quite satisfying my craving, so this morning I headed up to Rock Creek intent on doing (or reconning) the NE Ridge of Bear Creek Spire.

I didn't exactly get the alpine start I had intended due to late night conversations with Lisa and Jascha, but 8a is better than noon. The 38F trail head temperature was a good sign, meaning that the snow was freezing at night. I set off on firm snow, taking the Treasure Lakes approach that Chris showed me last summer. I even had to use my ice axe at one point to traverse an icy side hill.
Unfortunately, around Dade Lake I started postholing likely due to the new layer of fresh snow from last week. I decided to continue until I reached the basin below the BCS to get a better look at my route as well as the N Arete, which is on my summer to do list. The N Arete looked clear with the exception of a small amount of snow blanketing a few flat ledges. The NE Ridge, however, was mostly covered. I will fully admit that I am an alpine rock climber, not a true mountaineer (as pointed out by my climbing partner, Miguel), and the thought of slogging up (and down) a route that in another month should be pristine granite (see photos from last July) made me feel lazy. Consequently, I called it a recon/training day and headed back. Guess it's back to the crags tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

overcoming wintery weather woes

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend (and Jascha's visit) the temps plummeted and the storm clouds rolled in, leaving a fresh blanket of new snow in the High Sierra, nice for the backcountry ski crowd but not so good for us fair-weathered alpine rock hounds. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of the lowland options between the showers.

We hit the Gorge on three days, only completely getting rained out once.
After one failed attempt due to wet rock, the rain held out long enough for us to climb my all-time favorite Gorge route, Sendero Luminoso. Thanks to Dave's Rope Gun Development Program and Jascha's enthusiasm for climbing, my sport climbing skills are once again on the upswing. I was pleasantly surprised in being able to lead Warning Signs. Sadly, I don't think that I've led a 10d in the Gorge since the 90s.

Saturday we checked out some of the abandoned mines in the Tungsten Hills. Due to my shoddy memory of the mine depth from my recon trip I neglected to bring a second rope for the rappel. Luckily Jascha found a side entrance that allowed us to reach the mine floor and explore the side tunnels. Inside one of the caves we found scheelite and smoky quartz encrusted walls, along with a pile of pellets from the great horned owl we startled on the way in. That evening we headed over to Tricia and Matt's for one of their glorious potlucks. Our Bay Area friends (and bearers of succulent Bay Area treats, like Zachary's pizza), Mayumi and Erika, were in town, not that justification is required for a Bishop potluck.

On Monday we headed out to the Sad Boulders in the Volcanic Tablelands. The weather was perfect for bouldering and we saw a plethora of freakishly large and colorful insect life, including beetles and sphinx moth larvae.

In all we had a great time despite the stormy skies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

life and death in pine creek

I set off from the house yesterday intending to boulder/run in the Tablelands, but clouds of blowing dust across Hwy 6 led me to ditch my bouldering plans and detour NW into the canyons of the Sierra for a hike/run. I figured that the Rock Creek trail would be fairly sheltered from the wind and exited 395 at the Rovana/Lower Rock Creek Road. A mile up the road I turned around and decided to check out Pine Creek instead. I hadn't been up there since the 2004 Sierra Challenge, but I am planning to do a ridge traverse there later this summer and it seemed like worthy of a recon.

The trail overlooks the massive, but inactive Pine Creek
tungsten mine and Pine and Morgan Creek Falls before it plateaus out around 9600 ft. The creeks were raging with the recent snow melt. Granite Park was completely snowed in, but I am looking forward to returning when the alpine meadows are in full view. The wind was surprisingly calm considering the high country weather forecast and the valley conditions, although I started getting cold and opted to turn around at Pine Lake.

On the drive out I passed two roadside crosses, both well maintained. Curiosity took the best of me and I decided to look into what led to the demise of these two individuals. I managed to find information on one, who died of hypothermia while trying to get help after she and her mother became stranded in their car in whiteout conditions. If I had to croak somewhere, better it be in the mountains than on the L.A. freeway.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the michelles take on basin

I had planned to solo the E Chute of Basin Mountain this week as part of my early season warm-up. With increasingly warmer nighttime temps I knew that the snow conditions in the gully would rapidly deteriorate, and there was no way I wanted to wait until summer when the chute becomes a heinous scree slog. On one of my regular visits to Black Sheep I pitched the idea to the other Michelle and she (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to come along.

After a 5:30a start from Bishop we were pleased to find almost ideal snow conditions - soft enough to dispense with crampons and almost no postholing. The constant winds that had been present for the past few days were gone, and the views of Humphreys and Checkered Demon were spectacular. The 400 ft of Class 4 rock was a nice treat after the necessary snow slog, as was the lengthy glissade.

Monday, May 12, 2008

alpine season kickoff

Jascha kindly accompanied me this past Sunday on my first climb of the alpine season, the SE face of Mt Emerson, known for its short approach, high quality granite, occasional running water on the crux, and fun exposed ridge traverse. We were rewarded with breathtaking views of Piute Pass and the Evolution peaks, in addition to a few random snowflakes on the summit (odd because the nearest clouds were over Lamark Lakes). With the lingering snow on the S/SE chute, we avoided part of the normally annoying scree descent by glissading. The time savings made it worth enduring the discomfort of our frozen butts.

Friday, May 9, 2008

homage to l.a.

L.A. often gets an undeservingly bad rap. Being a former long-time Oakland/Berkeley resident I am guilty of being a one time L.A. hater, but a year plus of immersion helped me see the light. In honor of L.A. & vicinity here is my best of list (warning: heavy Los Feliz/E Hollywood slant):

  • Echo Cliffs | Yes, I realize that technically it's closer to the Stepford community of Westlake Village than L.A., but you'd be hardpressed to find this quality & quantity of climbing as close to the E Bay.
  • San Gabriels | miles of kickass singletrack that is mostly legal for MTBs
  • Other amazing climbing areas within 4h of L.A. include Red Rocks, J-tree, Tahquitz, and my favorite playground, the High Sierra.
  • Alcove | Euro cafe with great outdoor seating and amazing desserts
  • Cafe Tropical | popovers!
  • Chosun Galbee | slightly upscale Korean with interesting modern architecture and excellent bibimbap, the standard by which I judge all K restaurants
  • Cedar House | another great Middle Eastern place; combo plates highly recommended
  • Hollywood Farmers Market | great place to spend a lazy Sunday morning and pick up some phenomenal produce and flowers
  • Jitlada | great southern Thai food with unfortunately somewhat inconsistent service
  • Kyushu Ramen | J comfort food, and yes, I like it better than Daikokuya
  • Pollo a la Brasa | easily overlooked shack run by Japanese Peruvians with succulent anticuchos and aji
  • Red Corner Asia | my favorite of the late night Thai restaurants, mostly b/c they have sticky rice
  • Taco Zone Truck | mouth watering carnitas tacos for something like $1.25
  • Village Gourmet (Vermont location) | The Petit Basque cheese is phenomenal. Helpful, non-snobby staff
  • Zankou Chicken (Sunset x Normandie location) | For me it's the shish kabob that's the draw, not the chicken

  • Das Bunker | Best industrial club around
  • Dresden Room | Check out open mike night on Tuesdays hosted by local fixtures Marty & Elaine.
  • White Horse | I'm not a big drinker, but I like the White Horse - great staff and a plethora of snacks just like grandma used to serve.

  • Pho Siam Thai Spa | Kathy and Lynn at Pho Siam have kept my TFL tendinitis in check as well as the Boulder Rolfers
  • Dr. Frances Wang (acupuncturist; 4924 Hollywood Blvd, 323.913.0247) | Definitely one of the most competent and caring doctors I have met
Frivolous Stuff
  • Faroh Hair Design | as previously noted in my blog
  • Goodwill on Vine | best of the Hollywood Goodwills
  • L.A. Flower Market | If you dig through the hoards of Phalaenopsis and Gladiolus there are hidden treasures to be found, like Brassia and Sarracenia.
  • Wacko | my library and pop/folk art collection on steroids


Well, I am finally a Bishop resident and sitting in my room listening to my redneck neighbors blasting Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is", something I've dreamed about for at least ten years (OK, maybe not the Foreigner part). I realize it's somewhat temporary, as I'm off to Asia in November, but I will take it for now. It's been a bit difficult trying to pace myself with the plethora of outdoor activities (and lack of a job). The high country is still a bit snowed in, but it's melting fast and the peaks are opening up for us fair weather alpinists. For the past week it's been bouldering, cragging, running, and flailing on my AT skis, but the SE face of Emerson is on the list for the weekend as the first peak of the season. Can't beat the quick approach even with the N Lake road closure.