Tuesday, August 26, 2008

dog for a day

I was feeling indecisive and slightly unmotivated about what to do last Tuesday when Marsha came by to visit my housemate and said that I would be welcome to take her dog, Jasmine, along on one of my upcoming hikes/runs. That seemed like a sign that it was time to hit the dirt, so I told Marsha that I would be by to pick up Jasmine shortly. Peter Croft had put Agassiz as the only class 2 route in his guide The Good, the Great, and the Awesome, so I figured it would be a worthy goal for the day. The register entries on summitpost noted a number of other options also from Bishop Pass with better rock and harder grades. I had seen Jasmine before in the Tablelands, so I was confident that she could handle most class 3 we encountered.

Jasmine and I headed out from South Lake at a brisk pace, reaching Bishop Pass in under two hours. I selected a chute to the right of the main ascent route and up we went. As I had guessed Jasmine found her way up most of the route, requiring me to pick her up only a few times for surmounting taller boulder and when the grade steepened to class 4 for a small section. Once out of the chute we rejoined the regular route and headed up the talus heap to the summit. I was feeling a bit slow, but Jasmine didn't seem to mind, as she fell behind in a few spots. I was beginning to see why the route made it into Croft's book as I looked over the edge to the southeast. The Palisades from Winchell to Sill were laid out before me, and I thought back to our Thunderbolt to Sill traverse last August.

We headed down the screen laden regular route and back over to the Bishop Pass trail. By the time we made it back to my car it was dark and Jasmine promptly sacked out on top of my bouldering pad.

eluding the t-storms

Why is it that every weekend Jascha is in town the clouds roll in? With the crappy weather this summer I have to continually remind myself that I live at the base of the Sierra now, not the Front Range. Two weekends ago was no exception. 20% chance of t-storms for the prior few days had translated reliably into afternoon showers over the mountains, sometimes spreading over the Owens Valley.

Saturday we entertained ourselves by
bouldering in the Buttermilks. My hardcore boulderer housemates were appalled by our ability to boulder in the middle of summer, but the cloudy skies provided a respite from the heat in addition to a few drops of rain. It also helps when you aren't good enough to work V12 problems or anything remotely close in grade.

After a small amount of deliberation we decided to do a shortish peak on Sunday. Even though we had done it earlier in the year Hurd seemed like a good option given its short approach and multitude of ascent options.

As we turned
off of the Treasure Lake trail for the willow bushwhack we started scoping out potential routes. The slabs on the NW side just to the left of the prominent dihedral looked interesting and there appeared to be a bailout chute to the right in case things got too dicey. Our initial plan was to get up to the start of the slabs and make sure we weren't in over our heads.

As we approached the base of the slabs we notice that they weren't as smooth as they appeared from a distance. The surface was riddled with cracks and edges. There was also an escape option of pulling over the dihedral. We decided to take the plunge and headed up. The featured face continued for the majority of the route with a few very short more challenging sections.

Once on top we cruised over the various false summits, enjoying various boulder problems along the way. Amazingly the active t-storm cell remained to the northwest of us the entire time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

encore on emerson

Tuesday rolled around and I was still deliberating about whether to do Trapezoid with the Sierra Challenge the following day. I wasn't feeling particularly motivated for either a 6 am start or trying to keep up in my sluggish recovery state. My housemate, Lisa, said that she would be interested in joining me the next day if I decided to do something short. That seemed like a better idea, so I settled on a repeat of the SE Face of Emerson, with its obscenely short approach and which Lisa hadn't done previously.

We headed out late morning for North Lake to find both parking lots almost full (mid week!). The clouds of mosquitoes that had
accompanied me on my previous backcountry trips were completely absent and the skies were completely smoke free. We hiked up the Piute Pass trail passing loads of wildflowers and before long we were at the base of the route.

The chimney, which had been running with water back in May, was dry but polished. I was feeling slightly more energetic and we stopped only briefly to snap photos. Once on the ridge traverse we were met with sweeping views of the surrounding peaks, including part of Evolution, which had so far eluded me this season. We stopped for a snack break on the summit, not looking forward to the scree laden descent. This time there would be no glissade.

We picked our way through the gravel-covered slabs, plunge stepping when possible and beelining for the trail skirting Loch Leven. We made it back to Bishop in time to hit the weekly potluck and Tricia and Matt's.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

back to the hills

Finally I was starting to feel more normal, not 100% but good enough to hit the backcountry again. Not quite ready for a death march, I emailed Bob Burd and bailed on Monday's Sierra Challenge peak. I wanted something with a short approach, but with enough technical difficulty and exposure to satisfy my adrenaline junkie side. Even though I had climbed it back in June I decided that the SE Buttress of Cathedral merited a second go around, plus Jascha hadn't been up it before.

With clear skies there was no need for an early start, and given the
popularity of the route it was to our advantage to head out late (such a shame). After waiting in line at the Tioga Pass kiosk for what seemed like forever we made it into the park, parked at the Cathedral Lakes TH, and cruised up the climbers' trail to the base of the route. I could see a number of parties on the face, all at the usual bottleneck, the chimney. Because we were soloing I figured we would be quickly joining the crowd, so I looked for an alternate route on my topo. The 5.6 crack variation to the left of the chimney seemed more palatable than 5.7 slab variation to the right. At least we had options.

We headed up the same way I had gone a few months prior (option C on Supertopo). Jascha quickly acclimated to the frictiony granite laden with cracks and classic Tuolumne knobs. Before long we were standing at the base of the chimney. A
friendly French father and daughter team were about to follow their leader up the left-hand variation on double ropes and another guy was struggling up the chimney on toprope. We weighed our options and decided that it would be faster to head up the regular route once he had finished the chimney section, then pass him on the Class 4 section above.

We passed the other member of the French party, another party of three, and a guy following the final pitch. I was greated with the question "Did you forget your rope?". On the summit we chatted briefly with the other member of the two-person from the S Bay about Eichorn Pinnacle. I was regretting not bringing a route description because while the pinnacle looks nearly impossible to solo from Cathedral I knew there was a hidden exposed 5.4 route somewhere. It seemed like it was worth exploring anyway, so we headed over. The 5.4 route was fairly easy to find (just out of view from the Cathedral traverse) and we headed up, enjoying some airy step across moves and Jascha's favorite: scrunchy, balancy traverses where you have to match your hands and feet. We quickly summited and found Bob's register entry in blood. We later found out the story on summitpost, which involved a missing pen and an ingenious marine (Dave D).

We headed out and made it to Mammoth Mountaineering just in time to find the doors locked for the day.

july synopsis

Due to t-storms and weeks of lingering symptoms following an intestinal bug, July was a fairly unproductive month alpinewise. Jascha and I tried twice to recon the first part of the Evolution Traverse (getting as far as the base of Peak 13,360), but nausea, dizziness, and fatigue didn't seem like a good combo for a technical ridge traverse.

On the upside I got my clutch slave cylinder installed (the stupid part took 4 weeks to arrive) and thanks to Jascha and his dad (via phone) we successful bled the hydraulic line. We also had a fun trip to San Francisco for the Mechanicrawl, which provided me the opportunity to reunite with some Bay Area favorites like Matt Davis/Steep Ravine trails on Mt Tam and Suppenkuche. I also dropped 9 lbs and am back to what I weighed in my mid-20s sport climbing prime.

I continued to (feebly) boulder and hike to keep from totally losing my conditioning, but I was starting to get frustrated as I was missing targets in my self-imposed alpine climbing schedule. Jascha somehow managed to maintain infinite patience with me for which I am grateful.