Trip Report
California Road Trip (A SuperTopo Success Story) (Photo TR)
Sunday July 27, 2008 10:23pm
An old housemate in Santa Cruz was getting married, and my wife and I wanted to go. So I took a week or so off work on each end and went climbing too. In the middle, my wife flew out for the wedding and hanging out with old friends in Santa Cruz, then she flew back to Durango and I went climbing some more.

It started with a horrendously hot drive across the Navajo lands of northern Arizona and the Mojave desert. I camped out up on top of the Kelbaker Road in the Mojave National Preserve (Park?). I wish I took some pics there, because it had a lot of that desert granite which I love so much. But when I woke up, I drove on to Bakersfield and up the Central Valley.

I was headed to Courtright Reservoir to play with Lars Johansen. And even though I thought I remembered the way, I decided I shouldn't just do the typical guy thing, so I looked at the map. And lo and behold, I saw there was a shorter way. I exited the freeway in Visalia and drove to Pine Flat Reservoir - a much slower and twistier road than it looked like on the map. And from there it got worse. The road continuously deteriorated, got twistier and turned into a shelf road many hundreds of feet up the canyon wall. The road is so abandoned, I came across a bobcat hanging out right in the middle of the road. The I saw some kind of really big bird just sitting on a rock:

Hours later, I finally got to Courtright.
The 'shortcut' actually took a few hours longer to get there. Haha. I set up camp at our favorite secret site an some great granite slabs.

Lars showed up the next day and laughed at me for driving in that way. He showed me what the guidebook says about it: "Warning: Do not take the road up from Pine Flat Reservoir unless you want to be on an unimproved, twisting, turning mountain road for hours." We hiked over to the back side of Power Dome and climbed Divorce Quartz. (The topo in the SeKi book seems way off, but the quartz dike was really cool.) Here's Lars on the first pitch:

That was a good warmup and Lars was tired from getting up at 4:30 am, so we went back to camp for a good dinner. Here's the cook:

The next morning we planned to climb something on the main face of Power Dome:

Our big goal was to climb Helm's Deep, but the first pitch looked thin, so I decided we should climb Welcome To Courtright first, to re-aquaint me with Sierra granite. I lead Wichita Lineman to get up to the start. Very nice. Then we continued up Welcome To Courtright. Lars had a little brain-fart and took about a 20 foot fall while attempting a sloping mantle. He got back on it, but then it started raining, which would become a theme for the week. The sky looked pretty bad, so we retreated and headed for camp. Before we even got there, the sky had cleared again. So we did some training inspired by the Reno boys and Piton Ron, if you can guess what that was.

The following day, we headed over to Spring Dome. I wanted to climb a few routes there, then head to Trapper Dome to try a spectacular looking route I'd been eyeing, but which has no info in the book or internet. Lars lead something to the right of Up, Jump, Spring:

Then it started raining, so we rapped off:

We waited under a tree for a bit, the rain stopped and I climbed MiniDike Overpass, a nice one-pitcher. Then it started raining for good, we ran for the car and got there just as a cloudburst let loose. No more climbing that day. A few hours later, back in camp:

The sky was only drizzling by then, so we played frisbee golf until dinner time, aiming for cool looking rocks, trees, etc. What a fun camp activity!

The next morning we hiked up to Dusy Dome, where neither of us had ever climbed before. We got halfway up the second pitch before it looked like we would get destroyed by lightning on top, so we backed down. Instead, we went over and climbed Little Lambs Eat Ivy, which is only two long pitches and would not put us up on the summit as human lightning rods:

Look what was hanging out on a little brushy ledge:

What happened next was almost predictable by now:

The next morning was to be our last climbing day, but the thunder clouds were already building up at 8:am. So we packed up and left. But it had still been a great time! I followed Lars back to The City and got to check out his art studio:

Then I went down to Santa Cruz and hung out with family for a few days. Su flew in and it was nice to spend time with her in the middle of the trip, since she could not get enough time off work for the whole trip. We went to the wedding of our old housemate and climbing buddy, Ryan (with his bride Shana):

I was having a great trip! Then I got some bad news. My friend Chuck, who was supposed to climb with me at Lover's Leap on Monday and Tuesday, had forgotten about it and made other plans. Dang it! Still, after dropping Su off at the airport on Sunday, I went up to San Francisco and climbed at Glen Canyon Park with Chuck for a couple hours.

And that brings us to the SuperTopo Success Story part of this story. When I found out I was without a climbing partner for those two days, I posted on here that I was looking for someone to climb with. I only got two responses from people who could climb. Mike Ierien is a South Lake Tahoe local; Jack Wurster is a Texan-on-vacation who was in the South Lake Tahoe area.

Monday morning I met Mike and a friend of his at Emerald Bay. We hiked in to the Eagle Lake Cliffs, where I had only climbed ice climbed before. I warmed up by leading Space Truckin', a sweet crack climb. Jack showed up and followed the route. Not bad for his first climb in a year! Then we toproped Quest For Glory, a crack below the same anchor with a steep overhang. Both Jack and Mike's friend had to leave for other commitments, but Mike was ready for a real challenge. I belayed him on a variation of Space Walk, which graces the front cover of the SuperTopo SLT guide. He lead a .12a variation of it, which stays on the finger crack on the right. And he flashed it! Impressive! And then he somehow talked me into trying to follow it - something I never would have even tried, since it is so much beyond my regular ability. But I ended up getting up the thing, although with about 30 hangs. But that was a real eye-opener for me. Thanks Mike! By then my arms were pretty fried, but I went for one more lead, Seams To Me, which was thin and without many actual jams. I chickened out and took a couple hangs, but I got up the thing. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera that day.

On Tuesday, I remembered the camera and Jack and I went to Lover's Leap. We swung leads up East Crack (Jack shown in pics):

Then we went over to something which I've been wanting to climb for years, Scimitar (me leading in these pics):

Here are a couple random climbers on either Bear's Reach or East Crack:

We had a great day at the Leap and Jack was a solid partner. Hopefully we can climb together again sometime. But I needed to cut it short that day, to get rest for my big day on Wednesday.

At 2:am Wednesday morning, Big Wall Paul and I woke up and drove from SLT down to the Twin Lakes trailhead. We started in about 5:am, making great time for the first half of the hike by a secret method to be revealed later. Then we continued up a climbers' trail for another 2 1/2 miles and got on our climb by 9:am: The Red Dihedral on The Incredible Hulk:

The route goes up through the obvious red corner about half-way up the right side of the picture. But the picture does not tell the whole story, because the namesake corner is only the third pitch of eleven. And the angle is pretty consistant all the way to the top. Almost every pitch had 5.8 or 5.9 climbing and two of them were 5.10. I struggled with weakness on the Red Dihedral pitch, taking forever and stretching out my rope, but the rest of the climb went great. Random pictures from the route, mostly of Big Wall Paul (sorry ladies, he's married):

We had a great time hanging out on top and reading the summit register. Then we descended and saw some great scenery on the way out:

And then we got to our secret for a quick approach. And an even quicker trip out. We had taken an alternative method of transportation and stashed it at the wilderness boundry. Here's me making great time back to the beer stand:

I was getting a bit worn out by now, so I chilled out most of the day Thursday in South Lake Tahoe and Reno. Then I met up with Mark Miller and Shack for some evening cragging at River Rock, on the Truckee River west of Reno. Mark gave me some good beta ("you're drunk - don't drop my cams!") then belayed me up a fun crack:

Shack took a run up the climb:

Then I lead a really fun crack to the right:

Shack climbed it as it got pretty dark outside:

And Mark did a few moves:

But by then it was getting late ond we were out of beer. So we headed back to town for pizza and PBR. The guy at the pizza counter said they were all out of PBR and we almost started a riot. But the bartender saved the day and got it flowing again. So an excellent day ended on an even higher note.

Unfortunatly, Friday morning I had to start driving back to Durango. Mark took a picture of my hands, which he described as looking like I had been wrestling a pack of badgers out of their hole with:

I drove Hwy 50 across Nevada and into Utah. It was a beautiful drive and is WAY better than going I-80. I drove to Ibex, which is probably one of the most remote climbing areas in the lower 49 states. I got in a little bouldering and camped out for the night. The next morning I did a couple more problems (should have taken some pictures, but didn't), then drove the rest of the way home. I almost stopped in Moab to extend my trip by another week, but I missed Su. So I came on home. My cats were glad to see me. So was Su.

What a terrific trip!!!

(Sorry if this was too long. I think we climbed the Red Dihedral faster then I took to write this TR.)

  Trip Report Views: 2,731
About the Author
climbrunride is a trad climber from Durango, CO.

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Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Jul 27, 2008 - 10:46pm PT
love these trip reports - thanks! what's with the rain at Courtright?
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Jul 27, 2008 - 11:35pm PT
Super trip.....What's the lower 49th state? Just kiddin', dude....Like I can type...Great pics, too. The 'Hulk' is a pretty good chunk 'o'stone, eh?
John Moosie

Beautiful California
  Jul 27, 2008 - 11:38pm PT
That was Boss. Hahahaha Makes me laugh when people have fun. Thanks.

Sport climber
Golf Wall, CO
Author's Reply  Jul 27, 2008 - 11:50pm PT
The lower 49th state is the lowest: Hawaii. And I bouldered there too, but that was a different trip.

And yes, the Hulk is a pretty good chunk of stone. Seems like endless beautiful lines up there. The wall above the descent gully would be a super popular crag by itself, if it were in Tuolumne.

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
  Jul 27, 2008 - 11:56pm PT
Marty, I really had a good time and hope you did too.
We went out drinking and managed to get a little climbing in!

Mark, Marty and Haley gearing up...

Marty wondering what he's gotten himself into...

Heading back, ready for pizza and more beer...

We should do it again sometime!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jul 28, 2008 - 12:19am PT

Just livin' the dream on the California coast
  Jul 28, 2008 - 12:38am PT
What a great TR, Marty! Definitely not too long. Man, you got some mileage in with that trip, didn't cha? Great photos, too.

Just goes to show, even your worst day of climbing (ie. rain in Courtright) is better than your best day at the office.
Standing Strong

Trad climber
snowshoe thompson history trail
  Jul 28, 2008 - 01:03am PT
ummm... bump!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
  Jul 28, 2008 - 01:26am PT
Nice show.

Great pictures of the Hulk. Looks like you had stellar weather there.


Boulder climber
  Jul 28, 2008 - 02:04am PT
Ibex, Utah in July - whoa. Mornings and evenings might be pleasant I suppose.

More routes out there than you can shake a stick at.... I would not be surprised if you were alone, most climbers and sheep herders cleared out months ago.

Social climber
  Jul 28, 2008 - 02:13am PT
hey there.. .man, oh, man... this is really choice.... i just LOVE seeing that bird-critter on the rock... (first pic).... (sorry did not know what to call it, as to its proper name)....

great trip share.... (must come back to see all the pics, though)

really great stuff you shared, here, writing and all...

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jul 28, 2008 - 08:03am PT
It's about time you posted up there, CRR.
We've been wondering if you're still alive. . .

Great TR!

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Jul 28, 2008 - 09:31am PT
Great TR, Marty! It's great to see you got some mileage out of the trip! Thanks for a great story and pics

"you're drunk - don't drop my cams!" lol!

J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Jul 28, 2008 - 10:57am PT
Thanks mate, excellent TR!

Trad climber
  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:09am PT
Well. . Happy Monday Morning to you, too!


What a great TR to wake up to!





Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:13am PT
"sweeeeeet" Marty!

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:37am PT
Excellent! One of the most fun TRs posted in some time here. Thanks -


Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:46am PT
Kick ass!

Courtright is a really nice area. I love it up there.

  Jul 28, 2008 - 03:07pm PT
Great pics !

I remember very well yelling TAKE! when I tried to pull the roof on Scimitar :) My ice climber buddy just cruised up it ..
big wall paul

Trad climber
tahoe, CA
  Jul 28, 2008 - 05:40pm PT
Thanks for the trip report. Red Dihedral sure was fun. My excellent adventure for the summer so far. I've vowed to do at least one more trip to the Sawtooths this summer since it's only 2 hours away and all. And the mt bikes sure worked out great.

In case anyone knows them, that party behind us were Liz and Henama from Tuolomne SAR.

Mitch and Sarah: nice job! I saw your names in the hulk register from a week earlier.

Drywall Paul.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 28, 2008 - 05:55pm PT

When life is That good,
it doesn't get any better than that!

thanks for sharing!

Trad climber
  Jul 28, 2008 - 05:56pm PT
I have to come back later when I can let all the photos load - I NEED to see them! What I've glimpsed so far is really spectacular.

But I don't understand why the mountain road with the bobcat and bird of prey seems like a mistake taken to you. Those things would totally be worthwhile. So much a better memory than one of rolling down a generic highway with the sights consisting of SUV's full of Big Gulpers with kids kids in the back playing video games.
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Jul 28, 2008 - 06:02pm PT
Hey, I didn't see your names in the Hulk register. Then again,
you probably didn't see mine either. We were there July 13.

I also didn't see you when you came to Santa Cruz.
A doggone shame. We could have had you step into the Flytrap.
Nice report, what a successful trip.

Trad climber
Las Vegas
  Jul 28, 2008 - 06:07pm PT

Great TR, thanks for the sharing.

So 'Shack' still has and climbs in his old Boreal Fire's I see 'eh ? ;)

Trad climber
  Jul 28, 2008 - 06:40pm PT

scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Jul 28, 2008 - 06:49pm PT
Seems to me that Shack's Fires are a somewhat recent acquisition
which was discussed here.
This may be simply a delusion of mine.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Jul 28, 2008 - 06:55pm PT
Marty, here's a few from my end. Great seeing you, too bad about the rain.

Preclimb ritual:

Divorce Quartz[warning topo is wrong]

After Dinner Fun!!!

At the base of Power Dome:

Fun On The Stone:


Marty, Lookin' Good:

Typical Weather:

Hiking Up To Duzy Dome:

Bailing In The Rain [again]:

Drying Out:

Nice pics of the Red Dihedral Marty. I'm jealous.

See ya


  Jul 28, 2008 - 07:36pm PT
Nice trip report. nice pics.
Looks like you had a good time.
scuffy b

heading slowly NNW
  Jul 28, 2008 - 08:26pm PT
Great Rubber Boa.
I've only seen tiny ones, except for the tail of one biggy.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 28, 2008 - 08:31pm PT
Mr & Mrs the Colonel and I saw and held one, when coming down from snake dike a few decades ago...

Sport climber
Golf Wall, CO
Author's Reply  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:05pm PT
scuffy - That snake looked really wierd, with its unique, loose skin and all. His head was burried and I wasn't too keen on picking him up just to see. Thanks for telling me what it was. Also, my stay in Santa Cruz was very short and busy. But I did make time for a chicken mole burrito from Jalapenos - yummy!

Lars - I'm not sure whether to kill you or seek opportunities for revenge photos. Damn you! But the rest of your pics are great! Thanks. That was fun.

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
  Jul 28, 2008 - 11:27pm PT
Nice ars Marty...LOL!

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
  Jul 29, 2008 - 12:37am PT
I do still have my original '80s Fires, but those are some
original one's I found on Ebay brand new about 3 years ago.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Jun 9, 2015 - 07:05pm PT
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