Trip ReportCalifornia Road Trip (A SuperTopo Success Story) (Photo TR)
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.
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.)
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