Trip ReportClosing out Spring, Starting Summer - Donner, Tuolumne, Pine Creek, and Red Rock - Photo Intensive!
[author's note: A little more verbiage from me on this one...sorry.]
Anyone who has been climbing long enough can tell you this vertical dance that we take part in can have its ups and downs. If you become too obsessed with the end - the objective, you can very quickly lose perspective and grow frustrated pretty quick.
All Spring I had my eyes on Cloud Tower at Red Rock and Shune's Buttress in Zion. Neither one happened, and for a while I was pretty damn bitter about that. Both didn't happen because of things beyond the realm of my control - weather for Shune's that sent us to J-Tree instead, and a combo of partner bailing and back re-injury (uncanny timing on that, literally after sneezing and injuring my back I had an IM from my Reno-based partner that he wouldn't be making it...)resulted in Cloud Tower not going down.
After both of those, I took a long hard look at climbing. I've always been the type to dive into anything I do head-first and take to it with a head-banger's intensity. In other activities, this has resulted in the performance I wanted, or me growing frustrated and moving on. When all of my obsession with these routes resulted in no tangible success, I started looking very hard at my balance in life. I have a rewarding career, an incredible long-term girlfriend, family close by, and a great network of friends. What I didn't want to do was become a single-dimensional individual who lost the rest due to obsession.
I can tend to get lost in the echo chamber that resides above my shoulders...
This reflection was happening as I was struggling with injury and the temperature window for these routes to happen was slamming shut. It seemed as though the training time I had put in was for naught, and at the time it felt as though I had sacrificed much for little reward. I still had committed to some climbing trips with friends for about the next month, and I will do anything in my power not to bail, so maybe I'll just see how the next month goes.
Then, my back felt good enough to climbing. I went top-rope soloing one day, just some moderate stuff after work, and it felt fantastic to move over stone. Maybe I'm not burnt out, or maybe I'm just feeding the addiction.
The next day after work Jon and I went out to the Coco Crag to climb some of the quality routes there. Again, another really fun couple of hours moving over stone
Jon cruising on the warm-up, Moon Where The Wind Blows
Rock climbing is fun! Lets do more...
At the end of the week I went back to my old stomping grounds in Reno for some business - I had meetings on Friday and Sunday, so Saturday I decided to use as an opportunity to return to where I learned to climb, Donner Summit.
A group of my friends and I went up to the Black Wall where we climbed One Hand Clapping's first pitch, Firecracker, New Moon, and Full Moon. We had a big group, didn't take many pics, but got a few cool shots of the zone.
Donner was a breath of fresh air. It felt good to be able to climb something quite difficult for me (Full Moon), even on toprope, after my back injury. The movement was just so damn good and the stone so great. Definitely was glad I took Ben's advice not to try to lead it, that gear looked like it would have been THIN and very difficult to place. Big falls on bad back probably wouldn't have been the best of ideas.
Back to Vegas for me...
Man, this rock climbing thing is REALLY fun...I want to get good at face climbing, since I suck at that...more TR soloing! Lets do more, harder...yeah!
And that's where the whole "diving head first" thing winds up biting me in the tail. I tweaked a pulley in my left middle finger that still isn't happy, and that was about 3 weeks ago. I make good life decisions, considering I had a trip for my birthday plotted to Tuolumne for Memorial Day Weekend (that weekend). I go climb a few pitches after work at the Black Corridor the following day, you know, to make sure all of the parts are workin' since I had a friend flying in for the trip to the Meadows, and others driving long and far to get there. Everything worked, thankfully.
Our first day on the Eastside we got established at our camp, and given the storms that week, decided that clipping some bolts would be fun out in the volcanic lands to allow the Meadows to dry out and warm up a touch. Al's Garage was our first stop...
My girlfriend Sam made the trip up with me, where we would meet up with Jeff who was down for the day from Reno and Ben who was down from Reno for the vast majority of the weekend. T-Pain was going to pick Aaron up at the airport in Vegas (he flew in from Portland) and ride up to meet us on the Eastside. Full blown convergence of lots of great friends, great climbing, and the absolutely incomparable Eastside. Yeah, that'll help ya get the stoke going again.
Jeff, Ben, and I all took turns leading the lower angle 5.8 at the crag, then Ben hopped on the 5.8 to the right of it.
After this I lead the 10b to the right of that, which in my opinion, was poorly bolted for a sport route. Just poor placement and clearly bolted on rappel. Definitely be sure you are solid at the grade before leading Triple Delight there.
The great reunion followed, with T-Pain delivering Aaron to us at the crag fresh from Portland. Aaron is another one of my good buddies, was a college roommate of mine, and was the one I climbed Epinephrine with last June (search for the Thrift Shoppin' Epinephrine TR). He hadn't climbed since then, but the guy is strong like bull and fun as hell t have around. This is where the shenanigans began among the group of partaking in sandbagging activities. Rocks in backpacks, chalk bags, and ropes getting clipped to haul loops to add some drag all occurred, some detected early, others not. Quality amusement ensued.
T-Pain then got his lead on a delightful 5.9 to the right of the cool arete at Al's Garage and we all took a lap after that...
Glorious Sierra light lead us back to the campground where we had a fire, dinner, and told stories, half-truths, and slandered one another around the campfire.
Saturday morning it was time to head up 120 to Tuolumne...and of course, the Meadows always provide.
With a large group, varying ability levels, and Sam who doesn't climb with us, we kept things super casual and fun. First route up was Puppy Crack on Puppy Dome. Aaron hadn't lead since a pitch or two of Epi, but he is a crack (climbing) fiend, and thus he lead the route and I shot a few photos.
Travis lead it next, I ran a lap, and then it was time for the Tuolumne River Layback....
Once the gang awakened from lizard mode, we made the cruise along 120 down to climb in Olmsted Canyon. Except that there were >6 cars in the parking lot. Nope! We hung out at Olmsted Point for a little bit, trying to figure out what to do next. Threw the football around, had some amusing encounters, and took a few pictures...
Sam and I
Ben, Aaron, myself, T-Pain
That view back toward Tuolumne Meadows...
Somehow I didn't manage to take any pictures but we all went over and played on the Golfer's Route, a favorite of mine, in the meadows. It was super fun, I love that thing...such a cool climb!
Ben had to leave the next morning and I had been eyeballing Tideline in Oldmsted Canyon for a while. Every time I hiked up there, it seemed to be getting top-roped into submission by a small army. This time, we hike up and it is open.
Quickly we flake the rope, I rack up, and it's time...
Aaron and Travis both follow Tideline. Aaron, who hasn't climbed much the last two years really...proceeds to cruise on Tideline. Damn impressive, wish I was that strong off the couch!
Speaking of "off the couch," Aaron decides to lead Ivory Tower, Center - a fine single pitch route. And cruises! Strong like bull!
With each jam, it seemed like Aaron's stoke for climbing was coming back....and that got me stoked! Aaron was so stoked he even ran a toprope lap on the offwidth next door, and it was his idea...and he was stoked about it! I had already done the offwidth, and admittedly got my ass kicked on Tideline (thing is stout! and I'm not that good) so I opted not to embrace the wyde for once. It was super cool, too, to see these two women who were mega pumped on OW cruise on that thing - the footwork was so precise and the movement smooth.
As far as the climbing was concerned, that was the end of it for that trip. It was super fun and I was still holding out hope that a partner of mine would be up for Cloud Tower the following weekend. Didn't happen. Luckily, Jeff was in town for a bachelor party the following week, so we got to climb a few times after work.
On my birthday, after work I wanted to go climb The Fox - a super classic single pitch splitter crack here. Upon arrival at the base, there is another party TR soloing the route, so I figure I'll climb an adjacent route. I rack up, have Jeff flake the rope, then start searching for my shoes. Yep, definitely forgot my shoes. At this point I am livid with myself, but start thinking quickly about what route we could climb in approach shoes nearby that would be fun. I had climbed the first pitch of Physical Graffiti last year and remember it being fun, so Jeff and I head over there and have an approach shoe adventure.
The descent from this route is quick and we were back at my house in no time. Jeff, Sam and I went over to my Dad's house for dinner to celebrate my birthday.
Friday after work we went out to the Velvet Wall to climb a route called "Spark Plug," a rather stout but totally classic 10- crack.
Black Velvet canyon always amazes me. It was over 100 degrees in town that day and it was very pleasant at the base of the wall. The breeze was fantastic and the only bad part of the experience was, as always in the summer, the approach. Luckily we ran into friends and made some new ones in the shade on the approach. We had the reproach to ourselves and had beverages in the cooler at the truck for rapid rehydration and sunset watching...
Jeff left town the following day and I had one more climbing trip planned, celebrating my buddy Shane's birthday in Tahquitz the following weekend. The feeling of burning out was starting to come back again so I decided to take most of the following week off of climbing. Got out one day after work, but that's it...
Temps for Tahquitz were looking warm and Shane wanted to celebrate his birthday somewhere new - and temps were looking great in the higher elevations near Bishop. Shane was going to be bringing his 67 year old father with on the trip, who got him into climbing. "Cool!" I thought, however, what would we be able to take his dad up? Shane said his dad could get up 5.9, so that could still be fun, I thought. Somehow the two brain cells absently floating around in my head came up with a few different ideas. We would hop on the first pitch of the John Fischer Memorial Rotue in Pine Creek and see how Randy, Shane's dad, does. If he does well, we'll do the first four pitches. If not, we can bail and head on to easier things in the neighborhood.
A party of strong Bishop locals arrived at the base, we let them pass and they were super nice and great company. Party of three is slow and I was glad these ladies linked the first two pitches so passing went quicker. Very courteous and nice folks, this sport attracts great people.
Once we finished the fourth pitch, we decided to rap, get some water, and head to the Lamb Canyon Wall. The first 4 of that route are my favorite, having done the other 3 several years ago. About a year ago I was fixated on leading a route on the Lamb Canyon Wall called "Moment of Zen." The pictures of it on Mountain Project appeared to fit the name. Randy approached with us but opted not to climb this one, so it was just Shane and I. Needless to say, after leading it, I was glad it was not my first 5.11 route as it was sustained, technical, and the gear was small but solid. Incredible climb.
Anyone who thinks Pine Creek grades are soft should give that thing a lap. Especially if you are short. Absolutely fantastic route though...the position, rock quality, movement, and variety are phenomenal.
Our final morning in town we went up the hill to Cardinal Pinnacle. Randy wasn't feelin' it, so back to Pine Creek we went to lap a personal favorite of mine - Strikeslip's first pitch (5.9) into Three Hour Arete (5.10c). Well-protected, engaging climbing on fantastic stone in an incredible position? If that didn't get my stoked cranked to 11, not sure what would...
Randy hung out and enjoyed the views from the ledge at the top of P3. He thought P3 might be his favorite pitch of the day, his son (Shane for those of you keeping track at home) agreed. I kept myself amused by forgetting half of the draws for the final pitch, DOH!
Man, rock climbing is really fun. When can I escape again? Maybe I should find a partner for after work tomorrow, or go toprope soloing...
Balance. I have to find a balance, but where exactly that resides I am not sure. I'll find it, and I have dedicated myself to more or less being able to coming closer to achieving it, but for now I'll take what I can get...and train like a madman this summer for a few big climbs this summer and hopefully starting off the Fall climbing season with trips up Cloud Tower and Shune's Buttress. Maybe.
If nothing else, this past month has shown me how much joy can be derived from helping others get stoked, and just generally going out and having a good time and making sure everyone else is too. Forget the numbers, forget the ego, just go out, enjoy the process and have fun - the rest falls into place anyway if you do just that. It never was about the end anyway, it was always about the struggle to get there...
Thank you for reading, this thing took a lot of work. Sorry for the poor writing quality, as I am quite tired right now.
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