Sunday, August 23, 2009

Learning to Count

So this is a bit old, but a few weeks back Graham and I decided to give ourselves a workout and did the Cathedral traverse in Toulumne. This entails climbing many different peaks, all requiring some sort of scrambling or climbing to summit (up to 5.8), and requires TONS of movement. The summits, in the order we did them: Tenaya Peak, Mt. Tressiter, Columbia Finger, Matthes Crest, Echo Peaks 1-8, Echo Ridge, the Cockscomb, Unicorn Peak, and Cathedral Peak. Including all the Echo summits, we touched 16 different peaks during the day, and we had the idea to document each with a photo. We have all 16 of them, but I'll just throw a few of them here:

Peak #1, Tenaya
Peak #7, one of the Echo Peaks

Peak #14, the Cockscomb

You have to move fast to finish the Cathedral Traverse; or have the power of flight.

The spectacular ridge of Matthes Crest

A panorama taken from summit #16, Cathedral Peak. We went from right to left across most of the peaks visible.

sidenote: No, I'm not an Oakland A's fan, I just found the hat and liked the colors. Go Tigers!

In slightly more recent news: Emily (of the Toulumne SAR team) and I had an interesting "Successful Failure" High Sierra mission. The plan was to depart Toulumne on Thursday afternoon and roll down to Mt. Whitney, spend the night there and climb Whitney and Russell on Friday. That part of the plan was dissolved when, through patchy cell reception, we were able to ascertain that there were no permits available to camp at Whitney. Bummer.

OK, no problem, we'll just flip through the Sierra guidebook and pick a new destination: the Ruby Wall, just south of Mammoth. We'd never heard of anyone we know climbing there, but the approach was short (2.5 miles) , the cliff tall (1000'+) and the climbing supposedly good. Our guidebook quotes Galen Rowell, an old-school California badass climber, as saying that the South Arete route was "Eight of the nost enjoyable pitches of Sierra climbing" he had yet done. Cool.

So, after a quick stop for permits and a short hike in, we find the beautiful wall overlooking even more beautiful Ruby Lake. The camping was really spectacular, but as we found out the next morning when we hiked up to the wall, the rock was not.

After guessing where the start of the route might be (the guidebook had left plenty of adventure in it, as any good guidebook should), I started to lead the first pitch, billed as 5.9. It ends up being very convoluted and sketchy, with bad, grainy rock and flared cracks. I couldn't figure out which way to go, and none of the options seemed safe or worthwhile. OK, we'll head down and pick a different spot to start. We move a few hundred yards to the right to another promising looking crack system, and Emily leads up. Here we found about 60' of good climbing, but up higher we were again we're stymied by bad rock and unprotectable hard climbing. Oh well...

New plan: we had gotten some beta from the Mammoth climbing shop on a new, shorter route on a nearby cliff, supposedly with better rock. We find this climb easily, and start up. Unfortunately, "better rock" is a relative term, and this route is still very crumbly and grainy. Maybe it's just because it hasn't seen many climbers, but everytime I brush agaist the rock, a shower of little flakes and crystals break off. To its credit, the line of the climb is great, with soaring corners and great hand cracks, but the deteriorating rock is too much. We top out the three pitch line and gladly rappel.

So we had a "Successful Failure" of a trip: no permits for Whitney, stymied on Ruby Wall, crap rock on the consolation climb, but we had a fun adventure, we were able to keep motivated after being bouted repeatedly, got to see a gorgeous High Sierra lake and mountain cirque, and didn't get hurt. It all works out in the end.

In most recent news, I have finally left California! Indeed, the state that has held me captive since May 19th has released me from its pleasant grip, and I'm currently in the Washoe Country Public Library in Reno, Nevada. The current destination: Jackson, Wyoming, and the Grand Tetons, and the Grand Traverse!

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