Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Hulk!

Ok, so some quick catching up: Two weeks ago, just after my wonderful stay in San Fran with Eric and Sarah, I returned to Yosemite, this time to Toulumne Meadows. This higher altitude section of the park offers cooler temps, beautiful sculpted domes and peaks, and free camping! (not really, but I'm staying with some friends)

Toulumne Meadows

It's really awesome hanging out here, and there's plenty of motivated folks to climb with, including my friend Graham. Some highlights of climbing in Toulumne: The Scorpion (11b) and the Wailing Wall (11d) on Medlicott Dome, The OZ and Gram Traverse on Drug Dome (10d), and the Hobbit Book (I forget where it is..., but it's 5.7)

Me leading the Gram Traverse on Drug Dome. The pitch goes horizontally for 150' under a giant roof.

Even cooler, though, than Toulumne, is the climbing in the High Sierra mountains, specifically on a mountain called "The Incredible Hulk". The Hulk is a perfect white chunk of granite, about 1500' high, located way back in a canyon at around 11,000' elevation. It's a tough hike in, so we decided to spend and few days camping at the base and try as many routes on it as we could. The crew was mostly from the Toulumne SAR (search and rescue) team: Graham, Ben, John, Lorna, and Kevin.

Our first view of the Hulk, about 4 miles into the approach

The camping is spectacular, with pure alpine streams, hidden lakes, huge cliffs, and no other people. The only bother was the mosquitos, but we seemed to get used to them and by the 2nd day we were indifferent (or totally saturated with DEET).

The climbing is more spectacular! The rock on the Hulk is some of the best in California, which would place it high in the running for best world-wide. Clean white vertical granite with loads of perfect cracks, this stuff is the medium for amazing climbing. John and I started out with the most classic line on the face: Positive Vibrations (11a). John led the first four pitches cleanly, which set me up for the even steeper and more exposed four pitches above. Positive is mega-classic, and we were stoked for the team onsight! (climber slang: Onsight= to lead a climb first try, without insider info on how it goes, and without any falls or hanging on the rope)

The Hulk at sunset

The next day: Sunspot Dihedral (11b). John was a bit tired, and the route sounded pretty hard, so we figured I should lead all the pitched. This is a rare treat, and I heartily enjoyed it! Sunspot was every bit as good as Positive Vibes, and even harder and much more sustained. It had powerful roof climbing, delicate thin cracks, gorgeous soaring corners, and a cryptic crux. I led every pitch clean for the onsight!

Our last day John decided to hike out (he's headed to Squamish, maybe we'll see him later in the summer), so I hooked up with Justin, a strongman from Montana. We picked AstroHulk (11c, do you notice a pattern?) for the day, and by this point the rock was seeming pretty familiar, so we got a comfortably late start. Just had already done Astrohulk, so we decided to throw in a harder variation on some of the lower pitches, doing pitches 3-5 of "Venturi Effect". This proved to be the highlight of the day!

Justin led the first 11+ variation pitch onsight, and that set us up at the base of a striking corner. Obvious from the ground, this corner is maybe the most clean feature on a mountain full of clean features! Justin had to get his head psyched up this pitch, and he styled the insecure 12a liebacking despite the huge fall potential. I was definitely nervoud for him, watching from the belay. Higher in the corner, the protection got better, but the climbing got harder, and Justin ended up taking a nice clean whipper. He manned up and finished the lead, and I felt really good on the follow, only falling twice.

Once past the variation pitches, we had an odd encounter: We look up to see Graham and Ben, who had been climbing Positive Vibes, rappelling down to us. Once they arrive, they explain that a slower party in front of them was holding them up, and they decided to bail. Fortunately, Justin decided that he would also like to bail (since he'd already climbed the rest of the route), and Graham was keen to continue climbing. So, about 500' off the deck, we traded partners. Justin and Ben rappelled to the ground and spent the rest of the day swimming and relaxing, while Graham and I continued up AstroHulk. And we tore it up! We both felt super confident onsighting the remaining 4 pitches, and we topped out on the ridge with plenty of daylight to spare. A quick rappel brought us back to the ground, and then a quick "ski" descent of the snowfield brought us back to camp.

The Crew getting going in the morning

Sorry to keep throwing more names at you, but that day Ben's friends Marcus and Rocky, from West Virginia, show up at camp. They roll up in good West Virginia style: with a fishing pole, a full size axe, some beer, and a gun. Party tonight! While we were climbing they had caught some delicious trout, and we all feasted. This was the last night in the Sierras for us, and in the morning we gathered our stuff and hiked out. What an awesome three days: great friends, great food, and three killer onsights!

Anyways, I'm now staked out back in Toulumne, probably for the next week or two. Here's some pictures of a fun party we threw last night when Graham's friends Sarah and Laura were visiting:

Sam playing the "Crate Game" The goal is to stack as many crates as you can, while standing on them. Note the harness and ropes, we like to keep things safe.

Ben pretending he's a bear

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eric, Sarah, San Fran, and Bikes

I'm enjoying a cool, sunny day here in Albany, California, hanging out with my good friend Eric.

Eric and I were roommates back in Colorado (and back in Tucson, AZ, and way back at Denison U. in Ohio), and two months ago, around the same time I started my roadtrip, he moved here with his girlfriend Sarah. They have a gorgeous little place in the suburbs, right next to Berkeley (the city line is a few houses down) and just across the bay from San Francisco. It's all decked out and domesticated, and both of them love it here.

Two days ago I left Yosemite Valley, which was starting to get scorching hot (I guess it's 102 F there right now), and then drove across the Central Valley, which is always scorching. Then I crossed the Coastal range and dropped down into the Bay Area, and it was like another world! It's lush and green here with great cool ocean breezes. As I write this it's 73 degrees!

Taking advantage of the great weather, Eric and I went on a bike tour of San Fran yesterday. Even though he's been here 2 months, he hasn't really gotten a chance to do the whole tourist gig there, so we would both be doing some exploring. We started out by taking the subway across the bay to the Embarcadero, which is the bustling city center. We dodged cars and pedestrians on our bikes and made our way all the way across the peninsula to the Golden Gate park, which took us past a cross section of the city: the skyscrapers and business suits of the financial district, the neighborhood groceries stores and gang graffiti of the "Tenderloins" district, the City hall building complete with San Fran style political rally, and the hippy and homeless sector of the Haight Ashbury.

When we reached the Pacific side of the city, we sat on the beach for a while. Alas, it was to cold for a quick swim. Then we worked our way back northeast along the coast on some hilly bikepaths over to the Golden Gate Bridge. We rode across the bridge to Marin County, and hung out there enjoying the views, but being blasted by wind.

Back across the Golden Gate, we continued along the shore to the touristy Fisherman's Wharf area, where we grabbed some In-and-Out Bugers. Our stomachs full, we used that greasy fuel to power us up and down some of the steepest paved hills I'd ever seen. We even got to bike down Lombard street, the famous super-curvy one.

Then we decided to find Chinatown, which I had pictured in my mind as some dark network of narrow roads and crazy restaurants and groceries and laundries. I guess we didn't really find that, but I did get to go a real chinese grocery, and enjoyed seeing all the cryptic cans of eels and fish and foreign candies.

Finally, we rode down the coast, around the baseball stadium, out to some piers to enjoy the sunset on the city. A quick subway ride back under the Bay took us back home to complete a full touristy day.

I'm loving here by the Bay, and I think I'll hang out for a few more days with these great people until I head back to the mountains for some more rock climbing!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yeah, I'm still alive

Hey Y'all-
Sorry for being delinquent with the posts lately, it's been tons of climbing and not much internet time. I'm gonna write up a good post tomorrow, but as for now I'll just say this:

Eric and I tried the Nose-HD linkup, but only completed the Nose (In 12 hours, darn...)
Here's the link to Tom Evan's El Cap Report with some funny comments about us and a Korean team that Eric and I "rescued".

Graham (who is on the Valley YoSAR team) and I have been hanging out at the Camp 4 SAR (search and rescue) site, camping and eating and climbing. Our big outing was Freeing Half Dome! Not really, but we got very close, only failing to send 2 pitches. Here's Grahams bitchin trip report.

Eric and I went to the Needles for a few days: awesome climbing and even better camping!

Back in the Valley now, have to figure out what I want to do next (hmmm..., Valley, Toulumne, Sierras, Squamish...) . More living the dream!