On a late October weekend I went out to Lover’s Leap for some trad multi pitch climbing with friends. The campground felt as busy as in the summer, but the cold caused many climbers to start later and opt for sunnier spots like the East Wall. This left classics like Corrugation Corner to few parties, often without lines. My goal for the weekend was to push myself leading. I had no idea what I was going to get myself into…
On the weekend of October 15th there was a 130 mph wind warning in the Sierra North of Mammoth Lakes from a massive storm drenching California in rain. My plans to alpine climb in Toulumne could not happen. I searched every climbing area in California to find one without rain and less wind risk. Finally settling upon Bear Creek Spire’s North Arete (⭑⭑⭑⭑, 5.8) still in a wind advisory, but less extreme.
Shuteye Ridge is an area just South of Yosemite with hundreds of climbs, a continuation of Yosemite’s granite quality that can also offer knobby faces and typically very little crowding. For example, there are 24 routes on the 600′ Queen’s Throne dome, but my group of four was the only one climbing on it last Saturday. This area doesn’t get much traffic simply because its hard to get there. Most areas require beating up your car or a high clearance vehicle while anything labeled four wheel drive also requires serious nerve and at least 31 inch wheels. Mountain project only has like 20% of the routes in this region and having a guide book is essential. Finally, if you want something easy to get to in the region without the clearance requirement Chiquito Dome is the place for you.
After a mile on trail I again disengaged straight in the direction of a pass. Crossing a flat basin and then climbing consistently higher towards a single prominent glacial clad mountain.
The Cordillera Huayhaush is regarded by some as the second best trek in the world. It brings you through remote, majestic 20,000+ ft peaks capped by large gleaming glaciers rushing into the turquoise alpine lakes. Then at night you camp in alpine basins, losing yourself in awe of the high andes landscape.
Most people complete this 8-14 day trek using a guide and donkeys, but spiritually I believe (like these people) self-sufficiency is an important part of the wilderness experience so I went solo and unsupported. Not content with the already difficult Huayhuash circuit, I pushed this trip further, driving myself to spend most days off trail or on the alpine circuit using a quality map and guide book. As a result, I spent my 73 mile route constantly above 14,000 ft, climbing over five 16,000 ft passes, and racking up 28,000 ft of elevation by the end of my eight days.
Alastair Humphreys is the true modern day adventurer who crosses deserts by foot and rows across the Atlantic. It goes without saying he is an amazing inspiration to myself as an explorer. For some time I’ve been thinking how I can bring his concept of micro adventures (bringing adventure into our every day lives and making it more approachable) into a normal week. I started the process this summer by sleeping outside in the hammock in my backyard some nights and now regularly skipping a tent in the backcountry. However, what I really wanted was to bring that backcountry adventure into my daily life…
Meeting new people is something I love to do and it takes only a few moments before I begin sharing my passions for the mountains through engrossing stories. When I met someone who had a bold and adventurous attitude and was curious about experiencing my passion for the outdoors, everything started coming together. In no time at all I had a permit for Hawk backpack camp in Marin. That Tuesday I picked her up in SF for her first backpacking trip after hitting the clock for work.
While Hawk probably has great views, we weren’t party to them on our easy 4 mile, 1000 ft hike to up camp as the fog became thicker, clouding both the city and the setting sun. A sunset unviewable and darkness quickly descending we strapped my headlamp to a Nalgene for a lantern as we sat down for dinner. The fog was content, shrouding any view of the night sky so after dinner we brought our laughter and conversation into our tent. The shared experience of the outdoors always has this great ability to bring relative strangers towards new friends.
The backcountry is great for refreshing my spirit and connecting with people, but not always for sleep. We both woke to the wind as it picked up from 2:30am-3:30am slapping our tent and shaking the fog condensed tree limbs above us onto our tent, simulating a light rain. The next morning after a short hike out we hit almost no traffic and were both working by 9:30am.
Was it worth it? Well, I was able to build a stronger friendship over a more meaningful activity than drinks or dinner. I definitely felt a small ping of the typical freedom and center mountains provide. However, it wasn’t long enough to get the full restoration of a weekend trip. In all though, it was surprisingly easy and begs a simple question. Why don’t we use adventure more in our daily person-person bonding activities?
I was invited to do one of the hardest backpacking trips in the lower 48: The Caribou Scramble is 26 miles with a massive 13k elevation gain. However it was kind of hard figuring out the actual route so we misidentified and embarked on this Caribou Figure Eight that even Summit Post suggested. Combining it with a class three Caribou rim traverse our trip was still a respectable 22 mile, 7k elevation gain trip with a warm (rare) alpine lake swim and plenty of granite scrambles.
Keeping in pattern with a climbing trip every weekend I signed on to go to Lover’s Leap in South Lake Tahoe where huge rocks charge up from the surrounds just off I-50. The area is very popular due to its easy trad multi-pitch routes and relatively short drive from the SF Bay Area. I wound up leading a couple really great climbs, having an unexpected fantastic evening with friends and a surprise single strange rappel adventure. I was able to route find pretty well with just Mountain Project, but the guide book everyone else had would have saved me some time.
A few weekends back I decided to go on a climbing trip with a bunch of people I didn’t know via a very active meet up group Get Your Climb On. What could go wrong? Actually, everything went right and I climbed the hardest sport route I’d ever done outside and met a ton of really great people I just clicked with. It was an amazing time. I couldn’t find a great guide book for North Tahoe (still waiting on this one), but there is one specifically on Big Chief which would have been helpful.