Less than 24 hours earlier I woke up in a freezing desert outside Red Rock Canyon where I spent Christmas rock climbing. I now found myself in a snowy parking lot stuffing climbing ropes and ice tools into an already full backpack. I would be celebrating this New Year’s Eve by winter camping in a Coldstream Canyon at the base of frozen waterfalls for ice climbing. Welcome to Brice-style holidays.
I’ve been having a hard time this winter finding any climbing. I’ve tried four times to get out there but rain, wet rock and cold have limited my climbing to a single handful of pitches outside in the last two months. Jeremy, Sophia, Sadie and myself are here for five days to change that. However, flying into Las Vegas on Christmas Day to snow capped canyons and a high in the mid-30s looked like this trip might be the same. After spending half the day finding the only open Albertsons on Christmas Day off Chestnut for provisioning. We tried to get some great single pitch trad in at one of the warmest walls, Brass Wall. While the rock felt dry, the dirt at the base was damp. A sign Mountain Project advised us meant we could damage the delicate sandstone if we climbed.
Its that time of the year where you have some time to peel away from work and find time to read a book during the long dark evenings. I thought a lot about the popularity of Wild last spring and earlier A Walk in the Woods as representing backpacking and outdoor culture to the mainstream. I think its great to inspire people, but something rubbed me the wrong way about the romanticism of being unprepared. Disillusioned by the disregard of Leave No Trace in “A Walk in the Woods” I never got around reading “Wild” myself. Why read a book about an outsider to the woods when I could read about adventures of those well versed in wilderness. So, if you are looking for a good read I highly recommend these books which tell a much more relatable story for all of us explorers out there.
I’m still in denial that climbing season is coming to an end in the Sierra’s. Similar to my attempt on Bear Creek Spire a month ago, this weekend I decided to climb a classic by braving colder weather and threading a weather window. The idea was that we’ll have the stiflingly popular Snake Dike (5.7 R ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑) that climbs 800′ up the side (and tops out on) Half Dome to ourselves. I mean, who else is going to try to climb a granite dome with projected rain in the afternoon? The reason Snake Dike is so popular is simple. It is epic. It features massive run outs (sometime 65′ between bolts), amazing scenery and a strenuous 3-4 hours approach/decent (6 miles up / 9 miles down).
It didn’t take much convincing to spend a three day weekend in Yosemite Valley, climb a five star classic each day and camp at the historic Camp 4. Cold mornings and warm days meant prime climbing for the Northern walls of the valley, typically swelteringly hot in the summer. This had me looking at routes on Manure Pile Buttress, Five Open Books, Royal Arches, El Cap, and even Higher Cathedral. I ended up climbing The Grack, Nutcracker and Commitment.
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.