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.
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…