Washington Column South Face (5.8 C1) is a 1000 ft granite face across Yosemite Valley from Half Dome. It is the easiest big wall climb in the valley and therefore the busiest. Optimistically, we were hoping to do it in a day with an early start, hauling only to Dinner Ledge and then blasting to the top. I even brought flashing light up glasses to make festive the predicted night rappels back down to Dinner Ledge where we’d hope there would still be room for our sleeping bags after sundown.
Speed would be the key and we planed to free as much as possible (first three and last four pitches) to make this climb 5.10b C1. Both Marco and I were relatively new to aid and we ended up learning a lot. We kept at it even after a lead fall injury where I climbed 70% of the wall with a fractured foot. I couldn’t walk, but I sure could aid climb!
I happened upon the Convict Lake area on my birthday backpacking trip up to Mt. Baldwin in 2016. The area is an amazing Eastern Sierra setting with two notable peaks (Morrison and Laurel) within a mile of the parking lot and an amazing remote basin several miles back. In this trip we were to follow the East Slope Variation route to ascend the chute between Mini Morrison and Mt. Morrison, ski down the chute, camp and then the next day ski out via the East Slope route. (map)
This last weekend I finished my first multi-pitch aid climb: Machete Direct (5.10a A1 R, 6P) in Pinnacles National Park. It was a real adventure with runnouts to make my fingers sweet, unexpectedly technical sections and a night decent following a paper thin route description.
I always knew I would love bicycle touring, but now I finally had the opportunity to prove it. I’m all about human-powered transit whether it be running, bicycling, skiing, backpacking or something else. So when someone proposed a backpacking overnight it was easy to say yes. The weather had some potential for rain, but both days proved to be some of the clearest views in the bay I’ve seen in months. I bicycled through a tunnel and built a tree fort at China Camp so, easy to say a good weekend.
Last weekend with snow pouring on the Sierra all week EVERYONE was going out skiing, but I wasn’t going to get stuck in Tahoe traffic or waiting in a lift line. No, ten extra feet of snow at Lassen Volcanic National Park meant we were going out for three day backcountry ski adventure where we would sleep in snow caves and ski down untouched powder in low avalanche conditions.
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.
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).
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.