Latest from Backcountry Nomad

Going to Temple at 13,000 ft on Moon Goddess Arete

View of Temple Crag from our campsite at Lake Three

“I could actually die or get seriously injured out here”, plunged into my brain stem at 12,500 ft, six hours into my climb of Temple Crag on Moon Goddess Arete. I had just lifted my foot off a refrigerator sized block that had shifted and nearly tumbled 1000 ft down the mountain. I also didn’t love the single cam in a short horizontal crack laid 30 ft diagonally to my left as the last piece of protection I had placed. This was what the last hour was like as I searched on lead to find a long ‘4th class ledges’ traverse using conflicting information among deteriorating rock quality. Things had changed drastically since my emboldened attitude that we could probably link neighboring Celestial Arete Venusian Blind with a scramble or traverse up Mt. Galey.


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Climbing my First Big Wall with a Fractured Foot

View of Washington Column, South Face route

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!


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How to lose a hand on Traveler’s Buttress (Lover’s Leap)

View from P3 belay, looking towards East Wall
View from P3 top belay, looking towards East Wall

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…


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Oh Shit! I Have to Descend 1000ft of Loose Rock!

Red Canyon, Utah
Red Canyon, Utah

I fell in love with mountains and became a hiker in Utah’s Western bite of the Rocky Mountains. That summer, in a dry desert area North of Salt Lake City. Fueled with inexperience and a taste for adventure I wound up in several off-trail scrambles there which taught me a foundation about how to descend loose rock and dirt. This Spring I had to use these skills again in an ‘Oh Shit!’ moment near Castle Peak where the trail forward simply ran off a cliff and turning around meant descending icy snow in hiking boots. As a result, my group chose to descend 1000 ft of loose dirt/rock, many doing so for the first time.


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Oh Shit! An Elk Gored my Tent!


Sometimes we go to nature, sometimes nature comes to us. This week I bring you a guest post by Mariel Reed about her recent adventure in Northern California.

“The Lost Coast”– a wild, and sometimes dangerous, 50+ mile stretch of California coastline– lives up to its name. The landscape feels like a land before time. In just 24 hours, two friends and I (Mariel) faced a stubborn mountain lion, intense winds and rain, and rowdy Roosevelt Elk. The beauty and wilderness of the Lost Coast took our breath away (and, um, our tent). But we escaped with our lives, and our thirst for adventure intact. Here’s the full story– and why you should go.


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Oh Shit! I’m Canoeing in Four Foot Waves!

Photo under CC by Morten F

I had my first ‘Oh Shit!’ moment in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. Despite a prior night’s storm our morning started out relatively calm paddling in my two person canoe. However, as the day went on and the lakes became larger the wind would overpower our human-powering steering. Repeatedly it diverted us away from our prospective camp sites, separated our group and forcing us towards rocks. Several times we had to communicate across islands to regroup, strategize our next campsite attempt and push our physically abilities and technical skills.

I call these emotionally driven situations ‘Oh Shit!’ moments where your group is forced to make quick decisions deviating from the original plan. They happen due to unexpected hazards (weather), human error (becoming lost) or just bad luck (injury). They are experience altering and often scary at the time, but make great stories and valuable experience later. I’ve had a number of these moments so I wanted to share my strategies for making the best decision when you realize, ‘Oh Shit!’


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