Ahhhhh permitting in the Eastern Sierra. When I moved to Mammoth Lakes, I was stoked for walk up permits because I could finally get them easily from the Mammoth Welcome Center the day before. However, after COVID, ‘walk up’ turned into two weeks before the entry date and all online. Great for non-residents like I used to be, but a bummer as a resident because it meant using an online system that can be hyper competitive. Thus we got a permit for Laurel Lakes just out of Mammoth Lakes and then went over the Laurel Col. to the Convict Lake Basin to climb Mt. Baldwin.
I had this grand idea of doing a traverse of the Pioneer Basin peaks, 8mi and 4k elevation gain of ridgeline. Followed by going over Hopkins Pass, making our way out to Duck Lake in Mammoth Lakes with peak bagging along the way. Then the plan hit reality and things were more difficult than I had hoped… (the proposed route)
Temple Crag is a huge formation out of Big Pine, CA. It hosts several amazingly long climbs from the 13 pitch Venusian Blind (5.7) to the 16 pitch Dark Star (5.10c) in the 1,500-2,000 ft long range. I made a failed attempt on Moon Goddess Arete (18 pitch, 5.8) back in 2018, but only found bad rock instead of the traverse to second tower. This time I teamed up with my friend Kevin to climb Sun Ribbon Arete (2000 ft, 22 pitches, 5.10a) car-car. I’ve never done a single day push before (most people camp at the upper lakes the night before) and was pretty intimidated but it went really well in a 17 hours continuous movement day.
I have looked at Mt. Morrison’s grand 12,240 ft summit for many years. We had a Spring summit attempt in 2017, when we said “who cares, let’s ski” at the Morrison Couloir. In 2020 Sadie and I climbed Laurel and the view of Morrison again called to me. Now on fun-employment I took the day to bag it (basically this route) through brush, across post holing snow and up some 4th class rock that I got myself into (the route goes Class 3 if you aren’t messing around like me).
Iva Bell Hot Springs are a backcountry hotspot for warm pools of water. The journey would bring us through thorny bushes, over many large logs, across bridged rivers and finally battling algae in these backcountry host springs. In all the trip would take us 35 miles, 6,800 ft over two long days.
I’ve spent almost three years out here in the Eastern Sierra and its been a big climbing adjustment. Before, from the San Francisco Bay Area, the process was frequent, hard gym climbing, one season of the pure crack style in Yosemite followed by the foothills season of mostly crack practice. However, out in the Eastern Sierra I’ve found much more of a face-crack style of routes that has had me evaluate my generally weak face-climbing skills. Also, adjusting to a different seasonality of climbing that doesn’t involve Yosemite Valley (which is inaccessible for the best seasons from the Eastside).
Getting in a couple more backpacking trips before it gets too cold. This weekend Sadie, Piton and I went up McGee Creek just a couple canyons down from Mammoth Lakes. It took us seven hours to hike to 11,100 ft camp along an eight mile, 3500 ft gain trail and three and a half hours back. [Map]
Sometimes I can get too caught up in the details of a climb or mountain or canyon. The more details there are, the more you can obsess over them to try to figure out exactly what the experience might be. With the Inyo National Forest closure from Aug. 31 – Sept. 17th due to the fires in California, most of my backyard and frequented places were not accessible. Therefore, I found a random, non SPS (Sierra Peak Section) peak in the only National Forest open (Humboldt-Toiyabe) and decided to just go for the journey.
Middle Earth was a challenging canyon route starting at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls, descending ~1000 ft to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls. It tested and broke my nerves but I still had a number of firsts including my first class B+ canyon involving several swims.