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Cathedral Peak Takeover

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

For this Adventure of the Week, TMS blog editor Julie Brown writes about climbing Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. She wasn’t alone on the rock like John Muir, but the climb is still a classic.

Who: Julie Brown, Ashli Lewis, Matt Gibely, Tyler Chapek, Elan Pardee, Brett Spadi, Patrick and Adam

What: Climbing the Southeast Buttress of Cathedral Peak

Where: Tuolumne Meadows

Gear: Rock climbing gear, softshell jackethydration backpack

“No feature, however, of all the noble landscape as seen from here seems more wonderful than the Cathedral itself, a temple displaying Nature’s best masonry and sermons in stones. How often I have gazed at it from the tops of hills and ridges, and through openings in the forests on my many short excursions, devoutly wondering, admiring, longing! This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California, led here at last, every door graciously opened for the poor lonely worshiper.” ~ John Muir, “My First Summer in the Sierra”

Standing on the summit of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows, a granite world expanding beyond the horizon, you understand John Muir’s praise of this aesthetic mountain.  Muir made the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in 1869; 143 years later, I summited Cathedral. While I envied the solitude Muir experienced on this classic climb, I still lost myself in the moment when I reached the 10,911-foot summit.

I went after the summit of Cathedral Peak with seven other friends from Tahoe. It took a little initiative and everyone was on board. Since a few of us are weekend warriors, we decided to climb Cathedral on a Saturday — for better or worse. No one is exaggerating when they say this is one of the most crowded climbs in Tuolumne. Like everyone else on the rock that Saturday, we were attracted to Cathedral by both its reputation as a classic Tuolumne trad climb and its moderate rating. And even though we set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. (and finally crawled out of our sleeping bags at 10 to 6), we were far away from the first group to reach the base of the Southeast Buttress. Still, warmed up from the approach hike, we weren’t discouraged and set out on the first pitch of the day.

The climbing on the Southeast Buttress starts out pretty mellow and then steepens towards the top — although it’s all very accessible at a 5.6 rating. It’s easy to pass parties in the first couple of pitches, but everything bottlenecks about halfway up at the Chimney, a really fun feature where you squeeze between two faces and stem up to the opening above.

I squeezed in between two other parties waiting to climb the Chimney and set up my anchor, where we proceeded to chill for the next hour waiting for everyone to climb up. I suggested avoiding the Chimney and climbing around, but my climbing partner Ashli said this was the best move of the entire Southeast Buttress, so we stayed, ate lunch and literally hung out. Not a bad view to look at for an hour, though.

Finally, it was our turn, and the climbing resumed. Up a few hand cracks, finagling 5.7 knobby jugs, teetering around an exposed block, and then up the final ten feet to the summit — a block big enough for a handful of people featuring one of the most serene views of my life.

The Sierras unfold in every direction — lakes and granite forever. And for the first time that day, the Eichorn Pinnacle came into view behind the summit, beckoning me to its summit next.

I now know what a “5.4 wild” rating means. The Eichorn Pinnacle is perhaps the most exposed and thrilling easy climb ever. We had to climb it. We traversed out on a ledge and rounded the corner where the ground literally drops out from underneath your feet. The only way to go is up. And luckily the moves are solid enough to keep your head (sorta) cool. The top of the Eichorn Pinnacle is even more exposed and breathtaking than Cathedral. And unlike the summit of Cathedral, Eichorn has a summit register, which was placed in memory of Christina Chan and holds the signatures of countless climbers.

“How delightful it is to be alone here! How wild everything is — wild as the sky and as pure! Never shall I forget this big, divine day — the Cathedral and its thousands of cassiope bells, and the landscapes around them, and this camp in the gray crags above the woods, with its stars and streams and snow.” ~ John Muir, “My First Summer in the Sierra”

I wasn’t alone up there. But climbing Cathedral Peak is still magnificent and wild. And it’s definitely a classic in my book.

Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
MSRP: $59.95
ABC Tubular Webbing
ABC Tubular Webbing
MSRP: $.40
Black Diamond ATC Belay Device
Black Diamond ATC Belay Device
MSRP: $16.95

 

 

A Daylong Mini-Epic: Climbing the regular northwest face of Half Dome

Friday, June 8th, 2012

This Adventure of the Week comes from Max Neale, review editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, which was recently named Best Gear Website by Outside Magazine. Max regularly contributes reviews and tales from the road on our blog. He took us climbing in Turkey, down California’s Lost Coast, and now climbing up the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome…

Who: Max Neale, Chris Simrell

What: Climbing the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome

Where: Yosemite National Park

Gear: Black Diamond Climbing Gear, La Sportive Mythos Climbing Shoes, Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad

I’ve been scrambling up rock faces of various types and sizes for the past six and a half years. In the never-ending quest for progress — for bigger, better, faster, farther… more — we rock climbers inevitably look to taller lines. Lines in famous places and on famous faces. Lines like the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome (RNWF), the 2,000-foot, 23-pitch Yosemite classic that I’m told all “real rock climbers” must do.

So, last week my friend from college Chris Simrell and I climbed the route. We approached via the death slabs beneath the steep face, slept at the base of the wall and got started at 5:30 a.m. the following day. We came prepared with a single rope, a double rack of cams, a handful of stoppers, basic aid gear, six liters of water and a dozen or so energy bars. We also brought with us experience from previous climbs. Since graduating from college in 2010, Chris has been running it out on ice and snow in the Cascades and Canadian Rockies. Meanwhile, I have spent most of my free time playing on the High Sierra’s granite. Together we make a reasonably experienced team and thought we could climb the route in a day.

Half Dome, we learned, requires a wide variety of climbing skills. One must be fluent in placing traditional protection, ascending fixed ropes, aid climbing, and pendulums. You should also be comfortable with all types of crack climbing — from fingers to full-body squeezes.  In other words, climbing the RNWF requires all the basic skills and techniques a Yosemite climber needs. But neither Chris nor I are Yosemite climbers. Together, we did our first real aid climb (the Prow) just a few days before getting on Half Dome. Jugging fixed lines, cleaning pendulums, climbing chimneys and squeezes, and aid techniques are all new to us. Thus, we were slower than expected on the RNWF.

We knew the day was going to be a race against the sun, so we started in the early grey hours of morning. At 5:30 a.m. Chris and I stepped from the shrinking snowfield at the base of Half Dome, climbed onto rock and jugged the first three pitches (which were fixed the day before). Then, I led and Chris jugged pitches four through nine. We were in Half Dome’s shadow, but by this point the sun was up and illuminating the southern faces of the valley below. Chris and I swapped lead and he took us up the next seven pitches, which presented steeper and more complicated climbing. The crux was the middle section, and the first crux on the route (for us) proved to be pitch 12. This was the first of several chimney pitches and Chris’ first ever “real chimney pitch.” He navigated the bottom 5.6 and 5.9 sections with cautious progress and struggled through the final 5.7 squeeze. He fell four times, sliding and grinding to a halt.

“This is the hardest pitch of my life!!” he yelled.

I was uncomfortable with his frustration, entertained by the live sports action, and a bit nervous that I might have to try to lead the pitch if Chris failed. I gave him all the verbal encouragement I could. And with brilliant lie-back technique, Chris prevailed. Then he led us up through four more pitches to Big Sandy Ledge, where I took over for the 170-foot 5.12/ C1 pitch.

It was now late afternoon and the sun was upon us. I made slow progress through the aid sections: I senselessly avoided placing nuts, climbed 15 feet above the alcove belay, and lowered back down to bring Chris up. Time elapsed faster than expected. We were now racing to stay in the sun. Chris jugged as fast as he could while the shadow raced up the death slabs below. He arrived at the belay with his headlamp strapped to his helmet, we swapped gear and I took off again for the last aid pitch, which went faster and finished just below the famous Thank God Ledge. Chris passed the next block off to me, so I racked up, excited to cross the ledge, yet nervous about the 5.8 squeeze at its end. I took off walking then stooped low to hand traverse, and then got back on my feet for the end of the ledge. This is the pitch that put the un-roped Alex Honnold on the cover of National Geographic. And what a worthy pitch it is. Walking across a flat, one-foot-wide chunk of granite 5,000 feet above the valley floor is nothing but stunning. And it’s even better at sunset.

I placed a piece at the base of the squeeze, pulled up into the gloomy slot and began a brief battle that was my first ever mandatory squeeze. Fortunately there were some small crimps on the inside edges. I used those and cammed my right foot high inside and thrust my body between the bullet-hard granite. Pulling, pushing, groping for vertical progress — I slithered upwards through the dark slot until I reached the rounded lip of an arête, then larger and larger holds, and finally I was standing on my feet. Yes!! The last crux of the route!! We only had two pitches left: a C1 aid pitch and an easy 5.7 slab finish. No big deal, or so we thought.

From the top of the squeeze, I belayed Chris across Thank God Ledge. He was silent as he walked the first few feet in his approach shoes. I could see the flicker of his headlamp below. He was carrying our pack, a 30L Cilo Gear W/NWD Worksack with two pairs of shoes, puffy jackets, some energy bars, and our remaining water — not the best thing to be toting across a tiny ledge. “Up rope” Chris yelled as he cleaned the second piece I placed. Then, what seemed like minutes later, I heard him emit a loud part-scream, part-groan and the rope came tight.

“What happened?” I asked.

He yelled back, in tone that reflected the time (10 pm) and the dropping air temperature, “I whipped…”

Chris fell off Thank God Ledge!

On the next pitch, I took a whipper too. With limited Aliens, those precious camming devices so good for Yosemite, I placed a piece too large for the only available flaring pod. When I tried to top step, the piece blew and I fell down fifteen feet of slab, cheesegrating against the course granite.

It was about 11 pm now. Our vertical progress was barred only by a tricky thin seam. We had ten feet before the final bolt ladder, before the final pitch, before the top, which were all before the descent. The essential gear (the right gear, we’ve learned, is so essential for aid climbing) proved to be a precious cam hook that we borrowed from a friend and a green Alien, the last small cam on my harness. Bolt ladder reached, I clipped up and up, and traversed over to the belay. Forty-five minutes later we scampered up the last 5.7 pitch and were both on top as the clock struck midnight. We climbed Half Dome in a day!

In the next three hours we descended the cables, which had yet to be erected for the tourists, and traversed around the north side of the mountain. We found the climbers trail and followed it down to a snowfield, where we stopped. We asked ourselves: Do we cross the snowfield (which lay above 2000 feet above slippery wet slabs that plummet into Tenaya canyon) and hope that we find a way back to the base? Or could we have missed the climbers trail and be off route, maybe below some other chunk of rock? Uncertain of our location, unable to see beyond the beams of our headlamps, and mentally powerless without the rational logic normally found in our sober brains, we chose a relatively flat place of ground and laid down. A Superfruit Slam ProBar made our two-and-a-half hours of shivering much better. Around 5 am we could see without out headlamps and found that we were on the right track. Within an hour, we crossed the snowfield and were back at the base of Half Dome in our sleeping bags.  We brewed up an MSR Reactor’s worth of hot tea and devoured two cans of Annie’s organic vegetarian canned chili.

During the previous 24 hours, we each consumed roughly 3,000 calories and three liters of water. Partially re-hydrated and fed, we took a post-feast nap. I woke up to hear Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell nearby racking up for the RNWF.

“Those people are sleeping,” Alex said. “That’s weird.”

I couldn’t respond and I dozed off again while the super-duo simul-climbed the first third of the route in maybe an hour. When sufficiently rested, we packed up and descended the slabs, rode the bus to Curry Village and devoured a large pizza and a quart of chocolate milk on the Pizza Deck. Bloody, dirty, and bone-tired, tourists looked at us like we were crazy. It was a mini-epic, but we successfully climbed Half Dome in a day, learned a lot about rock climbing, and left the valley with increased respect for people such as Tommy and Alex, who romp up big walls in an afternoon, and descend with a desire for more.

Supertopo.com’s profile of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

 

Mammut Vertex Rope
Mammut Vertex Rope
MSRP: $149.95
La Sportiva Mythos
La Sportiva Mythos
MSRP: $139.95
Black Diamond Momentum AL Harness
Black Diamond Momentum AL Harness
MSRP: $44.95

 

Rock Climbing at Oregon’s Smith Rock

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

WHO: Kevin, Ashley, Mollie and Shauna

WHAT: Rock climbing

WHERE: Smith Rock, OR

WHEN: March 2012

GEAR: Black Diamond Big Wall Harness, Black Diamond Primrose Harness, Terramar TMS logo shirt, Black Diamond Guide ATC, Black Diamond Qwire Quickdraws, Patagonia R1 fleece

How can a guy top off a week of skiing, eating, libations and laughter with three of his best friends? He goes climbing! And in Bend, Oregon, Smith Rock is where you head in the winter. I met with my friends Ashley, Mollie, and Shauna who live in this amazing Central Oregon town. We spent 2 days at Mt. Bachelor, toured Shevlin park by way of trail running, sampled lots of great beer, woke up late for coffee meetings at local spots in funky brick-lined alleyways, dressed up for neon-bowling, wined, dined, danced, and laughed ourselves to death. Did I mention that it was a spectacular week?

Ashley had asked me to bring some gear with me. Since she’s starting to rock the local indoor bouldering scene at Bend Rock Gym, she wants to begin tackling outdoor routes. Sweet! One more bag of gear to shuffle into the pickup. So on Sunday morning, Shauna, Ashley, and I headed about 25 miles northeast of Bend over to Smith Rock State Park to scope the scene.

From the parking lot, it’s a short, scenic walk across the river to the two most popular sections of rock: The Dihedrals and Morning Glory Wall. We had belay school for a bit, and then hit a fun easy climb: Five Gallon Buckets (5.8), which consists of a tafoni-pitted rock face. We then moved to a 5.9+ route just left of the Peanut, a spot between Morning Glory and Dihedrals. The name escapes me, but it was a great climb forcing you to use some jamming, stemming and some teeny, crimpy little holds. What I noticed most about Smith is how well developed this wonderful climbing location is. Belay pads have been built with rock retaining walls, and in some spots there are beefy wooden stairs leading up and down the pathways, or directly up the rock to a belay. I was extremely impressed with the work they’ve put in there!

In Bend, you could literally ski Bachelor all morning, then head to the rock in the afternoon and have less than an hour commute between the two. Additionally, most of the climbing at Smith Rock faces south, which means you’re taking in the sun the whole time. The scene here on a warm day is pretty busy. Smith is definitely a popular location, but worth going because of the mellow vibe and beautiful view. And there’s so much climbing, that even with the weekend crowd, we were able to find climbs without waiting. There are plenty of routes on both ends of the difficulty spectrum. From 5.7 to 5.12 and above. How can you beat this in the middle of winter?

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, ski, climb in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Black Diamond ATC
Black Diamond ATC
MSRP: $16.95
Black Diamond Quick Draws
Black Diamond Quick Draws
MSRP: $17.95
Terramar TMS Logo T-shirt
Terramar TMS Logo T-shirt
MSRP: $19.95

 

Adventure of the Week: Another Amazing Eastern Sierra Weekend

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The storm clouds break on the Sierra Crest as seen from the Buttermilks

Who: Greyson, Matt and Adam

What: Bishop bouldering, Eastern Sierra road tripping

Where: Bishop, Buttermilk Country, the Happy Boulders

When: November 5th and 6th

Gear: Our Bishop Bouldering Guidebook once again proved indispensable, my Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad with Pillow Top was totally cush, I lived in my Mammut Schoeller Dryskin pants and Icebreaker Wool the whole time, and my Jetboil provided crucial quick hot water for the cold weather.

If it seems like we blog about bouldering around Bishop a lot here at Tahoe Mountain Sports, it’s only because we do. I made my first trip down in June, and Lis wrote about taking a break from the snow to boulder in the Buttermilks last December, where she found 70 degree weather.

Well, my buddies and I didn’t get as lucky as Lis, but we still had a blast in what has to be one of the best bouldering playgrounds in the world.

We left Tahoe Friday after work, which meant missing much of the scenery of the Eastern Sierra drive, only imagining the snow-capped peaks looming in the darkness around us. Snow flurries came and went from the cone of light projected from the headlights, leaving a sense of foreboding for our plans to camp that night.

And sure enough, when we got to our campground at 11 p.m., it was cold. Really cold. We lingered around the fire for as long as we could stand, and brought every scrap of clothing we had into our respective sleeping bags, our tents already coated in a crunchy shell of frost.

Evidence of a cold night's sleep.

The Buttermilk Boulders where crawling when we got down to them Saturday morning, parking turnouts packed with camper vans and shelled pickup trucks. We were both a little intimidated by the scene, and nonplussed by the blasting death metal coming from one car — but as always, the climbing community proved our fears false.

If there’s an unfriendly, elitist or territorial climber out there, I haven’t met them. Strangers pool crash pads, cheer each other on, and stand ready to spot one another within minutes, or even seconds of meeting. And as with last time, the rock didn’t disappoint.

Topping out with the Sierra Crest in the background (Photo by Matt Renda)

After our fingers, forearms and bound toes could take no more, we wandered the streets of Bishop, getting advice at local gear stores, grub at a local restaurant and of course bread at Schat’s Bakery.

Braced for another cold night, we boiled water for hot water bottles and bedded down. The hot bottle worked wonders, as did the fatigue of a day well spent, and I only woke once to hear the sound of snow softly falling on the nylon skin of my tent.

With possible showers forecasted for Sunday, we weren’t sure what to expect when we awoke that morning (with an extra hour thanks to the end of Daylight Savings!), but the sun was shining and a new-to-us climbing area was beckoning. We drove out to the table lands north of Bishop, and joined the conga-line of crash pad–backed climbers approaching the Happy Boulders.

Matt getting after it in the Happy Boulders

I now understand what climbing gyms are trying to emulate. There were intricate and interesting boulders stacked side by side as far as I could see, all with a dizzying array of jugs, huecos, pockets and edges. Despite still-protesting fingers and forearms, we were drawn up each route, tacking as many problems as we could fit into the time we had left.

But the open road beckoned — or more accurately, Mammoth Brewing Company and one of the many hot springs you can find along the way (or in this book). A resupply at the brewery and a good long soak in the hot spring while watching the sun set over the Sawtooths was the perfect ending to another amazing weekend in the Sierra.

The Great Escape: Auburn Mountain Biking + Sugarloaf Climbing

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

WHO: Lis, Chris and friends

WHAT: A weekend of no snow

WHERE: Auburn and Sugarloaf

WHEN: April 30 and May 1

GEAR: Deuter Trans Alpine backpack (about as small as I can go for a day’s worth of cragging, sans any trad gear since the others carried it in), Black Diamond climbing gear, the padded bike shorts I wish I’d brought

As is evidenced by my posts on this blog, I like snow. But after more than 700 inches this winter, I had to get out!! Chris and I decided to spend the weekend in as close yet as warm of places as possible, so we chose Auburn and Sugarloaf for our getaways. Looking to do the same? Here’s the quick guide to ditching snow for sun during spring in Tahoe:

SATURDAY: Auburn, mountain biking the Foresthill Divide Loop Trail + Connector

This was my first time mountain biking in Auburn and it was awesome! Great early season riding since the trails are so smooth and roll-y. We took the connector (4 miles one-way) into the Foresthill Divide Loop (11.3 miles) to add a little more length to the ride. It was the perfect amount of cardio and nothing too technical, so it was great for easing back into riding. Though I learned one important thing: don’t forget your padded bike shorts on the first ride of the season. Ouch! The trail is super popular so it was a bit crowded on our way in via the connector. I actually think we timed it well (leaving Tahoe at 9am) since our second half of the ride was less crowded.

SUNDAY: Sugarloaf, rock climbing

Sugarloaf, a bit farther than Lover’s Leap, is only a short 30-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe yet feels far away in climate. There are various aspects to climb here so you can essentially be in the sun all day if you want. The main Sugarloaf formation is beautiful, as pictured above, with Chris on Captain Fingers (5.12c). It’s a great spot for a crag dog too (as modeled below by Fern) but watch out for ticks. None this time, but she came home with a few after our last trip here.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb, bike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

An Unrequited Love Letter – A High Sierra Misadventure

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

We are excited to hear from Tahoe resident and climber Chris Doyle today on our blog. He wrote up his story in response to all the stoke coming from The Love Letter project by Fitz and Becca Cahall, sponsored by Osprey and Outdoor Research. Fitz and Becca are former Tahoe residents who now live in Seattle, where Fitz runs his ever-growing empire of adventure-telling via Dirtbag Diaries and numerous other projects. When they set out on their 300-mile journey to find new and classic climbing routes across the spine of the Sierra, they called up Chris to meet up with them along the way. Here’s his story. Be sure to watch the film (embedded below), and write your own love letter on The Love Letter’s Facebook page.

If we’re talking in terms of love, I had bought the ring. The Sierra is known for perfect summertime weather. It’s got the best climate in the country for being able to make your plans a month before. You usually don’t have to worry much about things not working out because they usually do. There wasn’t a question in my mind when I left to meet Fitz and Becca that we weren’t going to do the route. It’s not too big or too hard; we were destined for a fun, good time. The Edge of Time on the Citadel was definitely going to say “yes.” Or so I thought.

I hadn’t hung out with my old climbing buddy Fitz in a long time. You know, he moved to Seattle, started spending lots of time with his phone, became a legit Dirtbag… So when I got the call that they were heading my way on their big trip and I should join them, I didn’t hesitate. We analyzed their timeline, picked a couple dates and places where they hoped to be, thought about spots I hadn’t been — somewhere that’d be a new adventure for both of us.

I like to go to routes that are off the beaten path, ones away from the road that a lot of people don’t climb. I’d always heard the Edge of Time on the Citadel was a really good route, the timing was right, and Fitz was fired up to make it happen. So it was settled, I would drive the 4.5 hours from Tahoe, hike the 16 miles in, and see my trail-worn friends. We’d meet far out in Kings Canyon, their tired arms reaching out to greet me, me fully stocked to stoke them out. I’d packed a nice, boxed wine, some fine cheese they requested, and the fixings for the finest dinner these backpackers would see in all their 300 miles.

I set off the day before our scheduled rendezvous. The plan was to get my wilderness permit that afternoon, then drive up to camp at South Lake where it’s nice and cool. I’d go to sleep, get up early, and hike in. Which is what I did. I just happened to get food poisoning somewhere along the way. My mellow evening turned into four hours of puking on the side of the road at South Lake. The next morning I was pretty worked from the up chuck, and not having eaten any dinner. But it was nice out, and I was destined to see my friends. Puke and rally.

I got brutalized right off the bat. The six or seven uphill miles at the beginning of Bishop Pass (11,972 feet) didn’t help my condition. My stomach was shredded. Some 15 miles later, I made it to within a mile our meeting spot. I had only seen a few other souls out that day, but then two park rangers appeared. As soon as I got within speaking distance, one said, “Hey are you Chris Doyle?” (Strange.) “Yep.” “Well your friends got sick and hiked out yesterday evening. So they’re not here to meet you.”

OH the AGONY! 15 miles in. So close. And now this? Apparently Fitz’s phone didn’t have reception until it was too late to warn me. So there I stood. With no partners to tackle the route, no one in sight but the rangers, I turned around and set up camp by a set of nice lakes in Dusy Basin. Alone. But I made the most of it. And I don’t regret a step. I took a great hike, had a beautiful camp all to myself… any time, no matter how heart-breaking, is well spent in the High Sierra. Sadly though, thanks to my food-poisoned stomach, I couldn’t fully enjoy the gourmet meal I packed, but it probably wouldn’t have tasted that good anyway. Like the wise Charlie Brown once said, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”

The view from my camp in Dusy Basin

A month or so later, Fitz, Becca, and I were going to give it another go, this time at the Pharaoh, north of Yosemite. They called me from Twolomne Meadows. The weather had shut us down; they had to hike through a burly snowstorm. Sometimes you have to let love go. Sometimes adventures don’t love you back. Sometimes you get the Sierra bitch-slap.

December is Prime for Bishop Bouldering

Friday, December 17th, 2010

“Woah, it’s a powder day at the Buttermilks,” Chris said, stunned at the number of cars we saw lining Bishop’s Buttermilk Road. With temps reaching 70 degrees and nothing but sun in the sky, last weekend was the perfect time to be bouldering in Bishop, California. And apparently, we weren’t the only ones who got the memo. There were maybe 100 people out there, with Lisa Rands, Charlie Barrett and Beth Rodden headlining, and tons of video cameras and SLRs out of their bags.

We met up with a few friends. Chris and Jay worked on Fly Boy and a few other problems, but in general we just kept it mellow enjoying the sun and scene. As the sun was setting we stopped by the crowd gathering around Charlie Barrett, who was about to make, what most think, the second ascent of Saigon Superdirect, what Wills Young calls “one of the proudest highballs at the Milks” on the Bishop Bouldering Blog. See Young’s post on Barrett’s Saigon Superdirect ascent for a cool photo… Chris is at the photo’s bottom spotting him.

On our way out, our dog, Fern, tried to eat a photographer; I think it was the guy making this cool timelapse video of the day.

On Sunday, Chris and I wanted to get away from the crowd. We took a trail run up the canyon (nothing better than wearing shorts and a t-shirt with snow-capped peaks all around you), then headed up to the Pollen Grains. We set up shop at the Lidija Boulder, where Chris got on some classic problems like Lidija’s Mouth, Drone’s Militia and Suspended in Silence.

We will definitely be making the drive from Tahoe again this winter… can’t beat wearing flip-flops in December. Bouldering in Bishop is definitely a great way to get away from winter, especially when the skiing isn’t its best like last weekend. Bishop bouldering is at its peak November through April, so get it while it’s good, too!

Magic Wood: Bouldering in Ausserferrera, Switzerland

Friday, October 8th, 2010

This Adventure of the Week comes from a hand more than 5,000 miles away in Paris, France. TMS friend and former Tahoe local Anya Miller Berg and her husband picked up and left their Seattle homestead for a 5-month stint in France. An avid boulderer, Anya shares with us here a recent excursion to Magic Wood in Switzerland.

WHO: Anya Miller Berg and Charlie Berg

WHAT: Bouldering at Magic Wood (Averstal)

WHERE: Ausserferrera, Switzerland

WHEN: September 2010

GEAR: Crash pad, chalk, climbing shoes

Paris, Zurich, Chur. Our sights were set on the Averstal Valley in southeast Switzerland, home to Magic Wood, a much-talked of and quite-distant bouldering spot. After leaving Chur, things quickly became much more rural. A train took us only as far as Thusis (TOO-sis), where Charlie and I stammered around a bit to find the appropriate bus and happened upon it quite quickly: Andeer, here we come. Gunning it up a steep and narrow valley the giant yellow bus we went. Those things are driven like supercharged wagons! Deposited in Andeer, we only had one more bus ride to get to Ausserferrera. So we waited.

We strolled around Andeer with all of our junk, found an ATM and got some food and drink for a few days of bouldering. The bus finally came and the driver hopped off, took one look at our crash pad and said “Mageek Woot?” in a heavy German accent. He clearly didn’t speak any English, but he knew where we wanted to go and that was good enough for us.

We hopped off right in front of the Gasthaus Generoso, the biggest building in this village with a population of 47. Inside a very traditional Swiss house, we checked in with the owners and were given a key to the non-descript building next door. I was a little disappointed: I wanted some authentic Swiss atmosphere! My worries were quickly put to rest… Charlie and I walked into the building and realized that it was the coolest place we had ever stayed.  The building had been built about four years ago by the Swiss government for the use of the town to generate tourism (mainly from boulderers, ice climbers and hikers coming to the valley). The design seemed to be a governmental standard for the mountains … it could have sat anywhere: it was so unbelievably durable, functional, sparse, but somehow still warm and comfortable. Classic Swiss. Dinner was being served at 8h30 sharp (everything really is on time in Switzerland), so we had a few hours to get out to see the boulders and climb. Good thing I had bought a watch in Chur.

Across the road and down the hill was a flowing turquoise river and a footbridge. We crossed over, literally and figuratively, into what really was a magical wood … a centaur came out and greeted us, there were faeries and nymphs, and a unicorn shook its mane and munched around on some lush grass in the distance. Not really, but almost. The light was soft and dim but still golden and the rocks were just all jumbled … kind of like Chaos Canyon in RMNP but placed in Washington, so there was moss all over everything. Luckily, the problems were clean in the midst of all of the vegetation. The gneiss was steep, tall, coarse and most problems generally had horrendous landings. A bit of a rude awakening after the kind stone and flat landings at Fontainebleau. All of them seemed beautiful, serious, and enchanting! We got over our fears and climbed a few tall moderate problems, walked around the forest, and got excited for the following day…

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