Rocktober 2013

Send-tember gave way to Rock-tober and now November (no clever wordplay, sorry). I got out and did a bit of climbing, managed to work things so that the government shutdown didn't affect my activities too much (i.e. found non-Yosemite fun).

Here goes a quick rundown of some of the climbing in recent memory, with lots of links, but no original photos...

Guadalupe Rock (5 Oct 2013, guides include Bay Area Rock by Thornburg or Rock Climbing Guide to the Castle Rock Area)
Blocky rock, grimy in places that had been covered by water, with non obvious holds. It was fun enough, and the stream was at a trickle, so worth it for the 1hr just before dusk that we visited. As it turns out, that was a nice time to view the local wildlife (birds, deer, etc)
Bolt Line (5.7)
Guadalupe Crack (5.9)

Yosemite Valley (19-20 Oct 2013)
Miwok Dike (5.10c)
We didn't climb without falling, so can't really claim the second ascent, but I think we were the first folks to get out there without Luke. After his enthusiastic blog post (linked above) and in person discussion, I can definitely say that the route lived up to expectations. Fantastic position, fun and well protected slab climbing, and not a soul in sight. Get after it!
You can find a little more approach beta here and a printable text-only version of Luke's route descriptions here.
The second pitch of Miwok Dike (credit: Luke Stefurak)
Commitment (5.9) and Jamcrack (5.9)
Bennett and I swapped leads starting on Commitment and over to Jamcrack. I thought the crux of the day was the first move on Commitment (if you don't use the tree) and the roof was just fun. I was having a good day, I suppose. After climbing the first pitch many times, I finally continued to the second pitch of Jamcrack. Better than the first, I thought, and well worth it. Of course, TRing the 5.10 climbs at the base is a great way to end the day in that area. After a couple laps, I can almost believe leading those routes. Almost.

Woodfords/Lover's Leap (26-27 Oct 2013)
I drove from the Bay early on a Saturday morning to meet up with Eric, Galina, Bennett, and Claire to climb on the sunny side Woodford's Canyon at the Fortress.

We started on the Perfect Lieback (5.8) and set a TR on the Sun Wall (10b/c), both highly recommended. Boulder Than You Think (5.9+) was delicate and interesting, plus there's an OW/chimney just left (5.9?) that was worth a few grunts.

The Perfect Lieback (credit: Mountain Project)
Some older route information can be found in an old guide and was also highlighted in the inaugural (Summer 2012) issue of California Climber.

Sunday brought us to Lover's Leap. Since we were a good sized group, we headed to the Hogwild crag (also in the South Lake Tahoe Supertopo guide). We climbed just about everything in the Supertopo, with the highlights being Accessory Dogs (10a), slightly heady but well protected cruxes, and Mixologist (10a), bolt at the crux and cruiser crack above. The namesake Hogwild (5.7) felt tough for the grade with slightly tricky pro to prevent running it out (70m or 2 40m ropes to rap)

Joshua Tree (9-11 Nov 2013)
I should probably write a whole post about the 5th annual JTree Tweetup, but knowing me I won't get around to it. Once other folks start posting pictures (I took exactly none), I may post a few links. The highlight for me was the last day, climbing Pope's Crack (5.9), a climb that's stuck in my mind since I first top roped flailed on it a couple years ago. Leading felt easy this time, except for one section where I failed to use small edges on the face for a try or two. I'm looking forward to heading back for the direct finish (10c). Also worth mentioning is Head Over Heals (10a) very fun, and possible to set a top rope by scrambling around to the right and then up the back.

Pine Canyon (17 Nov 2013, guide: Bay Area Rock by Thornburg)
Having never visited, the description in the Thornburg guide looked too good to pass up. The approach information was straightforward and easy to follow. Overall, the "choss factor" mostly describes sand and bird droppings. There were some thought-inducing holds, but nothing broke off in our hands. The climbing felt more adventurous than Castle Rock, with much more of a traditional flavor, even on bolted routes.
Evolution 10b/c, with the top of The Pillar in the background. (Credit: Mountain Project)
Prelude (5.6) - sandy but a decent warmup. Single rack 0.5" to 2" will cover you. There's a single bolt on top, so a 2.5-3" piece will help a top rope setup.
Cave Route (5.8) - fun movement at the start and the classic exit at the top. Break into two pitches if you want to eat lunch in the cave, otherwise easily done in one pitch.
The Pillar (5.8) - PG13, but still recommended if you don't mind a little spice. Stay on the lefthand bolts at the top. Single is plenty, no nuts needed. Lots of desiccated bird droppings in the crack, but otherwise enjoyable. Can be done as a single pitch.


Birthday Weekend, Yosemite Edition (27-29 Sept 2013)

Munginella (5.6) - 3 pitches, linked to 2
The Caverns (5.8) - 2nd pitch is the money, 4th pitch a little funky, still fun all-around.
Bishop's Terrace (5.8) - 2 pitches, linked to 1. Definitely do this in one pitch, lives up to its reputation as one of the best 5.8s around. Both OW and lieback variations are enjoyable. So nice we did it twice!
Super Slide (5.9) - 5 pitches, each better than the last. The 5.9 section is probably only 10 feet long, just at the end of the pitch, though there is a bit of loose rock/mud in places. Per the SuperTopo guide, linking 3 and 4 is very doable, but it's almost nicer to split up the fun leads.
Trial By Fire (5.8) - One full pitch of flaring wide crack, from fists to squeeze with plenty of chock stones. Thank god it eases off at the top. Careful with "overgripping" or you'll end up with roadrash all over like me.

Trip Highlight: Kat's fantastic birthday planning! I had more friends in the Valley than in San Francisco (almost), we communally drained a bottle of Bulleit and feasted on Kat's wonderful single-serving cakes.

Photosynth of Bennett coming up the fourth pitch of Super Slide (zoom in, he's there).

As usual, we rolled into the Pines campsite pretty late. Unlike usual, it was Thursday night...three days in the Valley! Between waking up a little late, and moving campsites, Bennett and I didn't start climbing until about noon. Still, we made quick work of Munginella, had a quick snack and went for The Caverns. We climbed well and psyche was high. It felt really good to have my lead-head on straight. We considered another pitch or two, but instead headed down to the Facelift evening activities: slideshows highlighted by Shawn White's coach (surprisingly interesting), Mayan Smith-Gobat (Kiwi climber extraordinaire), and Tommy Caldwell (interesting stories, but nothing new).

An earlier start on Saturday let us get up Bishop's Terrace (second in line) before getting over to Super Slide (PM shift, no lines or waiting), and finishing on Trial By Fire. Bennett was psyched for the wide crack, which turned out to be really fun: a proud lead for him, which I felt like I could have gotten done, too, though I definitely came out worse for wear afterwards. Not enough time for another one of the open books, but we did find Kat back at the campsite with Luke et al, basking in the glory of one of her more ambitious hikes to date (up to Glacier Point, woohoo!).

Saturday night drifted into Sunday morning, which meant a late start and taking it easy. Bennett wanted to lead Bishop's Terrace, and it was a perfect chance for Kat to get on the wall, too. After that, a nice walk to Mirror Lake and basking in El Cap meadow rounded out the day nicely.

Mantel practice on the way to Mirror Lake (photo: Kat Wong)
Overall, an awesome weekend: great food/drink, great climbing, great friends. Too bad the park is closed now, I just want to get back for Rocktober!


Bay Area Daytrips (11-12 May 2013)

I meant to post this when I actually did the climbing a few weeks back, that way reports like "it was way hot at Pinnacles, but the shade was survivable" may have been relevant on the off chance that someone I know around here actually reads this stuff. Oh well, good for next year I suppose, though it would have been better if I had actually noted temperatures.

Anyway, enough of that. I was psyched to climb for most of the day for two days in a row, almost all leading, and pushed myself a bit with Bennett on Sunday at Castle Rock.

Saturday Pinnacles, The Flumes Northeast Face
Good late spring/early summer cragging, showed up at 10:30 just as the face was coming into shade. early morning showed machete ridge (and the Citadel) in shade. the whole area was bolts, no gear.
Kibbles and Bits (9) - lead
Bits 'n' Pieces, Extension (9) - lead - straightforward for the most part, better protected than Kibbles and Bits
Wet Paranoia (9) - TR - loose in spots, more fun than the first two
Jumangi (10a) - lead, TR - cruxy at top and bottom, good clipping stances exist if you look around
Cool Daze (8) - lead - big holds, fun moves
Adam's Apple (9) - lead - bring extendable runners to limit drag
Rebeca's Sailing (9) - mostly 5.7/8 except for crux final move (fun!)
Nipples and Knobs (10a) - sustained, good holds and rests, best route of the day

Castle Rock
Too hot in the sun, too buggy at the Underworld, spent the day chasing shade and running from too many bugs. Again, pretty much all bolts, only placed a couple of cams. We used the new Thornburg guide "Bay Area Rock", which has beautiful photos and great descriptions of these areas.
Chew Tooth Rock
Uncle Fred's Vacation Plan (10a or 11a if using direct start) - lead
Hand Crack (8) - gear (3 pieces 1" to 3") - lead
Left (11b) - led through 2 bolts, maybe done if mossy holds on left count
Platypus Rock
Rat-A-Puss (10a) - lead
Al Mohammed aka Al Hussein left start (10d or 11a) - lead - fun start leads to easier climbing
Jelly Fish (11b) - booted off of crux before 2nd bolt
Moss Man (10a) - lead - fun, not described by its name
Play-A-Pussy (10a) - lead - left rope through first bolt when lower off Moss Man
Embryo (11c) - TR - cool slopers and thin crimp
Shady Rock (nearby) holds lots of (short, wild) promise, bring a bouldering pad
California Ridge
Mullah (10a) - lead
Guilty as Charged (10d) - lead - discrepancy between guides, but felt a little soft for the grade

Tioga Road Scrambles (15-16 June 2013)

Spark Notes: Mount Hoffman to Tuolumne Peak, and Unicorn Peak

I landed at SFO on a flight from Hong Kong at 10:30pm on Friday. After a couple hours more work, my jetlag was still fully in effect and I very much felt like an escape. I had (apparently) planned well two weeks previously because the car was already packed for any weekend camping/climbing. So, at 1:00am on Saturday I hit the road and headed west, stopping at about 4:00 to bivy in the back of the Forester at the Hardin Flat turnoff.

Since I had no partner, and my head for climbing is usually poor when jetlagged, I looked forward to a weekend of hiking and scrambling. My itinerary on Saturday was a little like this trip report from legendary Sierra scrambler Bob Burd. I took a slightly different route up Mount Hoffman, closer to the South Face, but with a detour up a short cliff band and then slabs that made the route closer to a 4+/5- scramble, but with solid holds and only a little wetness. I did find the same ridge between Hoffman and Tuolumne, though, which was the high point of the day. The views all around were fantastic, and the rock was mostly clear. North facing gullies still had snow, but there was plenty of dry rock to stick to.

May Lake and the southern Yosemite high country
Using the non-climbing weekend for exploration, I visited the "9000 ft bivy" outside the park's east entrance for the first time on Saturday night. Definitely recommended if the Tuolumne campground is full or you prefer to drive 20 minutes rather than pay $20 for camping. A full day, and lack of rest, let me fall asleep by 10, but I was still up for sunrise on Sunday.

The plan was a quick hike and then back to SF for the afternoon. Unicorn Peak was a perfect objective, and only took me 3.5 hours car-to-car. The bugs around Lake Elizabeth ate me alive, but once away from the water the weather was perfect: sunny with still a slight chill in the air. The summit ridge had breathtaking exposure that got my heart rate going. Described by Secor as class 4, it definitely felt more like easy class 5, but I guess that's what old school ratings mean. Definitely fun climbing and mostly solid holds, again with great views of the high country to the north and south.

I'll be back to China in just a couple more weeks, so I hope to get at least a day, maybe two, of climbing in before then.


Climbing in China

Relatively often, I find myself trying to find climbing destinations in China, thinking wishfully that I might have a chance to climbg while traveling for work.

Recently, it's been easy to find information and inspiration on the subject thanks to recent videos from The North Face and Black Diamond about China's first traditional-climbing festival in Liming, not to mention an article in Climbing.

So now I can add Liming (beta available here) to the list, along with the Keketuohai National Park (in the north, China's Tuolumne) and Yangshuo (limestone). China is huge and apparently full of rocks, just like the rest of the world. 


Moonbows and Yosemite Sport Climbing (27-28 April 2013)

Spark Notes:
Saturday - hiking, napping, lunar rainbow photography
Sunday - cragging at Shultz's Ridge Base

We rolled into the Valley after midnight on Friday night with a major goal of moonbow photography, and a minor goal of climbing. The full moon lit El Cap spectacularly, and we stopped at four different pullouts to ogle and photograph before sneaking into Luke's campsite and rolling out a tarp.

I woke early in an effort to fight jet lag, but that only caught up with me in the afternoon. After a hike to scope photo locations for later that evening, I passed out for a couple hours. Whoops.

Not wanting to miss a whole day of climbing, we headed up to the Endless Summer wall on Shultz's Ridge, just beneath the massive Southeast Face of El Capitan. If heading there, beware that the first bolts on Gidget Goes to Yosemite (5.9) are missing (per Supertopo and Clint Cummins) I did at least start by climbing up 20 feet before retreating. I would like to head back for Crystalline Passage though, even better to continue the line all the way up to the base of El Cap.

Regular Rainbow, Bridalveil Falls
We headed down to catch Bridalveil Falls before it lost good light before cooking dinner and staking out Cook's Meadow for moonrise. We didn't really do our homework, so we arrived a couple hours before the moon made its appearance, but that did make for some awesome stargazing. If you do ever decide to visit Yosemite in the spring to spy moonbows, definitely make the visit to the lower falls (more spray, more reliably than the upper falls). You can find the best times for viewing at this forecast.

Lunar Rainbow and the Big Dipper, Lower Yosemite Falls 
Saturday was for photography, and Sunday was for climbing. Since we only finished with Saturday at 2:30am, we didn't get back to Schultz's Ridge (Dan and Jerry's Playground) until noon. I was still feeling apprehensive from the previous day, but all the psyche in the air from James and Luke, and another friendly crew at the crag, made it easy to just have fun. After a couple topropes, I wanted to lead the crag's other warm-up route. The 5.10a label made that intimidating, and made leading New Suede Shoes (10c) even scarier. Kat asked why not lead, and I said I was scared. Luke asked why was I scared, and I had no good reason. The result: I led the route (almost peeled, but didn't) with Luke's calm coaching. Then sent the two harder climbs on TR.

Conclusion: I've got to do more of what Luke was able to do, just ask a rational question and evaluate whether my fears are justified or not. If I don't want to lead, that's fine, but understand why that's the case and make sure it's justified. Thanks to Luke for getting me to try hard. It would be nice if I could stop limiting myself, and get out of my own way in the future and be as psyched at the base as I am when reading the guidebook at home.

Tick List:
Second Thoughts (10a) - TR - a better warm up than the route of that name
New Suede Shoes (10c) - bolts - TR, lead
Warm Up Crack (10a) - bolts + gear - lead - lives up to its name
Just Do Me (10d) - TR - sustained and pumpy at the top
Are You Hard Enough? (10d) - TR - definitely the easier 10d at the crag


Shanghai Climbing (21 April 2013)

Work takes me to China with some regularity. Most of my trips have been to the south, but this time I was in Shanghai. After a little research, I didn't find any nearby crags (unlike Hong Kong) but I did find several climbing gyms. A coworker had tried the Hongkou Stadium facility and said it wasn't bad, but the holds were a bit greasy, and encouraged me to explore elsewhere.

So, I visited the Shanghai Stadium Rock Climbing center. Despite being the "largest indoor rockclimbing center [in China]," it's really only about 100 horizontal feet of holds built into the side of the stadium walls. Not a world class climbing gym at all, but not bad.

The bouldering was no Planet Granite. I think there were only two marked routes, with no grades. The walls were mostly plywood with some sand/paint, which brought me back to my time at the MIT bouldering room. Small greasy holds were the name of the game. However, small groups of climbers were finding their own problems and having a bunch of fun. Climbing is climbing, and a bit of creativity is all that's needed.

I only played on the boulders and never got on a rope, and the wall climbing looked more fun and varied, so I'd definitely go back with a partner. And I'll be looking for some outdoor crags, too.