Friday, October 29, 2010

Days 4 and 5, Baldy Fest Continues

Got out Thursday after working late the night before, intent on having a good training day. I ended up taking three laps from the Alta parking lot to near the top of Baldy, skiing the main chute, the shoulder, and back into Snowbird for a total of around 7,500 ft. Not very imaginative, but I feel like I should take advantage of the time I have and the already fleeting snow. Also, with my continued boot problem, a 2,500 ft shot limits the transitions and makes gaining vert more efficient. Adam came up for the last lap and I think he had a good time...

Adam on Baldy's shoulder (looker's right of main chute)

Then today, I had a bit of free time and thought it would be a good idea to go stretch the legs after a relatively big early season day. That meant yet another run up Baldy. I was pretty pleased with how my legs recovered from yesterday's effort. I was tired today but still had a little bounce. I'm ready for something else but unless Dumper's starts dancing again I might have to wait awhile.

And, after multiple recent lectures about wearing a helmet...

Happy everyone?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 3, Baldy Part III

I had a conference to attend today until one and then had to pick up lil JD at the airport at 4:30 and then work at 6. That left plenty of time to work in an early afternoon ski tour up trusty Baldy and down a very appealing but just less than adequately covered little chute. I feel like I need to take advantage of the early snow since it might not last.

Here are some shots of the day...beautiful.

Timp poking through the clouds.

The Pheif between trees.

Cool Rime Ice on the antennae on the summit of Baldy.

Looking down Little Chute.

Looking up Little Chute and the mini mandatory air midway.

Enough of to work. Will try to get in a longer day tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 2, Baldy Part II

Today was a repeat of yesterday, only prettier and with better coverage. Guess the dump dancing is working out. Jared and I put in some intervals down low, skinned up to the Baldy shoulder, bumped into Adam on the way, and found some chopped up powder in the main chute. 1:25 car to car taking it pretty easy for the most part. Unlike yesterday, some other folks snaked the first turns from us. Didn't care though. Even with tons of snow bros out today lingering in the low elevations, it still felt special.

Here are some pics to prove it.

In the last picture, if you look closely you can see that just about every turn is crossed by another track. That was in part by necessity as that sub-ridge has the best coverage over the talus field, and in part just to spite Rando Steve. He seems to get worked up by stuff like that so I giggled every time I crossed Jared's tracks (a lot).

Looks like some more snow tonight before things heat up a bit, then maybe more snow this weekend?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 1, October Powder - Main Baldy

The endless Autumn in the Wasatch has come to an abrupt end. Friday, I was up at Snowbird in a T-shirt and shorts, enjoying the fall colors while running a bit of a TT up Hidden Peak (49:34). On the summit, snow flakes were starting to fall and being under prepared as usual, I got a bit cold. But, a little ingenuity led to my socks becoming mittens and all was well.

Autumn succumbing to the inevitable.

Since then, it's been torrential rain in the Valley and an unknown quantity of snow in the mountains...until today.

Yahoos, Bart and Jared, were already planning on checking out the new snow this afternoon. Luckily, I'm working some night shifts and was able to wake up by 3 to meet them at 4 at the BCC park n ride. We car pooled up to Alta (forgetting that they aren't friendly to skiers) and talked about how crappy the skiing would be. We didn't really care though. I think first turns of the year are good no matter what.

Ha. We were wrong. The following pics probably can't convey what 2 feet of creamy powder in October feel like.

Skinning up Main Baldy.

I didn't get any actual skiing shots since I was too busy chasing those guys down the mountain (my boot is still broken...still using a bolt to keep it together, making transitions slow). Impressively, Jared scored the first descent of Baldy this season on skis mounted for the wrong boot. He locked his Dynafit toe piece and free heeled it...looking smooth the whole way.

Once out of the chute, we found decent snow (navigating a few rocks and shrubs) all the way back to the car. Looks like it's becoming a sort of tradition to open and close the season on Baldy.

Let's hope it keeps dumping. My little sister's nickname is Dump or Dumpers. Maybe she can do a dump dance and bless the skies to open up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Castle Valley Cheeseburger Enchainment

In spite of what my delusional little sister thinks, the happiest place on earth is located in Castle Valley, Utah. It is a magic kingdom of sand, wind, towers, and incredible climbing. Last Thursday, I joined up with new partner Matt, and we took off after work down I-15. If you've been following my shenanigans over the last year, the idea of concluding a good day with some McDonald's is nothing new. But, recent months have seen a maturation of my taste buds and I've been avoiding the fine fast cuisine. That was until new partner Matt introduced me to a worldwide movement to eat a cheeseburger on the summit of every peak in the world. That meant we had to stop at Wendy's at 11:30 PM where we bought eight 99 cent cheeseburgers with the goal of climbing four desert towers and choking down the burgers on each summit in an effort to do our part.

Low grade beef aside, I'd been thinking about linking up the major Castle Valley towers for some time. The intended routes were Fine Jade (5.11, 4 pitches) on the Rectory, The Honeymoon Chimney (5.11a or A0, 4 pitches) on the Priest, Jah Man (5.10+, 5 pitches) on Sister Superior, and The North Chimney (5.9, 4 pitches) on Castleton Tower. I thought these four would make for the most challenging enchainment that we just might be able to pull off. Especially with the days getting shorter and the perfect fall weather bringing out the crowds, we'd have to be efficient.

With a 6:00 AM wake up, we shuffled up to the base of the Rectory just as the sun was peaking over the La Sals.

Castleton Tower

Base of the Rectory, Fine Jade follows the obvious crack up the middle of the face.

The off width that protects the upper pitches proved to be a stiff warm up, resulting in a couple falls before breaking through to easier ground. Then my lead through the reported crux was also tainted by a fall before figuring out the finger locks though a tough bulge. Otherwise, the route was *****, cinco estrellas, 5 stars.

Here's Matt cruising pitch 4.

MS coming around the corner on the adventurous traversing 4th original pitch.

Just doing my part - choking down a burger on the summit of the Rectory.

A few quick raps, and a short hike led us to the base of the Honeymoon Chimney on the Priest.

A party grunting their way up the 5.9+ squeeze.

Rather than cramp those fine folks from Colorado (who seemed like they might make a rather prolonged ascent), we ran along toward the Sister Superior group, planning on climbing the ultra classic Jah Man.

The ridge between the Priest and Sister Superior is loose, infrequently traveled, and takes around 45 minutes. It's also a wild scenic place between the two towers.

Approaching Sister Superior

Looking back at the Priest, Rectory, and Castleton.

A fun 5.8 chimney makes up the first part of Jah Man.

Looking up toward the crux.

Matt enjoying the thin hands of the 4th pitch.

2nd tower of the day meant it was time to pull out the cheeseburgers again. This time I was kind enough to share with some fine folks from Jackson. I warned them the burgers were purchased the night before. They didn't care. Everyone was just having a good time.

Sister Superior

Matt negotiating a fixed line through some rubble with the ridge to SS in the background.

On to part III, Castleton Tower.

We decided to pass on the Priest a second time since it was still a cluster of parties and ropes. Plus, the day was fading and the sun had taken a toll as I was already just about out of water. No worries though, it was a beautiful all day affair filled with fun movement and gorgeous scenery.

The sun sending tower shadows to the east.

MS heading up the North Chimney.

Desert Alpenglow

Summit of Castleton Tower. Happiest Place on Earth.

I skipped my burger and readied the rappel, already reflecting on the day and missing out on the fourth tower. Given the heat, crowds, unfamiliarity with the approaches and climbs, and mainly the limited daylight, I think we did well. Catching the tower bug, I'll be back to the magic kingdom...without the beef, but with even bigger plans.

That may have to wait till next year as the days lengthen. Until then...where's the snow?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Zion Link Up

I went down South for another quick trip to what I am starting to believe is the premiere climbing destination in the country: Zion National Park. I know that's a controversial claim, but the canyon is wild and beautiful, typically crowd free, and always adventurous. And for me, I climb to feel wild and free, feel the landscape, and hopefully find the fleeting satisfaction that comes on the heels of a big effort. Zion seems to offer that in abundance.

Friday night trusty Jake T and I dashed out of SLC around 8:00 and pointed the car down I-15. Our plan was to climb the NE Buttress of Angel's Landing, Grade IV, 5.10+R, run down dodging the tourists, and then try to link that up with Touchstone Wall, Grade IV/V 5.10 C2. The guidebook has this to say about the NE Buttress, "A Zion Classic! ...This is a committing adventure: expect wild climbing (even for Zion)" We were incredibly psyched but a bit wary of the R rating, since other comments about the route made it sound a bit spicy. To quote a worrisome example from an online forum by the prolific Mike Anderson,

"The 5.9 R pitches could easily be called "X". I have little doubt that a fall on one of those pitches, in certain places would put you in a hospital, at a MINIMUM. I think death is not out of the question. If you get on that route, you better not fall on those you better have your stuff together. "

Hum. Jake was to lead those pitches for sure.

Around Nephi, I realized I had left the guidebook and all beta about the route at home. Luckily, I have a sweet iphone and Jake had a pen and paper. He scrawled a copy of a mysterious topo and wrote out the pitch by pitch beta. We pulled into a lawless BLM campground around 1:00 am, bumped into some of Jake's buddies (down there to also climb Touchstone who were kind enough to lend us their real guidebook), and geared up in the dark for the next day. I quickly realized I had also forgotten my chalk bag and set out to make one from a stuff sack and some tape then it was off for an unusually peaceful few hours of sleep.

We caught the first shuttle, ditched extra gear and clothes near the Weeping Rock pullout, and scrambled up to the saddle between the Organ and Angel's Landing (Jake soloing nasty dirty 5.9ish cracks and then throwing me a reassuring line). Even at the base of the climb, the view straddling Big Bend is spectacular. With painfully blue morning skies and the Autumn sun lighting the red rock afire, Jake launched up the 5.10 off width first pitch. The rock seemed a bit damp, but he sent it smoothly and with style. A quick transition, and he was off again, calmly heading up another 5.10 off width before encountering the R section above. Finding the climbing less serious and better protected than reported, he polished off the pitch and was off again for the next 5.9 R pitch. I tried to get a picture of Jake picking his way through the mossy chossy rock, when...


I dropped my camera. It was breaking into pieces as it careened off the rock hundreds of feet below. Jake's well controlled mind space was a bit disrupted by all the screaming, but he found the natural line, some good pro, and the motivation to keep climbing through what has been described as "vertical bush wacking."

Photos from here on taken with my backup camera - the iphone 4

The Organ below

A look across toward the Cerberus Gendarme and Touchstone

View up the unaesthetic pitches 3 and 4

Next, Jake fired the crux 11- Conrad Anker variation pitch, finishing his block of terror (that really wasn't too terrifying).

JT about to pull patina


JT firing

From there, it was my turn to run it out a bit, trying to link 3 pitches to the top.

Low stress goodness

JT not pleased to be carrying the shoes and water.

A few hundred feet of 3rd class (where we found tons of garbage dropped off the top by sloppy tourists) led to a final easy slab of heroic soloing.

Angel's Landing Summit: Prettiest place in Utah? The U.S.? The World?

Up Canyon (Lunar X visible on left canyon wall)

At that point it was about 12:30. It was still early in the day but we were anxious to get started on part II. We ran down the Angel's Landing hiking trail paralyzing the tourons who maintained a white knuckled death grip on the chains as we hopped by. We guzzled water at the Grotto, collected our gear at Weeping Rock, and found ourselves at the base of Touchstone around 2:30.

I ran the first two aid pitches together, Jake frenched the 5.11, I pulled on a bit of gear on the next 5.10, and then it was brilliant (easier) climbing the rest of the way. We topped out around 7:45, finishing our link up in approximately 11 hours and 15 minutes.

Here are some scenic shots from Touchstone as we raced the sun.

The Touchstone headwall

Great White Throne

Part I forms the left skyline of Angel's Landing

The descent is a fun scrabble/canyoneering adventure, especially in the dark. We found the rappels quickly, managed to pull our ropes, and made it to the deck with plenty of time to spare to catch a shuttle back to the car, avoiding the long march out by foot.

I think this picture pretty much sums it up: