Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sterling Goddesses on the Rocks, Joshua Tree, CA

Spent the weekend in Joshua Tree for the Goddesses on the Rocks women's climbing weekend, organized by Sterling Rope Co. Over 75 participants and numerous Sterling athletes, staff, volunteers gathered for two sunny days of climbing and learning trad climbing skills. I spent both days teaching anchors and gear placement with Elaina Arenz-Smith to two different enthusiastic groups of eight women. Saturday night was topped off by a feast, raffle and slideshow by Arno Ilgner (author of The Rock Warrior's Way). After the clinics finished on Sunday I couldn't bring myself to leave Joshua Tree without even climbing a single pitch, so Kevin Newell from Five Ten kindly belayed me on the Left Ski Track, a burly 5.11a crack that faces the Hidden Valley parking lot. Although Arno's slideshow left me with tremendous mental strength, my body, sadly, was still in winter mode with weak arms, soft skin and big, big quads. I flailed at the crux and got to fall test a not-so-textbook camalot placement in a wacky flared pocket. Luckily for me, it held. As I belayed Kevin up I got to look around and appreciate the gorgeous surroundings while blood dripped out of a gash on my hand from desperately jamming the sharp rock. Ahhhh, what could be better than that. Now I am back at my desk, gearing up for my thesis defense on Friday... hopefully I can transition from Rock Warrior to Isotope Warrior with ease, and finish up this degree so I can get climbing!
Knotty Girls

Trad bettys in training

Armed and ready for some serious crack climbing

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

After a week of wading through thesis editing, I was ready for a break. On Thursday night, the relief came when six people, 2 dogs, the makings for many burritos and lots of beer, wine and tequila piled into 2 vehicles and made the pilgrimage to crack mecca aka Indian Creek for the weekend. After a full winter of sweaty ski gloves, my hands weren't in their usual leathery, calloused, scar tissued state and they took a major beating. I thought about posting a photo of them... but that would just be gross. You can take my word for it when I say that after 2 full days of sandstone splitter climbing, me and my hands were ready for a change of pace. Luckily for me, I wasn't the only one in our crew feeling this way, so on Sunday morning we drove into Moab, fueled up on coffee and pastries at the Red Rock Bakery, then headed up into the La Sal Mountains for some multipitch mixed sport and gear climbing at Lower Mill Creek. Luckily for us, my husband Evan used to be a Moab local and established a few of the routes in the area, so he knew his way around. All the routes require rappelling to the start, so not knowing what you are getting into would have been intimidating. Spring had only just arrived; snow still coated the shady side of the canyon, but we were in the sun and loving the juniper infused breeze as we climbed crimps thankfully interspersed with amazing patina jugs. After the first three days of climbing for the season, my body was battered and my mind was sharp; time to tackle the home stretch of the thesis.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sloggerific Squared

My Dad was visiting from Canada over the weekend, so I thought I had better take him on a Wasatch adventure while he was here. The skiing wasn't looking too amazing, so I thought some good old snow mountaineering might be just the ticket. I had soloed the South Ridge of Superior a few times in the summer when I first moved here and knew it was a cool ridge with classic position and pretty mellow cruxes, so I thought it would be an enjoyable outing and doable despite the far-from-splitter weather forecast. The day turned out to be a little longer than we expected. No major epics, just some serious snow slogging. Cool temperatures mid-week had caused the snow on the ridge to facet, making for deep wallowing on the flat sections, and insecure crampon and ice axe placements on the steeper sections. My Dad cruised all the mixed snow and rock sections despite the fact that he hasn't done much winter climbing, which was cool. There were some old tracks, but for most of the route they had been blown in by new snow. When the going looked tough on the ridge, I made the mistake of thinking we might be better off skinning along the east side (shortcutting into the top of Pinball Alley), but this just made matters worse. Skinning was impossible with the super-faceted nature of the snow, which just slid out from under my skis threatening to send me toppling down the 45 degree slope and over the cliffs below. We changed back into our crampons and wallowed in chest-deep snow across to the top of Pinball Alley. Note to self: stay on the ridge! When we finally made it to the summit, a full-on white out set in, so we walked down the ridge to Little Superior, not wanting to drop into the South Face with zero visibility and potentially firm conditions. The skiing down Little Superior was actually not as horrible as I thought it would be, a bit of a breakable crust, but the apron at the bottom was OK after we crossed the tongues of old, frozen avalanche debris. The day ended well; we poached the hot tub at the Cliff Lodge and enjoyed an ice cold beer, enjoying the view of our wallow tracks up the ridge of Superior across the street.
Leading the way

Dad on the summit

Walking the plank down the ridge

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Winter camping isn't so bad... but powder skiing is better

Spent the weekend guiding an introduction to mountaineering course for Exum of Utah. My clients were not skiers, so we earned our dinner and then some slogging into Maybird Gulch by slowshoe where we established a cozy winter camp under the beautiful Pfeifferhorn. We spent the rest of the day going over mountaineering basics: walking on snow, cramponing, self arrest, tying into the rope, roped travel, etc. We were hard pressed to find any firm snow to work with... winter was still in full swing. Lucky for me, the team had a great attitude and outlook, so when we awoke on Sunday morning to four inches of new snow and a veritable blizzard in progress, their enthusiasm wasn't noticeably damped. We pressed on as planned towards the East Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn, but as expected, strong winds, very poor visibility, and avalanche hazard associated with the new snow and wind turned us around 400 feet below the summit. My enthusiastic students didn't feel too ripped off though, climbing back down to camp, packing up, and descending back to the parking lot took most of the day and most of their energy, and they were dreaming of margaritas and pizza when we still had a few miles to go. Nothing like a mountain sufferfest to help you appreciate what really matters in life!

Anne, John and I enjoying some sun under the Pfeifferhorn during the
Exum Mountaineering Course

Prepping Dinner

Relaxing on the snow sofa

The mighty Pfeifferhorn

As for me, I couldn't help but notice all the people zipping by us on skis as we descended to our cars. The new snow was making for some great skiing, and it only got better with additional snow throughout the night on Sunday. School duties called on Monday, but on Tuesday I could fend off my desire to hit the slopes no longer. 8 AM saw me and a friend heading to the top of Superior. Despite the party of around 10 folks on the summit at the same time as us, we got first tracks off the NE face into Cardiac, because everyone else had their sights set on the South Face. A few laps in Cardiac used up my time for the day, and a somewhat sloppy descent down Little Superior left me feeling that my powder fever had subsided, at least for a few days.

The beautiful SE Face of Monte Cristo

Getting ready to drop into the South Face of Superior

Ski tracks in Cardiac