mellow mammoth weekend

bnna, post surgery

bnna, post surgery

“we have to get out of the city”  

it was agreed immediately.  the last weekend had been a real struggle.  between the pain in bnna’s knee from the previous week’s surgery, and the claustrophobic heat in the apartment that had been the status quo for so many weeks that summer, it was time to move.

fleeing so-cal

with the oppressive heat bearing down on all of southern california, the clear choice was to go north and up.  pre-dawn the next morning we were off up the familiar roads of hwy 395.  the iconic route that sweeps north and south along the eastern flank of the sierra nevada.  

lake mary

after stopping at a favorite haunt in lone pine, ca, the alabama hills cafe we continued north thru bishop to mammoth lakes ca.  at around 8000 ft. elevation, mammoth lakes offers cool mountain air even in the heat of the california summer.   turns out, mammoth is a great place for a mountain adventure even for the marginally ambulatory.  here’s some fun things we found to do:

minaret summit

4x4 roads southeast of mammoth mountain

  • renting a canoe and paddling all over lake mary
  • hitting up the mammoth brewing company for some microbrew tasting (marginal) and lunch (pretty solid)
  • driving up the minaret road past the ski resort to scope out the views of the minarets
  • exploring a maze of 4x4 roads southeast of mammoth mountain.  this proved to be a great place to camp for free en route to yosemite a few weeks later. 
  • splurging for a room at the sierra nevada resort and spa (turns out hot tubs feel great on a recovering knee)




rae lakes backpacking

may - 2015
kings canyon national park

the 'rae lakes loop' is a classic backpacking circuit in kings canyon national park.  the loop is a 42 mile trail that climbs from the roads end ranger station up to glenn pass (11, 970ft).  with some friends, we decided to try the trail over memorial day weekend 2015.  after driving up to fresno after work on friday, we arrived at the roads end ranger station in SEKI as it opened. our goal was to try to score a walk-up permit for the popular trail.  we were fortunate to secure a cancellation permit for our group of 6 and set out on the trail.  our intention for day one was a 15 mile climb from the ranger station to the jmt-woods creek trail intersection. 

tomas and eva starting up the woods creek trail

the clouds gathered overhead as we hiked the beautiful trail.  they caused some stress about potential storms, but provided a beautiful atmosphere to the surrounding peaks as we hiked thru paradise valley and up past the castle domes. 

clouds rolling into castle domes meadow

  after a grueling day of climbing several thousand feet along the woods creek trail we arrived at our camp.  we were stoked to get our tents up and a fire started before the rain arrived.  we were quick to eat our burritos fireside before retreating to the dry warmth of the tents.  the drumming of the rain on the tent lulled us to sleep.  

maya, tomas, and eva dry their kit out in the sunny morning

in the morning, we discovered a wet 2" of snow.  also, some of our friends had suffered a collapsed tent in the night, which had led to a wet and uncomfortable night's sleep.  

crin, maya, eva, and bnna work their way up towards the rae lakes with light packs

due to this, and the overal vibe of the crew, we revised our plan to dayhike up to the rae lakes and return to our camp at woods creek.  after a leisurely morning, we set off with delightfully light packs.  the snow caking the surrounding peaks made for a spectacular setting. 

after a few hours of toiling in the thinning air, we arrived at the rae lakes, which were sparkling in the warm mid-afternoon sun.  crin created a beautiful lunch of montes tortas lakeside, and then everyone had a beautiful half hour nap. 

eva and bnna enjoying a well-earned nap

we quickly made our way back down to camp where we enjoyed another campfire and dinner (the effort of carrying wine up the trail payed off here), and settled in for a peaceful and storm-free night's sleep.  

maya and eva starting the grind down valley

the next morning we started down on what we knew would be another difficult 15 mile day.  everyone was starting to feel the cumulative effects of the previous day's labor, and we knew the decent would be a grind.  

despite the struggle, we made great time down to the ranger station, arriving around 2pm.  we poured water on each other in lieu of showers, and discovered that you can cool a sixer of beers in a bear canister quite quickly with cold snowmelt water.  everyone was worked and proud of the weekend's effort.  despite deciding to skip the complete loop by stopping short of glenn pass, the 40+ miles over 3 days, combined with massive elevation gain, was a really cool physical achievement for everyone.  most notably for maya, for whom this was the first backpacking experience ever. 

arriving at the ranger station

after celebrating with snacks and beers, we piled in the car for the long drive back to LA, arriving perfectly at 10pm for a good night's sleep. 

badwater to telescope sufferfest

may - 2015
death valley national park

the sun arrives 10 or so miles into the hike

  • route: badwater to telescope peak
  • mileage/vertical: 20+?/11299ft?
  • elevation: 11,043' (3,366 m)
  • date: 4.10.15
  • time on route: 16 hours?

here are step by step instructions for a pretty cool sufferfest

step1:  drive from la to death valley (5 hours or so) stopping in lone pine to climb a few pitches of sport climbing in the alabama hills.  

addy and bran heading up

step2: park a car at mahogany flats campground in death valley. then get in another car and drive 2 hours to badwater (the lowest point in death valley at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level).  

step 3: camp in the dirt of badwater.  

step 4: set your alarm for 2:30 am

step 5: awake to your alarm at 2:30 am

bnna and crin halfway thru the suffer

step 6: walk with your friends from badwater to the summit of telescope peak (11,043 feet) over the course of 14 hours and 15.6 miles.  

the route ascends from the valley floor mostly cross- country, which is a fun navigation challenge.  at about 10k feet, the route joins a trail for the final mile or two of switchbacking to the summit. 

lots of beauty for a place as desolate as death valley

step 7:  descend 7 miles to the car you left the day before in mahogany flats campground.

step 8: drive back to badwater to get your other car

step 9: drive back to la

what a weekend!  

on the summit of telescope

highlights of the 2014-2015 josh season

we're super fortunate to be just a 2-ish hour drive away from joshua tree national park.  this past winter, we cruised up to the park regularly.  ticking lots of classic climbs, ticking lots of not-so-classic climbs, and not ticking some climbs that were too hard.  

here are some of the highlights. 

bnna scrambling down the boulders after a super fun ascent of moosedog tower 

climbing a super fun multi-pitch on the moosedog tower.  which tops out at a beautiful summit overlooking all of indian cove, and features a free-hanging rappel descent off the back side. 





bran climbing 27 pitches to celebrate his birthday in december.  a good size crew rallied all over the park climbing on the pitches and enjoying a beautiful winter's day in the park.  an epic day to be sure.  

a beautiful j-tree sunset at the end of a long day climbing 27 pitches

  • Double Decker 5.7  (1 p) 
  • Scrumdillyishus 5.7  (1 p) 
  • Biological Clock 5.9+  (1 p) 
  • Dilly Bar 5.6  (1 p) 
  • Hot Fudge 5.9 R (1 p) 
  • Frosty Cone 5.7  (1 p) 
  • Sexy Grandma 5.8+  (1 p) 
  • Double Cross 5.7+  (1 p) 
  • Overhang Bypass 5.7  (2 p) 
  • Knuckle Cracker V-easy  (1 p) 
  • Beginner's Three 5.3  (1 p) 
  • Double Cross 5.7+  (1 p) 
  • Mr. Misty Kiss 5.7  (1 p) 
  • Hot Fudge 5.9 R (1 p) 
  • Frosty Cone 5.7  (1 p) 
  • The Bong 5.4  (1 p) 
  • Flake V-easy  (1 p) 
  • Right Sawdust Crack 5.8  (1 p) 
  • Hand Crack V-easy  (1 p) 
  • Eschar 5.4  (1 p) 
  • Cranny 5.8  (1 p) 
  • B-1 5.1  (1 p) 
  • B-3 5.3  (1 p) 
  • Bill's Nuts 5.7  (1 p) 
  • B-3 5.3  (1 p) 
  • Gripper Traverse V0  (1 p)

celebrating new year's day with friends on a snowy day in the park.  highlights were bouldering in the asteroid belt,  everyone working hard to send a heinous 5.9 offwidth, and some strong attempts on gunsmoke by addy as always.  

a beautiful snowy new years in the park

  • The Womb V-easy  (1 p)     
  • Spaghetti & Chili 5.7  (1 p) 
  • Interceptor V0  (1 p)     
  • The Nose in a Day 5.9  
  • Nebula V-easy  (1 p)     
  • Ceres V-easy  (1 p)     
  • Pioneer V-easy  (1 p)     
  • Juno V-easy  (1 p)     



here are some other highlights

tomas bouldering in the asteroid belt 

tomas bouldering in the asteroid belt 

addy setting his high point on gunsmoke - v3 

bran climbing bird of fire - 5.10a


the end of another classic j-tree day

we're already stoked for the fall 2015 season to arrive!

the needles - white punks on dope

july - 2014
sequoia national forest  

  • route: white punks on dope
  • difficulty: 5 pitches, 900', Grade II, 5.8+ pg13
  • date: 6.27.15
  • time on route: 4 hours

beautiful free camping in sequoia, near dome rock

"there's the horcrux!" called tomas, pointing to the next carin up the scree gully marking the approach to voodoo dome.  the dome, just out of view behind thick ponderosas, is a massive granite formation rising a few thousand feet from the kern river below.  a small cirque of these domes makes up 'the needles', a remote climbing destination nestled deep in the south sierra.  we were there on our first trip ever to the area.  the day before, we had climbed several routes on 'dome rock', a nearby formation with bnna who was recovering from a cold in a hammock on the valley floor.  


we were intent on climbing what has been called 'the best moderate route in california', a 5.8-pg13 route called 'white punks on dope'.  we were psyched.  the weather was incredible with benign cloud cover and low-70s temps.  we saw no other parties in the area.  the approach was a complicated but short line of tomas's "horcruxes" up some wooded drainages and some talus fields.  at the base of the formation we organized our gear and flaked the ropes.


addy schooling me at rock paper scissors to win the first lead

addy nearing the top of the first pitch in style

addy threw paper, I threw rock.  he would get the first lead.  on the sharp end, casting out up a beautiful left facing corner crack addy climbed smoothly up the first pitch.  a few minutes later, he had set the belay and it was time for tomas and I to start climbing.  we marveled at the amazing crack, and addy's impressive confidence to climb on above the last of his hand-sized pieces.  we worked our way up to an alcove where addy was belaying us up.  it was my turn to lead.


tomas enjoying the climbing on voodoo dome

i struggled left over an overhang, onto a face.  the face a short way up to another alcove with a nice ledge.  uncertain of the next move, and sufficiently intimidated by the massive granite face, I placed an anchor and brought my friends up.  after consulting our i-phones for beta, we picked our next line and addy again cast off on lead.  he tunneled thru a chasm, chimneyed up its sides, and arrived at an expansive ledge beneath another beautiful left facing corner.  tomas and I joined him, towing our small backpacks below us as we chimmneyed up the sides of the chasm with our backs pressed to one side and our feet pressed to the other.  

looking up at the corner, I was vibrating with nervous anticipation for the next lead.  addy put me on belay and I started up, liebacking the seemingly endless corner crack.  the granite started as a clean dihedral, forming an open book.  as the pitch went higher and higher, the right hand side of the book began to curl over, forming a giant wave of granite which enveloped me as I climbed.  the endless fingerlocking and liebacking at the thin corner eventually gave way to a transition.  instead of continuing up vertically, the crack made a sharp left turn and went out horizontally 10 feet to the left, before turning back upwards to continue vertically.  to add to the complexity, the crack widened here from the friendly finger-sized crack to a gaping foot wide off-width crack.  I placed the last of my protection for the pitch, creating a mini anchor, and set off horizontally into the unprotectable off-width.  underclinging the horizontal crack with my feet pasted on the slab, I reached the end of the horizontal and continued liebacking up the off-width crack.  chalking up after every move to counteract the sweat which was coming faster every moment, I focused on moving steadily upwards, trying to avoid thinking about the distance to my last protection in the fingercrack below.  the belay ledge approached, and I silently begged my forearms to let me make it.  three moves away, two moves, away, I threw for the ledge and felt it solidly hit my hand.  yes!  mantling out onto the belay I gave a involuntary shout to my friends below. I was safe at the belay.  what an incredible pitch!

addy and tomas worked their way up the pitch, hooting for the fun of the climbing as well.  we regrouped and drank some water when they joined at the ledge.  the crux of the pitch was behind us, with only two more pitches to go to gain the summit.  the next pitch looked pretty horrendous, so I was relieved it was addy's turn to take off on lead.  with no crack to place cams and nuts, the next pitch was bolt protected.  unfortunately, the traditionally bolted pitch had only 4 bolts for ~150 feet of climbing.  this meant that the leader needed to climb as much as 40 feet between bolts, facing the possibility of an 80 foot fall down the slab, a fairly harrowing proposition.  the pitch also featured a fairly insecure style of climbing, with small ripples in the rock to climb rather than positive holds to grab on to.  tomas and I watched on with baited breath as addy stepped out onto the slab and started up.  


a strong and confident climber, addy smoothly tic-tack-ed up the slab to the first bolt.  tomas and I let our our breath together as addy clipped the bolt (a direct fall onto the anchor is a very bad scenario in climbing).  he eyed the slab, and padded up to the second bolt. clip!  he headed out left.  he looked right.  he looked left again. he continued up.  addy stopped, the climbing looked difficult ahead,  he moved his right foot up, pasting it on the slab, and swung his weight onto it.  it slipped.  "falling!" his shout pierced the air as he fell, sliding and scraping down the slab before coming to a stop after a 40 foot ride down the face with massive exposure.  I lowered him back to the belay, unhurt but shaken.  It seemed like I would have to lead this pitch after all.  

I headed up following addy's path until the second bolt, where he had aimed straight up the face.  I went right instead and found nicer ripples and divots to place my feet.  inhale. exhale.  step through.  pull down. step up.  the third bolt. step up.  reach left.  pull down. the fourth bolt.  the ledge.  "off belay!".  we had one pitch to go!

tomas topping out

a beautiful splitter finger crack off the ledge led to low-angle scrambling as the dome rounded out at the top.  we unroped and hiked up the final ridge to the summit!  it was about noon as we exchanged hi-fives and smiles.  it was the best climb of our short climbing careers so far!  

a rappel of the back side and a fun hike down thru the forest to the car rounded out our afternoon.  with perma-grins we drove back to the campground to pick up bnna to continue down the road to some pizza.  

addy and tomas, psyched!

back at the car after decending from voodoo dome, the granite formation in the background