Monday, September 29, 2014

The Needles (Emma's epic TR sessions)

The Needles are located in the Southern Sierra, a five hour drive from the bay area. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know anything else about the area except that it exists. The guide book for the area has been out of print for several years now. We were worried that access to the trail head might be tricky with low-clearance Prius because the road has been reported to be in bad shape. In addition, the book cover pic doesn't really promise much. A storm was rolling in from the North so we didn't end up having a choice. We had dinner at the Lee Vining Mobil Station (fish tacos, of course) and drove to Needles.

This is what you want. Thank you Angel!

Everything about the Needles is a bit of a mystery. I think part of the appeal of the climbing is that the access is not straightforward and finding your way around might be difficult at first. Nothing made sense to me, until I got to the base of the actual pinnacles (in between Sorcerer and Witch) and started orienting myself. The biggest challenge, I think, is finding your way around and using time efficiently by linking climbs. Routes we climbed were between 70 and 150 meters so it was easy to climb two or three every day.

To bring shoes or not, to hike off or to rappel, to haul or not, to bring a single 70, two 60s, or a tag line? Why are there so many squirrels?

There is no cell service so if something happens, you are on your own. Always bring a headlamp.

Be prepared for wind, bears, and critters.

The map of the area, very simple!
The Witch is the home of Airy Interlude (10a), Igor Enchained (5.9+), and Spook Book (10+)
P1 and 2 of Igor Enchained can be linked with a 70. This is the classic 5.9...+.
The East face of the Sorcerer. We climbed Don Juan Wall (11b), Thin ice (10b), and The Atlantis (11d).
I'm on P2 of Don Juan. Morgan is leading P1 of Ice Pirates (11b).
P3 of Don Juan has some awkward climbing

By this point you probably realize why title says Emma's TR sessions. We spent a week at the Needles so there are a lot of pics. Of. Me. Top roping. Pics taken by Max.

Romantic Warrior (12b) The P5 traverse (12a) is spicy for the second. Max's weird long arm compliments the pic.
Oh the fighter bombers...
The book of Deception (12b) is The Pitch.
If hauling, add one more pitch to The Romantic Warrior and rappel the back side of the Warlock. It's easier and faster than rapping the entire route and reversing the approach. Pic taken from the top of Warlock.
The fire lookout on the Magician burnt down 2011 but it's still worth a visit.

We spent rest days in camp or drove to town. Hiking in the area would be great but my foot could barely make the three mile approach on our climbing days so we hung out, made friends, ate a lot of chips and salsa (mostly just me), and played card games.

Habituated fat chipmunk. Lock your doors and store your food wisely.
That's all Max does, all day long.
Lunch: burritos with fried left over rice, bell peppers, eggs, and avocado.
I consume about a jar of salsa per day. Great for candles!

Max makes 80% of our meals really. I'm very lucky. Actually, I think he is lucky because I just want to eat burritos.

The Swedish team: Morgan (climbing) and Peter (belaying) sending Don Juan (11b).
Peter finishing the last pitch of Don Juan. We topped out Thin ice (10b) right before them. Next Spooky (5.9).
The Sorcerer is my favorite pinnacle. I took this pic after topping out Spooky.

The weather deteriorated towards the end of our trip. Temps were at couple degrees above zero. We had to hike in one more time to get our gear. It was hailing and snowing when we left camp. At the crag the weather was perfect. We were surprised and decided to go rock climbing. The occasional gusts of wind were freezing cold and we could see the storm building around us.

The Atlantis (11d) and Lost at Sea (10d) link up.
Hulk, again?
Please become a clove hitch!
Peter and Morgan on Spook Book (10+).
Chasing the sun on Spook Book. My fingertips gave in, blood everywhere, cams, stoppers, slings, holds... I'm sorry.
Last morning, freezing cold. Poor fingers.

The food in Berkeley is amazing. Go to Cheese Board! Now I must finish packing and head to the airport. See you!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Alpine at the Incredible Hulk

We made Hulk happen! My foot held me back a little so the approach and descents took slightly longer than usual. These climbs could be done car to car but we wanted to climb for two days so it made sense to camp. We packed three days worth of food and gear and hiked in Monday evening.

Two hours of this

Another two hours of this

The Hulk has a bunch of 400-500 meter routes, easy access, and the exellent granite. Bivy sites and water are conveniently located. More info about the climbs, permits, and access here. Check Supertopo for detailed topos.

Hulk seen from the approach.

Siskolle: mä synkronoin visiirin mun lähetyspipaan. Toimii!

Our camp is 20 minute walk from the base.

Tuesday we climbed Positive Vibrations (11a). The conditions weren't exactly stellar but the climbing was amazing and made up for the cold and windy weather. Max sent. I'm new to this alpine climbing so everything was exciting for me.

And stressful.

I've never been as stressed out rapping as I was that day. 10 raps. We had to wait for the wind to settle and pull our rope at just the right moment between gusts of wind. It's a miracle our rope did not get stuck on our way down. The night before we witnessed a party of two epic trying to get their rope unstuck half way up the wall.

First crux pitch (P3) of Positive vibrations. Tho, if you ask me, the crux is the thin finger crack/stemming sections on P2.

A couple more raps to go. Rope hasn't gotten stuck. Yet.

Wednesday we hung out at camp most of the day and watched a party of two make their way up Red Dihedral (10b). They ended up bailing after the crux pitch which made me nervous about leading the route.

My favorite rest day activity: stare at the spectacular incredible hulk.

Dinner: cous cous, TJ's Indian Curry sauce, cheese, and smoked trout.

I found a tree in the alpine!

Alpine vegetation is pretty.

Rest day hike to the lake near by

We wanted to go down there but couldn't find a way down. Next time.

Thursday we climbed Red dihedral. I told Max I'd like to lead the crux pitch but that he can have the rest because he is more efficient. Max said "I bet you could lead all the pitches". Right. I asked him many times mid route if he wants to take the sharp end because I'm slow. He declined. At the top I was happy he let me lead everything and that I actually sent. I would have not been able to do it without Max's support. The route finding was tricky for me and I was intimidated by the length of the route.

P2 of Red dihedral

P3 aka THE PITCH, sustained and long dihedral

View from the every belay

P5: splitter fingers to hands

Zoom in and see which shoes Max is wearing. :)

We did the hike off in an hour. There was only one rap but it was stressful all the same.

The descent via the scree gully

Maybe the abundance of slings make up for the tiny bolts..?

Next morning I woke up with sand in my mouth, hair, and eyes. Gusting winds. I got up, made coffee and went outside to enjoy the last view of the Hulk.

This is the best coffee when bialetti/french press is not an option. Also using a burner inside the tent is a great way to burn a hole in your rainfly.

Hulk towers above it's surroundings.

Red dihedral P12 chimney.

Finland? No. The Hoover Wilderness!

 Off to the Needles!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tuolumne Meadows

I'm hanging out in Lee Vining, taking a rest day. Max is working. Our original plan was to head to the Hulk first because the valley is too hot. After climbing yesterday we started having doubts about my ability to make the four mile approach to the Hulk. I injured my left foot a couple weeks back. I can climb normally but the approaches and descents are aggravating my foot. We might end up changing our plans and climb stuff close to the road. I will know in the next few days.

Lot of this, how exciting!

Please, let me (one day) be strong enough to french free that!

Yesterday we climbed two routes in Tuolumne. The Lamb dome via On the Lamb (5.9 150m/4P) and Fairview dome via Regular route (5.9 300m/12P). We climbed the Lamb backwards. The traverse pitches are crazy! I fell at the end of the crux section and found myself dangling two meters from my last piece on a blank slab. I had to ascend the rope to get back up. The traverse is as exciting for both the leader and the second. I recommend this route.

The 100 meter horizontal crack of The Lamb Dome is easy to spot.

Juggy crack and a slippery granite slab with no feet. I'm almost finished with the crux section.
We simul-climbed most of Fairview dome so 12 pitches became three and the climb took us two and half hours. This route is one of the 50 Classic climbs of North America. The climbing and position were incredible. As we went higher the climbing got easier. I enjoy simul-climbing when I'm climbing terrain I'd feel comfortable soloing but don't feel comfortable taking the risk of falling. For me it's more exciting and rewarding than seconding in TR. It's almost like I too get to lead the route. The flow is also incredible because the climbing is interrupted only if the leader runs out of gear or if the leader wants a belay mid route.

The Fairview Dome from Western Front.

Descending the granite slab in the backside of the Fairview Dome.

Pretty Tuolumne granite, smooth and slippery.

The altitude (Tuolumne is in about 3000 meters) is also affecting my performance. It hit me when we were hiking up to the base of the Lamb Dome and I struggled getting up the hill. It makes perfect sense since I'm coming from the sea level. I had to stop several times during the day to catch my breath on 5.6 terrain. It was obviously frustrating for me. I learned to pace myself towards the end of the day .

Time to pick Max up from work. Cheers!

Siskolle kiitos lähetyspipasta!
Breakfast stop