Monday, January 23, 2012

Ice Skating Tenaya Lake

Up until this recent weekend, the winter here in California has been quite warm and dry, which made for excellent climbing conditions, but not so great conditions for snow sports. In fact, there was hardly any snow in the Sierras, which presented a unique opportunity of ice skating on frozen lakes.
Me on top of Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows on 01/16/2012. No snow in sight!
Tenaya Lake near Tuolumne Meadows was probably the most popular destination for ice skating. Normally, it would be covered in snow by December and the road to access the lake would also be closed. This year, Tioga Pass had the latest closing date in 70 years. The previous record was January 1, 2000 and I believe they finally closed it last week on January 17th.
Ice skaters on frozen Tenaya Lake. Stately Pleasure Dome in the background.
From what a ranger told me, the last time people were able to ice skate on Tenaya Lake was in the winter of 1976-1977. That's about 35 years ago! What that meant to me was, I had to make a trip, as this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not to say that I couldn't ice skate when I'm 60, but I don't think I would be ice skating at 60 either. So I bought some ice skates and took a day trip on MLK day (Jan. 16). Here are some photos:
Me putting on my ice skates.
Skating on frozen Tenaya Lake in front of Stately Pleasure Dome.
More ice skating on Tenaya Lake.
Frozen Tenaya Lake Ice.
Frozen Tenaya Lake Ice.

Red Rocks & Joshua Tree

In late December, I took a week long trip to Red Rocks and Joshua Tree with about 3 full days of climbing at each location. We spent 2 days sport climbing and 1 day trad climbing at Red Rocks and bouldered the entire time at JTree. The weather was amazing if not too hot, and by hot I mean 60s to 70s during the day.

Red Rocks
We spent the first day in Red Rocks climbing at Dog Wall and Panty Wall. I onsighted Dog Logic (5.11b/c) and Viagra Falls (5.12a) and redpointed Cujo (5.11d).
Tracy on Cat Walk (5.10a).
Climbers on Panty Wall.
Me climbing Viagra Falls (5.12a)
My second day at Red Rocks involved climbing Juliant Song (5.8), an 8 pitch trad climb on the South Face of Windy Peak. We started approaching for the base of this climb around 9AM and arrived a little after 10AM. It took about 3.5 hours to summit and another 1:45 to get back to the car. We were back at the car around 4PM, so it took about 7 hours car-to-car including 30 minutes at the summit and another 30 at the base. I led all 8 pitches and enjoyed most of it if not all of it. Although I didn't have much difficulty with the climb, I can imagine this being quite challenging for a 5.8 leader. The 5.8 crux is right after the hanging belay of pitch 4. It is only about 2-3 moves to get over the roof, but it can be quite terrifying and harder if you're tall as the beta I used involved a high step. The water streak on pitch 6 & 7 can be frightening as the protection is pretty thin. Overall, this was a great day and a great climb that avoids the crowds. We didn't see a single person all day. Oh yeah, you definitely need a high clearance vehicle and possibly 4WD to get as close to Windy Peak as possible. The approach is very straight forward once you find the good trail.
Windy Peak as seen from the parking area.
At the base of Jubilant Song.
Me leading pitch 2 of Jubilant Song.
Valerie following me on Jubliant Song.
The roof traverse on pitch 4.
The roof traverse on pitch 4.
Valerie at the hanging belay after pitch 4.
Close up of the anchor on the hanging belay.
Marker near the summit of Windy Peak.
Valerie signing the summit register.
Our last day in Red Rocks was spent sport climbing at the Gallery. The previous day proved quite draining, so I took it easy on this day. I warmed up on some low 10's and then attempted Glitch (5.12c), which I hang-dogged, but managed to finish.
Climbing at The Gallery.
Me on Glitch (5.12c)

Joshua Tree
My first trip to JTree was two years ago during the New Year's weekend. During that trip, I found the bouldering there to be quite challenging and painful, but it was still a lot of fun. One problem stood out for me and remained unfinished from my last trip. This problem was So High (V5), FA John Bachar.
Me on So High, 01/01/2010. I fell shortly afterwards.
The sun had set and it was getting dark. I fell from approximately 20 feet and landed perfectly on my feet, but the next day I felt stiffness and soreness throughout my body and neck as if I got whiplashed. I vowed to return and finish this climb one day, which was one of the main reasons for this return visit to JTree.
Joshua Trees.
I spent the first day playing around at Barker Dam repeating Gunsmoke (V3) and sending High Noon (V5). The top out on High Noon is hard! Here's the video:


The following day, we warmed up at the JBMFP area and then headed to Turtle Rock for So High. I had 6 pads and no spotters (per my request). It took a few burns to remember the beta for the entry moves (physical crux), but after that, it eases up.
Me on the entry moves of So High. The 2nd move involves a finger lock.
Once I felt confident at executing the first half of the problem, I went for the send. On my first attempt, I messed up the beta right before the slab, so I dropped off. On my second attempt, I sent! As this was a ground-up ascent, I've never climbed through the slab section, which many people have mentioned it being the crux. It was pretty much like onsighting as I had to look for the holds and think about every move as making a mistake here is not really an option. I don't personally think that pulling onto the slab is the physical crux, but it can definitely be the mental crux. The slab is indeed thin and a bit chossy as there is a small flake that felt like it can break off if pulled on too hard. My beta for pulling onto the slab is: After grabbing the last left hand sidepull jug, cross right hand to a good pinch and start jamming your right foot into the crack to pull onto the slab. I would rate the slab itself maybe about 5.6 or 5.7, possibly easier. Anyway, here's the video:


My last day at JTree involved starting the New Years off with bacon, eggs, SPAM, mushrooms, avocados, and peppers! Oh, and drinking a bottle of two buck chuck while climbing White Rastafarian (V3). That's about all I did on this day. My trip was pretty much complete after sending So High.
Making breakfast to start the New Year off.
Me climbing White Rastafarian (V3) with a bottle of two buck chuck.