Thursday, December 17, 2009
China is amazing though, and regardless of the limited incoming news the outgoing adventures are limitless.
Much climbing amongst the towers still, despite the cold, we ride rickety bikes out of the town and into the wild villages.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
of Columbia Peak (7172ft)
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
At about 9000ft, at a high saddle we put on our crampons and left the packs and skis behind.The conditions and view were both amazing. Anne' loved the steep,
dense snow high on the NW flank.
We spent very little time on the summit. The snow was softening quick, the mountain was trying to melt from beneath our feet, and the corn snow was just waiting to be skiied.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Another Spring Season at NAL
And what a great one it was. I should have known when I started off with two amazing weeks at snowy Montecito Sequoia Lodge I was in for a great spring in Southern California.
In the Sierra during late February we had two groups of fun kids out on program but somehow most of the work has been overshadowed by the blissful weekends in between (isn't that always the case). We did nothing more than play in the snow – adult style. We built snow caves, slacklined in a dug out trench, and then had a paintball war which ended in tromping through deep snow under darkening skies. We made a snow sculpture of the St. Louis Arch and then warmed up with draft Sierras by the fireplace. We used some dead dinosaurs and skied the hell out of Dinosaur Bowl and lapped a trackless powder field under cold, blue skies. I was having so much fun my car getting broken into and towed barely phased me. By the time we drove out of the snow and into the Kern River Valley the only reminder of my misfortune was the many music-less hours of driving.
We took a detour, on the way to Ventura, up the Kern River and found the wildflowers in full bloom. We discovered a new, secret little hot springs called Pyramid that I had driven past many times before. There was a big jump across a cold river to get there. We spent fun days and nights camped along the Kern, singing around the campfire, and enjoying Remington hot spring (one of the finest and most well-built in the region). PC meeting came around in Ventura and we almost forgot to go. Luckily we did though because merry-making and flag football with your best friends is not something to be missed. Turns out.
After the meeting of the season, where you get to see everyone together at least once, it was time to head out into the wilds and enjoy Pinnacles in the spring. Wildflowers, great temps, a few lowly condors, and some bold climbing were on the menu. Days past and there were great small trips that have now become a blur. We made a trip to Yosemite to sneak in some days of granite (beautiful) and then happily took a break from it all while glamping at ElCapitan's luxury campland. I had to cook for 150 people too, but again, I remember mostly the amazing BBQ and beach jam we had at Refugio State Beach post program. The rangers kept reminding us we can only have 8 people in our campsite, little did they know we needed a 15 foot box truck to carry all the beer and burgers for 8 people. After chilling beachside for a week it was back up to Pinnacles for a great small trip where we cooked gourmet food, whipped heavy cream with a slotted spoon, and ate a curry named Vermont (your guess is as good as mine). On the last day of Pinnacles we took the public climbing, for free, as an outreach to the Park Service – there were many characters and it made me happy that I work with children mostly.
The season was nearing the middle by this point and in classic NAL style I had no work but I did have a place to camp and eat for free so I headed there. It was called Natural History training and it was in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. On the way I went to the San Diego Zoo with my friend Michelle; her favorite animal was the Muir cat (named in memory of John Muir I guess?), I liked the gorillas. It was great to see my cousins' two new youngsters, Teddy the dog, and my aunt and uncle in SD. Later that week we met Feder in Pacific Beach for 'act like a frat boy' night. Anyways, in Anza we hiked to a cool oasis of palms and a impressive overlook. We learned some things too, from our peers, and my brain got bigger. Of course it may have shrunken' back from all the toxic air I inhaled by exploring the Salton Sea – but I think there was a net gain.
After the sea, and PB, and NHT we took the cube truck on a tour of the Mexican border. No, we did not cross into Mexico with an unmarked box truck, we only toured the fence line that separates us from them or them from us or the fence the Bush built. It was freezing cold in Jacumba when we stopped for Mexican food and watched Super Bad for the second time in a week. I practiced my backing-up on narrow dirt roads with an overloaded truck skills, and we ended up at Walter's Camp last in the evening. The mosquitos had gone to bed and someone had left an old wahing machine tank under the tamarisk for us to build a fire in. Two weeks on the river went by fast (for more stories from the desert lands read the previous entry: The River).
I remember a big scorpion, an open mike night better than most I've seen at real venues thanks to a bunch of talented seniors from Hollywood, getting up at 3:45am – twice, a windstorm with gusts to 45 MPH, lots of breakfast burritos from Filiberto's, cooking 245 veggie burgers, and plumes of dust a mile long as I navigated the big white box through miles of desert nothingness listening to Tom Petty and dreaming about another breakfast burrito.
It been a good season and as I round it all off once-again glamping on the Santa Barbara coast I am already dreaming about coasting past bighorn on cold ripples below the Hoover Dam. 24 hours of work left until I start back up in Seattle June 1 and I already can't wait to see Nalifornia again.
Photos: 1) Wildflowers in Kern River Canyon 2)Shooting stars on the Pinnacles High Peaks trail 3) The southern Sierra from Montecito 4)Muir cat at the SD zoo 4) NAL camp at Pinnacles 5)Colorado River sunset
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
El Capitan has a way of reaching out over Yosemite Valley and commanding attention. A star in a cast of soaring granite towers and thundering waterfalls El Cap belittles the rest of the magnificent features seen from the valley floor and draws all eyes north and up. Said to be largest continuous wall of granite in the world, certainly in North America, El Capitan holds a special place in the mind's eye of all who have stood in it's shadow. To climbers it is the holy grail, the icing on the cake, the stuff dreams are made of, the light at the end of the tunnel, the end goal, the reason they moved to Yosemite and lived on beans and hid from the rangers for months, the Captain, the shit.
I have never climbed El Cap. I may, I may not. But it's pure existence continues to egg me on as a climber. Every time I visit Yosemite it is a slap in the face saying, “ keep climbing, go travel the world over chasing stone, but I'll be right here – waiting.”
I am in Yosemite in the spring – my favorite time. There are still patches of snow hiding in the shadows. There is road construction everywhere. Curry Village is littered with down trees and the paths are all mud. Tourists still somehow find a way to block the road to rubber-neck from car windows but they disappear in the evenings leaving the valley floor to welcome spring without much fanfare. Camp 4, Yosemite's cheap walk-in campground and home to dirtbag climbers and misanthropes since climbing's conception, is all but deserted. A few brave European couples, some recession struck families trying to save a buck, and some die hard boulderers have staked claims in the first few sites. It is mid-week and rain is forecasted for the weekend – we know we are lucky, for in just a few weeks the spring break hoards will begin pouring in hoping to catch warm weather.
We are happily camped out under a dark green and awaking forest, amongst boulders still cold to the touch, and burning wood wet and smokey. The sky is clear and melting from deep blue to starry black. Climbing was good today. We, once again, touched the famed Yosemite granite. Polished beautifully by glacial ice and speckling in the late-afternoon equinox sun we were alone on a high buttress overlooking it all. The granite cracks were warmed from the sun but the shadows mixed with the waterfall wind to make it cold to standby belaying. After so many months of climbing comfortable limestone stalactites (Asia) and uncomfortable volcanic edges (Smith) this granite, stark, ominous, and exposed, felt real. Climbing in Yosemite is elemental. Your hands and arms ache from the movement, your mind puts together the pieces to protect the moves, and your body understands the commitment. This granite is what moved the climbing ethos forward and I am once again reminded why and how.
On the third day we wake to drizzle on the tent fly. Within the first hours of the morning the storm is upon us and heavy rain puddles on the hard packed floor of Camp 4. There will be no climbing today. The weekend welcomes the rain and disheartened faces repack. I am not disheartened though - two days is all I needed to be reminded. I only needed a quick trip between spring showers to remember. Granite is
Friday, February 27, 2009
Run for the Hills
Chasing Winter Into The Sierra
There is a lot of road between Bend and Grant Grove Visitor Center at the northern terminus of Sequoia National Park. After hours of lodgepole lined south-trending Highway 97 I got my first glimpse of Mount Shasta welcoming me to California. At the town of Weed 97 melts into Interstate 5 and begins a steady drop into the mighty Central Valley. I could name the towns I passed through but it is more fitting for them to remain nameless. The Central Valley, for all its worth as a agricultural hotbed feeding the nation, has little worth for the traveler looking for scenery and wildlands. My favorite thing to do here is drive, fast and efficiently, all the while keeping my eye on the mountainous prize at the end of the mind-numbing concrete dreamland.
At Fresno I stop for gas and beer. I can see the Sierra crest now, lit up orange from the setting sun and hemmed by darkening forests. 180 is the Highway number now and it makes a circuitous easterly line across the oak woodland and up into the rugged Sierra foothills. I am approaching one of the last explored regions of lower 48. The highest peaks in the Sierra, many over 13,000 feet, are out ahead of me, far ahead of the beam of my headlights but magnetic and making themselves known in the dusk.
In the summer tourists from around the world flock here to stand humbly below regal giant Sequoias. They head straight for the General Sherman Tree, maybe see a black bear leap across the road in front of the family SUV, buy a couple “Squeeze Me S'More” T-shirts, and return to the sun-scorched valley below. In the winter, many roads are closed and those open require escorts along the narrow, snow-carved pathways. The tourist crowd is notably different in the winter. We all share the desire to meet the forest under the cover of snow, to slide into the woods rather than plod, and are chasing (whether knowingly or not) the comfortable loneliness that is held in the winter wilds.
In the morning it's another blue sky day in the Southern Sierras. It's the type of winter day that every snow bum greets with mixed emotions. When one is happily stuck for the weekend at 7500 feet at a comfortable and secluded mountain lodge (http://www.montecitosequoia.com) its hard not to grin as the sun begins to warm the firs and soften the snow, yet snow is what we want. Snow is why we bought skis in the first place – melting snow is fun but fresh snow is divine. Each evening I read the weather with contempt as I yearn for the 'storm of the season' to be predicted, yet each morning I happily apply sunscreen and squint at the brightness. Somewhere along the way I mistakenly taught myself I only like skiing powdery, fresh snow. Though, after some careful research (the methodology I will have to explain later) I find that all snow, when placed at an angle, punctuated by mighty old-growth California red fir and Jeffery pine, and ringed by granite domes and spires is pure enjoyment. Always.
- This article first published by On The Go-go
Monday, February 16, 2009
Bend, Adventure, and Why Elephants Are Good Painters
It has been just week since I returned from my Asian dream world. Seattle for a day and then snowy Central Oregon has been a welcome slow dose of America to comfort my landing in the western world. I thought I would miss the jungle warmth, the unrefreshing temperature of the sea, or the pleasure of enjoying the evening with shorts and a T-shirt. In short, I thought I may miss the climate.
Turns out its very much the opposite. I am happy to be back in cold and snow, to drive on icy roads, to have powder thrown into my face and down my jacket. I am happy to remember that tired feeling that can only be accomplished on a winter day. Instead I miss my Thai friends and Thai food. I miss the relaxed pace and complete flexibility of being on my own adventure in a place where new experiences are too easy to come by. I miss Thailand, Laos, and China because it was new -always adventure – I like adventure.
But here's the caveat. Bend is far from new, it is essentially old, when it comes to my experiences in adventure here. I have done this or that before, but my lifelong memories have not rendered the activities of the past week null. In fact having life knowledge in this place allows me to better plan my day, it allows me to track down the good snow or know when Smith is gonna be warm enough. I can pick an idea out of the blue and know it'll be a good one or network with old friends that have a finger on the pulse of the place.
Place is the canvas for the adventure but the mission, for me, is far from complete without the right team. This transition back home, which admittedly I was slightly worried for my sanity before my plane touched down, has be smooth and mentally comfortable because although the place is homely it is not stagnant nor deserted. I was fortunate, it seems like a lot of my friends are actually moving to my hometown. Even better (for me) they don't have jobs! So I got two days of resort tele-ripping with Quinn and Adam, a fantastic warm day at Smith with Wally, old-fashioned Valentine's Day sledding with Tyler and friends, and modern sledding (read Ski Doo 800) with the Harveys. Pretty good for a weeks work.
So here's what I've put together. The adventure equation is more complicated than I thought maybe. You pick a canvas (turns out its not the most important part, but don't go buy a cheap one from a back alley) start to mark out (maybe with pencil) what your product will be, and then go to town. The more good people involved hypothetically the prettier it'll be (there is a breaking point in life and analogy). Last time in Thailand I saw an elephant paint a picture of red and black flowers with its trunk. The massive animal did much better than I could have done. And its true two elephants could paint more flowers and usually came out with a nicer painting. Not so true for all the elephants. They couldn't even line up at one painting – they were much too big.
Photos: 1)Squeezed into Josh's beast on the way to Paulina. 2)The Harvey fleet.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Being back in Bend doesn't mean I'm out of stories to tell about my Asian adventure. In fact I can't get many images from my trip out of my mind. Most of them are the days I was saying to my self 'now this is classic Thailand.' I was usually holding by fingers to a bright orange wall of limestone looking out over the sea and watching the boats coming and going.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The next day we found a cove full of tourists and therefore a small Thai bar with beer. It felt amazing to be so alone in the islands and then to come across the only services we needed: a bar. We carried our own food and water but our drink supply was quickly shrinking so we spent the afternoon drinking Thai whiskey and watching the water monitor tease the house cats. We met some Canadians with a sailboat offshore and were welcomed onto their boat for an evening of wine and cheese (a very special commodity in the waters of Thailand). As the sun set we set out for the shore of Pak Bia to light a fire and prepare camp. When we began to pull the kayaks from the sea the water lit up with phosphoresence and instead of cooking dinner we snorkeled into the dark waters playing with the bubbles of light all around us.
In morning the winds had come up and the crossing to Koh Ku Du and the northern tip of Koh Yao Noi looked choppy and far. Unfamiliar with the craft we were a little nervous when we set out into the whitecaps - but this is the Andaman. The water temperature in bathtub, and sun is hot, and the many islands help to limit the fetch and thus the swells. The morning was nonetheless a real sea kayaking experience and we were thankful for the spray skirts and rudders on our well-equipped boats. Another beautiful jungle cove was reached, where just up from the sandy shore a massive old-growth banyan tree was discovered. The water was still warm, or warmer, and the day passed by quickly as we swam and drank rum and Coke by the deep blue sea. We had to launch again to watch the sun set of the western shores of the Phuket Peninsula and then located a deep bay ringed with wild limestone towers. The water in the bay was shallow and therefore limited any sailing or powered boats from entering. It was clearly a home for sea kayaks and we quickly made camp at the edge of a tall cliff face. Monkeys played in the trees above our camp, the tide came up to meet the white sand, stars were out, dinner was Thai-style potatoes and vegetables, we finished the Bicardi. Life was easy, warm, great.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Koh Yao Noi - Andaman Sea, Thailand
Have arrived and explored a slightly populated jungle island perched in the sea. We, the natties, have met up with friends that have put a lot of time and money into developing climbs on the limestone walls - they have been instrumental in arranging boats and transportation to access these remote climbing areas. It has been like living in a dream on this magical island, the climbing has been perfect in quality and position. I am happy to have been climbing routes just a few years old and was so happy yesterday when we spent the day on a terrace above the sea climbing 6c+ - 6a routes. I said many times yesterday that it may be one of my best days climbing... ever.
Today I will depart for a multi-day sea kayaking adventure into the small islands off-the-shore of Koh Yao Noi. I am looking forward to exploring the jungle islands and azure coves in a deserted island park over the next three days. The oppurtunity for exploration and adventure in this region is truly endless. The Thai people and expats living here are more than helpful in arranging everything. I am happily lost in the island vibe. Pictures and stories to come soon...
Sunday, January 11, 2009
It is completely hard to believe that a week has gone by since my last dispatch. I was more than surprised to login and subtract today's date from that of my last post. Tonsai has this magical way of eating away at the days of your life without you feeling sad or worried to have lost them. Each day is made up of so many different hours of individual experiences that it becomes a place where your mind no longer registers days of the week or length of stay. Instead, here, I rather focus on and remember climbs, meals, swims, people, beers, slacklines, bungalows, Thai friends, and full moons in a collection of events seperate from the calendar.
The climbing has been fantastic for me. I was excited to come here at the end of my trip with some strength and mind built from the climbing in China and Laos. It has paid off, as I am climbing confidently and strong and routes that would have been out of reach during my last trip here. I have enjoyed many days at crags high above the sea in the breeze with views acrost the karst and emerald water. The limestone here, I remember now, is uncomparably strong, the routes uncomparably thoughtful and beautiful. To top it all off a roving band of natties has amazingly all found their way here and to be it these places with 6 close friends adds to the expectionality of each day.
Life in the limestone jungles continues....
Monday, January 05, 2009
I welcomed the New Year tubing and rope swinging on the Nam Song (river) in Laos. We made a quick trip of getting to Tonsai by flying Laos Airlines to Bangkok, and Thai Airways to Krabi. What could have been an arduous bus and train journey was accomplished in a quick day (well worth the money). It felt good to arrive back at Tonsai, a place that was Michelle and I's home for over two months in 2006. Not much has changed except the prices and it felt great to be recognized by a few Thai friends I had met years ago. I am taking a few days to get used to the humidity and heat after getting a little climbing in yesterday. Swimming and beachy hangout time has been fantastic. On the to-be-written list: "The westernized wildside of Vang Vieng" and "Tonsai Time: meeting friends at the other side of the world."
All is well.