August 25, 2007

Le Petit Elk

Keith and I set off on Friday morning from Boulder with the intent of climbing Le Petit Grepon, a classic rock climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. At the trailhead parking lot at 5:00 am, we stepped out of the car to encounter stiff winds and unexpectedly cold temperatures. After completing about half of the 5 mile approach, we stopped at a point on the trail where we could see up the valley into the region where we would be climbing. Many of the visible peaks were engulfed in clouds, and the wind was not letting up. We both felt that the conditions would have permitted an ascent of the spire, but we would have been cold and miserable for the entire climb. While still waiting for conditions to improve, we saw a lone cow elk in the creek bed below us. Keith went down to investigate (i.e. take photos and see how close he could get to the wildlife).

He got pretty close and we both took a lot of pictures. He returned back up the hill to where I was standing and we noticed a half dozen more elk within about 50 feet of us, working their way down the hiking trail. Soon enough, more elk emerged, the last of which was a 5-point bull. The small heard (about a dozen in total) slowly moved their way down the trail until some hikers came up the trail and scared the elk back past us. We must have been taking elk pictures for nearly an hour when we finally decided to head back another day for the climb. Unfortunately, it was early and a bit dark when we were taking all the pictures, so most of them didn't turn out too well. On the hike down, the clouds parted enough to reveal fresh August snowfall in the higher elevations.

August 24, 2007

Yosemite, etc.

Ashley and I left on our road trip on August 11th. We spent that first weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado camping with a group of friends. While they went out for a mountain bike ride on Saturday, we went on our long run for the week of 18 miles. We ran on beautiful wilderness trails in one of the prettiest parts of the state. Minus the horse traffic, it was a superb trail run.

We drove all day Sunday to arrive at the east side of Yosemite National Park. We spent a total of 4 days in the park: 3 in the Tuolumne Meadows and 1 in The Valley. It didn't take us long to figure out why Yosemite has the climbing reputation that it has. The granite peaks, domes, and other formations are everywhere abundant, many of them harboring fantastic moderate trad climbing routes.

Since we spent our first day lining up a camp site for the rest of our stay, it was a perfect opportunity to do a shorter introduction to Yosemite climbing. As such, we climbed a 2-pitch 5.6 route on Lembert Dome, which involved about a 10 minute approach and some fun and oftentimes awkward climbing moves.

Later that day, we went for an 8-mile run up a popular tourist hiking trail to Cathedral Lake. I found it quite enjoyable to run past slow-moving and wheezy tourists who look at you like you're crazy.

We climbed Tenaya Peak on our second day in Yosemite. This was a technically easier, but much longer route than the previous day. After about a 45 minute approach and 14 pitches of easy class 5 and some class 4, we found ourselves on the top of Tenaya Peak. The views were much more exceptional than even our pictures suggest.

After climbing some 5.6 pitches on our first day and a long multi-pitch on our second day, we were ready to combine the two and do a multi-pitch 5.6 - 5.7 route. We chose one of the most classic climbs in the Tuolumne Meadows area - Cathedral Peak. It was on this climb that we made the worst mistake of the trip - we forgot the camera. We did, however, take several pictures of the peak from Cathedral Lake and elsewhere in Tuolumne Meadows. The climb was essentially 6 pitches of sustained 5.6 with a few 5.7 variations. I thoroughly enjoyed this climb as it pushed my trad climbing skills and was extremely aesthetic.

Since Ashley was such a good sport in doing all the things I wanted to do for the first three days, she chose what to do on our last day in Yosemite. I feared she would opt to do our weekend run, but much to my delight she chose to hike up Half Dome! We justified this deviation from our training program by planning to hike the 17 mile (5000 ft) round trip rather briskly.

The hike passed a few waterfalls and smaller granite domes before emerging at a point where we could see Half Dome. Shortly after that, we found ourselves at the infamous "cables" section of the hike. Two parallel cables are strung in railing-like fashion for hikers to yard on while hiking up the final, steep 300 vertical feet. At the top I stood on the diving board (see picture below) and looked down the route that the big wall climbers take to reach the top. This was the most awe inspiring perspective of the trip for me.

We spent that night just south of the National Park at a Forest Service campground. Just before we went to bed a neighboring camper came by and told us that a bear had walked through our camp the last two nights. Sure enough, he did this again. We heard it crashing around in the woods and I vaguely made out a silhouette at one point in the night. It turns out the neighbor who informed us of the bear was the same one who left food out all over his campsite, effectively baiting the bear into camp. Coincidentally, this was the only bear we saw our entire trip - the 4 days we spent in the park disclosed no bears. The photo below shows me standing (in bear pose) where I saw the bear the previous night in relation to our tent.

The day after leaving Yosemite, we drove through Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. The highlight(s) of this trip were all the giant sequoia trees, including the largest tree (by mass) in the world. By the end of this day, our patience with yahoo tourists grew thin. We continued our drive south before stopping for the night on top of Grapevine Pass, 60 miles outside of L.A.

We arrived in Irvine in time to meet our friends (mostly from Boulder) for breakfast. The rest of the day was spent at Huntington Beach playing in the surf, digging holes in the sand, and getting sunburned. Our second day in the L.A. area was similar, but spent at Laguna Beach. We left the beach in time get ready for our friends' (Tony and Lisa) wedding. Their wedding took place on a boat in the harbor, so showing up late would have involved a lengthy swim in a suit.

Their wedding was relatively small and the ceremony was wonderfully short and to the point. After that it was open bar and buffet for the next few hours. After docking, we ended up with the bride and groom and a slew of friends at a nearby bar. The rest is hazy.

Monday morning our plan was to wake up and drive back to Boulder, but first we had to get a flat tire fixed that we obtained in Laguna Beach. This should have taken 20 minutes, but it took two hours. Shortly after 11:00 am we were on our way back across the country. We drove straight through (with one stop at In-N-Out Burger) and arrived in Boulder at 3:30 am Tuesday morning.

August 09, 2007

Off to Cali

Ashley and I leave tomorrow on a road trip to California. We plan to spend Friday and Saturday in Crested Butte, CO, drive on Sunday to Yosemite, climb Monday through Thursday in Yosemite, spend Friday in Sequoia National Park, and spend Saturday and Sunday in Newport Beach with our friends, Tony and Lisa, who are getting married there on Sunday. Provided we're not too hung over, Monday will be an all-day drive back to Boulder.