Saturday, May 23, 2015

Junipero Serro Peak, Santa Lucia Mountains, CA

May 16
Junipero Serro Peak via Santa Lucia Memorial Campground
12 miles roundtrip
~4000 ft

I spent a week as a teaching assistant helping the geology seniors at Northern Arizona University produce a geologic map of Cenozoic sedimentary rocks in the Santa Lucia Mountains. The students and myself spent long days in the field. But on Friday, I decided I needed to get up Junipero Serro before work started at 8 am. So I got up at 4 am and made the 12 mile, 4,000 ft. trek to the summit and back by 7:30 with time to get breakfast and wash up.

The trail leaves the Santa Lucia Memorial Campground and heads east towards the high peaks above. I left in the dark under cloud cover and made my way quickly up the narrow and slightly overgrown trail with my headlamp on and a small backpack with a water bottle, snacks and an extra layer.  I mostly hiked up the steep trail at a steady 3 mph. The sun lit up the skies around 5:30. By this point, the brush wasn't as high and I could see the surrounding countryside. I reached the summit by 6:10 am. The sunrise was partially blocked by low clouds but the views were still quite nice. And considering the early start, I didn't see another person the whole time, which kept the hike quiet and aesthetic. At 6:20 I began the descent. I ran the whole way down and reached the trailhead by 7:40 (about 4.5 mph).  

Looking west from the Junipero Serro Lookout 
Looking southwest from Junipero Serro Lookout 
Panorama from Lookout

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Abineau Canyon Backcountry Skiing, AZ

May 6, 2015

Paul and I skied the Crossfire Chutes in Abineau Canyon on the north side of Humphreys Peak on Wednesday this past week. I just finished my first year of my PhD and Paul just submitted his thesis, so we decided to celebrate. The conditions in Abineau Canyon were quite good. We hiked on bare ground until we reached the base of the avalanche chutes, where the snow coverage was great. From there we climbed up the edges of Crossfire Chutes up to the summit ridge. Spring corn snow was developing just in time for us to ski down in great conditions. A quick 5 hour trip.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sedona's Scenic Cruise (5.9 trad, 5 pitches)

May 2, 2015

This is a must-do route for the Sedona area. It offers a wide variety of quality climbing, protects well, and was pretty challenging for me. The route climbs the west prow of Gibraltar Rock, one of Sedona's biggest walls. The approach and the first pitch tied for the crux of the day. The descent essentially rappels the route (4 double-rope raps).  

We spent an extra hour and a lot of extra energy on the approach than we should have. We read various approach descriptions and ended up wandering a bit before we found the approach. Here's my description of the approach, which we learned on the way out:

Park at Little Horse Trailhead. Follow the Bell Rock trail to the south until you cross the second bridge. Turn left (east) and follow the wash to the base of Gibraltar Rock. Continue up the left side (north) of Gibraltar Rock following prevalent cairns to the base of the route.    

Sedona's Scenic Cruise approach (image from Google Earth)
After a slightly demoralizing and exhausting approach, we reached the base of the climb. We started climbing after 1 pm. I led every pitch and was pretty tired at the end of the day. 

Pitch 1: The first pitch was the crux - a nice corner system transitions into a hand crack and then transitions into a wide leaning crack. At this point, I used small face holds and jammed my shoulder into the wide crack and inched my way up until I could protect it. Fun and challenging pitch.  5.9+
Janelle moving into the easier section on pitch 1

Pitch 2: The second pitch was a bolted cruiser. 5.7
Cruising on easier bolted terrain
Pitch 3: The third pitch starts out doing an exposed traverse (see money shot below) and then climbs a sweet crack system to a large ledge. This was my favorite pitch. 5.8
Money shot #1 - 3rd pitch
Money shot #2 - beginning of third pitch
A view of the upper portion of the third pitch $$ (I took this on our way down)
Pitch 4: The fourth pitch follows 10 bolts up and over steep terrain to a small belay ledge. 5.9
Janelle approaching top of 4th pitch
Pitch 5: The final pitch requires some delicate, unprotected moves into a chimney with a chockstone and a small roof. Then you follow a corner system to the top. 5.9
Looking north from the top of Sedona's Scenic Cruise - you can see the Peaks in the Flagstaff area on the right side of the horizon
Looking west 
Sedona sunset
Sedona sunset 2
Moonrise over Gibraltar Rock

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico

April 25, 2015
Wheeler Peak (13,159 ft.) via Williams Lake Trail

Wheeler Peak is part of the Sangre de Cristo range and is the state highpoint of New Mexico at 13,159 ft. The Sangre de Cristo range overlooks the Rio Grande Rift of northern New Mexico and represents the southern extension of the Colorado Rockies. Generally, Wheeler Peak is climbed between June and September when the snow cover is gone and the trail is easy to follow. Phil and I, too impatient to wait until the summer, decided to climb the route in April and knock off another western state high point; a goal we are both working towards.

As the western state high points go, this mountain isn't particularly spectacular, nor is the climbing especially challenging. But climbing the mountain in winter conditions in April made the outing more rewarding and adventurous. We drove from Flagstaff, AZ to Taos, NM on Friday night, not without stopping in Albuquerque to eat at the Frontier Restaurant and throwing a pizza onto Skyler White's roof. 

Red = Williams Lake Trail (our ascent)
Blue = Ridge run over Walter Peak and down couloir (our descent)

We started hiking on Saturday morning at 7 am at the base of the deserted Taos Ski Valley. We made our way up the Williams Lake Trail through pine forest on hard-packed snow covered in a couple inches of fresh snow. We both wore boots and carried trekking poles, which made the hiking much easier on the variable ground. After 2 miles, we bore a left and followed the blue painted trees and the faint tracks of other hikers up the western flanks of Wheeler Peak. We eventually emerged from the trees. The cloud levels hovered around 12,500 ft, obscuring the highest peaks in the area, including Wheeler. We continued up steep terrain, over some rocks and thin snow cover and reached the ridge. The clouds broke apart from time to time, allowing short glimpses of the surrounding topography and the peak above. We followed the ridge to the summit, which we reached at 10 am.

On our descent, we backtracked along the ridge, but continued further down the ridge instead of following our tracks the way we came. We followed the ridge to the north and hiked over a couple sub-peaks, including Mount Walter (13,138 - 2nd highest in NM). We stayed on the ridge until we found a decent place to descend back into the forest below. We settled on down-climbing the edges of a steep couloir, which proved to be the crux of the day. We reached the car a bit after noon. 5 hours round trip. 2 western state high points left: (1) Granite Peak (Montana) and (2) Denali (Alaska)
Phil on the approach. The high peaks are shrouded by the low clouds.
Looking down our route, wishing I had brought my skis.
Phil - profile pic wassup
Steep ascent on the western flanks of Wheeler Peak
Phil climbing up the rime-covered rocks on Wheeler Peak
Break in the clouds
Phil on the summit ridge
Chillin on the summit
Looking east from the summit of Wheeler Peak
Me scouting a descent path
Looking back at our descent path down the steep couloir

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Break - Desert Spires and Colorado 14ers

I went hard over spring break, maybe too hard. I drove over 2,000 miles, visited friends and family in Utah, climbed 13 pitches in Moab, including two desert classics (Ancient Art and Castleton Tower), climbed and skied over 10,000 vertical feet en route to the top of two 14ers and one 13er on back-to-back-to-back days (including the highest mountain in Colorado), and visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Colorado National Monument. Another day, another dollar.  
A lot of driving and a lot of fun

PART 1: Northern Utah

Trail running with Wyatt the dog
Climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon (Quartzite and No Stainless 5.10a)
I further indoctrinated myself at the Natural History Museum 

Wyatt wanted to go to Moab with me

PART 2: Wall Street and Castleton Tower via North Chimney (5.9 trad, 3 pitches)

Paul onsighted this 5.10 trad route at the Wall Street area
Castleton Tower 
The approach 
The North Chimney route follows the corner and chimney left of center
Paul leading the first pitch of North Chimney - classic pitch 
Luke and I following the 1st pitch
Me about to lead the off-width chimney pitch of North Chimney
Paul coming up the 2nd pitch
Luke sending the 3rd pitch
Luke stepping across
Paul approaching the summit
Panorama - Castle Valley and the La Sals
Castleton shadow
The descent

PART 3: Ancient Art via Stolen Chimney (5.10 trad/sport, 4 pitches) and River Road

30 minute appraoch to the climb. Ancient Art is the obvious bizarre-looking spire  
The base of the route and all the crowds waiting to climb the iconic route 
Paul leading the first pitch 
Luke working his way up the balancy section on the first pitch
Luke leading 3rd pitch
Paul following third pitch 
Paul on his way to the top 
Paul climbing  
Luke belaying me on the final pitch of Ancient Art
Me on top of Ancient Art
Me leading this fun bolted chimney along River Road in Moab
Luke climbing the chimney

I led this burly hand crack, should have worn tape

PART 4: Quandary Peak (14,265 ft) solo ski descent. ~3,000 ft. elevation gain

Quandary Peak (14,265 ft)
Following the skin track to the top 
Getting closer to Quandary Peak summit  
Looking southwest towards North Star Mountain on my way up Quandary Peak
Solo ski descent off Quandary Peak 
My tracks coming off Quandary Peak

PART 5: Mt. Elbert (14,439 ft) ~5,000 ft elevation gain

Break time
The Sawatch Range of the Colorado Rockies
About to ski down Mt. Elbert
Michael had enough

PART 6: North Star Mountain (13,614 ft)

Breath, breath
Summit of North Star Mountain 
Michael getting ready to ski down North Star Mountain
Michael shredding  
Michael leaving his mark and avoiding the old mining equipment 
Stopped to see the Painted Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Drove through the San Juan mountains on my way home - I'm coming for you