Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mt. Elden

September 11, 2014
Mt. Elden via Elden Lookout Trail (9,298 ft.)
~6.4 miles roundtrip, 2300 ft. elevation

Hiked up Mt. Elden yesterday with an old friend from Georgia, Kristen, who happens to live in Arizona too. It took us about an hour and half to get up and an hour to get down.

Looking to the northwest towards the San Francisco Peaks
The Greater Short-horned Lizard; Usually dwells in arid mountains between 9,000-11,000 ft. elevation
Alligator Juniper tree; Unique to Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim under Full Moon

September 10, 2014

Hiking from one rim of the the Grand Canyon to the other is a physical and logistical challenge.  My buddy, Michael, his wife Emilie, and some other family and friends of his, obtained a permit to camp in the canyon over 6 months ago.  They applied for dates in late September and they were given permits for a 1 night at Phantom Ranch on September 8th and 1 night at Indian Garden on September 9th.  When it comes to camping in the Grand Canyon, beggars can't be choosers (and we're all beggars).  Their plan was to start at the North Rim and backpack across to the South Rim in 3 days and 2 nights.  However, that meant once they reached the South Rim, their car would be 177 miles away by road but only 23 miles by trail.  That's where I come in.  

Michael called me 4 days ago and the conversation went like this:

Michael: "Hey, what's your schedule like on Tuesday evening and Wednesday?" 

Me: "I'm free all day on Wednesday if I need to be.  I have class until 2 pm on Tuesday. Why?"

Michael: "What do you think about meeting me at Indian Garden on Tuesday night and hiking over to the North Rim on Wednesday?"
Me: "Sounds fun, I'm down."

Fast forward to Tuesday evening...I drove from Flagstaff to the South Rim and hiked down with my overnight gear 4.5 miles, ~3000 ft. to Indian Garden where I met Michael and his family.  I brought them bananas and muffins for breakfast for the following morning.  I ate a Chipotle burrito for dinner that I got to-go in Flagstaff. 

Michael: "What do you think about leaving tonight instead tomorrow morning?"

Me: "Yeah sure man, it's up to you."

So instead of negotiating crowds of people, mules, fresh mule crap, and the heat of the sun, we chose to hike across the Grand Canyon in the dark, under the full moon, by ourselves amongst less fresh mule crap.  In the end, it was the best decision.  The entire canyon was illuminated all night by the bright moon.  I barely used my headlamp.  The temperatures were mild and at times, chilly.  Once on the North Kaibab Trail, we didn't see anyone until we were less than a mile from the North Rim, which we reached around sunrise.  It took us ~11 hours to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim via the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails with an overnight load (which I didn't end up using) - 23 miles, 5,000 ft. drop, 6,000 ft. gain.  

Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trail with Indian Garden below
The Battleship
Indian Garden at sunset
Hi. I'm Kirk and I'm fat
Indian Garden, 30 second exposure 
Colorado River
North Kaibab Trail 
Roaring Springs Canyon

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kendrick Peak

Kendrick Peak (10,418 ft.) Trail Run via Kendrick Peak Trail 
September 6, 2014

After a lazy Saturday morning, I decided to go run up Kendrick Peak just 30 minutes west of Flagstaff.  Kendrick Peak is the second most prominent peak within the San Francisco Volcanic Field.  The mountain is the product of an extrusion of viscous, volatile-poor lava (rhyolites and dacites) approximately 2 Ma.  For more information on the geology of the region, click HERE.

I started running just after 4 pm.  I planned this late departure because I knew the lighting would be better for photos.  The moderate trail makes its way up the southwest side of the mountain towards the summit and the fire lookout over about 4.3 miles, 3100 ft.  I ran on flatter sections and hiked quickly on steeper sections.  After about 5 minutes of running, a coyote trotted across the trail in front of me without even noticing I was there.  I stopped and watched it trot into the trees, nose to the ground and then it disappeared.  After the quiet moment and thinking about what other wildlife may be around, I continued upward.  I reached the summit in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I spent 20 minutes alone on the summit as I watched small rain storms move across the high desert.  Rays of sunshine would occasionally find their way through the clouds and illuminate the small and forested cinder cones below.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was obviously visible and lit up by the southwestern sun.  The views were incredible in all directions.  Northern Arizona is my new home and I'm not upset about it.

After a nice break, I made my way down.  I reached the trailhead after about 45 minutes of continuous downhill jogging just before dark.

Wildflowers along the Kendrick Peak Trail
A nice conical cinder cone with a central crater
Fire lookout tower on the summit of Kendrick Peak 
Looking east towards Humphreys Peak 
Scattered rain storms move across the high desert of Northern Arizona
Dark sky, bright beard
Moon rising over Humphreys Peak to the East

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Flagstaff Crag Log 2014

The Pit
The Pit is located just 6 miles south of town off Lake Mary Road.  The Pit is a sandy limestone crag nestled in narrow valley just a couple hundred yards east of the Canyon Vista Campground.

Climbs I've done:
9-1-14: Sunshine Daydreams (5.7 sport, 1 pitch) - climbed this with George. First time at the Pit
             Blackboard (5.9 sport, 1 pitch) - delicate moves, short route
             One Beer Shy of a Lunar Eclipse (5.9 sport, 1 pitch) - tricky start, weird ledges, short route

The Peaks Crag
The Peaks Crag is a solid andesite (volcanic rock) wall on the southern slopes of Agassiz Peak.  The wall is split by a number of cracks and flakes, many not continuous enough to be pure trad routes. Most of the routes in the area are bolted, whether they need to be or not.

Climbs I've done:
9-1-14: 5.9 -  middle area, varied climbing, stemming, roof, slab, face - I TRed
             5.10a juggy overhung and steep - I led it
             5.9 weird lower section, super fun up top - I led it
The Overlook
The Overlook is a fun traditional basalt wall along the rim of Oak Creek Canyon just 15 miles south of Flagstaff on the way to Sedona.  The crag consists of cracks and blocks and is about 100 ft high. There seems to be a lot of moderate trad routes - right up my alley.

Climbs I've done:
9-3-14: Normally 3 Rurps (5.7 trad, 1 pitch) Nick led
             Morning's Mourning (5.8+ trad, 1 pitch) I led this route
             Isaiah (5.9+ trad, 1 pitch) Paul led, I struggled following

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Humphreys Peak, Arizona High Point

Humphreys Peak - 12,633
August 30, 2014

One of my current hiking/climbing goals is to summit all of the 11 western state high points.  Fortunately, the Arizona state high point is now in my backyard near Flagstaff, Arizona.  Humphreys Peak is the highest point on arcuate cluster of mountains called the San Francisco Peaks just north of town.  In fact, Humphreys and the surrounding high mountains are the remains of an ancient stratovolcano, much like the prominent volcanoes of the northwest U.S.  The surrounding landscape is dotted with younger cinder cones that have erupted as recently as 1,000 years ago. For more information on the geology, check this out HERE

Hiking Humphreys Peak is very straightforward.  Six of us (4 geologists and 2 biologists) hiked to the summit via the Humphreys Trail ~ 4 miles, 3,500 ft. up.  The trail begins at the Snowbowl parking lot and climbs up to a saddle, where it turns north and climbs the ridge to the true peak.  It took us about 3 hours to get up.  We spent almost an hour on the summit enjoying the nice weather and views.  It took another 2 hours to get down.

Completed Western State High Points (8): 
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona

Western State High Points to do (3): 
New Mexico, Colorado, Montana

Kendrick Peak to the west
Friendly Firs
Looking east from the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks
Casey and Karl on the summit ridge
Bird man George
El pico pic
Tampered with.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Grand Teton via Owen-Splading Route 2014

August 18-19, 2014

Grand Teton via Owen-Spalding (Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, 1560 ft, Grade II)

My dad and I began planning an ascent of the Grand Teton several months ago.  I knew I was moving away to start a PhD and I thought it would be a great way to spend some time with my dad before my move.  So...I told my 61 year old dad to start getting his hiking legs under him.  Despite the fact that he has never done any technical climbing in his life, he took the challenge.  He spent the next several months hiking and biking in preparation for our big climb.  I took him out rock climbing and rappelling a couple times to show him the basics of the equipment, but the rest he learned on the fly during the climb.

We planned our climb for August 18-19.  We invited John, my brother-in-law, and another friend of mine, Billie Hancock.  We picked up our camping permit from the Jenny Lake Ranger Station and started our ascent from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead at 6,780 ft. elevation with our heavy packs full of overnight gear on Monday August 18 (tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, fuel, pots, etc) and climbing gear (ropes, rock pro, helmets, harnesses, etc.).  We hiked up to an elevation of approximately 11,000 ft. at the Moraine Camp where we set up camp and prepared for the climb the following day.  The Moriane Camp is literally perched on a glacial moraine associated with the shrinking Middle Teton Glacier.  We got water directly from the melting glacier and I didn't even bother purifying the water.  We boiled some water for our deyhrdrated meals and put on some warm clothes.  We got to bed early as some evening clouds and showers blew through.

At 4 am the following morning, we awoke to clear skies and cold air.  We sacrificed having a hot breakfast and ate granola bars, english muffins, and fruit snacks for breakfast instead and started making our way up at 4:30 am guided by our headlamps.  We reached the Lower Saddle, drank a liter of water and refilled our water bottles at a natural spring just below the saddle.  From here, the trail ended and the off-trail scrambling and climbing began.  We scrambled up 1,500 ft up challenging terrain to the Upper Saddle.  My dad led the way and kept a great pace the whole way.  The Upper Saddle marks the beginning of the technical portion of the route and is a good place to take a break.  A couple parties were in front of us, which allowed us to take a decent breather, eat some food, put on our harnesses and helmets, prepare to climb, and get cold!  My dad and I climbed as a team, while John and Billie climbed as the other.  I led the first pitch, which traverses across an exposed ledge with a couple awkward moves (Belly Crawl) to the beginning of the double chimney.  For our second pitch, we climbed the short chimney and took the "Cat Walk" variation back to the south (right) towards Sergeants Chimney. Dad, having never climbed on exposed terrain like this before, climbed like an experienced champ.  For our third "pitch," we climbed Sergeants Chimney (low 5th class) and then scrambled up class 3 terrain to the summit, which we reached around 10:30 am.  It was a great climb with no major hiccups.  The summit views were great and the rainy weather, which seemed to hit the rest of the American West, held off just long enough for us to complete our goal.    

We did THE big 100 ft. rappel to get off the summit and then made our way back to camp and eventually all the way out. It was a long day.  In fact, I drove back to SLC that night with Billie and drove to Flagstaff, AZ the following day.  I think I am finally recovered, one week later.  


The Tetons
Me and my pop with the Middle Teton in the background
Hiking in
Waterfall above the meadows camp
My dad high above the valley below
A nice tush
The view from the Moraine Camp - Middle Teton and Middle Teton Glacier
Moraine Camp
Camp selfie
Camp life, PC: John
Sunrise on the Middle Teton
Billie and Pop scrambling up towards the Upper Saddle
The beginning of the first pitch of the Owen-Spalding route
Pop working his way past the "Belly Crawl" section
Pop finishing up Pitch 1
Post Pitch 1 selfie
"Dad, hold on"......"Dad, stop." ....."Dad, stop! I want to take a picture."...."Dad, look at me."  It was a struggle, but debatably the best picture I took.  
Action shot on the cat walk
Jimbo summit celebration
Looking down on Mt. Owens and Teewinot, Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake
Schly guys 
Billie rappelling down
Hiking out
We spotted a mama black bear and her 2 cubs (not pictured).  They were climbing in the pine trees on the right.