30 May 2007

A pinch of England

Yes we got on the plane back to the States. I am surprised that Tasha actually did leave India, and she told me one night in London that if I hadn't been in England meeting up with her, she would have spent a couple more weeks in India.

Got back in yesterday after a long day of travel for both of us on separate flights.

Here's a quick taste of our last day in England, viewing downtown London in very blustery British weather:

Tower Bridge

Sonia, Eric and Ryan outside of Tower of London

Garden outside of Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

The full blow by blow will follow later.

17 May 2007

Them boys crank hard

The best way to describe the bouldering in Buena Vista is sharp. I spent around seven hours bouldering and scrambling on Wednesday and I barely have any skin left on my fingertips.

I could wax hyperbole and dull you with superlatives, but I think the photos do it better justice. Yes, moving is a little tender today, although I did get in a good recovery ride on the bike, racing agains the impending thunderstorm.

The kid Ruben can climb pretty hard. It also helps he has the armspan of an albatross.

Robbie is another strong climber and has spent countless hours wandering around the brush, cactus and deer bones looking for new problems to shred your fingertips on. The problem he is on there was quite fun. Nothing like heel-hooking and slapping for a hold a centimeter deep.

Great rock, kinda sharp, just the holds face the wrong way and gravity is fairly stiff. I got up to the slapfest on the top. I appreciated the skin on my forearms remaining intact and did not like the high landing with my crash pad left a gully over.

15 May 2007

Decompression time

It will be quite refreshing spending the night under the stars, cooking dinner over a campfire and trying to remove swaths of skin from my forearms. If you need me, come find me here:

Mount Machebeuf 4/22/07


It was our last weekend before Tasha's approaching departure to India. With the weather to be reasonable but on the cooler side, we decided to postpone rock climbing until our return from the other side of the Prime Meridian. After postponing an earlier reconnaissance up Herman Gulch due to iffy weather, it seemed like a good destination. Besides after dropping money on my new K2 Shuksan skis, I felt like I needed to get on them as much as possible to see returns in my investment.

We exited I-70 at the unnamed exit situated between the Loveland Pass exit and the Bakersville one. A short drive up a dirt potholed frontage brought us to our trailhead, which was littered with patchy snow. So another trip starting with Ryan hiking in his ski boots. Hmm...

The hiking was steep enough to not be boring and not to far in, I slapped the planks on....and then took them off to cross a bare stretch of trail....and then back on with the planks.....and then off come the skis again...well, you get the idea. Finally we hit some full snow, albeit slightly icy, coverage. After climbing up over 600 feet in elevation, things began leveling off as we entered the namesake of this post.

The temps were pleasant, the terrain simple and plenty of eye candy to keep the mind busy while you kick and glide - or in Tasha's case, crunch along in snowshoes. A short break was taken to soak up the views and for Ryan to address the growing hotspots on the sides of his heels. It rather is bothersome having skinny heels.

EDITOR NOTE: It's rather interesting hearing the difference in musical taste Tasha and I have. I have gone from Soel and Radiohead to the 80s remix of "Putting on the Ritz". Where is my OP T-shirt? Now back to our exciting tale:

The moleskin and tape patch job wasn't cutting it. With my ambitious aspirations in the corporeal embodiment of Pettingal Peak perched a couple miles at the head of the gulch, it was time to come up with a plan B. Thankfully there was plenty to choose from. Meet Mount Machebeuf:

A lift of the heel lifters to maximum and we began climbing up the ever-steepening slope that splayed out to the north of the mount's rocky west rib. Did I mention there is no oxygen at 11,000 feet? With calves screaming and forward progress on skis sketchy, I found a spot on the edge of the gully and took the skis off. Looking down I began doubting my ability to ski this line. An internal debate in my mind began to be waged, the victim was my water bottle that somehow popped out of my backpack pocket and began a 600-foot slide down the slope (I swear I heard it go "Weee!!").

With a cavalier attitude, I strapped the skis to my backpack and started kicking steps into the snow, which was no angling at 50 degrees and more. After some more calf screaming, I looked up to see that exit out of the gully would be nebulous. A cornice crowned most of the summit delta and a loaded section guarded its flank. The angle lessened some before it's final steep couple hundred feet to the summit plateau and it was here where I brought out the avalanche shovel to dig a snow divan for Tasha and myself.

While not the summit and not our original goal, it still deserved some merit. A look north shows Pettingal Peak on the left:

A look to the northwest

And to the west is Mt Bethel. This peak is readily seen to the north of I-70. It has a large avalanche gully. The slide took out a large swatch of trees and actually buried I-70 under 10 feet of debris a few years back. It can be pointed out when driving back east from the Eisenhower Tunnel as the bare peak with wind fences lining it's western side.

After a quick bite, it was time to test my mettle, and skiing abilities to boot. After a few deep breaths I turned'em downhill. Some wide turns warmed up my quads and also gave me an idea of how much this gully would slide. Thankfully I only cut down one small avalanche that was no more than 10 feet wide and slid 30 feet or less. Hitting the apex of the slope, I became more aggressive and linked some rather nice parallel turns -- don't be impressed, I'm sure it was an idiot savant moment.

Before I would like, I was at my forlorn water bottle, which was rescued from it's snowy sunbathing and back down into the gulch. Looking back up, Tasha decided the slope was too steep for unrolling her sled - I think she could have reached Mach 2 personally - and was glissading down.

With only minor blisters, we climbed up another slope, dotted with conifer saplings to the beginning of a couloir containing an embedded chokestone. We both were wishing we had brought our ice axes and crampons seeing this slinky couloir. The trip down was good slalom skiing on very saturated corn snow. Tasha finally produced the sled from her backpack and enjoyed her trip down:

07 May 2007

Canyonlands: Avoiding the storm

October, 2006

It was almost six months since our previous trip to The Needles in Canyonland National Park. Not having had a proper holiday all year, it was time for another minitrip and early Sunday morning saw us driving west on I-70. The harbinging signs of the approaching winter were plainly evident and the crisp bite to the wind had one reaching for a fleece when exiting the truck.

Seven hours later -- RVs should not be allowed on winding, two-lane highways -- we arrived at "our" designated campsite located a couple of miles outside of the park entrance on BLM land. A couple of days earlier than our arrival, the area got hammered by thunderstorms and our previous tentsite was showing newer signs of stream action. We found a nice alcove nestled back behind a juniper tree. If the weather got dicey again we were situated away from any rivulets of rainfall that might come cascading down and might find some shelter from the auspices of the bluffs.

Ryan bopping to some tunes while preparing a post-hike snack back at basecamp

The next morning we got up relatively early to get on with our trip down Lost Canyon. The weather was going to be iffy during our entire trip. The trail starts off at Squaw Flats campground and the trailhead is shared with several other trails. Earlier that spring we started our Elephant Canyon trip from the same spot

A little over a mile in found us scrambling up to a sandstone pass where the views opened up greatly as we elevated over the desert.

From this pass, I saw a fun little bouldering section. The temptation was too great, even though I swore that I wasn't going to climb this trip. I sprained my wrist somehow earlier in the week and had limited mobility. But when it comes to red sandstone, I'm like a junkie looking for a fix. Funny though, it looked a lot smaller from back there.

I got up about 12 feet before I realized any forward progress will be sketchy and downclimbing downright dangerous without my climbing slippers. With my vertical craving satiated, further on we went, hiking down a layered funnel that would make a great waterslide if and when it rained.

We dropped back down into the canyon for a short bit before climbing back up onto more sandstone. Up and over and around beautiful formations, we finally hit our spot, a small opening in a wall that opened up onto Salt Creek and the Peekaboo Trail. You can see where we came from behind Tasha.

The entire time I had been keeping tabs on the black, ominous clouds that would pass overhead. While eating our lunch at the hole in the wall, we were entertained by a lightning show to the east, where the Blue Mountains were veiled in misty white and crowned with menacing black. Surely the higher elevations were getting a layer of powder. Knowing the mile we just completed would be treacherous wet, we made our way back.

When we reached a point that would be easy to retreat from in case the heavens cascaded down, we left the cairns behind and went exploring. We climbed up and down formations, checking out various cirques and the desert floor several hundred feet beneath us. Getting there from our vantage points could be made quickly with one slip. Back in the potholes section, I found a small slice of Eden in the unlikeliest places. It's amazing this little wetland survived the harsh summer and did not evaporate.

Ryan just being Ryan

Near by we jumped down into a gash in the flats and discovered a cave that opened back up to the desert floor. Back in here we found an old Puebloan grainery. The remains of where they kept their cache were still present in the clay and straw they used for building. You can see part of it behind Tasha's right shoulder.

It wound up being our best day and brought me back to my childhood visiting Canyonlands. I never would go hiking on trails. Instead I would spend hours exploring around on the sandstone formations around the Squaw Flats campground. When you just march from Point A to Point B, you can miss much of life. Every once in a while, you just have to color outside of the lines.