Some trips with Sierra Mountain Center seem to have seasonal popularity: I remember doing trips into the west access of the Palisades 3-4 times a summer when I first started. A few years ago I did a huge number of summer ice climbing trips, hiking in and out of Mt. Thompson often enough that I quickly developed a preferred route from the Treasure Lakes basin. This year the emphasis seems to be on rock climbing. Jeff, Cory, and Doug decided to buck fashion and asked Andrew and I to join them on a trip to the Palisades, west-side style, from 9-13 August. Absolutely! The Palisades are most commonly climbed from the east. From Glacier [...]
20090803: Day 3 After yesterday's adventure on Walker Tower, we had a late breakfast at the Base Camp Cafe before taking a more mellow day - the North Arete on Crystal Crag. This is a classic II 5.6 route outside of Mammoth, featuring three pitches of steady 5.6 and another 600' or so of 4th class ridge scrambling. After the "II 5.6" of the previous day, this was a nice walk in the park for Jay and Haimei. crystal crag / the north arete follows the right-most corner for a pitch / pitch 2 follows ramps up and left / and the final fifth-class pitch climbs a chimney to [...]
This condition report uses direct observation from the Palisade Range to make some general predictions for the current conditions in the High Sierra. Don't use this as your sole source of information to trip plan! This photo shows the Palisade Range from Polemonium to Thunderbolt Peaks. Clearly in view are the V-Notch Couloir, U-Notch Couloir, Clyde Couloir, NE Couloir on Thunderbolt, North Face of Thunderbolt, and an un-named couloir to the right of the North Face. Photo taken late July, 2009. The alpine ice routes in the Sierra continue to be in the best shape I have seen them in 7 years. The L-shaped couloir on Mt. Sill is also still filled in [...]
20090802: DAY 2! In R.J. Secor's book, a multi-pitch climb is mentioned to exist in Bloody Canyon, just north of June Lake. The first tower on the left supposedly had a route following the right side of a larger corner on the prow of the tower, up to 5.6. The whole description took up three lines as a "wrinkle", fitting for a route established in the early 1970's: "There is a II 5.6 route on the easternmost pinnacle. Climb the face to the right of a black open book, and then the book itself for eight pitches to the top of the pinnacle. This was first climbed October 1972 by [...]
Jay and Heimei joined me again this year for a few days of rock climbing. August 1st was day one, so we took it mellow and went to a sector of Big Springs that's new to me: The Stumps. Big Springs is better known for Clark Canyon, but the stumps featured 60-150' trad climbs up remarkably good welded tuff. We climbed a 5.6, 5.7, 5.7, 5.9, and finally a 150' 5.8 with a great finish not shown in the guidebook. What a great time! Chris Simmons is an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and a Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guide for SMC. Check out his adventures at his personal website: Climb.Ski.Run.Sleep.Repeat.
July 26-31: One of the more relaxed trips that Sierra Mountain Center offers is a horse-pack supported, five-day long, hiking trip to the summit of Mt. Whitney via Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood Pass. Don't be fooled by my casual discription of the trip - we hiked 8-13 miles per day, every day. But for me, the trip is a great way to take a break from lugging 45-lbs packs up/down steep approaches, so I savor five days where I'm just expected to walk, chat, and cook. Max and the horses and mules from Cottonwood Pack Station ferried our gear across the back of the crest - thanks Max! And thanks [...]
Jason was the "last man standing" for an Extended Mountain Camp from Sierra Mountain Center - the other two clients had canceled for one reason or another. So we met one early Sunday morning, with a climate dilema. Thunderstorms had been hitting us with clockwork precision every afternoon, making a lot of the taller alpine climbs normally dispatched on a trip like this a little harder. So we pulled together a plan, and our after-action report to SMC looked like this: Sunday, 20090719. Morning: Climbed Running Lizards (II 5.7, 3 pitches), PSOM Wall, Pine Creek Canyon, Bishop. Afternoon: Packed up, drove past Big Pine to Glacier Lodge, and hiked into Third [...]
20090714-16. David and Carolyn joined me for a three day trip up the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney. We had beautiful weather and easy hiking to Iceberg Lake on the first day. We had a fantastic climb up the East Buttress, with a beautiful sunrise and warm temperatures - We reached the summit in our shirt sleeves! After a long lunch and leisurely descent, we turned in for a second night. Late in the morning we finally got started down, and took our time to the burgers and fries at Doug Thompson's Whitney Portal Store. Thanks for a great time, Carolyn and David! Chris Simmons is an AMGA Certified Alpine [...]
Temple Crag / Dark Star is the massive buttress immediately right of the summit / Sun Ribbon Arete is the prominent knife-edge ridge immediately to the left of the summit / Moon Goddess Arete is the next distinct ridge, starting immediately above the pine tree top in the left of the photo / Venusian Blind Arete is the less distinct line to the left of Moon Goddess 20090711-13. Pat came up from San Diego, wanting to climb on Temple Crag. Temple is host to some fantastic alpine grade III, IV, and V routes on surprisingly good rock. Pat and I got to climb Moon Goddess (IV 5.8, 15 pitches), with [...]
Sonja and Vale joined me for the 4th of July weekend to experience multi-pitch rock climbing. Previously they had been strong gym climbers with a bit of outdoor top-roping experience. So I took advantage of their fitness and experience to head for several routes that I haven't climbed. On Saturday we went to the PSOM Wall in Pine Creek Canyon. PSOM stands for the Palisade School of Mountaineering, a guide service in the 70's and 80's that used this wall to teach multi-pitch climbing. I was hoping to climb Running Lizards, a 3-pitch 5.7, and PSOM Pinnacle, a 3-pitch 5.8. Running Lizards was great! There was a little of everything [...]
Matt and Stacie came up from Oakland to climb Mt. Whitney with me in a blistering two days. This is not for the light of heart: on Tuesday we had breakfast at 3:00am and were on the move until we arrived in Whitney Portal at 7:45pm that evening. While we didn't break any speed records, we didn't go slow either!
Damien and Dustin came up from San Francisco to climb Fred Beckey's Premier Route on the Premier Buttress. This is my favorite route in the Eastern Sierra for the grade, with incredible finger cracks, hand cracks, an exciting 4-bolt ladder to aid through, slab climbing, face climbing, and even a chimney and off-width. Whew! Andy the Intern joined us, so we climbed in two rope teams. I think I break up the normal Pitch 2 into two pitches to facilitate belayer communication, so by my system a team can: climb 5 pitches and do three rappels with two ropes from the top of Pitch 5, 4, and the anchor of [...]
Larry and Mike joined me and our new intern Andy Soleman for a great climb of the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney (14494 ft). We still had threatening clouds rolling in after noon, so I voted for a 2:00am wake-up. Since I'm the guide, my vote counted most, and we got up at 2:00am! I'm adding a conditions report next, but its amazing to see how much snow is in the route. All of the rock normally exposed this time of year is burried - we just walked right up the middle, in snow, all the way to the summit. Amazing. We reached the summit just before 9:00am, and stopped [...]
Burtt and I made a quick two-day ascent of the East Ridge on Mt. Russell (14088 ft). I've put together a slideshow on my personal blog with captions, at Climb.Ski.Run.Sleep.Repeat. Here are the same photos in gallery form:
After climbing the Dana Couloir in late summer conditions, John H. was keen to try out water ice climbing. After a couple of false starts due to warm temperatures in December, we finally were able to make schedules and the weather meet to climb in Lee Vining Canyon. We met at John's hotel in the village of Lee Vining at 7:00am on the 18th. At the Power Station the trail looked to be in good shape, but almost immediately after the second creek crossing our progress was halted - blown snow had filled in the trail and wiped out any sign of it. Tricked by conditions below, I hadn't brought [...]
After living, breathing, and thinking skiing for the last two months, I jumped at Connie's call. She was wondering if I was interested in coming down for the weekend and take Megan, Lohit, and Kartnik ice climbing in June Lake. Of course I was! But just in case, I packed my skis. We spent two days at Horsetail Falls climbing the three different lines on the right side of the flow. Everyone had prior experience belaying from climbing in the gym or outside, so we were able to focus on the specifics of climbing ice, including efficient tool use and crampon technique. On Sunday I introduced mixed climbing as well, [...]
From 11-14 October I worked with a geology team representing Occidental University, Central Washington University, and Penn State. They're going to be heading down to Antarctica this winter to collect samples from the Transantarctic Range, and wanted to develop some 3rd-class and fixed rope rock skills. I had glorious plans of climbing some of the most classic 3rd class routes on the peaks accessible in a day from the highway, when one of our first storms of the fall blanketed the mountains in snow and made the days cold. So some quick thinking turned up days in the Buttermilks, North Bluffs of June Lake, Crystal Crag, and Iris Slab. This [...]
Back in July Braden and I had the pleasure of climbing the Mountaineers Route in just two days with a remarkable bunch of people, the Groff's and Dorsey's. Monty Groff has a great trip report on his blog, with photos and videos. I just want to add this link to get people thinking of next time. Check it out!
The NE Face of Middle Palisade is possibly the best 3rd class route in the Sierra Nevada. Ben had an ambitious goal to climb the peak in one day, a little different from SMC's typical itinerary of 2 or 3 days. We met way-early in the morning, did a quick gear check, and took off. The long hike up the lower South Fork of Big Pine Creek existed only in the radius of the light from our headlamps. We entered the Willow Lakes basin as the sun came up, and took our first break at Brainerd Lake. In a short time we were above Finger Lake and at [...]
On 3 September, I woke up at 3:00am and started to hike into Dade Lake to meet Marcyn, my client for an ascent of the North East Ridge of Bear Creek Spire. She wrote a journal piece about her trip. All photos are courtesy of Marcyn. And a quick note about maps. Sierra Mountain Center provides maps of many of our routes through our website. These maps are for informational purposes only. No one should rely on them for navigational tools. The routes shown are optimal and do not reflect seasonal variations. Sierra Mountain Center strongly recommends purchasing actual maps or mapping software, and having strong navigational skills when traveling [...]
On 12-14 July I climbed Banner Peak with Matt and John Wylie. Here's Matt's report of the trip with my photos. Cheers! Chris This summer me and my dad decided to climb up Mt Ritter and Banner Peak. Several summers ago we climbed Mt Langley with one of the guides from SMC, Chris Simmons and had a great trip. We met our guide in Bishop. He was the same person we went up Mt. Langley with, so we were happy. We hiked in the 6 miles to Ediza Lake on Day 1. Most of the trip was uphill and steep, so we were tired. But our spirit’s were [...]
The lack of entries in the blog should be an indicator for the reader about how busy Sierra Mountain Center has been this past month. All of us have been moving from one trip to the next with barely enough time to wash clothes, buy food, and give our families a kiss. I’m not complaining – its summer time after all! My adventures started on 21 May, when Paul and I attempted the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak. This III 5.4 climb is a fantastic early summer route, when lingering snow on the ridge provides us with water and allows us to bivouac 2/3rd of the way up on [...]
The High Sierra Route is one of the classic ski tours of North America. Crossing at the widest and highest part of the range, this route runs through some of the wildest country in California. Then to top it off, Sierra Mountain Center charters a plane from Fresno or Visalia back to Independence, flying over the very mountains and passes teams spend seven days laboriously crossing. To start the trip off right, I volunteered to do something I’ve always wanted – to ski the High Route, solo, at a quick pace. You can read about my two and a half-day tour on my personal blog, Climb. Ski. Run. Sleep. Repeat. [...]
Chris just skied the Sierra High Route, with the Kearsarge Pass extension, in 2 1/2 days! You can read about his trip on his personal blog: Climb. Ski. Run. Sleep. Repeat.