As a break from the new van build we decided to take the July 4th holiday and make it into a 4 day weekend. Since I’m taking a bit of a rest from climbing because of some elbow tendinitis, we decided we could do some backpacking in the Winds as an alternative to climbing. The Wind Rivers have been gorgeous in previous visits to Cirque of the Towers (1, 2) and Deep Lake, but that is but one area in a beautiful range.
This was a big snow year in much of the west and the Wind Rivers were no exception. Given this we knew that there would be snow on the ground since the trailhead starts at 9500′. Luckily we didn’t have much snow to negotiate until a mile or two before our campsite. However this is already after 10 miles of hiking. Oh, that is the other thing to note about the Winds, everything is really far from the car. Which is good, but it means that you have to walk. Luckily going to Titcomb Basin only requires about 2000′ of gain overall and that is really cumulative not individual rise. Our campsite was at 10500′.
With the snow melting there were plenty of stream crossings, lakes and ponds over the trail, and muddy trail. Fortunately we had opted for our summer mountaineering boots rather than approach shoes for the hike. I’ve gotten many miles of walking in my summer mountaineering boots and I have to say I’ve gotten very used to them for this purpose and they actually soften the load on the feet because of the rigid sole. They are still work, but there is a benefit for the weight and the stiffness. They are waterproof too.
Our objective was fairly vague since the area was new to us and the conditions were unknown before getting there. Even day of, Friday, we ended up changing our objective a couple times. We opted hiking/scrambling for Elephant Head. We’d hoped to do Mt Ellingwood also known as Harrower Peak, but it turned out the snow conditions were too variable to make good time on the distance required. The snow conditions as we got higher were quite annoying. For a while you might be sinking in a little bit, the next step would be falling in up to your waist. Very frustrating, exhausting, and time consuming. Because of this we settled on the closer and smaller Elephant Head, which even still we weren’t able to get to the top before turning around.
Saturday we hiked out and back to the car 12 miles away and to the swarms of mosquitoes. Luckily at our campsite there were only one or two because of the snow. Back at the van though there were plenty and we had to apply bug repellent liberally.
A fun trip, even though no climbing, in an amazingly scenic area. It was a pleasure to have an early season view of the place with so much snow and so few people around. Perhaps another time we can go back to do some real climbing.
We spent the extra long weekend in the Tetons. While the weather was generally good it was a bit hot and we didn’t climb much. What we did climb we bailed 1.5 pitches into because of a thunderstorm. Still a fun trip and was able to explore some areas we weren’t familiar with.
Carly and I headed south to the desert for the first time a while. One of our friends was having a birthday party and invited a bunch of people to join. There indeed was a bunch of folks who arrived at the primitive camping outside of Canyonlands National Park. We elected to set our tent just off from the main group so we could be a little less disturbed from would would prove to be a rackus evening of revelry by the party crowd. We got a little climbing in on Saturday at Wall St. in Moab. The climbing was actually quite pleasant and not as crowded as I expected. Sunday was a short day and we did a hike to Upheaval Dome, before heading back to Salt Lake for a memorial service for Kyle Dempster. It was a good weekend capped with a somber reminder that even the strongest climbers are not immune to the strength of the mountains.
The week before Memorial Day I was in Baltimore for a conference on composites. I returned late Thursday night and had pre-arranged to take Friday off of work. Carly luckily had her 9-80 Friday off on that day as well. We had hoped to go to Colorado to visit with Dave, Phyli and friends, but wet and cold weather plagued the entire West Coast. Steamboat was forecasted to be in the 40’s and rainy, not much fun. The Denver crew decided to bail and so Carly and I made a decision to head towards Red Rocks as it was the only place that potentially didn’t have 50% chance of showers.
We decided to stay at the primitive camping area I found during the last time I was in Red Rocks. This turned out to be really nice as we didn’t see anyone else camping nearby. While the drive to RR loop road is 30 minutes or more from the camping, it allowed us to access some of the southern end climbing much easier. Since we figured there would be a lot of people around for Memorial Day we decided to hit lesser known crags and it worked well for us as we didn’t see any other climbers on the two days we climbed.
Unfortunately the rain even got to Las Vegas and we had it rain fairly heavy over Saturday and Sunday nights. Sunday we got rained off of a climb and ended up heading back to camp and having some beers and playing on the slackline.
While it wasn’t a super productive weekend climbing the routes we did on Saturday were quite good and I had a blast climbing with Carly.
Though things seem to have returned to normal, back in late April through Memorial Day we’ve had some really wet weather in Salt Lake City. While no records were broken there were many, many days we had rain, clouds, or drizzle. The persistent rain was really a bummer for climbing opportunities, but for getting everything green it worked well. On a hike Carly and I took up Neff’s Canyon on a rainy day it felt a lot more like the Pacific Northwest rather than the desert of SLC.
Weather in Utah has been uncharacteristically rainy here in Utah for the last few weeks. The last few weekends have been rainy or threatened rain. This weekend and the coming week are forecasted for more of the same. The precipitation isn’t all bad, though since we got very little snow over the winter the water is needed.
Carly and I took advantage of the questionable weather to take a trip down to Bryce Canyon National park and be Utah tourists. Many of the attractions that bring normal people to Utah get ignored by me and my friends. Usually we are always trying to figure out the next climbing trip. But, with at least 30-40% chance of rain basically everywhere within a reasonable drive we decided to visit Bryce.
The drive from Salt Lake is only about 4 hours, which we did midday Friday. Leaving work a little early allowed us to make dinner in the park. Along the drive we hit some snow squalls which were quite heavy and foreshadowed what we’d see Saturday morning.
Saturday morning we woke up to a couple inches of snow on the ground and flakes still falling. After sweeping off the picnic table we made some breakfast. Our two bundles of wood were pretty well depleted after Friday night, but we saved a bit for a fire in the morning while we ate. After breakfast we walked over to Sunset Point to start our day. The snow provided a spectacular contrast to the red rocks. I could attempt to write about how unique and amazing the scenery is, but the pictures below will do that much better than I can write.
Our day went down the Navajo Trail and then around the Peek-a-boo Loop which winds around the amphitheater of Bryce and through the forested floor. We took the Queen’s Garden Trail to get back to the rim. A short though, confusing shuttle ride brought us to Bryce Point and Inspiration Point.
Saturday evening we picked up another couple bundles of wood to keep warm while making dinner and for Sunday morn. Luckily there was no more precipitation overnight and Sunday was clear, but windy and cold. My cold symptoms ramped up and I wasn’t feel up for more hiking–our plan was Fairyland loop. Instead we took the car to the southern tip of the park and some of the overlooks there.
It isn’t hard to see why this area got protected by the government as a National Park. The views are spectacular. I’m hoping we can come back and do the Fairlyland loop some time soon.
Last weekend Carly, myself, a whole crew of BD folks, and Bozemanites traveled to Indian Creek to construct a toilet, or more appropriately a shitter. Indian Creek’s campgrounds are fairly minimalistic and they don’t have many toilets. Superbowl Campground only had one for instance. After the passing of Kevin “K-Bone” Volkening last year in a climbing accident his friends decided the best way to memorialize him was by building a shitter in his favorite climbing area. For some out there this may seem like a strange way to memorialize and remember someone, but for those that knew K-Bone it is quite fitting of his personality.
The wheels were set in motion by many including the BLM, Friends of Indian Creek, Access Fund, Kolin Powick, Marge Volkening, and of course all the generous donators. The money was raised and the date was picked during prime Creek season to draw the biggest possible crowd.
We had a huge crew show up and put up the structure in about four hours. The toilet is a “Class B” according to the BLM. This means that it is open air with a 180 degree entrance for privacy. It is a wood/metal structure primarily, attached to a concrete foundation which was previously installed. We were responsible for the wood/metal structure. To add a little flair we brought some skeletons of raw material from BD. These skeletons were nut tools and pitons. We laser cut them out of a large sheet of steel and what remains is similar to the dough after cutting cookies.
After we finished Marge said a few words of thanks and remembrance of Kevin and pulled the coating off the awesome plaque attached to the entrance. This plaque will be plainly visible to every user of the shitter and they hopefully will be inspired to let a little of the wolf spirit roam in their own lives.
All the volunteers available made construction go quickly and we were able to get some climbing in during the afternoon. Many folks went to 2nd Meat Wall and it was a great time conversing, climbing some cracks, and enjoying the scenery.
Sunday didn’t pan out for climbing as we got a storm that rolled through in the wee hours. Many people split up to do their own thing. Carly, Andreas, Kasi, and I went to Canyonlands National Park just down the road from Indian Creek and did a nice 9.5 mile hike. The scenery was great with clouds, sun, rain, and wind changing the sky every few minutes. The park is an amazing place as well. I can’t imagine trying to navigate through it without a very detailed map. The topography there is mind boggling. I’m glad that the weather pushed us into visiting.
Over the Fourth of July I headed up to Lone Peak with Carly. We had been packing, unpacking, moving, and generally doing a whole lot of not particularly fun things for a while. Carly had the great idea that if we got the bulk of the moving done prior to the holiday weekend we’d have the opportunity to do something fun. It was a great idea and so we decided to head to Lone Peak to escape some of the heat in the SLC valley.
As it went the last time the hike up was long and painful. Jacob’s Ladder is just a pain in the butt because of the loose, steep, and sunny nature of it. To compound it, my lack of activity was giving me a cramp, and my back was sore. Despite this once we got to the Lone Peak Cirque we were rejuvenated by the cool temperature, amazing alpine environment and the copious climbing to be had.
After setting up the tent and racking up we made our way up to the start of the Lowe Route (5.8) which surprisingly had no one on it. It was a little tough shaking the rust off my climbing head and abilities. After a little indecision on the upper pitch we got to the top and watched the lowering sun from the top of the Question Mark wall. Back in camp we cooked up and ate while enjoying the amazing view of the Cirque as the sunset, turning the walls orange and red with light.
The next day we made a try for another easy route in the Cirque but the rust on my skills had quickly grown back overnight and we decided to lower off the route because it didn’t seem like it was going well. We’ll have to go back up and finish it off next season as all the snow must be melted by now and there’s no water anymore up there.
The hike down was a bit better than the one on the way in, but this time hotter. We finally go back to the car in mid-afternoon and promptly blasted the AC in Carly’s car, which luckily works amazingly despite being 12 years old.
When Carly’s Mom visited over a month ago we went for a hike up towards Cecret Lake. Mom Mahony enjoyed the alpine vistas, great weather, and the just starting to bloom wildflowers. She’ll have to come back in late July when they really are in full swing.
After Carly’s GMAT exam on Saturday we headed to the City of Rocks. Being less than 3 hours away it is a very doable trip mid way through the day Saturday for a weekend excursion. We headed out after lunch and were at Parking Lot Rock around 4. We didn’t get a ton of climbing in but we did have fun. Fun BLM camping and looking for friends, good grippy granite, sunny weather–though it did get blustery and chilly on Sunday. First of many trips this season I’m sure!