I guess I never posted these pictures. Things must have gotten busy and forgot to.
Aaron and I headed to Zion for some climbing but the trip turned out quite differently that we expected. We needed to get more proficient in aiding before attempting our objective. Instead we just enjoyed one of the best National Parks out there for its scenery.
Drew and Carly came to visit me in Utah and enjoy their recent entrance to the dirtbag lifestyle. While they aren’t travelling the country for climbing destinations as I would be in their place, they are out travelling, living, hiking, biking, and just enjoying life.
I found a good BLM campground about 10 miles from Moab and gave them the info to meet me there. It turned out to be a little difficult to find especially at midnight like when they rolled in. The campground is the last one on the 10 mile dirt road. While there’s nothing too tricky to cross there are two stream crossings which I wasn’t sure Drew would be able to get through because of his trailer. Everything turned out fine and they finally made it to my site around 1am.
Saturday we headed, late, into town to figure out some mtn biking, which Moab has plenty of. Moab could be compared to Yosemite as far as their respective sport meccas go. We found a decent trail with the help of a bike shop and had a fun ride. Well mostly, Carly had some technical difficulties and she wasn’t able to experience a bunch of the trail. Next time right!
This was my first time actually mtn biking in a long time, probably since high school. Bikes have changed a lot since then and they are quite fun and comfortable. I was able to borrow my buddy Matt’s and it was plush. I was able to roll through stuff and at speeds I would never have thought possible back when I was on my red GT hardtail.
Sunday we enjoyed a little bit of climbing and normal tourist sightseeing in Arches National Park. As usual the desert landscape didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t hard to understand why it is a National Park. Delicate Arch is well worth the hike out, despite the large numbers of people. Truly a Martian landscape!
Over the long weekend Matt, Jamie and myself visited the Wind River Range for some alpine rock climbing. Our objective in the Cirque of the Towers was the East Ridge of Wolf’s Head (12,165′). The route is one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America. While it is only 5.6 is difficulty it is one of the headiest, most exposed climbs of any grade, anywhere.
Matt, Jamie and I headed out after work on Friday and toward the Wind River Range in Wyoming. The drive is only around 5 hours but the last hour at least is on dirt roads. Some of them are good and as you approach the trailhead they get a little bit worse. Still very passable by normal cars but just a little bumpy. About 10 miles from the trailhead we decided to stop to sleep for the night. The National Forest land out where is so much better than back East since you can just park and camp without any trouble.
As we arrived at the trailhead we were astounded by the number of cars which were parked–there must have been 150 cars in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. It was Labor Day weekend so we shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Heading in on the 8 mile approach we made good time. This was due in part to the minimal elevation gain or loss. While our eventual camp would be around 10,300′ the trailhead starts around 9,000′. The main elevation came in the last 2 miles. The landscape along the way changed from forest and plains with lakes and rivers to high alpine lakes and tundra. As we topped out the Continental Divide and dropped into the East side, we were welcomed with a great view of the Cirque of the Towers. Pingora (11,884′), towers over Lonesome Lake and a beautiful alpine scene.
However, very quickly this idyllic scene was tarnished by the number of people we saw. Cirque of the Towers has no permitting system or what even seemed to be enforcement of basic rules of alpine environments. We saw lots of tents, some less than 200 feet from water courses. There were perhaps 50 tents, luckily not all in the same spot, but there were few places you could look that didn’t has someone stating there. Many of these visitors were probably not climbers, but some were. The lake of knowledge or regard for Leave No Trace had prompted people to bring their dogs. I saw at least 6-8 different dogs. While I’m a big fan of dogs I think people are trending to bringing their pets into many places that should not have dogs. Restaurants, retail stores, airplanes, and alpine environments.
There are a number of reasons why I don’t think dogs belong in the alpine. Dogs do not understand Leave No Trace. They run and defecate anywhere, including through or near water sources. They are not natural inhabitants, not that humans are either, of this area. Humans can avoid disturbing natural wildlife, like pikas, as little as possible. Unless your dog is very well trained or on a leash, can you keep your pet from going after a pika. While the dog probably won’t be able to catch one, it certainly keeps a pika from gathering food. Dogs are pets, but they are not 24/7 companions, especially in a delicate environment where small amounts of damage take a long time to be repaired.
The other major problem that I saw were fires. Fires are more egregious than dogs. There are few trees and those that do exist are only 20 feet tall because of the short growing season. Snow covers the ground for a long portion of the year. Dead wood isn’t very available. A fire, even a small one takes an extremely long time to be absorbed in the cold environment. Especially when you build it on rocks. We did see a Ranger, but it doesn’t appear that he could prevent people from making fires. It is too bad that the Cirque doesn’t have similar permitting and enforcement rules to the Tetons.
Sunday we got up early to do our climb, we were on our way out of camp at 4:30am. The early start was to make sure we could get on the climb first. Because of the moderate difficulty and number of people in the area we figured that getting on the route first was prudent. This turned out to be a good idea. We had a little bit of route finding problems on the approach before the sun came up. After we figured out our problem we waited at the start of the technical climbing until there was enough light to see.
Wolf’s Head’s East Ridge is a knife edge climb. The first crux of the route is what is affectionately called the “sidewalk” a 1.5 ft wide, 30 ft long, 30 degree angled slab. While the low angle doesn’t seem all that imposing and were it only 5 feet off the ground it wouldn’t pose much trouble for most climbers to just walk across it. However the section is hundreds of feet off the deck and the valley sweeps away from the approach ledges down another thousand feet. It is one of the most heady sections of climbing I’ve done. There is some protection, a good cam at the start, a small horn that can be slung, and a good cam at the end. Great climbing for sure.
Just after this pitch a party of two passed us by simul climbing by. This didn’t pose much of an issue for us since they were moving much more quickly than our party of three. Jamie led a few pitches of simul climbing until reaching the first of numerous knife edge climbing which found us hand/foot traversing on one side of the ridge or the other. A soloist passed us as well. While passing us he mentioned to Jamie that though he’s solo’ed the route many times he’s never been able to walk across the sidewalk, he’s always crawled.
We finally summited in mid afternoon. The descent wasn’t too bad but there was a bit of route finding to contend with. The main thing was to traverse all the way across the saddle between Wolf’s Head and Overhanging Tower. 15 hours after leaving the tent we arrived back and made some dinner.
The hike out Monday was uneventful with a few rain showers. Our fun alpine climbing weekend was shattered on our ride out upon news of the death of one of our friends and co-workers. There are many things I would like to write down on the matter, but I am not at a point to do that, nor do I possess the ability.
Saturday and Sunday Matt headed out to do a little winter camping. Despite having more winter climbing days than ever this year I haven’t done any winter camping. This is primarily due to the awesomeness that is Salt Lake City. In Connecticut to get to any ice climbing I’d have to drive 4-5 hours, which obviously makes for a weekend trip. To avoid spending the money on a hotel rooms every weekend I often did some camping. Here in Salt Lake, there’s no need to drive that far for ice climbing so therefore no winter camping.
The objective was a short (4 miles) skin in to camp and to check out the Pfeifferhorn. The Pfeifferhorn is an awesome looking pyramid-shaped mountain on the southern border of Little Cottonwood. There’s an alpine route up the north ridge which, if I had more time before my Alaska trip I would do. This little excursion was to check out the line.
Given the shortish approach we didn’t leave the parking lot until after 1pm. Clouds were building and we expected to see some precipitation, but hoped it would be of the solid kind. Skinning through the trees we wound gently at first around the foot of a few ridges along the White Pine, then Red Pine Canyon trail. About halfway into the approach we started heading more sharply uphill. For whatever reason I wasn’t feeling that good and was dragging behind. The visibility went downhill pretty quickly, it didn’t quite completely sock in but it did start to snow.
After a certain point the wind picked up as well and we figured it would be better to set up camp sooner than later. We found a good spot between some large pines which we hope would shelter us from the wind. After the tent was up we did a quick skin over to a rise were we got a better view of the Pfeifferhorn. The clouds obscured the view but we could still make out the sharp North Ridge.
Sunday morning had clear skies and temps in the teens. Despite the chilly temps it was an amazing day. We skinned back over to get a peek of the peak in better light. It is an amazing looking mountain and the North Ridge looks like a great way to the summit. There is plenty of snow up there right now and probably would have been good skiing. Matt’s not a skier and we didn’t bring avy gear so there would be no climbing or skiing for us. We’ll have to save it for another day.
The ski out through the tree was nice. The sun, blue skies, and fresh snow all combined for absolutely spectacular views of Little Cottonwood peaks. Today was one of the days I wanted to move to the West for.
Last weekend I had the good fortune to take a little climbing trip to the crack capital of the world, Indian Creek. The Creek is characterized by laser cut cracks in red sandstone. The routes start here around 5.10 and there isn’t much opportunity for face climbing. The long (+100 ft) pitches often require five, six, seven, or more of the same cam. This is a place to go with lots of people and pool racks together.
I’m pretty tired of writing stuff coming off of my Yosemite article so there won’t be a big post this time. Check out the pictures.