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Archive for the ‘Eastern Sierra’ Category

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Dates: Saturday, May 11 – Sunday, May 12, 2013

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: Similar to the winter of 2012, this Winter was a pretty low snow-year throughout the Sierra Nevada. Throughout the Winter, Jon and I had been tentatively planning a week-long ski-tour in the Eastern Sierra. As the months passed along, days grew longer and the weather warmed, we realized that once again the Winter would not provide optimal Spring ski-touring conditions.

On the other hand, the low-snow year lent itself to great, early season alpine climbing opportunities throughout the High Sierra. With that in mind, Jon and I headed with a loaded car down Highway 395 to the high peaks of the Eastern Sierra to try and take advantage of a good weather forecast and climb some classic, big routes.

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Dates: Saturday, January 14 – Sunday, January 15, 2012

Locations: Peak 12,542 and the Northwest Ridge of Four Gables

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: As noted (with some processing edits on a couple of Jon’s shots from Nick)

Synopsis: With Tioga Pass continuing to remain open, the lack of snowfall this year continued offered a unique opportunity to those so inclined: access to long, granite alpine rock routes with minimal amounts of snow in otherwise “Winter” conditions. By “Winter” conditions I mean (i) very short days, (ii) very cold temperatures and (iii) very strong winds.

Jon and I were itching the entire week to undertake a true winter alpine route that would involve a bivy at a high altitude. We combed through the High Sierra Secor Guide looking for route descriptions. Our search had a couple of parameters. First, since we were coming from the Bay Area on Friday, altitude was a key factor. We were hesitant to bivy up around 13,000 ft. + on Saturday night for fear of getting absolutely worked by the altitude. Second, the weather report was not looking promising. While Saturday day and night called for great conditions, Sunday was anticipated to deteriorate rapidly with a very strong wind event moving in (with Sunday night expecting sustained 100+ mph winds along the High Sierra Crest).

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Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012

Location: North Couloir of North Peak

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted as Brandon, with some processing edits from Nick)

Synopsis: While the lack of snow in the Sierra has delayed the start of ski season, it has also offered a historical statistic of sorts – namely, Tioga Pass is currently open in January. According to data compiled by the Mono Lake Committee, since 1933 Tioga Pass has only been open six times post-December, with the former record being January 1 in 2000. Being an optimist of sorts, I was excited as this offers easy access to the High Sierra for one approaching from the West side of the range.

Brandon and I had our eyes set on the classic alpine climb of the North Couloir of North Peak (12,242 ft). With the lack of snow and constant cold temps at that elevation, we were hoping that the North Couloir would possibly continue to hold ice conditions – although we were actually expecting hard neve. In either case, the chance to climb the North Couloir in January with a mostly snowless approach in winter weather conditions (think (i) cold and (ii) very windy) sounded too good to be true.

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Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011

Location: Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: After a successful trip on the Northeast Couloir of Mount Gilbert the day prior, Jon and I headed on yet another early alpine start for some ultra-classic climbing on Matthes Crest. Matthes Crest is one of the most unique climbs I have ever done. Approaching from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, Matthes Crest is a very unique granite knife-ridge that was glacially formed. Although it is only about 500 vertical feet from the ground, the knife-ridge itself runs for over a mile long. Similar to most parties, we climbed to the North Tower and rapped from the dedicated rap rings.

Ultimately, it rightly deserves its recognition for its classic status, offering awesome climbing, great exposure and unbelievable views.

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Date: Saturday, September 17, 2011

Location: Mt. Gilbert, Northeast Couloir

Climbers: Jon & Nick

Photos: Jon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: After arriving back from Europe the prior day (and Jon separately also arriving from Spain the prior day), Jon and I headed down to Bishop to once again give a go at the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert (13,106 ft.). Last year we headed down much latter in the alpine ice season, and after a foot of snow fell, avalanche conditions were unsafe and lead to the Triple Skunk on each of the North Couloir on North Peak, the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert and the Harrington Couloir on Mt. Thompson.

Fortunately, this year we headed back earlier in the season without snow on the approach and the weather was great. We ended up climbing the Northeast Couloir as it was more sustained without a burnt-out middle section, but now we both want to go back and climb the North Couloir proper. I guess we still have time this season!

Unlike the Triple Skunk , the approach was entirely dry well up onto the glacier just below Mt. Gilbert. Therefore, the approach was much faster (by several hours) and we made good time.

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Dates: Saturday, August 27 – Sunday, August 28, 2011

Locations: Stately Pleasure Dome, Pywiack Dome & Dozier Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted as Brandon)

Synopsis: Brandon and I headed up to Tuolumne Meadows for a great weekend of climbing on some classic multi-pitch dome routes: (i) Great White Book on Stately Pleasure Dome, (ii) Holdless Horror on Dozier Dome, (iii) Zee Tree on Pywiack Dome and (iv) Errett Out on Dozier Dome. The weather was great and the scenery spectacular.

I also got to try out my new camera for shots from the ground (as I would never climb with this thing): a Canon 60D with a Canon 15-85mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. All climbing shots (and shots from the summits) are with my much smaller Panasonic LX-3.

On the drive in Saturday morning, the skies were very overcast and there was some very sporadic rain (in quantity, location and time-lapse). We got a little worried, as rain + granite slab = no fun. However, the rain didn’t seem to impact the Tuolumne area (other than about 2 minutes of very light rain over Tenaya Lake) and the skies eventually cleared up during the day.

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Date: Saturday, June 11, 2011

Location: Sonora Pass

Skiers: Rachel, Andrew, Brandon & Nick

Photos: Andrew, Brandon & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: May in the Sierra is my favorite month. Typically, the days are long, the snow is consolidated and predictable corn, the weather is stable and the mountain passes are open making for easier trips to the Eastern Sierra. After such a big snow year this winter, we continued to get “plagued” by additional late season snow and low-pressure windows. It didn’t feel right to complain about snow and low pressure, but frankly, I was internally grumbling most of May. With work obligations and the like, I found myself trying to squeeze in weekend trips that would get shut down by weather.

Fortunately, Enginerd and I were able to pull off a quick stealth mission into the Evolution Range in between weather cycles in early May. Unfortunately, that was the only skiing I did the entire month.

After that, I would read reports of 100 mph winds on the High Sierra, mountain passes being shut down due to new snow or rock fall, and the like. Honestly, I was just ready to move on to climbing season and packed the ski stuff up.

All week I was debating with Brandon whether to just go climbing on Saturday or give Sonora Pass a chance. The weather looked hit or miss with the potential for clouds and no re-freeze the night before. With the ski stuff packed, it was a hard decision at the time to pull it out. Fortunately, we made the right call.

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