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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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TR: Cascade Falls

Date: Saturday, December 24, 2011

Location: Cascade Falls

Climbers: Jon, Rachel, Tony & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: First, let me say that wanted to get this up much sooner to offer some good beta on current Tahoe ice conditions, but a hectic schedule around the holidays prevented that. So unfortunately I can’t attest to whether this is representative of the current conditions at Cascade Falls (e.g., there has been a rain event and general warming spell as of late).

Having said that, although Tahoe (and pretty much all of California, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado) has received little to no snow, December proved to be a very cold month. Consistent cold temperatures and lack of snow make for good ice conditions in Tahoe (as fickle as they can be).

While climbing up at 90-Foot Wall with Brandon the week prior, we spotted Cascade Falls from the road and it looked very thick. After some more research, I got some good beta on conditions, so Jon, Rachel, Tony and I decided to head and check it out.

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Dates: Sunday, December 4, 2011 (Climbing) & Saturday, December 10, 2011 (Lunar Eclipse)

Locations: 90-Foot Cliff, South Lake Tahoe & San Francisco Bay

Climbers: Brandon & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: With the severe lack of snow in the Tahoe and High Sierra this early December due to (among other things) a high-pressure ridge sitting off the coast of California, Brandon and I decided to test the weather last Sunday for some winter-cragging in the Tahoe area.

Our original intention was to head to the Leap and test out how cold it really was, but we were quickly dissuaded by the shaded aspects, strong winds and below freezing temps. Therefore, we headed over to 90-Foot Wall in the Emerald Bay area for a good top-roping zone in the sun.

As a bonus, this past Saturday was a full lunar eclipse that was best viewed in the Western U.S., with the peak occurring at 6:30 A.M. PST. Given that the next full lunar eclipse will not occur until April 2014, I felt the need to get up and combat the light pollution of San Francisco and try and capture the event.

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Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011

Location: Lover’s Leap

Climbers: Alex & Nick

Photos: Alex & Nick (as noted)

Synopsis: With the snow of the early October 6th storm long faded into memory and recent warming temps, I knew Sunday would make for a good day trip to the Leap. After many suggestions by myself and others, Alex has recently taken up climbing, with his first foray into outdoor climbing at Indian Springs and Donner Summit earlier in August.

With the stable weather and Alex fired out to get out of the climbing gym and back outdoors, I knew a Leap trip was in order. And with Corrugation Corner (5.7) and Bear’s Reach (5.7) on the agenda, I would dare to say that is about as good as it gets for a first trip to the leap for Alex! A nice welcoming to the world of exposure…

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Dates: Saturday, October 8 – Sunday, October 9, 2011

Location: Hetch Hetchy, Rancheria Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park

Hikers: Sarah & Nick

Photos: Nick (unless otherwise noted)

Synopsis: Sarah and I had originally made plans to head over Tioga Pass to the Eastern Sierra and head down to Convict Canyon to hike up into Lake Genevieve and Lake Wit-So-Nah-Pa with views of Red Slate Mountain. We were hoping to get great views of the changing leaves in the high country and the solitude of Convict Canyon.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday-Thursday a strong storm from the PNW moved across Northern and Central California and dropped 1-2 feet of snow in the upper elevations across the Sierra above 8,000 ft. While Tioga Pass did open on Saturday, reports of an abundance of snow up high had caused us to change our plans earlier in the week.

Ultimately, we both wanted to stay out of the snow and this gave me the excuse to head to Hetch Hetchy – and area I always wanted to explore but frankly just drive right on by every time I am heading into the Park or the Eastside.

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TR: Matthes Crest

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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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