Climbing Tales

Right now, I have very much of a love-hate relationship with climbing. More on that later.

A couple of weekends ago, I went climbing in the high and eastern Sierra. After work on Friday, I bee-lined up to Tuolumne for some late afternoon bouldering. This was during what seems to have been some of the last bits of warm golden summer. I’m working on my footwork and the boulders up there are one of the best places to practice.

traversing the wave boulder

traversing the wave boulder

Continuing up and over and down, I landed in Mammoth and found climbing there. We tackled a tricky 5.10a face/crack/overhang beast of a climb on volcanic tuff (versus Yosemite’s granite). I wasn’t quite there, but made it up with much falling and frustration. And then I jumped on a really fun 5.8 crack that seemed like a walk in the park. Tuff has awesome grippy holds. It’s like a playground of things to hang on.

warming crack at mammoth

warming crack at mammoth

The real highlight was hiking down into Owens River Gorge after. The Gorge… is one of the craziest places I’ve climbed so far. Over 800 climbs in this beautiful place.

owens river gorge-ous

owens river gorge-ous

We stuck to 5.8 routes and it was everything that I expect when climbing. I had a lot of time that day to think about why I actually choose to climb. It’s a uniquely oxymoronic experience. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, empowering and humbling, challenging and rewarding, physical and mental. And, oh, is it mental. Your mindset is at least as important as your physical strength and determination. I don’t think you ever feel so close to nature (specifically rock) and yourself as when you’re hanging precariously mid-cliff by the strength of your own muscles and the trust in the stability of that craggy smooth rock. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. And it’s addictive like no other.

on the china doll route

on the china doll route

So, the love is obvious. But why the hate? …Did I mention this is a dangerous game? Part of that adrenaline rush and gratefulness for timely holds is that risk of falling. I had a relatively minor fall in the Gorge. It happens – and it’s usually no big deal. This one was no different except that I was close to the ground. Which means that, with the unfortunately placed directional quickdraw and the give the rope is designed with, I hit the ground. Not hard and mostly running, but still enough to strain my iliopsoas muscle. I didn’t realize it at the time and kept going (gotta save face and conquer all, right?). In fact, I didn’t realize the severity of it until I went climbing again yesterday in Yosemite Valley almost two weeks later. Now I’ve been doctored and x-rayed and referred to a physical therapist. And I’m on a ice and rest and no yoga and no climbing plan for a few weeks.

contemplating the vertical

contemplating the vertical

So it goes.

Good thing I’ve got the distraction of vacation. Starting Sunday!! Another day at the Renaissance Faire and then Paul and I fly out to Florida on Monday for over a week of birding and eating and sunning and enjoying life with good people and good (if flat and humid) scenery. Now to get packed…

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Clearing storm


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Of Mountains and Moliere

I stayed up half the night reading Moliere’s Tartuffe. Betrayal, futile persuasion, and religious hypocrisy? And from four centuries ago that doesn’t feel ancient? Yeah, definitely worth losing out on a little sleep for. Now I’m finally delving into Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. I spent my morning pre-work hour just skipping my way around the glossary. I think that one’s going to keep me busy for a while (and that’s not even mentioning the 13 sequels). It’s a little thick to take backpacking, but I’m sure it’ll find its way into the wilderness with me this weekend.

Really, it’s not that much heavier than The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that found itself my companion during recent mountainous adventures. That accompanied me over Labor Day weekend spent hiking and peak bagging with friends. One can cover quite a few miles in three days. We hiked around 35 miles.

The first part of the trip found us hiking out of South Lake to Bishop Pass where we camped at the extremely beautiful (and cold!) Bishop Lake. We did a dayhike (read: sketchy scramble) from camp up the pass and then up to the summit of Agassiz Peak. Being up at 13,883 feet in the Sierra Nevada is an ineffably amazing experience (and the highest I’ve ever been).

After hiking out the next day and enjoying some pizza at my favorite little place in Mammoth Lakes, we hit the wilderness again over by Saddlebag Lake in the Lee Vining Canyon. From the social trail leading out of Sawmill CG, it’s a strenuous cross-country hike to the top of Mt. Conness (12,648′). Conness isn’t nearly as high as Agassiz, but unquestionably just as beautiful of a view. And a super exposed walk out to the very top. I didn’t realize I had any lingering fear of heights but that last couple of hundred yards of narrow steps with steep drop-offs on either side definitely tested my nerves!

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the new go-to spot

Another weekend… another chance to embrace the diversity of my Yosemite experience.

I’m now an adult literacy tutor with the local library. I can honestly say I’ve thrown an ax. And I found a new Sunday meditation spot.


I’m also trying to get in all the swimming I can before this sweltering heat wave breaks. I took and introduced Paul to one of my new favorite swimming holes after yoga last night. It’s so exhilarating to jump in a cool body of water after an intense workout! Definitely got me geared up for a week full of evenings spent swimming and bouldering and just being outside. And that to lead into a weekend of high country climbing, camping, and yoga with some eastside friends. And one step closer to the Renaissance Faire the next weekend (yes, during the 11th annual Facelift) and that birding trip to Florida the week after that. I think I hear October sneaking up on us…

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september continues…

Theory: Time moves swifter as autumn approaches.

Fact: It’s already Friday. Again.

crazy beautiful life

as always…

And so it’s time for another round of adventures… but of a more literary sort. Sort of.

Kicking off the weekend with another girls’ climbing night. And barbecue. And probably sleepover. Good thing I’m just about recovered from Wednesday night’s Mariposa karaoke extravaganza. ;)

Tomorrow though I’ll finally be getting in some nerd-out time at the library. I signed up to be a volunteer adult literacy tutor with the county library and have an all-day training to go to. I’m excited to get some volunteering in and help folks with learning to use and manipulate this beautiful language. Added bonus: apparently library volunteers don’t pay library late fees. Uh-oh…

literary inspirations

literary inspirations

And then, to keep that work-life balance thing going, this weekend is the infamous Lumberjack Party. Costumes required. Pictures not guaranteed. ;) With Sunday hereby set aside as a recovery day that hopefully turns into a Hesse-by-the-river day.

Random excitement: Just ordered a new swimsuit for the Florida birthday trip! I’ll be basking on a beach in less than a month! :)

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road trip flashback: the highlights

I’m taking a night off. I’m feeling a bit under the weather and jumped on that excuse for an impromptu night at home (sorry, friends, for bailing on yoga and climbing and movies and other stuff). I think my malaise is rooted in the blanket of poor air quality from the Meadow Fire burning in Yosemite’s backcountry. My recent sleep-depriving adventures probably also contribute. Between nap and bedtime, it occurs me to me that I have some catching up to do on sharing my August adventures…

I’ll start with my girls’ Mammoth road trip – and just the highlights and not the nitty-gritty in-betweens. Reason: my co-worker’s birthday weekend. Goal: climb and float and bike and drink. Actual: climb and dance and drink. Conclusion: the ruination of best laid plans is sometimes the best thing ever. Life lesson: loud and genuine laughter is the BEST medicine.

  • We camped in the desert, made birthday pancakes and bacon, drank breakfast beers, and soaked in the super-secret siphon tub.
a typical desert morning

a typical desert morning

  • We went to go climbing in Clark’s Canyon. The car died about a half mile from the parking area, which was around 5 miles down a rough road. This is where the adventures really began. So, what did we do? Left the car, hiked in, went climbing, and then hitched a ride into Mammoth to meet up with friends (with the car still safely abandoned down that dirt road).
always on the move to higher elevations

always on the move to higher elevations

  • We met up with friends for a couple of days that consisted of inconsistency. We ate delicious food, had fun conversations and awkward moments, made new friends, danced the nights away, and became quick regulars at the local brewery.
weekend-long happy hour

weekend-long happy hour

  • We eventually rescued the car via a really nice guy with a great jeep and a pooling of AAA resources. We got home thanks to Alanna’s Momma and her accommodating rental car.
dirt road driving

dirt road driving

  • We once again proved that the real purpose of the workweek is to recover from the weekend.
high desert wisdom

high desert wisdom

It can be a crazy life out there. The key is to embrace it (though maybe not always the craziest parts) and to laugh fully and with reckless abandon.

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midnight snack and review

Okay, it’s not midnight. But it’s close enough and I am eating bunny grahams. :) And it’s finally cool enough in the evenings that I made hot tea to dunk them in.

My exhaustion level is high yet not high enough that I’m passing out quite yet. It’s been a weekend of epic proportions and I’m only halfway in. Friday night’s Hot Buttered Rum concert at the community hall provided a social experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen in El Portal. Ever. But I imagine it to be something akin to what EP was like ‘back in the good old days’. The band was fantastic and the crowd fascinating.

A fun way to spend the evening, but not really the best way to set yourself up for success at having an early morning. It was a good goal. And we still made fairly good time. After a late-ish start, four of us piled into my car to head up to Tenaya Lake (with a necessary breakfast stop at the market). Our plan was to climb Tenaya Peak (1500 vertical feet of pretty easy climbing). Kylie was free soloing it (no ropes or other protection). Casey and I did a combination of simul-climbing and trad climbing (AKA we always used a rope in some fashion). Andy was our moral support crew and spent the day napping by the lake.

Casey and I had a blast climbing together. There’s a lot of trust involved when you climb with someone and you get to know someone really well when you climb together. It took us about 5 hours to make the climb. Not too bad considering we went up 1500 feet and were having fun with it and not following a specific route (just going whichever path looked the best at the moment). It was (relatively) easy climbing with lots of great flakes and rough granite. If we’d had beer (not that we’d have wanted that extra weight in our packs), we have cracked them open to celebrate at the top. But, as the circumstances dictated, we enjoyed a couple of energy bars instead. Which was a great idea because the hike back down to the car took almost as much energy as the climb up away from it. We weren’t quite sure where the walk-down was; we had just been told that you hike down the south side of the peak and skirt around it until you hit the Sunrise Lakes trail. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as that (or at least it wasn’t to us) and we were fighting against sunset by the time we hit Tenaya Lake again. It was a fun cross-country hike though with lots of sooty grouse, Clark’s nutcrackers, and good conversation.

I’d pretend that tomorrow I’m planning on being dead to the world (why am I still awake at midnight?!), but such is not the case. I have very much neglected my house lately and namely the groceries that I would like to have in it. So, tomorrow is now a much-needed errand day. I’m thinking freshly washed car and maybe a cappuccino too. That’s almost a lazy Sunday, right?

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