Balmy summer temperatures and breaks from school brought me back to the Six Rivers National Forest for some climbing at the Trinity Aretes. I had only been to the Aretes once, about a year ago (see the blog post from that trip) Since then I’ve wanted to go back to try some of the harder routes which I had eyed on my first trip. Luckily, my friend Gabriel was as excited about the trip as I was and was willing to ditch work for a 5 day long climbing trip in one of the most beautiful and simultaneously isolated and accessible sport climbing crags I have ever been to in California.
On Wednesday morning Gabriel and I hit the road to the Aretes. The crag is located in the Six Rivers National Forest, just east of the small town of Burnt Ranch. We left at 1 and got there around 6 PM. Just after a sharp turn on the forest road the limestone comes fully into view. After a long drive just this sight got us excited and so, with 2.5 hours of daylight left, we figured we might as well climb a route or 2 . We were the only people there.
One of the reasons the Aretes is such a great sport climbing crag is its accessibility. Only a two minute hike from the parking separates you from the Visions Wall/Paisano Buttress and you only need maybe 10 minutes to get to the Upper Shooting Gallery. We warmed up on an 11a in the Visions Wall which was quite a fun route with some spacey bolting that got my head into the game. Gabriel, as I had anticipated, was naturally drawn to the Paisano Buttress, which is a short but very steep section of the wall that houses the hardest climbs that the Aretes has to offer- from 5.12d to 5.14a. He was eyeing a short 5 bolt 12d that he got on.
The route looked fun but I didn’t feel nearly warmed up enough to even give it a go so I tried a 12b that was exactly the opposite style- slabby as hell. I don’t know why I did this because in general a 12b slab sounds absolutely heinous- and this was no exception. The route was unspectacular and featured an incomprehensible crux that I wasn’t able to get through.
As the sun was setting we headed out to set up camp. Since the Aretes are located in National Forest land, you can camp literally wherever you want for free. There are some nice flat spots that are cleared out and we chose one that is right next to the trail and features a a pre-made fire pit. We made a legit dinner in our dutch oven and fell asleep to the sounds of frogs and crickets underneath a starry sky.
Day 2 brought a full day of climbing. We went up to the Lower Shooting Gallery to warm up on a 10c and a 30meter 11a , Gold Rush, which I wrote about during my last blog and called one of the best 5.11a’s I’ve done in California; I don’t take this back, the route was even more spectacular the second time. The Shooting Gallery is essentially a gully that has two rock faces on either side – the Gallery itself and another climbing wall called the Tower of Babel. It is split up into two main sections- the lower and upper shooting gallery. To access the routes in the upper gallery you have to hike up to the top of it, which takes at most 10 minutes. When you are there you can go down as far as Gold Rush. A nice via ferrata is installed to offer some safety as you slide down the gully to get to the lower routes. However, once you hit Gold Rush- and a nicely built ledge- if you want to access the routes below you must either rappel off of some rings or hike back up and down.
The Shooting Gallery gets its name from the fact that rock fall is very much an issue in this area, both from the routes themselves and also just from hiking down the gulley you can easily rain rocks down below on anyone climbing in the upper shooting gallery. Since the gully is situated in between two rock walls, any rock that falls will hit off of one wall and bounce on the other (hence the name “shooting gallery”) so it makes it hard to predict just where the rock is going. This is very dangerous and I actually got hit by a decently sized block (read on) though I was lucky and it only scraped my foot. Helmets are mandatory.
Afterwards we made our way down to the Visions wall and ended up both trying a classic 10 bolt 12d climb called Paisano Direct. This route is beautiful. It starts off with some reachy, overhung moves on good holds until you get a two-finger pocket and you have to make a fairly large move to a crimp. This was the crux of the route , according to the guide book, anyways, and Gabriel and I were working it for awhile.We also tried a 12a that both of us got very close to sending. I gave it 2 goes and fell on my second go because I made a noob mistake : I focused so much on remembering the sequence for the crux that I forgot how to do the bottom ,easier half that I on-sighted the first time. I got through it but wasted too much energy and was gassed by the time I reached (and fell off of) the crux. I considered giving it a third go but the rock was very abrasive andI decided to save my skin for another go on Paisano Direct.
That night we found another campsite, this time a bit more secluded. We made a bomb-ass dinner and watched Amores Perros on Gabirel’s laptop.
The plan for Friday was to climb a full day and then head over to Arcata, a small town on the coast around 1 hour away. We were planning on spending the night at my friend Corrina’s place and then going on a rest-day hike through the redwoods on Saturday with Corrina. When we arrived in Arcata that night Corrina was still at work so we walked around the marsh a little bit. It was nice to be somewhere that wasn’t 95 degrees outside- I was even wearing my down vest!
We slept in, made some oatmeal, and headed over to the Redwoods State Park to do a nice 9 mile loop that Corrina had picked out for us. Gabriel and never seen redwoods before, or elk.. or bears… so we had a lofty goal to see all three on this trip.
Elk, check. There were plenty along the road right in front of the park.
Bears- stay tuned…
On the way back we devised our dinner plans that we had hatched out that morning- we were going to try the whole bake an egg in an avocado pit recipe that has been all over social media lately. Honestly, it wasn’t as life-changing as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t half bad. The sensation of eating warm avocado was, I will admit, a little strange.
Gabriel and I had to leave the next day by 3 PM ,so we decided to head back to the Aretes after our dinner and spend the night there so we could at least get a half day in. Gabriel wanted to try the 12d we had been working on, Paisano Direct again and I wanted to try to give a good on-sight go to a 12b route called Whiplash which evidently is the undisputed classic of the area.
As we were getting ready we heard some rustling near our camp-site and low and behold a Black Bear was only maybe 20-30 feet from us! So, black bear… check!
As we were climbing the gully to do Whiplash I noticed there were some climbers in the Upper Shooting Gallery. This could be dangerous since, as I mentioned, climbers in the upper gallery very often will rain rock-fall down on climbers in the Lower Shooting Galery, where Whiplash was located. I didn’t think it would be a huge issue if I just notified them of our presence and we wore helmets. So, I Did and they said they would yell if anything dislodged. Just as I’m getting ready to start we hear “ROCK!!” and I see a rubix cube sized rock come barreling toward us. I dodge where I Think it’s going but, like the idiot I am, I forgot about the “shooting gallery” characteristic of the “shooting gallery” and the rock bounced off the wall and scraped my ankle. It hurt like a bitch, but I was okay. Just a scrape and some bruising. I gave out quite a loud scream, though, which probably scared the other climbers shitless. I let them know I was fine but I felt terrible for having put them in that shitty situation. I apologized and now I have a new rule (which should have been the original rule to start with, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way) – do not climb in the upper or lower shooting gallery if there are people already climbing below/above you. Gabirel was in a nice, safe belay spot, though and I decided to climb anyways because I was essentially ready and would be safe the moment I started climbing. So, I did and found the route to be incredibly beautiful, warranting its reputation of “area classic”. I got through the beginning of the crux, which featured a powerful move off of two very, very shallow crimps to a good hold (though you can’t tell if it is good or not and have to throw for it, essentially, so it is committing). My feet cut here and I pasted them back on calmly and cooly, clipping only to fall in the next move because I read it wrong. I Figured that move out but then got perplexed by the last section of the crux, which thinned out dramatically. I gave it quite a few goes, whipping off of it a few times but never sending that section. I’m pretty sure I know the beta, though, and am definitely going to give it another try if I end up in the aretes again this summer.
Gabriel tried Paisano Direct one last time and got the closest he had ever gotten before. So, in the end neither of us ended sending much on this trip but we sure gave it our all, which in the end is the most important thing. By the time 2 rolled around we made some lunch and coffee and hit the road for our 4 hour back to Davis, and reality.
Here are some more photos from the trip