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multipitch

Photos of the Chief near Squamish, British Columbia Canada taken in May 2016.

The granite dome dubbed as “The Chief” hides half of its 700m height on a cloudy day in Squamish, BC, Canada.

“Impossible to go on, impossible to descend impossible to stay where he is. […] With cheek and ear pressed against the canyonland bedrock he feels, hears, shares the beating of some massive heart, a heavy murmur buried under mountains old as Mesozoic time. His own heart. A heavy thick remote and subterranean thumping sound. The fear”

-Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang

 

Over the past year I have been pushing aside and ignoring the subtle yet ever-present and stubborn goal of mine to improve at traditional climbing. My excuses were plentiful; I did not have the time to go out to trad crags to improve, I didn’t have the money to gather up a proper rack, what little trad I have done made me good enough (5.8 leader…) for some basic alpine objectives, and crack climbing hurts. In reality, becoming a competent trad leader is a central and essential skill I knew I would have to learn if I were ever to achieve my larger, long-term and more complex goal of becoming a strong and well-versed rock climbing goddess. (Okay, maybe not a goddess.. but just a half decent all-around climber). I want to be able to ascend a feature using a variety of techniques and skills that could only have been garnered by years of experience on different types of rocks and in different styles. My resumé with sport climbing wasn’t so bad, but was seriously lacking with traditional climbing. The fact of the matter is, trad climbing is the TICKET to the alpine, the ticket to some bigger mountains and objectives, and no truly well-rounded rock climber should lack in the ability to utilize a good hand-jam in a splitter crack. I was scared, though. I was scared to fall on gear, scared to take the leap and hesitant to push my trad grade the way I had my sport grade. As the final month of my trip was approaching, though, I knew I would not be able to call it a success if I didn’t spend a concentrated amount of time exploring and growing in this discipline. So, I got my passport and headed to Canada.

I apologize to any non-climbers who have found this blog, because this is a particularly jargon heavy post.

 

 

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Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) blooming in front of the Monument crags at Smith Rock. By mid April these guys were everywhere.

 

I really thought I botched it. Instead of smoothly locking off to clip the second bolt, I hesitated, used some different hand holds, pasted my feet onto things I had never used before, and then I clipped it. “Shit” I thought. I was right about to embark on the  hardest part of “Darkness at Noon”, Smith Rock’s first 13a, and I was already screwing up. If there was any room for error, that was it. I had to climb the rest of the route flawlessly if I wanted to have a shot at it. The crisp morning had already given way to what would be a warm afternoon, with the temperatures seemingly elevated in the little “solar oven” created by the opposing rock faces on either side of me. “Why the hell am I doing this in the sun?” I thought. Looking up, I saw about 25 more meters of unrelentingly hard technical rock climbing that lay ahead. I shook out on a bad pocket for a moment, refocused and forged onward.

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Following my partner on the second pitch “Drifting” (11c) on the Jet Stream Wall in Red Rocks. Photo by Harrison Teuber

 

“The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.”

Cormac McCarthy- All the pretty horses

Over the past three weeks I’ve ran along ridges in the desert, boulder-hopped through pristine canyons and slept under the stars. I’ve been 500 ft up on a clean sandstone face whimpering above some gear and took whippers off of pre-hung draws on limestone. I’ve seen big-horn sheep, had a kestrel fly by me on a hanging belay and have walked through what seemed like endless desert valleys flooded with the yellow hue of wildflowers. Above all, I’ve met excellent, genuine people with whom I’ve adventured, shared dinner and sung around a campfire.

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“Danas penji, sutra stenji – Climbing today, suffering tomorrow”- climbing quote which originated in Paklenica National Park

 

While visiting family, drinking an excess amount of bosanska kafa and traveling the countryside with my Dad was plenty fulfilling and entertaining, thoughts of my next destination were lingering in my mind, feeding off of my growing excitement…

I was itching to head to Paklenica National Park in Croatia to go climbing on the massive limestone walls that up to this point I had only seen in pictures.

Now I have  some pictures (and stories) of my own to share…

Photos of Paklenica/Anica Kuk

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Accidents in the mountains are less common than in the lowlands, and these mountain mansions are decent, delightful, even divine, places to die in, compared with the doleful chambers of civilization. Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain-passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. – John Muir

 

In Tuolumne Meadows, there are no shortage of routes available to the motivated climber. Three of these routes make up what is known as the “Triple Crown”- Tenaya Peak, Cathedral Peak, and Matthes Crest. All three routes get you above 10,000 ft. for a moderate grade, and all are unique in their own way. The strongest and quickest climbers try to link them up in a day, which is an ambitious task. Emmanuel and I wanted to climb all of them, but honestly thought we would have to pick one or two of them. Well, turns out we didn’t.

Our plan was to head into Tuolumne from Lone Pine, sleep outside of the park and then climb Tenaya on Thursday morning. After Tenaya we planned to try to get a permit to backpack into Echo Lakes on Friday. As Cathedral Peak and Matthes Crest are about 2 miles from another (and both close to Echo Lake), many link the two routes in two days by backpacking to Echo Peaks. This lets you avoid having to hike back and forth and also to sneak in some backpacking in the middle of climbing two classics.

So, in three days we climbed the three most prolific “easy” routes in Tuolume meadows, Here, then, is what happened along the way…

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If I know only one thing, it’s that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I’m tongue-tied and dizzy and I can’t keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?
And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues

The colors are what strike you first when you peer up at Laurel Mountain; a dazzling array of crimson red, slate, brilliant white and dark gray sit in neat horizontal patches like methodically placed paint brush strokes.  At a height of 11,818 feet (3,602 m) Laurel Mountain creeps up above Convict Lake in the High Sierras. The mountain, like any other, is no laughing matter nor is it a walk in the park, but most people come here more for the adventure than for the technical difficulty. There is not a move above 5.2 and most of it is fourth class. However, the route, dubbed “Northeast Gully” asks the climber to contend with nearly 1 mile of vertical gain. Due to its low grade, most people, including us, free-solo this route.

Photo by E. Léger

Photo by E. Léger

 

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While we had a blast ticking off lots of 3-4 pitch moderates at Lover’s Leap, what Emmanuel and I were really psyched on was going to do long, easy , committing routes that sumitted substantially tall peaks. Emmanuel already had a bit of experience doing this, but the most intense thing I’d ever done in that category was Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne the prior summer… and I followed the entire thing. So, I had only one way to go- up! (pun intended)

We made a list of routes we thought we might like to try with the help of Peter Croft’s “The Good, the Great and the Awesome” and Supertopo’s second edition of the High Sierra Climbing guidebook.

One of the most classic and easiest routes in the High Sierra is Crystal Crag. Crystal Crag is situated right above the Mammoth Lakes Basin and gets you above 10,000 ft but with very minimal commitment. The approach is way shorter than most in the guidebook (45 min) and there are only three pitches. It can easily be done in half a day. For someone totally new to the whole mountaineering realm, it seemed like a great way for me to get my feet wet.

View of the Mammoth Lakes Basin from the North Summit of Crystal Crag- check out the white  chunk of crystal rock!

View of the Mammoth Lakes Basin from the North Summit of Crystal Crag- check out the white chunk of crystal rock!

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