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Sierras

 

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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In 1941 the city of Los Angeles drained the Owens River in the Eastern Sierras  to divert water to the San Fernando Valley and to provide electricity to homes near L.A. Beginning in 1991 a court ruling allowed for releases from the dam to dewater the drained reach and restore riparian habitat, as well as establish a brown trout sport fishery.  Around the same time, in 1988, the first bolted route in the Gorge was put up and sport climbing in the Gorge was born. I had heard several times that the Owen’s River Gorge was the most concentrated sport climbing crag in California and was filled with quality, five star routes; however, with the Gorge being 5 hours away from Davis, I’ve never found the opportunity to make the trip. So, for my spring break I decided to go with my friend Gabriel, a Colombian climber who recently moved to Davis to do his PhD and who was itching to get out of Davis and see the Sierras. Vamos!

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