Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Matilija Wildflowers

I've never claimed to be a student of local botany, bird identification, or geology, but after a day like today I wish I knew a bit more about the local ecology. I wish I could identify the flowers and birds I saw, especially the wood-pecker. He had black/white wings with a red crest.

Matilija Canyon is most definitely in spring and the flowers are out. Color is everywhere. The birds are out and chirping. Butterfly's flit from one bloom to another. Turtles and water-snakes bask in the sun. I saw my first rattler of the season, a feisty little pacific diamondback.

The water in the creek is running high thanks to a wet winter. The recent storms have changed the course of the stream in places. The Green pool, once long and open, is now divided by a rock-fall, and the west falls upper pool now has a beach.

Warm 70's breezes and a baptism in brisk water, after which I spent a couple of hours lounging in the sun. Not a bad way to round out the day.
I know there are alot of pictures here, but hey, it was a photogenic day. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mammoth Getaway

Mammoth: where to start? It's big, real big. It has an epic amount of every type of terrain for every taste. Most of the runs are easy, and short, which kind of bugs me. A fair amount of logistics are required to link up several runs into one nice, long ride. As for the terrain, Mammoth has an abundance of steeps and trees and miles of cruiser runs. As you can see in the photo below, this is spring which means that the steeps and the summit are as hard-packed as concrete. The spring conditions also kept me out of the trees until late in the day as the snow is all chunked up and coated in a layer of fast and hard ice. Early attempts at tree riding were a reeducation in ice-boarding.
By late morning the snow was loosening up and the day got better. The temps were strictly a spring climate: warm with breezes at the top. As the ice softened we were able to get off the runs and into the trees. Fun stuff.
I am impressed with the system of lifts that make getting around the mountain very straight foreword. By the end of 2 days we had ridden every lift that Mammoth operates, which means that Ruth and I: a.) rode hard, and b.) rode most of the mountain. Also, the scenery, which includes Mt Ritter, Banner Pk, and the Minarets (below), rivals Mt Baker WA and Copper Mountain CO.

I have to admit that not coming up here to board has been a bit stupid (there, I said it Rob). It's a drive, and expensive, but it is relatively close to home and I will also say that I liked Mammoth better than any of the Tahoe resorts, which makes this the place to be if one stays in California. Also, I could tell immediately that this is the type of place that really shines after a good powder dump. The amount of tree terrain that would need tracks really got me thinking about how it would be to ride this place in knee-deep pow. We'll be back.
By the way, as you can see in the pictures below, Ruth and I were able to find runs that were weekender free.

The Big Stuff

Ah, the Big Stuff. The East Side. Visions of toiling up miles of talus, searing UV, glacial crossings, and an endless scramble which finally terminates on an indifferent summit. The high and dry Eastern Sierra. My favorite mountains.
On this weekend's drive up and down the 395 I was able to pull out and shoot some pics of this amazing landscape. I paid special attention to two fourteeners which I will be reattempting in June: Middle Palisade and Split mountain. Dave Rivas and I got pasted by a week of bad weather on last year's try and although we made a good account of ourselves, we still owe ourselves these summits. Above, the Minarets, Mt Ritter {in clouds} (which we climbed in '06), and Banner Peak. Below, Convict Lake.
Below are photos of three peaks we intend to climb in June. The first shows Middle Palisade, a massive fourteener which we will climb via the East Face (Class III). To Middle Pal's right stands Norman Clyde Peak. NClyde is not a fourteener, however, it is a serious climb to the summit. Named for the gentleman who became synonymous with hard first ascents in the Eastern Sierra, the easiest route we could pick to climb the peak will require a rope in some places, and especially on the descent. Norman Clyde Peak will be a third priority because we are really after the 14ers but would likely be the more challenging of the three peaks we will attempt. On the bottom is Split Mountain, another massive dose of mountain. We will attempt this peak via the St. Jean Couloir which is the prominent gully in the sun, center right of the summit. This is mostly a snow climb but may require a rope and some gear in places. This is the plan, man. Take two.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Exercise Under Blue Skies

Okay, I'm about tired now. And sore. About once a week Ruth and I run the Arroyo Verde Park trail (about 3 miles). So we went on Thursday and again today. In addition we ran (walked) up to Ventura's Two Trees (above), a local landmark. This is a pretty burley, and thankfully short, trail up a steep little coastal hill. It's a great view of town, the coast, the inland mountains, and the islands. Added to a full day of climbing on Friday, and yesterday's orgyastic buffet of cardiovascular exertion (Topa Topa Peak), today was the musculo-skeletal piece de resistance. So, yeah...I'm sore. Good thing I can chill until Thursday rolls around.

Just a note regarding our too brief SoCal spring. As you can see in many recent photos spring is upon us and the flowers are blooming, but what the pictures cannot describe for you is the "smell" of spring. An explosion of plant growth occurs in the local hills at this time of year and with it comes a boquet of smells that's unique. The smells of sage and flowers, weeds, thistles, grasses combine in a slightly humid aroma that can't really be described. Soon our spring will stretch into an early and dry summer, taking all these lovely smells with it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Those Geezers Can Hike! Topatopa 03/13/10

Damn if it didn't finally happen! The Geezer Hike got off the ground. I must state that I give a healthy dose of respect to these guys and they give me great hope for the future. They dusted the Topa Topa trail in under 3.5 hours to the top with style. Cliff (58) kept telling Rick (59) and Jack (56) funnies like, "Oh, this is where it gets steep.", or staring up the peak said "It gets flat here.". Yeah, right. But what a great day. It started off cool with scattered low clouds and warmed a bit as we gained elevation. Near the summit the clouds would butt up against the bluffs but a brisk wind kept them off the top. A nice lunch break on the summit was a great break. We stopped to check out the falls below White Ledge Camp on the way down. The falls were in good shape. After that it was the usual long ground-pounding descent to the truck. These guys did great. Good company too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting Some Rope Time

I know it's been 2 weeks since my last outing, but I've been a busy guy. So now I've got two days to do stuff. Davi Rivas suggested getting on a rope, so that's what we did. We climbed Ending Crack at Sespe Gorge for a warm up. So nice, hanging at the end of that first pitch, in the sun, leaning back on the anchors, listening to the creek. That is, I think, the thing I enjoy most about any rock climbing I do these days: the quiet.

After rapelling down we headed up the road to tick a few sport-climbs on the Potrero John Wall. There Davi led several 5.10 face routes. I let him take the sharp end because I'm still babying that pesky biceps tendon that I tore 6 months ago. With a liberal tape job I was able to follow for him. I was pleased enough with my technique and it was a fun day on the rock. Enjoy the view of Mt. Reyes (above).
Tomorrow: The long dealyed Geezer Hike.