Monday, September 30, 2013

Whitney in a day and a shot at Mt Muir

I went to the East Side to climb Mt Muir. What I got was a taste of the coming winter, that and the summit of Whitney.
Not what you want to see when you're going up there. The East Side, from Lone Pine.
  Mt Muir is considered by the Sierra Club to be one of California's fifteen 14,000 summits. It is the first real prominence north of Trail Crest on the Whitney Trail, and the 300+foot scramble to the summit goes at a steep and exposed Class III. Regarding my failure to reach the top of Muir I will simply say that Class III is Class III until it's not, and in this case having two inches of powder snow on every climbing surface tipped my risk-reward ratio into the red. I spent a good hour fifty feet under the summit, trying to find a way. Rats. I'll just have to come back when it is snow-free. I gave up and went over to Whitney for some summit time.

My day on the trail went well, routine, unremarkable. It's a big, long day. Everybody knows this. My total time on trail came to 13:20. I think this was my 12th time on Whitney and 7th or 8th time on summit. 

Whitney Trail at the JMT
Where I got stalled and gave up on Muir.
Sure it's Class III, just not with snow all over it. Mt Muir.
Wind blown snow, Whitney Trail

Ice sickles on prayer flags, the Smithsonian Hut.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Desert Trippin'

Sunset on the desert

Ruth and I bolted out to the desert for the weekend, one night spent in the reputedly therapeutic mineral baths of Desert Hot Springs (DHS is where we met, 13 years ago. Yup, first time I laid eyes on my wife she was in a bikini. [insert shit-eating grin]) and a second night up the road in Joshua Tree, a place we know well.

Amniotic weather. Barking ravens, hushed owl tones. The schizoid yipping of coyotes at dusk. Dr Seuss trees twisting in hi-contrast silhouettes against hard pastels . Bitter tea honeyed. Scents of chamisa and mesquite, creosote. Flickering firelight cast on warped boulders. Diamond shards ripple and flash across the northern sky. Amorphous rock blobs respire, silver in the pale moon light.
Then a silence so pure it must be a dream.
JTree. Used to be a card carrying resident, but then I grew up.

The textures of the desert.

Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch. This is a year round spring.
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch, main house.
Desert Queen Ranch
Bill Keys left his mark on this land.
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Desert Queen Ranch
Sunset in the Hi-Desert
The remains of this old stone cabin lie above the Silver Queen Mine.
Heavy monsoon rains the previous week had awakened millions of tiny yellow desert flowers.
Spiny. Venomous. Disastrous to pets and humans alike.
The North American Jumping Cholla (pronounced "Choya").
You haven't lived until you've spent most of a night, beer in one hand and pliers in the other, sucking on a cigarette under the lantern light while  pulling a passel of cholla needles out of your friend's leg,
your very inebriated and unlucky friend.
Ocotillo on the desert.
Hi-Desert Empty

More photos at: Flickr

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How Raven Stole the Sun

This is an inset from a fantastic painting depicting Raven Stealing the Light,
by Todd Jason Baker.

Though there are many versions of this Haida origin tale, the differences between them are minor and the overall similarities are generally consistent. Here is the version I was first introduced to.

In the beginning the world was shrouded in total darkness.

The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about and bumping into things in the dark.

Eventually Raven came upon the home of an old chief who lived alone with his daughter. Using his slyness and stealth, Raven learned that the old chief possessed a great and special treasure. The chief had hidden away the Light of all the universe in a tiny box concealed within many other boxes.

Raven wanted the Light for himself, and at once he began planning how to steal it.

Only after much time and devious calculation did Raven arrive at a plan. He waited until the old chief's daughter came to the river to gather water. Raven changed himself into a single hemlock needle and cast himself into the river just as the girl was dipping her basket in the water.

As she drank from the basket, the chief's daughter swallowed Raven in this form. The hemlock needle slipped and slithered down into her warm belly where Raven transformed himself again, this time into a baby human. After sleeping and growing for a very long time Raven emerged into the world once more, now as a human infant.

Despite Raven's strange appearance, the old man came to love him as a grandfather might. The chief was a giving man, but very sternly warned Raven of the dire consequences for touching his most precious treasure, the Light of all the universe, cleverly hidden in a multitude of boxes. As he grew older Raven began to beg his grandfather to be allowed to glimpse and perhaps hold the Light. For a long time the old chief would angrily refuse Raven's persistent demands, but as time went on the chief's resistance was slowly being ground down.

In time the old man yielded to Raven, and he lifted from a tiny box a warm and brightly glowing orb. This sphere he tossed to his grandson.

As the light flew towards him Raven dropped his childish disguise, instantly transforming into a smoky black shadow, wings spread wide in flight, curved beak agape in anticipation. As the glowing orb arced toward him Raven swooped and snatched the Light in his jaws, and with powerful thrusts of his wings he burst through the smokehole in the roof of the old chief's house and escaped into the night with his stolen treasure.

That is how light came into the world.

Here's mine.
I've been working on a highly stylized version of this tale for over three months. The Raven is 5 feet in diameter and is painted in basic acrylic on sheetrock. The painting occupies the south wall of my garage, quite nicely if I dare say. It has been a good meditation for me. This Raven is largely based on a rendition done by Bill Reid, a prolific Haida sculptor and painter. I have borrowed from his design but have made changes that suited my taste and have made this Raven mine. The pines were spray-painted using a single stencil I cut. I have been a stencil artist, sculptor and painter for many years so creating this was a fun challenge, even if getting started was more than a little daunting. Everyone who has seen this painting in person has used one word to describe the Raven's lines: "Clean." I couldn't ask for a better compliment. It was painstaking, eye-straining work. This was painted entirely by hand with the tools shown below. Also, there is a video I made using photo stills taken during the Raven's development, I'd suggest following this link to Vimeo to see the 4.5 minute clip, but only if you're interested.

This may help to understand what you are looking at.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pine Mountain Road has re-opened as of 08/30

Pine Mountain Road finally reopened two days ago. A nice new ribbon of asphalt weaves upward where car eating sink holes and tooth rattling washboard once reigned. Of course the flip side of paving a road is the increased traffic it will soon see. Getting the Prius up the mountain is now not only possible but easily accomplished. No new camp sites, facilities or other amenities have been added and the camping situation there still seems pretty lezes faire as long as you post the Adventure Pass on your vehicle.
So boulderers rejoice, better late than winter for the reopening of our local high country. Somebody needs to bring a new spiral pad up to the Reyes register FWI.
Enjoy some pics from 09/01/13. I went with the Ansel Adams hi-contrast B&W today.