To Do… Done!

Ray left Sunday night, and after floating in Mono Lake on Monday after work I met up with another SNAP member Bryan, who would be hiking Mt. Whitney with me. On Thursday at 10:24am we were the tallest people in the continental US. I now have ‘hike Mt. Whitney’ checked off my new To Do in 2012list hanging prominently in my 70’s wallpapered room.

From the Summit of Mt. Whitney; V, Kelly, Bryan and Casey

On Tue. after work we met with Casey and Kelly, two enthusiastic volunteers from ESLT and drove to Whitney Portal to camp at 8,000 ft. Wednesday morning we “scenic hiked” our way up 4,000 ft. past guardian trees and landscapes that make beautiful seem plain.

Casey and Kelly

I ripped open the wag bag around Consultation Lake and later we set up camp under a blue blue sky.

Arrived Trail Camp 2:30pm, bedtime in 4 hours

I snapped many a photo, including some professional looking ones that I got lucky with at twilight at our second night camp – Trail Camp at 12,000ft.

twilight at Trail Camp

Our slow steady tick tack of hiking poles got us there by 2:30pm, plenty of time to prepare a salmon quinoa dinner a la jet boil stove while watching the sun set behind the wall of rock we would be on top of the next morning. 5am came early, but welcoming, and I captured a few shots of the sun rising through the V of the mountain walls before we undid our marmot proofing of all things smelly and loaded up a pack with materials for the ascent.

Casey makes this look easy

The “99 switchbacks” were not as painful as anticipated, but at one sketchy point near the cables where the rocks were slicked over with ice Kelly sat down and did not want to continue. She and Casey decided to wait to see if she changed her mind and Bryan and I pushed upwards.

On the edge of the world

At trail crest we took goofy, celebratory shots marveling at the epic vistas on both sides of the granite ridge. The 4 windows were some of my favorite places in the Sierra, looking out over everything – a slice of clarity amongst a focused mission. They reminded me of a quote on my vision board “At 10,000 ft. you also get a beautiful view of who you are.” We summitted (which apparently is not a word) at 10:24am, #8 and #9 that day and after Bryan finished giving Whitney a golden shower we ate some tortillas, took ridiculous videos and slapped a few high fives. The only thing that could have made it better happened – Kelly and Casey showed up. We enveloped them in a group hug and everything felt right, and cold. The thermometer read in the 40s but the wind chill made me second guess its accuracy.

Bry-the-man!

We flew down, chatting without gasping. At Trail Crest Bryan and I decided to put the ice axes we had hauled up to use and we glissaded down a snow gully. Glissade (verb) – to incur wedgies of epic proportion while digging an ice axe and your heels into the snow; also, a mountaineer’s version of a water slide engineered by Mama nature. We thought we would save a lot of time on the descent by glissading, but we did not take into account that we would have to cross a boulder field at the bottom. We saved about .5 an hour and “99 switchbacks” of downhill on our knees, which would experience 17 miles and 8,000 ft. of elevation change by the end of the day. We packed up and started the trudge down, down down. This might be oen of the only hikes I’ve ever done where the descent seemed longer than the ascent. The last 3 miles took about an hour and 31+ lbs on my back became uncomfortable around Lone Pine Lake. Bryan and I chowed on some burritos from my new favorite taco truck and we uploaded the great photos on facebook.

For those so inclined we have provided a side dish of dirty jokes to go with your read:

-       Whitney was hard to get on top of, but totally worth it

-       I could hardly stand after doing Whitney yesterday

-       It felt so good to slide down Whitney

I look forward to when Bryan uses one of these lines on a chick named Whitney he meets at a bar.

That’s Bike-able?

The following weekend was action packed with bike riding down boulders, a tire party on the CA/NV border and an L.E.D jumprope and a hike from Lake Sabrina to Lake George with a missing solar eclipse… WHAT?

We survived Rock Creek – with minimal scrapes and bruises

One of my awesome friends from SNAP, Ray, came to visit me. I took him to family pizza night on Friday and we woke up early-ish Saturday to go to rock creek. We tried to climb, but without a guide book we ended up scrambling up to the wall face and enjoying the view before braving skin-eating willows across the creek and back to the car, recently dubbed The Silver Phoenix. We decided to opt for the clearly marked bike trail through the canyon, and had such a blast on the first half we decided to go for the perilous 2ndhalf which was rumored to be technical and EXTREME.

What a B.A! 

The rumor was not wrong, and the constant adrenaline helped us go down pumous crevasses, over broken shale walls and over rocks I didn’t know my bike could ride over. Ray flew off his handlebars a few times and I went crotch first into mine. We both agreed mine was worse, but luckily no one was really injured. The views were amazing and the constant gurgle of rock creek next to us contradicted the intensity of the ride. Yet it was nothing compared to the 5.3 mile slog up Rock Creek Rd. back to the car.

We made a mandatory food stop at the Taco truck and we chatted with the owners for an hour as we inhaled burritos de barbacoa y al pastor y 2 vasos de horchata.

Half of the Classic V pose

It was perfect, and the food baby it produced was well worth the $5. We rallied to go to my friend SP’s Tire Party at his property near the CA/NV border. We arrived to a dirt road entrance as the sun was setting and Connie’s friendly husband was finishing his ?? beer and revving his 4×4 Rhino’s engine. We grabbed our packs and jumped into Mo’s wild ride up 60 degree grades that put the Disney Indiana Jones ride to shame. We ended up in the middle of a community of outdoor folk w/ 4×4’s, tents and a table of amazing food, a fire getting roaring and a bluegrass band just starting to strum.

The road down from SP’s beautiful property

The keg of fat tire had already been tapped as Ray and I found a semi-flat spot to set up the tent. I learned that 3.14 = P1.E spelled backwards – AWESOME nerdy tidbit of the day, and that LED jumpropes attract kids and adults alike. The next morning we hiked back to Ray’s civic and went for a hike near Bishop Pass.

He taught me a bunch of new plants such as the Western White Pine tree, which looks like a sugar pine with smaller cones, and typically has needle clumps of 5.

The Stereotypical Sierra shot, Lake George

A Slabby Ladder to the Sky

The Great White Book, a zoomed in crack shot

A 7-hour climbing trip is a great way to break up the ride from S. Lake Tahoe to Bishop. On Sunday after training I checked off one of my 2 summer climbing goals – to do a multi-pitch route (the other is to lead climb). My legs tangled over the third pitch belay point, a three inch flake in the rock which is considered a solid spot by rock climbing standard.

I looked out over Tanaya lake of Yosemite, half dome shining in the distance and toy cars zipping across the highway 700ft. below.

Really, why couldn’t Yosemite be more beautiful?

The great white book is a 4-5 pitch 5.6 route which relies on pushing your body against a chimney to get a purchase for the slabby feet. (Translation: a relatively easy route up a huge piece of granite that’s slightly less than 90 degrees). Kiara was cool and graceful, as always, and led one 40+ ft. runout pitch with hardly any pro. I tried not to focus on the long tumble down as I had to simul-climb the last 50ft.  to the top, nor as I walked down the backside on things that would have terrified me if not for the sticky rubber soles. Modern rock climbing shoes were a great invention.

Thanks Kiara!

Peanut Butter and, yes that’s right, Carrots

I’m about to turn on the faucet of words to briefly (somewhat) succinctly resupply the drought of words from the last few weeks in the next few blogs.

Dad, Elyse and the Pheebmeister on Pine Creek Trail

My Dad and Elyse visited me in early May, and left on a Tue. Morning after one of the most epic sunsets yet, and I plunged into Eastern Sierra Land Trust’s May Madness.

Epic Sunset from The Pit Campground, Bishop CA

I had events Tue., Wed., Thur., Sat. and Sunday and while I’d rather not recount all of them here they all went well. On Sunday night I found myself camping by myself at Benton Hot Springs, soaking in a marble inlaid tub watching the stars brighten in the night. I drank wine and read “A Natural History of the Senses” by Diane Ackerman (indeed indulging my sense whilst doing so) from the cradle of the tub, then dried off and laid my sleeping bag out under the stars. I was jerked out of sleep with the moon’s spotlight drilling past my beanie into my eyes and shivering the 2am windy air. I groggily moved into the back seat of the car and slept(ish) another 3 hours before giving up and driving home to Bishop with the sunrise.

Skeleton of the moon at 6:30am driving home to Bishop

After a brief nap I forced myself up and climbed a few routes with Todd at the Owens River Gorge that made me feel strong, confident, and then utterly destroyed on a 10b. I would have rather reunited with my bed, but I mustered the energy and music to start the 3.5 hour drive to South Lake Tahoe. I caught up with Tony and Kristen and we jumped on their backyard trampoline until I was absorbed by their green couch, which feels as cozy as a favorite Aunt’s house.

A group that randomly breaks into song:

The next week of SNAP training in Coloma, CA (hence the carpool with SNAPpers in S. Lake) was like an adult summer camp mixed with an inmate crew. Our AmeriCorps team gets along like peanut butter and carrots: active, funny, intelligent people that might not seem to pair at first glance but when mixed produce an undeniable goodness. We spent most mornings and afternoons testing our body’s antihistamine production and sun sensitivity by pulling weeds in fields filled with pollen or digging a trail under the intense 90+ degree temps of the Coloma sun. Allergy meds were in high demand and our skin absorbed 1 lb. of sunscreen each. In the afternoon we would return to our riverside campground and take turns plunging into the icy flow that we had been dreaming about all day but suddenly turned colder when our toes actually touched the water. The river counted as our shower for the day and we would settle into an afternoon and evening of hilarious under-talented volleyball games that exercised our jaw muscles from smiling and laughing more than any other body part. We split into teams to cook dinner and each group prepared delicious concoctions that never produced many leftovers. All in all a great way to unwind from a busy last month and to reconnect with the fantastic group of people I can now all call my friends.

The Pro-generalist

“Life without change is boring.”

I recently came across the concept of the pro-generalist, someone who excels at numerous sports but isn’t quite a professional in any one activity. Mammoth and Bishop are teeming with them (I may even be so bold and say ‘us’). The 5.12 climbers in the spring who become fantastic triathletes in the summer and probably teach yoga or jiu jitzu on the side before they start winter back country skiing or boarding down treacherous chutes and ravines. These incredible athletes are not quite “pros” at any one sport, because to get to that level you have to focus and sacrifice other activities to perfect that chosen life path. The pros lose some fun and freedom for fame. Our society idolizes the pro-athletes, but what about the equally impressive pro-generalist? There is no decent living wage for someone who shines at a lot of sports, but there’s plenty of sponsors if you’re a superlative: The best freeskier, the fastest marathoner, the strongest, etc.

Why is our culture so obsessed with -‘ests‘? When someone asks who you are and you respond with a one word answer (doctor, environmentalist, mother) think of how much you’re limiting yourself. It’s time to return to the celebration of the Renaissance person who can cook good meals, run in the morning, bike during lunch, climb after work, configure a GPS  before dinner for the upcoming backpacking trip and fix a bike tire all within a  24 hour period. Those are the people I would choose to be stuck on a desert island with, or a desert in general. Say, isn’t Bishop a…