Sunday, May 20, 2018

Recovering - Buttermilks to Vegas

Not much interesting to report. For the past week we've mainly been recuperating from our epic adventure. My period (TMI?) started right after we finished, so I was pretty worn out for a few days. We took it easy, doing a lot of nothing at first, still at the Buttermilks. Of course that couldn't last for too long. One day we tried going to the Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center. Online said it opened at 10am. We arrived at 10:30am and it hadn't opened. We wandered a small trail to a pond with pupfish, wandered back and by 11am it was still not open so we gave up.

Pond with the pupfish

The next day we decided to check out some sport climbing nearby we heard about from another climber at Owens River Gorge. It was a beautiful location by a small river. You had to walk about one mile from the parking area down into the gorge and cross the river for the climbs we did. Again, still in recovery mode here so.. forgive us but we only did to wimpy climbs lol First I lead a 5.6 climb, then Matthew did a 5.7 lead climb. We were going to do more but the next wall we found was way too sketchy to get to, a lot of talus that... at that point we were just not willing to do.

Only photo we got that day of Matthew leading the 5.7

The day after that we were back to bouldering. It was getting pretty hot so we waited until late afternoon to start. My knee has been pretty busted since the backpacking trip so I've been on ibuprofen daily and stretching. So the intent was for just Matthew to boulder and I would spot him... but I couldn't help myself and got on some stuff, only easy things and didn't stress my knee though.

 This was one of the only climbs we could get photos of, the others needed more attention from the spotter.

 It was a nice easy climb, really fun and looks cool lol

I call this the 'look ma no hands!', that's not what the climb is called but it should be. The point is to climb it without your hands, it helps to realize how easily your feet stick to the rock.

We are starting an internship with Earth Knack for the month of June. It's a traditional skills internship you can check out here if you want to know more. It is located in Colorado so we started to make our way in that direction. It has, again, been longer than I care to mention since we bathed. Someone recommended we look into places to stay in Vegas when passing through because you can get some good deals in the middle of the week. A few days with a shower and a/c was starting to sound really good! 

On our way we took a detour to the Creosote Rings Preserve. There's this one creosote ring (a set of bushes roughly in the shape of a ring) called King Clone, that has been dated to be over 9,000 years old! We just thought it would be cool to see. When we were almost there we couldn't take our turn onto the dirt road because of road construction so we went the long way around (this is pertinent info for later in our story). The preserve is just several acres of creosote bushes surrounded by a gate. There is no signage or anything. To find the King clone was easy, thankfully it was very close to the road and on google maps when searching for Creosote rings preserve the gps coordinates are right on King clone. 

Matthew got to do one rep of a squat with Angie on his shoulders to get this shot. Not impressive looking is it? 

Ok, on our way out of this place we had to take a collection of dirt roads to get out. We passed a random man who seemed to be wandering in the middle of nowhere without a car in sight but he seemed fine. We tried to get back to the main road too soon, turned around and went down an iffy wash but something our car could handle. We came across random man again with his Mercedes stuck, really stuck. He had been trying to get around the traffic on the main road and took the same wash we were in... not a good idea for a Mercedes sedan. So, we did our good deed for the day, took about an hour to get him out because we had to pull him up a hill, and in the process we ripped his bumper off! Matthew has learned not to use the bubba rope on sedans and stick to the winch.

Random guy had a buddy on the way... who showed up in a camry... with a tow chain. We definitely saved these guys from themselves, only feel a little bad about the bumper.

That evening we stayed at an awesome campsite in the Mojave National Preserve.

After the sun set and our eyes adjusted to the light from the quarter moon we went on a short walk. In the morning it was hard to leave our campsite, it was a beautiful place and the preserve showcases some amazing biodiversity. On our way out we passed what looked like an informational board. We stopped to see what we might learn about the desert and it was a trailhead! It was a short 3 mile hike to a peak and we didn't have much other than driving planned for the day so we did it. 

 This is the highest density of Joshua trees in the world! Which sounds impressive until you realize Joshua trees only exist in this corner of the world anyway. Only located in patches around the southwest.

 first time coming cross fruit on the joshua tree


 Prickly pear in bloom

Didn't get a good shot from the peak but here it is anyway.

We hit the road for a few hours and arrived at Red Rock Canyon on the west side of Vegas. I wanted to get info from the visitors center about camping buuut we took a wrong turn and ended up on the one way 13 mile scenic drive.... oops. It was early in the day so we rolled with it. It was the weekend so the plan was to hang out and play in Red rock canyon then stay in a hotel for a few days mon-wed. We were looking to hike but saw some people rock climbing! One of the hikes we considered was 11 miles round trip... but most of it was along a 4x4 dirt road then only 1.3 miles on a trail... so naturally we drove down it, then did the 2.6 mile round trip hike.

 Red rocks..

 There was a quarry here in 1905

 working our way down the road.. it was pretty easy for the most part

 At the peak!

It worked out really well, by the time we finished to loop and made it back to the visitors center it was pouring rain. We got the camping info and the campground was too busy (concern of wood and cig smoke) so we headed off anyway to a more secluded place about 45 mins away. 

Sadly due to the pouring rain we couldn't climb at Red Rock. The rock is sandstone and it becomes fragile when wet, not good for the rock or climber as it can break off. So you could get injured and ruin the climb as well. Next order of business was to find alternative climbing! I found a spot closer to where we were camping in the La Madre Range with some sport climbing. It's very hot so we got up 'early' and started climbing around 7:30am. Sadly I got NO photos of us climbing! Which is sad since the limestone is very different from what we've been on and it was an interesting climbing morning. First Matthew did a 5.7 lead climb, that ended up being the hardest climb of the morning. Then after I topped it I climbed to the top of the wall and walked over to a 5.8 and set up a top rope. We did two 5.8 climbs that were next to each other then I set up a top rope for a 5.9+. It was easy to climb up top and there was a single bolt I could use and attach to, then climb down to the bolted anchors to set up for the climb. It was all good until I then climbed back up, undid the single bolt then had to down climb to the anchors... I was basically free climbing at that point.  It was all good until I hit this one loose section of rock I was using as a hold that gave way... I should have checked it. It seemed solid and a nice big hold but a large chunk came out and landed on my legs. Thankfully, I had a good hold with my right hand, and my feet were solid. I gathered my wits, warned Matthew then tossed it as best I could AWAY from the rope. I did the rest of the down climb and was fine. So that was exciting! (sorry mom)

The chunk of rock that landed on me. Carabiner is for scale. The green along the right side is from a barrel cactus it scraped along after it hit the ground and bounced. 

It got too hot to continue climbing by 11am. We called it quits and are now sitting in a nice air conditioned coffee shop. I have a friend moving to the area and she's in town for interview, we are meeting with her and her fiance tomorrow, bathing and enjoying a/c for a few days, then... likely a little more climbing before getting to Colorado friday. We are arriving early to help Robin (the owner) set up for the Earth Knack gathering. Our internship is going to overlap with the week long gathering she is having (similar to others we've been to but smaller). 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Climbing buttermilks and our most Epic Adventure yet!

From Death Valley we made our way to Bishop and more specifically Buttermilk Boulders, for some of the worlds most sought after boulder climbs! The Buttermilks are really rough rock that your shoe just sticks to, it is in a gorgeous location and everyone, I mean EVERYONE we met was super friendly. We spent a week hanging and climbing.

 view of and from out campsite

 Matthew being a badass

 One evening we wandered along some boulders and just jumped on stuff that looked fun, wasn't in or anything

 Me attempting to be a badass lol

rattlesnake!! First time we saw one in two years

Ok, time for the Epic Adventure! We planned a 6 day backpacking trip along Paiute pass, down into evolution valley and up over  Lamarck col on a not maintained trail. A total of about 44 miles. Not many are out in the woods here yet due to the snow so we had limited knowledge of how the conditions would be beforehand. We had a good talk with the rangers in town before heading off. We packed our cramp-ons, ice axes(well Matthew had a homemade alpine stock because... it's Matthew), and snow shoes. Because we would be sleeping at high elevation I also packed a blow up mat to sleep on, it was so much warmer! On to the trip...

Day 1 at the start of the trail, we are so happy and have not idea what we are about to get ourselves into. 

 Once we reached about 9,500' we started to hit the patchy snow spots, at first we got way with just shoes but eventually we put on the snow shoes as there became more snow and less trail

 rest stop by a lake before doing Paiute pass

 working our way across the pass, in cramp on and using my ice axe. This gave me courage for Lamarck which we were told would be harder. The angle was not bad and it felt pretty comfy... I just tried not to look down at where I might fall. We climbed 2,000' that day.

After the pass we made it to a river and a flat spot for camping out. This is the next morning before heading out. It got cold but I was toasty that night. Matthew had it a little worse. He was sleeping in a wool poncho and alpaca fur, which is pretty warm but he was only sleeping on top of a thin cotton canvas cloth he treated to waterproof and a thin foam mat. He's crazy but it works, he didn't lose a any toes. In the morning our shoes were frozen. All the snow conditions, even with waterproof shoes, we had wet feet. Matthew's boots were worse than mine, they had a thick layer of ice on the outside. In the morning we found a nice flatish rock to sit on and soak up some warmth from the sun while we made breakfast. 

 Day 2 started with cramp ons because the snow was still frozen on top. As the day went on it got slushier and we swapped to snow shoes and eventually just our shoes.

This day was full of gorgeous views as we worked out way down into Evolution valley

 This is one of about 5 crossings we did. We were warned by the rangers about the crossing, this was the worst one on this day and it was really not that bad. 

 The trail down was Rough. I mean we are seasoned hikers, we have been doing this for 2 years and it was hard! We did about 10 miles and were wiped out! We dropped from about 10,800' to 8,000' that day, the trail was very rocky.. it's a good thing we have strong ankles, but our knees were getting sore.

Not sure you can really make out the depth in this shot but thought it was a good one of the river with a mountain in the background

 End of day 2

We crossed this bridge over the river and camped only about 100 feet past it in a nice shady spot. This was the best night, it was warm and dry.. only one we got. Since we were by the river and it was warm we took the opportunity to do a quick wash and dried out our wet socks and shoes. 

 Day 3 we thought would be easy, we found that every time we thought something would be easy it invariably was not. The big payoff, aside from feeling accomplished and not dying, were the views.

 It's pretty neat to be hiking along in 60 degree weather and see this.

 more amazing views

 The trail started to get rough before this crossing. The difficulty was the snow covering the trail and making it hard to find our way. We are very grateful for gps. The whole day was also a slow climb. That part wasn't bad, but post holing through snow sucks, we didn't have our cramp ons or snow shoes yet because you have to walk on a lot of trail still inbetween and you start ruining them that way... we did a lot of it anyway but tried to minimize how much. Anywho this was the WORST crossing of the trip. Look at that photo again, do you see how wide that river is? Ok, now think about the fact that the water in that river is made up of snow melt, think of that temperature while doing this crossing. I went for it first because I was going in shoes and Matthew's crazy butt did it barefoot. I was doing well at first, and gradually the cold started to settle into my bones. By the time I made it to the other side I was taking some deep heaving breaths and once out of the water I screamed... twice. I had to take off my socks and shoes and let the blood run back into my all white toes. Matthew made it across barefoot, was uncomfortable once he made it to the other side... but never was on the verge of tears, not fair. 

 Lunch break by the river, we laid out our socks and shoes every time to let our feet breath and go from drenched to damp.

Another pretty view before we made camp. The map we had claimed there was a campsite not far past this spot... it was just a bunch of rocks and limited dry spots. We found a decent site... full of horse poop.. that was the decent site. It was dryish and flatish. I gave in that evening and took some vitamin i  (ibuprofen) before bed. I was really sore that day and had a headache. Our packs were the heaviest they've ever been with the extra winter gear and this was on the the longest trips we've ever done, so more weight from the extra food. Based on how we felt this day we decided to break up the mileage. We ended this day shorter than we were initially planning. The next day we just going to be 3-4 miles, but all climbing up about 1,500'. We figured it would be our 'easy' day... and it mostly was.

 Pretty views as we climbed.

 This is Angie struggling in her natural environment

 just cool

 If you look closely Matthew is at the edge of the river punching through with his alpine stock to get a good spot to refill our water bottles.

 At our initial campsite around noon on a nice warm rock enjoying radioactive snow cones! (lime jello on ice) It was a delicious treat. And then..

We noticed this lovely cloud working it's way across the mountains in the distance and went 'oh crap, we are too exposed here'. Our tarp was pitched on the snow... on badly secured. I turned off the phone for the evening so I don't have the photos of how epic the sky got, the clouds kept getting bigger and scarier. While that was happening we backed up everything, moved near a large rock and dug about two feet into the snow, then pitched the tarp over that. I banged my hand against some ice while shoveling snow with my snow shoe...ouch but nothing broken accept a little skin. Our hope was it would just be windy and that would protect us from it, our other hope was no snow. The next day was the big scary day, Lamarck pass which was 12,800' about. The first pass was only 11,400'. And Lamarck was going to be steeper. The clouds ended up just being a scare, no crazy winds and no snow, thank goodness.

 Taking down the tarp in the morning. We got up early... for us, it was 6:30am. We wanted the snow to be frozen while going over the pass.

 A little messy but it was all ours lol

 First order of business on day 4 was to skirt along four lakes. It was absolutely fine, Matthew checked the lake before while we were walking along it... still a bit nerve wracking for me. We did some scrambling over rocks too depending on the situation so the cramp-ons were going on and off.

 Then the climb... it was a bunch of switchbacking up the snow in our cramp ons for a good mile... a good steep mile.

 Close to the stop we took off the cramp ons and did some class 2 rock climbing to the top.

 Looking out over the other side... hard to tell just how steep it is since it just all looks white... it was intimidating and the snow was starting to soften. When we started down the snow was a mix of slushy soft and ice, and you didn't know from one step to the next what you'd get. Thankfully that didn't last long, it was a much shorter decent on this side of the pass. 

 Joyful and comfy on a much easier section of the decent.

 Matthew with the pass in the background. He is wearing sweater sleeves over his knees because he didn't think about the sunburn he would get from being on the snow. Forgot to mention that from day 1. His face and knees (front and back) were pretty red. His lips were the worst and right now are cracked with dried blood... bad. So he cut his sweater sleeves to cover his knees (heh that rhymed) and used a bandana over his face as much as he could.

 We made it over the treacherous part and were feeling good with only a mile to get to the normal trail back to the car and then... those snow drifts are covering the trail with a shear drop to the right. Seriously? We considered digging but that would take hours... so then we looked at the map and decided to back track a little and go down the valley.. it didn't look too bad and looked safer than this... you know what they say though about looks, they deceive. 

This was the start of the valley we were working down, not bad so far, but you can tell the snow was starting to get soft.

  Things got more interesting here, the snow was more slushy and we were post holing in our cramp-ons. Eventually, we made to the rocks in the distance and did some sketchy scrambling. It made Matthew very unhappy since we were scrambling between slushy snow and boulders... big broken leg risk. We considered going up and along a steep cliff to get to the trail, I vetoed that b.s. and said we are going down, put on your snow shoes. We work well together. The snowshoes worked well for a now snowier section, but even those were sliding around on some steep sections we had to go down, so we were switchbacking in snow shoes, a bit tricky. We managed and made it down. The next step was to make it back to the trail somehow. Looking at the map Matthew said we could climb up over this rocky cliff and maybe have to do it one more time to get to the trail... again I vetoed that idea and said we are staying down here and following the river to the lake that then has a nice flatish terrain to the trail. He gave me attitude saying it was going to be rough and I said bring it mofo, it can't be as bad as the Gila in a skirt, I even have on gaitors! Again, Angie was right and following the river wasn't nearly as bad as he thought it would be. It was actually really fun and not too overgrown.

 We made it down to this lake and there was actually a trail not on the map that took us from here to the main trail back to the car.

 Doing a happy dance once we got to the intersection for the trail back to the car. From here it was about a mile of switchbacks down. Easy breezy. I told him be careful because this is when one of us is going to twist our ankles or something. We didn't.

 The end! 

This is what the mountains looked like that evening, thank goodness we got out when we did, there was precipitation that night and it was below freezing at 4,000', don't even want to know how bad it was where we were.

I am thankful for so many things. We got very lucky with the weather on this trip. Every day was sunny and gorgeous. We made it across some tricky terrain with only some scraps and sunburn. This trip was a combination of type one and type two fun. Type two is when you are in the moment not having so much fun, but when you think back it's like yeah that was awesome lol It was also a big variety... I mean we had various trail conditions, it was backpacking and mountaineering with a little rock climbing. Again, happy not to also deal with a variety in weather conditions. Once we were back in society we were filled with Elated Exhaustion. We split a pizza that left us hungry, then watched a movie and snacked until we passed out into a deep restful slumber. Now we could really use a shower... as usual.