Saturday, October 8, 2016

Steel Crazy

Tara and I have been hearing a lot about a climb at the top of Mt Lemmon called Steel Crazy.  It is a 4-pitch 5.9.  We decided to check it out over Labor Day weekend.  On our first attempt, we failed because we forgot the rope in Tucson.  We ended up finding some climbers who were willing to share ropes with us at the local gnarly spot: Orifice Wall.  These climbs are well beyond our ability level, but the hard parts are at the top so, we climbs as high as we could and then lowered off of the permadraws.

We made it back on Monday, and this time brought our rope!  The first pitch has some fairly scary roof moves, so it took us a while.  For added spice, one of the bolt hangers after a frightening step to the left had decided to fall off.  This was the last bolt for a while, so moving past it and up to the next bolt involved some unwanted run-out.
Tara was not super stoked on the first pitch, but eventually got through it.

After battling the first pitch, Tara was still up for leading the second pitch.  This is one of the best 5.9 pitches I have ever climbed.  It is fairly sustained, steep, with holds just when you need them as well as a few truly tricky moves.
Tara put in a magnificent lead on the second pitch.

The third pitch was also nice, but not quite as steep.  To compensate for the decrease it climbing angle, nature also decreased the size of the holds.  Typical!  The last pitch leads to a nice Mt. Lemmon summit.
Nearing the top of the third.


We got up there late, and were done before dinner.  We packed a picnic that morning, and enjoyed a picnic in the cool evening air at 8,000 ft.  

Exploring Northern Arizona

Tara learned that one of her friends from Nepal would be in the states, and was going to be able to make it to the Grand Canyon.  We decided it would be a good time to make trip to meet her, and see some of beautiful northern Arizona while we were at it.  The timing was going to be a bit off, with a few days on either end of meeting her friend.

In typical form we settled on where we would venture on the way to the destination.  We had our eyes on the West Fork of Oak Canyon, and after chatting with a lady at the visitor center— who meant well, but had very little to add to the conversation other than some rather stale breath— we fairly arbitrarily settled on the West Fork.  The whole area seems beautiful, but West Fork seemed like It had a better chance for catastrophe with what was described as “mandatory swimming.”  We had one dry bag between us, so picked up some 5 gallon ziplocks at the hardware store.  Had we encountered any of this mandatory swimming, all of our stuff in the ziplocks would have been pretty soggy!  Not only do they rip if you look at them wrong, but they don’t really seal.

We hiked the crowded trail for the first three miles, and then proceeded to wade up the creek for the next three miles arriving at the sanctioned camping areas around dark.  The canyon did not disappoint.  It was gorgeous.  We were sad we only had one night to spend in it.

This is very similar to Subway in Zion NP.

Time to get wet!

Xoe had to do a lot more swimming than we did.

A nice spot to camp! Xoe suffers through her breakfast.

We headed up to Williams, AZ the next day thinking we would be meeting with Tara’s friend.  Well, there was some miscommunication, so we ended up seeing her later than we thought, but we had a nice chance to hike up Bill Williams Peak and hang out in the fire lookout tower with the lookout- very friendly individual!

The view from the fire watch tower.  It appears there is a fire.
A quick stop at Dogtown Reservoir
We spend a day visiting the south rim with Archana.

The Grand Canyon is a place you must see in person to appreciate fully.  It is truly mind-blowing every time I visit.

We also were hoping to swing into the Wave.  We assumed the lottery was going be pretty full, and we were right!  90 people had applied the day before, so needless to say there were no leftover permits for that day.

I would describe those cliffs as vermilion.

We visited Pipe Spring National Monument which was an old Mormon settlement where holdout polygamists ran to escape the gu’ment.  They also forced Indian conversions, and overgrazed the valley.  The operation was very impressive.  The patriarch kept his wives in the compound, and reproduced like mad so they had workers who were part of a grand Plan to make cheese and butter and send it to St. George where other Mormons were building a temple.  The folks worked hard!!  The compound held up to 60 people at one point, all part of a single family.
Our fearless guide.  He was taught to never go near this place when he was young.  Indians who went there never came out.

Mormon stove.

Mormon fortress.

Mormon cheese making equipment.

After that we made the 60 mile rally out to Toroweap.  This campground is basically on the rim of the Grand Canyon, but it takes a strong effort to get out there.  We went on a nice hike, and visited the overlook.  It rained now and then.

Sure is pretty!

Tara braves the winds at the overlook, and manages to look relaxed.

Checking out Lava Falls.  Not so dramatic from up here.

We also hiked up Mt Trumbull which was pleasant.  We dilly dallied at the top, and consequently got caught in a hail storm.  We huddled under a toppled tree with our raincoats on while the lightning crashed, and the hail tried its best to find exposed flesh.  Xoe was a sad puppy, but was happier once I hid her under my backpack.  As is common with hailstorms, the air temperature dropped about 30 degrees in a 10 minutes.  The rest of the hike out was pretty chilly (chili? Chile?), but there is something so beautiful about storms in the desert.  It is definitely one of my favorite things.

Post hail. Foggy desert.

We drove with the heater on to Nampaweap to check out some petroglyphs.  This may be the first time I turned the heater on in Arizona since moving here… I wasn’t sure what to expect at the petroglyph site.  All of the information showed the same picture, so I figured there was probably one set of glyphs on a boulder.  A quick hike brought us to the boulder shown in all the pictures, and then hiking along the edge of the “canyon”—more of a wash really we found another set of petroglyphs, then another, and another, and another.  I hike for probably about half a mile down the wash and saw literally thousands of petroglyphs.  It have never seen that many in one place, and been to a lot of the major glyph sites in the southwest.  Another interesting part of those glyphs is that they were carved into basalt rather than sandstone.  Eventually the petroglyphs started to thin out, but there were probably still more to check out if someone was so inclined.  Just as I was turning around, I spotted some critters!!  (Initially I thought they were coyote puppies, but have since been informed they were kit foxes! I had never seen those before).


"Hello, human.  You look  veeeery strange.  Unlike any kit fox we've ever seen."

"Hello, you funny little critters!"

Xoe is totally pissed she didn't get to attack the critters.
I had obtained an Arizona Strip map for the trip, which proved useful on a number of occasions, but not for our next adventure.  The roads out to Whitmore Canyon were shown to be unimproved on the map.  Some were more unimproved than others.  The road I chose indicated it was the shortest route, and after several hours of bumping along and sliding down lava covered slopes we reached a graded road that accesses the Bar 10 Ranch as well as Whitmore Point.  It would have taken us a number of miles out of the way to reach the intersection at the other end, but would have cut a couple hours out of the journey had we been able to rally at 50 mph instead of puttering through the pinyon juniper forests in low range.  On the bright side, we got to see the beginnings of a forest fire on a tree that had been struck by lightning.  The surrounding vegetation was just starting to light up.
Making our way out to Whitmore Point.

Tara expertly navigates Natasha over the rough road.

Anyways, we reached Whitmore Point.  The last several miles of the road are pretty dramatic.  It winds down a large side canyon that was covered in green vegetation.  The road crawls up onto massive lava flows and then stays on them all the way to the point.  There are towering piles of cooled lava throughout the canyon, and massive lava flows interrupt the red cliff bands where the lava poured over the cliffs, and piled up so high it now appears there is a gentle ramp to the top of tall cliffs.  Once at the point, we were just a short mile and a half hike down to the river.  It’s only 600 vertical feet or so, and looks so close especially when compared to the other overlooks we had been to in the past few days.  It was also pretty much blisteringly hot due to the drop in elevation.
Whitmore Point

Whitmore Canyon is pretty long. You can see where the lava flowed through the saddle in the background.
The lava had flowed down Whitmore Canyon, and had dammed the Colorado for approximately 20,000 years.  The high lava mark is still visible on the other side of the Grand Canyon.  We hiked down through cool lava formations to the river.  We were pretty warm by the time we reached the bottom, so we went for a quick swim before returning up the trail.
We enjoyed the cool water.

I really dig these lava formations. #geology

The drive out from Whitmore Point was quite a bit faster on the graded road.  We blasted out through the northwestern part of Parashant National Monument on smooth, fast roads, past ghost towns and grasslands intent on getting to camp.  The late afternoon sunlight made the grassland glow, and the hills turn a deep gold.  I couldn’t help but smile as I floated around the corners and gunned it down the straights with my favorite travel buddies, Tara and Xoe, while racing the setting sun to ends of the earth.  This is where I belong.
What trip to that area is complete without a visit to the Hoover Dam?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A year in Tucson and a few other areas

Tara and I moved to Tucson about a year ago, so I could attend grad school.  We've been on a number of adventures, some of which were photographically documented.  The photos are in some semblance of chronological order...

One of the first trips we made was to climb elephant head.  This was a pretty mild climb, but turned into a fairly long day after we got off route.

Elephant head in the evening light

A flower

We were able to simul-climb most of it...until I got off route.  Then it turned into moderate run-out climbing that was pretty scary.

Tara checks out the view.

In the fall Mike Records came to visit with Andalyn and we did some climbing on Mount Lemmon.  Lemmon has become a go-to climbing location for Tara and I, but we rarely get any good pictures.

Andalyn leads something scary.

The setting sun made for some nice colors on the last climb of the day.  Mike leads up a 40ft hoodoo.

Another day on Mt. Lemmon.  Tara approached the end of pitch one on Chimney Rock.

Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, Tara and I visited Colorado.  It was chilly compared to Arizona, and we got to stop and see some nice areas on our travels there and back.

Tara enjoying below zero temperatures.

Saguaros are amazing critters.  This one is large!

Tara and Xoe enjoying some camping in Northern New Mexico.  It was 19 F on this particular morning.

We checked out Aztec Ruins National Monument.

A kiva.  I really enjoy exploring old ruins.  I'm not sure why.

Winter in Aztec
On our return trip we spent a wintry evening and morning at Bandalier National Monument.  Falling snow on old ruins is quite possibly a metaphor for something.  It should be at least.  Regardless, wandering through falling snow is one of my favorite ways to spend time.

The structures had several stories at one point.

Tara is trying her best to push me off a cliff at the site of this kiva.

The main settlement in the half moon shape found in many ruins in the southwest.

We went to San Carlos, Mexico for a long weekend.

We made a trip down, historic Rug Road.  We used this opportunity to access the South Rim of Aravaipa Canyon.  We were able to drop into the canyon down an cattle track.  The canyon is beautiful, and would definitely be worth a longer trip to hike the length of it.

A Gila Monster!!!

A saguaro patch.

Tara and dog exploring a side canyon leading to Hell Hole Valley.


Aravaipa Canyon.  Where desert meets riparian corridor. 

Xoe investigates a slag pile along Rug Road.  Mining history is also neat!

An exploded safe!

We made a relatively quick trip to Cochise Stronghold.  We climbed in the Sheepshead area.  This is a fairly popular back country climbing area, and as such many of the more popular climbs have bolts in sections of long run out, which is not common on many back country climbs.  The climbing was still pretty frightening.

Our first climb, Ewephoria, was a 5 pitch 5.7.  Tara is approaching the end of  P1.

Tara surveys scene at nice place to rest.

Tara leads the third pitch.

After an absurd runout, Tara reaches the end of the third.  At this point she ran into issues setting up the belay, and it took us a long time and a lot of frustrated yelling on my part to get everything figured out.  I think the yelling helped...

Late afternoon sun high on the Sheepshead.

The top of pitch 1 on Consolation Prize on the Carnivore Pinnacle (5.8).

I thought the last bit of this climb up an easy-to-protect crack had some wild exposure, and was therefore...terrifying.  Tara doesn't seem to phased.

Post climb, wandering around Cochise Stronghold.

Consolation Prize goes up the obvious crack to the left of the huge chimney.

A neat area to check out.

We did quite a bit of biking in the desert. Especially in the winter and spring when the temperatures are pleasant to manageable. 

Winter evening in the desert is really something special.

One of our early adventures was 7 Cataracts Canyon.  This canyon has a lot of cool rappels, oftentimes down waterfalls.

The bottom of one of the coolest rappels.  It goes right through the waterfall in the background.
 Over spring break, I made my way to Alaska for some exciting skiing, and to visit one of my best friends, Mike Records.  Those adventures are chronicled on his blog, here, here, here, and here.  Check out the posts, we got into some good stuff, and thoroughly kicked my butt.

Then, back in Arizona, Tara and I had another full throttle back country climbing day in the sun.  The East Buttress of Table Mountain is a pretty full day.  The approach is a bit over three miles with a bit of desert bushwhacking to round it off as you approach the wall.  Then a climb, followed by a bushwhack back to the trail, then three miles out.

The cacti were blooming!

Tara gets to the top of P1.  Unfortunately, this awesome crack only exists on the 1st pitch.
The second pitch consists of slab climbing protected by three (or two if you climb too high and miss the third one) ancient 1/4 inch bolts. Oh, and a piton!  One the scariest pitches I've ever lead.  Thirty feet runout on a slab traverse protected by a rusty piton had me close to crapping my pants.
  Tara works her way through the last scary moves into a gully.  The rest of the climb is pretty straightforward.

After learning the river we planned on canoeing down didn't have water, Tara and I spent a nice weekend paddling around Patagonia Lake.

Trying to kill some fish.

It got hot earlier this summer, but nothing cools you down like some T-Pain... That temperature was scorching!

Earlier this summer, we escaped to Colorado to enjoy the weather, flowers, and scenery.  We put up two "new" climbs while we were there.

Flowers in Staunton.
 We ended up putting up a variation of the Chimney Route on Chimney Rock.  The last bit of the climb requires very wide gear which I don't have.  I figured we could find a way up anyways.  It took a bit of exploring, but we managed to get up.  We climbed the first pitch of the Chimney Route, and then made an easy traverse right...all the way to the south side of the formation.  At this point, there were a few options and we settled on a bit more traversing followed by a finger crack in a corner that lead to another crack system.  I would say this route went at a stiff 5.7, maybe 5.8.

Tara enjoying the greenery, and wandering up the pleasant 1st pitch.
 The other route we put up, is also a variation of an old route.  I spotted this climb last summer, and when climbing it found a number of old pitons!  Some fell out when I touched them, but others were holding strong.  The pitons continues up the book that the red line below initially follows, and then requires a bit of flaky face climbing to finish out.

I had been looking at the roof traverse pictured below, but was too wussy to attempt it the first time, so continued up the corner.  This summer, I made the traverse, and then climbed the bushy gully on the right.  The traverse was pretty neat, very exposed, and scary.  The moves weren't too hard, but there were a couple of tough moves getting from the roof to the gully, putting the climb at a hard 5.7 or 5.8.

On our way back to AZ we stayed the night in Kiowa National Grassland.
We had a lot of other adventures, but these are the only photos I could scrounge up.  This makes a nice year in review though.  Great memories!!