A Lesson in J-Tree Friction

31 03 2009

I’ve been lucky enough to go to J-Tree each of the last two weekends. I had not been back since sending Equinox in December and it was nice to be in the park without the pressure of a project. Two weekends back I put my Indian Creek fitness to good use and nabbed my hardest onsight in J-tree with an ascent of Wanger Banger. I had been waiting to try this climb for a while and enjoyed doing such straight forward jamming in Joshua Tree.

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The Hemingway Buttress is the wall in the center of this photo.

This weekend hosted a plethora of social events with a going away party for Felix and Sonia on Saturday night and a day trip visit with Julie, Josh and Lizzy on Sunday. Despite living in the LA area for the last 1.75 years Julie had not yet been to J-Tree. With a ride to the park setup I convinced Lizzy, who had just gotten back to SoCal the night before, to come and hang out even if she was too tired to climb.

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Luke starts up Overseer.

Before driving to J-Tree I called Jamie and found out that by chance he and Nikki  had been in the park since Thursday! Jamie’s friend TJ was visiting and after hanging out with them on briefly on Saturday night I arranged to meet them at Hemingway the next day.  Lizzy, Josh and Julie made good time from LA and our group united just as the wall was going into the shade late Sunday morning.

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Luke leads through the high crux.

When we arrived there was no one on the ever popular Overseer so I hopped on and set up a top rope.  Despite having been to Hemingway previously I had not done this classic 5.9. The start was a bit exciting but the climbing was fun and the crux crack at the top was enjoyable.

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Julie works through the slabby start of Overseer.

Julie was excited to climb in Joshua tree and hopped right on and despite a lack of crack climbing experience made her way to the top without falling! Once you learn to trust your feet on the small edges the climbing becomes a bunch easier and she proved this with her send.

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Julie working through the hard top moves.

In order to set a friction free top rope anchor that was no more than 30m off the ground I had to stop shy of the top. To clean the route I ended up climbing it again and setting a new anchor so we could  top out and walk over to the rap station.  I couldn’t see who chose to follow me from the belay was pleasantly surprised to see Lizzy come around the final bulge since she had said that she wasn’t going to climb today.

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Luke checks out the protection on the start of Prepackaged

The time re-climbing Overseer was well spent as a party had cleared off Prepacked allowing me to get another fun onsight.  Not wanting to ruin my onsight Lizzy waited until after  I climbed to tell me that I had  missed a large edge that would have made the crux easier, oops! This made sense in retrospect since Lizzy told me that Prepackeaged wasn’t too hard and I found the first few moves to be a bit tricky.  Overall the route was quite enjoyable with good finger locks  at the start and bomber gear followed by a nice hand crack.  Jamie and TJ were climbing Overseer  and Julie and Josh had gone to cook lunch so Nikki followed my lead cruising this fun line. Lizzy, content to be relaxing, found nice rock in the sun for her lunch and watched us from below.

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Finger lockin’ good!

The rap station for the right side of Hemingway is located above  The Importance of Being Earnst. This climb links various crack features through a set of roofs and was a good bit harder than what we had tried so far on Sunday. I happily set a top rope and almost everyone took a turn on this unique climb.  Despite the 10c/d rating the climb was hard with some tricky sequences and technical footwork. Once my fingers are back to full strength I would like to give it a go on lead, despite the small and somewhat spaced protection.

I wanted to get Julie up one more climb so we went to the nearby Dairy Queen wall. The wind was picking up so Julie and I quickly did Leap Year Flake and then rapped off. After a tricky and technical start you move left to a slabby face with a huge thin flake. The angle is quite low and it feels really good to lay back up this unique feature.

Lizzy gained some motivation when I mentioned Gunsmoke so we drove over to Barker Dam to show Julie this Joshua Tree classic. Gunsmoke has been a project of Lizzy’s for a while now and has been a good challenge for her due to the very long moves and required endurance. On Sunday Lizzy made her longest link yet getting through both the reach crux and the technical crux before pumping off in the corner. This first and best go left her quite pumped and she got a day ending  flapper when she fell off the crux reach on her second try.

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Lizzy sets up for the the crux reach on Gunsmoke.

After Gunsmoke we drove to town for the mandatory dinner at Crossroads Cafe to complete Julie’s J-Tree experience. Despite another tasty dinner we had a pretty long wait for our food which was not so good since we were starving. It made me wish I had payed a bit more attention to this thread on Mountain Project about good places to eat around Joshua Tree.

The next month or so is booked with trips to further away areas and I don’t know if we will be back to J-Tree before it gets too hot. If we manged to come back in late April or May we will surely be chasing the shade. It was nice to hang out with friends and it was not as crowded as I expected for spring break season.

Photos thanks to Julie, Josh, Nikki, and Lizzy

Cheers,

Luke





Jamming in Paradise, a week in Indian Creek

27 03 2009

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Lizzy on our 13 hour driving day to Utah

Last year we went to Indian Creek with a plan and a Tick list.  We had looked online and at the 1st edition of the Bloom guide and came up with 27 classics  at 11 different crags.  These climbs were our main objective and we were not “interested” in doing much else.  We  managed to get on more than half of these selected classics and at least 13 were either sent on lead or top rope by one of us.  This was an interesting approach but added unneeded pressure and while limiting our exploration to the creek. In 2009 Lizzy and I decided to eschew the ticklist and try to climb as many routes as possible at crags we had never been to hopefully finding some of IC’s hidden gems.
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Enjoying the Utah scenery and the 75 MPH speed limits!

This year we also decided to come two weeks earlier which meant colder weather, forcing us to to chase the sun. The weather was not a big concern since the previous March we had to leave the Cat wall since it was too hot.  The drive to Moab took about 12 hours from  San Diego with plenty of gas stops and the mandatory visit to The Orange Peel in Saint George for bubble tea. We rolled through the creek just after dark and headed for the Creek Pasture campground at the far end of the 211 past the Super Bowl (which is often quite dusty). We saw only one other group and happily snagged a “site” with a picnic table. Having a normal table was a big improvement from the  make shift  knee height table we used in 2008. Being able to cook standing up and keep the stoves and food out of the sand is a really nice creature comfort.

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Getting ready to lead the first route of our 2009 IC trip!

Our first day we wanted to keep things easy so we headed to the Original Meet wall for a hearty helping of 5.10. By starting on easy climbs we could get some fitness and have both Lizzy and I lead the routes. I started on Ladies First, seen above, did Wee Doggie which was super fun and then hit Tofu before lunch. These three routes were all 5.10- but definitely varied in difficulty. I had an eye opening moment on Tofu, which was described as off-fingers, when I was run out above my tipped out .75 wondering if it would be safer to keep going at least another 8 feet to where the crack thinned down or if i should jump… I kept it together and laybacked to safety and learned that I should be more careful with my gear selection. At times the guidebook suggests and incomplete rack and it can be safer to bring a few extra cams.

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A potential Indian Creek FA

The climbing was pretty spread out at the Original Meat wall but the one advantage is the potential for First Ascents! On our way to the far right side of the cliff to do Wee Doggie I stumbled across the gem pictured above. The line is obvious but very thin and I am sure that it should be at least 5.12. There was no chalk, no anchor and the first foot hold was a piece of loose rock that could easily be removed.  If I had my drill and some bolts I would have aided it and sunk in an anchor that day. For better or worse I am going to have to wait until at least Thanksgiving before going back and trying it. I don’t know why it hasn’t been climbed other than that it may be a bit slabby for some people’s preference. As well it is thin but with all the pods in the middle it seems doable.

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A very excited Luke at the thought of doing the First Ascent!

After climbing a fun unnamed corner that,  unknown to us at the time,  was on our 2008 ticklist we made the long walk to the Sacred Cow wall. From the book it seemed that it would not be to far but it took us at least 15 to 25 mins to reach Fatted Calf. This climb was supposed to be the Scarface of the Sacred Cow wall and since I enjoy thin hands I wanted to gave it a burn. It was my hardest climb of the day at 11- and I struggled at the start but managed to hang on as the crack widened to #2 camalots. Unlike Scarface the crack thinned back down to #1’s at the top and made me fight for my onsight. There was small horizontal at the anchor that allowed me to tap some of my unused crimping strength to clip the anchor. A gem of a climb for sure and my first 5.11 onsight of the trip!!

indiancreek-march09070Hanging out in the sun at the Origonal Meat Wall !

We spent the morning of day two at the Optimator. We warmed up on Lady Pillar which was fun and simple and then did a tricky unnamed twin crack before I went on to lead Hayduke Lives. Hayduke was very fun and involved a karate kick move to get established in a wide hands crack. I channeled Didier a la  From Switzerland with Love made the move and onsighted the route.  Lizzy was up next and got very close to an onsight of Soul Fire falling just short of the anchors. I managed to pull of a flash but was pretty pumped by the end. This route was hands to tight hands with a bit of stemming in the middle. It was pretty splitter and Lizzy and I both placed seven!! red camalots.

indiancreek-march09074Lizzy before her attempt at Soul Fire 11-.

In the afternoon we stopped by Donnelly canyon to do the classic Generic Crack. True to it’s popular nature there were people on the route and funny to see other parties after our quiet morning. We did Binou’s Crack to wait for the other party to finish and then I onsighted the classy 120′ hand crack.  It was super fun and amazingly consistent in size with some tricky sections through some larger pods. After Lizzy top roped Generic I gave it another burn to use up all my energy before our rest day.

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Looking across at the Cat and Reservoir walls from the Optimator

Monday night would be our first night in the luxurious yurt and the timing was perfect. A storm rolled thorough Utah  and deposited 8 inches of snow outside our door step and 4 inches in Indian Creek. Tuesday was our rest day so the timing of the snow was not too bad.  After a long night of feeding the wood stove to stay warm it was nice to sleep in before going to Moab.

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Luke tends the stove to stay warm in the snow storm!

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Luke gets ready to drive to Moab.

After shoveling a bit of snow we got the rav out on the un-tracked road and started our snowy drive to Moab. I had heard good things about mountain biking in Moab so I was excited to take a rest day and rent some bikes. Lizzy and I had a bunch of fun riding around despite pretty chilly weather and were happy to let our skin recover from all the jamming.

indiancreek-march09099Getting ready to make some fresh tracks with the Rav

Our second night in the yurt was not as windy and it was super easy to cook and clean with a large propane stove and a water jug fed sink. Best of all the huge bed allowed us to fully recover from our long days of climbing.  I surely slept well and enjoyed having a bit of comfort.  The Yurt has a solar panel allowing us to turn on lights at night and there is a detached bathroom.

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Lizzy looks happy to be staying in a bed at the Yurt.

Our first day back after resting we went to the Cat Wall. We had previously visited the far right side of the wall but hadn’t gotten past Johnny Cat. This time we approached via the left trail and worked our way right. We had a chilly morning but things warmed up fast when the sun hit the wall. After a ok unnamed 5.10 warmup I hopped on Deseret Moon. I wasn’t ready for the 11+ start and skirted around the crux on sketchy loose blocks. It took me a bunch of time to figure out the best way to go up and I had Lizzy pass me a 3.5 camalot to protect the wide moves on this alternate start. I was trying not to place gear to avoid rope drag and spent way too much time getting freaked out.

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8 inches of fluffy snow outside the yurt.

The upper part of Deseret Moon was amazing and one of the more memorable climbs of the trip. It started off with off fingers to thin hand lay backing with some tricky foot work on a twin crack to the right. The difficulty eased once I could get thin hand jams and the crack widened to #2’s forever.  Confident with my hand crack skills from doing Generic Crack I ran it out savoring the wavy wall and the perfect size. I managed the onsight but will need to go back for a proper send via the direct start. The Cat wall is home to so many hard climbs and Lizzy was psyched to try the thin Puma. It was rated 11+ in our book but the 12- plaque gave Lizzy a few butterflies. She had a great lead falling a few times at the crux before making it to the top. I was even more impressed by her performance when I struggled with the start that was off-fingers for ME. I hung twice at the crux and then finished the climb.   We moved on to Kool Cat which and struggled since I was trying to jam the off fingers crack straight in. Lizzy showed me the beta when she one falled the crack on top rope, easily laybacking between the good stances.  I know that next trip should yield a redpoint for both of us.

indiancreek-march09144Lizzy on the crux direct start of Deseret Moon

On Thursday we were expecting rain and decided at the last minute to go to the creek instead of climbing in Moab.  This worked out amazingly well and we had our best day yet at Pistol Whipped.  I got a bit confused with the directions and the first few routes we did were chilly in the morning shade. Lizzy and both lead Short and Stupid 5.8+ and then I did Skid Marks 5.10 which she followed. I decided to get my layback on and climbed Revenge of the Rock Gods 5.10+ which was super fun and forced me to place gear while laybacking. It looked like the storm was coming so I made Lizzy wait to each lunch while I tried Spaghetti Western. I had read on Mountain Project that this was an amazing steep hand crack and I was hoping for an onsight. Luckily it was a bit thinner than Think Pink and I made good progress through the initial steep bulge, smartly placing gear at my waist instead above my head. The top was still tricky and I wished I had a bit more gear as I slowly funked my way to the top. The weather cleared up and after lunch Lizzy onsighted Coyne Crack simulator 11- and I barely eked out a flash.  Next I did Wounded Knee 10+ which was fun but I would suggest having a #4 or 4.5 to protect the cruxy offwidth move. There was still plenty of daylight so we did a bit walking around and stumbled on the climb in the photo below.

indiancreek-march09164Lizzy below Rump Roast II 5.11 after her onsight!

Lizzy got super excited by the description of thin hand and (5) 1.5 which are tight thin hands for Lizzy. She pre-visualized the sections and thought the climb would be doable. It looked hard to me and was excited to have Lizzy ropegun the pitch. The start was a bit harder than it looked but in no time she was at a good rest below the final crack. She slotted some gear, worked through the jams and clipped the anchors!!! Rump Roast II was her first 5.11 onsight of the trip and one of her hardest sends to date. I top roped the climb, happy not to be worrying about placing gear in the .75 sized camalot crack and then cooled down with one more hand crack.

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The yurt was complete with a stove, sink and couch!

Thursday night was our last night in the yurt and the next morning we packed up camp and headed into Moab for our final rest day.  After all our shopping and some fun bouldering at Big Bend we headed back to the creek to grab a campsite for our final nights. The creek pasture was a bit more crowded but we still managed to find a site with a shaky table and passed out after our long day. Saturday was initially going to be Lizzy’s Birthday Challenge but we decided to keep things mellow and take the chance to work on Swedin-Ringle. We knew Battle of the Bulge would be crowded so we got up early and started on the far left side of the wall. This was a bit of a mistake as we froze on our warm up, Pigs in Space 10+, since it was in the shade.  A plus was that we were able to rap down and set up a top rope on Cold Corner 5.11+.   This climb, which started directly to the right of pigs in space, had two bolts protecting some tricky laybacking to some hard moves in to a flare. I was able to flash it on TR and would like to come back and lead it. The moves after the 2nd bolt were quite desperate and my cold fingers didn’t make things easier.

indiancreek-march09139Looking out from the Cat Wall.

We both rested and warmed up in the sun on a large rock before getting on Crack Attack 11-. Our timing was perfect since I was just ready to climb as anther party came over to try the route. A year before we had tried to climb Crack Attack and it had been occupied. While the business was the pumpy thin hands crack at the end I struggled the most on the the start since the gear was less than ideal ( I was missing a #4.5 and a second #3 camalot). We moved back to the main part of the crag and were instantly HOT.  Everything around the corner to the left of Disco Machine Gun was super cold but around the Big Baby and Our Piece of the Real estate we had T-Shirt weather.

I was resting up and getting psyched for my main goal of the day, an onsight of Ruins crack. This changing corners finger crack looked super fun and had been too intimidating for me to lead the year before. The start was hard and after a nice rest the business began with some more laybacking until the crack thinned down to green aliens and then pinched out. After making the “crux” switch the the right crack and moving up a bit higher  I was greeted with a nice rest and could see the crack widen to hands.  After my brief recovery I cruised the sandy tight hand crack to the top and happily clipped the chains!

indian-creek-march-08-430The gorgeous Swedin-Ringle 5.12- (photo from 2008)

Lizzy’s main goal was to give Swedin-Ringle a good redpoint burn. She had gotten close falling 8 feet from the anchors on two different attempts the previous trip and had saved up enough skin for one effort this year. We figure out gear beta and Lizzy set off easily climbing the start and getting in to the meat of the crack. She got higher and higher and I could tell she was closing in on her bad size. After the last .75, a purple .5 Camalot when in and I knew Lizzy must be struggling.  .5’s meant fingerstacks for Lizzy’s small fingers and she had another couple feet before the crack thinned down.   Another few moves and she was off.  Another effort from her high point allowed her to slide her cam higher and get in a grey alien. Still a few feet shy of the anchors she was beat and  after a few tries lowered off, cleaning one of her cams.  I wanted to take the easy way out and got ready to lead the route with all of Lizzy’s gear preplaced. I adjusted a few cams and really struggled at the top. As I worked my fingers into the thin locks next to the chains my left foot was shaking in the thin crack. I reached blindly and grabbed a quickdraw from my harness and clipped it to the chains. But when I looked it was a cam, not a draw that was hanging from the anchors. I was being punished for my poor style I thought as I switched my jams and tried to shake out. I grabbed again and this time got a draw and got it onto the chains, instantly having to switch to a lower lock to shake out yet again. I worked my fingers back into the high left jam and grabbed the rope and brought it to the quickdraw just barely getting it into the gate before being overwhelmed by pump. I slumped on the rope happy for the send yet frustrated by the desperate finale.

With this final climb Lizzy and I were both tired and ready to go home. We still had plenty of sun but thought it would be better to get back to California. We packed up the tent and bee lined for Saint George.  After a nice night in a motel we saw the VRG up close and then made it back San Diego ready to give our skin some rest. This year we took it easy and didn’t put ourselves under as much pressure yet overall we both climbed more routes and onsighted at or near our limits. We are already thinking of going back and hope to make time in November to return with friends and do Turkey Day at the creek.

I will be writing another gear beta post on the creek as well as some information about what to do on rest days. This year I had a bunch of fun being in Moab on our rest days and I want to share that great experience.  I am sure that Lizzy will also have some thoughts about the climbing as well as some more thoughts about trying hard routes.

Cheers,

Luke





A Brief Alpine Adventure in Red Rocks

21 03 2009

Snow crunched under my feet. Where had I gone, the morning had been brisk but this was the desert.  The snow was wet, the temperature was above freezing. I went further  up the gully,  crawling around and through a hole to surmount the final chockstone. Everything was covered in snow now as I went hand over hand up a frozen rope. Were we lost? Could our route be in this frozen corridor. I kicked another step, trying not to slide back down the gully. Ice covered the mossy walls and was slowly melting as the day warmed up. The sun had risen over an hour ago and the upper part of the Aeolian wall was baking in the morning sun.  I stepped up and immediately fell through the icy crust up to my waist, a mix of snow and ice  now filled the narrowing gully floor.   I found a tree and a small  boulder and kicked out a small platform  so I would not loose my balance and tumble down the gully.

Scanning the walls I found our route. A Uristoe bolt followed by a long string of shiny hangers lead up the wally through a large smear of ice to a high ledge.  Lucasz now made his way up to my position; happy the mini cascades of snow and ice, I was causing, had stopped. The conditions were sub-optimal to say the least but the first pitch was mine and I hoped that if I could get up it using a bit of aid we would have a chance at the upper pitches, which should be in the sun and possibly free of snow and ice.

Thoughts of the previous night echoed in my head as I racked for the first pitch. When Lukasz and I drove in from LA he remarked on how much snow was on the mountains. I dismissed this, thinking there was always snow in February and thought nothing of his observation. Now as my hands quickly went numb I wondered why I had been so naive. I clipped the first bolt and thought about the out plan. Inti Watana was long, around 8-12 pitches depending on linking, but mostly bolted and all under 5.10 except for the 2nd and the last pitches. This was to be a recovery climb since my left hand has been functioning at only about 50% of its capacity.  I got the bolt clipped and was standing on good edges as I scraped ice off the rock with my nut tool. I found some decent holds and made my way above the bolt. Without the feeling in my fingers I resorted to aid and stepped on the first hanger but I was still unable reach the safety of the first shiny hanger.

I was warm but my fingers were wet and cold and I couldn’t feel anything. I had to leave my stance on the bolt and move up through a slabby section on some wet edges to get the next bolt. After much hesitation I made the few move sequence and clipped in. Just as the rope went into the quickdraw a loud echoing noise came from above that sounded like rock fall. Lukasz had been hit with small ice avalanches while I had been climbing  but this we though this could be a big one. He hunkered down as I sucked into the wall as baseball sized climbs of ice rained down into the gully.

We were both fine but decided to reconsider our alpine adventure. There are many other places to climb in Red Rocks and it would be silly to get hit with ice when we could be wearing t-shirts elsewhere. I left a biner and lowered off so we could pack up our gear and do some climbing. Before leaving we got hit with an even bigger ice fall that validated our choice. Back at the car by 10:30 we had taken a bit less than 2 hours each way hiking. The majority of the approach is on the main fire road with a mandatory scramble up a gully on the way in. This is the 2nd gully you pass and is aptly named the white rot gully. It is a steep, narrow and sandy passage (of white sandstone) that ends with a bit of  tunneled under and then over a large chockstone.  We descended via the main Aeolian gully and rapped the final bit  with a 70m rope which just reached. To avoid the rap you must do a  mandatory 5th class down climb which looked bad and was wet. For reference we could have easily gone back down the white rot gully (how we approached) with 3rd and 4th class scrambling but I wanted to check out the rappel option.

This Approach photo is very useful! Thanks to  Eric and Lucie

We spent the rest of the weekend clipping bolts and enjoying warm February weather despite our out of place encounter with snow on Mt. Wilson. I should have realized that the north east facing Aeolian wall would be cold and could still be holding snow.  Despite my injured fingers I stubbornly tried a bunch of routes that ended up making things worse. I manged a few fun onsights at the sweet pain wall and Lukasz redpointed the namesake route. We also spent some time at the gallery where I momentarily dabbled on Fear and Loathing before turning the sharp end to Lukasz for a 3rd try send !!!(6 or so overall). He crushed the route and made me wish that I could crimp again with my left hand.

Overall I had a really fun weekend despite staying mainly at the Second Pullout. We climbed at the Sweet Pain wall,the Tsunami wall,  checked out California 12a, which was wicked steep, went to the Gallery and the Wall of Confusion.  This was only my third time or so solely sport climbing at Red Rocks despite many visits over the last 3 years.  I really prefer the longer routes in Red Rocks and look forward to some warmer weather where you can climb in the shade. Regardless the sport routes are well worth it and are fingery and pumpy though not always on the best rock. I guess I am just spoiled after climbing on the East Coast in places like Rumney, the New River Gorge and the Red River Gorge as well as the Obed in Tennesse.

Cheers,

Luke





Sweet Gear Review: Patagonia DAS Parka

19 03 2009

I’m a pretty cold person, so I’ve had a down jacket almost as long as I’ve been a climber (got my purple TNF down jacket almost 6 years ago). It’s been pretty useful – lightweight and warm as you would expect from any down jacket. But lately, climbing in cold desert winters (I know I’m a total weather wuss, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to be warm) has made me long for something a little bit better.

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My TNF Nuptse down jacket

These are the problems with my standard run of the mill down jacket:

  • no hood = I lose a lot of head from my head and I have way too much hair and a weird shaped head so beanies don’t work out so well for me
  • not perfect for belaying – since it’s a “jacket” it only goes down to waist level, so I can’t easily wear it over OR under my harness, which leads to waist-level coldness while belaying
  • the “stash pocket” is not a very good way of storing the jacket for attaching to my pack, so it has a tendency to get really dirty

So, for my improved insulated belay jacket, I was looking for something with a nice roomy hood that could fit over my climbing helmet, a longer length to help keep me warmer, and a belay zipper to facilitate harness compatibility. The Patagonia DAS Parka was on the top of my list from the start because I love Patagonia clothing and the DAS has synthetic insulation so I would still be warm even if I got a little wet (not that that happens often in SoCal, but it’s good to be prepared).

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Testing out the DAS Parka in the snow

I was lucky enough to get a great deal on my DAS Parka – 50% off. I had tried on the XS (the Parka only comes in Men’s for now – do they think women don’t need belay jackets too?) in my local Patagonia store and was pretty happy with how it fit. Sure, it looks a bit big on me, but that means it covers my butt and there’s plenty of room to wear other layers underneath (even my down jacket, but that might be a little ridiculous…).

I got my Parka just in time to get snowed on in December at my parents house in Poulsbo, WA and our bouldering/snowboarding trip to Bishop over New Year’s. In addition to some weekend outings in January and February, the DAS Parka was invaluable on our recent trip to Indian Creek, which featured sunny but windy and chilly weather.

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It’s nice and warm in the snow in Utah, too.

The thing I love about the Parka is that it has just the right features and nothing extra. In addition to the zippered chest pocket that’s perfect for some Shot Bloks or a topo, there are two zippered external handwarmer pockets that are very effective at keeping my hands warm. The jacket has two internal mesh pockets that are perfect for keeping your climbing shoes warm before you climb or storing a waterbottle if its genuinely cold out. There is also elastic to help adjust the hood or tighten the jacket at the hem. The cuffs are elasticized, which I prefer over velcro because it can’t come undone by accident. Finally, the jacket has a water repellant finish and has reinforced patches on the shoulders and elbows. And to top everything off, the Parka comes with a perfectly sized little stuff bag that has been very helpful for stuffing the jacket into when I’m attaching it to my backpack on approaches and descents.

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A cold morning at the Cat Wall

In terms of fit, the hood is warm and fits perfectly over my helmet. There is plenty of room to wear layers underneath, and the 2-way zipper makes it easy to belay while wearing the jacket. As I said, I have the Parka in XS (I’m 5’5″ and around 110 lbs.). I’ve found the insulation to be simply awesome. If the jacket wasn’t streamlined and lacking in little down feathers escaping at the seams, I wouldn’t know that it wasn’t down. It’s lightweight and, like down, keeps me warm when it’s really cold without immediately overheating me when the sun comes out. Plus it’s quite good at keeping out the wind, another invaluable trait in Indian Creek.

Patagonia’s quality is usually great and I have no doubt that I will continue to wear and love my DAS Parka for many years to come.

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Taking a break at Battle of the Bulge

I do have a minor gripe, though. The stuff sack for the Parka is great – very lightweight, but the toggle that came on it was very flimsy. The plastic snapped and became unusable within less than 5 uses of the stuff sack. It was, however, easily replaced.

With spring just around the corner, I know most people won’t be needing the DAS Parka very soon, but it’s not cheap, so if you’re interested, I’d recommend looking around for Parkas on sale for the off-season because you’re unlikely to find them on sale when it starts getting cold next November.

Happy Warm Belaying!





Recovering from Indian Creek

16 03 2009

Lizzy an I are back in SoCal after a wonderful week in the Utah Desert. We really had a fun time at Indian Creek and hanging out in Moab.  I’ll get into more details nd write a proper Trip Report once we get some photos downloaded later this week.

We got back yesterday after an uneventful drive from St. George, where we had stayed the night after driving 6 hours from Moab. Sunday morning we hiked up to the Mentor cave at  VRG to scope out the climbing for a future trip.  It wasn’t too cold to climb in the shade but it was a bit windy and a poofy might be advisable for belaying.  The limestone looked super featured and the climbing seemed STEEP! I would be psyched to do some bolt clipping in the future.

We should have a bunch of posts up later this month as we recover and get back in the writing mode. I will be finishing up a TR of my brief Red Rocks trip and  Lizzy has gotten a chance to play with many of her climbing toys and should be posting some of the gear reviews she mentioned before.

In online news Lizzy and I can now be found on Twitter.  I am still a bit overwhelmed/confused by the whole group messaging status reporting bit. However I think it is a quite effective networking tool and am impressed by how many people are online and the overall friendly nature of Twitter. Lizzy has hit the ground running and is updating like crazy 😀

To give my fingers a bit more time to recover I will be running a trail race this weekend. I opted for a shorter race, 15k versus my last one of 25k, so that I can work on my speed. It’s local to San Diego which should be fun so I may be running with some of my co-workers. Hopefully I can run part of the course later this week for training.

It is nice to return to the same climbing bubble despite checking out from reality for a week.  Sharma is in good shape and on the verge of sending another 5.15 and Kevin Jorgeson has done another highball FA. I look forward to reading various trip reports and updates as I catch up on the 400+ blog posts that I missed while we were away.

Cheers,

Luke

PS It’s Lizzy’s Birthday Today! WAHOOOO!





Getting Ready for Indian Creek!

4 03 2009

Luke and I are still a little shell-shocked that it’s March already. This is historically my busiest, most ridiculous month. This month, I’m turning 21, hosting the Banff Film Festival on the Caltech campus, going on a trip to Hawaii on the Geology department’s bill, heading to visit Stanford, and going to Indian Creek. Also I have to write a final paper for my Gothic Fiction class and get down to business on my research so I have enough stuff to write about in my thesis.

That said, I think it’s understandable that our Indian Creek trip has totally snuck up on us. It used to be months away and now we’re leaving on Saturday morning with much less build-up and pre-trip preparation than last year (although I don’t think I’m really actually in any worse shape than I was last year). Now that we’ve got one Indian Creek trip under our belt, we’re adjusting our strategy a little.

For example, I had the silly useless running boards taken off my RAV4 so save a little weight and a little ground clearance. Also, we’re going to do shorter driving shifts on the 11 hour journey so that we won’t get as tired. We’re going to stay in a yurt for a couple of nights and not camp at the Super (Dust) Bowl campground. We’re going to try out the bouldering and mountain biking on our two (not one, which is insufficient for skin recovery) rest days. And we’re going to do this trip with a cragging approach rather than a projecting approach so we can climb more routes and be less stressed out about sending all the classics. Oh, we’re also not going to drive back through Arizona via I-40 because damn, was it windy.

Also, we’re still planning on attempting my 21-routes-in-a-day birthday challenge on March 14th, although we are still without any volunteers to come cheer or set up topropes on that day.

Yay splitters!