Tour of California

8 02 2009

The Tour of California is coming! To a location near you (in California) beginning in only 6 days. Here’s where the stages are taking place:

I was initially really excited about Stage 7 ending in Pasadena – I’ve been a Lance Armstrong fan for a while (watched all 7 of his victorious Tours de France) and he, along with a bunch of other sweet bikers, are finishing a stage right in my neighborhood! (You can find the race schedule here.) Unfortunately, that day happens to be the day I’m heading out to visit Austin. Before the racers are set to arrive in Pasadena. Lame.

I may still go and check out the time trial the day before (especially if I can find someone to carpool with).

Anyways, something cool to check out. Lance Armstrong and Andreas Kloden are both on the Astana team and the  Ivan Basso is with Liquigas.


…and Eating Locally

29 07 2008

Following on my previous post about reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and thinking about my eating habits, I decided to try my hand at “local” eating. I knew that buying stuff at Whole Foods was kind of a no-no, but Farmer’s Markets don’t happen very often around here and I figured I could still try to purchase stuff with local eating in mind.

So first, I needed a game plan. I found an interesting recipe on epicurious for pasta sauce made with fresh tomatoes and some olives. To make this recipe, I needed some produce: an onion, tomatoes, and some basil. I shopped carefully: all the ingredients were organic and from California. I also wanted to get some fruit for the week. I love bananas, but I discovered that these come from pretty far away: not really local. So I got some local pluots instead.

The pasta sauce turned out great and made a ton of food, which is always good. The main problem is that buying all this local stuff is not as cheap as heading to Vons and shopping by sales, which is what Luke does. It’s tricky to balance budget with being environmentally responsible, but I think it’s worthwhile to make an effort to eat local, seasonal produce because it encourages variety in my diet (like, how often would I eat pluots otherwise?) as well as in the recipes I make. Sure, now is a great time to enjoy summer tomatoes, but come fall I’m excited to try different recipes with autumn squashes and yams.

So here’s to pluots and yummy tomato sauce and fresh blueberries when I visit home in 2 weeks!


More Fires in Cali

7 07 2008

At the Needles this past weekend, we could see smoke from a new fire (started since our last visit to Kern County) burning east of Lake Isabella. Below is a GoogleMaps image of the fire, thanks to Kern County Fire Department.

View Larger Map

It’s pretty crazy to be so close to a fire – we could easily see the big plume of smoke to the south and I’m sure Margee at the fire lookout has been busy with updates.

In other news, the Brickyard, a popular bouldering area in Santa Barbara, is also burning. Hopefully the fire won’t cause too much damage for the climbing up there.

Fourth of July at The Needles

7 07 2008
It’s Monday again and we’re again recovering from another trip to the Needles. This time, we headed out with Stein, Luke’s friend from the gym, and Stein’s visiting friend Traian. After a brutal 9+ hour drive from San Diego (complete with horrendous LA traffic) and a stop at Bakersfield’s sketchiest grocery store and gas station, we arrived at the trailhead camping just before midnight. Luckily for us, Traian’s friend Olivier, who had driven down from the Bay Area, had already arrived and staked out the last campsite for us.

The next morning, we packed up the gear and water and headed off on the long approach (the first hike is always the hardest because there are more hills on the way in and you have all the gear the first day). Luke and I left with a little headstart so we could rest and wait at the base of the Fire Lookout stairs.

Taking a break on the hike in.

After finally reaching the Charlatan/Witch notch, Luke and I racked up and walked up to the top of the Charlatan, where we rapped in to the base of Spooky, a classic, wild 5.9. Stein, Traian, and Olivier headed up the 3rd class approach to the base of the 2nd pitch of Airy Interlude, which they planned to do as a warm-up since their objective on the Sorcerer was still in the sun.
Luke at the base of Spooky.

Since we managed to rap to the base of Spooky in one 60m rappel, we figured we could probably climb it in a single pitch (although it’s usually 2 pitches). Luke headed up the initial handcrack/layback corner, grunted up the offwidth, and had a blast on the money part of the pitch, wild climbing between granite tufas. I struggled on the offwidth, but still enjoyed the upper part – quite unusual climbing for granite.
Looking up at Spooky from the base.

Meanwhile, the trio made good time on Airy Interlude. We had a great (though distant) view of them from our position on the Charlatan. I was pretty tired from the approach hike and grunting past the Spooky offwidth, so we relaxed on the summit of the Charlatan for a bit to eat our sandwiches.

View of the Witch from the top of the Charlatan.
Chillin’ atop the Charlatan after climbing Spooky.

Afterwards, we all met back in the notch and headed over to the east face of the Sorcerer to try 2 classic routes. Stein and crew planned on climbing the Don Juan Wall (5 pitches, 5.11b), which had a reputation for being challenging and sustained. Luke and I wanted to do Ice Pirates (2 pitches, 5.11b), a dead-end variation to Thin Ice, which we climbed last weekend with Gordon. The first pitches for both rope teams went well and Stein and Luke set off on their respective crux pitches. Stein powered and finessed his way through a pumpy layback for the send! Traian took a big whipper on the next pitch (pulling out a cam), but Olivier finished the lead for him. After this, the route took the trio around the corner, so they were out of view until summiting. Meanwhile, Luke was making good progress on the crux of Ice Pirates, managing the fiddly gear and balancey layback moves. However, near the top, the gear became sketchier and more spaced out (the flake becomes quite thin and fragile) and Luke became worried about falling and ripping pieces, so he pulled on cams a few moves until he could do the last move to the anchor, a crimpy sport-climbing-ish move. I was able to follow cleanly until this move, but fell here once before reaching the top. The route was definitely challenging and a little weird and intimidating (with tricky, questionable gear).
Olivier leading the first pitch of the Don Juan Wall.

Stein, Traian, and Olivier on top of the Sorcerer.

The Don Juan Wall was a much longer route, so Luke and I finished early than the other three. We waited for a while in the notch, which was getting quite cold, before attempting yell-o-phone communication with the other party that we were taking the car keys and hiking back so we could start cooking dinner (tofu and veggie stir-fry, one of my favorites!). It was a nice time to be hiking back – not too hot anymore and beautiful, pre-sunset views!

Beautiful view on the hike back to camp.

After struggling a bit on Ice Pirates, Luke and I decided to take an easier day on Saturday. We started the day with Witch Doctor (3 pitches, 5.10a), a route recommended by some other climbers we met. Although we were wishing we had brought our 70m rope, the pitches were fun and varied. Luke struggled a bit with route-finding on the last pitch, which wandered through crazy, often questionable rock. As we were summiting on the Witch, we saw Stein, Traian, and Olivier, who had left camp a little later than us that morning, topping out on the Wizard after climbing Yellow Brick Road, which is a classic 5.9.

On top of the Witch after climbing Witch Doctor.

Luke and I ate our sandwiches and headed back down to the notch to wait for the other three. Stein had gotten a look at the classic Tony Yaniro route Scirocco (5.12a) from the Don Juan Wall and had wanted to climb it with Luke while I took a midday break and photographed. However, when the trio finally reached the notch (they had decided to climb Spooky on their way back), Stein said he was too tired for Scirocco today. Since I had gotten a break and a short nap anyways while waiting, Luke and I decided to go for our planned 2nd route of the day, Fancy Free (3 pitches, 5.10b) on the Charlatan while the others squeezed in one last pitch (the first pitch of Thin Ice). Although the first pitch of Fancy Free was a little weird (there was some oozing at the base of the crack), the crux pitch was amazing! After a weird start, the pitch ascends a beautiful thin hands crack in a corner. The corner then changes (from left-facing to right-facing) and the crack shrinks to fingers (yellow and grey aliens, so big fingers for me) and powerful moves with only smears for feet lead to the anchor. My calves were so pumped from pushing on smears! It was definitely nice to climb a normal jam crack after doing so much laybacking on all the other routes in the Needles. The last pitch was a little weird, but it brought us to the summit just before sunset. As always in the Needles, it was beautiful.

View just before sunset from the top of the Charlatan.

Although tired, we were both psyched to have climbed such a cool route. We headed back towards camp with full packs and arrived exhausted. We were excited to find Traian and Olivier still awake, with warm dinner ready for us (returning the favor from the previous night). We enjoyed a relaxing morning of sleeping in on Sunday while Traian and Olivier woke early to hike out for one last route. Thankfully, the drive back was much less traffic-y, taking only 6 hours.

Overall, it was a pretty good weekend. I didn’t end up doing any leading, which I think was due to me being especially tired from the altitude and the hiking and especially intimidated by the Needles (I do hate being so easily intimidated – I really need to work on this), but I had a lot of fun on the routes we did.

Also, I recently got a new camera to replace my dropped Olympus. I got a Canon Powershot SD1100 IS Digital Elph (in pink!!) and a sturdy waterproof and shockproof hard plastic case for it (the kind they make for kayakers). Although I still have some work getting used to the camera, we’re pretty happy about the quality of the pictures we took. Hopefully this camera will accompany us on many adventures to come.



More Fires in California

25 06 2008

The big news right now are all the fires up in northern and central California, many of which I believe were ignited by lightning strikes. Best of luck to the firefighters up there right now.

On our way back from our trip on Monday, we saw some evidence of fire down further south. This was the view from a gas station in Temecula (north of San Diego on the 15):

Pretty crazy, right? Apparently this was smoke from a small brush fire caused by hot parts from a wheel assembly [coming] off and ignit[ing] the brush” on the 805 near La Jolla. It sounds like it was pretty small and was almost immediately contained, but still made plenty of smoke that we could see from pretty far north.

At least LA managed to make it through several days of 100+ weather without anything major burning… let’s hope that luck lasts the rest of the summer.

Climbing at Horse Flats and the Riverside Quarry

17 06 2008

Summer is here and we have been banished to the shade and the mountains. The sun quickly heats the rock and friction becomes non-existent. We spent Friday night camped out at REI to attend one of their Scratch and Dent sales. Despite arriving at 10pm there were 10 people ahead of us in line. Some arrived as early as 4pm. We managed to get a bit of sleep despite the random urban setting of Arcadia. The sale was fun but not very eventful. One of my friends, Hartley, from Santa Barbara was supposed to come down for the sale and an afternoon of bouldering at Stoney Point. A case of food poisoning kept him grounded in SB.

With my schedule free I decided to tag along with Lizzy and Julie who had been invited to go on a Mad Rock catalog shoot. One of the local climbers recruited these girls and was planning on a day of bouldering to get some shoe photos.

We headed up to Horse Flats which is in the Angeles forest in the hills just north of Pasadena. Windy roads and pretty scenery brought us up a few thousand feet to a granite boulder field. My last experience on granite had been less than fun and I was a bit skeptical of what this area had to offer. Fortunately the rock was highly featured metamorphosed granite. It has lots of crystals and despite being a bit flakey offered fun problems.

Josh Wagner, from the Arcadia Rock Gym, and I bouldered while the ladies played with new shoes and took photos. Josh gave me a tour of a few classics and showed me some problems that were not in the guidebook. After taking a look at a super-project we tackled a possibly unclimbed block. Crystals were still falling off at the base and showed no evidence of previous ascents. There was a steep holdless fin and that formed the right side of a dihedral. The angle and lack of holds prevented us from the obvious stemming solution.

Starting from a good right hand you could gain a small sharp two finger crystal with your left hand. Then you had to make a full span to a decent right hand pinch. The remaining moves to the top were less obvious. After reaching the pinch I could make not make any further progress. I shifted my focus to the arête on the left side of the dihedral. A span start and some tenuous smears on the arête allowed you to gain the same crystal as a gaston with the right hand. Using this to bump my left hand up the arête I was able to stand on a high crystal, bump to another sharp gaston and finally bump my left hand to a good hold around the top of the arête. Possibly a FA but most likely done by Wills Young back in the day. I needed a break after the send and went and check on Lizzy who had flashed a crimpy problem and was spotting while the other two girls tried it. Upon my return Josh had solved the right variation and was sitting on top of the boulder. A possible FA each within an hour, pretty good work 😀

My elbow, which has been hurting, needed a rest so I followed the girls around helping light the problems by holding a bounce card. The two bounce cards did an amazing job of adding directional light to the photos. I was super impressed and hopefully can get some in the next six months. I only saw a few of the photos but they looked pretty good and can be found on facebook! When we got back to Pasadena we crashed early with a serious lack of sleep and full day in the sun.

Sunday we got up early for some shady sport climbing at the Riverside Quarry. We had not been to the quarry in six months and it was fun to clip lots of bolts. Stein, my climbing partner from San Diego, met us with one of his friends for our early session. Stein is quite the quarry master and was excited to clip some bolts outside for a change. We have spent many more hours training on plastic than actually climbing routes. Stein helped me to get in a hard climbing mindset and put draws on a bunch of climbs for me.

After Lizzy and I warmed up we got on Salutations a nice 11c that Stein and George had just finished. The quarry is filled with boulder problems separated by good holds and hand free rests. This visit I embraced this style and had much more success. I flashed/onsighted (I saw a bit of beta) the first route and set up a TR for Lizzy. She cruised the starting moves but had to spend a bit of time figuring out the reachy crux. After finding a powerful sequence she pulled through the small holds and gained a good jug. After some slopey holds she finished off the route. The crux was definitely challenging. Focusing on the jug allowed me to commit to the 3 or 4 hard moves on the small crimps.

Stein had finished an impressive onsight of the neighboring Balrog 12b and I got to watch George as the top roped it. I got a sense of where some of the good holds were and what sections would prove difficult. There was an obvious high crux that I would need to save my energy for if I was to send. The first two bolts were simple with a fun mantle onto the slab seen in the first photo. The slopey holds in the second photo blew my confidence and I was insecure and overgripping. I made the third clip from a bad hold and was happy when I got the next hold which happened to be a jug. The next few bolts were easy until a tricky clip. Following this clip were more slopey holds and bad feet. I figured out a heel hook sequence that worked well but I was getting tired. I now was one bolt below the crux and was quite pumped and being unsure of the sequence I gave up. I figured out a way to set up for the clip below the crux but it was quite powerful and zapped my energy for the crux. I hung again and tried to figure out a good way to do the crux. A few more takes and I was through the crux and at the anchors.

Stein had enjoyed the route so much he ran another lap to get some mileage. I watched closely on the parts I had struggled on and figured out a better way to setup for the crux clip. After some rest I went up again making sure to stay relaxed and to flow through the moves. The crux was a tricky gaston cross over sequence right after a powerful clip. I got up to the clip and was able to make it but the next sequence Stein had used proved a bit too reachy and I could not get the same heel hook he had. Hands out of sequence I committed to a higher heal hook that I was able to perch on. This enabled me to rest a little and switch my hands to prepare for the crux. I got my high left foot and right gaston but it felt much worse than my last go. I grunted and fired left hand across to the next good hold. I stuck it and quickly move my feet up to the good holds on the right. A few more moves gave way to an ok rest. A few shakes and I set up for the final tricky move to a crack below the anchor. I trusted my smear and shot my right hand to the undercling crack. Two more adjustments and I was clipping the anchor! I was tired and my climbing was still a bit sloppy but I had committed at the crux and this was important mental progress!

Photos thanks to Lizzy!

– Luke

An Idyllwild Weekend

3 06 2008

This past week I had my off Friday and due to some technology problems on Thursday I got to leave work early and get a pseudo 4 day weekend! With finals quickly approaching I surprised Lizzy by coming to LA on Thursday and we packed up and headed out on Friday to Idyllwild.

We made good time on the 10 and the 243 but got a bit confused about where the proper campground was. There are five campgrounds within 10 miles of Idyllwild. We were looking for the cheapest, Fern Glen, but could not at the time remember the name. We took the turn for the main group of campgrounds but the scenery looked all wrong. So we kept going expecting a turn on our way to Idyllwild but to no avail. Worried that the campground would be full we turned around and headed 6 windy miles back to explore the first set of campgrounds further. After driving around for a while on steep and switch backing roads we found managed to find the $10 campground. The cost per night was quite varied and we found $20, $15, $12 and $10 per night.

After sorting the rack we set off to suicide for some afternoon crack climbing. We still had two or three hours of daylight and though we could get a few cracks in before dark. After we parked our car we couldn’t find Lizzy’s approach shoes. They had vanished and the approach was not well suited to flip-flops. We turned the car inside out and could not find them. We both distinctly remembered her bringing them down to the lawn and setting them down when I was packing the car. However neither of us could remember her putting them in the car or ever seeing them in the car. Possibly we had left them one of the campgrounds so we went in search of her fairly new CTC’s. With no luck and much time wasted we even tried to buy a new pair that night but the store was closed. Instead of climbing we explored Idyllwild and had dinner at the Idyllwild Pizza Company, which was quite tasty.We got up early the next day, picked up a new pair of shoes at Nomad Ventures and hustled up to the northern side of Suicide rock. We passed a few parties on the steep approach and Lizzy was happy to have shoes on her feet. We started with Flower of High Rank, shown above, which was supposed to be one of the best 5.9’s in Idyllwild and in the state. I decided to lead the crack in one long 200 foot pitch using the harder right crack exit above the tree. The climb had a fun and varied finger crack that split at the tree and became a 3″ wide crack on the right side leading up to a roof. The bottom of the climb was balancy and fun and the tree provided a nice rest before switching to the right crack. I got the roof quickly and was stumped by what I found. The crack above was quite flaring and without a good foothold would not yield easy passage to the slab above. After much struggling and going up and down I was able to use some face feet and reach to the left crack. This gave me enough balance to get my right foot over the roof and allowed me to climb the slabby grove. Fun large flakes lead to the top and after setting up a belay I brought Lizzy up. Full value for 5.9 but not necessarily one of the best I had ever done.

Next we headed around the corner to Johnny Quest. I had been told this climb was excellent and I am a big fan of finger cracks. I was expecting it to be a bit harder at 10b but the climb fit my style perfectly and it was my favorite of the weekend. We soloed 50 feet of 5.2 to belay at the tree by the base of this short beauty. A tricky opening dihedral gave way to some jugs and then a thin finger crack. Wonderful pinscars and constrictions with good feet gave way to a ledge 20 feet higher, which is too bad since I could have kept going since the crack was so fun!

I lowered from the bolted anchor and Lizzy gave it a burn on TR. Anxious to climb some more routes we both rapped off and made our way back around the corner. Feeling good on 10b I felt ready for the route of the day, Etude, 11a. It was longer and steeper but I was feeling good on the thin finger locks of Johnny Quest. As I made my way up to the piton protected crux I was shocked to find no holds. The crack was non existent and progress could only be made by stemming and crimping up two grooves for 10 feet before another hold and anther pin appeared. Unable to see a viable sequence and scared of a potential 20 foot fall onto an old fixed pin I precariously aided through the crux. Standing on the highest pin and using a marginal nut to make a blind 2 lobe placement. I was able to clip the high pin but had lost most of my lead mojo.

The final thin hand and finger crack to the anchor was easy once I got my feet up above the high pin and I set up a TR so Lizzy could give it ago. I had confidence that her slab skills and balance would allow her to find a way up the climb. Using tricky sequence with the arête she was able to alternate pulling on the left and the right grooves to slowly stem her feet up. Despite falling off she was able to link all of the different sections and made it to the top. Excited by her success I gave it a go and eked my way up the grooves. While I failed to exhibit her grace I was able to barely make it to the top without falling. Going back I am sure it would be an exciting lead.

We did a few more easer 250 foot slab climbs using the full extent of our 70m rope and a bit of simul climbing and then retreated to the tent. Below Lizzy points to Suicide rock from her high stance on Tahquitz.

Unsure of having to return to San Diego to work on Sunday we got up late and made our way to town to check voicemail. Still sore from all of the hiking and descending from the previous day we enjoyed some Raspberry pastry bread from the local grocer. After giving up on work we made our way up to Humber Park and started the steep hike up Tahquitz. The trail seemed better than we both remembered and we made good time to Lunch Rock.Veering left we set our sights on the bulge routes home to the Vampire and Super Pooper. The base of this area is super slabby and leads up to a series of ledges. We soloed up the first 100 feet of 3rd and 4th class and then Lizzy started leading up to our ledge. Unsure of the correct way to go we made it up to a good ledge right below the start of Super Pooper. Despite the suggestion of moving the belay up another 40 feet I decided that we had enough rope and I did not want to waste the time. The 40 feet was quite easy so I only placed 2 pieces so there was minimal rope drag.

I was not quite mentally ready for the bulges and took over an hour to lead this 200 ft pitch. The first crux was quite cool and involved a transition over one roof via a set of crimps and a crazy arête to a small ledge/jug. Protecting this was tricky and after psyching my self up I was able to get through it. After standing on this ledge for a while I summed the courage again to get through the crux bulge. An awkward sized crack with no feet below it allowed passage over the last bulge. Thruching through a work able sequence my foot popped mid way but I was able to stay in my jam. In the photo above Lizzy approaches the belay after the crux pitch.

I was able to link the next two pitches but since due to improper slinging and getting a rope stuck in a crack I had horrendous rope drag for the final slab. Standing on a ledge with decent prow 10 feet below, I pulled up 10 more feet of rope and smeared my way up the final slab, pulling more rope up from good stances. The angle quickly eased and we were at the top! We ate lunch and enjoyed the views. A superb climb with tricky movement and fun jamming.

Despite getting lost on the decent we made it back to the car and returned to San Diego. We had split up on the way down so that I could get our packs from the base of the route but we both managed to go to the same wrong way and met up after I got our packs. It was nice to be out in the woods and camping for a weekend! School is over for Lizzy soon and I hope we can get out more in the months to come!


– Luke