Category Archives: Bushwack

Bushwack

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PCT Day 144: Mile 2551.5-2576.5 Holden + Stehekin

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I woke to a cold wet bag. I’m not sure if it was cool humid wind from the lake or my warm breath condensing inside of my bag, but none the less, it was town day! I got out of my tent and Pooper was already packed up. Pooper doesn’t mess around on town day!

We both took off, heading down the descent. It was immediately evident that the smoke was back. The valley below was filled and the sun rose red behind the curtain of grey. Pooper and I chatted on as we hauled down the hill. We could see the falls in the distance.

Sissyphus finally caught up and we trekked together seeing the first evidence of the town of Holden. Remnants of very old house foundations lined an old street as we walked into town. Finally we found old log cabins in the town center. We found our way to the hotel where they were still serving the tail end of breakfast!

We chowed down with a group of other dirty hikers. About half way through dinner a hiker came walking up to my seat, I looked up in surprise to find Pickle! I hadn’t seen him since Bishop Pass in the Sierras. I gave the guy a big hug and we caught up between the mouthfuls of food.

After finishing up and paying the bill I decided to explore the town. There was an old bowling alley, pool hall, barber shop, pottery studio, all kinds of cool little hidden gems in the mountains of a secluded town. Eventually we all piled onto a big bus headed for the ferry across Chelan Lake. The ENTIRE town came out to wave us off. It was like a scene out of some Hallmark movie. The bus rumbled down the dirt road packed with hikers and we all chatted on as we neared the boat dock.

Some swam, some bundled up, but soon the ferry arrived and we all piled on. Beer in hand from the boat bar we all sat down and chatted about realizing we were about to go to our last town and resupply. After a quick trip we arrived in Stehekin and headed straight for a nice big lunch. Hikers need fuel, it’s the first thing on our minds when in town!

Food, resupply from the eye-patched postmaster, hanging by the lake and waiting for the shuttle as our sleeping bags and tents dried out. Finally we piled into the shuttle headed back towards the PCT. Piling out of the bus, Sissyphus dropped his phone on the bus seat. To give him crap I picked it up and just sat back and watched him sweat a little. After a while I started taking selfies with other hikers until he realized it was in my hands. After a good laugh we all headed up trail to walk the 5 miles to camp.

Back into the canopy of the forest we plodded on pausing only for water. The chat continued on as our large group meandered to camp. Finally arriving we quickly set up and took over the first available area that was large enough to house 15 of us. It was such a good day. Only a few left!

App Suggestions for Pic Mods: Snapseed

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PCT Day 33: Mile 357-369 Mt Baldy

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I woke up early, packed up, and got my butt moving, I was hoping to hike from our camp to Hwy 2 and catch a hitch into Wrightwood before everything closed down at 5pm. It was only 13 miles away, but the challenge was doing the 7.5 side trip to the top of Mt Baldy and back and also finishing the 13. Needless to say I was moving.

There was and awesome cloud looming over the San Bernadino Mountains to the East. I snapped pictures as I trekked on. The only person I saw that morning was Eagle, he was doing his thing solo and I wasnt about to disturb him. A dull pain started up in my left knee as I hiked through the morning. I told myself that it would go away, but it persisted. It would start up like an orchestra tuning a D string, and fade as they found the note. It wasn’t sharp, or quick, just a dull roar. I trekked on until finding my tunoff.

I dropped down onto the road below, set up my tent, stashed all my gear except my bag, some water, and a snack. I started hiking down further to the saddle just before the trail took off, upwards, towards Pine Mountain (first of 2 summits before baldy). The gain was unforgiving and hardy.

Up and up I went , until finally finding the top of Pine and I could see all the way to Mt Baldy, and I understood the full extent of the trek I bit off. The trail dipped far down between the saddles of the peaks and I would have to regain all I lost just to get to the next. There was no other way, I was commited. Off I went.

Finally I reached the 2nd peak, Dawsons Peak. It had a register and I saw someone comment “now to regain 1200 ft to Mt Baldy”. “Oh goody”, I said. I thought back to Phoenix and Squaw peak having similar gain and how every Friday Pete Kennedy, Dane Butow, and I would meet and race each other to the top after work. Shoving elbows and talking trash, we would edge each other on, until redlining the heartbeat and leaving it pinned there until finally we reached summit and gasped for air.

Dane and Pete weren’t physically there that day, but they hiked that last hard push with me. I pressed hard, sweating, heart pumping, until finally by almost some miricle the gain stopped and I reached the top.

The views were great! I met Zack and John at the top and we chatted for a bit. After snacks and a break I said goodbye and headed back. Finally after a few grueling hours I had returned to my trail stash. Once back, Kevin, a day hiker, seemed to appear from nowhere. We chatted for a bit before he took off up the hard gain to Pine Mountain.

I hiked the final miles to the highway exhausted for the most part. I walked to the road and stuck my thumb out. Not but 5 minutes and a black SUV pulled to the side of the road and opened a door for me. Zack, his gilfriend and 2 dogs greeted me and we chatted as we drove to Wrightwood.

I had finally arrived, soon found the Moutnain Hardware store, food, and a group of PCTers that I ended up staying with in town. It was a good long day and I was beat. Not too beat to go out for a 2nd dinner and some beers in town with the guys, but definitly beat.

Day Hiker Profile:

Zack, John – I met these guys at the top of Baldy. Super nice and hooked me up with a little extra water so I could get back to my trail stash (I had slightly underestimated the gain and wanted a lil extra as backup).

Kevin – Nice guy from LA, clean cut, instagramer that liked to bag peaks from different trailheads.

Trail Angel:

Travis – Super nice guy with his girlfriend, puffing on some grape flavored vape, and sporting a shaggy curly yellow mane. They were locals and worked at the zip line place in town.

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PCT Day 12: Alt route Mile 7-14. Idyllwild

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Woke up late (late in hiker terms) 6:30 and sluggishly got moving. I only had 7 miles to push the back way to Idyllwild from Hurkey Campground and I was in no hurry to get goign.

Smokebeard was already up and gone, Darin, Oz, and ChrisAnn were hanging out and playing it slow as they were hoping to catch a hitch into town. I was trying to slow play the day so I packed up and got on trail a little after 8.

Strolling on, it was nice to have a bit of change. I had the trail all to myself and the trail went from nice and prime to rutted out and unclear. It reminded me of being back home, on backcountry trails.

I used the chance of being off the PCT to call home as I walked. Taking in the views as I hiked, 1 headphone in, without another soul in sight. Thats alright by me!

Finally after a few miles I entered the city limits of Idyllwild. What a sweet town! There were quant little cottages, and a small down home feel to the moutnain town. The small comunity continued on as I hiked down into the town center. I peered into side yards and admired the houses and cool decorations.

Finally I pulled into town where I was surprised to find such a high amount of traffic. The town was buzzing with locals, hikers, and tourists looking to get a taste of the vibe in the town. It was small, but not too small to get bored. Plenty of cool little shops, art galleries, cafes, resturants, post office, outfitters. If you have never been, take a little time and visit this remote, yet accessible sweet town!

I found my way to the state park where I would call home for the night, set up my tent, and rand some erronds in town. Although no true PCT miles, it was still a great day exploring a new place.

Hiker Profile:

CrisAnn + Oz

The 2 teachers met in Indonesia while teaching English to children. They became great friends and soon after decided to try to find out what they wanted to do with their lives, out on the PCT. CrisAnn (from Houston TX) sports a hefty DSLR camera, and Oz has bright red shiny gaiters which earned her the trailname she reps . . . . She also goes by bun bun . . . Because she has a niece and nefew who she babysits . . . and apparenty when she sees a bunny on the tail, she reverts to speaking like she would with them =)

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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 2) – 11.4.17

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Traverse pitch from the horn, about to climb the face (have a change of pants ready!) Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P5: From the horn belay I down climbed 15’ to a ledge. Slowly and meticulously I moved climber’s right and headed out into a 40’ airy traverse and finally clipped an old school rusty hanger. From here I had 2 options, get into a rated R chimney on the right and ascend the 20’ up until the first piece of pro, or take the rated R face directly above me and ascend to that same place. I chose the face. I explored the small nubbins with my hands, I chalked up as I planned my line. I started up on the small foot holds and was instantly searching for the next small rock nub that I could use for a hand or a foot. I slowly moved out left before finding a decent line that went back right towards slab paradise. I climbed slowly and very carefully, a fall here would certainly be a huge whipper on a questionable old school anchor. Rock nub after rock nub I moved up and right until finally the angle relaxed and the slab climbing began. Used the dished face until I finally straddled the R rated chute that dropped into nowhere. I slung a large column and finally clipped in, feeling a little more relaxed as I did. I mantled over the chimney chute to nowhere onto a large ledge. I walked around a large boulder and climbed up until I found the base of P6 and set a bomber anchor for Kari. “Climb On!” I yelled down. Following the lead with essentially 2 pieces of protection in 80’ is not fun, especially when you could swing out and seriously get hurt. So the pressure of following was not as relaxed as one may think. I couldn’t see Kari at all as I belayed. All I could is reel the rope in as he climbed. I listened for any noise in the wind and finally it came as he mantled over onto the ledge: “Woop!” letting me know he made it past the chimney. Soon he joined me w a big hi-5 and an exhausted smile. We were both tired, but still had 1 more pitch left.

Time lapse, bottom to top, fun and rated R! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P6: I regathered the gear and grabbed the #4 Kari had been hauling up the whole time. I held onto a 0.75 Camelot (was so happy I had this later) and doubles from #1’s to #4’s. I once again started up, pulling a small roof before finding the off width pitch everyone boasted about. The corner facing wall to my left was blank and featureless and the bulge to my right was smooth and round. Nothing but the crack in front of me and smearing feat were there to aid my ascent. I worked at it, inch by inch, using the back of the crack with hand jams and used my gear as efficient as I could as I climbed. Once or twice I reclaimed a piece from below that I could use again higher up after placing. This pitch was the toughest and most painful! I fought for it, inch by inch, grunting, groaning through the pain. The flared wide crack finally started thinning up and I was so glad to have my 0.75 as it was perfect for the cracks exit. I placed my piece, took a rest, and finally reaching high and left for a really nice rail on the left wall. I knew I had it from there, even though the climbing wasn’t done. I kept fighting, up and on until Zoro finally seemed to give up a little. The pitch angle relaxed, my heart was thumping and the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I kept fighting, and finally after 6 pitches of grueling technical climbing I topped out and slung a juniper pine at the top of the chossey exit. I set the belay and yelled down to Kari “Climb on!” Soon, after grunting and groaning, pulling hard for it, I saw Kari’s orange and red helmet come into view. I was overwhelmed with what we just did. I slapped his helmet, and the two of us, tired and ready to finish stood on the plateau just below the summit, knowing the technical climbing was done.

Dont mind the butt shot! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
  • Looking up P6, the offwidth. Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

The Summit Plateau: We stood, beaten and bruised, looking towards the setting sun and the huge summit block that stood in front of us. We dropped our gear and brought just a pack as we walked in our climbing shoes towards the summit. The earth here was fresh and virtually untouched, we did surprisingly find a few footprints. As we neared the summit, the block just continued to grow and we started to wonder if we should have brought gear. We skirted south west of the block poking for weak spots until finally we found a route that went up. We scrambled the C4 route up a chimney crack up the sharp rock until finally we popped out into a large open plateau. The top was huge! We walked towards the south end and found a large cairn with a summit registry hidden below. The views were incredible, we could see the whole of the south rim and a lot of the Colorado River from here. We peered back to the approach we ascended, throughout the day and stood in pure amazement of the Grand Canyon’s beauty.

  • Summit block!
  • Skirting the summit block

We wrote our names in the book, so stoked to finally be standing on top after dreaming of this moment for so long. Kari claimed first Icelandic ascent, and it was nice to thinking that the only way to the top was real climbing. The sights, the air, the feeling, the thrill, made every step worth it. We turned knowing our time was limited as the sun threatened to leave us, and walked towards the north end to find the rappel route down to the base where we started.

Rap Route: The chains were at the top out just to the climber’s right of screaming sky crack, a 5.11 trad route to the climbers left of the NE Arete.

Rap1!

R1: The first rap was a nice 100’ long free hanging which ended in another set of nice shiny bolts. We stopped at each station, replacing the webbing for the rap rings so fresh stuff could be used by the next climbers.

Coming down Rap1, looking left to Screaming Sky Crack 5.11!

R2: A 60’ rap towards climbers left lead to a ledge with a nice tree and a couple more bolts, ready for fresh webbing on the rap ring awaited.

Setting up Rap 2! Kari works in the golden light

R3: A pretty straight forward 100’ rap down the face led to a large ledge. We worked to climbers left dropping another 10’ to another set of shiny bolts. R4: By this point we were pretty quick about replacing webbing, setting up and rapping down, I would keep my hand on the rope until I felt Kari’s tension release, then I’d start setting up. This time was no different I stood there waiting, hand on the rope, when all the sudden I felt a jerk of the rope and instantaneous slack on the rope. I though What the hell just happened, and I called down to Kari with no answer! There was only 1 way to find out and I set up the rap and had an ascender prussic ready in case I had to re-ascend the rope. I began rapping down, and finally about 60’ down the face Kari’s helmet came into view. “Kari!” I yelled. He answered back saying everything was fine and just come down slowly. Once I reached him I realized I was at the end of the 70m rope, but I was still dangling about 8’ above the ledge. I held onto the rock in front of my face, untied 1 knot out of the end of the rope, and repelled off the end of 1 side of the rope, and safely landed on the ledge. “Whewww!” I exclaimed, happy to be on the ground. Do not try this at home! I did see a set of bolts half way down the rap route that we could have used, but this turned out okay. R5: We found ourselves at the bolts at the top of P1 and relieved there was just a short 50’ rap left as the sun gave off its final rays of light for the day.

Goodnight fella!

We were finally back on the ground, realizing we were on rock for a good 8 hours, between the climb, the summit block scramble, and rappelling with replacing all the webbing as we went. Tired, beaten, but happy to have accomplished out goal, we headed back towards camp the way we came. We hiked through the night reversing every obstacle we ascended, rapping where it seemed logical until reaching camp. We were both beat as we packed up camp and headed back down the red wall, how do people do this in under 24 hours?!

Zoro, still staring us down in the moonlight!
Kari, heading down the slot! Towards the cliff bands!

We descended Sumner Wash and finally found feet back on Clear Creek trail. With our slightly lighter packs we headed back towards Phantom Ranch totally beat. We reached the ranch overlook at about 1am and both looked at each other knowing there was so much more trail before we exited via Bright Angel . . . “let’s have a quick nap”, I said. We pulled out a tarp and our sleeping bags and laid in a pullout of the trail and crashed until 5am. A ringtail visited us in the night attempting to “borrow” a few snacks, probing our bags for weakness. I heard some stirring, woke up and scared the little fella off. By the next morning our packs were covered with his prints.

Ringtail prints =)

We woke, and packed our bags once again and were soon descending into Phantom Ranch. We took a quick pause to re-up on our almost depleted water supply. We snacked up, watered up, and chatted with other trekkers at the ranch with big smiles on our faces. It was only about 9 more miles out via Bright Angel trail. We walked those miles feeling pretty light despite our load. We had somehow accomplished the goal we set out to achieve. The entire day before seemed like a dream as we ascended to the south rim. We glanced back when we could, thinking about the day before and how rare of a chance we had to stand among the few who have summited. What a great feeling, another awesome trek in the Grandest of Canyons!

  • Almost to Phantom!
  • Heading back towards Phantom Ranch

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, apple
  • Time: (Day 2) 7 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 10 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 4,800 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 1) – 11.3.17

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Zoroaster Temple & Brahma Temple

I stood there, palms sweaty, weighed down by the gear on my climbing harness, looking up at the start of a climb that took us 15 miles to approach, countless hours of training, and almost 2 years of dreaming to bring me face to face with the start of the route. My hoody was zipped up, and I could feel the chilled wind on my legs whipping by on the North face of Zoroaster Temple, deep in the belly of the Grand Canyon. I had plunged my hand into my chalk bag and took my first step towards a climb of a lifetime, and it all became real when Kari called out “Climb On!”

North East Arete: 6 pitches – 5.9+ Trad (click to enlarge)

I started this climbing thing after setting my eyes on the Grand Canyon summit Zoroaster Temple. Its  a magnificent formation that stands tall, guarding the Colorado River, just northeast of Phantom Ranch. All I knew at the time was that it was a technical climb. As my climbing experience increased, I found out that summiting came at the price of 6 pitches of 5.9+ trad climb; that was nothing to shake a stick at. In the Grand Canyon it’s the king of the back country rock climbs, in that to get to the top the easiest route up (NE Arete) boasts this stiff ante. After talking about this thing at nauseam to my friends for almost 2 years, finally my climbing partner Kari was available, my training seemed right, and the weather window opened for a summit attempt. This is my account of our summit attempt:

Day 1:

Kari and I pulled ourselves from the van, groggy and disoriented from the long drive the night before, the short sleep, and the frantic packing, before the bus came hissing to a stop just in front of the Bright Angel Lodge. We scrambled on board, and we were off! After the short bus ride to the trailhead we were finally feet on trail looking down South Kaibab trail and across the canyon to the base of the beast.

Ohh Ahh Point!
The Grandest of Canyons!

Even from Ohh Ahh point Zoroaster stood proud and bold just tempting anyone to attempt a summit bid. We kept on trekking down towards the bottom of the canyon chatting with people and taking in the views as we went. Before we knew it, 8 miles later and 4500 ft of elevation drop, we found ourselves at the doorstop of Phantom Ranch. We threw our heavy packs onto the picnic tables and headed inside to grab some postcards to send home. After a quick rest we loaded up on the 5 liters of water that would last us through the night and the entire next day.

  • Kari, leading the charge, O'Nielle Butte in view, Zoro looming
Just above the Colorado on South Kaibab, gorgeous views

Our packs were heavier than ever, weighing in at a bolstering 53lbs each. The rope, trad rack, camping gear, food, clothes, and finally water was a tough but necessary in order to pull off our goal. We headed up the trail wincing at the weight as it cut into our shoulders. About ½ mile north of Phantom Ranch the Clear Creek trail took off right, east towards Sumner Wash where the “real adventure” began!

53 lbs? Think I need a diet!

We pushed up and on as the two grueling miles gained 1500 feet towards the wash, Kari seemed un-phased by the weight. For some reason that day, it weighed heavy on me. I am not sure if I had met a weight limit that stunted my push, or if I hadn’t trained my legs enough, but I was definitely feeling it as we pressed on. Finally we reached Sumner Wash and diverged from Clear Creek trail. We headed north for the Redwall Notch which gave us access to the Lower Supai Layer and Zoroaster’s arm.

The inner gorge from Clear Creek trail
  • Popping out to see the Colorado after some nice gain on Clear Creek trail
Ascending towards the red wall notch

We grunted on finally reaching the base of the notch and threw packs down for a quick break. We each dropped a liter of water and stashed a little food in a tree to save weight. Soon we were on our feet again, racing against the sun, and heading out climbers right to a nice exposed class 4 climb that would circumvent a 5.7 technical climb (aint nobody got time for that!). We ascended carefully on the sharp rock, looking for the path of least resistance. Soon standing high over a sketchy down climb we looked at our options. There wasn’t much time for debate, so we de-packed and I down climbed as Kari got the packs ready to be handed down by rope.

  • Grinding on! (photo credit Kari Hreinsson)

Soon after some questionable exposure we were both safe past the obstacle. We looked up the notch to see our next class 4 obstacle to navigate past. Sweaty palms, and labored backs, we carefully ascended a crack, going behind a short stubby bush, and finally taking an airy step across a death defying drop to safety. Whew! We both made it and were definite ready for safe ground. We continued up the class 3 notch towards the top out which was surprisingly tame.

Camp baby!
The sun set as we finished setting up and cooking food, an early bedtime was most definitely warranted!

Finally we popped out and eyeballed a juniper tree with a large flat spot for a nice camp spot. We had made it safely to camp!!! I dropped my pack that had been cutting into my shoulders, with a gasp of relief! We began to set up the tent and looked south to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the Grand Canyon. Zoroaster stared down at us, and we stared back knowing the next day would hold some of the hardest trad climbing (well my limit at least) with no true promise of a summit in sight. Our work was cut out for us and we tucked into bed, trying to get as much rest as possible.

Goodnight old friend

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters (5 liters packed in addition)
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 1) 10 hours
  • Distance: (Day 1) 12 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 1) 3,000 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Wallowas – Razzberry Mountain – Day 2 – OR (8.20.17)

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Morning view of Eagle Cap

The sun shone on the side of the tent warming it and waking us. I unzipped the tent and found, to my surprise, a thick layer of frost on the tent fly and everything else for that matter. It was most certainly cold the night before, but I never thought there would be ice! We got moving, starting the morning ritual of coffee, breakfast, and packing up camp. Soon we were back on our feet, feeling so much more refreshed from the night before.

  • On our feet again, Trip leader Tween heads out

Everything was so green and Eagle Cap (9572ft), our target for the next day, stared us right in the face and was perfectly framed by the two ridges that made East Lostline River Valley. We were soon back on the trail headed further into the valley, searching for our next camp. After running into a few other backpackers and hikers we made our way from trail 1662 towards Mirror Lake. What a view, everything was just so gorgeous. It was a bluebird day, the mountains were high, the weather was perfect, and the alpine lakes were calm and serene. After pausing at Mirror Lake to take in the views, we headed east to the far end of the lake were we found a sweet spot to set up camp for the night.

Mirror Lake!
Camp! Moccasin Lake in the distance
Moccasin Lake

Once we had camp all set up, I grabbed my day pack, loaded it with water and snacks, then we headed out in search of Razz Lake, and hopefully Razzberry Mountain (9314 ft) for a good view of Matterhorn and the mountains beyond. The area was like a backpackers dream, it seemed like once you paid the price of the 7ish mile approach hike you could camp just about anywhere and have an incredible glacier lake view with mountains all around! The breathtaking views didn’t stop as we made our way towards the approach to Razz Lake and eventually Razzberry Mountain! We passed Moccasin Lake just below our camp and trekked on passing Douglas Lake, Lee Lake, and just to the north of Horseshoe where the creek runoff from Razz thundered across the trail.

  • Down towards Moccasin

It was time to leave the well-trodden trail and blaze our way up. Izzie was game, with the promise of a lake to swim in just below the peak, she was just as motivated as I to get up the runoff through the steep trail-less woods. We pressed on, tromping through thick underbrush, downed trees and a few creek crossing before, out of nowhere, a trail appeared! “What was this?!” I thought as we trekked on along the faint trail. It seemed to be going the right way and before long we realized it was a small hikers’ trail heading through the beautiful woods and flower covered meadows headed up, towards the lake. Man what luck!

Razz lake! How beautiful!
Looking at the ridge line from Razz Lake, Razz Mountain looming just above!

We trekked on up, and up, until finally we popped out at the end of a large crystal calm lake. We had the place to ourselves, not a person in sight, and we decided to get in Razz Lake for a quick swim! Wheewwwww talk about cold! We were both shivering, but it was still a nice refreshing 40ish degrees! After a few minutes of trying to ignore how cold the water was, we both decided to get out and warm up on the lakeside rocks. What a beautiful day, I looked up towards the peak and the gnarly ridgeline we would need to cross in order to summit. I was curious what it would be like, and we chatted about the approach as we snacked drying in the sun. What a beautiful day, so perfect!

  • Ridge of white rock in the distance calling our name!
  • Taking the path less traveled
Looking down the east side of the ridge line dropoff

We packed up and started up the approach towards the ridgeline. The granite white/grey rock reminded me so much of Yosemite as we ascended. It wasn’t long before we were far above the lake we just swam in and seeing gorgeous views of the Wallowas in the distance. We reached the ridge after a loose steep chossey approach (2 steps forward 1 step back) and began to pick our way across the ridge. Move after slowly calculated move we made our way towards Razzberry Mountain. We clung to the rocks, sometimes Class 2, lots of Class 3, and a few Class 4 spots, the climb was a lot of fun! Junipers were the biggest pain, they tried their best to hold us back, guarding the peak like little soldiers. After an hour or more picking our way across the ridge, we finally made the last few moves and simultaneously touched the highest point on the mountain to gain the peak!!! Once again, we tuckered down and had a nice snack, taking in views of all the gorgeous mountains in the distance. How incredible this areas was, and it was so nice to be far from anyone else on a backcountry peak!

  • Scramble city!
Views from Razzberry Mountain!

After basking in the views, we headed down, back towards a saddle where it seemed the path of least resistance to Razz Lake (which of course is straight down!). It was a chossboss scree surf down some really nice sand/rock back to the trail below. Izzie was all smiles when we finally got down and we chilled by the lake one last time before heading back. We said goodbye to Razz, turned back, and headed back to camp the way we came. We enjoyed the sunset and views of Eagle Cap as we trekked on towards camp. After a few miles, we reached camp, cooked up dinner, and were soon crashed for the night ready to take on Eagle Cap to see the Eclipse!

  • Down we go, scree surfing!

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 60s, Low – 40s, Clear
  • Water: 5 Liters (including dinner)
  • Food: Instant Coffee, bagel, Triscutes and hummus, 1 PBJ, Orange, Apple, 2 Clif Builder Bar, 2 protein Bars, 1 Bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips, Gummy Worms, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~2500 accumulated

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool – long sleeve 195 shirt
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Arc’teryx ATOM hoody
  • Threadless hoody
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell – Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
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Kinglet Traverse – Chugach – Day 2 – AK (7.2.17)

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Campside lake views

Brendan and I woke to the sound of rain hitting the tent. The rain started the night before as soon as we zipped the tent closed. Unfortunately there was no sign of it giving up. We poked our heads outside to see a low looming cloud near the surrounding peaks and a grayed out sky slowly drizzling down its rain on us. Gah, I didn’t want to move, I had slept so well that I didn’t move an inch all night. Regardless we had no choice but to get moving, trying to find our way out of the Chugach.

Welp, time to get moving!

We packed up camp, pulled on our rain gear, and soon stood ready to let out from the no name lake we found the night before. I bought Frog Togs on the way to the trail head as I neglected to bring my rain pants with me . . . . . they ripped in the first 2 minutes, right up the crotch . . . hahaha! I could tell it was going to be a good day!

Nice and soppy

The rain drizzled on as we began to skirt north, across the wide open side draws that fed the North Fork of Ship Creek valley. The ground was covered in a cushy nice moss and speckled with jetting rocks here and there. We gained a small ridge and we could see the whole valley including the contributing side canyon that we oringinally intended to use to approach Organ Mountain and Synthesizer Peak. All we could do was speculate from a far, as the weather, snow in the shoot, and whiteout conditions made us call for a “raincheck” on the peak attempt.

Beautiful, even with the fog
Damn bro, couldnt you hold it?! Hahaha little Grizzly sign

With bluebird dreams in our heads we dropped into the next valley, crossing a stream were the open draw headed up canyon via Ship Creek towards Moraine Pass. We saw a nice big pile of fresh bear skat in this valley, we kept our heads on a swivel in this grizz filled country. No one wants to accidentally come face to face with a bear, especially way out here in the heart of the Chugach. We kept skirting the south side of the valley headed east, and soon Grizzly Bear Lake came into view.

Further up Ships Creek
Choss and snow be darned, up we go!

Even with the clouds looming and the rain drizzling it was still gorgeous out here. Gnarly looking raw peaks jetted up on either side of the valley loomed in clouds with lush green bases, touting huge vertical gains, just daring to be summited. We stopped for a nice snack break. Grubbing down on PBJs and chips we looked in the distance to the snow covered Paradise Pass that we had to gain for our exit. We planned to dump down into Paradise Valley which would connect us back into the trail to Crows Pass. Brendan pointed “When you see this thing up close you are going to be like “why the heck did they name it paradise pass?!””. We chuckled at we snacked on taking in the incredible views.

Let the snowfield begin as we ascend Moraine Pass

Still a long way off to go, we pressed up a steep snow covered hill to enter the open Moraine Pass. Brendan took off up the snow like a Polar Bear, walking straight up and soon kicking in steps as the incline became almost vertical. I followed suite, and after a nice steep push we could see the next obstacle. Snow patch after snow patch, we hopped between the good snow and rocks avoiding the rotten snow pack. When you stepped on it, it would just give way, letting you sink like a brick.

The long steep slope up towards Paradise Pass
Looking back down towards Moraine Pass

A snow patch just below Paradise Pass was particularly rotten, so we decided to use a snow ramp to climber’s right to gain a rock traverse that would eventually bring us to the thin knife-edge pass. We kicked in snow steps once again. High on the ramp I looked down as the snow started to rot out just before reaching the rocks. This is the last place I wanted to fall I though to myself . . . one careful step after the next I finally grabbed chossey crumbly crap rock on the other side, whew!! Relatively safe?! We skirted the chossfest rock face until just before the pass when the great Chugach gave us one last nice class 4 step across crumbly rock. Not one hold was good, and the price of a mistake here would send you a few hundred feet below. You probably wouldn’t die . . . but it would definitely hurt. Everything was coming apart like trying to rock climb a sandcastle . . . with a nice big pack on. Brendan moved past it and was chilling on the pass I went for the move. Not one good hold, I just tried to distribute my weight out to 3 points as I moved. I stepped across as lightly as I could . . . and to my relief, soon standing on the knife-edge Paradise Pass with Brendan. Gotta love the spice level . . . Spice Word! The rain stopped and the clouds rose just momentarily enough for us to cook some lunch and take in the sights.

Its Paradise Boys! Count Chossula has definitely been here!
This looks like a good place for some Maruchan Chicken!
The fog moves in and out, giving us glimpses of the land below

We packed up once again and got going. We dove the scree field into Paradise pass, pushing quickly, surfing rocks and snow when there were good patches. We soon found ourselves at the mouth of Paradise Pass side hilling on a small goats path towards Clear Creek valley. We dumped down into Clear Creek valley and searched for a good crossing, I went high and Brendan went low. Soon, after some careful navigation and wet feet, we were on the other side of the creek. We pressed on, finishing out the side hilling and tied back into the trail to Crow Pass.

Dropping over the pass, we pressed further towards the trail
Lush, green, and beautiful

We gained Crow Pass, meeting a few day hikers and backpackers for the weekend. The rain kept coming down and the clouds closed us back up. As we descended the path headed towards the truck, I thought about how I wasn’t ready for the trip to end, and how special Alaska really is. Then all the sudden a white mountain goat appeared on the trail headed directly for us! The huge beast just walked towards us without a care in the word. We went high standing on a slope just 15 feet above him. He trotted by grazing on grass and flowers as he went, not caring that we were standing just feet away.

Almost back to Crow Pass
Look at this huge fella!
GOAT!!!! Photo Credit: Brendan Lee IG: alaskan_bren

Excited we snapped pictures and watched him closely pass. Awesome!!!!! I had been hoping for this the whole trip, and just feet away I finally got a close encounter with a mountain goat in Alaska. We trekked the final miles to the truck high on the experience and were soon throwing out packs in and pulling off our wet clothes for dry ones. Alaska is a beautiful raw place, and I was so happy to see it.

And there he goes, trotting up the trail like he owns it
One last glimpse up valley before finishing off the last 1/2 mile

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Cool plants right where we camped, no idea what they were, some kind of lichen perhaps
  • Paradise Pass

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 50s, Low in upper 40s, Foggy, Rainy, Socked-in
  • Water: 4 Liters
  • Food: 1 Bagel, 2 Protien bars, 2 Cliff Protien Bars, 2 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Apple, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips, 1/2 bag of trailmix, 1 PB&J sandwich, Maruchan Chicken Ramen, Snickers.
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~3100 accumulated

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • 60 ft 7mm pull cord
  • Black Diamond Ice Axe

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool – long sleeve 195 shirt
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Solomon Waterproof Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
  • Patagonia Rain jacket
  • “FrogTog” Rain Pants
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Kinglet Traverse – Chugach – Day 1 – AK (7.1.17)

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Alaska is a hard place. It’s a different kind of hard than New York City, but it can toughen you up and man out of you just the same. There is no trail to 95% of the peaks here. You get a nice approach trail to the base of the peak, then the rest is up to you! Grind on, through the chossfest, up the very steep scree, onto some nice rotten exposed scrambling, and finally to the top where you get slapped in the face by breathtaking views. This was pretty much the story of our trek, except much more choss, rain, and silly jokes about made up characters like Count Chossula and BooBoo Johnson (to keep us going) than I’d like to admit!

Lets get going! Starting in, headed up to Crow Pass

Brendan and I pulled our packs from the truck and strapped them on, ready to head deep into the Chugach State Park. We put feet on trial headed up Crows Pass where we would start our journey. The country here was beautiful! The trail meandered through a valley surrounded by lush, green, steep mountains that jetted almost straight up from the valley floor shrouded in clouds. I grinned from ear to ear, so happy to be on the trail. As we trekked further up the trail Brendan would point in the distance, calling out peak names and telling me stories of past treks.

Nice 180 view from the trail, awesome views everywhere! (Click to Enlarge)
Crow Pass!

We finally reached crows pass where there was a nice cabin, settled in the middle of the long meadow. What a nice place to spend the weekend and chill, but we had other plans in mind. The sky was still grey from the passing fog which would fade in and out, covering the mountains, and then opening up momentarily to give us incredible views. Just past Crow Pass we got a great view of Ravens Glacier to the east. Its ice cold blue core melted down creating incredible huge waterfalls at the headwaters of Raven Creek that eventually fed Eagle River.

Ravens Glacier

We trekked on down the trail until just before Clear Creek canyon, where Brendan stepped off the trail saying “whelp here is our exit!” We skirted the grassy hillside avoiding cliff outs before finally dumping into Clear Creek canyon. Let the boulder creek hopping begin! We made our way up the valley, back and forth across the creek until finally reaching the base of Steamroller pass. It was time to go to work and we slogged our way up the steep chossfest. Step after step through loose rock and finally a long patch of snow, we finally gained the top of the pass. As soon as we hit the saddle, fog rolled in, giving us whiteout conditions and it began to rain . . . time to dawn the rain jackets, frog-togs, and pack covers!

  • Clear Creek Canyon

From here we ditched our packs and headed up the knife-edge ridge through the white-out conditions towards Camp Robbers Peak standing at 5855 ft. picking our way through the exposed class 3/4 ridge finally found the final approach to Robbers. We made our way up the rotten final push false summit after false summit. Each handhold or foothold had to be inspected, and even it was never to be fully trusted as it could easily give way and send you hurdling down a never-ending gully. Gotta love the Chugach choss!

Brendan, looking like a champion on the ridge to Camp Robbers Peak
Camp Robbers Peak (5855)!

After summiting we headed back to the pass that was still socked in, no visibility. We found the path of least resistance and scree surfed our way into the Arch Angel lakes valley. As soon as we dropped into the valley, all the rain, clouds, and cold wind died off and let way to beautiful bluebird skies. We trekked over to one of the lakes and took ourselves a nice lunch of Maruchan Chicken soup and PBJs. It was a nice change of pace from the morning and we hoped the rest of the day followed suite.

Headed over Steamroller pass, further into the Chugach!
Cool little lake below the Kinglet Traverse we decided to have lunch at

We packed back up and trekked on towards Arch Angel Pass it see a white mountain goat standing just before the pass checking us out, until he spotted us, and turned slowly walking out of sight. We pressed on, eyeballing the Kings traverse as we went, until finally reaching the pass to be blasted by incredible clear views of the Chugach State Park. What a gorgeous moment! Looking north we saw the Organ Mountain’s approach chute was totally caked in snow and we didn’t have the right gear to ascend, so we decided to take the Kinglet Traverse instead and were afforded some great views.

Looking over the edge of Arch Angels Pass
Alaska and Brendan in all their glory! (Click to enlarge)
Looking north from the Kinglet Traverse

We pressed on and up the good grind to East Kinglet peak (5190). We finally reached the summit and once again were taken back by some incredible views. We could see Paradise Pass, Arch Angel valley, Camp Robbers peak where we came, and north into Ship Creek valley guarded by Organ Mountain and Synthesizer peak. We felt like we could see all of the heart of the Chugach. We kept trekking on the ridgeline touching off on Middle Kinglet and soon West Kinglet (5175). The views from the ridgeline were something of a dream.

West Kinglet
Brendan, looking down, finding a way into the valley where we planned to camp.
Little accessory cord assist to get us through the ballbearing downclimb!

Finally we decided to drop into Ship Creek and find a nice camp for the night. We continued to skirt the ridge until we found a weak spot in the ridge, leading to the valley below. Using a 7mm hand line we lowered ourselves across the ball bearing entrance until sure footing was found. One more hand line drop got us to a scree route that went. We scree surfed our way down into a no name lake where we pitched out tent, filtered water, ate dinner, and finally zipped down our tent before crashing like tranquilized beasts.

  • Looking down into the valley

What an incredible day! Just think we still had another full day before leaving this paradise!

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Coming down off of Crow Pass
  • Lets get started!

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 60s, Low in upper 40s, Foggy, Rainy, Sockedin
  • Water: 4 Liters (including dinner)
  • Food: 1 Bagel, 2 Protien bars, 2 Cliff Protien Bars, 2 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Apple, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips, 1/2 bag of trailmix, 1 PB&J sandwich, Maruchan Chicken Ramen, Snickers.
  • Time: 10 hours
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~6100 accumulated

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • 60 ft 7mm pull cord
  • Black Diamond Ice Axe

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool – long sleeve 195 shirt
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Solomon Waterproof Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
  • Patagonia Rain jacket
  • “FrogTog” Rain Pants
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SuperSlide & Trail By Fire – Trad Climb – Yosemite – CA (6.22.17)

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Beautiful Views of Yosemite mid route on SuperSlide

Justin and I pulled into the last open parking spot in the Ahwahnee Hotel parking lot ready to start the day in search for a climb called SuperSlide on the Royal Arches wall in Yosemite National Park. A true search it was! Not totally sure where the beginning of the climb started, we stared at the Royal Arch Cascade and began hiking east along the base of the rockface. We found lines of bolts and climbs that looked similar, but it wasn’t until about ½ mile of route inspection and almost 30 mins later that realized we went the wrong way at the cascades, and had to turn around.

Let the search begin!

Arriving back at the cascades, nice and warm from the search hike, we headed west soon taking a climbers trail to the base of the wall and coming face to face with “Trail By Fire” a 5.8 Offwidth crack. The low angle line looked good, but offwidth being what it is, we were sure in for a struggle! Justin racked up and started off the ground making the first few moves rather quickly. The crack was wide, fist stacks, hand fist stacks, and chickenwings were welcome in this flared beast. Justin kept pushing on up the line making some good grunts along the way.

View from the base of “Trial By Fire” (5.8) Offwidth

Offwidth (if you are unfamiliar) is that special kind of climbing where the crack is too big for fingers or single hand jams and usually takes awkward body manipulation movements to ascend the crack, resulting in blood, sweat, grunts, and typically a full body pump afterward. Justin bumped his #5 cam higher as he climbed and kept moving. After the middle section he through the upper relatively quickly, popped on top of a large chalkstone clipped chains, set up an anchor and soon was ready for me to climb on.

  • Starting out
Me, swimming in a sea of rock that is Trail By Fire, trying not to get swallowed whole!

At first glance the crack look pretty simple and straightforward. I started in, hand jams just at the limit of my hands were found but I could still manage. About 10 feet or so off the ground the crack began to swallow me whole. The hand jams turned to chicken wings and the features on the face turned from edges to smears. The middle section proved most challenging for me. I started to sweat and give off a lot of heat with the amount of energy I was putting off just to inch my way up the flared crack. Both feet in, I inched on. Even with the cool air, the rock just radiated the heat I was producing right back onto me. I left like I was in a sauna! After a lot of grunts, groans, and a few rally yells I reached the chains covered in sweat.

  • Linkup Pitch from top pf Trial By Fire to base of P2 of SuperSlide (the chossfest)

Justin jokingly asked if I wanted the next lead, I was so worked I had to rest! Justin led on the next “pitch” connecting Trail by Fire with the start of P2 of SuperSlide (5.9). Justin climbed on into the unknown as the two climbs were not traditionally linked. The next connector pitch was a chossfest. The rock quality was not great and it seemed like everything was covered in moss, plants, or crumbing rock. After some questionable climbing I met Justin at a smile and a hi-5 for the effort leading such a crap pitch! We swapped over leads, I headed up P2. The start was a nice high foot and being weighed down by a doublerack it seemed cumbersome at first. Once I placed my first cam and shook out it got a lot better. The face climbing was chill and soon I was into a beautiful crack and it was time to work! I lead on placing piece after piece, but was soon forced out of the crack just under a small roof. I placed a protection piece, and soon pulled the nice roof onto a ledge that walked left to a tree at the base of P3.

I set up my anchor and belayed Justin up as the rope drag would have become too much to climb further. We swapped leads once again and Justin headed up the clean line with some nice mixed face/crack to link both P3 and P4. Oh the climbing was nice! If there was a questionable hold, there would be a bomber one just next to it or a great handjam to make up for it. I followed on and cleaned the gear as I went. P3 and P4 were really fun, handjam after handjam to bomber facehold and back I ascended the 2 pitches. There was a nice traverse about half way up P3, that seemed sketch at first, then you grabbed a bomb hold and realized the worry was for nothing. The pitches were really fun!

  • Starting up P3

At the base of P5 we meet up again and looked up at the line. Research stated that this supposed to be the crux of the climb. The nice Yosemite 5.9 crack ran out and you were faced with some thin face holds to make the final move to the chains. We debated for a bit, and in the end I decided to let Justin take the lead. Looking back I really wish I would have led out, but such is life, the climb was beautiful! Justin led on and was soon at the anchors, putting me on belay. I soon followed switching between a fun 2 crack system, collecting gear as I went. The second crack finally petered out and the hand jams turned to a thinner finger crack. The climbing was awesome! Full toe engagement and nice solid finger placement all the way to the knuckle were found all the way up the crack to a face, forcing the route left. I swapped to a right foot in the crack and with a solid right hand, moved for a large sloper and a thin left foothold. I stood on the foot, manteling on the sloper and once again was standing side by side with Justin. What an awesome climb!

  • Start of P5
180 View from the top of Superslide

We rapped pitch after pitch as quickly as we could as we watched a storm start moving in from the West. We wrapped P4 and went to pull the rope. Of course, as whenever you are in a hurry, it got stuck on a small flake. James scoffed at the rope and flipped it vigorously to get the fella out. We are about to gear up and re-ascend, when I gave it one last fleeting try. Boop!!!! The rope come free and falling towards us. We hi-5ed and wooped in excitement! With the rap crux behind us we quickly descended to the ground and got back to the car. What an awesome day, one of the best climbs I’ve done to date!

Justin, rapping down P2 of SuperSlide

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 1.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 Nature Valley Granola bars
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 1 mile RT (by accidental rout finding)
  • Accumulated Gain: 500 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 5

GEAR:

  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 14 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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The Subway via Top Down – Zion UT (5.20.17)

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Woken once again by a Saxophone blasting “Careless Whisper” by George Michael Blasts at 4:00 am, I shifted in my bag. Déjà vu from the Buckskin trek the morning before? Nope! Now it was time to pack our things up and head into Zion to grab our permits for the top down canyoneering route called The Subway! Once again Andrew, Larry, Eric, and I woke, packed up, and got ready for the day to come.

Piling into the truck with Larry behind the wheel, we headed for Zion. The miles faded pretty quickly despite a rock fall on the east side reverting us to enter instead via Hurricane UT from the west side. We soon found ourselves at the visitor center, running in and grabbing our permits before driving to the lower left fork trailhead and dropping my bike off to complete the shuttle to the start at Wildcat Canyon trailhead. The plan was to start up top, push the 9.5 miles down the technical canyon and pop out at the trailhead where, to add insult to injury, I would ride back up on my bike and grab the truck to finish the loop.

We had our work cut out for us so we stepped out of the truck and gathered our packs together. With everything in order at about 11am we set out on the wide open pine-ridden prairie down Wildcat Trail to the southeast.  The bluebird skies only had a few clouds and the temps were perfect… couldn’t have picked a better day!

  • Lets get moving!

After a mile down trail, we met the Northgate Peaks Trail and turned right headed towards the lip of the dropoff. The blue sky shone through as we edged closer to the sign that was marked “The Subway Trailhead”. We were all excited and clambered on, down a cairned sandstone rock. We were spit onto a well-cairned and traveled foot trail that headed through the woods and down the slick rock. After many gorgeous open views, we found ourselves at the top of the final steep descent into the bottom of the Russel Gulch.

  • Slickrock action
  • Down down we go
Large pool at the bottom if Russel’s Gulch

We turned southwest into the Left Fork Creek, and right away we could see the water carved walls that were reminiscent of “The Subway” formation. The canyon was gorgeous, covered in lush green foliage, cool from the shade, and stunning rocks all around. We trekked down the creek until coming upon our first rappel off a Huge VW sized boulder. When we arrived, one group ahead of us was in the middle of rappelling and another was waiting so we took a break for lunch.

  • At the bottom finally

Larry, Andrew, and Eric had little rappelling experience but I walked them through the procedure.  Soon we were all down safely on the ground past the first 25’ section. We once again turned downstream and after just a hop skip and a jump, we were faced with a large pool . . . welp, no more holding off the wetsuits, it was time to dawn them! We all zipped ourselves up, looking like tadpoles getting ready for our first swim, and walked into the depths of the cool, shallow pool that was only stomach deep. Not but 30 yards later we overlooked a large chalkstone into a small waterfall and our first swimmer… we didn’t put these things on for nothing!

  • First swimmer

I was first to plunge in, and like a dog getting into a pool for the first time I paddled to the other side of the long slotted swimmer. Whew! Larry, then Andrew, and finally Eric all safely dropped in and were following close behind. We all laughed as we exited the pool, happy for the warm sun shining on us. It didn’t take long before we found our next obstacle, a double chalkstone drop each into swimmers. No need for a rope on these, we just slinked off the chalkstones into the cold dark water below. The second drop had a large log stuck under it which was a nice support for our feet as we got ready to plunge into the deepest, darkest pool of the day. Wheewwww if I wasn’t already awake, that pool sure did the trick! The cold swimmer began to pull my core temps down and I quickly looked for sun to snap pictures of the crew as they followed on.

  • Double chalkstone Obstacle ahead!
Just above the Keyhole Waterfall

We kept trekking through the beautiful canyon and soon found ourselves at the keyhole waterfall. The keyhole waterfall is signified by a large hole that had been drilled through the sandstone by water just to the left of the waterfall. This was supposed to be the next rap, however a large log had fallen below the drop creating an easy to walk ramp. We just used the rap bolts as an anchor for a hand line and walked down. Once at the bottom we walked through a small corridor shaped like a mini subway.  Logs and debris were all over the place, but they just added to the aesthetic.

  • Coming down the keyhole hallway

Finally we walked out into a nice open area with a vertical log wedged between the floor and the canyon wall.  This was the upper subway just before the final rap into the lower subway. How nice it was to see this famously photographed sight in person. We took a final break before the long slog out, basking in the sun like lizards still trying to shake off the chill from the double chalkstone swimmer earlier in the canyon.

Upper Subway – Famous vertical log!
Catching some sun before the final rap

It was time to get moving again as I stuffed the final crumbs of salt and vinegar chips I had into my mouth. After a turn or two we found the final rap on canyon right to the side of a waterfall into the lower subway. We could hear a large group of “bottom up” hikers below in the pools taking in the sights of famed formation. We set up our rope and rapped the final drop and were soon stripping wetsuits. It was nice not to need the suits any further. The rest of the hike was gorgeous… beautiful slick rock, cascading waterfalls, and lush green foliage everywhere complimenting the red rocks. After a few miles we finally reached the exit canyon right. I took the keys to the truck and took off up the Cliffside.

  • Pushing on
Final Rap into the Lower Subway
  • Looking downstream into the Lower Subway

I grabbed my bike from the trees where I stowed it and began to ride back to the upper trailhead. I had originally thought it was just a few hundred feet of gain in a few miles, but later research let me know that it was 7.5 mile ride with 1900 feet of gain.  Let’s just say when the quad burning, calf aching, sweat pouring, beautiful view having grind was over, I was pretty happy! I drove back down, grabbed the guys and we headed back to Springdale for much deserved pizza and beer. What an awesome day enjoying Zion national park!!!

  • Final push out of the canyon
  • Waterfall action

HIKE INFO:

The Subway: Top Down Technical Canyoneering:

 

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 40s, Water in the 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: 2 Protien Bars, 2 granola bars, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 bag of jerky, bag of salt and vinegar chips, gummy worms
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: 9.5 miles in canyon + 7.5 miles on bike
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,300 feet

GEAR:

  • The Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker
  • Neoprene Sox
  • 3/4 Wet Suite
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 60 feet 10.2mm Static rope
  • Webbing, personal anchor
  • 3 rap rings (not used)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Icebreaker wool shirt
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Arcteryx Atom hoody
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Secret Mountain – Sedona – AZ (5.28.17)

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Mike, Meg, and myself strapped on our packs and headed out on a warm afternoon search of adventure up Longs Canyon in Sedona AZ. The trail itself was 3.5 miles and 800 feet up the canyon before its terminates. I looked at the map and it seemed as though there was a possibility to push up the rest of the canyon to its top and tie into the peak Secret Mountain and hopefully a walkover down the backside of the mountain.

Longs Canyon tailhead!

The trail was warm and open as we let out high desert with small to mid shrubs, plenty of cacti, and a few juniper in the distance, and red rocks all-around of course! We trekked on, only seeing a few people towards the trailhead and soon we were off on our own trekking the red dirt of Sedona canyons. What a beautiful place, you could see all the red and white sandstone rocks in the distance covered at the base by pine and juniper.

  • Open desert still

We trekked on further into the trail and soon the low brush gave way to taller trees and we found many traces of old creek beds as we followed the wandering trail deeper into the canyon. We only passed a few people as we trekked further. The further we pushed the more green and lush the woods around us became. We kept on trekking and soon found a nice brown sign that stated “End of Trail”. I was thinking . . . not just yet, as we sat down and took a nice lunchbreak.

Technically the “End” of the trail

I checked the map and saw that it gained about 500 feet in a quarter mile, and I though, whelp that could be just a scramble or a rock climb . . . only one way to find out. Mike bridged the question “Do you guys want to head up the canyon and check it out?” Mike already knew where my head was, with a big grin on my face, and I think it was more to gage Meg’s interest. She seemed keen on the idea and we blew past the brown sign heading up into the unknown.

Hmm looks like we are in for some fun bushwhacking!

The canyon was trail-less as we ascended. One in a while we would see a random cairn, but for the most part, not much sign of others traveling here. It wasn’t long before we came our first small obstacle: a short climb. I headed up first, and to my surprise Meg was on it without question soon pulling the lip and trekking on. “Alright!” I thought hopeful that we could all push up the canyon without turning back. We bushwhacked, rock hopped, and climbed our way further and further into the canyon. The weeds and thicket would become thicker and then all the sudden let up, giving way to easy trial, then back to thicket again.

  • Bushes abound!

We pressed further and further, until finally 600 vertical feet from our top-out we came to a dry fall. This is where it started getting fun! Mike searched for his own route to scout ahead, as I poked and prodded finding the chilliest route to ascend. The rocks were loose and the climb became pretty steep. Seeing that Meg didn’t look super comfortable I pulled out a 25’ purple 6mm cord form my pack (I brought it just in case). I tied one end around my waste and would climb until she was holding the end of the rope. At the end of the rope, I would lay down, grabbing onto the closest large boulder or tree creating a human anchor and she used the rope as a guideline to climb up to where I was. Pretty much like a poor man’s climbing belay.

Welp that’s a class 5 climb . . . lets see what else we can find!

We ascended the canyon like this for some time overcoming some seriously steep, brush covered, chossy crumbing inclines. At one point we passed near a rattler that sounded off, and we traversed to the other side of the canyon giving it some room (we had better things to do than play with a snake). We kept ascending, taking obstacle after loose obstacle on. At the top of one scramble there were huge teetering boulders just waiting to be released. With all of us in a safe spot I kicked one sending the whole pile down the canyon yelling “ROCK!!!!” as I did. I figured this was best as to dismantle the potentially hazardous rock pile for the next adventurers to ascend the route. The rocks all soon came to a sliding halt and we pressed on.

  • Popping out of the shrubbed canyon into unobstructed views!
Looking back over Longs Canyon we ascended, how gorgeous!

We soon popped out of the canopy cover of the canyon and could see across beautiful Sedona. We were still 200 feet shy of standing on top of Secret Mountain, and the search for a clear path began. Eventually we skirted north, finding a nice shrub covered ramp that was the most affordable gain to the top. We took it, moving carefully as we did. Finally after some nice manzanita and pine tree bushwhacking, we reached the top and started looking for the Secret Mountain trail . . . . of course like any adventure . . . there was no trail.

Views are killin it!
Traversing north towards a nice bushwhack ramp, stellar views!

We kept walking in the direction where we trail should have been . . . still nothing. I was ready to turn and burn, the shortest distance back to the truck because I knew the route went. Mike on the other hand was still optimistic and said we should press a bit further before calling it. We trekked on, just another 5 minutes and like magic the trail appeared. A chunky, but nice footpath bringing us all the way across Secret Mountain to the top of Loy Canyon were we would walk out.

  • On top of Secret Mountain
  • Mike - Lookin classy as always

It was a beautiful descent, incredible views across Sedona, through the cool pines, and switchbacks of Loy. After 10 miles we reached the mouth of the canyon to a trailhead where our friend Adrian soon arrived to pick us up and bring us back to base camp. Another awesome adventure, safely executed with good people in a beautiful place. Get out and make adventure dreams a reality!

HIKE INFO:

Long Canyon: https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=70

Long to Secret Mountain to Loy Canyon connector: https://hikearizona.com/map.php?GPS=37280

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: PB&J, Gummy Worms, Apple, Cutie Orange, 2 protein bars, 2 granola bars, 1 Cliff builder bar, bag of salt and vinegar chips
  • Time: 10 hours
  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: 500 feet

GEAR:

  • The Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker
  • 60ft of 6mm accessory cord

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Flatbill Hat
  • Wool shirt
  • Nike Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Arcteryx Atom hoody
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Royal “Pain In The” Arch (Day 1) – Grand Canyon – AZ (4.21.17-4.23.17)

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Eyes cracked open. It was cold, chilly. In a sleeping bag with a broken zipper. Alarm blasting from my phone, feeling tired after just 4.5 hrs of sleep, staring at the ceiling of a tent. Rubbing my eyes half exhausted half excited about the day to come . . . Looks like we are all set up for another sufferfest at the Grandest of Canyons! This trek brought Sam, Mark, and myself to the doorstep of the old Ranger Station above the drop-in to Royal Arch Creek via Point Huitzil. We planned to drop in, canyoneer all the way to the Colorado River at Elves Chasm, camp, traverse the Tonto trail to Bass Beach, camp, and finally hike out via Bass trail; finishing the trip off with a side trek to Mount Huethawali before closing out the loop with a nice road walk on the rim.

Old Ranger Station

I shivered in the morning, throwing all my gear in the pack, making sure all the food, water and rappelling equipment was accounted for before strapping up and standing, ready to roll. I knew that once we got moving I would warm, so I stubbornly refused to put a jacket on. We let out from the old ranger station headed on an old 4×4 “road” (more like a foot trail) in the northwest direction. After the “road” ended we found an old telegraph line which would lead us to the start of the wash that would eventually dump us into the canyon (according to research). We trekked on through a juniper speckled field which made it seem like we weren’t even hiking to the canyon. Finally the route dumped us into a wash and slowly we made our way to the edge of the rim and were blasted with a gorgeous grand view of the canyon.

Old 4×4 “road” walk
Hello there old friend! Dump into the canyon, just South of Huitzil Point

We started our way down the loose steep route, descending ledge after ledge looking for cairns as we went. The sandstone made our shoes stick like spiderman to the slanted ledges of the route. We found our first obstacle and quickly down climbed. I was fully extended in a hang when the tops of my toes landed on the stepping stone below. Whew! One down, only a ton to go! Sam and Mark quickly down climbed and we were off again. The route finding was tedious, we were skirting ledges with a beefy penalty for error. We walked toward a cairn that looked like it would lead us right off the end of a ledge. We looked right and tucked away was the crescent moon shaped rock that hid away the famous ladder climb. It was really cool, an old dead tree with branches cut for feet and handholds. I dropped down first, no issues, Sam and Mark soon followed. Just around the corner from the ladder, skirting north, we were treated with a huge panel of petroglyphs! How cool it was to be there and see something that had been there for hundreds of years!

  • Cairn leading right off the edge?

We kept trekking, descending ledges, and finally found the Moki steps on a sandstone slab. The natives cut small ledges into the sandstone making some nice steps for your feet to climb up and down the slope. A little butt skirting and de-packing got us down swiftly.  We continued to pick our way down the ledges and skirt across a number of exposed, but not too difficult obstacles, until finally exiting the face via an arm that dumped us into the top of the wash to Royal Arch Creek.

Moki steps (click to enlarge)
Downclimbing the Moki Steps (click to enlarge)

Let the boulder hopping begin! For the next few miles the sun went to work on us as we hopped, jumped, and scurried our way down the creek bed. Finally we came to a large pour-off (dry waterfall) which had 2 options, left to the “ledge of death”, right to the “rabbit hole” . . . “rabbit hole” just sounded too cutesy! We headed left all too curious about what this infamous obstacle had to offer. After a few minutes of skirting the side trail we finally came to the ledge. It had a nice 20 foot exposed traverse with some teared drops below that. What fun! I was first up and found that the grippy rock had some great holds and the feet weren’t that bad either! Keeping the packs on, we all traversed the obstacle with no issue! Just after the ledge, there were a few other small exposed traverses where we had to circumvent large boulders trying to push us into the canyon below. It wasn’t horrible, but deff warranted concentration with a 40lb pack on your back!

Enter the wash!
Left to “Ledge of Death” – Right to “Rabbit Hole” (click to enlarge)
  • Ahead is the "Ledge of Death"!

We continued downstream, boulder hopping once again until finally the dry creek bed was wet with a beautiful spring and a small ledgy down climb. The water looked so tasty and our parched mouths were ready for a break. As we pushed further, we turned a corner, and there, standing high above our heads was the Royal Arch. What a beautiful sight, it was enormous and demanded respect! We had a nice break in the shade under the arch, next to the creek running just below the massive rock. Just taking in the sights and replenishing our grumbling stomachs.

Beautiful cool spring pool
  • Time lapse - Ledge downclimb past the spring

Fed and ready for more, we walked downstream from the arch and peered over the huge cliff into the canyon below. What a drop! We were standing 170 feet above a tiered drop-off and the bed of a nice waterfall that trickled down just next to where we planned to rappel from. We found some good webbing and a quicklink that looked solid. I put up the biner block rappel setup using Sam’s 60 meter 9.8 mil rope to a carabiner with a constrictor knot. I backed it up with a figure 8 and tied on the 200 ft 6mm pulldown cord to the biner block. We were all set to go so I threw both ropes off the cliff and they fell to the second ledge. Time to go to work! I rapped first taking on the task of rope management as the small pulldown cord got quite tangled. I threw it from the first ledge down, then the next. To my relief the main rope reached the ground, and soon after, so did I! Whew, made it!

I stopped half way down the first rap to take a pic =)

Mark and Sam soon followed and we were all safely on the ground when I went to pull the pull cord I had set up. *Yank* nothing . . . *Yank* nothing . . . I started to get serious when I realized the rope could be stuck which would require me to either re-ascend the rope or we would be stuck in the canyon between two 100+ foot rappels. I reached high, grabbed a bite on the 6mm rope, tied an overhand knot,  and clipped it into my harness. I sat my full weight on the rope and once I did it finally budged. I quickly walked back away from the cliff pulling the rope as I did to make sure it didn’t get hung again. LUCKY!!!!! I was so relieved!

Timelapse of Mark rappelling down the 170 ft waterfall

Once we retrieved both ropes and recollected our wits we headed downstream to find the second of the big rappels, a 135 foot cliff. This time our anchor was a nice tree with 3 sets of webbing wrapped around it. Another nice anchor that we could use! This rap went much smoother and was almost completely free hanging. We each made our way down the rope and into the next section of the beautiful canyon. Waterfalls and lush green plants were abound. Frogs darted this way and that in the pools as we trekked through, it was truly a hidden paradise!

The 2nd rappel – 135 foot

Soon after the second rappel we found a nice 8-10 foot downclimb. We pulled our packs off and hurdled the obstacle before strapping up once again and letting out further down the canyon. We dodged boulders, down climbed ledges picked our way slowly down. I popped my head over a huge boulder, the only down climb led to water . . . “that can’t be right”, I thought. I poked left, poked right and finally found a small tree on canyon right with a small 20ft rap. In hindsight, we found that we were on the wrong side of the canyon and should have belly crawled a ledge on the the west side of the canyon . . . Oh well! After placing some new webbing and breaking our rope and harnesses out once again, we made the last rap of the day.

  • Donw the canyon we go!
Elves Chasm!! Jumped into the cool pools here, how refreshing and cold as hell!

We enjoyed the rest of the canyon as we trekked on. Down climbing, shimmying over boulders and down ledges, using cairns to guide our way, until we finally reached Elves Chasm. It was a tiered waterfall with a deep crystal clear pool at the bottom. We decided to strip down and jump in; after the long exhausting day we had, it seemed like the right thing to do! After jumping from the waterfall and pulling ourselves from the cold water we trekked the rest of the way to a permissible beach where we set up camp, grubbed down, and finally, under the star lite sky, crashed out in our flyless tents. What an epic day, man I love the Grand Canyon!

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Enter the petroglyph panel!
  • telegraph line insulator

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 90s, Low in upper 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 5 Liters (including dinner)
  • Food: 1 Power Bar, 1 Kroger Protien bars, 1 Cliff Protien Bars, 1 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Apple, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Veinagr Chips, 1/2 bag of Pizza Pringles, 1/2 bag of trailmix, 1/2 bag Boston baked beans, 1 PB&J sandwich, 1/2 bag of Quinoa.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~ Drop 4000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 60 meter 9.8mm Mammut rope
  • Webbing, personal anchor
  • 200 ft 6mm pull cord
  • 4 rap rings

CLOTHING:

  • Wool T shirt – IceBreaker
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Pearl Azumi arm coolers
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Cheops Plateau and Pyramid (Day 2) – Grand Canyon – AZ (3.19.17)

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Good morning Zoroaster and Brahma Tempes

Alarm blasting, gahhh! We almost slept nine glorious hours in our fly-less tents. The temps were perfect for camping and star gazing. However, even nine hours of sleep didn’t seem like enough time to fully recover from our exhaustion the day prior. With a whole lot of work to go, we peeled ourselves from our sleeping bags and got breakfast rolling. Within an hour, we were all upright with packs on, ready to take on Cheops Pyramid. Even though it looked sketchier than the plateau, trip reports said it was supposed to be pretty chill Class 3 climbing.

Side view of Cheops Pyramid and Plateau

We trekked out from camp once again, and we all knew it was going to be one long day, but hopefully a good one! We picked up the Utah Flats use trail and began hiking north once again. However, after a quarter mile or so, we left the trail and made a B line across the open desert towards the eastern wall of the Cheops Plateau. Looking like a battleship in ram mode, we covered the terrain, boulder hopping, kicking up off camber dust, and slowly picking our way towards the huge face in front of us.

Skirting towards the pyramid

We had to circumvent large sandstone dry waterfalls that would easily spell utter tragedy with one misstep. We hiked on, splitting up and rejoining, all trying to find the best way across the steep slopes on the eastern side of Cheops Plateau. Rene and myself went high while Mark and Kari stayed low. We continued to skirt the slopes and we all met up at the start of the Cheops Pyramid scramble searching for any sign of shade we could find. The sun had already started to go to work on us, warming our hat shaded faces. We sat down at the base of the climb for a quick snack and water break.

perfect little triangle rock =)

We chatted about the climb the day before and we were all curious as to what was in store for us. Soon we picked up our packs and set off again, headed up and left to circumvent a small vertical face. We encountered our first climb, which seemed a bit more difficult than described, but it went quickly. Route finding and cairn searching were back in full swing as we pressed up the face attempting to find the best way up. Some of the ledges ahead looked impossible without rope at first glance, but with a closer look we found the line, and a few faint cairns.

  • Rene scopes the climb

We ascended the next ledge and headed up and out left towards a small exposed arête. “This thing was supposed to be all chill Class 3, right?!” I thought to myself. I got on another small climb with questionable rock towards the top and just made it happen. The down climb was future Mike’s problem! We all took a quick breather and looked towards the peak, it was only 50 feet away, and once we noticed it there was no more need to break! We moved swiftly up the chossy rock and soon we were all, once again, simultaneously touching the top of Cheops Pyramid!

There is the peak!
Summit! (click to enlarge)

Man what a view! The Grand Canyon is such a beautiful place, the 360 degree view that we had the privilege of enjoying was nothing less than spectacular! I once again walked towards the bridge that connects Cheops Pyramid to Cheops Plateau to have a look, and once again it seemed like such a tough undertaking. All of the rock on the bridge looked chossy and the route looked hard to protect with gear; not undoable, but it would require a full level of commitment to a climb of questionable quality.

Looking towards the Cheops Plateau from Cheops Pyramid

After signing the registry, we regrouped and picked our way back to camp. It always seems to be easier on the down climb, you see a line you didn’t before, or an easier way to take on the obstacles. This climb was no different, the seemingly tough Class 3 climbs lost their bite (except for the rocks, they were sharp as hell!) as we descended. The slog back to camp was a good long one. We finally got back to Utah Flats, packed things up, and divvied up our remaining water to get ready for the steep and loose descent back to Phantom Ranch.

staking his claim!

After descending the sun baked steep and loose Utah Flats trail, we were soon sitting at the Phantom Ranch cantina with a cool Arnold Palmer in hand. We were all trying not to think about the nine miles and 4600 feet of elevation gain that stood between us and Bright Angel Lodge.

  • Coming back down from Cheops
Half way out the Bright Angel trail as the sun set, how beautiful it is here!

Finally, around 2:30pm, we geared up, threw our packs on, and started our walk out on Bright Angel Trail. On every switchback that turned our gaze back to the North Rim I took a moment to look at all of the buttes, temples, and massive formations sticking above the canyon floor. It’s like inception; you may never have noticed them before, but once you know them by name, and attempt to climb them, you can never forget their existence. The Grand Canyon is an incredible place. I love it here.

  • Skirting towards the pyramid
  • Well hello there!

HIKE INFO: 

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in upper 80s, Low in upper 40s, Sunny/Partially Cloudy
  • Water: 4.5 Liters
  • Food: 1/2 avocado, 1 Power Bar, 1 Kroger Protien bars, 1 Cliff Protien Bars, 1 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Orange, 1 Mountain House: biscuites and Gravy, 1/2 bag of Salt and Veinagr Chips, 1/2 bag of Pizza Pringles, 1/2 bag of trailmix.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~6500 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Wool T shirt – IceBreaker
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Pearl Azumi arm coolers
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Cheops Plateau and Pyramid (Day 1) – Grand Canyon – AZ (3.18.17)

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Looking down South Kaibab at O’neill Butte (click to enlarge)

We woke to 30°F temps on the South Rim. Mark, Kari and I were stuffed into Mark’s tent and Rene was cozy in the bed of his truck. We had another “bum rush” weekend on our hands; we drove up the night before the trek, camped for the night, and would catch the 8 a.m. bus from the Bright Angel lodge to the South Kaibab Trailhead where we would dump into the Grand Canyon to start our weekend adventure. The target was Cheops Pyramid and Cheops Plateau, both standing over 5000 feet in elevation and located in the heart of the Grand Canyon. We would trek in, camp at the base of Cheops Plateau, summit the Plateau on the first day and summit the pyramid on the second day. After summiting Cheops Pyramid, we would then hike out of the Grand Canyon for the long car ride home on Sunday night. Needless to say we had our work cut out for us!

O’neill Butte
Looking at the confluence of the CO river and the canyon that houses Bright Angel Creek, Phantom Ranch, and of course the North Kaibab trail

After getting our gear together, we parked the truck and caught the Hiker Express shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Next thing you know it, we were standing on the edge of the south rim looking at the daunting task we signed ourselves up for. Everyone was excited and in high spirits and we took off down the South Kaibab trail. There were quite a few people already trekking down the trail. We pressed on, pausing briefly for pictures and to peel off jackets as the sun hit us and temperatures began to rise. By the time we got down to Phantom Ranch, it was nice and toasty outside. We hit the water supply there and gained a good 16 pounds from loading up on 6-8 liters a piece. Weighted down and ready for the grind out of Phantom Ranch we headed back towards the small aluminum footbridge that brought us to the start of the Utah Flats Route.

Pushing up Utah Flats out of Phantom Ranch

The route was rarely traveled and started out with some wicked elevation gain. Full 40 pound packs pulled us down and wrenched on our backs as we gained elevation in the hottest part of the day. Pushing on and up the loose trail we were all breathing hard, dripping sweat, redlining our pumping hearts, and just trying to hold on under the blazing suns heat. We found a nice shaded boulder on the way up and decided to pull off for a quick rest. Mark piped up “Man, I’m getting hammered dude!”. We were all pretty fried from the quick ascent, but after some much needed shade and rest, we regained our spirits and pushed on. Soon we were out on the Utah Flats plateau above looking at the east side cliff faces of our targets; Cheops Pyramid and Cheops Plateau. Both magnificent Cheops landmarks looked beastly and dicey.

The notch to the mesa above awaits!
Looking back down Piano Alley, the bouldery crack just below the mesa where we planned to camp

After searching around for quite a while, we found one of the few flat spots that wasn’t infested with cacti and threw our gear down. After setting up the tents and whittling down our packs to just day hike mode, we took off towards the North Ridge of the Cheops Plateau. We picked up a small use trail that skirted the north side of the huge plateau. We could see bright green trees drinking from the cool waters of Phantom Creek which we heard flowing in the distance. The wind finally picked up and we got our first taste of cool air for the day. What a relief!

Finally up on top of the mesa! Temples: Cheops, Isis, Budda, Brahma, and Zoroaster in sight (click to enlarge)
Approaching the north side of Cheops (click to enlarge)
Approaching the north side of Cheops (click to enlarge)

We kept trekking on the Utah Flats Route until the North Ridge of Cheops came into view. It looked pretty intimidating from below, but like many daunting obstacles, things seem to become more doable the closer you get. We pressed up the steep loose slopes on the northeast side of Cheops until finally reaching the vertical cliff face of the plateau. Paralleling the cliff wall, we headed North along a faint use trail at a much faster pace than we had on the unforgiving slopes below. Finally, we reached the toe in point on the North Ridge of Cheops. I was excited to start climbing straight up! From our research, it seemed as though it was pretty chill except for one exposed Class 4 move just below the top of the plateau. Looking up at the rock face in front of us, the terrain looked anything but trivial. In usual fashion we slowly began picking away at it.

Ascenting the north side of Cheops, getting close to the wall before the skirt northwest to along the rockface face to the tail of Cheops (most northern arete of Cheops)
  • lets go to work!

I headed up and soon Kari, Mark, and Rene followed. It was time to turn the lizard brain on. Our focus shifted solely to the hands, feet, and the best holds we could find. We cruised up the first few ledges. I poked my head around the face on both sides of the ridge to find the best line and took the path of least resistance. There was a small climb over black rock that I actually had to use a little body manipulation to get up. So much for the route being Class 3! We continued on. Mark, who was following closely behind me nervously awaited the moment when we would come face to face with the crux of the route. Soon I found the spot that most trip logs mention. There was a significant dropoff to the left, but the hand holds were great. The feet placements weren’t as good but they were a heck of a lot better than I thought they would be. Lets go! All four of us cruised through the crux with zero issues! “Hell yes!” I patted Mark on the back who out of the group said he was the most nervous about the route (He cruised it like a champ). We pushed on, carefully up and over a natural arch (which was a bit delicate to say the least) until finally we were standing on the much more tame and stable Cheops Plateau!

Looking down on the Cheops Pyramid from the plateau (click to enlarge)

We all took the opportunity to relax knowing we would have a little time before having to head back down. We all walked to the highest point on the plateau and simultaneously touched the top before signing the summit registry in the ammo box with huge grins on our faces. Man what a day, but it was far from over! We walked to the southern end of the plateau to check out the crumbling bridge connecting the Cheops Plateau and the Cheops Pyramid that we had plans to summit the next day. I scrambled down to get a closer look at the rotten beast of a bridge. There were two large discontinuities in the knife-edge bridge and the rock quality was absolute crap. It’s not that it couldn’t be done, it would just require adequate gear, willingness to assume a great deal of risk, and nerves of steel to complete the task.

Kari, Mark, and Rene walking the bridge! (click to enlarge)
Looking back down into Phantom Canyon as the sun sets (click to enlarge)
Watching the sun dip below the horizon as we descended the Cheops plateau climb

After taking it all in we turned back, retraced our steps and soon found ourselves back at camp licking our wounds. We made dinner, and prepared to crash for the night before waking up to have a go at Cheops Pyramid the next day!

  • Dropping down South Kaibab
  • Tipoff Point

HIKE INFO: 

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in low 90s, Low in upper 30s, Sunny
  • Water: 4.5 Liters
  • Food: 1 Power Bar, 1 Kroger Protien bars, 1 Cliff Protien Bars, 1 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Orange, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Veinagr Chips, 1/2 bag of Pizza Pringles, 1/2 bag of trailmix.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~3200 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Wool T shirt – IceBreaker
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Pearl Azumi arm coolers
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Baboquivari – Trad Climb – SouthEast Arete – AZ (3.4.17)

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First glimpse of the beast

The morning light shined through the windows as Kari and I stirred in our sleeping bags in the back of the van. There were no signs of life from Sam and Sri in the tent outside, and after the long drive the night before, no one seemed to be in the mood to get going. I sat up and looked to the west to see a massive beast staring back at me. Baboquivari is an iconic feature in Southern Arizona, and it has a lot of history for the Tohono O’odam people. They believed that their creator, I’itoi, lives in a cave beneath the mountain and that this place was the origin of all people in the world after the Great Flood.

Welp we came this far, miles well pack up and go for it!

The beastly intimidating mountain had been on my radar for some time and despite my laziness to get moving, I was eager to take on this awesome backcountry climb. We finally peeled ourselves from our sleeping bags,  got ready for the day. Cooking breakfast and going through the gear was the normal ritual as we got ready to roll. We took a short creek-covered drive to a metal gate that marked where the adventure began.

Lets get moving!
Well hello there ranch!

We let out on the dirt road headed towards the saddle on the north side of Baboquivari. We approached an old house that looked decently maintained, which marked the end of the dirt road and the start of the single track. We pressed on, following the sparse trail until it disappeared. We backtracked slightly, found a cairn and continued to hop back and forth across a creek headed upstream. The bushwhack became hardy. On the edges of the creek awaited catclaw and for Sam and myself, who chose to wear shorts, we were in for some “fun”! We pressed on, reading the land and picking up a sporadic trail, until finally we finally reached the saddle. What a push!

Just a small taste of the bushwhack
Looking back at Babo from the saddle to the North/east

We took a nice, good break here where we decided to drop some packs and get partially geared up. We were all tired form the push and with the late start I began to question whether we would finish the climb before nightfall. Little did we know, we would not get back to the van until almost midnight. Following the description in the guide, we began skirting the east face of Babo. From the slopes below it was very unclear how we would traverse to the start of the climb. We hugged the rockface away from the exposed cliffs below, until finally the rock give way to the Lions Ledge, which was our gateway to the base of the climb. We skirted the vegetated ledge, where we once again found ourselves bushwhacking. This time not against catclaw, but now against pine and holly bush.

  • Lions Ledge skirt
Looking at the traverse of the Lions ledge as we get closer, Just follow the vegetation!!
Kari, scoping a dropoff below as we came around an arete to actually get on the Lions Ledge. Follow the vegetation!

Finally, like being birthed from a thorn-filled tunnel, we popped out at the base of the 6-pitch Southeast arête (5.6) that we planned for the day.  Finally! We made the short scramble up the low Class 4 chimney and geared up at the base of the first pitch (P1). We would climb in pairs of 2. I would lead, while Sri would clean. Afterward Kari would lead, while Sam followed him up the rear to clean the gear. The first pitch was pretty straight forward, but I quickly noticed the quality of the rock wasn’t the best (typical of many backcountry climbs). I banged on the holds to make sure they would hold my weight, and I only had to throw a few pieces of protection (pro) in before reaching the top of P1.

180 View to the south from the start of the class 4 scramble to the start of pitch 1 (P1)
Kari and Sam starting up the Class 4 section to the start of Pitch 1 (P1)

After setting up the anchor, I belayed Sri up P1 and soon saw his gleaming grin as he reached the top. What a fun climb! We swapped gear and I started off on P2 soon after Kari arrived to belay. The first move was an awkward high foot with decent holds, but full-on commit. After the move I quickly found good pro placement and cruised the rest. I was tossed out into a Class 4 scramble and pushed up through a shady tree through a “V” past a cactus (watch you hand!), where I combined both P2 and P3 and set up the anchor for the next push. Here I greeted a group climbing ahead of us, and we chatted for a bit. Apparently (as the other team informed me) the west approach had a much better road and hike to get to the base of the climb (hindsight is 20/20!).

Sri, grinning as he ascends Pitch 1 (P1)
Start of Pitch 2 (P2)

Once Sri ascended P2 and P3, again with a big grin on his face, I set out on P4 all geared up to go for it. I started up the left crack system then realized I needed to be in the right, I down-climbed a few feet and went climber’s right into the correct crack system. On the way up I encountered another strange move – a high right hand and solid right foot. I threw a high left foot onto a small ledge and went to stand for a left hand. Once I put full weight onto the left foot, it blew off the rock. All my weight, including the weight of the backpack and gear I was wearing went onto my right arm. I heard the sound of velcro in my right shoulder and the instant pain, I knew right then I was hurt.

Looking up at P3 as the last climber of the group ahead of us ascended

I was still hanging by my right hand while I managed to get a cam in. I rested for a moment, but decided to finish what I started in leading P4 of the climb. Once I reached the top, I belayed Sri in pain and tried to minimize the use of my right arm until he once again reached me. No one really knew the extent of the damage I had done, not even me. I decided to switch it up, ask Kari to lead on, then I would follow. He left the safety of the ledge where I belayed him traversing climbers left to find an old rusty bolt, and the start of P5.

Looking out as I belayed from the top of P4 start of P5
Looking up the fun layback of P5

We cleaned the layback P5 quickly, which everyone agreed was a lot of fun. I was just wanting to make sure I could still finish the climb, so I had to be as safe as possible as I climbed up. Kari grinned as I popped over the ledge while he was sitting under a nice pine belaying me. Sam was soon to follow, and finally we all met at the belay station. I decided to press on, finding the small notch to down-climb, before starting the final pitch (P6), which comprised a small 20 foot face climb and scrambling to the peak.

Sam ascending P5, crushing!
Looking up the 20′ climb of P6 to the short scramble to the summit
Looking down P6 as Kari, Sam, and Sri ascended and the sun fell

I felt like everyone was in pretty good spirits, and after some quick scrambling, we simultaneously touched the highest rock on the mountain! Finally!!! The sun was setting in the distance and the views of the desert below were absolutely incredible! We were far from done for the day, and had to do our best to find the descent route before all the light of the day disappeared. Attempting to find bolts in the dark on slabby slopes, where one false move means death, is never easy. We all left our offerings to I’itoi as it is tradition to bring an offering to the peak for the Tohono’s creator.

SUMMIT!!!!
Gorgeous sunset views!
360 view

Smiling and dirty we pushed down the north side of the mountain to find 3 rappels in the dark and a long bushwhack-filled walk/scramble back to the van. We reached the van around 11:20pm, and were glad that we all came back safe. We set up, grubbed down, and were soon all back in our sleeping bags, where we started the morning. Even with the shoulder pain and the worsening swirling thoughts of possibly never being able to regain full functionality, I decided to just let it be, hope for the best, and go to sleep. I will never give up the mountains, even if I’m reduced to painting them in a wheelchair one day, I will still be drawn to these places. Craving the experience and the adventure. What another great adventure!

Descending the North side of Babo, one small patch of ice remains in the route
  • Looking down at the fields of grass on our bushwhack ascent
  • beautiful cool creek on the ascent

BABOQUIVARI INFORMATION:

https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-baboquivari-peak-755909

HIKE/CLIMB INFORMATION:

CLIMB/HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 orange, 2 Cliff builder bars, 2 Kroger protien bars, 2 Nature Valley Granola bars, 1 bag of gummy worms, 1 bag of mediterranian chips, 1 bag trialmix
  • Time: 14 hours
  • Distance: 8 miles RT
  • Accumulated Gain: 3,500 feet ( 700 feet of gain on the Climb)
  • Climbing Rating: 5.6 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6

GEAR:

  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 14 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws 12mm cord
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Sterling rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes
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Battleship Mountain – Superstition Mountains – AZ (1.22.17)

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Pie Rock up on the ridgeline, a little preview of whats to come!

The Phoenix air was cool and brisk as I walked out the front door to meet Sam, Matt, and Mark to start the days trek. We threw our gear and ourselves into Sam’s 4Runner, ready to head towards the Supes in search for another adventure. It had been raining the last few weekends, which cut the option of rock climbing out, so instead we decided to do a nice hike/scramble to make up for it. The target for the day was Battleship Mountain in the Superstition Mountains. This route had been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time, due to its “scramble” and position as a prominent feature of the Superstitions wilderness.

Trailhead! Time to get moving!
Watching the sun rise over standing water, man I love the Supes

We headed to the trail-head, coffee in hands, chatting about the previous treks and what brought us all to Phoenix. The drive flew by and before we knew it, the car doors swung open, hoodies were zipped up, we were ready to put feet to trail. The sun was rising as we set out, but not quite over the mountains to our east yet. The golden haze filled the valley as we trekked forward. With all the rain, the Supes were alive with lush green color. We trekked the relatively easy rolling trail 236 through the Garden Valley. Golden sun, great views of the snow covered Tonto Mountains to the north, and the live breathing desert around us. What more could you want?!

Agua in the desert, that’s right!

The trail was muddy in places, but as we hiked on the padded trail went from smooth to baby ankle buster boulders. We continued downhill until finally reaching the junction with trail 103 which wasn’t a trail at all, it was a raging creek! Undoubtedly, this was a byproduct of the weeks’ worth of rain. Green grass on the creek edge laid flat as a pancake as a tribute to the powerful flows rolling through just days before. We followed the trail to the southeast. Hopping from boulder to boulder, we attempted to stay dry.

So much water here, this small creek was a tributary to the Boulder Creek raging below
The creek was raging, covering the trail, along Boulder Canyon

The temps were still cold, so I was like a cat on the edge of a pool, using all my will to stay dry. Mark and I crossed the river early where Sam and Matt decided to stay on the west side for some time. Almost to the other side I heard a large plop behind me. I turn to find Mark with his leg in a cascading waterfall up to his knee. A large rock had shifted (and not in his favor) plunging him into the creek. “Whelp there went that!” He trudged the rest of the creek without a care of being wet anymore. We made it to the other side and continued to find our way up the bank. Sam and Matt did the same, hopping from rock to rock until we all finally met back up further upstream. There was a good half mile of this silliness before we finally reached our turnoff: the end of the spine of Battleship Mountain.

Neon green padded goodness, trialside near the running creek

Happy to see a cairn or two headed uphill, and we got after it. We split from the creek and started to gain the ridgeline. I was tired of boulder hopping, and looked forward to the view of the surrounding area so the climb was much welcomed. We got made our way up the rock, and soon with hearts pumping and heavy breaths we gained the spine. We followed the cairns towards the head of the ridge-line and the summit. We would walk the ridge in some places, then get kicked off to the west in a small goat trail that bypassed a cliffed out ridge walk.

180 view from the ridgeline (click to enlarge)
One of the small climbs

We pressed on to the first of three small climbs. After a short deliberation, we gained the face quickly and kept trekking towards the peak. The views were fantastic! The Supes were so green and alive. From the ridge of Battleship, you could see for miles, including the water that was everywhere. Canyon Lake, Weavers Needle, Flatiron, the Superstitions in all their glory! We paused looking at all the different formations surrounding us. The sights inspired fascination as to how they were formed and changed over time. Everyone was in good spirits and even some of the exposed scrambles didn’t seem to faze anyone in the group. Perhaps we were all too busy chatting and taking in the sights to notice.

Peak is in sight, Matt leads on

After some good trail finding and a few scrambles, we found ourselves standing at the peak, simultaneously touching the highest rock with grins on our faces. We signed the registry, had a snack, and chilled for a while just taking it all in. It was so nice to be out there, amongst the rocks with some good dudes on a beautiful Saturday.

View from the summit, across the ridge back towards Weavers Needle

We turned back towards the trail-head and marched back the way we came. This time we had a little less regard for the cold of the creek and a few of us trudged right through. Mark and I couldn’t resist the 40 degree temptation at a neck deep pool on the trek back, so decided to get our Polar Plunge on. It’s definitely one way to wake up! Afterwards, we trekked our soggy selves back to the trail-head. Dried by arrival, we jumped in Sam’s 4Runner and headed back to Phoenix with another good story to tell in our pockets!

  • Lets get moving!
  • Morning View

HIKE INFO:

https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=261

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 50s, Sunny, Overcast, Sprinkled rain
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Protien Bars, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 bag of jerky, bag of salt and vennigar chips, PB&J
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Distance: 12 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,200 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief + Flatbill hat
  • Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
  • Patagonia pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Arcteryx Atom hoody
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Rogers Canyon – Superstition Mountains – AZ (12.23.16)

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Rogers Canyon, from the cave that was home to the Salado Indians 600 years ago

The Superstitions is such a special place. It is so rugged, raw, and the depths of which are hardly explored! My buddy Jason and I decided to do a nice day hike and hopefully see some Indian ruins in the process. The road to Rodgers Trough trailhead is an adventure all in its own. We headed out the night before in hopes to reach the trailhead, but we were thwarted by the Queen Creek running pretty deep from all the recent rain we had been getting.

The foggy drive in

We decided to camp for the night and wake in the morning in hopes that the creek would have gone down a bit, and the dirt road (which was undoubtedly a sloppy soup) could dry out a bit. We woke early, fired up the van, and headed back to the crossing. It was much better at this point and the rest of the drive to the trailhead went smoothly (although the road is anything but).

Wilderness baby! Just like home, time to get moving!

The sky threatened rain, and the clouds looked unwelcoming as we drove further into the heart of the Superstitions. After an hour or more we finally arrived at the trailhead. W grabbed our packs and rain gear and set out on the trail. Although it was sprinkling slightly it was a pretty nice day to hike. It didn’t take long before the dew covered trail side plants soaked our legs and pants. We trekked on further into the canyon until being dumped in the bottom where a small creek was running. We followed the trail, hopping back and forth until the canyon headed up and over the next hill. We made the junction for Rodger Canyon and we paused to admire the sign before headed west away from the AZT.

Look at those fresh signs, Rogers Canyon and Reavis Ranch trail 109 junction
Where are we going again?!

The trail was in pretty good condition despite the rain. We trekked on startling up a few deer and birds as we hiked. What a nice day, the overcast and cool temps were welcome as we pushed further. Finally after about 5 miles we reached our destination, the Salado Indian Ruins. I had been to this site before, but it was a bit of a surprise for Jason. We checked out the structures that stood for 600 years in total awe. We imagined what it was like to live in that time, what it took to survive there, how many people were in that small cliff dwelling, and of course, what actually happened to them.

Jason making the scramble to the first glimpse of the large ruin up top
Ruin from the back of the cave
picture stitching wasn’t perfect, but hey here is 1 more view

We hung out in the dwellings for some time, had a snack, enjoyed the views, and finally the fog and the gloomy clouds began to give way to bluebird skies. The structures themselves were increduble. How the indians lugged that much rock, logs, and dirt up into the high cave was beyond me. I wondered how long it took them to complete just 1 room of the structure. How much food they would have had to gather just to feed the workers that labored on for days on end, perhaps months, to complete it. Thier fingerprints were frozen in time with the mud caked walls of the ruin. We could have stayed in the canyon forever, but we decided to get moving, back the way we came, towards the trailhead.

Finger prints frozen in time
Still holding strong 600 years later!

Back to creek hopping we went following the twisting trail back and forth heading out of the canyon. We turned a corner and 30 feet from us stood a huge 8 point buck. As soon as he saw us come into view, he and the doe with him turned and like lighting bolted up the canyon walls. It is always awesome to have that chance with nature encounters in the wild.

Once the fog and rain cleared it made way for a beautiful drive out
Who wants to go splashing?!

We pushed back to the trailhead, loaded back up in the van and drove back up the muddy dirt road towards phoenix. The sunset and the views on the way back were so incredible; pictures can hardly do it justice. Sometimes its hard to imagine a life without the amenities of the modern world: cars, smartphones, grocery stores. Its nice to come to places like this and be reminded to stay humble and grateful for what you have. Another awesome trek in the beautiful Superstitions was safely complete.

Sky of fire!
  • ruin roof assembly, Large beams, small support, hay covering, mud and rock on top
  • AZT baby!

HIKE INFO:

Rodgers Canyon, Superstition Moutnains

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Cloudy, Rainy
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 powerbar, bag of Mediterranean vegitable chips
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Distance: 10 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,100 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
  • Smart Wool beanie
  • Nike Running Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Patagonia rain jacket
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North Coyote Buttes – The Wave – AZ (9.25.16)

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Gateway to The Wave

We woke as the sun glared down on the side of the tent. I was excited to start the day but was a little sluggish starting out as I slowly pulled myself from the tent and gathered my gear together for the day’s trek. I had put in for permits to The Wave and was finally lucky enough (after several months of trying) to pull 4 of them. Nestled away in the North Coyote Buttes area of northern Arizona, some people wait upwards of 10 years to get pulled from the online lottery system and come from every corner of the world to see this one place. I waited until after our trip to the Buckskin Gulch the day before springing the news to the crew (I was keeping the permits a secret as it was icing on the cake for the weekend). Unfortunately there were about 12 of us, and I’m not one to choose one friend over another, so we drew for it using paper out of a hat.  Fair is fair!

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Gaining the top of the first hill on the hike into the North Coyote Buttes
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Water impacts this place so much, such a powerful force!

It ended up being Craig, Eva, Mikhaila, and I that piled into Craig’s 4Runner and dashed off towards the Wire Pass trailhead. Mikhaila told me she had been trying for years to get there and looked more like a kid on Christmas morning than I did! She was smiling from ear to ear ready to see this special place. We drove down the dirt road, crossing a running wash just above Buckskin Gulch trailhead, until we reached our destination. As soon as we stepped out of the car a Ranger called out “Michael?!” Talk about being on their game…the guy had my name, number, permit number, and group number hand written on a clipboard. After giving us the rundown and chatting with us for 20 minutes, filling us in on the best places to check out and where to take good pictures, he moved onto the next group of people pulling up. We took our opportunity and jetted for the trail… I was anxious to get going!

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Lets push on, colors are really starting to pop!

The trail for The Wave diverged from Wire Pass trail just a half mile in, climbing up a good incline and turning south. Once among the sandstone formations of the hike, there is no trail. I could easily see how people could get lost, run out of water, and not make it back in the summer months. The permits came with a pictorial step-by-step map to get us there which proved to be immensely helpful. We trekked on with virtually no cairns and few markers across the open desert, giant formations popping up around us, hoping we were on the right track. The ground gripped the soles of our boots like sandpaper, helping to drive a good pace. The colors of the formations were absolutely incredible…it looked like an artist had created the scenery with a carving knife and paintbrush, a palette of orange, reds, and yellows coming through, to make their masterpiece. I guess you could also say it looked like a kid sitting on porch steps in summer, cream sickle dripping down his shirt onto his converse kicks.  You know, whatever analogy grabs ya!

20160925_103727Across the open desert

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Sandstone flakes of goodness
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Getting closer!
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Charging the last hill before The Wave

We pushed forward through the formations until entering the final ascent into the section that gives the trail its namesake. We had been in such awe the entire hike it was hard to see how it could get any better, but when we finally reached what we had come so far to see we weren’t disappointed. It was kind of like walking on Mars. It’s difficult to comprehend how rocks and hills and mountains could be shaped in such a way, or imagine even then they were continuing to erode away as the wind whipped through the canyon.

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Hmm . . . whats over here . . .
  • Side entrance to The Wave 1
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Anyone bring their swim trunks?!

Like kids in a candy store we snapped pictures left and right. There was water at the base of The Wave where a small group of frogs had made their temporary home. We hiked on up, south of the formation in search of Melody Arch, a naturally formed widow that the Ranger mentioned. The climb to the slopes above was steep, but our shoes stuck like lizards to the rough surface. A chilly wind whipped across the North Coyote Buttes something fierce, but the sun beamed down and provided some warmth. We pulled our hoods up and pushed further up the rock face around the bend until finally spotting the arch from above. “There it is!” called Craig, who then proceeded to climb down and find the best path towards the base. Even though the rock itself was rough, the face of the formation was smooth with few good handholds to grab onto. This made any traversing tedious, but with care we found ourselves staring through Melody Arch and the window beyond. We paused for pictures and a breather to take it all in.

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Found the Arch and the window!
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Just for fun!
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View from the window

There was so much to see here but so little time. We were all due back in Phoenix the next day for those pesky things called jobs and still had a long drive to go, so after exploring what we could, we turned back and retraced our steps to the parking lot. We left the cream sickle colored paradise behind us, taking only the great memories and few pictures of that beautiful place, but it was well worth it. Until next time!

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Time to go back
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Headed back towards the trailhead
  • Entrance hike
  • Side wave entrance

HIKE INFO:

https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=400

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: Mediterranean chips, 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 powerbar
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 6 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 400 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
  • Nike Running Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Deer Creek Thunder River Loop, Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 1 of 3) (10.15.16)

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Sunrise up on the north rim
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Welp, here we go!

Stevo, Mark, and I stood on the edge of the enormous cliff next to a brown wooden sign that said “Bill Hall Trailhead”. We had made the long drive from Phoenix out to the west side of the North Kaibab the night before in search of adventure and a tough challenge. This Grand Canyon goal was to complete the Thunder River/Deer Creek trail with a side trek aimed for the Tepeats Cave up on the Tepeats Spring Canyon.

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View over the edge heading towards Monument Point (click to enlarge)
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Just a few feet into the dropoff from Monument Point (click to enlarge)

Packs were heavy on our backs, loaded down with supplies for the three day journey.  Being as ready as we were going to be, we took our first steps towards Monument Point as the sun was rising just before bombing into the abyss of the Grand Canyon. From the top we could see Bridger’s Knoll sticking up out of the esplanade plateau like the razorback of an old dinosaur. From there, we bombed down and let me tell you, with a 30 lb pack on your back pushing you down, it wasn’t easy. The trail was loose and steep, and with trekking poles in hand we picked our way down the first set of switchbacks.  Before long we were skirting the trail westward in the shade, and as we rounded the bend we found ourselves at a beautiful open vista of the canyon beyond . . . and a nice 15 foot down climb. Stevo was first up and took it in stride while Marko and I adjusted our packs. With handholds aplenty, we made quick work of the short climb and pushed on.

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Dropping elevation quickly!
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More beautiful canyon, just after the 10- 15 foot downclimb
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Skirt on! (Click to enlarge)

We finished the skirt and the many short, fast switchbacks which plopped us down on the esplanade plateau where the Indian Hollow trail met up with us.  We strode forward amongst the sandstone formations and washed out cracks taking everything in, joking about current events, and talking about the dinners we would be downing that night. Just a few miles in, we took a quick rest and completed our water drop next to a huge sandstone formation. Knowing we had many more miles ahead we pushed on, over the open planes until finally we reached the head of the redwall. We looked down at the tiny trail below which we knew would be our ticket to Thunder river and eventually Tepeats Creek. Man what a view!

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Down the switchbacks to the esplanade plateau below (Click to enlarge)
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Pushing across the flat esplanade (Click to enlarge)
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Oh hello there formations!
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Walking to the head of the redwall, looking down into Surprise Valley

With no time to waste we bombed off again down the next dropoff.  The sun had been creeping its way above our heads and as we dropped in elevation the temps began to rise. We hit the base of the redwall in a place called Surprise Valley. We joked “Surprise! It’s hot as hell!” After a short breather and a huge chug of water we headed east across the valley towards Thunder River. Up and down the small hills we climbed, the gorgeous canyon walls all around us, until finally we heard a fierce rumbling in the distance. We kept trekking closer and closer until reached the top of the canyon that fed Thunder River. A huge waterfall was just rapidly spewing gallons of water per minute from the rock face.  It was hard to fathom where all the flow was coming from. An underground river riding a water table out of the wall? It’s hard to know. Like a pack of kids finding an X on a treasure map we scurried down the switchbacks and soon found ourselves at the base of the falls. The water was a crisp, clean, and cool and though we were star stuck admiring the falls, we knew we had to move on.

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Exiting Surprise Valley and entering the canyon that houses Thunder River
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The waterfall feeding Thunder River coming straight out of the wall
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Base of Thunder River Falls

We dropped down further, skirting the canyons narrow west side trail until we reached Upper Tepeats camp where we would stay for the night. It was only noon, but we knew if we had any chance of getting to the Tepeats cave we would have to get a move on. We setup our tents, staking our claim, and strapped on day packs to once again hit the trail with our eyes set on the cave, 1500 feet of gain and 3 miles of a bushwhack away.

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Pushing further down the skirt of the canyon towards camp
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Is it time to cross yet?!

Crossing the river to the east side of the canyon we soon met the confluence of Thunder River and Tepeats Creek. Heading east, we stayed on the south bank until forced across the creekagain. Thick reeds, cat law acacia, and other brush did its best to thwart our efforts. We pushed further up the creek, hopping back and forth before finally coming to a mini-subway (rock formation in Zion). Soon after we pushed up past the mini-subway we found the mini-narrows, another formation resembling a Zion-like staple. The creek was wall-to-wall here and there was no other choice but to push up through the 50 degree waters. After 50 yeards or so we spotted a cairn sitting on a wall to the right of the creek. We decided to take that option, anything to get us out of the water for a while. We climbed up out of the riverbed to the south bank which took us skirting far above the rushing waters of the creek. This was the easiest terrain of the whole side trek to the cave, so we enjoyed it!

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Mini Subway (Zion like formation)
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Mini Narrows (Zion like formation)
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Up top, open fields were a bit easier than boulder hopping of the creek

All good things come to an end, and so did our dry wall skirt as the trail dumped us back into the creek and pushed us north up the final canyon that held the cave. We were all tired by this point, but there was work yet to be done. We found a small use trail and continued to push forward, hopping rock to rock, pushing through thick brush, and skirting exposed rock faces before the mouth of the cave finally came into sight. It was on the east wall, just below the last cottonwood we could see in the canyon. We had expected the trial to become a little easier from here, but it only became harder. Marko, exhausted form the journey and coming in cold, decided to sit out the last push and replenish his batteries creekside with a water filter and a good snack. Stevo and I pushed on up the loose rock hopping back and forth the final quarter mile before reaching our goal.

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Up Tepeats Creek we go!
  • Let the bushwhack continue!
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Tepeats cave entrance

We stood at the mouth of the cave, headlamps on, uncertain of what we’d find.  The air was dry and dusty as we stepped inside. Moving quickly, we pushed down the corridors and took mental notes of the rooms as we went. A beautiful stalactite and stalagmite had formed in the middle of one particular room and we paused to appreciate it. We followed a corridor to the right, up a small wall climb, and finally into a huge room with 50 foot ceilings. There was an NPS water flow sensor just across the room and at either end stood crystal clear pools of water. A few formations lined the walls and the underground river flowed in the rocks below our feet. Stevo looked at me mischievously and asked “Do you remember how to get out?!” I smiled and replied “Let’s hope so!”

  • The entrance

We turned around knowing time was running short and headed back the way we came.  Through the maze of the cave, out the mouth, and back across the skirting exposed faces of the trail, we made our way until finally meeting back up with Mark. We could have easily spent hours in the cave checking out every crack, every room, nook and cranny. There is no telling how big the place was as some rooms were inaccessible without the proper gear.  Satisfied with our journey for the day, though, we slogged back to camp tired but in good spirits. To our surprise we arrived just before the last bit of light slipped out of the canyon. As we cooked our Mountain House meals we exhaustedly reflected on the trek behind us and what was yet to come. What a great day it was, there’s nothing I love more than being outdoors.

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Headed back to camp, the sun running from us in the process
  • Bill Hall tribute near the trailhead
  • Bill Hall meets Thunder River Trail (starts at Indian Hallow TH)

HIKE INFO: 

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in low 80s, Low in upper 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 Liters (including diner)
  • Food: 2 Power Bar, 2 Granola Bar, 2 Protien bars, 2 Clif Bars, 1/2 bag of Mediterranian Chips, 1/2 bag of trail mix, 1 apple, 4 bgas of Welches gummys, 1/2 bag of jerky, 1 Mountain House.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: Approx 16 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~1500 feet (loss of 6,100 accumilated feet)

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-shirt
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Pearl Azumi arm coolers
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Mount Lemon – Trad Climbing – Rap Rock – Standard Route – AZ (10.9.16)

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View of the valley below from the climb (picture credit to Kari)

Kari and I set out from Phoenix on a Saturday night in great spirits, our sights set on Mount Lemon for some trad climbing.  Located just outside of Tucson, AZ, Mount Lemon is a “sky island” where the base rises rapidly from the surrounding desert to a good 7000 feet in prominence. Along the road that would lead us to the top, characterized by hairpin turn after hairpin turn, was a different climbing crag. We were aiming for a trad route called Standard Route with the Black Quacker linkup just off of Rap Rock near the summit.  After the long drive up the mountain, we found a nice spot on incinerator ridge where sparse camping is welcome and plopped down for the night. As an added bonus we got to watch a killer lighting storm from afar as it lit up the night sky just before crashing out.

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Storm was dropping lighting in the mountains across the valley, we watched just before crashing out. (picture credit to Kari)

The next morning the sun rose far too early.  Rustling like a couple of lazy bears we finally got up, got breakfast rolling, and packed everything up for the day’s trek. The engine vroomed as I started my van and before long were off once again, headed for the summit parking lot.  We pulled in to see a few other climbers getting ready to set off for their intended routes.  We grabbed our gear and the route description and headed down Mount Lemon Trail #5 towards Rap Rock. We passed a small metal shack next to Quartzite Spring, and just 100 yards later the climber’s trail bombed down a drop-off headed to the saddle just behind Rap Rock.

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Shed just above the Quartzite Spring (picture credit to Kari)

Down, down, down per usual, we hit the saddle and found the trail split, heading both east and west.  Following the route description we took the trail to the east and it was bushwhacking time! The “trail” was tight and overgrown so we stumbled our way through it, trying to find the path of least resistance, until finally circling the southern face of the wall and the base of our climb. We started pulling gear from our packs and prepared for the ascent. Rope? Check. Harness? Check. Shoes, helmet, trad rack? Check, check, check. Quick draws? …silence… Quick draws?  Kari looked up at me with an ‘Oh crap!’ look and I knew there was something wrong.  We pulled our bags apart, double and triple checking, but it soon set in that the quick draws were still sitting in the van, doing nobody any good.

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Rock faces to the west of Rap Rock

Such is life, I guess. We were outdoors with some awesome weather…I could think of worse places to be!  We stashed our gear, I stuffed my daypack with water for two, and we took off to the west of the rock thinking it looked like a better trail to get back to the saddle. This proved to be our second mistake of the day! Skirting the base of Rap Rock was easy enough at first, but soon we were pushed into a nasty, thick bushwhack with no clear trail to the saddle. We had already lost too much time as it was, so we had no other choice but to keep pushing up through the enclosing brush.

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Bushwhacking! Climbing back up to gather our quick draws, little log balance action!

Hopping boulders, dodging sharp thorns, and pushing up some unforgiving gain we finally reached the saddle. I looked to Kari, who was a bit flustered, and asked “Just like home, huh?!” Being from Iceland, Kari was used to the off-trail bushwhack and we were both determined to get a good climb in for the day. We reached the van and found the quick draws hidden away in the bottom of his gear bag. We laughed at the silly mistake, at that point it was all we could do, and headed back down to where we had left our gear at the base of the climb.

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Coming back down the east side of Rap Rock
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Bushwhack on!

No one else had been in the area so our gear was undisturbed. We strapped all our gear on and got ready for the climb. Quick draws?!  Check! The climb was a 4 pitch and Kari opted to take the first. Reaching the first gear placement is always the hardest climb for lead climbers, and the hardest part to watch for lead belayers. Kari was up on the wall just 5 or 6 feet off the ground but began to skirt toward a crack off to the right. As he traversed, the ground below dropped off making the penalty for a fall even more severe. Until he placed his first piece, the only support he had was being tied to a rope, which in turn was tied to me 15 feet below. He finally reached the crack, looking (from my perspective) like a sticky tree frog, where he placed his first piece and clipped the rope in without breaking a sweat. “On belay” I hollered, letting him know I had him if a fall were to occur.

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Pitch 1 of the climb, pictures never do it justice, the exposure below the crack can be unnerving (picture credit to Kari)

Kari pushed on, up the crack until finally reaching a nice pine on the ledge above. He set the anchor, pulled the slack out of the rope, and hollered back “On belay!” I was technically on ‘top rope’ at this point, the safest kind of climb you can have, especially with a bomber tree to hold my weight if I were to fall. I threw my pack on and plunged my hands into my chalk bag… it was finally time to climb! Up the tiny holds on the slab I went, finding the traverse, and like a silly climber I gave the drop below me a good gander. My fingers beaded with sweat as I continued to traverse toward the crack. I finally reached it, throwing my hands inside the negative crack and using friction to hold myself in place until I could grab a good hold higher up. I collected the gear and slowly picked my way upwards to the tree where Kari waited.  I clipped into the anchor, relieved to have the first section done.

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Second pitch, that was some “fun” runout to the first nut! (picture credit to Kari)

After a short break, I began to gather the gear and prepped for my first trad lead up the second pitch. The full trad rack weighed on my neak, dangling over my chest, obstructing my clear view of footholds below me. “This is going to be fun” I thought to myself as I reviewed the pictures of the route ahead. The runout to the first gear placement was pretty substantial, at least in my mind, at maybe 20-30 feet (I could easily be exaggerating) and the description read “PG13”. I started the climb, slowly making my way up the slab. It wasn’t a very technical start, but the next safe rock seemed to be miles away. I looked back down to Kari 15 feet below and thought “I can’t downclimb this, I have no choice but up”. This was about the time that I noticed Kari was looking away from me, and I knew it couldn’t be a good sign. He later told me that he had looked at me half way up the pitch and thought “What have I gotten Mike into?” It was time to turn the lizard climbing brain on and push all the negative thoughts out. I concentrated only on the holds and feel in front of me, and before I knew it I had worked my way into the first usable crack and was searching for a good placement for my first nut.

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Grippy decent holds on most of the route

Finally I stuck it, threw a quick draw on the end of the nut leadwire, and yelled “clipping” as I pulled the rope up to clip in. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I sighed as I finally felt relatively safe. Leading is a total mind game.  Sure there is danger, but if you can keep it together you’ll be just fine. I kept pushing up, placing piece after piece as I shouted “Clipping! Clipping!” Feeling focused, I spanned from one high left to a crack on the right into a layback which felt good. Inch by inch, I scampered up the pitch until I finally made it to the next belay station. I set up a good anchor and put Kari on top rope. The friction was high from the second pitch; I was pulling with each arm independently to take the slack out as he climbed, coiling the rope at my feet until finally Kari popped over the ledge as well. “Nice lead man!” He exclaimed as he clipped into the anchor. It was my first true trad lead and I was happy everything went as “smoothly” as it did.

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Pitch 3, an interesting combination of crack and tree limbs haha (can you see Kari up at the next anchor?)

Kari lead the third pitch, making it look easy as always, even through some tough overhang spots and questionable crack traverses. He stopped at the top of the third pitch at a hanging belay and once again I was ready to climb. I clung to the rock, pulling gear as I went up and over the tough overhang start to a traverse with a foot on a convenient tree limb (I counted on it, why not?!). I tried to climb quickly as I knew Kari wasn’t a fan of the hanging belay. I finally reached Kari at the belay. My feet were on fire from being stuffed in aggressive shoes, it didn’t help that the sun was beaming on my already pressured feet. We swapped lead for just the first section of the pitch as I needed a break and Kari wanted to take on some exposed chicken head work (small rock formations that were great holds and almost looked like little deformed mushrooms which stood proud above the surrounding surface). He quickly reached a good belay spot and I was off again. Chicken heads are great for climbing but labor intensive on the rope as they cause quite a bit of friction, so Kari stopped short and I finished the final pitch onto the summit and into the dark. The sun had long since forgotten us and the moon came out to help light Kari’s final ascent up the 4th pitch.

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Chicken head anchor! (picture credit to Kari)
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The light was running from us as we finished the 4th pitch

Summit! We finally made it! Exhausted form the day’s climb we gathered our gear and prepped for the hike out. We slowly made our way down the backside of Rap Rock down a class 3 scramble and back to the saddle that would eventually lead to the van. It was a full day and we were both ready for it to be over, but we still had the “short” 25 mile drive down the mountain and the two hour road trip back to Phoenix ahead of us. What another awesome day, I’d take an exhausted moonlit walk back to the truck any day over being stuck inside an office. Get out there and push your own limits, you never know what new experience you’ll have and I can guarantee you won’t regret it!

  • On belay?
  • Down the east side bushwhack of rap rock

HIKE INFO:

Approach hike: https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=444

Standard Route: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/standard-route/105738251

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 plum, 3 protien bars, 1 bag of meditorranian vegitabke chips.
  • Time: 9 hours (keep in mind we hiked back to the truck one extra time)
  • Distance: 2.6 miles Round Trip from trailhead (lets not talk about the hike back to pick up the quickdraws)
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.7
  • Number of Pitches: 4

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Webbing for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Smartwool 200g long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva Muira Climbing Shoes
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Granite Mountain – Swamp Slabs, Trad Climbing – AZ (9.4.16)

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Sign at the trailhead

I pulled up to the trailhead expecting my friends to be there, only to discover no one in sight. I looked down at my phone . . . no signal… “Welp this could be fun” I thought.  I was at the Metate trailhead of Granite Mountain, ready to take on a trek to a multi-pitch traditional (trad) route on one of the mountain’s slab granite faces. I took another circle around the park to check the other trailheads, just in case they had parked elsewhere, but no luck. It was a 10 minute drive out to catch a signal, but I figured they would have to show up sometime so I got on my mountain bike and tooled around on the road until their Toyota came bounding into sight. I was all smiles, excited to start the day!

Craig, Eva, and Kari piled out of a 4Runner, bags in hand that were filled to the brim with harnesses, climbing shoes, helmets, a few ropes, quick draws, and of course Kari’s trad rack. We had a late start just around 11am, and as we let out Craig commented “as many times as I’ve gone trad climbing, I have never made it back to the trailhead before dark.”  Well, it wouldn’t be my first night hike, and I could think of a lot worst places to be.

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Craig and Eva pushing the approach hike

We headed out with Eva claiming lead and the trail taking off in a north westerly direction. At first the trail dropped down into a canopy covered canyon, lush with green, and weaved in and out on the canyon floor. After a quick jaunt the canopy began to fade as we entered a large open burn area. This time of year the brush and flower were celebrating the break of summer and covering the ground beneath the blackened and burned remains of the old trees. We finally reached Blair Pass, and beautiful views of the valley beyond and the rock face overhead where we intended to climb were in plain view.

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First clear view of the Swamp Slabs! Whew getting excited!

We headed north from there, taking on the switchbacks of the trail and finally finding our first bit of gain. At the third switchback heading up the mountain our guide book instructed us to take the “climbers trail” east to the base of the Swamp Slabs where we would begin our climb. Let’s just say there wasn’t much of a “route” here. Accustomed to bushwhacking, we prepped and pushed forward, up the side of the mountain through brush, bush, cactus, and rocks until finally (with some sweat and scratches) made it to the base of the slab.

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Craig belaying Kari from below on Dislocation Buttress (5.4)

Kari has been climbing trad for years and would lead. I could tell by a smirk on his face as he looked at the wall in front of us that he was ready to get started. Dislocation Direct was a 4 pitch 5.6 route (according to the book). We decided to go up the first pitch of Dislocation Buttress (5.4) and then skirt a ledge to start the climb just to warm up. We were told that many of the ratings here were sandbagged and not to be fooled by a low rating.

At first Kari led while I followed, leaving all the tread gear in place. Then immediately after I began climbing, Craig would begin climbing and take lead on a rope tied to himself while Eva belayed from below. The first pitch was deceptively long and tougher than a 5.4 (in my opinion…but what do I know). Once getting off the ground and onto the face my hands were sweaty from searching for holds. I stuffed my feet into cracks when I could to cling to the rock like a lizard. Halfway up the pitch Kari’s trad was 3 feet to the right, far from the crack I was climbing.  I re-positioned my feet, one in a crack and the other on the face, and stood. My right foot began to slip so I backed off. I took a second look to figure out what the heck he did and finally found a solution that worked, moving past the obstacle. Before long, after climbing through a few bushes and finally up and over an awkward headstone to a face, I reached the exposed ledge where Kari was waiting as my belay.

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View form one of the belay station ledges

Happy to see him, I clipped into the anchor he had created and took a nice rest while we waited for the others to join us. Soon Craig popped up right behind me, but after a few minutes he noticed Eva wasn’t climbing anymore and could have only been 15 feet off the ground. The cliffs had many ledges and crevices, restricting the line of sight to the climbers below from the belay station. We waited another minute, no movement . . . Worried something was wrong, Kari came off the anchor and went to the top of the pitch to repel down.  It turned out a piece of gear had walked its way into a crack so far that Eva couldn’t retrieve it by hand and, not wanting to leave it behind, she was working to remove it. With a special tool, Kari removed the lodged gear and minutes later we were all at the anchor safe and sound.

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Kari, getting to work!

Due to the difficulty I volunteered to climb last, swapping out with Eva as I felt confident I could get anything loose if it were to get stuck again (I wanted to get some experience cleaning gear to see the placement). We climbed on, Kari leading and soon disappearing into the rock above. A few minutes later he called down that we were set having reached the next belay point, and Craig and Eva took off as I belayed Craig from below. It’s a strange feeling standing on a ledge while everyone else climbs above knowing that you have no other choice but to follow. Waiting, I listened for muffled yells from above that I was set to climb.

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Kari belaying from above, Craig following as I belay from below (Craig was paused so I could snap this pic)

The signal came at last; I threw on my pack and shoes, eager to get back at it. I began to climb and found that each pitch had a crux, a tough spot which took some extra effort to get by. The first pitch’s crux was just before the top, and there was a huge fin to the right which would have been a great hand hold.  Kari said to heck with that easiness and went straight up a crack just to the left of the fin. The hand holds were small, the feet were smaller, and it took just the right balance to keep from falling. This was slab climbing, Kari’s favorite! I watched Eva and soon Craig pass on up to the belay station. I was could hear a grunt or two from Craig as he passed the crux, never a good sign as he is a much more skilled climber than me.  I was up next, and it was time to shine (or crash and burn, whatever).  I got to the crux quickly and taking great care to maneuver the tight, small holds managed to surpass it and get to the ledge. “Whew!” I exclaimed at I clipped into the anchor.

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Base of Pitch 3

The sun was beaming down on us pretty good this late in the afternoon. We still had 3 more pitches to go and the sun wasn’t doing us any favors. This time Kari took on 2 pitches at once to make up for time and disappeared in the rock above. Soon Eva and Craig were gone too and once again it was my go.  The first section was pretty straightforward and had some great holds. Just after clearing it I was staring at what seemed like a blank face, a huge left foot, and a large rock jutting out to create a small crack where Kari had left his gear. I approached and tried to orient my body for the high left . . . my foot began to slip and I backed off, grabbing for the jutting rock to hold me on the face.  I tried again, nothing. And again, no success. I was starting to get frustrated looking at the face. I took a deep breath and approached one last time, hand on the jutting rock, fingers in the crack, right foot on a smear, and I pulled my left leg up from my crouched position for the big felt foot. Booya! Got it, but just barely! The rest of the climb on that pitch went smoothly from there. Climbing slab, cracks, and fins, grabbing trad gear as I went until I finally reached the ledge where everyone else was waiting. “That was spicy!” I exclaimed when I finally anchored in.

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Nice rack Kari!!!

We looked to the west, the sun was setting and we were still on the wall with just one pitch left. Kari, with gear over his shoulder looking like Rambo with ammo belts, headed up the last climb. He once again disappeared in the rocks above. Pushing up, up, up we all soon reached the top of the climb. No chains to repel from here…nothing but you, the rock, and some trad gear. That’s pretty cool.

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Sunset glow from the top, find waldo . . i mean kari!

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous. As we topped our climb, the sun was just dipping below the horizon. We all were happy to have finished and walked off the backside down a bushwhack gully back to our gear waiting below. By then it was time for headlamps, and we trekked down the climber “trail” in the dark until finally reaching the main trail again. I won’t name names, but there were a few cactus encounters the definitely kept us alive and on our toes. We walked back down the trail by headlamp, all tired and happy to complete another journey. Of course Craig was right, it was long dark before we got back to the car, but aren’t those some of the best kinds of trips?!

  • Looking west form the saddle
  • Hiking through the burn area

HIKE INFO:

Approach hike: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=2114

Swamp Slabs Climb: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/swamp-slabs/105792392

Dislocation Direct: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/dislocation-direct/105974239

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 70s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff bar, 1 bag trail mix, 1 apple, 2 protien bars, 1 bag of salt and venigar chips.
  • Time: 9 hours
  • Distance: 6 miles Round Trip from trailhead
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,400 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.6 (Sandbagged), first pitch 5.4 (also Sandbagged)
  • Number of Pitches: 5

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Webbing for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva Muira Climbing Shoes
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Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point – CO (6.30.16 – 7.1.16)

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View From camp at 12,200 feet the afternoon before the climb

My stomach flip flopped as we pulled up to the Blanca Peak trailhead. I am not the biggest fan of sitting in the backseat of vehicles, and something about not being the pilot just throws me into nauseous spins. As the truck came to a stop, I threw open the door and practically fell out of the truck.  Feet were finally back on the ground! My buddy Stevo, his gal Annalise, and I decided to go to CO for a week and explore the outdoors. Stevo was from Durango and wanted to go back to his mother land, see some family, and show Annalise around his old stomping grounds.  Of course I was there to hunt down a few 14ers. We were about 5 days into the trip and sitting in the truck for longer than a few hours had me begging for a bag on my back and some good trail time. I planned on backpacking up towards Lake Como and sleeping for the night, then waking the next morning and attempting to take on Little Bear Peak ( ft.), Blanca Peak (14,345 ft.), and Ellingwood Point (14,042 ft.).  I would then return the same way I came and grab a ride back to camp with Stevo’s family at The Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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The start of the climb, the road gets pretty chunky from here

I wasn’t much in a talkative mood as I slowly gathered my things, my stomach still performing acrobatic feats.  It was pretty warm at 2pm, but even in the heat I pulled on my long sleeve smartwool shirt and long pants (rolled up of course) because I knew the temps up at 12,000 feet where I would be camping and hiking would prove to be much cooler. Pack strapped, glasses on, and trekking poles in hand I waved goodbye to Stevo and Annalise and headed up the boulder covered dirt road that lead to Lake Como.  Chunky and hot describes well the climb to the tune of 3,900 feet gain in 5.5 miles with a 30 pound backpack on. There was no one else around as I climbed through the high desert surroundings.  The road snaked back and forth across the face of the mountain, every once in a while giving glimpse to the peaks above.

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We Cant Stop Here . . . Its Bear Country!

Finally I pushed up into canopy cover which was a relief from the sun beaming on my head. There was an inviting creek crossing the road where I paused a moment to take in the sight.  I dipped my hand into the cool creek and threw some in my mouth to wash around before spitting it out and pushing on. The last thing I needed was to get sick on the way up to altitude. I felt something wet hit my shoulder. I glanced up into the sky and watched a cloud rolling in full force, just starting to dump a bit of rain on my head. I quickly pulled my raincoat and pack cover out. Thunderstorms in CO afternoons at altitude have never been my favorite (lightning at alt = no bueno).  As quickly as the rain came, it moved on, much to my enjoyment.

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Clouds forming as I climbed
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Finally pushing into the trees before it started to rain on me

I hiked on for a few more miles to the entrance of the upper valley that houses Lake Como. Another beautiful place! High pines surrounded the lake, shading the area and giving shelter to the bears in the area (according to all the warning signs on the trees).  I hiked around the lake looking for a suitable camp to stop for the night when I ran into two other backpackers, Doug and Stacy. They were all smiles and in the middle of cooking dinner as I walked into their camp. They were there for the summit as well and had brought their 2 kids with them (14 and 10 years old). What an awesome little family unit! Doug had mountaineered for some years and now that the youngest was old enough, he was pushing them all to new heights and experiences!

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Lake Como, getting closer now!
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Skirting around Como towards camp

Doug had done Little Bear Peak in the past and knew about the sketchball upper Class 4 traverse to Blanca Peak. “It’s a little sketchy, and I heard about a guy bringing climbing shoes for the traverse” he told me. This didn’t boost my confidence at all.  On top of that, the clouds overhead didn’t look the best for summit, and I had heard the only time you should do Little Bear is in perfect weather.

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Beautiful lush green flora around Como

I said my goodbyes and pressed further up past Como to one of the smaller lakes. The tall trees around Lake Como were all but gone and only short hip high shrub remained. I set up my tent and made dinner. The marmots here were relentless and practically walked up and tapped me on my shoulder asking me for handouts. After finishing my Mountainhouse meal I threw all my food into 1 bag and piled it under a large stack of rocks (no trees to hang food from), gambling that no bears would come up this far and marmots weren’t strong enough to move the rocks. As I got ready for bed I watched marmots run up to the rock stack, sniffing furiously at the contents below. If they got to my food I would have to turn back and couldn’t summit the next morning.  I crossed my fingers and went to bed.

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Higher into the Alpine I pushed, the trees turned to shrubs

Waking early at 4 am to rain on my tent I prepped my bag and stuffed water and snacks for the day in. Searching, searching . . . no headlamp. What a bonehead move! After checking everything, I realized I must have left it in Stevo’s truck after using it the night before. Welp, I had to make the best of it. I set my alarm for 5am and went back to sleep. Beep beep beep, lets try this again! Sleeping at 12,200 is always tough but I had to get motivated.  I saw a few headlamps in the distance which could only be Doug and crew, but the light was just enough to see without one so I leapt from my tent and took off.  The trail climbed up the large waterfall feeding the small lake I camped next to. At the top of the fall I met up with Doug and family who were all smiles, even the kids, pushing up a huge peak in the dark. After quick greetings I pressed on.

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Time to get moving, upward, into the cloud!

After the waterfall was the summit plateau, which housed another small glacier lake and the final trail to the col/saddle between Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak. The only thing that stood between me and the ridgeline was a large frozen snow field.  No ice axe, great! I crossed the snow carefully and made it safely to the rocks on the other side. Pushing up from here, after some searching I found the trail. Switchback central! The sun was just lighting up the sky enough to see that I was hiking into a thick cloud clinging to the top of the peaks. The rocks were wet and slick, every step was critical. Up and up I went until finally reaching the col/saddle where a large cairn stood.  Left to Ellingwood, or right to Blanca? Ellingwood was a Class 3 traverse I was anxious to see, so left it was!

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Large cairn at the Ridge, at the split to Ellingwood and Blanca

I followed the cairns across the ridgeline towards the first peak of the day. The looming cloud prevented me from seeing out past more than 10 feet in front of me. Scrambling up, down, and traversing I continued to route find. I skirted rock faces looking down into the cloud not knowing if it were a 10 foot drop for 100.  No matter, just don’t fall! After half an hour I finally made it to the home stretch.  Out of breath and tired from the ascent, I carefully pulled myself to peak! I stood up giving it a quick 360, nothing but whiteout conditions! Then on my way back down to the ridge for a brief second the clouds gave way and opened up, so I snapped pictures as quick as I could before they closed back in around me. It was a short celebration, and fearing the weather could turn on me, I scrambled back down across the traverse to the base of Blanca.

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Views to the West from just below Ellingwood Point (click to enlarge)
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Views to the East from just below the Ellingwood Point (click to enlarge)

I made it back to the large cairn and started pushing up Blanca. Blanca was a decent Class 2 with a few scrambles here and there, but much less threatening than Ellingwood Point. I climbed through the clouds again upwards towards the peak, and in the distance I heard voices. It was Doug and crew once again, going for their summit bid of the day! I caught up with them and pushed to the peak together. His kids were doing surprisingly well under the low oxygen, wet, whiteout conditions. Finally we reached peak, every step was well worth it! I snapped a few pictures for them and headed back down the way I came.

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Looking back down the chute to the valley below (click to enlarge)
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Climbing down the waterfall just above the small lake I camped next to (click to enlarge)
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Views of Lake Como as I headed down (click to enlarge)

On the way down I finally dropped out of the clouds and saw bluebird skies over the valley below, giving me some hope for the return hike. I reached camp, broke it down, packed it up, and with trekking poles in hand headed back down the mountain. I was surprised at the number of people pushing up the mountain into the clouds so late in the afternoon. I wished them luck and dropped back down into the warm of the valley below. As I hiked west I watched this wall of clouds just dumping rain across the fields below. It was time to move! I picked up the pace and barely made it to the car before we were covered in a downpour! What another awesome adventure! Tired, smelly, and grinning ear to ear I rested in the backseat headed for the Dunes with another story to tell. It’s a beautiful country we live in, get outside and see it sometime!

  • Pushing up to the valley where the Lake Como resides
  • Into the trees!

HIKE INFO: http://www.14ers.com/photos/peakmain.php?peak=Blanca+Peak

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low in the lower 50s, Cloud cover, Fog, Sparse Rain, Partially Sunny, Slightly windy
  • Water: 6 liters (2 days)
  • Food: 4 protien bars, 2 Clif Bars, 2 Granola bars, 2 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Mountain House, instant mashed potatoes, 1 bag black forest gummies, 1 bag of trailmix, 1 Twix bar, Bag of salt and vinegar chips, 2 plums
  • Time: 2 Days (Hiking time – 5 hours, Day 1; 12 hours, Day 2)
  • Distance: 6 miles day 1, 12 miles day 2.
  • Accumulated Gain: 7,000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • MULE Camelback
  • Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket
  • Smart Wool Beanie
  • Smart Wool Gloves
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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The Subway – Zion – UT (6.5.16)

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Views as we set out on the trialhead

We usually save the best for last don’t we? A group of buddies (Mike, Stevo, and Adrien) and I decided to trek to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah in search for adventure.  On our last day we had permits to The Subway, a rock formation on the Left Fork of North Creek residing on the west side of the park, far from the main valley of Zion. There are two ways to visit The Subway, one as a technical canyoneering route from the top down, or a non-technical hike from the bottom up. Due to time restraints for the day we decided to hike from the bottom up, and we weren’t disappointed!

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Just before the drop off into the creek

We woke early and packed our camp up, piled into our vehicles, and headed west down Highway 9 towards Virgin, where we would turn north down the open road to the trailhead. Utah is such a beautiful place.  An open landscape with orange and red rock plateaus to the right, small plateau mounds to the left, and rolling hills ahead lead us to our turnoff. Bluebird, virtually cloudless skies welcomed us on the winding road through farm fields to the dirt pull off for the trailhead.

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Pushing up the canyon, the sun peaks over the red rocks

Once we pulled in there were a couple of park rangers that told us there was a guy down below that hurt his leg and couldn’t hike out so they were going to arrange a helo to come up and grab him. Little things like this always make me nervous before a hike, like bad juju or something. It didn’t help the fact that Stevo had been complaining about his knee having troubles as the weekend progressed and he put more miles on it. Brushing it off we pushed down the trail with excitement to see The Subway at the end of our 3.5 mile hike. The trail took a dive-bomb off the rim down into the canyon! Loose gravel dominated the trail as it twisted and turned dropping 600 feet to the creek below.

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Green, blue, and red, colors were gorgeous

In the bottom the light was perfect. We hiked northeast up the canyon and it was early enough that the sun just lit up the canopies above in golden light. We crossed back and forth over the creek, boulder hopping, traversing sandy creek banks, and large rock faces obstacles. Turn after turn there was something interesting to see. Soon the canyon began to change. The tall walls from afar started to close in and you could see the impact of water high up from long ago where it carved the rock face smooth. Miniature waterfalls and small swimming pools dotted the landscape, and the lush green canopy continued to slowly close in to shade us from the sun above. The creek began to flow over large stepped slickrock steps, creating mini falls, and we were forced to walk down the creek in the thin layer of water over the slickrock.

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Slickrock began to take over the bottom of the creek as it began to widen and the depth of the creek thinned

The canyon curled right and we finally entered the first area where it was no longer a typical creek bed canyon and the rock formations became more predominant. The water cut away, shaped, and formed everything around us. The small cascading falls became larger and taller causing us to climb around on the tree covered sides to bypass. Long smoothed-over cracks were found in areas of the slickrock, as well as small circular holes called potholes where the water pooled and flowed through. I can only speculate that upon formation, these areas had less dense rock which was eaten away by erosion causing the beautiful formations we were surrounded by.

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Looking down the last turn towards The Subway

We finally reached the last turn before The Subway and we all gathered together before pushing on so we could all see it at once. What a view! It looked as though the water tunneled straight through solid rock to form a Subway tube through the bottom of the canyon. It was strange how cylindrical the formation was, nothing else around was like it except in this one tight spot in the canyon the perfect conditions came together to create this remarkable place. We pushed to the back of the Subway where a few consecutive deep pools awaited. One after another we hopped in and waded in the cold 50 degree water that came chest deep, just to make it to the Key Hole waterfall in the back. Mike jumped in, taking a brisk shower in the falls.  Wheeeww boy was it cold!

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The Subway
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Past The Subway just before the KeyHole waterfall

Soon after we all returned to the Subway, all smiles. It’s amazing how some places can totally regenerate you. All the exhaustion of the day is just lifted form your shoulders and you are ready to get back to it. This is one of those places. Although I am not the largest fan of the permit system, I can respect it for protecting this very special place from being overrun and overused. At any rate, it was a beautiful day and we got to see something special. We returned the way we came without incident, piled in our cars, and headed home. This adventure for this weekend was over, until the next one!

  • Heading down the trail from the top
large 6 foot fall towards the end of the hike
large 6 foot fall towards the end of the hike (click to enlarge)
another tall 6 -10 foot fall
another tall 6 -10 foot fall (click to enlarge)
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Crack formation just before The Subway

HIKE INFO:

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=14805

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 80s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: Salt and Venigar chips, 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 bag of Cheese-its, 1 plum, 1 powerbar
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 7 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,200 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond trekking poles

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Cotton T shirt
  • Nike Running Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Alaska: the Last Frontier – Eagle Peak – AK (5.26.16)

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Flight in, sunset on the “promised land”

When I stepped onto a plane headed for Alaska I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know much of an impact it would have on me. It is undoubtedly the Last Frontier! My buddy Brendan has lived in Alaska for 4 years now while serving in the US Air force. In his off time he somehow found himself amongst the mountains and was soon honing his skills to become a darn good mountaineer! Ice climbing, snow climbing, rock climbing… you name it, he’s got the credentials. So I couldn’t resist when he invited me to visit and take on a few treks with him!

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trekking towards Eagle Lake, mountains peaking out from the back

The wheels of the plane chirped on the runway as the plane touched down.  I had finally reached Anchorage and would soon have my feet on dirt in this legend-(wait for it!)-dary place. Brendan met me at the gate all smiles and let me know that all the plans were set for the next day. We were to take on Eagle Peak of the Chugach State Park, just outside Anchorage, a sprawling range of approximately 495,000 acres of land and one of the four largest state parks in the United States. I was awe struck by the mountains surrounding the city, even on the flight in, and my first impression seeing the light dance off the peaks was “I have found the promise land!”

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Another small lake as we get closer and closer to camp

The next afternoon Brendan, Ryan (a local friend of his), and I let out, headed for Eagle Lake to set up base camp for the weekend ahead. My head was constantly on a swivel, looking left, right, up, and down, taking in all the views as my curiosity was raised by the snow-capped peaks in the distance. As we hiked the 4 miles approaching Eagle Lake, we strolled through beautiful creek ridden grassland until Eagle Peak finally came into view. What an intimidating beast! It stood tall and covered with snow on its north side, just daring us to make a summit bid. We met Nathan, another seasoned mountaineer, at a small shack at the head of Eagle and Symphony Lakes and chose a spot to bed down before the big push the next day. We all cooked up our freeze-dried meals, took in the 11:30pm sunset, and gazed up at the unknown adventure to come.

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Finally a view of Eagle Peak looming over Eagle Lake, just down from our camp

It was a bit early in the season to take on the peak, but with the mild winter conditions were favorable, although the unspoken threat of avalanche loomed over us. We woke early; the sun was still up due to the long 20 hour days in Alaska this time of year. We cooked breakfast, packed our gear, and were soon heading up the valley that would serve as the approach route to the “gully” eventually leading to the peak.

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Let trek on! No idea what this plant is, but it looked cool!

The valley was fed by snow runoff which was a nice crisp, cold temperature, undoubtedly in the 40s. I strapped my trail runners on, wanting to keep my waterproof boots dry for the push up the mountain. At our first creek crossing I plunged my foot in, pain immediately shot up my legs as they were submerged shin deep in the creek.  The pain died as the cold water numbed my senses, but soon enough I was on the other side and the pain returned with a vengeance.  Nathan was strapped up with mountaineering boots, Brendan with some Gore-Tex throw offs, and Ryan with some running shoes. I suddenly felt unprepared for 40 degree creek crossings, but I knew this would only last a short while.  Before long we would be at the headwall of the waterfall feeding the valley where I would be strapping on my own dry, warm, waterproof boots (or at least that’s what I told myself).

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Overlooking the flooded valley as we began to ascend the head wall, you can see Brendan, Nathan, and Ryan in the lower left of this picture

We weaved in and out, across the creek, through bushwhack thickets, until finally reaching the last crossing where we decided to take a break. Relieved, I put on my boots, grabbed a quick snack, and rejoined the guys ready for the next challenge. We finally reached some good gain and I was thrilled as I went to work against it. My original plan was to avoid the snow all together up the headwall to the valley to the canyon above, but soon found that Brendan and the other guys had different plans.

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looking up towards the head wall and the creek making the waterfalls that fed the flooded valley below

Ice axes in hand (using them as an anchor stuck in the snow), I watched as the guys kicked in steps across a large angled snow patch, making the traverse look easy as pie. Never having to deal with snow of this magnitude myself (hard to come by in the Arizona desert), looking down the snowy 40 degree slope ending abruptly in sharp rocks admittedly made me a bit nervous. I plunged the axe into the snow and kicked my first steps. One after another, I tried to take it slow and easy so as not to go skating down to certain injury. I kept my eyes on the snow, and slowly but surely made it to the other side.  Whew, safety of the rocks never felt so good!

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Above the head wall, the snow covered bowl that would eventually lead us to the base of the “gully”

We pressed on up the headwall into the snow covered bowl above where the large sub-surface creek flowed, feeding the valley below. We pushed across the snow pack, plunging our ice axes in to search for weaknesses in the pack, before finally coming to a thin snow bridge that traversed the creek. Brendan cautiously probed the bridge for strength. Encouraged by the lack of collapse, he took the first step across . . . success! The bridge held and Ryan and Nathan followed suit, stepping over like it was solid ground.  Soon we were all across, now debating the route up the bowl which would lead us the base of the southern gully, the path we planned to utilize for our summit bid.

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Slim Ice Bridge! Nathan beasting it across

Pushing up yet another snow-covered slope, we finally found ourselves looking up the southern chute which had some small avalanche sign. This was anything but confidence building, so we decided to push up the snow on the edge for safety. As we made our way up the aggressive incline, we decided to split up to check out two different routes. Brendan and I would take to the cliffs on the left while Nathan and Ryan would look at a snow pinch, putting them just below a cascading waterfall that ran down the gully. Brendan and I quickly found ourselves pushing class 4 moves and gaining some traction up the steep beast. Meanwhile Nathan and Ryan found themselves dangerously close to a slip crack, an early sign of a large avalanche that could spell utter disaster for our entire group.  In the interest of safety, they returned to the cliffs find their own route past the pinch and back into the safety of the gully.

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Ascending the side of the snow covered bowl, man i would hate to fall down that without an ice ax!
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Nathan and Ryan discovering the slip crack, and immediately going towards the safety of the rocks!

After they caught up, we started poking away at what seemed to be never ending cliff bands. Obstacle after obstacle we would attempt to circumvent either via a class 4 low class 5 climb or getting in the snow chute traveling towards the edge hoping for the best. This was slow work but soon we found ourselves pinched down in the final snow/scree chute just before the summit. Brendan and I pushed up first and Ryan and Nathan followed suit.  Nathan accidentally pushed into the fresh snow with a boot.  As it began to give way, he hollered up “Watch out!” We looked down and just below his seemingly innocent footstep the snow began to move, gaining momentum and girth as it flowed down the mountain. The snow picked up rocked and dirt, flinging them downwards to the chute below. We were all quiet for a moment before Nathan stated what we were all thinking: “Yeah, I think we should stick to the rocks as much as possible.”

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careful steps!

Back into the scree we went, pushing on and up until finally meeting the col and the final ridge to the peak! The sights were incredible; we could see all the way back to camp and many miles further into the snow covered Chugach Park. All smiles, we scaled the homestretch and summited together! Breaking out snacks and taking pictures, we took time to enjoy our hard work. From the peak we heard numerous avalanches in the distance crashing down the steep faces of the surrounding mountains. Every once in a while we could spot them from a far and nervously watched as they covered the base of the routes below. Knowing the day was only half complete, we packed up and headed back down.

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Just above the col! Views of Eagle Lake below, we are almost there!!!
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Summit baby! Well deserved!

We had learned our lesson and stuck to the rocks, challenging the cliff bands to keep us safe. Ryan took the lead, and soon gained the nickname “3up5down”. His seemingly nervousness on some of the up climbs was nowhere in sight as he lead us down some easily class 5 routes. As slowly and safely as possible we scrambled down the rock faces, which always had some large penalty for failure. Once or twice we broke out a 60 ft piece of 7mm rope which came in handy down some of 3up5down’s route selections!

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One of the tamer scramble downclimbs

Finally we reached the snow chute near the bottom of the gully.  Brendan looked at me and said “you may have to come dig me out” just before plopping on his butt above a good 50 yard slope. He slid with ease, looking as giddy as a kid on a sled in the first snowfall of winter. We all followed suit and were soon safely down at the base of the chute. At the bottom of the gully, the angle of the slope decreased and cradled the glissade which was a lot safer than attempting this move on the higher, steeper slopes. After this little bit of fun we gathered back together and crossed the snow bowl, the headwall, the flooded valley, and the edge of Eagle Lake before finally making it back to camp. What a long but glorious day!

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Sunset as we returned to camp

Proud of our accomplishments, we all plopped down, made food, and began to get ready to rest for the night.  That is, all but Nathan. Nathan, the trooper that he was after taking on a huge mountain, had to pack up camp and walk the 4 miles out to his truck, drive home, and get in bed so he could be at work the next morning. What a guy! Alaska is truly a wild land, untamed and raw, and nothing was easy about the day’s trek, but after all that we encountered you realize that its what makes it so beautiful and fulfilling.

  • Eagle Lake
  • Lets Get Started!

HIKE INFO:

http://www.summitpost.org/eagle-peak/952255#chapter_3

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the lower 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 6 liters (3 days)
  • Food: 6 protein bars, 2 Clif Bars, 2 granola bars, 2 via starbucks instant coffee, 2 Oatmeal Medly cups, 2 Mountain House, 1 bag instant mashed potatoes, 1 bag gummy worms, 1 bags of trailmix, bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, 2 Avocado, 1 pear, 2 plums
  • Time: 3 Days (Hiking time – 2 hours, Day 1; 15 hours, Day 2; 2 hours Day 3)
  • Distance: 4 miles Day 1; 16 miles Day 2; 4 miles Day 3
  • Accumulated Gain: Approx 6000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
  • Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • 7mm Rope – 60 feet

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Smart wool beanie
  • Smart wool glove liners
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Cloth bandana
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots – Waterproof
  • Nike Running Shoes (used for water crossings)
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
  • Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
  • Black Daimond Raven Pro Ice Axe
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Blunt Force Brahma – Grand Canyon AZ (3.25.16 – 3.26.16) (Brahma Temple)

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What is left of Mark’s gloves after the trek

Some years ago, a few geologists (namely Charles Dutton, Charles Walcott, Ian Cambel and John Maxton, amongst others) with some extra time on their hands went about naming some of the buttes, mesas, and temples that are scattered across the Grand Canyon.  For many of these rock structures, they chose to name them after prominent figures across many different religions (i.e. Vishnu Temple, Shiva Temple, Rama Temple, Isis Temple, ect).  This particular adventure would take us up the Temple named after Brahma, the Hindu God of creation or birth.  The hike (if you can call it that) lived up to its name because I felt like a new man after!

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View of Brahma Temple (left) and Zoroaster Temple (right) from the North rim (thank you internet)

Mark, Rene, and I planned to take on the Temple as a one night backpack, but had no idea what was truly in store for us. We all did our research on the trek, knew it would be pushing class 4, low class 5 in places, but at the end of the day it’s like reading a book about how to ride a bike; you just have to get out there and fall over a couple of times. The plan was to hike down South Kaibab, cut across the canyon to Clear Creek trail, head north up the crack from Sumner wash through the red wall, break up through the Supai layer, and then camp on the western arm of Zoroaster.  The next day we would then hike through the Hermit Shale across the Zoroaster/Brahma saddle, skirt the base of Brahma, ascend the formation from a chute on the west side, and follow the ridgeline north to the peak.  We just prayed we could get down the same way unscathed by the monstrous mountain!

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View from South Kaibab as we dropped in (click to enlarge)

Friday morning was crisp and cool, just above freezing, as we prepared to drop in. I always get that Christmas morning feeling when I drop into the canyon, giddy with excitement.  It’s like I’m 5 years old all over again, standing over a pile of neatly wrapped presents, blood pumping with the excitement of not knowing what’s to come. We had all hiked the canyon a few times so the descent down South Kaibab was no surprise.  After a few hours, we reached Phantom Ranch and took a quick break to fill up on water that was to sustain us until the next day and into the afternoon. Sipping on lemonade from the canteen and writing some post cards to home, we were all in good spirits and ready to push onward to camp.

  • First glimpse of Phantom Ranch from South Kaiab
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View of the river from Clear Creek (click to enlarge)

As we headed out from Phantom, the morning had finally warmed up.  The added weight from the water really sunk into our shoulders as we took on the first good gain of Clear Creek trail. As we made our way up onto Sumner wash, the views from the skirting trail over the Colorado River were incredible. You could look clear up and down the river, both the black and silver bridges visible to the naked eye.  After another good push, we were finally at the point to head “offtrail”. As expected the route went right to work with quick gain up the wash to the base of the crack.  We were soon faced with our first obstacle:  an 80 foot repel staring right back at us, daring us to climb.

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View of Zoroaster from Clear Creek, Brahma hides in the back
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Climb from Clear creek to the crack
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Close up of the crack and exposed climb to come

After careful deliberation we decided to take an exposed ledge, hopping to the right side of the crack (which had a skin ripping rock covered with sharp tater). At the top of the ledge, there was a small 20-foot down climb that dumped us back into the crack. Whew!! We made it past the first obstacle.  After that I knew that Brahma was really going to pack a punch! Not but a short 10-foot scramble later we hit the crux of the red wall crack. It was another climb that had a few options of ascent, all with troublesome penalties for failure.

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20 foot downclimb after the exposed first obstacle bypass of the red wall crack

Once again we deliberated, found a route we liked, and with sweaty hands made the ascent, afterward tying off the packs and handing them up. Whew, another climb completed! After another short scramble we popped up out of the crack and made our way across the bottom side of the western Zoroaster arm. Some trail finding and a chimney crack was all that stood between us and our camp for the night. We kept reminding ourselves “slow and steady wins the race” as we methodically tackled each obstacle the climb threw at us.  There was no point trying to hurry through if it meant a being taken out of commission for a while (or worse). Before we knew it we were setting up camp, boiling water for Mountain House meals, cracking jokes, and enjoying the setting sun.  It was only the first day and we were all beat, ready for a good night’s sleep.

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View down the Red wall crack form the top

Or so I thought…I woke in the middle of the night to the sides of the tent shaking violently! The wind ripped across the open face where we were camped, but the tent was well staked and held sturdy.  Just as fast as the wind had come it dissipated, and this cycle repeated itself quite a few times through the rest of the night.

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View from camp, Brahma on the left, Zoroaster on the right
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Sunset from camp (click to enlarge)
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Sunrise from camp (click to enlarge)

Soon, always too soon, my alarm blared, signaling the start of Day 2. Not only did we still have to summit (which was hours away from completion), but also find the energy to descend back to the river and hike out of the canyon via Bright Angel trail. We had our work cut out for us!

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Slim skirt across the base of Zoroaster towards the Brahma saddle, tough penalties for a misstep

After breakfast and packing up camp we piled our camp gear off to the side in hopes that with lighter packs it would help us with our summit time. We quickly spanned the western arm and chimneyed up a 10 foot obstruction to start skirting the base of Zoroaster.  The trail narrowed from a short 10 foot slope to a 300 foot sheer drop in some sections. I nervously placed one foot in front of the other, clutching tight to the trekking pole in my hand for balance, trying not to think about the consequences of a misstep. Not soon enough, we cleared the first section and it was on to the 3 obstacles in the Supai layer.

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One of the Supai obstacles, easier of the three

After quickly scaling the first two, which had seemed pretty mild even without relying solely on a rope, we came upon the third. This one was a little spicier in nature. Good footing on the right led to a slick rock face.  This demanded full commitment to the rope which had been left hanging…in the sun…for god knows how long…with little way of inspection. Of the 3 of us, I was the first up and have the least upper body strength. Standing half way up the climb on the ledge my leg began to shake. At this point is was show up or go home, so I put my feet on the wall and my full weight onto the rope.  I felt it stretch, along with something in the pit of my stomach.  My buddies below had their hands up just in case the worst should happen, but I knew it was pointless if I actually fell.   I pulled with everything I had, the knotted rope stayed true, and soon I was over the obstacle and onto the ledge.

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Repelling the 3rd obstacle, the ascent (seen on the right) is pretty spicy

After the other two followed suit, all three of us took a moment to catch our breath, nervous and happy we had completed yet another climb. We skirted the rest of the base of Zoroaster across a long, loose sloping face which, of course as everything else had on this hike, ended in a 300 foot drop into the canyon below. Whew, the nerves were not shot but they were definitely getting their exercise. We exited onto the saddle to Brahma and after a good climb started skirting the base of Brahma. In the description it says “Easy Peasy Skirt” along the base.  The wisdom, however, is that everything should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to summiting a Temple. The skirt went up and down, but overall wasn’t too bad except for the 3 or 4 spots where the slope ended in a downward spiral to an early grave. As we reached what we thought was the end of the skirt (according to the GPS track), we looked right to find the canyon we were supposed to ascend. There was nothing in sight.

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Zoroaster/Brahma saddle!

After careful consideration and close inspection, we found the only line that didn’t look like a 5.10 climb or seemed as though it could “go”. We dropped pack, chugged water, and prepped for the unknown.  In all the research we did, there wasn’t much note given to the canyon that leads to the north ridge to the summit. Let’s just say that was a slight oversight! The first 15 foot climb ended in an exposed shelf skirt that the word “sketchy” cannot truly describe. After the skirt we tucked into the canyon, carefully and slowly choosing our line, ascending obstacle after obstacle, before reaching the north ridgeline and finally the sunny summit. My god what an ascent!  By far my hardest to date. It definitely pushed my limits, but I couldn’t really fully enjoy it because I wasn’t actually sure if we were going to make it down safely, which of course is always the primary goal.

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Showing the sloped shelf skirt traverse, nice sliding dropoff to the right, hold on tight! Oh wait there are almost no hand holds . . .

The mind is a strange thing, though. Once you challenge it, it expands. Every section where I was worried or nervous that we couldn’t return that same way felt grades lower in toughness on the return trip. Each down climb seemed doable, and repels that bypassed 2 of the hardest obstacles made the descent much more livable. After an exhausting day, we finally reached Clear Creek trail. We cracked a few brews to celebrate that the hardest part was over. It didn’t matter that we still had 13 miles to hike out in the dark, which we knew we wouldn’t complete until almost 2 am, because we had just summited our first Grand Canyon Temple. What an incredible journey, no words or pictures can begin to describe its brutal beauty.  Despite the mental and physical toll the climb exacted on me, I can’t help but be excited to start planning the next one.

  • South Kaibab
  • Cairn noting the exposed bypass for the fist obstacle

HIKE INFO:

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=1070

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the lower 20s, Sunny, Slightly windy
  • Water: 8 liters (2 days)
  • Food: 4 protien bars, 6 Clif Bars, 2 granola bars, 2 via starbucks instant coffee, 1 Mountain House, 2 bags of Quinoa, instant mashed potatoes, 1 bag ProBar gummies, ProBar Meal bar, 2 bags of trailmix, Haribo gummy bears, 2 Kind bars, bag of Pringles, bag of salt and vinegar chips
  • Time: 2 Days (Hiking time – 9 hours, Day 1; 19 hours, Day 2)
  • Distance: 30 Miles round trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 10,700 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Corax Harness
  • ATC belay devise
  • Black Diamond carabiner
  • Phantom carabiner
  • 10mm Rope – 60 feet
  • 6mm prusik
  • 2 – 180 mm slings

CLOTHING:

  • Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Cloth bandana
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Mazatzal Peak Redux – Central AZ (3.12.16)

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So I figured I’d do a quick addition to my Mazatzal Peak post (original post: http://goatmanmike.com/2016/01/mazatzal-peak-central-az-12-30-15/). The first time I took the peak, I went up Y-bar trail and summited from the south side before returning the same way to the trailhead. I decided to come back (since the rugged Manzanita bushwhack wasn’t enough the first time) three months later with a group I hike with (TLC) and give it another go.  I was glad I did!

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Peaking down the canyon descent route to the north

Instead of climbing down the southern ascent route, the crew planned to take a non-technical canyoneering route to the north that would tie into Barnhardt trail for the return loop to the trailhead.  I was pleasantly surprised with what the trail had to offer. Taylor and I led the charge up to the peak, and along the way found a cool climb (upper class 4 scramble) to bypass a long section of the leg scratching Manzanita! Once we popped back out onto the main path, we found our way to the top where the rest of the group soon gathered. It was chilly as the wind nipped at everyone’s faces, and all I could think was “man I’m glad I brought my hoody!” as I snitched it on tight.

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View from the peak – Taylor on the left (click to enlarge)

After a quick register signing everyone was ready to get off the windswept peak. Eric, Rick, and I had a quick route/GPS coordination then headed north, following suicide ridge until we found the correct canyon to bomb down. This is where the fun began. Before coming on the trip I had read that it was a total bushwhack and pain in the ass. So far it didn’t seem too bad, just an innocent walk down a canyon with a creek in the bottom!  As we plunged further down, we soon encountered a few nice drop-offs with icy waterfalls and great views. The first few drops were easy to bypass, but the open and inviting sides of the canyon soon turned to rock face and began to close in on us as we descended.

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Looking back up the canyon at the ledges

The bushwhack became thicker.  The trees and thorned bushes grasped at our clothes, attempting to hamper our progress and spirits, until we finally escaped onto a ledge overlooking a 120-foot cascading waterfall. What a view! On one hand I was blown away by the beauty of what I would have missed had I not descended this route with the crew, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but think “how the heck are we going to get down!?” After some quick searching we found a cairn stack (oh you awesome trusty cairn you!) and hopped over into the next canyon.  That gave way to a muddy trail, eventually throwing us into the creek itself and further down the canyon.

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looking up from the bottom of the cascading waterfall
It became a boulder hop from there; trying to stay out of the creek for fear of wet feet, while safely descending rock faces slick with moss and no grip. The canyon was beautiful! Bushwacky (is that a real word? oh who cares), but beautiful. Down and down we went until miraculously running into two more group members! Medal and Amy were heading up the canyon we were trying to fight our way out of. They had decided to camp for the night and ascend from the north instead of Y-Bar trail to the south.  After a quick greeting (and a warning of what was to come), we pushed onward.  More bushwhacking finally let us out to the Barnhardt trail where we all stopped for rest and a quick snack. Everyone was in good spirits, bantering back and forth about previous treks, current events, etc…the usual “trail talk”.
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Looking back up the canyon we descended

Feeling recharged, we were all back on our feet and ready to face the final 3 miles to the trailhead. The canyon wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on this trek, Barnhardt was a far more beautiful trail than I expected. Y-bar is a sun-drenched mountain skirt providing expansive views, but is mostly covered in shrub and manzanita (though the small patch of pines found ¾ of the way up is pretty cool). Barnhardt, on the other hand, is tucked away on the north side of the peak. Shaded from the sun and sipping on creeks and falls from winter snowmelt, the vegetation here was totally different. Lush and green, it was like a little desert oasis! Talk about a tale of two trails, night and day difference.

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Some of that lush green goodness

The rest of the crew pushed ahead while I lingered behind snapping pictures and taking in the sights. After getting my fill, I picked up the pace to try and catch up.  At the Barnhardt falls, the trail descended rapidly with a few switchbacks before finally settling out, skirting the base of the mountain and back to the trailhead. What another awesome trek with good people!

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Hey look its Brain Mildener

P.S. Brain Mildener was there too =)

  • Desert Flowers on Y-Bar
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Another awesome waterfall coming down Barnhardt

HIKE INFO:

https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=202

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 Bag Trailmix with Macadamia nuts and pretzels, 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, mixed 1 bag of salt and vinegar chips, Pro Bar strawberry gummies
  • Time: 8 hours
  • Distance: 14.8 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 3,200 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Smart Wool 195 weight long sleeve shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Underarmor shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Weaver’s Needle Ascent – AZ (3.5.16)

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I have been hiking in the Superstition Mountains for the past few years and I knew Weaver’s Needle on sight. The formation was massive and jetted out of the earth like the final breath of a dying volcano. It was always on my list to reach the top (more of a bucket list due to the rock climbing gear required) and I never thought it would be more than a dream until I got a text from a buddy with an invite. I started rock climbing in a gym a few months back, and this bucket list item was about to become my first outdoor climbing experience!  Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic!

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Peralta Trail-head, our adventure begins!

Kári, Inga, Craig and I met early in the morning, threw our gear into the back of Craig’s 4Runner, and headed for the Supes! We finally got to Peralta trailhead and started putting feet to trail around 8:30am. Little did we know, the day ahead of us was going to turn out to be a long one! I had Kári’s climbing rope draped over my shoulder as my day bag was already packed to the brim with food, water, and climbing gear. At the sight of the rope quite a number of people descending Peralta trail stopped and chatted; “looks like you guys are going to have some fun!”, “what are you going to repel?”. I was all grins but as Craig explained where we were headed I bit my tongue (didn’t want to jinx it). After short chats, we continued to sweat up the climb. The sun was already going to work on us as we approached Fremont Saddle.

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Looking south just before from Fremont Saddle, Kari ascends (click to enlarge)
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First sight of Weavers Needle from Fremont Saddle

Finally reaching the saddle and we laid eyes on our target: Weaver’s Needle! Every time I looked at it before it was a point of reference or landmark, this time it was a much more ominous beast as I started to wonder what the climb would be like, and how we were going to find our way up what seemed to be an impossible exposed climb. We bombed down Peralta on the north side from saddle headed for the west side of Weavers. As we approached it became more and more apparent we had a large amount of gain to take on just to approach the start of the technical climb.

10rgfw

We found our way to the climber’s cutoff approach rout and crossed the dry creek. After a little bit of bushwhacking I luckily stumbled onto the trail. “Trail”, I yelled to the crew who were in the bushes nearby. Soon we were all back together making the big push towards the base of a notch in the formation. As we hiked up the rock became a little less ominous. The steep, but clearly cairned trail walked right up to the start of the climb. Time for a nice break in the shade! We all plopped down, grabbing out our snacks and munching down.

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Beginning of the first pitch scramble just below our snack break area

After the break we got our climbing gear out and began to scramble up the first pitch (lesson learned here, bring your hiking shoes with you when you climb, repelling in climbing shoes is no fun!). We scrambled up the first pitch to the next anchor, it was time to climb! Kári took lead; he has a ton of experience in traditional climbing and knows the technical correct way to do things as he was in Mountain Rescue for many years with Inga. Craig is a seasoned sport climber and walked me through the ins and out of belaying, removing gear, and the general etiquette for climbing.

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Second Pitch, Kari Leading, Inga belaying and Craig and myself eagerly waiting

I watched as Kári and soon Inga and Craig disappeared above the chalk-stone at the top of the climb. I was alone at the bottom of the shoot looking up at my first attempt at outdoor rock climbing. Admittedly a little intimidated I made my first few moves up the climb. My hands were sweaty and I plunged them into my chalk bag. After focusing solely on the holds and where I was going the nervousness went away. Before I knew it I made it to the first piece of trad gear and pulled it from the rock clipping it to the side of my harness. It was cool to see the strategic placement of the gear, but it was strange concept to think I was removing the gear knowing it could be the difference in life and death for anyone lead climbing. Being as I was the last one up and tied into top rope this wasn’t an issue.

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Looking back down the chute to the valley below

Some of the rock on the right felt as though with enough force it would pry from the wall, the left was solid. I climbed up, brushing small pebbles from the holds as I did. I went to put my right foot up on the next foothold, as I did I felt it. There was a rock in my climbing shoe, just under the ball of my foot. This was no bueno! Luckily I was close to a ledge and took a rest to pull my shoe off to empty it. As I did I looked down, yup it would most definitely suck not to be tied in! Some people can freeclimb this pitch, definitely not the case for me! I threw my shoe back on, stood up, found my feet, hands, and soon myself climbing over the chalk-stone! With the crux of the climb out of the way the whole crew scrambled their way to the summit for some incredible views!

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View from the top of the 3rd pitch looking south east, what a view!
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View form the peak!!! (click to enlarge)

We hung out for a half hour or so and soon realized we needed to get going in order to try and get to phoenix at a descent hour! We packed up our gear, and headed back down the climb. All four of us repelled all 4 pitches of the climb which took some time but was really fun (except for catching a few cacti in the leg). Repelling was a blast, especially down the length of the second pitch over the edge of the chalkstone to the bottom of the climb below. Soon when we had out hiking shoes back on and walked off the formation as the sun set. Once we were back on Peralta trail, we broke our headlamps out and trekked the 3.5 miles back to the car in the dark. It tuned into a 12 hour adventure, but I’d rather spend a day outside than any other way! What an awesome incredible unforgettable trek!

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Sunset over the valley below as we down climbed back to Peralta Trail, golden goodness!
  • Freemon Saddle Here we come!
  • Lets begin!

HIKE INFO:

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=545

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, mixed 1 bag of chips (Salt and Vinegar), 1 Cliff Builders bar, apple, Power Protein Bar
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 8.1 miles Round Trip from trailhead
  • Accumulated Gain: 3,400 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.6
  • Number of Pitches: 4

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Webbing for personal anchor
  • Black Diamond ATC
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt (Nom Nom Nom Shirt)
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Arm coolers
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • 5.10 Rouge Climbing Shoes
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (3of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.28.16)

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Looking back down the canyon from the first waterfall

We save the best for last, don’t we? Our last day in the Sierra Ancha area I woke in my tent to the hue of the rising sun fighting back the darkness of night. It was time to get up, no alarm this time, just the peepers opened and the morning ritual began. With a chill and a hoody on I brewed coffee and threw the rest of the kindling and wood from the night before on the still warm buried coals of the fire. With a little coaxing, the fire lit again jumping onto the twigs and limbs heating us during breakfast. This morning Stevo, Annalise, and myself had our sights in Devils Chasm ruins. Soon after breakfast we snuffed the fire and threw our packs on heading up the canyon for our last trek of the weekend.

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The lower section of the trail, nice and padded

As always I was excited to get my feet on the trail. In the beginning the trail twisted back and forth on padded dirt paralleling the creek feeding the canyon. It has a pretty good climb to it and after a one good hardy pushes, we were all peeling off layers. The trail lush and green at the sides was totally different than the hikes the day before. Devils Chasm is a sheltered oasis in the high desert, lush green grass, thriving vegetation, and a cool running creek transports you miles away from any desert. We kept climbing until the trail dumped us down into the creek and the canyon walls began to close in. Let the boulder hopping begin!

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Lets start boulder hopping!

It wasn’t long before we came to the first of two climbs/scrambles. On the right side of the canyon a rope dangles below a chalkstone to the right of a small waterfall. The climb is easily accomplished with the aid of the rope (rope was newly replaced). Once atop the climb we turned the corner to a much larger waterfall/slick rock area. What a view! The golden sun bared down on the red rock face while the cool canyon stayed shaded and blue. The second waterfall is easily climbable to the left with aid of a rope (this rope was not as good as the first and honestly should be replaced).

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2nd waterfall
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Stevo and Annalise ascending the 2nd waterfall

After taking in the views and a few pictures we hiked on and up the canyon knowing there was a good push to get to the ruins. Boulder hopping and canyon skirting continued for a half mile or so before finally a padded steep dirt trail appeared to the right, it really took off! Talk about steep; once again we were grabbing at lodged rocks, strong branches, and roots to ascend the incredibly steep trail. We were careful to not kick dirt and rocks down on one another.

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Entrance from the canyon, first room

Finally we popped out from the brush letting way to high canyon walls and an enormous (and almost camouflaged) ruin on the rock face in front of us. From the face it looked as the highest wall was 30 feet tall and the entire building spanned 60 feet. Excited we pushed forward on the winding trail to the ruin. The climb is exhausting but the sight of the ruin made every step worth it! The ruin was five rooms wide, four of which still had fully standing walls, and one had a partially intact roof. The last room let out to a high exposed ledge like a side porch. Inside the rooms we found some small pottery shards and two grinding stones.

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Looking inside the 4rd room to the east, such a cool sight to see
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Looking back to the ruin from the exposed ledge

Like tourists we snapped pictures up, down, left, right, checking out every crevice of the ruin. How impressive that almost 650 years later this mud and rock structure still stood the test of time. The Salado Indians built a fortress standing against erosion, storms, and of course the most destructive force: the occasional visit from man. Places like this are to be respected and preserved, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit them. Respect it, leave no trace, and it will be here down the road for others to enjoy too.

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Top view of all 5 rooms and the canyon
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Peering down into the 2nd room along the ledge behind the ruin

Having our fill from the journey and needing to head back to Phoenix, we turned back down the steep trail and made our way back. We didn’t see one other soul on the trail, what a nice way to spend a Sunday. On a great trail, in an incredible place, with good friends.

  • Looking back down the canyon (see Stevo?)
  • Looking down the hallway

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Devils Chasm Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, mixed 1 bag of chips (Salt and Vinegar, corn chips, and pretzles), Cliff Builders bar, 1 trail-mix bag, Sun-dried Cranberries
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 4 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,100 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Arm coolers
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (2of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.27.16)

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Tonto National Forest sign, faded form the sun

After doing some extra credit exploring up Cold Springs Canyon I returned to basecamp at the mouth of Devils Chasm. Admittedly I was ready for food and a sit down. I kicked my shoes off, grabbed some grub and cracked a brew for kicks. The campsite is shaded with these trees sipping on the canyons creek shading us from the sun. The temps were perfect and everyone was in good spirits! Annalise opted to stay at camp so Stevo and myself set our sights for the next ruin of the day: Cooper Forks Canyon Ruins. Not knowing it, Annalise did well in choosing just to hang out, because the next trek was nothing she signed up for!

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Its bushwacking time! Down the tributary canyon (can you see Stevo?)

We headed out from camp back up the road in the warmest part of the day. We skirted on in and out of the canyon until we finally came across an old sign from Tonto National Forest. It stated that there were Indian Cliff Dwellings nearby, lucky it didn’t give away their location! Be soon bumped off the ridge into a canyon housing a tributary creek to Cherry Creek. Let the bushwack begin! We headed doen the canon, boulder hopping, crossing logs, and avoiding getting wet in the creek. We hopped, jumped, and down climbed until finally we hit Cherry Creek. We soon found a way to cross the creek and headed upstream boulder hopping once again following a few sparce cairns. Before we know it we found a rockface jetting into the water imeding our further progression. We decided to take it up and over, the climb was on!

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What an awesome place!

Once we topped out the rock we weaved in and out bushes and trees, in and out finding no real trail, only sparse areas of low vegetation. We continued pushing forward and were faced with a dropoff into another tributary canyon to Cherry Creek. This bushwack was tuning out to be a little less straightforward than we planned. We bombed down steeply into the canyon and up the other side knowing this was the only way to begin the climb to the ruins.

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Ridge to the ruins

Once we reached the top of the base of the ridge that would lead us to the ruin, we stopped under a shaded tree and decided to grub. Stevo was starving and it was time to feast! We garbled down snacks and sandwiches, undoubtedly looking like two cavemen in the woods. Soon replenished for the hike ahead we set our sights forward up the right. Soon we found a well cairned trail that wasted no time climbing up and onward! We pushed up and on for a good ways. Just as the clear trail appeared before us, it vanished. I pulled out my GPS and found the right direction and kept pushing on. Soon the trail turned from boulder hopping to straight shale. It reminded me of being in the Sierras above treeline, only the rock here was red. Maybe that’s why they called it the Sierra Ancha (its actually Spanish meaning ‘broad range’, but what the heck I can dream).

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Shale city!

We pushed on and up in the beating sun, before finally skirting a large rockface to find the ruins, tucked away. This set was pretty big, I counted 3 main strictures, and 8 rooms, 4 of which were left intact. The rooms furthest west were almost completely lost with only fragments of the walls that stood. The middle set had another caved in area where the second floor finally fell against the test of time. The connecting room was fully intact and even had a grinding stone in the floor.

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Finally made it! Initial view of the ruins from the trail (middle right, lower left)
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Pano if the furthest west rooms or whats left of the rather

The last room furthest east was the most impressive of this ruin. The approach to the room had a nice exposed 10-15 foot climb with some pretty serious penalty for failure as the drop kept going eventually dropping into the canyon below. We both successfully made the careful climb and were soon in the main room taking in the incredibly impressive architecture of the Salado. It seemed as though there were main rooms for sleeping and a smaller build room towards the back where fires were burned, for food and heat we speculated.

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Middle ruins, still intact!
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View from inside, see the grinding stone?

The Indians were truly gifted, not only in their climbing skills but their resourcefulness to gather and survive such a hostile area. These special places should be shared, but above all respected. Soon after taking in the views and a few pictures we headed back for camp. What another well spent day outdoors!

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Nice sketchball climb to the last furthest room
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From the inside of the furthest east room, awesome views!
  • Looking back to the est side of Cherry Creek
  • Look a Stevo!

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Cooper Forks Canyon Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, 1 bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, 1 orange, Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bag
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 5 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,800 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Arm coolers
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (1of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.27.16)

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Sierra Ancha Wilderness boundary

Cold Springs Canyon Ruins (1of3). I woke before the sun came up. The usual scenario, alarm blasting at the walls of my tent letting me know it’s time to go to work! Stevo, Annalise, and myself drove up the long road to the Sierra Anchas the night before finally arriving to surprisingly an empty campground. The camping here can be pretty sparce as there are not many flat spots just below Devils Chasm. Luckily we grabbed the primo one at the top, set up camp, ramped up a fire and crashed. Not another soul out there!

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Looking back from the road up Devils Chasm Canyon

Back to getting moving; I stretched my legs like a lazy cat, threw on my hiking clothes, and got breakfast brewing. Stevo and Annelise soon appeared from his trucktop tent and we got the morning underway. Once breakfast was through it was time to put feet to trail and walk the road north to the trailhead. The morning light was awesome, peering through the leaves kissing the rocks around us. Just before hitting the first turn in the road we turned and peered up Devils Chasm, what an incredible sight. It would have to wait until tomorrow, as our sights for the day were set on Cold Springs Canyon Indian Ruins.

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Cairn at the top of the 4 wheeler road before the wilderness boundary

We climbed on, trekking up the road until the small 4wheeler road jetted off west, turning up we trekked up the good grade to nice hidden luscious green paradise atop a saddle. If we couldn’t find the spot we did, we would most certainly camp here. Views from this saddle were incredible, looking out over the Anchas just made me think about how people could survive here hundreds of years ago. The Salado Indians got it right, what a beautiful place!

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Looking across the Sierra Anchas from the trail to Cold Springs Canyon

We trekked on, pausing at the Sierra Ancha Wilderness sign for a quick picture. The open pastures soon turned into a twisting and winding trail through manzanita. Signs of the cattle ranched in the area were all across the trail; footprints, cow patties, broken branches, but luckily no cattle. We trekked up and on until we got to the plitoff for cold canyon. We pushed around the ridge into the next canyon, looking up into the rocks its wasn’t clear where the ruins were at first. As we got closer we could see a crack in the rocks to the west on the north side of the canyon that could hold something promising. Hoping around manzanita, century plants, and agave that riddles the trail. Finally we were close enough to see a doorway, almost perfectly square. I pointed it out with a giddy smile. This is where the trail really started to get fun!

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First good view of the entrance of the Ruins from the trail

The trail jetted up right, up the side of the canyon gaining a quick 400 feet in less than 0.2 miles. I grabbed at branches, roots, wedged in trailside rocks, anything that was stable enough to hold my weight to pull up on. The trail was a slippery mess, loose rock, dirt was the bed for the ascent. Soon after some good sweat and grunting, we all topped out at the base of the ruins where we could clearly see the entrance. Approaching the ruins requires some climbing skills, but what waiting inside was truly incredible.

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Entrance, some light climbing required

The ruin was a triple decker. The lowest level could have been storage while the mid level and upper levels were most likely sleeping quarters. Traversing the upper level held a secret back room the a balcony facing Cold Springs Canyon, it was a special find and sights from the balcony were gorgeous. The entire ruin was built on the mouth of a large cave. The second level went back and opened up into a smaller cave like room. Fallen rocks and stalactites were on the floor, I peered my head into the thin cracks that had any chance of leading anywhere. Both of them went about 15 feet, then knife edged into a dead end.  Satisfied we had exhausted exploring the extents of the ruin we headed back for the downclimb out of the exit.

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Once inside, looking out from the mid level, incredible views!

What an awesome day! Stevo and Annalise headed back to camp as I did a little more exploration up Cold Springs Canyon. The walk back was nice, temps were perfect, sky was clear and blue. I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a Saturday! Soon after my solo exploration journey a few miles up the canyon I found my way back to camp for lunch and a quick rest before the next trek out into the Sierra Anchas in search for more Salado Indian Ruins!

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Secret balcony at the back of the upper level
  • Road walk from camp

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Cold Springs Canyon Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 1.0 liters
  • Food: 1 bag of Salt and Venigar chips, 1 apple, Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bar
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 6 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,500 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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JF Trail to Rodgers Canyon – Superstition Mountains AZ (1.16.16)

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View from the top of the hill just up from the trailhead (click to enlarge)

My breath spewed from my mouth like smoke in the cool crisp morning air. Before sunup I woke in my tent to my alarm signaling the start of the day. My morning ritual began; throwing on hiking cloths, making breakfast, and boiling water for coffee. This morning there was an additional excitement in my step due to not only putting my feet on new dirt, but also the expectation to find Salado Indian ruins on the rout I selected for the day.

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JF / Woodbury Juntion

The Superstition Mountains are a rough rugged area unforgiving to its visitors, much like the drive I made to the trailhead the night before. From the trailhead, chilled in the morning air, I turned up the first hill to get moving. Rising up to the hilltop I could see across the vast Supes, the sun was just peaking over the hills and the trail was still frosted over in areas. I pushed on arriving at a standing windmill which I could only imagine was still working, however you could never tell by the absence of cattle, or farmhands.

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Windmill of an old ranch

From here the cactus lined trail narrowed and dove down to the creek coming up the other side gaining elevation towards the far off saddle. In the sunlight it was warm enough not to shiver, but in the cool of the shade where frost clung to the plants and any standing water was a frozen slate of ice. Buckhorn cholla grew here like someone was regularly watering it with fertilizer! I trekked on heading up and up, until finally I found the first sign of life I saw on the trail. A fella covered from head to toe in camo just getting ready outside his trailside tent for what I could only imagine to be a hunt was putting camo face paint. I wasn’t sure what he was hunting, but like me was too busy to chat and I headed about my way.

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I trekked up and out finally re20160116_095222aching the saddle before diving down into the shaded canyon to the north. Here manzanita reigns supreme, it is everywhere. As I trekked down towards the creek the rocks started jetting up and trees shaded the frost covered trail. Heading down I found an old rusted horseshoe at trailside. It was a cool find, I left it for the next hiker to stumble across.

Soon I found my way among the rocks to a wooden sign that stated the Salado people inhabited the area nearly 600 years ago. In the rocks above I found their dwellings. This find made the trip well worth the trek. The first visible dwelling is a rock wall covering a natural short cave where signs of fire on the cave roof can be seen. A much larger cave has a less impressive rock wall, but well visible black marks on all the walls and roof where massive fires were undoubtedly built. After snapping a few pictures and taking in the sights form what the Indians would see I decided to turn and leave. As I walked down I glanced back up to the rockface housing the dwellings to see a larger cave up above the two I just explored.

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View from inside the room without a roof
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Stitched together picture of inside the partially roofed room. Notice the marked walls and wood? This is a No No. Leave no trace

Curiosity of course got the better of me. I approached the face of a seemly climbable rock and went to work. Before I know it (without having any idea of how to get down) I found myself standing in the third cave. The dwelling here was by far the most impressive of all three. Fully intact walls and most of a roof of the enclosed in the largest room. In the mud used to cake the walls, fingerprints of the Indians could be seen, it was incredibly impressive.

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Entrance to the roofed room in the back, notice the craftsmanship!
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You can see the finger impressions from the Salado, incredibly preserved

Happy with my find I decided to trek on back to the trailhead. I climbed down from the rocks and started boulder hopping along the creek bed under the shade of the trees back up the canyon in an easterly direction closing out the loop I started.

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Back out into the beautifully lit canyon
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Water in the Supes, always a welcome sight!

I trekked on enjoying the light passed through the trees, crossing the creek, trekking the sparse trail, really enjoying being there, imagining what it was like when those Indians inhabited the canyon. How long were they there? Was the climate the same? How hard was it to find/gather food in this remote area? What adaptive skills did they use to survive while being impacted by the seasons? What an incredibly special place; to be shared, but most of all respected, leave no trace.

  • Frost on the ground
  • Ice in the puddles

MORE PICTURES:

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HIKE INFO:

Superstition Mountains – JF Trail to Rodgers Canyon Loop

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 65s, Low 28s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bar, almonds, Apple,
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: approx 14 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,900 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Arkteryx Hoody
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox

 

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Mazatzal Peak – Central AZ (12.30.15)

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Looking down into the valley from Y Bar

Mazatzal (MAH-zaht-ZAL, locally Ma-ta-ZEL)- the origin of the name remains obscure but one possibility is that it is from the Aztec language meaning “place of the deer”. I saw tons of deer prints out there, but I think it should be “place of the Manzanita”! Talk about a plant thriving and on a mountain, there are 2 things I know about Manzanita 1) it is a very interesting looking plant 2) it is a pain to bushwack through and it only ever gets thicker as you try to push through it!

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Barnhardt and Y Bar Trails are night and day in terms if use, Y Bar is Chunky Munkey!

I planned on either trying a loop between Y bar trail, AZT section #22, and Barnhardt trails or taking on the peak via Y Bar trail. Either way I figured I would take on Y bar to begin with and see what time I had left in the day once I got to the saddle. Trekking solo I reached the cold trailhead with frost on the windows of the vehicles left there overnight. After getting my gear together and throwing on my pack I headed up the trail. I immediately found the split between Y bar and Barnhardt Trails, talk about a tail of 2 trails, Barhardt was padded and beat in where Y bar just looked much less traveled and chunky from the beginning. I knew I was in for a good push.

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Y Bar Trail – Ankle rollers abound

Trekking up Y Bar, as I assumed, was chunky monkey. Baby head boulders everywhere just begging for you to roll or twist an ankle. I pushed up the trail quickly trying to shake of the chill from the morning. Y Bar circles the mountain in a South to Southwest direction diving in and out of canyons. Due the sun being low the trail was sunny heading into a canyon and shaded and cool heading out. Ice was on the ground in the shaded areas and I found ice sickles in the running creeks down a few of the washes.

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Just a lil nippy out there

I pushed on and up knowing the time was only ever running out on completing the loop, much less bagging the peak. After a few dodges in and out of wash canyons the trail finally opened up into a westerly direction where I could see the main saddle where Y Bar tied into the AZT #22 with an option for the peak. I looked down into the valley below, what a beautiful sight to see! I kept pushing up the chunky trail to pleasantly pleased to find a small pine patch hidden on one of the washes just before the saddle. A forest fire took out many of the pines in this area but this small patch of pines shaded me for a brief moment on my trek.

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Pushing through the pine patch

I finally reached the saddle and looked towards the peak, what a gnarly looking beast, it would have taken another 13 miles to complete my intended loop and it was already 11am (I got a late start). But it would only take me 2 miles of bushwhack round trip to the peak and a final 4 miles to get back to the truck in time before the sun set. I chose to push for the peak, try and see some of the views from the top. Instant Manzanita trekking. At first the going wasn’t bad, I pushed up until finding a large raised rock face impeding my path and I chose to sweep right around it. Once sweeping right I found a cairn which led me up on top of the rock face and back towards the west and eventually the ridge to the peak. A little rout finding got me on track towards the peak.

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The peak is up there somewhere! Lets go!

There is no science to bushwhacking or pushing an off trail trail, you just kind of look at the terrain, look at topo lines, look around corners, follow cairns, intuition, use whatever tools you have to get you safely there. I pushed up and up along the ridge dead ending into low class 4 rock climbs which I decided to circumvent (solo trekking class 4 without gear isn’t the best idea for me) and soon found myself into a thicket of Manzanita. Whew was it thick! I stuck to the rock wall in places, found clear veins of runoff between plants that I ascended until finally I popped out past the rocks where I could see a “clear” path (covered in manzanita/snow) to the peak.

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Views from the peak in a Southerly Direction

Finally feeling like I had a clear shot to the summit (after so many false summits) I grinned in excitement and pushed on up to the peak. The views from the top were AMAZING! I Could see Four Peaks, Flatiron, Humphries, faint views of the valley and so much more. After taking in the views and a few pictures from the peak I decided to descend the 1 mile bushwhack back to the trail and return to the truck the same way i ascended. I am glad I did it in cooler weather, I know in warmer temps I would have been baked by the sun towards the peak! Another great trek safely completed.

Views on Y Bar once it opens up
Views on Y Bar once it opens up
  • Final push to the peak
  • Frost on overnight vehicles

HIKE INFO:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazatzal_Mountains

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=202

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi mid 60s, Low in the mid 30s, Sunny
  • Water: 1.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Apple, 1 Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bar
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Distance: approx 10 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 3,700 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Basketball shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Arkteryx Hoody
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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5057 Peak in Superstition Mountains – AZ (9.13.15)

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Carney Springs Trailhead

The alarm sounded, far too early it seemed, I slapped at the snooze button on my phone. I was pretty comfortable and was in no mood to move. My phone beckoned again; I hit the snooze and pushed it under the pillow. A third time it called to me, one eye opened I turned it off and finally succumb to the fact that, no matter how comfortable I was, morning was here and I needed to get moving.

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Driving into the Sunrise, what a beautiful sight!

This morning my sights were set on the 5057 peak of the Superstition Mountains via Carney Springs trail head. I headed east from Phoenix before the sun rose, with an ice filled camelback, delicious warm java (thanks QK), and hopes to reach the summit without falter. I drove down the 60 east to the dirt Peralta road to find a nice parking spot at Carney Springs trail head (seeing I was the only one there). This time of year is a little warm for most to hike in the desert, but it didn’t deter me from packing in some ice, slathering any uncovered skin with sunblock, and heading for the top!

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Push up the Canyon to the ridgeline

I set out with the sun rising heading up the tough push up the canyon that would lead me to the ridge line where I would push for summit. This morning as I reached the cattle fence I was surprised to find a pair of hikers coming from the Peralta trail head from the east. They planned to gain the ridge and heat east dropping into Fremont saddle and back to their trail head to finish out their loop. After a quite chat I said farewell and pushed on.

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Hoodoos just before making ridgeline

As I hiked on I followed the sparse marked cairns which lead the way up the canyon. Up, up, and on I pushed, pausing only for pictures and gazing around to make sure I am both going the right way and not being followed by any predators. The Superstitions are very vast and have black bear, coyote packs, and (my largest paranoia out alone) mountain lions. I am always looking your scat, paw prints, and any sign of wild life. Not only because they are a beautiful rare sight, but also to be sure I don’t become their next snack! Everything in the desert is bread to survive. Just before hitting the ridge line I found a pair of wings lying in the middle of the trail. No more, no less. I looked like someone wished the body away and only the wings and connector bone remained. I snapped a quick picture, kept my head on a swivel, and trekked on.

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Redbull gives you what again?

I reached the ridge line and set my eyes towards the summit. The traverse would span across some very secluded parts of the range. A fall here could be fatal especially this time of year with almost no foot traffic. Just for the record I don’t recommend hiking solo, but when there isn’t an option to go with someone else, I always carry my SPOT tracker; just in case the worst should happen. I pushed on towards the peak, skirting the ridgeline in some places and ascending others until finally I found myself at the foot of the last push to the summit. One foot in front of the other, that’s the only secret to covering the distance.

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Looking back down the ascent up Carney Springs TH (click to enlarge)
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Glancing north towards Weavers Needle from the ridge line (click to enlarge)

I covered the final walk up and the short scramble to the peak where I took a break for snacks and some pictures. What a beautiful morning! I signed the registry like usual, and look at old posts of past trekkers. It’s always nice to see notes from other trekkers on your posts and of course I wrote back (you’ll see next time you’re up)! After gazing into the distance and taking a nice break I picked up my pack and headed back towards the trail head.

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360 View from the peak (click to enlarge)

On the trek back I came upon some prickly pears opened alongside the trail and being consumed by not only bees, but also a wasp and a moth, all on the same pear!  Each insect was more occupied with consuming the precious sweet nectar than worrying about who was eating alongside them. I have never seen this before, and was taken it back. You never know what or who you will see out there on the trail, but it’s always an adventure!

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  • Up the canyon to the ridgeline
  • From the summit, Weavers Needle in the distance

HIKE INFO:

http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=540

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi mid 100s, Low in the low 80s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Protien Bar, 1 Orange, 1 Bag of Cherrios
  • Time: 4.5 hours
  • Distance: ~9 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,800 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Under Armor shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Arm Coolers
  • Darn Tough wool medium sox
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Vermilion Cliffs Sand Hill Crack Climb Loop – AZ (3.7.15)

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View of the foothills below the Vermilion Cliffs

After finishing Day 1 at The Wave (post here: http://goatmanmike.com/2015/03/coyote-buttes-north-the-wave-az-3-6-15/ ), we packed up our gear and headed out towards Jacobs Pools (not to be confused with Jacobs Lake) to camp for the night. An old ranch house stands on the edge of the wilderness boundary where we pulled into a corral and set up base camp. After a nice dinner session and a few cold brews we bedded down and got ready for the Vermilion Cliff climb the next day.

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Ranch House at Jacobs Pools

Waking early (but not before sunrise) I climbed out of my tent and proceeded to throw gear in my daypack and get a fire rolling for the corn beef hash and bacon we all looked forward to in the morning. The view from the base camp was awesome. To the south the snow covered Kaibab Plateau stood tall expanding the horizon. To the north, the daunting Vermillion Cliffs stood daring us to attempt a climb that day. Soon after we finished washing down the campfire breakfast with piping hot java, we let out from camp and headed towards the cliffs.

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View of the Vermilion Cliffs from base camp

The “road” turns into a wash and eventually runoff, there is no single discernible trail. The just headed towards Hancock Springs, across the black and red foothills. The rocks in this area were very interesting. They looked as if someone had been mining and some of the white, red, and black underbelly of the earth had been spewed out atop the base of the cliffs. We continues to climb finding an  old use trail that headed up to the spring.

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Approaching the first crack climb
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Petroglyphs on the east (right) wall just below the large sentinel spire (click to enlarge)
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Petraglyphs on the Sandstone walls at the exit (click to enlarge)

Once reaching the base of the Cliffs we headed east (right) do begin our rapid scaling of loose rock and unforgiving slopes to access the crack that would lead up to the paria plateau. The “trail” was lightly cairned with treacherous drop-offs to the west (left) and sheer cliff walls to the east (right). Intuition, experience, and sheer luck drove the choices to go high, low, boulder hop, and scramble to ascent the right side of the cliff. About half way up we found a group of petroglyphs on the east (right) wall just below the large sentinel spire. A rare sight to be seen, we took a quick snack break to snap pictures before pressing on.

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View of the valley below from the cliffs above (click to enlarge)

Once we exited the cliff climb the landscape opened and incredible sandstone formations stood in front of us. Like a mini slot canyon there were a few choices to pass through the red, orange, yellow, and white rock. The fins, rock formations, and vibrancy of color are incredible! This hidden gem would be only seen by possibly 50-100 people/year or far less.

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One of the slots at the exit of the cliff climb – Colors were amazing (Click to enlarge)
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Fins of sandstone at exit of the crack climb (click to enlarge)

Once past the first set of formations we found that the top of the paria was covered in 6-12 inches of blinding snow! Although the temps were nice, the sun beaming down on the snow made for an eye squinting struggle trek. Along the way sandstone formations jetted up and through the snow for some great stop and snap opportunities. As we crossed the plateau, skirting the cliffs, we saw a huge rock formation in the distance reminiscent of an atomic bomb explosion; we nicknamed it “Atomic Rock”. I stopped to snap tons of pictures in awe before pressing on to the Easter Sandhill Crack where we would descend. To our surprise Michael, one of our party members who sustained an injury the day before and decided to stay behind, popped up from the cliffs below with all smiles!   We happily greeted him and after a quick break descended down together.

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Snow covered Paria Plateau (click to enlarge)
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Atomic Rock – Awesome Formation we found on the Plateau (click to enlarge)

 

 

Off to the west (right side if descending) side of the cliff walls there were more petraglyphs just after starting the decent. View from the cliff tops are uninterrupted and incredible. All divers colors of the rocks in the valley below all the way across to the snow covered Kaibab Plateau to the south, absolutely breathtaking.

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Sandstone formation up on top of the Paria Plateau

Dropping the final decent we crossed dry waterfalls, long horned sheep tracks, and towards the bottom a spring where someone set up a pump and some game cameras. We pressed on back down the sand hill, through the beautiful foothills, and finally along the old dirt road back to the ranch house and eventually camp. Tired from the days hike, we all grabbed camping chairs and a few beers and sat on the porch to shoot the shit about the day and enjoy the fast setting sun in the distance over the incredible landscape that we just traversed. One heck of an awesome day!

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View from the East Hill crack just before the descent (click to enlarge)
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Petraglyphs on north wall of the cliffs just before descending the east crack (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • View of the valley below
  • Sentinel Rock

HIKE INFO: Book : Hiking and Exploring the Paria River by Michael Kelsey – Sand Hill Crack hike

Vermilion Cliffs Loop Hike
Topo GPX of trek

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi mid 60s, Low in the mid 30s, Blaring Sun (felt like 80s)
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder Bar, 2oz Beef Jerky
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Distance: approx 5-6 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,500 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Patagonia Long Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners

 

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Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) AZ – (3.6.15)

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The Wave

As a bachelor party send off for a good friend Mark Allen, a motley crew of outdoor advocates and me decided to take him to the desert for 3 days of fun in the sun (and apparently snow). We plan to explore 3 different hikes on or around the Paria Plateau including Coyote Buttes (The Wave), Vermillion Cliff Sand Hill Crack Loop climbs, and a final Vermillion Cliff ascent via Cathedrial Wash from Lee’s ferry.

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Just a few incredible formations in the Coyote Buttes

Day 1: We set out from phoenix full of excitement and anticipation for the long weekend of enjoying the outdoors to come. Phoenix was still warm when we left the afternoon for the long drive up to the Paria Plateau. After a quick stop in Flagstaff Az for food we continued driving our loaded down rig (5 guys plus gear whew thank the lord we had a tough truck (appreciate it Stevo!)) towards the trailhead. We reached the dirt road that lead to the Cottonwood Cove trailhead on the southeast side of the Coyote Buttes area around midnight; we were all so exhausted after the long trip we set up camp only 3 miles in just before finding a few large half frozen waterholes. The ground was frozen and hard as rock, perfect for staking a tent!

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Cottonwood Spring just 1/4 from trailhead

After crashing out in 20 degree (F) temps we woke after the sun rose to spark up a fire and get breakfast rolling. Before I knew it we were loading back into the truck and finishing out the last few muddy miles to the trailhead. Parked, Grabbed packs, and filled with excitement to see The Wave we headed out. We had a nice 4-5 mile trek (one way) across open desert to reach the rock formations that housed The Wave. As we neared the first formations we stopped for a quick break to climb up and on everything! The whole crew looked like kids in a candy store; the rock formations were out of this world and would be indescribable without the aid of pictures (which still don’t do them justice).

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TeePee like formations on the East side of Coyote Buttes

After exploring the first group of formations we trekked across open desert up a good 40 degree sandstone grade which leads to the ridge that would take us to the wave. Pools of water and lone pines growing out of the rocks stood sporadically throughout the area. The temps although cool, were surprisingly warm with the unforgiving sun beating down on us from the 6000 feet elevation. We reached the top of the Coyote buttes and walked north towards The Wave along a main ridge with drop-offs on either side.

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Looking back across the valley from the ridge leading to The Wave (click to enlarge)

We finally reached the last Northern facing drop-off before our target, after scoping out the decent, we bombed down the smooth carved sandstone. On our way we bumped into a BLM Volunteer, who was sure to make sure we had our permits. After a quick chat we trekked on, totally star struck with the rock formations and taking pictures as if we would have amnesia once we left and only the pictures would stand as proof that this place existed. What an incredibly beautiful area. The Wave is special; however the entire area is filled with equally stunning and spectacular rock formations (so don’t get sucked into just this one spot!).

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Formations after the dropoff just above the Wave (click to enlarge)

Once realizing our time was growing short we headed back up the sandstone slope to the ridge where we trekked back across some of the most breathtaking land in Arizona to the trailhead. What an awesome day, well worth the drive, 4WDing, and time to snag permits. Truly a once in a lifetime experience (the BLM makes sure of that)!

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Wow! (Click to enlarge)
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Awesome sandstone fins on the way back to Cottonwood Trailhead (click to enlarge)
  • Appraching the first formations
  • Killer colors

HIKE INFO: Used this page for trail head info, yet made our own GPS to The Wave across Coyote Buttes: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=1341

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi mid 50s, Low in the mid 20s, Blaring Sun (felt like 80s)
  • Water: 2.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder Bar, 2oz Beef Jerky
  • Time: 7.5 hours
  • Distance: approx 8-9 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,500 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Patagonia Long Pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
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Superstition Mountains Loop: West Boulder, Weavers Needle, Black Springs Mountain, Miners Needle – AZ (2.7.15)

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Looking back to Weavers Needle from Black Spring Mountain peak

I love being outdoors and exploring new trails and new places. I think it’s important to share the experience with those around you, even if it is just telling a trek story, sharing photos, or taking people with you to see it firsthand. For my close friends and family that can’t physically be there, I keep them in mind while I’m out there. So in a way they are still with me and are getting credit for miles whether they know it or not. Some people that are the most important to me get a lot of miles. Always share your treks and adventures with the important people around you; they will appreciate the miles you give them.

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Sunrise over the valley as we ascended West Boulder Trail

For this particular Superstition Mountain trek, I dreamed it up last minute the night before. I pieced a bunch of GPX tracks together that I found online. The final product was a big 15 mile loop that would touch a few key points in the southwest section of the mountains, including West Boulder Trail, Weavers Needle, Black Spring Mountain, and Miners Needle. A little elevation gain, off trial mountain peaking, and main trail mayhem would round out this big loop trail medley (see Hike Info at the bottom of the post for specific trails, aerial map, and GPX). In the midst of dreaming all this up I was chatting with a fellow trekker Mark, who seemed on the fence for a few of his own treks, so I invited him to just roll with me. To my surprise he was immediately on board!

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At the top of west boulder looking towards the west

We met at dark thirty at Peralta trailhead just before the sun rose. Head lamps strapped on, packs filled with water, ready to roll. We walked along the road chatting about things going on in each other’s lives and how crazy and unexpected life can be. Before long we hit Carney Springs trailhead and the first big incline up West Boulder was on, the chat quickly subsided as we got to work knocking out the grind. Hearts thumping and low on breath we reached the top of the climb and turned to watch the sun rise in the distance illuminating the valley floor below. Something about watching the sun rise from a mountain top just seems right!

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Finding the trail to Fremont Saddle

Knowing we had to keep trekking in order to finish the loop by early afternoon we pressed on. Using the GPX I put together and a topo map, we navigated through the boulderhop which is Decate Mesa Trail. Pushing through cacti and boulders we came out at an unexpected area of the “trail”. Thank god for GPS tracks! The cairns, although very helpful, seemed to be placed by several people each with their own agendas. Soon after some bushwack and rocky downclimbs we found our way to Fremont Saddle with a beautiful view of Weavers Needle in the distance. A small group of boy scouts was camped at the saddle and we gave them a friendly greeting before trekking on to the base of Weavers Needle.

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View from the back side of Weavers Needle

The well groomed trail helped accelerate us towards the huge rock formation and soon we were attempting to bushwack on the crosscut just south of the Needle to Terrapin Trail. We soon found that we had entered the wrong canyon and had to jump across to the next to press on. Once we were back on trail, the cairns and somewhat beaten route became a little clearer. Half way through the pass we ran into another group that looked pretty frazzled and sad. They had started hiking that morning at 4am to attempt to summit weavers and got a little “turned around”. We gladly pointed them in the right direction and kept trekking towards our next destination, Black Spring Mountain!

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View to the South from Black Spring Mountain (click to enlarge)

We were soon climbing the spine of the mountain, and a wicked offtrail grind it was! I was chuckling to myself because just minutes before we turned up the killer grind, Mark had mentioned how the climbing was all over with! I didn’t have the heart to tell him we had just begun! The climb up the spine was very vert, with only a few cairns spaced about ½ mile apart. Pressing hard up past a few small exposed areas and sharp boulders we reached summit! With gorgeous views all round we took a quick snack break and signed the registry.

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Surprisingly green section of Dutchman trail heading back to the parking lot

We departed the summit down onto a large mesa (all bushwack) leading to a lightly cairned use trail that descended us quickly to Black Mesa Spring Trail and soon after Dutchman Trail. We took the Dutchman Trail the final 5 maintained, snaking miles back to the parking lot where we left our vehicles that morning. Whenever we weren’t bushwacking or pushing up a big grind we were either marveling at the views around us or chatting about life and its complexities. Sometimes I like to trek solo and get some good grounding time with mountain, others times I like rolling with a friend and having a good chat. Whatever you do, make sure you share the journey. Carry the important people with you, however you do it, they will appreciate the miles you give them!

  • Looking down on the valley to the south from West boulder trail
  • View of Main Ridge line from top of West Boulder Trail

HIKE INFO:

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GPX Map (click to enlarge)

Start at Peralta trailhead, Walk to Carne Springs trailhead, Head up West Boulder trail, to Decate Mesa trail, to Freemont Saddle tying into Peralta Trail, to Weavers Needle Crosscut, to Terrapin Trail, to Bluff Springs Mountain Trail, to Hidden Valley Loop trail, to Dutchmans Trail and finally back to the Peralta trailhead.

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi mid 80s, Low in the mid 60s, Sunny
  • Water: 3.0 liters
  • Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 Orange, 1 Clif Builders bar
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: approx 15 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 5,300 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Trekking Poles

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Basketball shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Pearl Izumi Arm Coolers
  • Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
  • Giro Mountain Biking Gloves
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The Medal Mile: Hieroglyphic Trail to 5057 Superstition Mountains AZ (1.31.15)

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Exiting the trail being chased out by a mean low cloud

I have a friend, his last name is Medal, that enjoys taking “the road less traveled” on pretty much every hike he goes on. Most of the time I stick to the trail, not even a fan of cutting switchbacks or disturbing wildlife, but I do love a true ascent to a peak. I had the chance to be invited to join a friend up a “route” in the Superstition Mountains from Hieroglyphic trailhead to the 5057 peak via the West ridgeline. I had hiked a nearby frequented trail to the peak up the canyon (which to be honest really isn’t much of a trail either in spots) to eyeball the route he proposed. There we a few spires that could pose a challenge in the ascent, but I said to heck with it lets roll!

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To the teetering rock!! The initial ascent

A group of us met in the parking lot, ponchos and rain jackets on to combat the sprinkling rain, and shining headlamps to light the way. A large portion of the group would head up the more frequented trail up the canyon while a smaller group planned to split off to take on the west ridgeline about a mile into the hike. I was using a topo map and an aerial picture of the drawn route on a map to navigate the turnoff. Once I got there, as expected, it didn’t look like there was a trail. We busted up the initial ascent which didn’t wait in giving us some good laboring elevation gain right off the bat. Climbing up and up dodging barrel cactus, wet slick boulders, ocotillos, and a number of other brushes we pushed forward to reach the ridge. Along the way water trickled down the mountain off the rock faces in streams and sometimes small waterfalls. The sun, hidden by the clouds, slowly lit the sky enough to kill our headlamps. Soon after turning off the headlamps the heat from the climb and the breaking rain warranted a poncho peal.

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Looking back at Flatiron and the city

We climbed until hitting a vertical rock face. I followed the aerial topo (see HIKE INFO at bottom of post for aerial map) and we skirted north until finding a small gap that was well cairned that we climbed up and over. Dropping down on the North side of the gap and we saw a passable incline to the east to and made a final boulder hop (passing the teetering boulder) to the crest of the west ridgeline. Once we climbed on top of the west ridgeline it was surprisingly well cairned and the path was not too hard to follow. Absolutely incredible views! There is little that pictures could ever do to describe it. Peering in for miles every direction yielded awesome sights; the flat valley below, the gnarly jetting rock faces of the mountain ridges in the distance, much worth the climb.

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Looking back down the ridge walk

We continued to climb until finding another group of spires standing in our path. After some quick cairn searching we found the path dropping to the southeast side of the jetting rocks. Following the cairns and some old use paths we found a way to circumvent the massive spires. Climbing up and up on the ridge I was suddenly was overtaken by the overwhelming feeling of joy. Just being out there, on a ridge, in the middle of nowhere, with good people and breathtaking views all due to the effort I put into climbing that mountain: A cost well worth the prize. We kept trekking up the ridge with only one small 8 foot climb that all in our group easily surpassed (even Medals dog Tyson). After the climb the peak was in sight and we pushed on. Once we peaked I was surprised to see that only moments later the second group that took the main trail met up with us. Good timing!

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Buddy Mark killin it on the bagpipes at the 5057 peak!

Once taking in the views at the peak and listening to my buddy Marks bagpipe session (unbeknown to any of us he lugged the things up there, sounded awesome, thought I was in a scene of Braveheart) we headed down the main trail towards the trailhead. Although the rocks were wet it wasn’t too slippery but caution was definitely needed.

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Rarely seen waterfalls, down the main trail after a rain

We dumped into the main canyon to find rare waterfalls running due to the past two days of rain in the area. This much water in the Superstitions was a real treat to see indeed. We kept descending down the faint cairned use trails, finally hitting the well worn trail at a confluence of two canyons. We took the trail down, around the bend of the canyon, past the petro glyphs (where most patrons stop climbing), and the down last mile to the trailhead. All the while we trekked down the mountainside a thick cloud descended on the mountain as if to chase us out of the wilderness. The weather was certainly kind to us and the prize of the views and rare sight of waterfalls in the Superstitions was well worth the price of a little sweat and effort. Another successful gorgeous trek!

  • Looking over the valley from the west ridge
  • Views of the initial ascent up to the west ridgeline

HIKE INFO:

Main Trail: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=17340