Tag Archives: 2015

Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

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Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

It’s been a while since I’ve actually packed up my pack and gone on a solid backpacking trip. I think the last time was back in 2013, maybe? And even then, it was a solo excursion – no group shenanigans for me. Just a man in the wild, alone with nothing but his wits and a ton of random gear to keep him safe.

So going backpacking with a group of five was definitely a new experience for me, especially since we’d be exploring the mountains of the West Coast…

Sunday, 06-September-2015

before heading to bed the night before, there’d been a debate between everyone about what time to get up in the morning.  The final decision, amazingly, had been, “Meh… whenever.  Let’s not set alarms”

So we slept in!  We slept all the way ’till like 9:30 or something!  it was super decadent, completely amazing.

And then when we opened up the tent flaps and looked out?  When we surveyed the domain of our campsite?  A perfect vista… literally the best view of mountains that I’ve ever seen, this amazing view over a beautiful alpine lake.

Breakfast was relaxed, but thankfully a certain Sarah brought along a really nice Aeropress, so we had some coffee along with the oatmeal.  And then… we just relaxed.  Didn’t really do anything for most of the morning; just threw some stones into the lake, played a quick game that could sort of resemble curling, if you didn’t know what curling was (basically we threw a big stone, and then tried to get close?  So sort of Bocce ball?).

Then we threw some more stones into the lake, and then had lunch.

After lunch, boredom ensued, so a quick mention of “That far peak looks like a cool place… let’s go hike up to it!” leads to scrambling, route-finding, and finally attaining a perfect ridgeline. More lunch is had, and then Sharia and Josh head down while Sarah, Dave and I press onward toward the mini-summit.

Which is beautiful! A ridgeline traverse leads to a steep section, and some nice semi-technical climbing (by the way I go, at least). Then we chill at the top to enjoy the views.

Heading down is a bit more technical; Sarah & Dave’s route-finding skills come in quite handy a few times, since there’s no real obvious trail, and there’re a ton of small cliffs that kept blocking our path.

But once we got back down to came we went right back to relaxing some more, then drank some more beer and ate some dinner.  Sarah even showed us all up by taking a swim in the lake… which was impressive, and made me a little concerned for her sanity if we’re being honest.

Two notes:

  • Yes, I said drank beer.  On a backpacking trip.  See… Dave had bought this system that comes with concentrated beer, which you re-hydrate and carbonate, and then can drink as if it were normal beer.  I tried to mix it up twice, and… well, I’m not allowed to mix the beer anymore :/
  • Dinner was mountain house meals.  If you haven’t had them… a quote that came up was that Mountain Houses are designed for “when you need some dynamite to blow up the brick shit house you’ve built in your colon”.  They’re tasty, but… yeah.  Definitely camping food in the best of times.
    Mine?  Well, it looked different, so everyone asked about it.  It’s a “pro pack” that I got in college, and had left over since then.  They asked when it expired.  I said never.  They asked me to check.  I found out that it had expired in 2013.
    I still ate it.
    I only slightly regretted that decision later.

Then, it got really cold really quick.  So we spent some more time stargazing, and headed to sleep sleep early again.

Monday, 07-September-2015

Up EARLY. Like… we’re walking by 7:15, and at the bottom of the boulder field a little after 8:00. The boulder field isn’t easy, by the way, and takes some more mad route-finding skillz, yo.  Dawg.

(Ed note: they weren’t Ben’s route finding skills.  Sarah and Dave led the way again, to great success)

As we walked out, I got hit by how tired and unused to backpacking I actually was.  I mean… I’m in good shape, but I was getting pretty worn out really quickly.  We pressed on and made it to the cars without any incident, of course, but still.  It was something of note, that I decided to keep working on during the week.

One possible reason that came up though, was the elevation that we were at.

  • The trailhead was at 6,400 ft above sea.
  • The campsite at Big Blue Lake was at 6,900 ft
  • The final peak that we hit was at ~7,500 ft

Those elevations don’t really exist in New England… so I’m taking solace in the fact that I was getting tired too quickly because of the elevation.  Not because I hadn’t been backpacking a year or so.  Totally not that.

Anyways.

We got back to the car, right?  Then we drove!  We grabbed some burgers in Yreka, explored town for a bit, and kept moving along.

Ashland was a “take a break from driving” stop; we grabbed some of the fancy sulfery water and ate ice cream! Took a walk through the park (played on a small climbing wall, listened to a guy rocking it on the Cello), then hit an amazing coffee shop, which is above a book store, and has an amazing back garden… basically an oasis of amazingness in the bone-dry Western Oregon.

The rest of the drive back up to Portland was pretty standard…

The first bouldering, outdoors, of 2015

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**I think, at least… I mean, I’ve played around on the rocks a little bit before this, but this was the first “real” trip.  You know, the first trip with the primary purpose being climbing.  So yeah**

Sunday, 19-Apr-2015

The day starts out not super early – I can’t complain, since I don’t think I actually woke up until something like 9:30.  But I had a good reason to get moving that morning!  Climbing is a great draw, especially on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Climbing after making steak and eggs with Daniel… well, that gets me moving very quickly indeed.

So we cooked steak and eggs.  We ate both steak, eggs, and salad.  It was delicious.  It took a bit of time, but made sure that we were ready for…

Lincoln Woods!  Premier bouldering of the New England area!  Excellent weather!  Convertible tops down, and music cranked up!

Yep, it was an excellent day.  We climbed, relaxed, I did some staff spinning (see the pictures… but ignore that last one where I smacked myself in the face), and enjoyed the sun.  We ate strawberries and ham, and then swung by my Mom and Stepdad’s house in the evening to have dinner with them.

More steak… there is no such thing as too much steak.  Especially when you just spent a whole day working some impressively tough climbs, after hiking through the woods with a massive crash pad on your back.

The Routes we worked were focused on two areas – I don’t know the actual names of the routes (bouldering is kind of hard to determine route names, in my opinion), but…

  • The Pond – This was, unsurprisingly, right by a small pond!  The rock itself actually swung out over the water in some places, and there was a neat traverse over the pond that we both debated doing… but decided against, since it wasn’t warm enough to enjoy an unplanned bath.
    Instead, we stuck with the main traverses; there were some gorgeous splitter cracks that gave solid handholds for long moves… though there wasn’t too much in terms of feet.  Which made the climbs all the more fun, right?
  • The Wave – this rock was actually quite close to where we parked the car.  We walked past it originally, and then circled back for the end of the day.  Same as before, but this time the climbing was along a beautiful fin of rock that swung out from the main boulder.  The route started out awkwardly, but then moved to a much cleaner hand-over-hand section, followed by a mantle up onto the top of the rock.
    There were, of course, a few other routes on The Wave that we checked out, but most followed that same basic style.  However, I did check out the cave that runs through the main rock, and found a small GeoCache hidden in one of the nooks.  Don’t know anything about it, but that cache has been marked for NUHOC, thanks to me 😛

A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

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A low-key adventure weekend – climbing Horsethief and The Beacon, along with exploring Hood River.

14-Aug, 15-Aug, 16-Aug

So this weekend was, originally, going to be an alpine weekend. Drive down to the trailhead in the evening of Friday, take a quick few hours worth of nap, then start onto the trail sometime around 03:00 in the morning. Summit before noon, and then head back down to grab some well-earned burgers.

Instead, it rained on our mountain… and this isn’t a mountain that you’d want to ascend in the rain. We’d aimed for Three Finger Jack – a 5-mile approach, followed by a 5.2 traverse and a 5.4 chimney. Both made up of loose, frictiony rock moves… not something pleasant or safe to do when it’s even partially damp.

So we stayed in Portland Friday night, then Hood River for Saturday. Horsethief and The Beacon were our goals – I’ve already discussed Horsethief, but The Beacon is described as “The best climbing in Northern Oregon… even though it’s in Washington”.

Friday, 14-August-2015

The weekend started when I met up with Sarah in Portland, tracking her and her dog Jasper down as they took their early evening walk. We discussed plans; how we’d planned on doing Three Finger Jack, but that the weather was starting to turn against us, and what other options we had for the weekend.

We flopped back and forth, debated, called Dave (the third member of our rope-team), discussed options, and finally ended up canceling the plan completely. In its place, we aimed to meet up with Dave in the morning, and do some low-key adventuring around my place in Hood River instead.

With the plans locked down, Sarah and I turned our attention toward dinner – we were in Portland, after all, and had roughly infinite options of where to go. We finally settled on a small Pizza place near the house – since it had the advantage that we could easily walk both of the dogs (We had Sarah’s roommates dog with us as well) there, and then keep them with us thanks to the outdoor seating.

We walked over, relaxed and chatted and dreamed about where to go over the next few days, and about bigger adventures that we could take over the course of the next few months.

That discussion ended up being a pretty in-depth one; we kept it going as we walked home, and then continued dreaming late into the night… possibly too late, with how early we were aiming to get up in the morning. But trip planning and telling stories about previous adventures got the better of us, though sleep did finally happen at some point.

Saturday, 15-August-2015

We started out early… but not excessively early.

Definitely nothing like the 03:00 plans that Three Fingered Jack had called for, at least. We had time for a quick bit breakfast before heading over to Dave’s house, where we traded cars, packed up the climbing gear and basic other stuff, and headed out to our first adventure location of the weekend: Horsethief Butte! You know, the nice and quiet crag that I’d started exploring… We all figured that it would a good spot for an uncluttered day of climbing.

Nope.

What did we see when we arrived? Three vans, with the name of a local church group on the side. A fair number of cars too.

But we didn’t give up, being the tough and resilient adventurers that we are. We headed in anyways, braving the storm and figuring that we’d at least find a few good routes to set up and play around on.

And we did find some spots… But not nearly as many as I had been hoping for. These groups were sieging the entire area, setting up dozens of ropes for the 60+ kids that were mostly hanging around. I mean… they even had a poop tube, so that people wouldn’t have to walk the ¼ mile back to the restroom at the parking lot. They had multiple huge Gatorade buckets, and massive piles of gear strewn about.

It was impressive, but I can’t complain too loudly, because at least it’s better than sixty kids running around a tiny soccer pitch, screaming and crying. Climbing is always ideal.

So we put up a few routes, and enjoyed ourselves as best we could.

Side story: The kids were screaming and carrying on as they climbed. Cool. But it started getting a little much… so Sarah headed over and politely asked one of the leaders if he could, and I quote, “keep the death-screams down”. For good reason – death screams mean injury, and we’d been kind of on-edge constantly looking around the corner to see if someone had been hurt.

So he said he would, and soon enough the screams ended. And were replaced by “Ohh god I’m dying ohh no! Death screams!” Literally the words “death screams”, at full-tilt.

So Dave one-ups them by screaming “Does anyone need medical attention?! I have a first aid kit!”

They finally quieted down to more normal kid-levels after that.

So from there we continued climbing, moving around, and setting up routes. I couldn’t list the specific climbs that we did, since I don’t really know any names for the area… But Sarah lead a chimney, I led a few face & crack climbs, Sarah met a lizard on one of her routes, and Dave showcased his level-headedness when leading sketchy sections. It was a fun, yet relaxed (aside from death-screams) day.

Once we finished up and headed toward home, we were kind of famished… so we hit The Mesquitery for dinner… You know, since I’d been there a few times before and it’d been quick and simple. But it was a weekend, and for some reason they were super slow… our Burgers took nearly two hours to get to the table. Thankfully, our soup came out earlier, and the appetizer does come out a bit earlier as well… but lesson learned – don’t go there on the weekends, if you’re hungry and looking for a quick meal.

Then we hit a pub afterward, a small British-inspired place down the street. Drank some beers, chatted with some people, and then took the walk back to the house. A good night; relaxing and low-key. Even if it took a little while to get fed, heh.

Quick note: I felt tough, since everyone had mentioned how cold it had gotten that evening. I thought it was kind of warm, actually…

Sunday, 16-August-2015

Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation… so we woke up slowly again. But instead of getting up super slow, we still got up in time to get some good stuff done – breakfast, guide book review, and time to form some schemes for the rest of the day.

The decision was to explore Beacon Rock – a pretty famous climbing area on the Washington side of the Colombia River Gorge. So we ate, drove over, and started up the South East Face, the most famous of all the famous climbs up this famous rock.

Famous.

So I lead the first pitch of the 8 pitch climb, and then belayed Dave up, followed by Sarah. We were originally going to continue up for a bit, but unfortunately there was roughly a million people in line to climb the route… and a lot of them weren’t being particularly safe or pleasant.

Like… they were starting to climb up “alternate” routes to cut other parties off… and by alternate, they were climbing random spots and just getting in everyones way, while being rude / unsafe.

So, we moved on. We headed back to Portland, and dropped Dave off at his house after doing a thorough review of the gear, and taking some time to clean everything up.

Then, with the whole rest of the day/evening in front of us, Sarah and I took our time to enjoy Portland. We got slightly dressed up, leashed Jasper up, and wandered over to the grocery to get ourselves some dinner.