Friday, December 21, 2012

Cochise 2012

Many photos, fewer words.

Alex and I made the fall pilgrimage to the desert.  First stop, Tucson and Mt. Lemmon.
Not so photogenic climbing, but amazing city-overlooking forested campsites.  

Next stop, Cochise Stronghold.

Adventurous climbing, amazing setting.  

Great light.  

Border country, exemplified.  

Yeah, that really happened.

And this happened: it rained.  But we snuck through, apprehension notwithstanding.

Outlast the rain, beat the dark.  

Same sunset, different angle.  

Climber's dig Cochise, but the blue collar wild-loving scene is alive and well.  

Dirt roads, deer, cows, and elaborate family campouts.

Head into Tombstone for a taste of Vegas meets Jackson Hole meets Big Pine (or Andes, NY)

More Tombstone
Alex's friend Larissa visited.  

And we climbed. 

And they photographed me.

It's like the fricken Serengheti out there.

Or like a different world, entirely.

The desert's poky.

The climbing is unique.

Anchors even more so.

The gal and her van

Mining the bottom of the foodbox for a festive Thanksgiving dinner.


Saguaro, jogging.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Virtually Seamless

That's how I'd describe this now-past "shoulder season".

I burned away much of my twenties (and liver...) in frustrated Eastern Sierra Novembers.  Too cold for alpine climbing, too dry yet for skiing, November became a time to drink and complain.  Entering my 4th decade proved to be a turning point in many ways, but notable right now for the discovery of rock climbing in Arizona.  Arizona's climbing is diverse, low-altitude and warm.  It is uncrowded, close to home, and inspiring.  Three Novembers in a row now, I've managed to escape the darkness with shorts-clad "vacation" climbing in the 48th state.  Alex and I took some pretty pictures, which are destined to show up here soon enough.  For now, enjoy a couple capturing warm and sunny border country, and one capturing my first ski tour of the year here in the Sierra.  Mere hours separated relaxed vacationing and beautiful skiing!

"Everyone, look that way. And keep looking..."

"...'Cause it's gonna get rail purty"
Tough desert critter that virtually glows.  And a jumping cholla.  

Back in the Sierra, skiing BC corn snow.  Fer real.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nuanced Climbing Anchors

In rock climbing, regardless of how hard or high, we have to at least consider attaching ourselves to the mountain.  Generally speaking, our belay anchors provide that sort of ultimate security.  Climbers study their anchor-building skills and have excellent resources for that.  Countless books and classes are offered.  The concepts are reasonably simple and the procedures build in a safety factor to accommodate less-than-stellar application of the gear and techniques.  In short, most climbers build good belay anchors.  That doesn’t mean we can’t continue to improve.  In that vein, let’s do some “continuing education”.

First of all, you probably learned to assess belay anchors with an acronym prompting your thought process.  This blog has outlined the etymology of the most commonly-used acronym, SERENE. (Solid/Strong, Equalized, Redundant, Efficient, No Extension). Others have proposed what I deem a slightly more applicable “grading” rubric:  LEADSTER.  (Limit Extension, Angles, Direction, Strong/Solid, Timely, Equalized and Redundant).  I know, it is a subtle difference.  However, the inclusion of prompts for considering angle between protection pieces and the associate forces, as well as all the possible directions of pull on the anchor can really help each of us address the most common anchor-building short-comings.  Try it out.

LEADSTER works well to critique any rock climbing belay anchor.  Applied correctly, with the proper equipment and skills, this checklist will assess any anchor.  Now, however, a climber practicing his or her trade outside of the “typical” multi-pitch environment, will have to place different weight on each of the criteria.  Other climbing disciplines, whether it is alpine ridges or top-roping or something in between, bring different demands to the anchors we use.  Allow the following illustrations to structure a discussion of the figurative weight of each anchor-building consideration in each of the different climbing environments.  Realize that this is just one person’s opinion, presented in a very rough fashion, and that the different relative letter sizes are meant to be compared to the other letters in the same discipline only.  
The anchors for traditional, multi-pitch rock climbing are generally what most instructional
materials prepare us for.  As such, a fairly even "triage" of the criteria works best when
building these anchors.  

An alpine rock climb is only subtly different from your standard multi-pitch route,
particularly here in sunny California.  Climbing within one's limits brings both likelihood
and force of a fall down, relative to what one may attempt at a "roadside" route.  That
allows us to make anchors that are quicker and a little rougher with regards to strength and

Long "enchainments" and ridge traverses put a climber on exposed, yet relatively secure,
terrain for much of the day.  The skill required to keep the rope handy and apply
it to maximum effectiveness is an advanced one.  Likewise, the experience and judgement required
to apply that skill are often hard-earned. Four climbers died unroped on "easy" terrain in the Sierra
in 2012.  Anchors will emphasize quickness and ultimatesecurity in the unlikely, yet
very high consequence, event of a fall.  Ken Etzel Photo

No one likes to bail.  But everyone has to at some point.  Leave enough gear, in good rock
but keep them simple and clean.  

Top-roping, especially with large groups or long sessions or inexperienced climbers,
brings commonly underestimated demands to our anchors.  Short approaches and strenuous
climbing negate many of the time pressures.  Use that time to make beefy, redundant anchors in
the correct places.  Consider also that there will be repeated loading cycles, all the anchor
elements will be out of view much of the time, and the individual "placements" may be far apart.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If You're Gonna be Dumb, you Better be Tough

...And Lucky.
My first backcountry deer hunt.
October 23, 2012

A group of does and fawns head down past Paiute Lake as I head up.

If I had known I’d only “hunt” for about four minutes, I wouldn’t have carried twenty pounds of camping gear five miles to Paiute Pass and back.  If I had thought to sharpen my knives, it wouldn't have been so hard.  As it was, I did much of the dressing and butchering with the 2" blade on my tiny Leather”boy” tool.  If I had known it was possible to quarter a deer that was lying on the ground, I would have done that right there.  As it was, I first carried the intact deer strapped poorly to my backpack.  What a sight, I'm sure;  legs and antlers flopping over a brightly clad skinny dude staggering through shin to knee deep snow.   

Luck?  I spent a grand total of about eight minutes in my permitted hunting zone.  I picked from a group of twenty deer, all of whom were so focused on getting east and out of the snowy high-country that they milled around looking for a way right past me.  I don’t know how many deer migrate over Paiute Pass each fall, but I happened to be in position to see well over thirty of those that were making the trip this year. This alone would have been notable.  The High Sierra is not known for high concentrations of wildlife.
Paiute Pass from the East, with deer almost in their "safe zone"
If I had known how easy it was to drag a deer on the snow, I would have done that sooner.  It was indeed easy to drag the deer on smooth snow.  However that smooth snow was limited, what with rocks and brush sticking up and the trail twisting through it all.  All this initial transport was basically just to get the deer to a tree tall enough to hang the deer from.  I shot mine at 11,400 feet, up where "trees" are little more than shrubs.  Given my ignorance of "horizontal" deer cutting, I needed a tree.  In fact, I thought little of it.  It wasn't until a family of horse-mounted hunters came by and commented on how far I had dragged him, that I realized how hard I had worked to get the deer those 2+ miles down into the trees.  Cutting a deer up with a tiny multi-tool and then dragging him for over 2 miles represents a laughable convergence of ignorance and brute force.  

 Finally, had I known that my buddy Donald was hiking in to help me carry out the deer, I would have stalled a little longer while quartering the carcass.  I had sent a satellite text message to Alex and she passed word to Donald.  I wasn't sure the message had gotten out, so I rushed my clumsy deer-butchering process, packed the quarters in my pack and continued staggering down the trail to try and beat darkness.  Donald met me about a mile and a half from the trailhead.  He took some meat and we beat feet down to the car.  Eight hours of gritty, bloody, backbreaking labor has yielded a fridge full of “aging” deer carcass.  I’m sure I’ll figure out the least efficient way to cut it up...
bad self portrait

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sierra Speed

A compilation of trail running and peak-bagging "fastest known times", speed-climbing records, and ski mountaineering feats.

Ken Etzel Photo

Killian and Ueli are tearing up mountains around the world while visitors and locals are crushing speed records up and down the Sierra.  Speedy endeavors in the High Sierra cross disciplines and seasons.  With a beautiful and fast network of trails, technical peaks of note, great weather and a host of talented multi-sport mountain athletes, the Sierra is ripe for even speedier times.  Sage To Summit has made efforts in the past to inspire and record fast times, and is doing a good job of compiling trail running and speed climbing records.  The idea of "fastest known time" gives credence to the very likely possibility that someone else may have done an endeavor quicker in the past.  Hans Florine keeps up to date speed records for Yosemite Valley (and some High Sierra endeavors) at

It is my hope that this page will serve a similar purpose here in the High Sierra, condensing and maintaining current info in a user-friendly package.  We'll keep it to the region covered in Secor's guide book (plus the Whites…), but remain open to technical climbing, peak-ascents, trail-running and ski mountaineering endeavors.  This is simply my best effort, although I feel pretty tuned in to the "scene" here.  Keep it safe, civil, and honest.  I'll try and link to outside references when possible, but those links may change with time.  Without further ado, lets start a list and get it growing even bigger and faster.  Some will likely fall by huge margins. Some are big, well known and virtually unattainable.  Others are small, obscure, and utterly attainable.  Git some!

At least mildly technical
  • California 14ers. 1st TH to final TH, any order.  All 15 of the "classic" peaks.  62 hours, 3 min. Sean O'Rourke
  • Cloudripper, S. Lake TH and back.  2:54:04 Jed Porter
  • NE Ridge Bear Creek Spire. Mosquito Flat CTC.  Jed Porter. 9/2014 3:47:53.  
  • Mt. Morrison.  Pavement at Convict, Roundtrip.  Howie Schwartz 3:48
  • Middle Palisade.  Car to car.  8:36 Hans Florine   (Can certainly be done much faster.  Probably has been... For instance, Aaron Richards says: "I don't remember exactly what my time was. I wasn't trying - took a 45 min lunch nap on top and was somewhere in the 1 hour range faster.")
  • Mount Sill. Car to Car. 9:17, Jerry Dodril and Hans Florine   (Same as Middle Palisade... Git some!)
  • Sawtooth Traverse.  North to South.  11:40, Sean Leary
  • North Arete Crystal Crag.  Lake George round trip.  Ryan Boyer 55:00
  • Mendenhall Couloir,  Mt Laurel.Convict Car to car.  Ryan Boyer 2:12
  • White Mountain Traverse.  Barcroft Gate to Queen Canyon Saddle. Jed Porter 9/2014 11:25:36* (The asterisk is for the fact that I started out with Jeff K. I finished under Crowley and Elam's time, but Jeff didn't. Jon Crowley and Jimmy Elam have a "cleaner" claim with a time of 11:39.
  • Nevahbe Ridge.  37º 33.376' N 118º 46.665' W to pk 3820+, RT Up the ridge, down whichever way. Jon Crowley 5:44
  • North Arete Matterhorn Peak.  Car to Car.  Scott Sinner 2013, 7:15
  • Evolution Traverse. Car to Car.  Austin. 23:58.
  • Mt. Emerson SE Face.  Pack station parking lot, round trip.  Peter Clark. 3:31:02 9/2014 
  • Chouinard Falls. 35m of toprope sending. Snow (or the end of the rope, whichever is further) to chains. 1:50 Jed Porter.
  • Mount Ritter. Agnew trailhead, round trip. Ian McEleney. July 2015. 7:18
  • Bardini Canyon, Table Mountain, on skis.  4 Jeffreys to 4 Jeffreys via summit.  ~1:10 Jed Porter
  • Punta Bardini.  Southernmost "No Parking" sign at the propane tanks to summit ("3115T" on USGS quad) and back.  1:08:42 Jed Porter
  • Mt. Abbott. Mosquito Flat RT.  4:00, Jed Porter
  • Skier's Gibbs.  Oil Plant Road (7049T on topo) to "summit" (12565T) and back.  7:10 Ken Etzel and Jed Porter
  • Mt Gabb.  Mosquito Flat Trailhead kiosk, RT.  9:10 Jon Crowley
  • Mt. Darwin.  North Lake trailhead kiosk, RT.  9:09 Jon Crowley
  • Earthquake Dome.  Pavement to summit and back. 26:34 Jed Porter
Let's see more of this!  But be safe.  You know, be safe, but go fast.  You have to go fast, but, well, be safe.  Other candidates ready for an entry:  

  • Chicken Wing, on skis.
  • Kid Mountain, on skis.
  • Towering Inferno, Owens Gorge.  Bottom to top.
  • And so on...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Washington, Part 2: Tormented, Forbidden.

As alluded to, Alex arrived in Washington fit and psyched to take advantage of the excellent weather.  However, I was feeling under the weather, battling some normally-inconsequential health concerns, with that concern heightened by the consequences of getting further hurt or "going in the hole" immediately prior to the upcoming big exam.  Generally, I take pride in tackling big endeavors regardless of what I have coming up.  However, I am learning to rest better, and probably performing better as a result.  One of those inevitable tensions I guess.  Anyway, there we were.  We warmed up with an underwhelming climb of the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell Spire.  Alex had long lusted after this route and summit, but the experience was nothing to write home about.  We took no pictures even.  We shifted gears, after some debate, to the Boston Basin area.  We'd give the Torment-Forbidden Traverse a try.  Again, few pictures, as the day was characterized more by movement than by documentation.  

Base camp in Boston Basin.  2 nights here.

Alex ridge-running on Mt. Torment.  Refreshing in the North Cascades, peaks are named by a different convention. Less old, dead guys memorialized, more descriptive and relevant.  I like it.  
Alex front-pointing steep neve in aluminum crampons and approach shoes. Someone more clever would come up with an apt automotive analogy.  Like taking your Ferrari on the Rubicon?  Or more like trying to take your Jetta up the White Mountain road?  In any case, Alex went under-shod yet over-performed!
In the end, facing the final few hundred feet to Forbidden's summit, we chose to take the short-cut out.  We had daylight and conditions in our favor.  Alex is never short on stokage.  But, the main mission here being exam prep, I voted for an exit.  Rather than flail another few hours into the deprivation zone, a long night in the tent followed by a chill exit sounded like the reasonable thing to do.  Alex obliged.

Washington, Part 3: Examined

AMGA Alpine Guide Exam, September 2012.  For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that final results have yet to be announced, this blogger is up against a case of writer's block.  It's hard to expound on what happened when one doesn't yet really know what happened.  These exams are grueling, beautiful, often fun, and stressful.  We went to beautiful spots, learned lots about guiding, bonded with peers and examiners alike, and got valuable feedback.  Mixed into that feedback, in my case, is a glimmer of hope.  However, in the end, its the end that counts.  And final results are still pending a necessary, though nonetheless annoying, waiting period.  Don't worry, I'll get the word out as soon as I know.  

Also stifling the creative process is the lack of sweet pictures.  I left the nicer cameras in California, hoping to focus while examining and use my phone to snap the occasional shot.  However, my buddy Mark pulled no punches with the time and technology dedicated to capturing the moments. He's got an album up here, and a video in the works.  

Here is the executive summary, documented with a handful of my own pictures.  I couldn't resist snagging one of Mark's, if only to show the contrast in quality.  

Days 1-5, Marble Creek Cirque

Day 6, Rest and repack.

Day 7, Ice Movement.  Kurt Hicks demonstrating the limits of "Technique Classique"

Still ice movementing.  Mark snapped this as I demonstrated the limits of "Technique Pumpique"

Days 8-9, Shuksan N. Face, with this sweet campsite between the Crystal and Sulphide Glaciers
Day 10, debrief.  Day 1, Post exam, Travel.

Day 2 post exam, rock climbing in Yosemite with the ladies.  Ultimate luxury.  

Alex on the final pitch of Braille Book, Higher Cathedral Rock.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Washington 2012, Part 1

Here I am, resting in the Pacific North"wet" on a clear sunny day.  What the heck?  Well, first of all, we went big yesterday.  Baker's North Ridge, car-to-car, was a solid outing.  What a climb!  Prior to that I scouted a few approaches and dodged some weather.  Alex arrives tonight to climb with me and has informed me, in no uncertain terms, that she's "well-rested and ready to charge." I know what that means.  It means I better rest up and be ready myself.

All this going, directed by a preparatory agenda, preempts photography.  In fact, I left cameras (aside from my ubiquitous phone...) down in Cali.  Literally all I've gotten out of 4 days of tromping around are these few snaps.  Check it out, Washington does get sun!

Mark S. after a thrash in towards Mt. Shuksan.  Now we know where not to go.

Baker's N. Ridge in fine shape.  Coleman glacier, not as fine.  Again, learning where not to go.  

In Washington, even when it's sunny, it's drippy.  Irrigated cucumbers along the coast, Mt. Baker presiding from the upper right.