In 2015 I upped my game by venturing more into mountaineering and rock climbing.
It started off with learning basic snow skills like self-arrest and crampon technique, followed by my first time snow camping, and another lesson on building snow anchors at Donner Peak. The month ended with my first snowshoe ascents - Rubicon Peak and Mt. Tallac.
In February we cramponed up Pyramid Peak and snowshoed Red Lake Peak, then I finished the Crystal Range trio with a solo trip to Mt. Price and Agassiz.
In March the Banff Mountain Film Festival added some sorely needed inspiration after only 2 days of skiing in a terrible winter.
Mid-April I tried my first alpine bivy and experienced the screaming barfies, along with some “mixed climbing” up a couloir.
April dawned with me finally plunking down the money to buy a car after 2.5 years without one. I was doing too many trips to afford rentals.
After that I flew to Toronto and spent a day at the Bruce Peninsula which was an eye-opener to the ridiculous scale of The Great Lakes. (“We’ve been driving in terrible flat-ness next to a lake for how long now?“)
In May the car had its first major trip. Good weather on Mt. Shasta allowed an exhausting but successful summit via the West Face. The glissade down the face was very memorable as I nearly lost my crampons.
My parents visited California for a few weeks and it was fun to show them around my usual haunts – Tahoe and Yosemite.
I sneaked in a late spring Machete Ridge traverse in Pinnacles that taught me to be more careful when rappeling.
The summer began with a truly fantastic month long road-trip along the West Coast. After climbing Banner Peak, I visited Crater Lake, then spent a few days in Portland and Seattle.
Before driving into British Columbia for a week of work, I spent a weekend learning crevasse rescue from IMG. Capitalizing on the stay in Whistler Village, I climbed in Squamish for a day, then did an overnight trip to Russet Lake and also tried my hand at downhill mountain biking.
After exploring Vancouver, but not trying the Grind, I spent ten days in Seattle because I have kind friends. I took the opportunity to visit the Boeing factory and watch orcas from kayaks.
The highlight of the trip was a successful climb of Mt. Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver route. 9000ft of ascent and descent in two days! Descending snow is so much easier on the knees. June led into July and I made it back to the Bay Area with another 3500 miles on the car.
In August, it was time to experience the Sierra backcountry on a 4 day exploration of the Evolution Basin. An interesting trip that added oodles of alpine scrambling experience to my quiver. Over labor day weekend I climbed Crystal Crag in Mammoth Lakes and tried my hand at a car-to-car ascent of Bear Creek Spire’s North Arete. An arduous approach and my route-finding mistake led to bailing at the third pitch. We did manage to get in more climbing in Inyo National Forest.
In September I finally put in the effort to launch this site so I would be motivated to keep writing about trips (How many people actually read this is another matter…).
Several weekends in the fall were spent doing fast hikes up Mt. Diablo while I finalized a new job. A weekend was spent on a day hike of Matterhorn Peak that was a lesson in how bad talus could be, but allowed soaking in hot springs and eating at the Mobil station for the third time this season. Right before starting the job, I got to spend 3 days in Tuolumne Meadows and ticked of Unicorn Peak and my first alpine lead - Cathedral Peak’s South Buttress.
With the summer over, I got baptized in Yosemite Valley by leading up Sunnyside Benches and the first 3 pitches of Royal Arches.
Winter arrived in full force this year on the West Coast and my season pass gamble paid off. Thanksgiving was spent on easy hikes in Arches and Canyonlands followed by skiing at Park City. November wasn’t even over and I had already got 2 days of skiing.
Several december weekdays were spent trying this climb, with success achieved on my birthday.
Fortunately I did not get this as a gift.
December was all about skiing, bringing my total for this season to 7 days. I also ran my first trail race. Just after a big dump of snow on Christmas I took an AIARE level 1 class in Mammoth Lakes that allowed beautiful views of the area and a sojourn into Alpine Touring that I really enjoyed. I also learnt the hard way that AT ski brakes do not deploy in skinning mode. Unfortunately, having already bought a pair of skis this year, a touring setup will have to wait.
I acquired a ton of new gear this year mainly to support mountaineering.
My favourite clothes are definitely an Icebreaker merino hoody and the OR Voodoo pant, which if they made in a jeans-like cut, I’d wear every day.
The Arc Blast 60L has been shelved in favor of the smaller, heavier, but tougher Vaude 40+10 pack that is better suited to climbing. I managed a 4 day trip (with bear canister) out of the pack and it went up both Shasta and Rainier with no complaints.
A bonus from my previous job let me purchase a great skiing setup and the combination of Salomon Quest Pro boots + Line Supernatural 92 skis and Rossignol Axial3 bindings is really fun to chase powder on. The Arc’teryx Atom LT keeps me warm on the lift and cool on the downhill.
I’m really bummed that Patagonia doesn’t make the Rover shoe any more as mine are nearing the point of no return.
Kelly Cordes’ gloves
page has allowed
me to have
warm comfortable digits in below freezing temperatures so
far, for which I’m thankful.