2015 through the adventure lens

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.

Rubicon peak
Rubicon peak: Crystal Range from the summit of Rubicon Peak. Desolation Wilderness, California.

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.

Mt. Price from Agassiz
Mt. Price from Agassiz: Looking back towards Price on solo ascent of Mt. Price and Agassiz. Desolation Wilderness, California.

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.

Couloir on Sierra Buttes
Couloir on Sierra Buttes: Overnight bivy and ascent of Sierra Buttes via a couloir on the east face. Plumas National Forest, California.

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.

My car at Waddell Beach
My car at Waddell Beach: The car's first trip, a 20-mile hike at Big Basin State Park. Waddell Beach, California.

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?“)

Lake Huron
Lake Huron: The lake can't really be that clear can it? Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario.

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.

Mt. Shasta
Mt. Shasta: Looking back towards Misery Hill from the summit of Mt. Shasta. West Face. Cl 2, Grade 3. Shasta National Forest, California.

My parents visited California for a few weeks and it was fun to show them around my usual haunts – Tahoe and Yosemite.

Dad: Dad scrambling to the base of Eagle Falls, Desolation Wilderness, California.

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.

Top of Banner Peak
Top of Banner Peak: Summit of Banner Peak, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California.
Crater Lake from Garfield Peak
Crater Lake from Garfield Peak: Crater Lake from Garfield Peak. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Tokatee falls
Tokatee falls: Tokatee Falls. Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

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.

Squamish: Squamish from the walls. British Columbia.
On the Apron at Squamish
On the Apron at Squamish: Climbing in Squamish, British Columbia.
Cheakamus Lake
Cheakamus Lake: Glaciered out. Cheakamus Lake from Whistler Mountain. Garibaldi Provincial Park. British Columbia.

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.

Canada Place
Canada Place: Canada Place, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Orca hunting
Orca hunting: Orca hunting. San Juan Island, Washington.

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.

Glacier cacophony
Glacier cacophony: Little Tahoma Peak rises above the crevassed Ingraham Glacier on the descent of Mt. Rainier. Disappointment Cleaver Route. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

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.

Camp in Darwin Canyon
Camp in Darwin Canyon: Campsite near imposing Mt. Mendel. Darwin Canyon, Kings Canyon National Park, California.
Crystal Crag
Crystal Crag: Crystal Crag via the North Arete (5.7, 3+ pitches). Mammoth Lakes, California.
Bear Creek Spire North Arete 5.7
Bear Creek Spire North Arete 5.7: Base of the North Arete on Bear Creek Spire. Rock Creek Lakes area, John Muir Wilderness, California.

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.

Top of Matterhorn Peak
Top of Matterhorn Peak: Looking at the Sawtooths from the summit of Matterhorn Peak. East Ridge, Class 2, Grade 3. Hoover Wilderness, California.

With the summer over, I got baptized in Yosemite Valley by leading up Sunnyside Benches and the first 3 pitches of Royal Arches.

Royal Arches
Royal Arches: First of three pitches on Royal Arches. Chimney climbing is still a tense and nervous sport for me (that isn't me). Yosemite National Park, California.

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.

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch: Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.
Is it a lake?
Is it a lake?: Is it a lake? Puddle near Navajo Arch, looking out at the La Sal mountains. Arches National Park, Utah.
Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point: The Colorado River is forever tied to the mythology of the American West. Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.
Powder Day
Powder Day: Chasing powder on Chair 2 at Kirkwood, California.

Several december weekdays were spent trying this climb, with success achieved on my birthday.

Unrated volumes
Unrated volumes: Unrated volume climb that was my best indoor climb this year.

Fortunately I did not get this as a gift.

Uh...: Seen at the Mammoth Lakes RV Park, Mammoth Lakes, California.

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.

Favourite gear

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.