Hopefully I will update this post with more directions, stories, and trip beta someday to help out the future travelers. But for now, I will let the pictures do the talking!
Hopefully I will update this post with more directions, stories, and trip beta someday to help out the future travelers. But for now, I will let the pictures do the talking!
Bishop, California is one of America’s top destinations for bouldering. Although I typically sport climb with a rope and harness and such, I’m growing to like the simplicity of bouldering. Each problem is only a few moves, and relatively low to the ground. You can try really hard moves again and again with low consequence to failure. This is not true on a sport climb, since each attempt takes several minutes of preparation tying into the rope and getting to the crux. With bouldering, a crew of climbers can set up crash pads and try the same problem as many times as it takes to pull it off. With bouldering you can do harder moves. It’s a very pure approach to climbing, since it’s just you and the rock, no extra weight to drag along and no gear to distract you.
I’ve come to Bishop to get stronger, and test my limits with outdoor bouldering. Before this trip, my hardest outdoor bouldering send was V5. Even though I’m coming off a rest season, I’m feeling really good and have high expectations for this trip. I already sent two V6 boulder problems and several other V5’s. Since I’m planning to be here for another week, I think I’ll be able to step it up again before leaving. My goal is to pull off multiple V7s or a single V8… exciting new territory for me.
I met a cool crew of climbers from Casper, Wyoming. They were setting up a highline between the two largest boulders in the Buttermilks. I went to check it out, since I’ve been wanting to set up a highline for years. The guy on top, Ryan, invited me up immediately to try it. I was hesitant at first, but I decided to at least check out his set up to see how he rigged it and such. It was the safest setup I’ve ever seen. The line was 1″ webbing, standard slackline material and length. Taped to the bottom of the webbing was a dynamic climbing rope as a safety backup. Each side had three expansion bolt anchors, the same type I trust my life to when climbing. He also used a dynamic rope for a tether, attached from the climbing harness to the highline by a figure 8 rappel device. This was backed up by a secondary tether as well, an unnecessary but comforting extra backup. After examining the setup, I felt totally comfortable taking whips out there. I decided to give it a go.
Ryan advised me to start the adventure by jumping off the boulder and taking a whip right off the bat to get the jitters out. I wasn’t afraid of the whip, but I decided to suss it out differently. I scooted out a safe distance from the boulder, and tried to stand on the line from a sitting start. This is more difficult than walking onto it, but I wanted to get a feel for the line in a safe location. I didn’t want to fall right next to the boulder and risk hitting it on the swing. Eventually, I was able to stand, but I wasn’t comfortable enough on this line to walk it yet. After several small falls, I took a full value whip on the tether, swinging from the line upside down. It was a little scary as expected, but the rig held no problem and I had taken care of my jitters. I climbed over to the opposite boulder, walked onto the line, and crossed it successfully the very next try. Ryan and I were the only ones to try the line that day, and he had sent it on his first attempt before I arrived. Double send!!! 🙂
Tahoe has long been a favorite ski destination for me, so it was an inevitable inclusion on this circuitous road trip. In fact Northstar at Tahoe is where I began skiing way back on my 2nd birthday in 1987. Since then, I’ve made a pilgrimage to this place every couple years. It always treats me the same, with fresh snow, steep terrain, and bluebird skies.
My buddy Dave kept telling me it was a bad winter and he was jealous of the snow in the Pacific Northwest. But I assured him that storms have been following me around this year, and Tahoe is going to get dumped on when I arrive. Sure enough, a midweek storm left 2 feet of powder on the Sierras, and the sun emerged for a perfect weekend. Dave and I made plans to ski the backcountry in South Tahoe.
Dave is a friend from the old Seven Springs days. We used to ski together in high school, back when learning tricks on jumps was the focus of our skiing. My mom would joke that I made 2 runs per day, one to the terrain park in the morning, and one back from the terrain park in the afternoon. Of course I would argue that we typically bombed Gunnar once, too. We would spend all morning building a massive jump, then all afternoon sessioning it. These were the days before terrain park crews did these things for you, and before the resorts were even cool with it at all. We would borrow/steal shovels from the lift huts and build jumps in hidden places, trying to get a few hits in before getting caught. We had escape routes to elude ski safety rangers in our daily cat and mouse game. We learned to go big, throw nasty tricks, and not to be scared.
It was no surprise to me that Dave wanted to ski some gnarly lines when I came to town. He had been waiting for the right conditions and the right crew to tackle a few crazy couloirs, and this weekend was perfect. I didn’t know what we’d be doing, but I trusted Dave’s judgement. We met Saturday morning and started an early hike up Echo Peak.
The line we skied that day is called “Hall of God”, and it’s every bit as epic as it sounds. It’s a couloir, a steep crevice cutting through a cliff face that holds just enough snow to ski. This one is 45-55 degrees steepness for about 1000 feet of vertical descent, and only about a ski length wide at the choke point. Of course there’s those buggery exposed rocks to deal with also. Here’s a picture of the line from a distance. We skied the middle of the three couloirs seen here, dropping in from the tip of the arrow:
I’ve skied plenty of steep chutes, but I’d never done a couloir with this kind of vertical before. Dave also said this was the gnarliest line he’s skied all year. But the conditions were right, and stoke levels were high in our crew. So after digging a pit at the top to verify the avalanche risk was low, we dropped into this beast, leaving our mark as the first sets of tracks since the new snow. The video at the bottom of this post shows Dave’s descent from his helmet mount, so sick.
The next day we hiked Mt. Tellac with Dave’s fiance, Kim. She’d been up there before, and suggested we ski another couloir called “The Cross”. The line we took was plenty steep but not as narrow as the “Hall of God”. Here’s a photo showing the cross, as well as one I took from the top showing the line we skied:
The descent of Mt Tellac was epic, but it deposited us on some heavy east facing snow. Fortunately, we knew of a ridge to our west that would have some good north-facing snow on the other side. We traversed to cross it and found knee deep pow on the other side. The combination made for a perfect descent from a well-earned summit. What a weekend! Thanks to Dave and Kim for hosting me and guiding me.
Also, shout out to Luke, the VP/Engineer of Moment Skis who gave me a gracious tour of their factory in Reno. Moment skis are right up my alley for powder and big mountain skiing, and I would definitely recommend them to anyone in the market. They have some radical new designs coming out in 2014, particularly their “dirty mustache camber” and “mullet camber” concepts. I was really stoked on a ski called the Deathwish. http://www.momentskis.com/shop/category/skis/
Check out the video and photos from this epic weekend in Tahoe:
After Chico, I headed to San Francisco to visit my good friends Qasar and Val. Unfortunately, I had to visit during the week and they were both working during the day, so we really only got to spend the evenings together. But on the upside, it gave me a chance to visit the famous SF climbing gyms and spend some time getting back in climbing shape. With all the skiing I’ve been doing lately, my climbing has taken a backseat. But I’m now accepting that winter has peaked and climbing is now in session. Time to get strong again 🙂
San Francisco has the best climbing gyms I’ve seen in the country. Although the Atlanta gym may be the largest, I’m confident that no place in the US compares to the scale, quantity, and quality of the rock climbing gyms of SF. They are so good. The average gym here is larger than all the Chicago climbing gyms combined into one, for real. But there’s not just one super gym, there are lots. The two main companies are Touchstone and Planite Granite.
Touchstone is the original and they have the most locations – 8 gyms total all within about an hour’s driving radius. Their gyms are some of the best in the country, on par with the famous Movement gym in Boulder, Colorado – except there are 8 of them in the same region.
On top of that there’s Planite Granite, the new supergym that puts all others to shame. These gyms are literally double the size of Movement, and everything is cutting-edge modern. They have three locations in the region, each capable of hosting 200+ climbers at once with no one left standing around. They bouldering and lead climbing are top notch. They even go so far as to create routes on some sections of their lead wall without tape – they just use all the same color holds.
So basically I spent 3 days getting spoiled rotten 🙂 Check it out:
I just learned of a dear friend’s tragic passing, so unbelievably sad. It reminds me that life is a fragile thing, far too precious to waste. For this reason we must live every day, truly live, so that when that inevitable day comes we will not be caught with unfulfilled dreams. Dianna lived to her fullest in every moment. I have never met a person more alive. She will always inspire me to live life like that.
There’s not much I can do when a dear friend is lost, but I feel inspired today to record a few of my favorite memories of Dianna. They will live on with me for life.
I first met Dianna at pre-season ski instructor training at Mt Baker. A core group of us newbies quickly formed, including James, Max, and Barbara. We carpooled to the mountains most days. Unable to contain her excitement, Dianna would always convince us to get up way early and be the first instructors at the mountain. We spent the morning playing in the new snow, doing acrobatics in ski boots, setting up pranks for the other instructors, or causing some kind of ruckus. To Dianna, everything was a game, and you never knew what was coming next. The only guarantee in hanging out with her is there is never a dull moment unless she’s preparing a surprise attack. Dianna was the kind of person who might dive tackle you at any moment, hit you in the face with a snowball, do a flip over your head, or give you a giant hug. She wore a fuzzy hat with cat ears, and dressed up in animal masks whenever possible. She loved animals and loathed children, but I guess she just had more fun bringing the kid out in adults.
I spent New Years 2009 with Dianna and Max. It was a crazy night. We ended up at a house party with a stripper pole in the middle of the room. While most people were standing around talking and getting drunk, Dianna started pole dancing in a room full of strangers. Of course she was upside down spinning in circles in no time, whipping around the pole at dizzying speeds, and convincing as many people as she could to join in the fun. To her, restraint was never an option worth considering.
Of course we had many good times skiing at Baker, but one early season session in the natural halfpipe was particularly memorable. Dianna, James, Arielle and I spent the afternoon attempting handplants on the steep walls of the natty, then doing polish bagels and wormrolls on the groomers. Dianna was of course the least afraid of us to fall or get snow up her jacket. She loved rolling around in the snow and getting others to join in with her.
And then there was the epic party at Dianna’s where she entertained us by launching toilet paper rolls out of a water balloon slingshot from her balcony, sending streamers over passing cars. That night also featured many flips over random objects such as couches. Dianna was a gymnast and she didn’t hesitate to do a flip off of anything or nothing. She also had the ability to absorb brutal crashes of all sorts with her body somehow coming out unscathed and laughing. So she frequently used her body as a missile. She gave me a good surprise that night when I was standing next to the kitchen table. She came flying full speed head first through the open window from the balcony into the apartment, sliding across the table into a group of people. You just never knew what would happen next. When I asked her about the homemade alligator mask hanging on her wall, carefully crafted from cardboard and wrapped in aluminum foil, she casually explained it’s what she liked to wear when having sex. Somehow I don’t doubt it, lol. She made sure everyone around her was on a constant adventure. Laughter, fun, shock, and awe were inevitable and constant in her presence.
Dianna knew exactly what she wanted to do, and it suited her personality perfectly. She trained exotic cats, the bigger the better. Tragically, the career she loved is what took her life. I’m confident in her short years that she lived a fuller life than most people ever achieve. I remain inspired by Dianna’s quest to fill every moment with adventure, spontaneity, and laughter. In these memories and so many more, she lives on.
An important part of this journey by van is visiting my scattered network of friends and loved ones along the trail. I had the pleasure of visiting my Grandpa Brian and Grandma Cindy at their recently constructed home in Chico, California. It was a great visit and a pleasant retreat after my many exhausting adventures in the backcountry.
Our activities featured a tour of Sierra Nevada brewery, a hike in the upper Bidwell Park in Chico, and a longer hike to Feather Falls. I’ve included a short video of the Feather Falls hike at the bottom of this post. In general, our days were very relaxing. We spent lots of time talking about family, politics, and watching home videos from years past.
The brewery tour of Sierra Nevada was particularly impressive. I was amazed to learn what a great company they are, and I really can’t say enough positive things about what they do – in addition to providing great beer :). Sierra Nevada produces about 80% of the electricity they consume on site. About half is accomplished through solar panels and the other half fuel cells. Sadly, the fuel cells run on natural gas, so they are not renewable energy sources, but they are a better alternative than electricity from the grid. On the upside, they capture waste heat from the fuel cells and use it in their brewing process. They were also an early adopter of fuel cells, helping to promote the new technology by installing their system eight years ago. In addition, they treat all their waste water on site in a very impressive sounding process that includes a biogas digester from which they capture waste methane and, once again, re-use it in their brewing process. Since they produce their own electricity and treat their own water, they have gone to great lengths to conserve both water and energy throughout their entire operation. They have been chosen as the US EPA green business of the year 2 years in a row. They also treat their employees extremely well. Employee benefits include on-site day care, company medical office, company masseuse, land provided for employee gardens, pet insurance, and a case of beer with every pay check. As a person who likes to vote with my dollar, I’m planning to buy much more Sierra Nevada after learning of these commendable values. Surprisingly, this free tour included samples of 9 beers, including 2 quads, a barleywine, and an imperial stout. Clearly they enjoy experimenting with new recipes, and they produce limited releases regularly that won’t ever be seen again. They had a new quad made with prunes, and another that was aged in brandy barrels. They also had a beer made with shiitake mushrooms and a hint of rice. So rad!!!
My Grandpa Brian is a really interesting character, and I would like to say a few words about him. Although he’s turning 75 this year, he’s in better health than most Americans. Both GB and GC have gone to great lengths to live healthy lives, and he said he doesn’t feel any different mentally or physically than he did in his 30s. He’s very interested in politics, and we spent hours debating and discussing global issues. His wise conservative perspective often clashes with my educated liberal view, but as open individuals we were able to dive into a broad range of issues and see eye to eye. It was enlightening discussion, leaving us both with food for thought.
Grandma Cindy made wonderful meals, both healthy and delicious. We enjoyed talking about food and exchanging recipes. I also got to make them a meal one night, Thai coconut curry. Their new house is very comfortable, and I felt right at home. They have a nice plot of land with vibrant landscaping and a surprising amount of wildlife. I was delighted one morning to see my first bobcat in the wild – the wild being their back patio, lol. It strutted across like it owned the place. In additions they commonly spot coyotes, rattlesnakes, a variety of birds, and even mountain lions in their yard. How cool is that?
A friend has asked me to publish his algorithm in hopes to secure it for public use. He recommends this algorithm can be used as a new approach to creating 2 dimensional, rectilinear grids which can be extended into 3d. These grids can be calculated using a simple interpolation method. Computation physics problems that can be ran in parallel allow vectors to be computed on a GPU for massive speed gains. This algorithm has applications in finite difference analysis (FD) and computational physics, potentially simplifying the solvers and reducing required computing power without sacrificing accuracy.
Sean would like to offer his work for public availability and use, securing it from those who may desire to keep it private for profit or other motives. Please find this useful.