29 03 2010

Well we have been busy since my last  post and I haven’t had any free internet access up until now. So I am going to try to cover all we have done since Wednesday.   

After packing up the car and having breakfast we hit the road and headed east out of Pasadena en route to Joshua Tree National Park. We made a quick stop at Trader Joes to stock up on provisions and made a short detour through Palms Springs before finally arriving in the town of Joshua Tree. In town we got our National Park Pass and rented  some climbing gear. It was around 2:00 so we decided we where going to boulder for the rest of the day. For those of you unfamiliar with bouldering, it is a form of climbing in which you focus on really hard moves relatively close to the ground (up to 25′) while using no fall protection other than a 5″ thick foam pad placed under the climber on the ground.   

Justyna Bouldering In Joshua Tree


Andrew Bouldering In Joshua Tree


We had a great time and really beat our selves up as the stone is a really abrasive form of granite with amazing friction properties. We finished off the day by scrambling up a nearby rock formation to watch the sunset over the mountains.   

Andrew Scrambling


Overlooking Joshua Tree At Sunset


Joshua Tree Sunset


We had a really rough night in a campground outside the park (everything was full in the park), we got next to no sleep due to spring breakers partying until 2am and a moon so bright that it made it feel like a car was parked with its head lights on outside the tent all night. But the next morning we made breakfast, packed up camp and headed back to J Tree for a day of climbing, bouldering and hiking. We started off on a rock climbing route called Snitchen Time. This was only my second lead of the season and was not only close to my leading limit but was a totally different type of climbing than we have out east so needless to say things did not go well at first. I will attempt to give anyone not familiar with climbing a brief lesson as you will likely be reading quite a bit about it here in the next couple of weeks. First off when we climb some one has to get to the top of the climb and that person is the leader (usually me). We  tie into the rope and start to climb the route placing pieces of protection (small aluminum chocks and camming devices) in cracks and restrictions in the rock. On some routes where there are no cracks you might find preplaced bolts to tie into as you go. The other person belays you from below (feeds out rope through a device called a belay plate and will hold the rope in case of a fall). You place gear at 5-15′ intervals or sometimes more if there is nothing available  to protect you in case of a fall. But there is a catch to leading you must not only find appropriate places to place gear and make sure they will hold a tremendous shock load but you must always remember that if you where to fall you are going to fall more than twice the distance you are above your last piece of protection. This fall is usually not fatal but is not something that would be considered  pleasant and that is why leading is sometimes refered to as the sharp end. So anyway when you get to the top of the climb you build an anchor and you belay your partner up to your position. This person, the second, is refered to as being on top rope as the rope comes down to them from the top and therefore in case of a fall only falls the distance of the available stretch in the rope. Top roping is a very secure and safe way to climb and on occasion when you can access the top of a cliff by trail you can set up the rope this way and have fun pitching yourself at climbs way beyond your ability and fall all day without fear of injury. Well if the climb is longer than the length of the rope we use, usually 200′, we will climb until we can get to a good anchor position and then bring up the second and begin climbing again repeating this leapfrog process until we reach the top. So that should be enough information to get everyone started so go grab some rope and some bits of aluminum  and get climbing. No seriously go try it, it is really one of the most rewarding and amazing things I have ever done but please find someone competent to take you out if you are really interested. So anyway back to Snitchen Time. I started up the climb and clipped the first bolt at 20′ and started to make my way up about 10′ past it until the rock appeared to have run out of  any holds. I was a little bit freaked out so I delicately climbed back down to the bolt and lowered to the ground. I then decided that we could try toproping the climb, so the plan was to scramble to the top of the climb by approaching from the back of the formation. This seemed like a great idea until I got to the top of the climb and set up an anchor only to realize that the rope ended 20′ above the ground. So after rappelling down I would up again having to down climb to the base of the route. Well after some deliberation and getting my head together I decided to give it another attempt on lead. So I tied in and began to climb. When I got to the section with what I would call no holds I began to friction climb. This type of climbing relies completely on the friction between your hands and your shoes and the rock as opposed to small edges and cracks, this feels very insecure to say the least and requires a cool head and delicate touch. There was another 15′ of climbing like this before the next bolt followed by what was close to 30 more feet before the third and final bolt from where the terrain eased but continued on unprotected terrain for  another 70′ to the anchor. It was absolutely incredible to make it to the top on such a classic route in such a beautiful place and especially because the route looked so improbable from below.   

Stichen Time, The Route Follows The Dark Streak, Thats Me On Top


We we followed up this route by climbing a classic on the Cyclops formation called the Eye which goes up this dark gully in the rock for 130′ before finishing up in a cool little cave.   

The Eye Route On Cyclops


Inside The Eye Of Cyclops


We finished off our climbing in Joshua Tree by bouldering for a little while and then hiking to the top of a really cool peak in the center of the park called Ryan Mountain.   

Justyna On The Summit Of Ryan Peak


We finished the day off by driving up to Keys View to watch the sunset before heading into town for some cheap Mexican food and then back to the campground for what turned out to be a much better nights sleep.   

Justyna In Camp


We spent the morning of Palm Sunday hiking to an Oasis called 49 Palms. It was way back in this little valley and provided a really cool place to hang out in the shade away from the intense desert sun.   

49 Palms Oasis


After this we drove to loop road through the park before we started to head off to Vegas. The drive to Nevada was spectacular and completely unexpected. We drove through the Mojave desert on pin straight roads passing salt flats and soaring jagged peaks. We stopped for a while and hiked around and area called Kelso Dunes before continuing on to Sin City.   

Road Through The Mojave Desert


Playing In The Sand Of Kelso Dunes


We got to our hotel, the Stratosphere and got cleaned up and planned on heading out for the evening but before we knew it we where both asleep for what would turned out to be a very needed nights rest.   

So today we got up and had an all american breakfast at IHOP and then did a little gambling. We spent a whole $4 on the slots and I was up $10 at one point before losing it all. We then went out to Red Rocks Canyon and spent the day climbing on some really cool routes on limestone cliffs followed by scrambling up one of the rock formations around sunset.   

Hanging Out At The Anchor In Red Rocks


Justyna Climbing


Justyna Climbing "Hard Case"


Justyna Hanging Out at 100'


Andrew Exploring A Unclimbed Route


Justyna Scrambling On Red Rock In Red Rocks


Doing A Little Bouldering In Red Rocks


We are headed back to the hotel and we will see if we can do a little better tonight and stay up past 10:30PM. We are still unsure where we are going tomorrow so I guess it will be a surprise the next time I post.  



26 03 2010

Today Justyna and I climbed Mount Baldy, the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains rising high above the LA basin to a height of 10,068′. We left this morning with doubts about the weather due to the fact that there where a lot of low clouds and fog around LA. But as we approached the trailhead we realized these doubts where unnecessary because we soon broke through the clouds and fog at around 5000′ and got to enjoy a blue bird sky with a beautiful under cast (imagine an over cast sky but instead of above you the clouds are beneath you). We picked up our wilderness permit and then started hiking up the approach trail around 9:30AM. The initial 2.5 mile was wonderful, hiking through an open pine forest with spectacular views of the valley below and the Baldy Bowl looming ahead. We took a break at the Sierra Club Ski Hut before we geared up for the climb ahead. We had decided on taking a line directly up the bowl to the summit, the climb had started off on 30-35 degree snow slopes gradually steepening to 40-45 degrees with a couple of 50+ degree sections. The snow conditions where just about perfect by the time we got in the bowl with the top layer of snow softening up just enough to kick nice steps all the way up. We headed directly up the bowl to one of the chutes high on the face before continuing on through a brief rock section followed by a slightly steeper snow slope to the summit plateau above. As we approached the lip of the bowl we started to hear the wind above, up to this point we had been enjoying temps in the low 50’s with light winds. Things changed drastically once we got over the lip of the bowl, that wind that we had heard turned out to be blowing at 50-60 MPH. Even though the temperature was probably in the forties the wind chill forced us to put only every stitch of clothing we had packed with us. It took a lot of work to make it the last 1000′ or so to the summit where we only spent about five minutes to take a few pictures and try to enjoy the view, but with the wind and the blowing ice pellets it was not that pleasant. The descent was fairly uneventful and what had taken us 4 1/2 hours to climb only took us 1 1/2 hours to descend getting us back to the car around 3:30PM. Overall we had covered close to 9 miles and climbed nearly 4000′ elevation. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, I had climbed the same route last March in a whiteout so to not only enjoy the spectacular views I missed last year but to also climb this peak with Justyna made today even more special. It is really hard to believe this beautiful wilderness is less than an hour from down town LA. Well tomorrow we plan on heading out to Joshua Tree National Park for some rock climbing in the desert.   


Justyna On Mt Baldy


Andrew Heading Up The Face

Andrew Heading Up The Bowl


The Final Pitch


We Climbed a Line Directly Up The Center of The Face


24 03 2010

Today Justyna, Marta, Anna, and I went to a farm in Ventura county where we picked strawberries, grapefruits, tangerines and oranges. The fruit was amazing and being able to just pick the juiciest orange I have ever had off a tree and walk around in a beautiful orchard in the mountains was absolutely incredible. We then continued on to the Old Creek Ranch Winery in the town of Ventura where Justyna and I enjoyed sampling some of the wine from this very limited production vineyard. Marta  only got to indulge in some crackers but Anna got to play with the resident cat, Ripple. We all finished off the day along with Colin by having a barbeque back in Pasadena on one the  terraces in their building. Tomorrow we had planned on heading off on our road trip around the Southwest but Justyna and I have been having such a good time here that we have decided to spend another day around Pasadena. We do however plan on getting up early to make an attempt on the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, 10,068′ Mt Baldy before returning to the apartment for dinner. Condition reports have been promising so we are excited to finally get up in the mountains. 


Anna sampling strawberries

Hello From California

23 03 2010

What we had planned on taking two to three weeks took eight uneventful hours.  We had originally planned on road tripping from NY to LA but due to logistical problems with storing a car in Pasadena not to mention trying to get it back East we finally decided on flying out West instead. We are staying with Marta, Justyna’s Sister, as well as her Husband Colin and their beautiful 18 month old bilingual daughter Ann, she already knows more polish than I do. We will spend a few days here before we pick up a rental car and head off to do some climbing in California, Utah and Colorado.  

The strange thing is I still can’t wrap my head around the scope of our trip. I am waiting for the moment when it really sinks in that we are really doing this.     


Justyna and Anna



The End Of The Beginning

19 03 2010

Today was it, the transition point between this stage of my life and what I can only imagine will be the next,brief, but very exciting stage of my life. So I walked out of work today with a very vague idea of what the future will bring. Up to this point it has been very easy to carry on thinking that every Monday I will be waking up to another week at work continuing on in what was a fairly normal and safe routine. But not this week. Monday will bring our departure on a trip of a lifetime heading west in search of learning, understanding and adventure. I am very excited by venturing out into the unknown as well as a bit terrified. I love the feeling of not knowing where we will be in two weeks, a month or even a year but one cannot help but fear that this may not be a good thing. But overall I am sure things will work out just fine in the end. And without all of the problems that we are sure to encounter on this journey we would not appreciate all the wonderful moments as much. 

Well we are pretty much packed, we have our airline tickets booked for the first leg of our journey (NY to LA, LA to Hawaii,Hawaii to Hanoi), we have squared away most of our finances and we have our passports in route to meet us in California (China visa issues) so now there is not much else to do but wait to get on the plane. There are a few more details to attend to and I am sure I will spend the next couple of days going through bags and checking gear but this is it the real beginning, it is time to go. The next time you hear from us we will be 3000 miles away in sunny California!


To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.  ~Charles Horton Cooley