LBNL Homepage Owens Gorge and Pine Creek, May 26-29 2006 NERSC Homepage

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When some people think about Memorial Day weekend, they think about barbecues, a day at the beach, traffic, or possibly wars. I on the other hand think about the first trip of the season over Sonora pass to Bishop and the eastern sierras. Yeah, I know, I'm weird. But I'm not alone!

This year, a large crew was heading east, and on Thursday night, Rod, Dave and I joined the exodus. Sonora pass had just opened, so the drive was relatively quick. Especially since I was driving. We arrived at Horton Creek campground, where Jeremy had scored us a bunch of sites, and we set up camp. The next morning dawned warm and beautiful, and we made the rounds of the camp, encountering Jeremy, Mike and Brian, Christine and Ashley, Jim, Rob, another Brian, oh, and the list goes on and on. We had taken over a large fraction of the campgrounds. After all the social niceties had been concluded (ie, about 10, since there were a lot of niceties to go around) Rod, Dave, Jeremy, Christine, Ashley, Mike, Brian and I headed to the Upper Gorge, and began our climbing adventures. We started off at the Dihedrals, and I warmed up on Not Proud Enough to Name (5.8), a fun hand and finger crack. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought any gear, so I had to, ummm, run it out. We set up some ropes on Super Fine Booty (5.11b) which is a fun and technical lieback flake, and O.R.G. asm (5.11a) which is a finger crack/lieback in a dihedral, and the crew ran some laps on them. We also did a couple more around hand crack, which aren't in my guide, but are in the newer one. The first one starts to the right of the hand crack, and follows the dihedral up and over to the left. The second goes under and around a roof to the left, and is a lot of fun. Eventually, we were chased away by the sun, and retreated across the river to All You Can Eat area. I had a go at Posers on the Rig (5.11b), but was seduced by the crack into going too high before attempting to work around the arete, and then O Henry! (5.11c), which has a very bouldery and delicate start before the first bolt. Not entirely trivial. We also played on Cinderella (5.8), Step Right Up (5.8), and Carnubinator (5.10a). Ashley cruised her first outside lead with extreme confidence, and it was wonderful to see Christine throw herself back into climbing, both following and leading!

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Charles on O.R.G. asm, and Christine on Super Fine Booty

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Ashley on O.R.G. asm, and Christine on Step Right Up

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Charles on Posers on the Rig

We eventually packed it up, but when we returned to the campsite we found it all in disarray - strong winds had sprung up during the day, and most tents had suffered. Mine and Dave's had collapsed, and Rod's had fully blown away. Luckily, some enterprising soul had rescued it, and also helped weigh down our tents with rocks. We tried to pitch our tents into the wind, but as soon as we did so, the wind shifted. It was too windy to cook, so we all headed into town for dinner at the Mexican place, where we met up with Lynsey, Ginny, and Wynnona. After dinner, we retreated to the campground, where the wind had shifted yet again, and not long there after Jack and Kelly showed up. We all went to bed, but it was difficult to sleep as the strong winds caused a huge amount of noise in the tents, even with ear plugs. At around 1AM I finally figured out things would be much quieter if I opened up my fly and let the wind blow through my tent, which is mostly mesh, and was finally able to get to sleep. Sort of.

It was still fairly windy on Saturday morning, and a little chilly, so we shelved plans for Pratt's Crack, and headed back to the Gorge. Dave, Rod, Jack and I started of at Dilithium, and went up Coffee Achiever (5.10b), Extreme Caffeine (5.10a), and Liquid Fire (5.10d) in short order. None of us felt particularly strong, due to a combination of sleep deprivation, lethargy, injuries, and out of shape-ness. Around lunchtime we were joined by Vanda, who had caught a ride with Lisa, Michelle and Christian. Jack and I headed across the river for a run up Escapade (5.11a), and a nap for Jack. It was cold in the shade, so we decided to head back down to the central gorge, and ran into the rest of the gang at the Social Platform. We managed to convince Jack to have a go at Darshan/Ripoff (5.12a), but I wish I hadn't tried so hard to convince him - I ended up on belay duty, which was painful considering the cold temps, and my lack of pants.

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Jack, before and after Escapade

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Jack pulls hard on Ripoff, while Charles belays in the cold

It was less windy at the campground than the previous night, so we decided to cook. It was Rod's birthday, so we went all out, and used the best of the trader joe's goodies that we had brought along. This was supplemented by the excellent cheese cake that Vanda had baked and brought along. Mmmm, cheese cake... It was definitely cold though, and some of us even retreated into their car to eat. Wusses. I broke out the good scotch, and after dinner it was passed around the campfire. Amazingly enough, we managed to polish it off, though it was only about half full to start with. Ok, considering who was involved, maybe it wasn't that amazing a feat....

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Rod's birthday dinner, with cheesecake!

It was much warmer next morning, and much less windy too, so Jack, Rod, Vanda, Mike, Brian and I headed up to Pine Creek, to try out Pratt's Crack (5.9). It had been hard to convince Jack to go - the solution had been to dig into his pack, and pull out his big pieces, saying "ok, I'll just take these", at which point his gear possessiveness took over and he decided to join the fun. Pratt's looks very intimidating from the ground - 165 feet of unrelenting 10 inch offwidth. Jacks groans and threats of puking as he led it (see - I knew he'd enjoy it once he started), only served to increase the intimidation factor. But he pulled it off in fine style, using 4 pieces, and a couple of slung chocks. The #5 camalot isn't too useful - you can only place it within 20 feet of the ground. He did manage to place a #3 bro higher up, but it's one of those psychological aid pieces. There are spots in the sides of the crack for small gear if you're clever.

Mike and Brian were waiting to get on the 4 pitch Rites of Spring, but the party that was on it was fearsomely slow, so they went up Sheila (5.10a) instead. I then followed Pratt's, and much to my amazement, found it incredibly fun! Yes, believe it or not a fun offwidth! Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of these things. Of course, I wasn't on lead, which made it much less sphincter tightening... Rod went up it as well, and then I had another go, this time endeavouring to do it in true offwidth style, and not use any of the plentiful features inside the crack.

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Pratt's Crack

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Mikey and Brian

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Brian and Jack on Sheila

Jack and I then did Sheila, which is a nice long and varied route of amazing quality. Mike and Brian went up Pratt's, and we contemplated doing some of Rites of Spring, but it was getting late and cold - we had been in the wind and shade all day - so instead we packed it up and headed back to camp. We contemplated going into town for dinner, but it was too nice outside, so we scraped together some odds and ends, and made a fine meal. Jeremy had picked up a couple of boxes of firewood in town, and we made a great bonfire, helped along with liberal doses of wine and whiskey. The clouds had cleared up, and the night sky was brilliantly clear, with the milky way painted across the heavens with a broad brush. It was incredibly beautiful.

The next morning dawned warm and sunny, and after breaking camp we headed into town for breakfast and Schats. A very long and leisurely breakfast. We eventually motivated and headed back to the upper gorge, where we did a few routes at Gotham city, (they're not in my old guide), then went back to All You Can Eat, where Jack led Posers on a Rig, and then we both tried Trundle of Joy (5.12b). I pulled the crux, then didn't see the huge jugs that follow it and fell going for an useless crimp instead. I tried it a second time, but did equally silly things after the crux and fell again. I suck, but what can you expect after not climbing for over a month.

We hiked out, and started the long drive home, stopping at the Mobil station for a bit of dinner and some mango margaritas. We ran into Jeremy, Christine, Ashley and Tina there - it's definitely the crossroads of the east side! The drive back was surprisingly mellow - hardly any traffic, and no cops at all.

All in all, it was a really pleasant long weekend. I had originally intended to do three days on granite, and one in the gorge, but somehow it got reversed. No complaints though - despite the low mileage, it was a really mellow and enjoyable trip. The fact that I managed to actually enjoy some offwidth made it all the better!

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Sir Walk-about Fri Jun 2 2006 14:52:24
   Sleep little buttercup, sleep.

ver' nice Mon Jun 5 2006 07:44:58
   ver' nice!

last modifed on: Wednesday, 21-Apr-2010 14:18:45 PDT