Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cindy Crawford is my Guardian Angel

South Guardian Angel

Contrary to my own beliefs and likely the beliefs of all those who enter Zion National Park, many if not most of the giant walls and peaks that tower above the Virgin River can be summitted by less than technical means, i.e you don't have to own a helicopter or be a super hard free or aid climber to access a lot of what appears to be untouchable terrain. All it takes is some googling, astute route finding skills, moderate fitness, a distaste for directness, and a love of slickrock scrambling and manzanita thrashing to get to some pretty dang remote and seemingly improbable locations. We were lucky enough to experience two new such adventures this past weekend.

With the addition of little Timbre to our family, hiking has become one of the easiest and best activities we can pursue together. We may have pushed the envelope of what would be considered normal "hiking" with a 7 month old child in a backpack, but who wants to hike Angel's Landing for the 15th time? While thousands of folks summited the place where the angels land, we were off all alone with the actual angels. 

Our first objective was South Guardian Angel, a peak on the Kolob Terrace side of Zion, separated from North Guardian Angel and the Northgate Peaks trail by the uber classic must do canyoneering route, the Left Fork, aka the Subway. 

superb if not overly specific route beta:

If you know anything about canyoneering, generally the premise is you access the canyon from the top, and emerge out the bottom, and rarely is there an escape from its bowels anywhere in between due to hundred or thousand foot walls on all sides. So if a slot canyon separates you and your objective peak, chances are you'll have to find another way around, which may or may not exist. Luckily for us, some creative and ingenious pioneer created a fantastic and suprisingly direct route that descends into the Subway and back out the other side with nothing more than a short 4th class section. No ropes required! Really cool. The route itself is almost as intriguing as the peak. 

Pete, Court and Steve hadn't done any of the other peaks in the Wildcat Trailhead vicinity so they opted for the longer, 5 peak linkup while the Weiler clan departed for SGA, with hopes of meeting up at some point. We had some minor trouble finding the correct path into the Subway, but inevitably found it, though it took quite a bit longer than expected. Joe's directions state that there are many cairns that leads you down, but we failed to find very many on either the up or down journeys. The boys met up with us just as we entered the canyon proper, having summited 3 peaks already(they did not have a kid) and we all fought our way up the escape gully together. An hour later we found ourselves on the summit after some cross country thrashing and slickrock calf burners. Very cool summit.
Me and Timbre in the Subway

View of North Guardian from SGA

The girls on top
The entrance and exit to the Subway is definitely "off trail". Heck the whole route is. 

The boys took off to bag the 5th peak while we embarked on the identical return slog back. Timbre had been doing ok for most of the day, despite being whipped from time to time by sharp branches that I did a poor job of avoiding. We had to employ what we are now calling a "Timbre Toss" on the 4th class section descending back into the Subway, which is essentially handing Timbre down a short obstacle for fear of slipping and killing the child while downclimbing. This is just good parenting. 
Riding the log

It was a long day but we arrived back at the van 8 hours after departing, 15 miles, 4k', and a bunch of scratches later. Annie and I alone no doubt could have done it in half the time and it would have been way less stressful, as anything is a little more committing with a child, but we managed. 

Sunday after the most crowded sacrament meeting I've ever attended, we went out and found the once-secret-but-now-the-locals-don't-care Utah hills crag, Sunset Alley. Looks fun. 

Monday we set out with Pete and Court to find Crawford Arch, a very subtle but easily seen formation( if you know where to look) high on Bridge Mountain. Despite being visible from the visitor center and within 1 mile of the tunnel road, it ironically takes either a 10 pitch 5.10 or a 10 mile, 4k' totally indirect scrambling route to access it. Court had done the route before, so we recruited him to guide us which was nice of him considering the ample opportunity Zion holds for non-repeatable adventures. Whoever discovered this route to the arch is even more ingenious than the SGA dude. 

More great beta:

The author's description starts off by saying, "this is NOT a hike for the entire family!". Well you don't know our family Joe. We started from the tunnel around 9 am and took our first break down near the entrance to Hepworth wash after Annie had an unfortunate accident jumping off a log into the sand with her back extended, causing acute sharp pain in her back.

Navigating down the canyon to Hepworth Wash
We continued on despite her discomfort(tough mother) and made a slight mistake picking the wrong notch(the correct one is the furthest left) to ascend but corrected without too much delay. This next part of the hike is the craziest. We descended down a steep brushy gully towards the tunnel road, using our full arsenal of Timbre Toss skills, then wrapped around on a ledge to a 5.6 chimney.  The chimney requires the only climbing skills of the outing and allows access to a flat saddle of sorts, then some mild loose sand traversing lands you improbably at the arch.Timbre didn't make it up the chimney, so we took turns watching her while the others went up and saw the arch. The chimney was fun and easy with a fixed handline, and we all escaped without injury. The return trip went well, with only minor Timbre face whippings until a serious one pushed her over the limit, so we took her out of the backpack and carried her the rest of the way. 
5.6 chimney

Under the arch

Looking down towards the visitor center

Court doing what Arches National park won't let you do

This was a 10 mile, 3800' vert adventure that took us about 8 hours. 

We aren't sure if our current justification of what is considered "hiking" in the form of Zion peakbagging with Timbre will increase or decrease the likelihood of her enjoying future outings as she gets older. Maybe we'll tell her she doesn't have a choice. 

The next question we face is whether we can convince ourselves an easy slot canyon like Orderville isn't considered child abuse. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sweatin' it up White Pine

Shreddin the Gnar, or whatever (all quality photos courtesy of Jake)

Ski season is upon us. After last year's debacle involving a massive avalanche and my life almost ending, I seriously debated whether I should continue skiing. Despite my hesitations, I retrieved my lost skis, poles, hat, goggles, etc once spring arrived, enjoyed a summer of running and climbing, and sure enough, winter arrived and I'm skiing again. I didn't do a good job at getting rid of my bad skiing influences, i.e my friends, so they inevitably peer pressured me back into, although it didn't take much to bring me back from sobriety.

I haven't had a plethora of ski days already like some folks out there, but have had some very enjoyable outings so far. We had a great powder day up Beartrap fork after Christmas skiing the trees, and a boney but still quality day up on Kessler though Court's lost ski in the depths of the East Couloir did put a damper on moral, mostly Court's. Luckily he has like 9 pairs of skis.
Court skying off a short drop in the East Couloir before losing his ski in the Bermuda Triangle

Court skiing in Beartrap

Managed to capture the stumble. 

Today was the best day of the year so far, despite the unpredicted sweltering temps. With this last week being terribly cold and windy in the valley, I was prepared for severe bone chilling skiing as we headed up to ski some safe south facing terrain, another one of the classic north side LCC chutes, White Pine. White pine couloir is the last of the major couloirs on the north side I have to ski. Needless to say there was some confusion among the brethren when I said I wanted to ski "White Pine", as that can refer to the trailhead, drainage, the actual lake area, and countless other minor chutes all bearing that name. After clarifying, and making a somewhat annoying pit stop for Pete, we found ourselves skinning up the appointed couloir.

However, after about and hour, and after booting a steep tight section(much exertion), Jake, Pete, and I were baking in the hot sun and being blinded by the solar flare reflection off the snow. We trudged on and up, skinning through lots of firm and breakable crust. Despite us whining as we sweated our guts out and pondering whether this adventure was worth the loss of our future eyesight, the snow ended up a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge: quite crusty at first, but softening significantly with time.

The turns ended up being a lot better than expected, and we enjoyed mostly soft, dense turns down another aesthetic line.

Whenever I get tired and hope someone else will break trail, Jake is conveniently a ways back

Pete with his usual "coat around the waist" stylish skinning 

Boys navigating a short steep choke 
The straight leg technique is an excellent way to break your legs upon impact

What Pete lacks in stylish gear he compensates for in jumping grace.

Does it get much better? Maybe a burrito and Dr Pepper at the car

White pine is another classic, easy access, 3000' "out of the gate" couloir that has a bit of everything. Some steep tight chokes, some open mellow terrain, and a big cliff at the bottom that must be negotiated via a quite narrow chute to the west. Fun!

In other news, little Timbre is 6 months old!

A few weeks old 

Cute little kid. 6 months. When she isn't crying she's a treat. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Random Chossy Zion Peaks

The three peaks we bagged

South Guardian Angel.  I didn't climb it yet.  But it looks cool. 

Great photos like those above here from joe braun. For crappy iphone photos continue reading on.

My immediate family minus the Burningham clan headed down to St George over the Thanksgiving weekend to enjoy some hiking. I decided to test their skills on some Zion choss to see who would be victorious on the sandy sugar hills.

We headed out from the Wildcat Trailhead on the Kolob Terrace Rd for the Northgate Peaks, with my internal intentions to bag North Guardian Angel and both East and West Northgate Peaks somewhat unstated. I'm not sure the family really knew what we were doing. We scrambled through the pass between the Northgate Peaks over to NGA and proceeded to climb the 3rd class slabs to the base of the east ridge. Most people didn't find this too difficult. The East Ridge itself however is 4th class and looks kinda steep from afar, which means nothing too terribly difficult for a climber, but for those unaccustomed to scrambling without  a rope it can be quite unnerving. I led my dad and Caroline (my mom and Rachel decided it looked a bit sketchy for their liking) up the ridge and they did really well considering how loose some spots were along with the exposed sections. They gained expert skills in crabwalking, carefully weighting loose jenga blocks, and trusting feet pasted on slickery slabs. My dad knocked a grapefruit sized rock down which hit me in the arm, but that's part of the game. Annie fed Timbre and then bagged the peak herself. We felt taking Timbre up 4th class was not good parenting.
North Guardian Angel's East Ridge from West Northgate

Great to see this chick out having a good time since most of her time revolves around feeding monster kid

View of the where the 4th class starts, head way right, then way left

Halfway up the ridge with West Northgate behind. I wore my Xmas colors in honor of black friday
Coming across NGA's summit ridge. "It just keeps going!"-Caroline

View across to SGA with Subway below. Next time! 
NGA saddle, with great view of Rams peak on the right

We then schwaked over to East Northgate peak. We lost my dad to the tired crowd but Caroline conceeded to do another one(little did she know there were 2 more) and we bagged that one via some pretty crappy rock on the west side involving pinching some brown sugar while mantling into manzanita with some fairly high consequence fall zone below with Timbre on my back. Bad parenting, but she was asleep. We descended the 2nd class trail on the North side(less fun) and back up to the Northgate Peaks trail. Annie and Caroline seemed a bit tired and Timbre was asleep, so they told me to go ahead onto West Northgate on my own. However, I showed them the cool 3rd class North Ridge and they changed their minds quickly.

Family photo on top of East Northgate. Yes our child can breath

West Northgate slabs

We downclimbed through some volcanic rock and enjoyed the final peak's fun solid scrambling, then headed back to the van. South Guardian Angel is now the only major peak on the Kolob Terrace side I need to bag to accomplish Jared and Buzz's 5 peak linkup, which sounds really cool since you have to descend the complicated ridge system into the Subway from NGA. Maybe later in the Spring my ambitious plan would be to climb all 5 peaks plus descend the Subway IAD!

Map of our peaks and how to get to SGA

Day 2 of my hiking tour took us to Water Canyon outside of Polygamy town Hildale. Jared had done a loop up Squirrel and down Water, but that 11 mile RT was a bit heavy for our group. We hiked up Water Canyon which was interesting, not very adrenaline packed but cool scenery. It was 2.5 miles up to the mesa where we consumed a large amount of Chex Mix. Later we fought over dinner about whether to watch "property brothers" or football.
Water canyon

After church the family headed home and we went back to Zion. Annie was tired and so was Timbre so I bagged Tabernacle Dome on my own. Tabernacle is located near the Left Fork trailhead, and I started directly across from "True North", a vacation rental house. I would not recommend this. It involved heinous bushwaking on volcanic rock through 3 separate gullies. The better approach is up the road another half mile to a big open flat area with a gargoyled NPS road. Its a bit longer but way less horrible, unless you like that sort of thing. I came back on this and it was very nice. 2.5 miles RT with around 900 feet of gain.

Access through the bottom cliffs was puzzling and required adept route finding, something I am not good at. I eventually found a cool tunnel/slot/rain runoff feature that I could stem up. Not sure if this is the only way up but it would be pretty neat if it was. More sandy manzanita winding through sandstone blobs provided access to the quite steep 3rd class friction of the North ridge. Like many Zion Scrambles, various trees with webbing appeared along the way for those who find descending a bit too scary for their liking. The view was pretty cool and my watch showed 27 min to get to the top, which would be far faster if you knew the route. Surprised to see 6 people had summitted in the last month since this peak seemed fairly obscure, though close to the road. We drove back to St George and slept at the Chuckawalla TH in our new van.
Tabernacle Dome from nice flat approach

Looking down the 3rd class friction. Mangled brown access rd visible

Standard Zion anchor
The weird slot thing that allowed passage to upper terrace

Van life!

I'm slowly learning climbing is any respect with little Timbre is a nightmare. She just won't sit by herself for any length of time without screaming, and praise heaven if a nap ever occurs. We went out to Turtle Wall so I could try my luck on a 13a called "the actual parchments" but it did not go well. Luckily some other folks were out there and gave me a catch on it while Annie patiently attended to Timbre's needs. I've never seen a kid so tired that refuses to sleep. No send but one day of effort on a 13 isn't really realistic at this stage for me. Maybe I'll be back in the future. I'm hoping maybe by next spring season Timbre will be walking and maybe that will be better so she can roam around. But who knows. Multi pitch trad climbing is essentially done for Annie and I till our kids are like 10, but I was hoping sport would be doable. It hasn't been so far. But she's pretty fun so I guess we'll keep her.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pre Daylight Savings Time Peakbagging

I hate daylight savings time, at least in the fall. Who cares if its light in the morning? We all get up, go to work, and sit inside. I want daylight after work so I can actually go do some fun stuff outside. But whether or not I dislike this tradition I have to accept it. So in the final week before the post work activities largely come to a halt with the sun setting at the unfortunate hour of 530 pm, I decided to try to tag a few more peaks that were on my list: Squaw Peak, Grandview Peak, and Spanish Fork Peak.

Squaw Peak-Monday

This peak is really accessible, probably similar to Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake via Church Fork in mileage and vertical. Its 7.4 miles RT, with 2820' of climbing. For the average BYU zoobie on a date it might take half a day, but if you can run it you'll be up and down in less time than the average Provo Temple session, which can easily be seen from the summit. I gave it a solid effort and managed 2nd on the strava ascent leaderboard, with only the mythical creature Sas Quatch besting my time. (see here for clarification). Fun outing, the Provo folks are lucky to have this peak so close.

Looking down the south face of Squaw Peak. Rock canyon trail seen below

Grandview Peak-Wednesday

My gps died in city creek, imagine the blue line connected to the other blue line to make a nice loop

This one is definitely off the radar. Located high above city creek canyon, its isn't really easily accessible from any one direction. Three-four distinct possiblities exist, and they are all involved. I recruited Court for this outing since it involved a bike ride/running combo, which he tends to enjoy. We rode up city creek canyon 5 miles to Rotary Park, then took the unmarked North Creek trail up to Rudy's Flat. From here we more or less followed the ridge east all the way to the summit, which involved some trail, but mostly psuedo-trail/off trail ridging. We summitted right at dark and it was pretty cold. Then came the descent. I had preplanned to descend via the trail-less, possibly horrendous but extremely direct variation down Cottonwood Gulch into City Creek. I like direct routes, and despite the high likelihood we would be jungle shrubbing for 3 miles, it seemed more adventurous, less time consuming, and pure than returning the way we came or continuing on towards swallow rocks.

We started down with headlamps ablaze and found a surprisingly enjoyable dirt stream gully thing in bottom of the U shaped valley with minimal shrubbery and we cruised, taking only 30 min to get from the summit to city creek. Highly recommend this 3rd class adventure running descent. Imagine a less bike friendly version of the Bobsled in the University Foothills and you get the picture. 15 min down city creek and we were back at our bikes. This sweet loop(sans bike mileage) was 10.4 miles and 4400' feet of climbing, which took us around 2:45 hours, plus the 30 min or so of bike time.
Ridge running

Court yelping, "ow!" when the trail disappeared

Almost to the summit

Spanish Fork Peak(aka Maple Mountain)-Saturday

Annie grew up at the base of this peak and has summitted it numerous times, even going so far as to call it "her mountain". I guess the Mapleton folks refer to this peak as "Maple Mountain", but to everyone else its Spanish Fork Peak. The author of the summitpost description has some harsh declarations regarding this discrepancy:

Some locals refuse to call this mountain Spanish Fork Peak, instead calling it "Maple Mountain" or "Mapleton Mountain." This seems to be borne out of some simmering rivalry between David (Mapleton) and Goliath (Spanish Fork City). USGS, understandably, sided with Goliath. Best advice for residents of Mapleton (which exists only because it seceded from Springville in the 1910s, with the blessing of the Utah Supreme Court) is to get over it. The name is Spanish Fork Peak.

I decided I needed to summit it as some point to honor Annie's youth and also because I was intrigued by the Dorais bro's ski video from last year. I was happy to discover there were trails on both sides of the peak, so I could traverse it rather than do an out and back, which I am not fond of. Starting in SP canyon, I headed up the  less popular and steep Sterling Hollow trail and after an hour or so I hit a big open meadow with remains from a large hunting camp. I was unable to find the trail from here and it was getting pretty socked in, so I decided to beeline it north straight up a huge talus field into the clouds with hopes I'd hit the peak. The trail supposedly traversed west around a subpeak but I wasn't going to go spend a ton of time looking for it. Luckily the clouds parted right as I hit the ridge, unveiling I was just below the summit, marked by a giant triangular metal structure.
Talus field where I lost the trail

The talus became tedious so I vouched for straight up 50 degree weeds instead

I got lucky and my direct talus approach worked out perfectly. Summit just ahead
Wanna-be Timp like metal summit structure

Maple Canyon Lake on the descent with a herd of elk
It started to snow on the summit, so I continued north on my planned descent route of the right fork of Maple Canyon, the more common approach. Everything went smooth and 7 miles and 5300' of knee bashing later, I was back at the canyon mouth and met Annie to help with the shuttle. Only 2:41 for this 12.5 mile adventure. Amazing what ground you can cover with some simple fitness.

Now that the sun is gone, the headlamp may be my best friend for after work activities, pending the weather cooperates.