Piute Mountain From Robinson Creek

September 29th to October 1st, 2018
Piute Mountain (10,541')
Day 1: 10.8 miles, 3,100'
Day 2: 16.8 miles, 4,200'
Day 3: 10.2 miles, 800'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

September has been a rough month for me. After a strong summer a confluence of health issues forced me to drop out of several trips and dial back others.

I was finally starting to feel at least somewhat better though not quickly enough to salvage the four-day buttkicker trip to Zion I had scheduled for this weekend. When it became apparent that it was going to be best to reschedule that trip Jen and I decided to head up to the Sierra and try something moderate without the pressure of having a group relying on me. After looking at options we settled on Piute Mountain located in a remote part of Yosemite and accessed out of Twin Lakes (the one north of Mono Lake not the Mammoth one.)

Sibling Sierra Sojourn To Mount Silliman

September 21st to 23rd, 2018
Mount Silliman (11,188')
Day 1: 5.2 miles, 3,400'
Day 2: 2 miles, 1,400'
Day 3: 5 miles, 100'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

A little known personal fact is that I was adopted when I was just a few days old. The next 30 some years I didn't have any contact with my birth family despite a few attempts from both sides to find each other.

Then came a Facebook message from a stranger pointing me to a post on a Texas adoption registry. After a little online digging and 9 months of waiting for someone to check their Facebook non-friend messages I went from being a lifelong only child to having two half sisters and a half brother.


I got to meet Clare, JoAnn, and my birthmother Kim for the first time last Christmas when visiting family in Texas. (My half-brother Adam is in the military and was in Hawaii at the time).

A good time was had by all and when we got to talking Clare, whose hobbies include Crossfit and running marathons dressed as Wonder Woman, was interested in trying out one of the Sierra backpacks I'm always talking and posting about. So I threw out a few options and we settled on a three day to Mount Silliman in Sequoia.

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - September 2018 With Bonus Peddle To The Paddle Action

August 29th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month a group of us get together and paddle Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center and paddle over to Pizza Nova in the main harbor in a combination of kayaks and SUPs. There we dock our boats, partake in a feast of pizza and beer, and then paddle back to the cars. We do this all year round and in pretty much all conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip-flops.
You can find write-ups of other pizza paddles here. For notifications on when we're doing the next one see our facebook group Pizza Paddle Associates. (Send me a message so I know you're not a spam bot!)

We've still been doing these monthly -ish but the conditions haven't been ideal for pictures or a write-up. That's unfortunate as we only have another month or two of launching in daylight and enjoying sunsets on the water but at least this months outing was a return to form.

Sawtooth Peak, Needham Mountain, and Mineral Peak In Mineral King

August 17th to 19th, 2018
Sawtooth Peak (12,343')
Needham Mountain (12,520')
Mineral Peak (11,615')
Day 1: 5.6 mile s, 3,700'
Day 2: 5.7 miles, 3,800'
Day 3: 6.7 miles, 1,600'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

This was yet another set of peaks I'd eyed for a number of years but never got around to actually climbing meaning they'd been standing out as the only remaining red dots in the area on my Peakbagger SPS map.

Since pretty much everyone we know who has tried to do both Sawtooth and Needham with a group as a two-day backpack has ended up turning back on Needham we decided to make it three and toss in the unlisted Mineral Peak as a bonus climb. We also advertised it as intending to maximize the 3rd class as much as was reasonable and took the opportunity to camp at the less visited Crystal Lake vs the more commonly visited Monarch Lakes.

Mount Ian Campbell WTC Experience Trip

July 28th & 29th, 2018
Mount Ian Campbell (10,616')
Day 1: 4.5 miles, 2,200'
Day 2: 7.3 miles, 1,400'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Ian Campbell is a relatively minor named peak near Florence Lake in the Western Sierra. It's not on any list and doesn't particularly stand out from a distance but its located above a spectacular lake that's only a few miles in along a seldom used trailhead. Combine this with the fact the campsite is low enough to allow campfires and the lake warm enough to be ideal for swimming a good chunk of the summer and you have all the ingredients for one of my favorite WTC Experience Trips to lead.

This is the second time I've done the trip with the first time being with Jen Blackie in October 2016. The only real downside is that the drive is on the long side but that can be helped that by having people camp along the way and starting later than usual since it's such a short day in.

This trip happened in the middle of a bad fire season with the Ferguson Fire outside Yosemite causing massive smoke problems across the Sierra. In fact Yosemite itself was evacuated during this time. We decided to do the trip anyway after looking at the smoke modeler here and for the most part it wasn't that bad except in the late afternoons but be aware the views are usually even more spectacular. Unfortunately conditions like these are just a fact of life in the Sierra particularly with the last few years of drought conditions and warmer weather.

Ortega Falls Rock Climbing After Work In Orange County

July 24th, 2018
Ortega Falls Climbing Area
[Pics] [Map]

Most people react with disbelief when you say there's a place to go outdoor rock climbing in Orange County. Outside of a few bouldering areas most of places we climb are too far away for an after work climbing session but there is the small area off Ortega Highway known as Ortega Falls which has a few top rope / trad routes for those willing to brave the canyon traffic.

We planned this for a weeknight since I seem to have filled up all the weekends with out of town trips through at least October. Heat was a concern (especially with the record heat we've been seeing lately) but the alcove where the climbs are located does get shade relatively early and if you're lucky you get a bit of a breeze up top.

Mount Mallory And Lone Pine Peak From Meysan Lakes

July 20th to 22nd, 2018
Mount Mallory (13,845')
Lone Pine Peak (12,944')
Day 1: 5.1 miles, 3,500'
Day 2: 6.3 miles, 3,700'
Day 3: 8.4 miles, 2,500'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

This was a three-day trip primarily aimed at students who had taken the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course though it was open to anyone who follows Sierra Club outings.


This trip came about because Olancha Group Leader Garry McCoppin had been here in the 1980s with a precursor to Wilderness Travel Course when he broke his leg during a glissade gone wrong. He's now in his 70s (and kicking more ass than you'd think possible at that age) and wanted to get up there again to see the area.

I'm always up for an adventure with Garry and we planned a moderate sounding three-day adventure. The first day would be an easy-ish hike into camp where we'd spend the afternoon relaxing and maybe get in a lake swim or two. Then on the second day we would follow the trail up to Mesan Lake and climbed a chute to access Mount Mallory and Irvine. (We didn't make the latter due to weather but I'm not overly heartbroken as it really looks like it's better done from Arc Pass.)

And then we threw in Lone Pine Peak on the last day because it's a) a fun climb and b) so damn impressive from 395 that many people assume it must be Mount Whitney.

Temple Crag From South Fork Big Pine Creek

July 14th & 15th, 2018
Temple Crag (12,976')
7.2 miles, 4,300'
9.3 miles, 3,100'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

Temple Crag is one of those peaks that is very well known and yet relatively seldom climbed.  It straddles the North and South Fork of Big Pine Creek areas and is probably right up there with Whitney and Lone Pine Peak in how commonly people post pictures of it online and for good reason.


This is the view of Temple Crag from 3rd Lake in North Fork from a trip a few years back.  It pops up early on as you're climbing up the drainage and just dominates the sky.

It's yet another peak I'd tried to plan periodically but never made it up.  The closest I'd ever come was maybe 1/2 of the way up Contact Pass after a failed attempt at the North Palisade U Notch turned into Sil and Gayley with time to spare.  That time my battered knees and the horrible slog up the pass caused me to turn back and eventually make plans for this weekend to get it via South Fork of Big Pine Creek along with Randy de los Santos and Gracia Plascencia.

Mount Emerson SE Face Route Piute Pass

July 8th, 2017
Mount Emerson (13,204') - SE Face Route
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Mount Emerson is a relatively accessible mountain on the Sierra Peak Section list located off to the north of Loch Leven as you climb Piute Pass. I climbed it years ago via the standard 2nd / 3rd class route on my way to climb Pilot Knob and Four Gables and I remember at the time looking at the description of the 5.4 technical route and looking down at what looked like a very gnarly ridge. Since I generally prefer the overall experience of backpacking in the Sierra over shorter day hikes it's sat there on my list of things to do eventually.

Then this weekend rolled around and Jen and I were looking for something interesting to do after coming off the San Juan Islands paddle trip on Wednesday. I'd flown back into town Thursday morning to work for two days while Jen was driving back from Seattle and would be passing by the Eastern Sierra. We didn't feel up to planning anything too involved and hit upon the idea of knocking out two easier technical alpine climbs which turned into Crystal Crag Saturday and this on Sunday.

The route description for Emmerson lists it as a 5.4 but I would caution against underestimating the difficulty. This is an alpine route and while the pitches aren't incredibly difficult they are awkward in places and the anchor options are very limited. I know of one bailout and one major accident that happened up there and after having done it myself now I can understand a little better what might have happened. In addition once you reach the ridge there is an intense 4th class scramble that requires some not insignificant route finding. But the reward is an intense route up a peak that's fairly pedestrian by other routes.

Crystal Crag North Arete Route Mammoth California

July 7th, 2018
Crystal Crag (10,377') - North Arete 5.7 Route
4.15 miles, 1,700'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Thursday morning I'd just gotten back from a 5 day kayak touring trip up in Washington. So after two days back at work I found myself at another weekend trying to decide what to do.

If you're expecting me to say I stayed home and caught up on sleep you've probably not been reading this blog very long!

Instead it was off to the eastern sierra to meet Jen Blackie who had driven straight through from Seattle. I'd had just enough time to do laundry and load up the rock climbing gear in the Jeep for two days of alpine climbing starting with Crystal Crag in Mammoth.