Monday, June 29, 2009


After some limited planning and even more limited training, the Rock Star and I made our way up to Mt Shasta (at 14179 ft) to give a lesser-traveled route a summit attempt. We decided to give the Hotlum-Bolum ridge a try, although up until Friday morning, we were still tossing around other route ideas, like Hotlum-Wintun ridge, West Face... even Avalanche Gulch etc... 

rental boots vs my boots. no contest.

Looking at my beloved boots we thought that the sole peeling away from the toe might elicit some leakage, and I went to the Fifth Season to rent a pair of plastics before we got started.

We marked our way beyond the treeline with a GPS (after having been warned that getting back to the trail is one of the most challenging parts of this route), took an unnecessary detour up a big rock scramble to make our way up to camp among the moraines at 9500 ft only to find that a little longer pursuit up a snowslope to our right would have gotten us up there with significantly less fatigue (oops). In the end, since we didn't cross the Bergschrund (known henceforth as a "BFC" for "big fucking crevasse"), we figured this more challenging ascent still gave us credit for having done a "moderately technical" route...

It was remarkably hot considering how far north we were and at such an elevation. 

camp among the moraines at 9500 ft

Our camp was gorgeous and comfortable with spectacular views of the peak - but by the time we got there I was seriously regretting the boot rental as my feet were extremely unhappy. The next day we got going around 4am, which was probably about 3 hours too late for the conditions. We saw a handful of headlamps shining up the ramp before we headed up ourselves, and they must have gotten started hours earlier. 

sunrise hitting the summit, we're partway through the moraines and heading up to the next snow slope

By 10 am, 2 major things happened that prevented us from getting to summit:
  1. my rental boots were trying to amputate my feet, I felt like a giant whiner but each step was just agonizing, and 
  2. the sun was warming up the snow so fast that the ice our crampons were happily clamping into until then suddenly gave way into slush and we were "postholing" our way up in knee-deep mush. 
the Rock Star returning from his apex near the Bergschrund

We tried to press on to the Bergshrund at least, I caved at 11700 ft and the Rock Star made it to 12000 ft - then we admitted defeat but committed to give it a go next year - perhaps a little earlier in the season. And with a broken in pair of new boots for myself. Better safe then dead I always say!

my view back down the slope beyond my crampon, it's steeper than it looks - our camp is near the end of the "tongue of moraines" - the flattish looking stuff for those who don't know what I'm saying...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

help me find...

Canada flag/maple leaf knee socks. Seriously, why do these not exist online??? I have found USA, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, the UK... but no Canada. This is wrong! If you find said Canadian knee/over the knee socks, I'm a size 10 foot - and thus a size large sock. Please and thank you.

Tasting the Terroir - sneak peak!

After much research, both of the reading kind AND the drinking kind, I almost have a finalized list of committed vineyards to feature in my class this fall. All are estate single varietals, and all are truly unique from each other. This is looking like a fabulous line-up and I'm so excited!!!

If you're in the area, go and check these wineries out - tell them I sent you! They are really working with my limited budget, and I wouldn't be using any of them if I didn't think their wine was great. Of course, what really makes a wine "great", is that you love it!

The For Sures (as in, I actually have the wine in my possession)

The Almost Certain (as in, I have a price worked out, but no wine in my possession yet)

The Anticipated and Greatly Hopeful (as in, things look good, but nothing "set in stone" yet)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Great SW USA Adventure

After much fund-raising and heinous heinous planning, I embarked on leading a group of students and my sister on a 10 day camping excursion from Bakersfield to Carlsbad Caverns and back. With the exception of one flat tire, we literally had no problems at all - some sketchy weather at times, but all in all, the mission in its entirety was accomplished with success.

Below are highlight photos from each day, the rest of them can be found here.

Day 1: Death Valley - the scenery was spectacular, and I've been yearning to see the fabled moving rocks up close in person for years, so this was for sure the highlight for me. Way too cool!

Day 2: Zion (and some rain) - the checkerboard mesa was pretty spectacular, although I can't seem to forget the extreme craving for pancakes after we saw oodles and oodles of stacked up crossbedded sandstone...

Day 3: In the rain we saw Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks, but having been to both before, and always coming away with the feeling that photos just don't do the grandeur justice, I have to say that the fake cops lining every small Utah and Arizona town were truly the highlight of that day. I suppose the purpose of the dummy cops is defeated when 9 people are poking in the windows of all the cop cars pointing and laughing and taking photos...

Day 4: From the Glen Canyon Dam to Sunset Crater to Montezuma's Castle & Well, and ending at Meteor Crater - the highlight of this long day for me must have been laughing at the photos of two students: one wearing a crooked tree as a mustache, and the other wearing a "junior ranger" vest in a gift shop - though they were hysterical, I'm showing you the craziness that is Montezuma's Castle.

Day 5: The spectacular Petrified Forest (and Painted Desert), followed up by Roswell and the Bottomless Lakes in New Mexico. Some of the petrified trees were impressively large...

Day 6: A morning at Carlsbad Caverns, the by the Permian Reef Trail (Texas) and onwards to camp at Rockhound State Park (obvious choice for a geology group). My highlight is the unlabeled cave formation of such obvious nature...

Day 7: A lengthy but scenic drive through the Sonoran Desert (yes, I realize that most of the trip was actually in the Sonoran Desert - but this day went through the actual National Monument) - while the highlight was likely the "Desert Dance Party" at the camp at the Petroglyph Site, this Chuckwalla I saw was pretty freaking cool.

Day 8: An excursion to the Salton Sea (as stinky as promised) brought us full circle back to California, and while we camped at Palm Canyon in Borrego Springs (Anza-Borrego State Park), which was beautiful and delightful and comfortable, the highlight has to be a dead fish on a stick. GROSS!

Day 9: Joshua Tree National Park - I FINALLY made it inside the park boundaries - and the spheroidal weathering of the monzogranite is really what makes this place stand out. Especially with butt- and whale-shaped rocks...

Day 10: Departure for home via my old faithful: the grand Mojave Desert. After over a year of threatening to do so, the Creech finally went for a swim in one of the brine trenches. We all nearly died of laughter.