Sunday, November 29, 2015

Long lines in Siberia Slow the Yasmine Effort

Sometimes it's just fun to "call an audible"... grab the gear and go.  We call it an "unsanctioned" trip, and this trip was all about going back to finish an idea whose time had come.  Apparently we weren't the only ones up for a 3 mile ONE way hike that day.  We should have known by the fact that Jim and I (early scouts for camp) stayed on the BLM Playa Thursday night because campgrounds were full. We did the morning prowl on Friday for a campsite.  Which we did with great success by the way ;)  

My panorama of this part of Wonderland North (Siberia) shows only half the teams ON the walls. There are people visable here from Leon Redbone on the far left. Yasmine Bleeth in the center all the way to Weo on the far right. If you zoom in on this image you can see them.  - What you don't see is the group roping up for George's route. Or the ones just finishing up the approach about to get on Gandy, and the rest of our group waiting for someone to rap down from Dos Chi Chis so they could get on. 
Recall last month the Rain and Lightening kept us from hiking to Outer Mongolia and Siberia, where Steve has had a pending date.  That has been pending much longer than these past few weeks.  Some say years. With over 1,000 climbs in J.T. Steve had NEVER been on Yasmine Bleeth (5.9***) and we were bound and determined to make that happen.  Clearly the people in his office were waiting to hear how his "date" went.  Most likely even his wife wanted him to get this out of his system. 

Here's a sequence from Dos Chi Chis
a 3 Star 5.10a classic
So I won't keep you waiting...  He most certainly had his day with the beautiful stone face siren call. 

Unfortunately the route only became available as we were packing up to leave (after 7 hours) and then only because Alfred and Derrick (the Californians) offered their toprope. 

Because I was packed and ready to go (we still had the 3 mile hike in front of us) I only have photos of the route to the right of Yasmine.... Dos Chi Chis .  But that is no less beautiful and satisfying to look at. 

You'll see the traffic when I zoom out....the other pair
 (to his left) are about to do Yasmine Bleeth.  

You can see a party on "George's Route" on the right.
That was busy all day too.

These were taken with an iPhone 6.
With the new moving image feature.
On my phone if you touch and HOLD the image, you get to watch "Dancing with the Stars"

After Steve tops out on pitch one, 
Bill follows trailing a rope for Jim.....
and Jim....trails no rope?
Why? is Bryan not coming up?

Bryan?....oh Hell NO.....
The Command comes from above as Steve drops a rope

and Bryan follows...

This young couple from Kentucky
(who were setting up left of Steve in the photos above)
 descended from the top, in a tandem style rappel.  
That was cool enough on its own....but look closely....they are "Barefooted" !!!


Happy Thanksgiving to all.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rescue Rappel Training with Grandpa

These photos are from a beautiful October day in Joshua Tree National Park.  Climbing at the Cathouse area (easy access to the cars, as it was a rainy weekend) where we saw a cloudy but rain free day on Saturday with the Kids.  The 5.6 route called SideStep proved to a slight challenge for the kids, but they proved they were "Smelsser Offspring" as they made quick work of it while mom, Erin (Smelsser) Walls waited her turn.

While it looks like it was a top rope, Morgan (age 8) was actually trailing a rope for the next climber, back clipping at each bolt, while Grandpa held the other end of the trailing rope.  Keeping each boy from swinging off of the 5.6 portion of the route, he guided both Kellen (6) and brother Morgan (pictured) as Jim belayed from above.  Anchoring each child at the top, Jim then belayed Grandpa up after each one.

Here's how Grandpa decided to get them down.  Tandem Rappel.   First attempt with Kellan makes it clear the sling could be longer.

When he went back up to get Morgan, Steve brought a longer sling and that made Morgan's rap down a little more stable.

Grandpa had better train them well, because these boys were tearing up the rock.  Oh yea... and there's one more right behind them.  He would have been right up there with his brothers, had dad not held him down. He had the best seat in the house for sure.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rain, Lightening keep us out of Outer Mongolia but NOT Out of Options

We all watched in the days before the October pilgrimage to JTree.  40% chance of rain. No problem, it MIGHT rain.  Creeping up to 50 and 60% on the day we left, we were still unconcerned.  We know Joshua Tree. It could be raining in Hidden Valley while the sun shines at Jumbo Rock. Besides we have rain gear and love to use it.  Our plans consisted of:
  • 5 hr drive to Joshua Tree
  • Jumbo Rock on Wednesday night.  Check.  
  • Any campground we want ;) SWEET!
  • Hike to Outer Mongolia in the morning..  EARLY !
  • Send the long anticipated Yasmine Bleeth (a 3 star, 2 pitch, 5.9) before Steve's grand kids arrive that afternoon.  We knew we couldn't hike them that far.  The rest of the weekend would be full of the easy stuff (the inner me smiles) so we can get the kids (8, 6 and 3) TO the climbs, let alone UP them.
But alas rain gear won't protect you from lightening (somebody should work on that) and a 3 mile hike in, across the dessert, for a multi pitch climb seemed ill advised that morning.  After all we are grown adults and I've read that article in Climbing Magazine on the Laws of Lightening more times than I care to admit.

There was no sleeping during the thunderstorm that first night.  Even tucked in base camp we felt the wind like never before (and we KNOW JT is windy) but the Thunder & Lightening demanded attention and the Rain!  OMG the RAIN !  I made sure our lights were on in base camp and the door unlocked, fully expecting the tent campers with us to come running in soaking wet.
But nothing.  They had chosen (wisely) to pitch their tents on high ground.    The morning brought more rain and no shortage of DARK clouds so we decided to go to CapRock area for the day and wait for the kids to arrive and the weather to clear.

Steve, as usual points us to the perfect destination (not to far from the car) and a short little face (sport) climb with 3 bolts that proved to be a challenge just to get off the ground.  The off and on again rain was both annoying and refreshing, and we got used to the occasional mists.

 We then walked over to the South East Face where Jim led Catch a Falling Star (5.8) and was reminded of how intimidating leading Traditional Crack Climbs can be when we train at the gym (with GriGris)  and find so many sport routes outside these days that require no more than a quick inspection, quick draw, clip and move.

At 60 (or any age) you must remember where fear comes from and how to move past it.  

With the help of Steve, Bryan and I who did our best to remind him that it was only a 5.8 in JT (with all of the friction that provides) and not a 5.11 in the gym....He was able to channel his inner JZ spirit and traversed his way across the crack and turned the face moves to make the summit.

This is what it's all about.   Overcoming a private battle with your inner self.  Fully supported (emotionally and via belay) by your friends.

As many of you know, moving beyond the obligatory comments of "nice" to really offer encouragement isn't always easy.  Especially for those of us who climb with our spouses of 30+ years.  Sometimes when he leads, my heart is in my throat.  I prefer the official chatter when I'm the belayer.  ON BELAY, CLIMBING, CLIMB.  Besides not being a "leader" myself, I know me telling someone who feels lead out and pumped to focus and work trough it (when I couldn't do it myself) seems a little hollow.  But I know it helps for a partner to feel like his/her partner can do it.  It takes a team.  There's no I in SEND!

(I just made that up)  Really... I think there needs to be a HERE IT IS:

BUY IT HERE - and benefit the Rock Phoenoms in Tempe, AZ - $20 each - Need 10 people to order to actually print the BUY NOW.

I know that's crazy....but that's the world we live in.  Stay tuned.  My next post will be of a daring RESCUE RAPPEL out at the Cat House.

Thanks for reading.

Kay Zahn

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Palindrome for the Long Hot Summer

Well I guess you can teach old dogs new tricks.

ONE - We "learned" that after the hot Hot days in Jack's Canyon, there's a place to go called Blue Ridge Reservoir where you can jump in and cool off.  We'd heard about it, but never wanted to leave camp to drive 15 miles just to get wet.

TWO - The Water can be FUN.  After spending a week with family in Priest Lake Idaho, I tried out my brother's new HobiCat Mirage, Paddle Kayak.    

Yes, that's it.  And what better Palindrome to buy for Kay than (wait for it) a KAYAK !   Not just any kayak mind you. One for the two of us.  Partners like always.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jacks Canyon like the Wild Wild West

One would think that we'd learn.  June in Arizona is a hot Hot HOT place. But just when you think there is no relief, you realize that dropping (or hiking) down into the earth is a COOL thing to do.  Jack's Canyon outside Winslow is full of cool things to do, especially if you climb.   Besides base camp has a fan or two (we don't need no stinking air conditioning) so sleeping wasn't as hard as it was last year when we were here, in a tent.. in June!

Once again we met some interesting folk, this time from Texas.  We had a beer and shared stories before going to bed for the night, only to hear (about an hour later) a large BLAST (boom?  shot?)  and then another.  Jim immediately said that was gunfire, but I wasn't so sure.  We certainly didn't hear screaming or the fateful "he's been shot" or anything like that, so we quickly went back to sleep.  The next morning we heard from our

Texas friends the she nearly stepped on the "rattler" that he shot and killed.

Where was it?  We wanted to see for ourselves.  "Up in that tree," he told us.

UP? In the tree? She almost stepped on it?

Two shots to kill a retreating snake? Where are you from again?  Oh yea, Texas.  Never mind the fact that on the board where you sign in for the FREE camping here, it clearly says that discharging a firearm was prohibited.  Did I mention he was from Texas?  They don't need no stinkin' rules! Get these M.F'ng snakes out my M.F'ng campground!   

OK I'll move on.  And, this is sort of big...I don't know why I didn't give this a HEADLINE, but I "ticked" a LEAD this trip. My first lead in 25+ years (I'll save you any math...I'm 57) but back then I didn't lead much anyway.  So this was big. OK a 5.5 sport face on a boulder off of the wall....but yea.. I did that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cryptic and other Classics tick off the Anniversary Weekend in JTree

Happy Anniversary to us.  31 years and still going strong.  This weekend we did a couple of JTree classics, starting with a quick ascent of "Cryptic" on the Headstone Boulder just to remind ourselves where we were.  We are so lucky.  5 hours door to door, brings us to JTree and at our age we can go whenever we want.  Who can stop us ;)

Then for a first time (for us in JTree anyway) we REPEATED a favorite line (Black Tide - aka: Stitcher Quits) just for the FUN OF IT.  I mean it's ALL fun, but we love to tick off the new routes from our worn out guidebook.

Speaking of which by the way, my REAL tick list is on Mountain Project.  That never gets old ;)

Where are the photos ?  That's just it...I'll try to find photos of base camp and our beautiful JTree campground (Jumbo Rock - Mid Week - the BEST) but when it's just the two of us, we get few photos of climbing.

One of us is always on belay and the other climbing.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year from JT

Echo Rock, featuring EBGBs et al on 12/31/2013
We were hoping to do the line called "Stitcher Quits" this day.
Luckily the sun came out TOMORROW.

Happy New Year from our Base Camp to Yours. We are lucky enough to have spent the week in Joshua Tree (and you thought we'd had enough of the holiday weekends after Thanksgiving.)

It turned out to be a "little" less crowded, and a  LOT (lot) colder.  But I really feel like I've made progress in my tolerance to cold.

We put in a reasonable number of routes for our age group.  Considering it was just the "two of us" and not JZ and the Boys, we were able to climb at MY rate with a few extra routes for Jim.

New Year's Eve (day) snow plows on the Park Blvd.
Wednesday the 31st was the only day we couldn't climb, so we went out and took pictures of the park.  Saw at least two snow plows working the main road and the parking lots and the temperatures were mid 20's.  Too cold, even for the hardest of the hard core.  

As expected however, when the sun came out in the New Year, so did the climbers.  

The right number of layers and the right attitude can make all the difference in the world.   Yet no matter how many layers you wear, or how many pep talks you can give yourself, it's very hard to take your boots off in the snow to put on climbing shoes. But that's just what we did.  

Jim as always, ready to jump on, but ME....
I'm SO Proud of ME !
So here's the trip timeline.  We left Tempe at 5 am on Sunday.  Arrived before 10am at Jumbo Rock campground and while everything looked FULL, we drove right up to a site that accommodated our new Base Camp just perfectly.

That's right, I said BASECAMP!  We have treated ourselves to a perfect little travel trailer (circa 2001) and we had HOT WATER (aka: washed dishes and hair) an XM radio so basecamp ROCKED, and a heater that kept us around 40 degrees all night long. A blessing because while Sunday and Monday were beautiful weather the landscape in the winter can change dramatically. 

Monday Morning - Crisp, breezy but beautiful.
On Monday we were armed with beta from Steve.  A few ideas to stay out of the wind and IN the sun, we headed off to Quail Springs area and Trashcan Rock.  There we did a couple of routes.  As predicted however it was a bit of a zoo (fun, but a zoo) with tourists, families of climbers with the kids on the ropes and just a little too crowded for us.  Added to the Ticklist however was: B2 - a little 5.3 crack up to the top (some would free solo but not when you climb with your wife) setting up  a TR for me, and then one for him on the face to the left, Profundity 5.10a.  Then we moved around the corner and did Cranny 5.8 little set of double cracks.

JZ on top of B3, with Profundity on the near left face. 

Cranny, runs up the cracks just to the righ of the sun.
This was as much shade as I wanted!
Waiting (and belaying) at the TOP.  MY handsome husband.
Close to the West Entrance and needing gas (remember we drove the Dura Max, Diesel and pulled basecamp) we decided to go into town to fill up and grab a new guide book.  The second we left the park however we were reminded that it was a holiday weekend.  The line to enter the park went nearly 3 miles down the road.  REALLY.  Luckily we were staying at Jumbo Rock and it made more sense to go down to 29 palms and come in the other entrance.  Giving us the perfect opportunity to stop at Stirrup Tanks for a little reconnaissance for Steve and a chance for Jim to TR an unknown line (even with the new book) he had eyed last trip.  3 bolts but no info so maybe with the boys he'd have lead it, but with your wife.... he listened to that little voice in his head... cuz it was ME.
Bolts.  3 of them. Not in the book.  Jim TR'd and votes it a 5.10+ (d maybe?)
Next time Steve will put in his vote, so stay tuned and if you know what this is, please let us know.

This is for you Steve.  We have more and will share on Thursday!
Coming back into Jumbo Rock for the evening we were so happy to have arrived the day prior. There was a constant stream of people arriving and searching for a site.  Most were disappointed, but if they read this blog, they'd have a back up plan...right?  (see previous Thanksgiving post)

Tuesday we got up and again looked up into blue skies and sunshine.  The temperatures had dropped however and as we drove from Jumbo Rock further IN to the park, it was clear that the storm we had heard about was going to happen.
The storm was coming, but there was still time.

But there was still a little time.  Armed with our new guide book we headed to Little Hunk Wall at Echo Rock to look for a 2 star 5.8 called Incandescent.

Guidebook or not, it took us a while to sort out the Little Hunk East Side, West Side, and Right side ;) until we went "around" the formation to the North East Wall and the Right Side became clearer.  There we found it and more.

We may have spent a little too long checking out the area before starting to climb, and then it didn't help that Jim forget his climbing shoes at the truck and had to jog back.  (Sucked for him - I just layed in a cave and watched little white flurries start to come down)

Little Hunk North Side, kept us out of the wind but nothing could stop the snow.
By the time he was done it was SNOWING, and it didn't stop until the next day!
This is our fire on Tuesday evening.
This is how it looked on Wednesday morning.
So Wednesday (New Year's Eve) found us and everyone else, in parkas and boots, sneaking out for an hour or two every now and again.  A couple of hikes, games of Scrabble, the Allman Brothers Concert on XM Radio, a lot of Patron (along with other libations)
Basecamp was VERY VERY good to us.
and we brought in the New Year in a way that we hope to do many more times in our lives.

Basecamp at Joshua Tree National Park.  Does it get better than this?

We ended up celebrating an East Coast countdown (ie: were in bed early) and hear a few hoots and hollers as the California clock struck 12.

On New Year's Day we headed to Echo Cove Left side (as a result of our own research, in our new book, taking into consideration the wind and the sun and aren't you proud of us Steve? ) where we were alone for about 30 minutes and then the other climbers came out to play.  It's fun to have something in common (besides the calls of "Happy New Year" with the younger generation) and we found ourselves in the midst of our kind.  A little hungover, yes, but we were out there.

Jim and I started the day sending the 5.7 sport pitch called Swing Low, followed by a little chute called (appropriately) Chute Up 5.2 or 5.3. and then setting up a TR to do the 5.8 faces next to it,  The Sound of One Shoe Tapping and W.A.C.  and then we headed back to the line we were hoping for the day prior, Stitcher Quits 5.7.  We weren't the only ones however and so we waited and watched another young couple (reminded us of ourselves 30 years ago) as he (Matt) led up, and she (Tara) belayed and followed.

They were setting a TR for other friends, so Jim and I took the opportunity they offered to jump on their rope in the mean time.  Tara and Jim had clipped thru one of the bolts (as was my plan) to leave for the others and were lowered down.  Half way up the route, it was decided that the others were not coming back and that I would have to clean the anchor from the top and be lowered down.

Now I know this post is getting L O N G but I also know that no one really reads it (except my close friends and my husband) but if you are reading this, you might just care to know that I passed a milestone on this day.  Unaware at the base when I started that it would be up to ME at the top to secure myself, untie from the rope, run the rope through the links that were up there, tie back into the rope, remove the other sling anchors and get lowered down.

Easy enough, but I've never done it.  Nor have I ever found myself alone at the top without a quick lower off a Top Rope.  My partner(s) are always there.  But this was up to ME.  It took me a little more time than maybe my waiting husband (and others at the bottom) may have liked, but they were very patient.  I double checked and triple checked everything and proudly got myself ready for the descent.  I guess you can teach an old (belay) dawg new tricks.

After this route Jim noticed this shadow on the rocks and decided he wanted to climb that Joshua Tree.  Of course this would not be legal in the realest sense, but I love these next two photos!  I'm sure he'll be posting them to Facebook or something.

Friday morning came too soon and we had to leave the campsite.  We packed up basecamp and then took a quick drive out to the turn off where we can get a signal to call home.  Everyone was fine and we had time to go back for one more route or two.  With basecamp in tow, we parked at the Hall of Horrors and did some little 5.9 face called something like House of the Homeless?.  I had a HARD time with it.  I need to get back to the gym.  So we stopped there, walked around the Horror Rocks some more and then headed home.  

Never satisfied, we added a few to the ticklist but far more to the wish list this week.  We will be back very soon.  We'll plan for February or March, but UNSANCTIONED trips happen all the time. Stay tuned.  I'm thinking Jim wants an appointment at Henrieta's Day Spa, if you know where I mean.

In the mean time, I need to hit gym.  I got tired easy.  Flailed on some easy smearing attempts (but that may be that I need to go to REI and get new shoes ;) and felt just all around not as strong as I thought I was.

But my accomplishments (though small) were huge for me this weekend.  Just being there in the cold.  Getting ON the rock when I really wanted to stay IN my parka layer, and getting myself off of the route Stitcher Quits.  I did not quit.  Yea ME.

Kay Z

more photos follow for those who care ;) including JIM. 
Just Right Click on any photo here and choose to save to disk, to have your own copy.