Expand Your Mind - Taking Rock Climbing Into the Alpine

20090824-29. Carlton and I have been working on rock climbing skills for two years. He's an accomplished mountaineer, but wanted to develope technical rock skills in order to climb more terrain in the North Cascades near his home. Last year we spent a week cragging around Mammoth Lakes. This spring we met for another week at Smith Rock to climb multi-pitch routes. Then he came back to the Sierra at the end of August to take the skills he'd built into the alpine.

First we warmed up in Granite Basin, near Lee Vining. After climbing Frosted Flakes (2 pitches, 5.7), we took on Deadline, another two-pitch 5.7. At the top I spied a line that would take us to the higher descent ledge and to the Chimney Pitch, which leads almost directly to the summit. This isn't in any guidebook, so I took the liberty to name it Deadline Extension (4 pitches, 5.7, 5.7, 5.5, 5.6. It was a great way to reach the top of the buttress, enjoy the view, and walk off!

a crazy piece of art near the summit of Granite Buttress

After a great day like this, we hiked into Dusy Basin, with Andrew working as a porter to carry in our group gear. There we climbed the West Face Right Route on Icosceles Peak (5 pitches, II 5.7), and traversed almost the entire ridge from the lower western summit to the higher eastern summit before finding an easy descent gully and calling it a day.

On Day 3 Carlton check out the Dusy Basin lakes while I carried the ropes and protection to the start of our next climb. In the morning we headed up to the Southwest Buttress of Thunderbolt Peak (III 5.7). On my recent trip to check out the route I had climbed in short sleeves, but on this day it was windy and cold. Carlton decided that he didn't want to climb cold - and I was relieved - so instead we grabbed the gear and headed out.

On our final day climbing, Carlton agreed to trust me and climb anything I wanted without knowing the grade. We went to my new favorite Plan B crag, the PSOM Wall in Pine Creek Canyon, and climbed Racing Lizards (3 pitches, II 5.7) and the original PSOM Pinnacle (3 pitches, II 5.8). Carlton wasn't convinced that he could climb 5.8 until I told hime what he had accomplished - now he want's to come back and push even further on several alpine 5.9's I told him about. Fantastic!!