Sunday, June 29, 2014

Matthes Crest

Maureen and I had been planning on climbing Matthes Crest in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park for a couple months. I really loved how casual we were in making plans, she just threw the idea out there, I said yes, I put it on the calendar, then a couple days before the climb I got a FB message saying to meet at the trail head at 7:30, bring a compass, and that was about it.

Maureen and I met at the Cathedral Lakes Trail Head and set out towards Matthes Crest. I had the compass, as she had requested, as well as a GPS and print outs from Peter Croft's book, The Good, The Great and The Awesome. We had plans on climbing up the 5.6 at the South end of the traverse, but didn't plan on running into 4 other groups with the same idea. It was a busy day on the crest. Maureen managed to squeeze her way up something and I managed to follow, with groups on either side.

We took advantage of the other people being on the route, as you can see from the picture below. We asked someone to snap this photo of us perched on the first pitch.

And so the traverse began. There was a group of 3 (2 women and 1 man) leading the way, they were soloing most of the route (meaning, no rope), 2 groups of 2 guys each, which were directly in front of us, and another couple+ groups behind us. Maureen and I were moving pretty quickly, simul climbing all the way to the 5.8 crack/dihedral. Simul climbing, short for simultaneously climbing, it is when you are both tied into the same rope, on opposite ends, climbing as the word describes, simultaneously, with a piece or two of protection in between you. The idea here is that you can move quite a bit faster. The catch is, if you or your partner falls, you are essentially the anchor on the other end of the rope. I would say, you would only want to simul climb if you are very confidant in your ability as well as your partners, which we both were.

At the beginning of the traverse we quickly passed the 2 groups of guys and were moving right along, chipper and having a great time. 

We got to the 5.8 and Maureen appeared to walk right up it. I struggled a little bit but managed to get myself to the top.

I had an "anything goes" mentality to this climb, hence the scratches on my forearms, bruises on knees and the holes in my pants.

Beautiful views and smiles all the way around. 

No need for a tri-pod when you have friendly people to take pictures for you.

This is what much of the traverse looked like. You can see Maureen leading the way and the rope connecting the two of us together. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the ramp just below Maureen was only about two and a half feet wide, dropping hundreds of feet on either side. Scary? Yes, a little but the business hadn't even started yet. 

Here Maureen is climbing up a small crack on the traverse, still on our way to the North Summit.

Looking South.

Traversing along, following behind Maureen's lead about 40 feet, often keeping the rope in one hand as not to trip on it. 

The North Summit! What a beautiful view. Maureen looks South into the National Park and down the ridge we just crossed. We signed the register at the summit 10,400 feet, had a little snack and decided to keep moving.

Many people rappel off the North Summit and forgo completing the ridge traverse to the far North end. And maybe we would have done that if it wasn't for the above mentioned book, The Good, The Great, and The Awesome by Peter Croft, where he says, in reference to rappelling off the summit, "'d miss out on some of the best climbing the route has to offer... so finish it off properly, climb down off the North Summit and continue traversing north along the arete..." So that's what we did.

We decided to carry on and the parties behind us admired our courage. I didn't understand why until we were committed to the decent. We understood that there would be some 5.8 down climbing but didn't think that there would be anything harder then what we had already done. Boy were we wrong.

Let me say that nothing was over or head or above our ability range. Let me say that neither Maureen nor I were ever scared or unsure of what were were doing.

Now, let me say that Matthes Crest was the most exciting and potentially dangerous thing I've ever done.

Here we are thinking, "We made it! All down hill from here!" Although we couldn't have been more wrong.

As we were descending from the summit and continued moving North on the ridge, 2 men, one older and one in his 20's passed us, free soloing. The 20 year old was wearing approach shoes. Maureen kindly asked, as we were a little unsure of exactly which way was the best way along the ridge, "Is this the 5.8 down climb?" The older man's, response, with a little bit of a cold chuckle, was something like "Yeah, this is the right way" and "there's quite a bit more to come."

As we continued, we soon found out that, yes, the party wasn't over at the North Summit, the party was just getting started. Unfortunately we weren't advised it was a business party and there was a lot more work for us to do.

Again, these photos do not encompass the amount of exposure and the risk involved but this crotch shot, taken through my legs while down climbing a ramp was one of the many "scarier" moments on the climb. The next piece of protection was below me 10+ feet. A fall here would have been detrimental.

Looking at the photo now, I don't really know how Maureen and I climbed this mass of rock, but we did. Straight up and over those jaggedy columns. 

The below photo isn't Maureen or I, I took it from, but I wanted to show what one particular section of the climb looked like. This section is referred to as "the wave." As you can tell by the exposure and sketchyness of this section, I wasn't too particularly keen on the idea of pulling my camera out and taking a photo.

Maureen and I looked down, like the woman in the photo, and got a sight that I don't expect to see too many times in my life. Looking down the face of the rock, hundreds of feet, was truly breath taking.

The below photo is from the far North end of the traverse, we made it, now just three more miles back to the trail head.

Another great adventure with Maureen, looking forward to more in the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Hunchback, A Guru, and A Moviestar

Even though Phil and I now live in Bishop, and I don't think I would ever want to live in Huntington Beach again, there is still a part of me that calls Huntington home.

Phil and I went home for the weekend to visit my Hun-dah-dah (dad), Uncle Captain Eddy, Phil's family and our friends. I love going home to visit but with so many different people to see, I always end up leaving wishing I could have stayed longer. Sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in a day.

One of the things I love about spending time with my Hun-dah-dah is hearing about what book he is currently reading. Right now, he is currently reading the classic novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

I remember watching the Disney movie back in 96' but other then that, I have never read the actual novel... probably never will.

This is funny, even though my dad was already about halfway through a 3 inch thick novel, he said something along the lines of "it sucks." You have to admire his commitment though.

My dad had Phil and I both read the book out loud to get a feel for what it was like. I have to admit, I never really excelled in reading comprehension, so I gathered close to zilch about the chapter I read of the drawn out bird's eye view of Paris. However, the bit about the blind judge and Quasimodo's court hearing WAS pretty funny and entertaining. I did comprehend that much.  

On Saturday, Phil, Hun-dad-dah and I went to visit my Uncle Ed on his floating house, the Cruizon Bay. I don't think I have ever seen Uncle Ed with a beard before, and I have to say, I prefer him clean shaven, but he looked good. 

In regards to the beard, even Uncle Ed said that people in the Sacramento Airport were looking at him the previous day like he was some kind of homeless person who was going to try to snatch their wallet and mug them.

Uncle Ed said one of the things on his bucket list was to grow a pony tail, I had to ask, for the front or the back? He laughed, replying something like "I must be drinking fertilizer or something because my beard keeps growing." But of course he was talking about the pony tail for his hair.

Uncle Ed is a character to say the least. Acey has been getting a lot of footage of him on camera. It's too bad Acey wasn't there that Saturday because Uncle Ed was spewing insight and old tales with seamless connection and ease. Lots of good material.

Phil particularly liked the metaphor he mentioned about gold in the hills of Northern California and nothing but sand castles in Southern California. He was speaking of the people and their character and with the exception of a few, I would mostly agree.

Thanks Phil for snapping the above picture of me, my pops and Captain Eddy. Those are the guys who make me proud to say I'm an Aseltine.

It was a beautiful day at the boat and I was really happy that you were there too. Wouldn't have been the same with out you. 

Here Phil and I are at my dad's house, the house I grew up in. We were on our way out to Coco's, a Sunday morning must-do with the Wiese family.

The outfit and red sunglasses were a part of the movie star persona I adopted somewhere over the course of the weekend. I was wondering if movie stars ever refer to themselves as movie stars. So when we were saying goodbye to my dad, I kept saying, in a slow, long-draw, hoity toity voice "Say guuuuude-byyye to the moooooovie starr." 

As the movie star and her chauffeur departed, she caught this photo on the corner of Springdale and Edinger. Nothing like the mountains and clouds of the Sierras but I can't say I'm not fond of the photo.

Next time we visit Huntington Beach, we are thinking something in July, instead of heading out after breakfast, we are going to have to leave in the late afternoon. We were rolling through Palmdale in peak heat, probably in the low 100's and it was miserable. We made an emergency stop at Ranch House in Olancha for a coke and ice water but I don't think we can do that drive again with out air conditioning.

Looking forward to seeing you in July.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Tallest Things I See

I am so happy that the tallest things I can see from my house are mountains.

The tallest thing here isn't a skyscraper or a telephone pole. It isn't something man-made that dominates the landscape, but the tallest thing is nature's pure goodness.

When I look out my window I see the mountains. I see the sky. I can see pastures. And I really like it that way.

People are mistaken when they say that Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth... It's actually the little town in the Eastern Sierra of California where I live, Bishop.

We are over two hours away from the closest Walmart and only a bike ride away from world class rock climbing, hiking and the true essence of Mother Earth. And that's how we like it.

Phil and I have now been in the Eastern Sierra for a little over a year and plan on staying here for the long haul. Some people say we are lucky but I would argue that statement. Lucky is like when I was riding bikes with Rayne in Sunset Beach and he found a hundred dollar bill... THEN Rayne took Phil and I out to sushi. Now that was a pure stroke of luck.

Phil and I made a choice to live here and living here was our priority. I feel really lucky to have my job but I would have gladly scrubbed toilets or waited tables just to live in this town.

Although working 40 hours a week isn't foreign to me, it has taken me awhile to adjust to a desk job. I spend a fair amount of time sitting in front of the computer and another nice chunk in a car (when I do rural outreach). And boy, does it takes a toll on the body! I am still surprised at how exhausting a desk job can be. You would think that after a day of sitting you would have a ton of energy to do crafts, clean the house and make dinner. It's not like that for me though. I come home at the end of the day and I just need to sit by the canal with Phil, have a beer and decompress. It's rather a nice ritual and I am growing quite fond of it.

 However, don't let me give you the impression that I am a slouch.

By no means would I say that I am. Phil and I have been climbing every Tuesday on our friend Marsha's (pictured below) indoor climbing wall. As well as getting outside on a regular basis. And for that, I am thankful. Bringing it full circle, I am thankful that I live in a town where getting outside is accessible.

And I'm thankful that I live in a town were people like to come visit. Pictured below is Jennifer, Phil's mom, at the Eureka Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

Even though our house is small, we love to have friends over. I love it even more when we have friends over to play Settlers of Catan (because I always win).

Below is a picture of Bishop Creek Canyon and a picture of Bobby and Sako gazing into the beautiful cloudy sky. 

Other then the obvious reasons why someone would love Bishop, California: mountains, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, yadda yadda yadda, a major unexpected bonus of moving here has been meeting all the amazing people. For the first time since college, I really feel like I have friends. Below is a photo of Hannah and me rock climbing at Iris Slab in Rock Creek Canyon.

Hannah and her husband Dustin are two of the good friends we have met, ones that you know will last a life time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Desert Loving

We took advantage of the 3 day weekend and headed out to Death Valley. I love the desert so much. I LOVE IT! I want to yell it from the mountain tops! I LOVE THE DESERT! Or better yet, yell it from the basin floor. I LOVE THE DESERT! Death Valley is home to the lowest point in the Continental USA, Badwater Basin -282 feet. The photo above is from the drive out to Eureka Dunes, although it looks more like the drive to Joshua Tree National Park.

The trip didn't involve much planning, but when Saturday came around the crew appeared like magic and before we knew it we were caravaning into no man's land.    

The Eureka Dunes rise a staggering 700 feet out of the valley floor and do something that doesn't seem possible, or even conceivable... they sing. I know, I didn't believe it either, but yes. When the loose sand slides down the face of the dune, the vibrations travel between the dense sand and the less dense sand to make a vibrating humming sound. Check out this YouTube clip. It was filmed at the Eureka Dunes. Here is another video that is explains the phenomenon pretty well.
We spent Saturday playing at the dunes, set up camp and played some bocci ball with Patty. There Phil is below making us some sandwiches, Grandpappy Phil with his glasses hanging off his nose.
This is my kind of camp ground. Look at that view.

Hiking up the dunes were as you may imagine, incredibly exhausting and a little frustrating. Talk about one step forward and two steps back.
I'm happy to be sitting on the top in this photo, although Phil still had quite a bit more work to do.   It's not out of character for Phil to sleep a ton but after that hike Phil crawled into the tent and didn't emerge until the sun was about to set.
In the photo above you can see the 10 mile dirt road that takes you straight to the dunes. And the photo below, Amo is happy to eat some bread.
At first the thought of "I don't really want to get sand all over my body" crossed my mind, but once I got a little sand in my shoes, I thought, "What the hell, might as well go all out." Steve was somersaulting down the hill and I was log rolling down before I knew it. Yes I had sand in my underwear like when I was a kid sitting in the ocean at low tide, but I didn't care.

This photo below was actually taken in the early a.m.  which I just learned stands for ante meridian, meaning "before noon."
We said goodbye to Patty at the Dunes and continued further into the national park, the next destination being the Ubehebe Crater.

Here is a photo of the crater below, it is about 600 feet deep and was created from a volcanic explosion only about 2,000 years ago. If you look closely you can see some people at the bottom. We didn't hike all the way down, maybe next time.

Next we headed to Scotty's Castle, a beautifully elaborate Spanish-style mansion tucked in the middle of a desert. It seems very bizarre driving for hours on what feels and looks like the moon, then rounding a dirt mountain to see a few cottonwood trees, date palms and Abrakadabrah! A 1920's millionaire's vacation retreat. 
I love the story of the castle and how it came to be, so I'll share it with you if you don't already know.

The story starts with someone who become known as Death Valley Scotty. Scotty started working for the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Horse Show after being scouted by Bill himself. He traveled for years with the show until one day he showed up late, probably drunk, as it seemed drinking was one of his favorite past times, and was fired.

He didn't know what to do with himself so he headed to Colorado to tour a gold mine. He received a piece of ore as a souvenir. That little hunk of rock soon became his best friend. He took that piece of ore to investors all over Chicago and New York, telling them about his mine in Death Valley. Yes, he would tell them that all they had to do was invest X amount of dollars and they would be rolling in the returns in no time.

So what did ol' Scotty do with all that money? He began living large. Tipping waitresses fifty dollars, buying rounds for the house and tossing coins into the streets. You can imagine this guy created quite a reputation for himself. Well one of the investors, Albert Johnson finally decided to catch up with ol' Scotty since he hadn't seen any of the returns he had been promised.
Johnson decided he would take a trip out to Death Valley to see the mine for himself. Scotty, being quick on his feet decided that he and his friend would host a heist hoax and scare the city slicker millionaire right back to the East where he belongs. Well.... not so much.

See, Johnson grew up reading penny comics about the wild west and LOVED the idea of cowboys, robbers, saloons, bar fights, all that. So when he and Scotty were intercepted by the "robbers," shots were fired, Scotty told them to shoot high, but the guys decided in their drunken stupor that it would be more believable if the shot low, in the dirt.

As you can imagine, that wasn't such a good idea. Scotty's own brother was shot and Scotty called 'uncle' in the whole debacle. Johnson was loving every moment of the cowboy shoot out but quickly put together that something wasn't right. Outlaws don't just stop shooting when they are asked to. His thoughts, I imagine, were linked together pretty quickly. This is weird. Cowboys aren't like this in the books. Scotty is playing me. There is no gold mine.

A side note, Scotty's brother survived. 
Instead of Johnson loosing his cool, he befriended Scotty. Scotty was Johnson's ticket to The Wild West.

And that was the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Now, the castle comes into existence because Johnson's wife, Betsy, was a city girl. She didn't want to miss out on all the fun but didn't like the idea of camping. And anything worth doing is worth over doing? I guess it you're a millionaire.

This place had hand painted lamb skin curtains, paintings imported from Italy, Spain, a theater style self-playing organ, plans for a swimming pool, hand made/custom EVERYTHING. It was incredible, this place was amazing. They called it Scotty's Castle because the Johnson's were modest people and didn't want the attention.

The three lived a good life in the desert, the ended up turning the castle into a tourist destination, allowing guests to stay and be entertained by Scotty himself. I wish we could have been able to experience the castle then.

Annnnnywayyyyyy. Definitely a trip worth making! I can't wait to go back. Gotta love that desert.