23, Issue 1
IN THE SNOW, OR TRAINING FOR MOUNT RAINIER?
Report & Photos by Joel Brewster
Leading up to our July climb of Mt. Rainier, we have
had various training trips. We began with an awesome 2-day snow travel
class taught by SMI (Sierra Mountaineering International) near Mammoth,
CA. We covered all the basics of climbing on snow and glaciers (self-arrest,
roped travel, crevasse rescue, etc.). Then the following weekend, we went
up to the Spring Mountains for a snow camp, and practiced some of the
skills we learned. We then followed that up with a Wheeler Peak backpack
in harsh winds, a climb of Maturango Peak (with more snow than expected),
and a snow ascent of Mummy Mountain in the Spring Mountains under ideal
conditions. Summitting Lee Peak (near Mt. Charleston) was great, but the
real test was a marathon day hike of Olancha Peak in the Sierra. Olancha
is a challenging hike in summer, but was made even more of a beast by
the plentiful snow!
Rather than bore you with all the details, I'll let the
pictures do the talking.
school, our head SMI guide, Tristan (right), was excellent!
instructing the group on a cold day near Mammoth
building snow anchors on day 2
group of 20 celebrating after a great snow school
and Susie at our snow camp
and Justine in our "kitchen"
looks too comfortable!
Luba are ready for a fun day!
ascending toward McFarland Peak
and Susie enjoying the snow
going up McFarland
summit of Maturango Peak
go toward Mummy
looks like she is ready to be at the top!
up the steep chute to Mummy Mountain
near the summit
and Amber pose with Mt. Charleston in the background
summit photo on Mummy Mtn.
coming up to the top of the ski run en route to Lee Peak
heading up toward the ridgeline
steep chute from Ski Lee to the ridge
near the summit of Lee
summit of Lee Peak
across the completely flat Summit Meadow along the long route to Olancha
On the windy summit
of Olancha Peak
ROCKS WILDERNESS HIGH POINT
Report & Photos by Lori Curry
-“The answer is blowing in the wind.”- Bob
Dylan, of course
Clear the soft pine needle bed of sticks, twigs, rocks
and pokey things. Here is the head, and right there, make a depression
for the hips. Sit and take inventory while two sets of eyes watch in the
moonlight. We're near the top of Big Rocks Wilderness High Point, on a
pleasantly flat point backed by solid rock and surrounded by pines. In
the pack are the 10 essentials, so we will probably survive. Water is
the issue, but much is in our favor. First take care of yourself, put
on the down jacket with the hood up; slip mostly into the foil sleeping
bag you've carried for years; spread the nifty 4 x 8 down blanket you
carry because you're a comfort junkie, and just in case something like
this happens. No need for a fire, it's not that cold and it's too dry
– who could sleep? Lay the blanket crosswise over the bottom half
of you, and the dogs immediately lie one on each side, snuggled tight
against your legs and are almost immediately asleep – and warm!
It's after their bed time and with all your navigation errors you've kept
them out past their bed time. Don't think about the negative, stay focused,
stay warm, look around, appreciate, breathe.
I'm thinking they will take away my mountaineer card
when this tale gets out. The peak is only an hour and a half from the
car. I was planning to do it the next morning, but an opportunity arose
to play hero and retrieve the phone a friend had left on another summit
that happened to be along my route the next day, and I could get a two-fer.
All I had to do was get this summit tonight, and tomorrow retrieve the
phone- if it was still there!
It's 4:00 pm at the trailhead, the pack is all ready,
but I open it and throw in the warm gloves and fleece hat, why not? But
not the extra liter of water I usually carry, after all it's only 3 hours
max, it's cool and the dogs are excited. I see the moon is up and about
¾ full and know that if I time it right, we will be walking down
the long open grassy area on our way back with the full light of the moon
and not even need the headlamp.
I'd scouted the mountain earlier this year, but it was
too hot to hike so we enjoyed the area, checked out a climbing area with
picnic tables and a small dispersed camp called Mecca and looked around
at all the Big Rocks. There's good reason for the name of this wilderness.
In my hurry to get here, I had double checked only that
I had the map and tracks in my phone, but had not reviewed the route description
or done my own google earth review. First mistake. It would have given
me a mental image of the obvious route I could translate to the map and
the landscape features as we went. We take off and the dogs are running
over the easy terrain and we are happy to be out in the cool almost evening
air. I know it's going to be tight, but I have a thoroughly misplaced
faith in my gps track-following skills and overall mountaineering experience
to get us back to the truck and on to the next adventure.
Oh shoot, there's always something you forget…
my Colt 45 Special was sitting right under the driver's seat of the Trusty
Silver Steed. Well, no big deal, I'd only just started carrying it and
had not become accustomed enough to carrying it to miss it's reassuring
weight. But, I had never needed it. We were remote enough that no trailhead
robbers were likely to come along, so I dismissed any concerns whatsoever
We spend ½ hour of valuable daylight playing around
looking for a way up what I think the GPS is telling me could be the way
to the summit, but the rocks are playing tricks on me, and I forgot that
following the track closely is different than interpreting the topo from
a zoomed out position. There are a lot of trees, it's hard to see the
clear paths. My pants get torn. It gets dark, but I can see by our mark
that we are ¾ of the way there and it has not been too tough going.
Finally, I can see the summit “block.” It's a jumble of rocks
bigger than my house, but hey, I've got a track.. this will be an adventure!
The dogs and I go from one end to the other trying to find the route.
The GPS keeps jumping around as there are not enough satellites to keep
it smooth. I think I'm on route, but I'm not. Or, I've stopped to help
the dogs and turn the phone around in my hand and … omg.. an hour
of this and the dogs are having no more of it. I'm ready to turn around
too. But something hard was inside me and needed to accomplish this despite
concern about summit fever and it's implications. I had seen what I was
sure was one of the routes – but was too hard for me to do alone
with the dogs, so I tied them to a convenient tree and leaving my pack,
hoisted myself up through the chute. Sure enough it goes further up, and
further and I'm on top of this big rock, yeay! But the GPS says no, there's
another rock just west. Down , across, up and then crawl through a bunny
hole and one smear move and I'm finally on top of the summit! Taking nothing
but glances at the lights in the far distance, I pull out the summit register
and then it hits me. My hand doesn't know what to write. I sign in the
Wolves down below
Trump is President
Writing it down, the hard thing inside me gave way to
the reality that something had happened that brought with it uncertainty
that would roil the entire world, for good or for ill. No matter what,
the winds of change were blowing hard but somehow, in this brief exchange
on this mountain, now I would let them blow through me rather than blow
me over. Climbing or not climbing the mountain that night was the only
thing I had control over at the moment. I stared at the page. I took in
the dark empty expanses below in the moonlight. This was real, they were
both real. Hopefully the price I paid to push through to this place was
not too high.
summit register by headlamp
The serious business awaited, and I scrambled back down
to the waiting dogs, my wolves, my faithful hiking companions, always
up for at least 10 miles. It was about 7:30 or 8:00 and I knew I could
keep going to get back. I'd never been out with the dogs this late before.
And, they really crashed. My bounding bundles of energy just started at
me like I was torturing them. The hemmed, they hawed, they looked away
from me. “No, Dogs, Puppies, Babies, really.. what about the mean
kitties that roam and want to eat you? Let's go back to the truck for
Nite Nite.” Big nope. I gave in temporarily and found a place for
a long rest in a well protected rock alcove and pulled out the blanket
and jacket, expecting an hour or so of rest would do it. We quickly got
cold on the hard dirt underneath the rocks and needed to move on.
No way. I tried to coerce them further, but the terrain
didn't allow leashed travel, and tired dogs are stubborn (I'd heard that).
Finally, after retrieving one, then the other to get them to the soft
pine needle bed, I gave in again to forces outside my control and determined
to make as good a night as possible. With only two swallows of water each
for the dogs, I would have to get back to the car dry but that didn't
seem too hard. We all popped Ibuprofen to help with restful sleep and
The moonlight, shining through the trees and all across
the valley below and as far as we could see, was very special. Maybe because
the air was so clear, maybe because it was a “super moon,”
but regardless of why, the light had a velvety silver thickness to it
as it lay heavily on branch and rock, and ground and us. I was able to
tell the time by it as I lay there dozing and waking. I knew I would see
a mountain lion if one came for us and I reviewed what I would do. (my
best impression of something you do not want to mess with) but I missed
my gun. As we lay there, I chuckled to myself at what my friend Eric would
say about how long it took me to complete this peak. I thought about the
morning and how long it would take us to hike out, and how little water
we had. I dreamed up headlines about the 60 year old woman found alive
in some instances, dead in others. The dogs always lived; I won't say
how. As all these thoughts drifted through my mind, I felt the warmth
and weight of the two bodies next to me, the softness of the pine bed,
the absolute stillness of the night. I reviewed my dharma discussions,
the one we recently had about death and how I bravely stated categorically
that I didn't believe death was the end of us; but regardless of the unknown
form our essence would take, we would be at the very least, again part
of the earth, the universe, the very stars I was gazing at, and thus continue.
And, in truth, as I lay there with my back connected to the earth and
my heart connected to the breathing beings beside me and those whom I
love in the world, I found it to be utterly true and was at complete peace
and I slept.
We shifted and resettled a couple times. Once I woke
and the moon had set and the sky was splattered with stars as bright as
I'd ever seen. My mind wanted to think about how much harder it would
be to see the mountain lion, but my soul was communicating with the beauty
above and all around me and couldn't find the point in worrying about
changing forms at that time and place, and dreamless sleep descended again.
At first light, we sat and cuddled in the cold air while
we contemplated. I like to think the dogs were thinking along with me.
They weren't begging for water, and had turned down the treats and kibble
multiple times. Off we went, some confidence in seeing which way the sun
came up and knowing the truck was the opposite direction so we went that
way and were right. Finally, after another ½ hour of fighting it
and although traveling the right direction, my eyes and feet finally coordinate
to follow the track. I'd been trying too hard to over think and second
guess the device. I practiced staying right smack on it just for good
measure. I recognized landmarks. I would have gotten to the truck without
the GPS if needed. I made my wolves heel and stay right with me to conserve
their energy and water needs.
Very soon, we stood at the edge of the long expanse of
yellowed dry cheat grass. The sun hadn't topped the summit behind us yet,
but would be hitting the truck when we reached it a mile away. The wolves
got their two big swallows of water and ran off ahead.
I moseyed from there, relatively certain of safety and
quietly pleased at last with myself for regaining my mountaineer's card.
Listening to the first breath of morning, the sighing of the very slightest
movement of air across a billion blades of grass, and tips of tree branches,
and rocks, and things that only the air knows intimately and me, it sighed
it's way right through me too.
remains of the pants
Many thanks to Jim Boone, for
a brief, but very informative presentation at our January monthly meeting
about how mining claim markers are killing birds. Since then, I have proudly
knocked down every one I've seen. For more information:
by Heather Witt
THAI RED CURRY
Thai Red Curry, using Marion's Kitchen Cooking Kit
(found in the Asian food section at many grocery stores) is great
recipe for the first night out on a backpacking trip. The kit comes
with curry paste, a small pouch of coconut milk (alternatively you
could bring powdered coconut cream), herbs and spicy thai chiles,
and a pouch of bamboo shoots.
1/2 lb of ground turkey or chicken dehydrated
1-2 bell peppers chopped and dehydrated
*use dehydrated mixed vegetables for a vegetarian option*
Instant white or brown rice
Place the ground beef and bell peppers in a quarter sized freezer
bag. Place the instant rice in a separate quart sized freezer bag.
Remove the pouched items from the kitchen kit box and pack together
with your meat and rice.
Note: if backpacking in bear country you may want to drain the bamboo
shoots at home and place in a zip top bag; bring fewer of the chiles
if you don't like a lot of spiciness.
Pour boiling water in quart freezer bag with meat and allow to rehydrate.
Boil water for rice according to package directions and pour into
rice bag. Heat curry paste in pot until fragrant. Add coconut milk
(or rehydrate coconut cream) to pot and 1 cup of water. Stir in the
spices and chiles and bring to a boil. Add drained bamboo shoots and
dehydrated meat/bell peppers. Simmer until meat and bell peppers are
completely rehydrated and have had a chance to absorb the curry flavor.
Serve over instant rice.
Where were you born?
Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
Twenty-nine years this May
What is your occupation?
How long have you been an LVMC member?
Good question. Four years ago in April was my
first official hiking trip with the club (to Sheep Peak), but I think
we joined earlier and had been going to meetings and informal hikes
with members for a while. But 4 years is probably close enough.
What is your favorite hike/climb?
This question is impossible because so many
are so good. Locally, the traverse along Bonanza Trail from Lee to
Cold Creek is special. Out of town, maybe North Schell...
What is the most challenging hike/climb you have done?
This is easy. Toiyabe Dome. Hands down. Susan
Murphy and Harlan Stockman kindly don’t talk about my crab crawling
on the way down.
How did you get into hiking/climbing?
Though I was fortunate to hike with my family
on vacations growing up, and Barry and I hiked B.K. (before kids),
it was my cocker spaniel, Abby that got me back into it about ten
years ago. I took her on the Bristlecone Loop when she was 5 months
old and that turned her into a hiking dog. I had to keep getting her
out because she loved it so much.
What are your hobbies other than hiking/climbing?
Reading, walking the dogs, taking photos
One other thing I’d like to add, if I
may. I want to send a big thank you to the LVMC organizers and friends
that have planned some great trips and helped lead and inspire me
to go to some outstanding places I never would have made it to on
my own. And that includes you, Joel!
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History of Climbing at Red Rock