Saturday, April 13, 2013

A little ascent

I've been swamped by work, submerged in student essays, flooded by my work-a-day life and fitting in adventures whenever I can.  Most weekends, we've been out on the rocks, getting our skillz back, finding that illusive rock mojo that makes vertical dance such an addictive pleasure.  As winter has turned to spring, the date draws near for the next Vision Quest, outings where I take out young lads and get them to stick their necks out a little in the great outdoors.  My previous four trips have been unsupported bike tours up to 500 miles long.  After three months on the trikes slugging away at the Rocky Mountains, I was ready for a break from bike touring, and Jodi and Django were interested in the proceedings as well, so we've set our sights on an extreme hiking adventure up Olancha Peak, the southern-most 12,000+ summit in the Sierras.  We'll be tackling it from the desert floor and face over 8,000 ft. of gain to the summit, with 6,000 vision-inducing feet climbing on the first day.  Ugh.  As preparation, we did an overnight ascent of Owen's Peak, at 8,453 ft. the highest point fully in Kern County:

Our route ascended a more gradual gully and face on the opposite side of the mountain from this angle, but we did pick up the right-hand skyline near the summit.  The hike is short on miles but long on elevation gain with 3,000 ft. of grunting from the trail head.  We did it with full packs and water for an overnight up high amidst towers of granite on an island of delightful isolation.

Jodi, Django, and John at trail head with the granite spine of the peak behind:

Let the stren begin:

Working the forested lower regions:

Django packs his own load.  He's annoyed at first, stepping sideways as if to magically remove the pack, but then he settles down and does the serious doggy thing--running, climbing, sniffing, peeing:

Working the rocky upper slabs, the technical crux of the route:

Don't fall now!  Hard work with the packs:

Granite and pines--spot for our eventual camp, after the summit:

The summit, with lots of haze and dust in the air from days of windy weather:

The view north with mountain goon in the foreground:

Sketchy terrain on the descent to camp:

High mountain delights--our first tent spot.  Later we moved to get out of the wind, which thankfully died down in the night:

Johnny's deluxe tent site:

Tent life--our first outing with the Betamid.  It worked well but does require careful staking:

Alternate tent sight the next morning--coffee and a beautiful Sierra dawn:

Scenes from a mountain hike:

On the way out:

John on his first backpacking trip:

Going down is hard, too:

After Owen's, we headed up the East Side for camping and climbing:

Steep crack climbing in the Alabama Hills:

We counted our blessing to be free and alive and in this place to find challenge and joy and peace:

We continue our training and realize that soon the desert areas will be too hot for climbing.  My semester plunges towards conclusion, which means a freer schedule to get up to the higher, cooler rocks and trails.  Stay tuned for more adventure madness.  Where is your next adventure?