Mono Lake, California

On a recent rest day we drove up to see Mono Lake with Dennis, Cassandra et al. This is a popular tourist and photographer destination because of the rare and surreal looking “tufa towers” (calcium-carbonate spires). We went shortly after a mini-storm so the towers were still covered in snow, which was beautiful but also concealed the interesting quality/consistency of the salt towers. Rather, it gave the impression that they were perhaps just trees or rocks. Nevertheless, quite a few of the photos, some of which I (Bonnie) took, turned out really well. Check them out below.

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).

Bishop so far…

On our first day, my feeling was that Bishop climbing was going to be harder and maybe not as fun as Hueco climbing. The change of rock and style is extremely noticeable and I wasn’t feeling it at first, personally. But later in the afternoon, something kicked in and I ran around and ticked 2 fun moderate problems and 1 harder one and that boosted my confidence and my psych. Since then, my two favourite problems would have to be: High Plains Drifter and Fly Boy. High Plains is a problem that I had my eye on way back in 2001 and never tried (maybe didn’t feel strong enough) and it was high on my tick list in 2009 but I couldn’t try it then either because it was covered in snow. So, I showed up this year with 11 years of anticipation built up! Thankfully, it did not let me down; it is a *rad* problem. I worked it one morning with Adam and a couple other people and as soon as I figured out the subtlety of the drifter move, it went down – despite, I must add, the miserable conditions (major gusting winds, which didn’t make the high-ball top-out very enjoyable!). Anyway, it was major fun and long-awaited tick. Fly Boy (see video) was super cool because it finishes with a big jump. I’m definitely going back for the sit-start because the upper moves are locked in now and, well, the sit-start looks like the better, more obvious line. Otherwise, I’ve done a lot of moderate things here already from previous trips, so this time I want to play on some harder stuff and see if I can get anything done.

Mig’s Bishop days have been awesome so far. He’s proven just how much stronger he is now than he was in 2009 with numerous sends of problems left behind! Two of the most impressive problems ticked: The Hulk and Seven Spanish Angels (see photo), both done in super style. (Interestingly, I can not do either of these problems – yet, I suppose – and he has yet to do High Plains or Fly Boy; clearly he and I have different strengths!) Also, Mig sent his hardest problem to date: Gleaming the Cube! So cool. Other than that, Mig still has few “old” problems to do but he, too, wants to push himself a bit more and have some goes at harder stuff.

People

We were lucky enough to spend our first week here with Pam and Adam from Toronto, who also have a baby girl! It was really cool not only to share the experience (and work) of cragging with babies, but also to hang out and get to know them better. They are awesome! We will remember fondly (among other things), our little girls having secret conversations, Pam and Mig’s giggle fits, and Adam sketching-out on the down-climb from 7 Spanish Angels.

Photography

At the moment we have the pleasure of hanging out with Dennis, Cassandra and their daughter (yes, a lot of baby girls born into the Toronto climbing scene recently)! This is particularly fun for Mig because he has a partner to get out at the wee hours of the morning and night for various photo shoots. He was able to share a couple sun-rise photo sessions with Adam, and now he has a partner to shoot the Bristlecone Pine Forest, Mono Lake, and other sites. Bishop is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of California, surrounded by mountains, lakes, trees, rocks, etc. It’s a photographer’s dream. See the photo gallery for some of his shots so far!

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).

On the road to Bishop


We left Hueco on the day of the Rock Rodeo so we got to see what a production it actually is – with slide shows, art shows, T-shirts sales, climbing industry booths trade-show style, burrito trucks, a dyno comp and a bonfire. It just put things in perspective a bit coming from Canada, which doesn’t have anything remotely close to this event at the moment. Anyway, we said goodbye to all the people we’d met and hit the road again (and were reminded, yet again, of how much crap we have!). Most of the first driving day was in Arizona (what a beautiful state!).

The second day was supposed to take us to Southern California but we decided to take a detour to see the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam (Mig hadn’t seen either before), which took us through Vegas instead. We stayed at a hotel just outside the park so we could make a couple of trips, (1) to see the Canyon at night (see photo) and (2) to see the sunrise, which was amazing! Here are a few photos from the classic Mather viewpoint. This route also took us via the Hoover Dam, which was fun to visit (although it’s extremely touristy).

The third day was craziness. In New Mexico and Arizona, we had seen a few road signs that read “sandstorms may exist,” which we thought was kind of funny – as if their existence was questionable. But in case there was any doubt, Mig and I can now verify from experience that sandstorms do exist as we drove right through a serious one on the way from Vegas to Bishop (see video). At one point, Mig had to actually pull over because neither one of us could see the road at all, or anything for that matter (like oncoming traffic for example…)! You have to clear a mountain pass on this supposed 4-hour drive, which is normally quite pretty. But, because of the storm, we had the pleasure of driving through a squall of sand on the east side of the mountains, snow on top of the pass, and more sand on the west side! Not to mention the howling winds that got up to 90 km/h. Needless to say, it was far from a relaxing drive, but we finally made it. We were exhausted and our car was (and actually still is) literally covered with dust (the thule is filled with sand too we’ve discovered), but we were in Bishop, so we were psyched.

So we’ve now seen a total of 39 different U.S. state license plates (one of which was Alaska!), 5 different Canadian province plates, we clocked another 21 hours of driving (total of 56), covered 4 more states (11 in total), and survived 1 major sand-storm! Stay tuned for updates on life and climbing in Bishop, California!!

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).

Leaving Hueco

Leaving Hueco was extremely hard! For one, we left many problems behind (mostly untried, but a few unfinished). Second, we left behind new friends (and their dogs!), whom we already miss a bunch! Basically we left a place that had begun to feel like home (in more ways than one). I think this is common; there is something special about Hueco, and there are just too many awesome problems to ever feel “done.” Thankfully, though, Mig and I both finally started to feel in decent shape and so we take with us a great tick-list of classics, as well as some individual proud sends. Actually, considering that we have a baby with us and that we had only 3.5 weeks, we’re pretty darn psyched about everything we did.

People + Climbing

Many people contributed to our good times. Jesse – a rad dude with a positive, chill yet psyched attitude – was awesome to climb with for a couple of days. He got the send-train going for me on ‘DDD,’ and his flash of ‘Rudy’ (along with Rocco’s beta) inspired me to bite the bullet and send ‘King Cobra’ from the proper start (both hands on the undercling). Also, more Montrealers came through. I believe we mentioned Dom, Geoff and Phil, but we also got to climb – even if briefly – with Claudia and Eveline, and then on our 2nd last day, with Cloe and Fred. Toujours le fun de voir et grimper avec nos amis du Quebec!

Also, we were joined for a week by our friend Omar, and fellow Joe Rock-heads, Siu and Robin. We had a blast with these clowns! In case some of you were wondering, yes – Omar can still be his angry self when climbing outdoors. But, he is also motivated, hilarious, generous, and all-around awesome. It’s true, his send of ‘Mexican Chicken’ wasn’t pretty but he deserves serious props for not letting go at the top after cutting loose that often. We didn’t know Siu and Robin very well before this trip but we quickly learned that they are both very kind and super funny. We also learned that Siu will never stop climbing despite being broken in numerous places (cf. Loic) and that Robin is a dyno master.

Our tour to the East Spur with these 3 dudes and beta-master Rocco (a.k.a. the conductor) was definitely a highlight for us. Climbing-wise, Mig finished off ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ as well as (the unfortunately named) ‘Better Beat Your Sweeties'; I took down a problem that I had had my eye on called ‘Better Eat Your Wheaties;’ we both flashed the ultra-classic, amazing line, ‘Moonshine Roof;’ and Siu sent ‘Uncut Yogi’ (essentially 3 times) in classic Siu style (i.e. with desperate screams) (see photo). We all finished off this great day with dinner at the famous Texan steakhouse: Cattlemans (drool).

Oh, and we also have to mention Scott. This guy is psyched! He also happens to know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, so he’s very interesting to have around. He kindly came out on his rest day to make us feel very important by taking photos and shooting video on our last climbing day, which was on East Mountain (with Rocco, Mary, Ian and Leici – more great peeps!). Thanks to him, Mig and I each have video footage of our last sends of the trip (Mig on ‘Ventral Fin'; Me on ‘Something Different’), which were both very proud.

Rock Art Tour

On one of our rest days, we went on a “Rock Art” tour (led by Mary) and checked out a sample of the native art paintings in the park. It was very cool to learn about the (conjectured) history of the inhabitants of Hueco Tanks as well as how the rock mountains were formed (hardened lava inside a giant limestone “mould,” which eroded away over time).

Video

Thanks to Scott Strong for shooting video on our East Mountain tour. Here is a video of Mig on ‘Ventral Fin':

More photos…

* click an image for larger size (cliqué sur une image pour la voir en grand format).

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