Yosemite, part 1

Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. It just takes your breath away.

Our first day out to the boulders was a little disappointing, to say the least – not because the rock isn’t amazing, it is, but because I fell onto the edge of a crash pad and rolled my ankle! After essentially waiting 2 weeks to settle in somewhere and climb, this was kinda crappy. But these things happen and I decided not to get too bummed out. Staying positive was made much easier by the fact that we met a fabulous Canadian couple (now Seattle residents), Jenn and Mike, and their little boy, who is a month younger than A.J. They’re rad. It’s too bad our trips didn’t overlap more!

I took good care of my ankle and rested it for 4 days, during which Mig went back and took revenge on the silly problem (Battle of the Bulge) that injured me. Then I put my climbing shoes back on (albeit carefully) and we toured the Valley in search of fun, low-ball problems. When you’re just two + a baby, and you’re nursing a fragile ankle, you try to avoid high-balls – and there are many in Yosemite. For this reason, we didn’t try anything super hard. Well, it was partly because of that, partly because it was getting warm, and partly (if we’re honest with ourselves) that we were just getting tired, generally speaking. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves on problems such as: No Fur, Zorro, Smile for the Green Dragon, The Mechanic, and Root Canal.

Some of you may be thinking: how does one go to Yosemite and not climb any long, trad routes? I have to admit that it felt somewhat sacrilege to be in the Valley only to boulder, but we had decided when planning this trip that, with a baby, bouldering would be easier. Not to mention that, when it came to ropes, Mig had only climbed single-pitch, sport routes. That said, when an old friend suggested that Mig (and Marie-Claude) join him on a classic Yosemite multi-pitch, he was totally stok… I mean, scared pant-less. For those of you who didn’t know, Mig is afraid of heights. But, with no surprise to me, he seconded up The Nut Cracker with ease and was psyched to have won a small battle against his fears. Seeing Nic after 4 years was great, but climbing that route with him was even better.

Aside from climbing, we also took many photos, went on hikes, picnicked in the meadows and had another visit from family. But I’ll save all of that for “Yosemite, part 2.” For now, in the album below you’ll find our climbing pics and a selection of scenic photos from our first week or so in the Valley!

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California Coast

Our premature departure from Joshua Tree meant that we could take our time driving up the coast of California with Marie-Claude and Nick, and then spend a few days in San Francisco before heading to Yosemite.

Nick kindly took on the role of tour-guide and our first stop was an ocean-side, (delicious) seafood cafe in Santa Barbara. The next day we checked out an awesome little bouldering crag in the region called ‘The Brickyard,’ where we met a really nice group of scientist grad/post-doc students climbing with their supervisor (which basically makes him one of the coolest supervisors ever). Next on the agenda was a tour of 3 California wineries (Beckmen, Zaca Mesa & Cambria), which was excellent fun. That day ended with a bit of a story… which involves me breaking down in tears as I explain to a park ranger that all campgrounds, cabins and hotels in the area were full and that we couldn’t keep driving to the next town because we needed gas but all the stations were closed, so basically we were stuck in the Big Sur forest with no where for us and our baby girl to sleep. She took pity on me and let us camp (for free!) in an empty camp-host campsite. I guess it serves us right for not having a reservation in a very popular camping destination on a Saturday night. In our defence, we have no idea what day of the week it is most of the time…

In San Francisco, we stayed with a good friend of Mig’s from McGill. We visited some of the sites (shopping and coffee shops on Haight street and Golden Gate Park were highlights), had some Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bread bowl, caught up with Jean-Sebastien, and checked out a couple of the mega climbing gyms that S.F has to offer (Mission Cliffs and Planet Granite). In addition to showers and saunas (for which they provide soap, towels and hair dryers), they have yoga studios, weights, cardio machines, and tonnes of climbing; they are really *mega* gyms. I have to admit that I wasn’t super psyched at first to climb on plastic but it turned out to be really fun and good for staying in shape while we did the tourist stuff.

It was definitely a fun time, but being in transit and sight-seeing are both quite tiring with a baby (interestingly, much more-so than climbing with a baby), so we were more than ready to head out and set up camp in the Valley for a couple of weeks when the time came. Our next post will tell you all about it! For now, check out the California coast + San Francisco album below.

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Joshua Tree National Park

The drive to Joshua Tree from Las Vegas was one of the most breathtaking stretches of road we’ve encountered. The road runs through the Mojave Desert and, seeing as we had left Vegas a little late (as usual) the afternoon light made it especially stunning. As a mid-route break, we decided to stop and check out some sand dunes.

We arrived too late to set up camp that night but arriving the next day (on a Sunday) made it such that we actually got a campsite at the very popular Hidden Valley Campground. For those of you who haven’t been, Joshua Tree National Park is amazing; you’re in the middle of the desert surrounded by giant granite boulders and fields of the coolest looking desert plant ever. It actually looks unreal – like you’re on a movie-set or at an amusement park. Well I suppose one could argue that it is a bit of an amusement park for climbers considering how much climbing there is (about 2000 boulder problems as well as 8000 trad routes), and how accessible it is (we actually had to walk through campsites to get to some problems).

It was fantastic to be camping (finally!) and climbing in this beautiful place. Unfortunately, while the temps were perfect on the day we arrived, they quickly shot up to the point where it was really too hot to climb! We chased after the shade from the moment the sun rose (sauna-fying our tent) until late afternoon, at which point we had to basically run around and climb as much as possible before the sun disappeared. This was far from ideal but we tried to make the best of it. We managed to tick a few easy classics (and I use the term “easy” very loosely, as the grades in J-Tree are notoriously sand-bagged), such as The Chube and Gunsmoke, enjoyed a couple great crack problems (see photo), which seemed fitting for the area, and got our asses handed to us on other “easy” classics, such as Stem Gem (our new friend, Nick, came the closest – see pic). So, with much disappointment, we decided to end our stay in J-Tree quite a bit earlier than planned; we just weren’t able to climb enough in those conditions. However, it was definitely worth the trip. We were surrounded by beautiful landscapes, interesting wildlife (road runners! – see photos), and gorgeous night skies (see photos). And, once again, we were in great company! Long-time friend Marie-Claude drove down with her friend Nick from San Francisco to hang out and climb with us and it was fantastic to catch up with her, introduce to her the new addition to our family, enjoy her gourmet camp food, and get to know Nick.

Leaving early from J-Tree meant that Nick, Marie-Claude and the three of us all had to improvise the next leg of our journey…which will be the subject of our next post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the photo album from our time in Joshua Tree.

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