Monday, February 14, 2011

A Long Walk to Solid Rock

The next morning, after climbing Whitney, we drove up to Bishop, home of the Shat's Bakery, where they make the best bread I've ever tasted. We drifted down each isle ooggolling all the fat filled delights; danishes, huge gooey cinnamon rolls, sourdough bread, hard candies, doughnuts, and much more. $27.58 later we were on their front patio, filling our faces with several wonderful combinations of sugar, flour, yeast, and butter.

By 2:00PM we were still buzzing on the sugar high from breakfast. We went over to the Ranger Station to get the overnight permits and bear canisters needed for Kings Canyon NP. The disenchanted Ranger raised his eyebrow when I told him we were planning to hike the 13 miles to Charlotte Dome that afternoon. No matter, we still had half a dozen doughs, 5 hours of daylight, and motivation to get this route checked off the list.

13 miles is a long approach. Adding to the fun was our heavy overnight packs, and an 11,000 foot pass that we had to hike up and over. I think the trail could have been 7-8 miles, but the trail makers in California really like their switchbacks. The incline is kept at a mere 1% for the majority of the way. When we crested the pass, the sun was on the horizon, and we still had another 7-8 miles to the base of the route. It was a beautiful evening, so we didnt mind hiking until the stars came out. We found a nice place to camp by one of the many alpine lakes, made dinner, and went to sleep under the stars.

Leaving our overnight gear at our campsite, we moved quickly down the remaining 3-4 miles to the base of the route. The trail slowly deteriorated into nothing the closer we got to the dome. Often, we had to reroute to dodge the shrubby "ouchy plants" that grew everywhere (Im a botanist if you couldn't tell). Charlotte Dome gets bigger and bigger the closer you get. It is really impressive. We scrambled across the 20-30 degree granite slabs at its base and made our way to the toe of the 1,300 foot South Face.

4th-classing up the first three pitches brought us to a small ledge where we roped up. The climbing on this Dome is really amazing. Not a loose rock on it, many different features to climb on, from finger cracks, to open chimneys, to rock horns that beg to grabbed hold of, it has it all. And, keeping it at a 5.8 rating (old school 5.7), the pitches go by rather quickly.

Making it to the top in a few hours, we ate our summit sandwiches while we soaked up some warm Californian sun. The descent is a little tricky because you must walk down steep slabs. I can only imagine how high the pucker factor would be if it were wet, or even worse, icy! Thankfully, it was warm and dry as we padded our way down the slabs, back to our bigger packs. Now it was time for a long walk back to the van. When we stopped to pick up our bivy gear we treated our sore toes to a quick soak in the refreshing alpine lake. A billion low angled switchbacks later we were back to the van, and shortly thereafter, in bed. It had been a 17 mile, 1300 feet of climbing, heavy load carrying, 15 hour day.

Next on the list was the Traveler Buttress at Lover's Leap near South Lake Tahoe. This is one of my favorite locations to climb. The campsite is great, the approach is short, and the rock is fantastic.

Traveler Buttress is the name of the classic climb. It shares its start and finish with Corrugation Corner....we did not know this. So we proceeded to climb Corrugation Corner, think it was Traveler! Oops. It wasnt until the top that we looked at our topo a little harder and discovered our mistake. I knew the 5.9 off-width crux felt a little soft...that is because it was a 5.7!

So we went back to the base, ate some lunch at the van, and then went back up to do the actual Traveler Buttress. It too is a great route. You just cant go wrong at Lovers Leap, even if your not on the route you think you're on!