It was the "official last weekend of Summer" said the news anchor on channel 5. I was watching the weather and whatever season it's supposed to be, temps in Los Angeles were reaching 100 degrees. I haven't climbed outdoors since Bear Creek Spire and it was due time to get back on the horse! I'd been training a bit at Stronghold Climbing Gym over the last couple weeks, getting my hands into leading some routes, but more so I've been working really hard finishing production on the new collection for the Forever Outside shop.
Taco said he was heading to Big Bear for a day trip to climb, I had an unusual time committing until the day got closer. Big Bear can be 2 to 2.5 hours drive from my house and I'm still pushing the final product details on my sewing machine, so much to do, so little time. When Friday rolled around I knew I had to get out of the city. My wife helped me screen print the new t-shirts in our dining room for hours, she's a great sport and huge help. The work never ends! Saturday I sewed in labels and details on a few more products and shipped orders.
When Sunday came, I could barely sleep. I met Taco and his two friends Chris and Brak and we carpooled to the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles. This well known climbing grounds is in Big Bear, California and the high elevation (about 7,500' above sea level) provided perfect 75 weather for the day. Although I came to climb, I also brought much of the new Forever Outside line to do some product photography. We arrived at a casual 10am and warmed up top-roping a couple 5.9 routes on "Parking Lot Rock" which is exactly what it sounds like, a 10 foot approach, nice! Then we headed into the Central Pinnacles for a mix of sport and trad climbing.
The hike in is short and flat, which is what I needed after alpine climbing. Holcomb has over 400 climbable lines and is considered a mecca for routes of moderate difficulty. Mountain Project describes it as "heavily-featured granite that ranges in quality from excellent to fair with the majority of it being quite good. Routes that look difficult often go at a moderate grade because of the highly-featured rock."
We headed to "Motherlode Rock" on the northern edge of the main pinnacles. I'm obsessed with logging all of my climbs and the stats of them, so of course I brought a guidebook to share.
Having a tougher than average warm up, I onsite lead one of the easiest things ever (too easy), a 5.3 sport route called "Blasting Cap." Then I lead an adjacent 5.6 route called "Wild Rose"
I've been doing alot of cleaning on multi-pitch routes lately, so it felt great to bust out my quickdraws. I love all climbing, and I love well bolted sport climbs the most (as of sept 2015).
This route was fun, a couple grades below what I've been pushing in the gym lately, but while the East Face of Motherlode Rock has several climbs, they are mostly "easy" or "hard" in my opinion, I needed a medium. Ha!
A couple times Taco and I have tried setting some static lines to shoot photos (when we have more than one rope and more than 2 climbers) which is fun! We anchored in to exchange some camera duty. I think good photography is harder than good climbing, we'll keep trying both though.
We also climbed "Fool's Gold", a short trad crack on the wall, "Fire in the Hole" a thin 5.10a. I free soloed a 5.1 route called "Cap Gun," so I could get above "Fire in the Hole" and shoot Taco leading it. Wasn't the best shot, but here that is:
After that, it took me at least 30minutes to down climb the 5.1, which I guess doubles as the walk-off for the several climbs of this crag. I wanted to repel, but that wasn't an option (I had no rope!). The exposure on Cap Gun is fairly freaky and I took it slow, was scary and seemed pointless since I never got the photos I wanted. I chalked it up as a training experience and note to self: practice down climbing in the gym more!
After cleaning a few routes, it was great to see Brak get on the sharp end too. She's also building up to being a lead climber. I feel like everyone needs that little push from their friends!
She had no problem on lead, not that I could see, but I know mentally the pressure is a world of difference. The route ends with some slab friction, but the rock is sticky, trust it!
After cleaning all the routes, we packed up. It was probably 4pm and we headed back to Parking Lot Rock to climb a different face. Holcomb is just gorgeous, it's nothing like climbing around the Los Angeles basin, you are surrounded by a rich green forest of trees. It's dreamy.
When we got back, I had to buckle down and shoot the product photography for the website, I hauled all the gear around and I was in a naturally beautiful environment, no excuses! This gave time for Taco and Chris to plow through a few more rocks and get weird on some tougher routes.
Chris told me all about his caving adventures. I've already crossed off so many bucket list adventures this year, should I add caving?? I never really thought about it. He's deep into it, definitely had a good pitch about why it's fun.
As the day progressed he kept saying he wanted to climb harder and harder routes, LOL, I like this guy. Here he is on a sandbagged 5.7 (5.9?) HAVE YOU HUGGED A ROCK TODAY? I suggested he pull that roof to his right (5.10c?).
He appeared to be stuck in that position for a while, so I shouted him some beta to a couple holds that might have been out his peripheral vision. After that he scooted around and up no problem.
Dang I wanted to get on these routes, but duty calls, here's a sneak peak from the product photography shoot:
Taco started getting in the zone. Around 6pm when everyone is wearing out, he is warming up! When you put this guy on the trad cracks, he goes off! Here he is topping out on a thin crack at Parking Lot Rock.
As the sun went down, Taco put on quite the nail biting show as he climbed what may or may not be a route. It was a decent hand crack that flared into nothingness. I think he described it best as a "loaf of bread."
He set some gear, then sort of dead ended and started to plan a strategy, a bit too late.
He held strong, perhaps announced some expletives, started to down climb, then reassessed and headed to run it out to the top without protection. Nobody saw any other option really. PHEW! Fun little show, perhaps it was a first ascent in the parking lot, not sure. We had so many laughs about naming routes this day. I think the fun in naming routes is motivation enough to do 'em! Where do these names come from? Cap Gun? Fool's Gold? Wildrose??! The names we brainstormed were hilarious and highly inappropriate, probably wouldn't get published in a quide book.
The moon was rising when we loaded the car and left the Pinnacles. Holcomb Valley was so much fun, there are a ton of routes on my tick list there, I might need to head back next weekend!
I got back to my house at 10pm and it was still scorching hot in Los Angeles. Hopefully this won't be an endless Summer!