Photo of the Month: Diaulula sandiegensis, San Diego dorid laying eggs

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to so decided this will be a good way to blog and share my pictures at the same time.

Dive Site: Coral Garden, Anacapa Island, California

This was the last dive of 2 day trip on Peace Dive boat chartered by Bluewater Photo for the 2014 Socal Shootout. I have done this dive couple of years ago as part of 2012 shootout so I remember it well since its easy to navigate.

Its more like a wall dive with lot of Gorgonians and Sea fans to see in the 70-90 ft range and last time I found a few Tritonia festivas so I was using my Canon 100mm lens.

Couple of minutes into the dive, I came across this beautiful dorid laying eggs and figured it would be perfect for a behavior shot. It won 1st Prize in Behavior Category.

Diaulula sandiegensis, San Diego dorid laying eggs at Anacapa Island, California

Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, canon 100mm macro 2.8l lens in a Sea and Sea housing with 2 Sea and Sea YS 110a strobes. ISO 160, F/16 and 1/125th Shutter.

Backpacking North Fork Trail via Cascade Canyon

If you would like to read my entire Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park road trip blog, here is the link.

Since the snow this year was crazy I carried all mountaineering gear including my shovel. My pack easily weighed around 45-50lbs. I started at around 9.45 not a super early start by any means but the hike was going to be around 9 miles so I figured I would be fine.

The initial half hour was devoid of any snow but then it started showing up, I had to be really careful about not post holing but once in a while I did sink up to my knees. So it was really slow going, I didn’t take the higher hidden falls trail and after couple of hours I was at the hidden falls. From here the trail goes into the canyon and so far following it wasn’t a problem.

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

I got to inspiration point and beyond it there was no obvious sign of the trail. I got little worried but then looking around I saw footsteps going into the canyon so I followed them. It was tricky following them but I knew the general direction I was headed into so wasn’t worried.

Some Footsteps

At one time I did think of turning back but the canyon was really narrow and it has a stream flowing so as long as I stayed to the right of it I would be fine. Soon enough it seemed that the footsteps I was following were leading up a couloir so I decided to make my own path.

I had the entire trail programmed into my Garmin Fenix but the trail was entire loop and I needed to start it from first point so it was kind of useless.

After an hour or so I thought to myself the worst case scenario would be that I would have to camp somewhere in middle and since there was snow everywhere it wouldn’t matter but I was seeing signs of trail here and there so I carried on. It also helped that the stream was there so I could not go far from the trail in this narrow canyon. There was a reason I decided to hike this in such conditions the navigation was relatively straightforward. There was a trail underneath all the snow and I was never far from it.

Keeping the stream to left

As I got deeper into canyon it started to get wider and I was slowly getting unsure of the trail. My GPS was now showing the way points that I had saved but the scale was not enough for me to use them but luckily for me I came across very obvious set of tracks and so I decided to follow them.

These set of tracks led me over a bridge and to a cabin, later I found that this bridge indicated start of north fork trail but then I had no clue about the south fork.

Bridge

The cabin seemed deserted although I had no interest in finding out whether it was occupied or not. The tracks stopped little further away from the cabin and at this point again I had no idea where I was. Seemed like I was on the north fork trail but in that case where would the south fork be and how do I get there or my second night of camping.

I decided to continue further north and it seemed like I had definitely hiked lot more than I should have to be in the camping zone. It was around 5 at this time so I better established campsite before the weather got worse it certainly didn’t seem like improving.

I wanted to camp at spot which would give me great views of the Tetons but it was little exposed and I didn’t think the weather would cooperate for some night photography so I decided to head back and camp at a similar spot which was lower and protected. If I wanted to do some night photography I had to hike for 2 minutes and I would get some nice views.

View of Tetons

The smart ass in me decided to make a platform for the tent and started to dig it out but it seemed another n exercise in futility so that plan was quickly abandoned and I used that for kitchen and pitched the tent at other spot which was somewhat level. I did dig a hole for the vestibule so taking off and putting my boots would be convenient.

I had to hurry and make dinner quickly since the weather was turning for the worse and sure enough as I finished dinner it started raining with some hail. I got back into the tent and called it a night.

Even though I wasn’t expecting any bears given the conditions I made sure that I kept food and all the smelly things outside. I thought about staying at this site for the second night instead of going to south fork but I wasn’t sure if weather would be good and if I had to do cooking inside my vestibule because of that I didn’t want to attract any bears. Small chance but why take it.

All night long I could hear raindrops along with some crackling sound which couldn’t quite figure out. I somehow got decent sleep and it wasn’t surprising since I was spent.

Next day morning I was hoping for clear blue skies and it seemed like for change my wish would be granted and I thought about staying another night here to see if conditions improved. I really wanted to take that shot of Tetons in glow of sunset.

It didn’t seem worth the gamble so I decided to pack it up and head back.

Heading back was lot easier since I had my own footsteps to follow but again there were times when I managed to loose them. I wanted to take mg own time hiking out but the weather was starting to get worse again there was little bit of snow and the canyon was starting to get socked in and if I didn’t hurry I was going to be in white out conditions. It felt like the mountain was asking me to gtfo and as I was leaving there was a white dense fog behind me.

Cloud cover moving in.

I had ski tracks to follow now but they didn’t lead me to inspiration point and they led me north side of jenny lake which wasn’t right so I decided to make my own tracks since I knew the direction in which I was supposed to go and soon enough I reached jenny lake dock which was nice and I chilled there for a bit. A Fox came by to say hello but I think he was more interested in the squirrel than me. He didn’t linger long enough for a photo opportunity either.

Relaxing at Jenny Lake Dock

I continued on some footsteps around the lake but soon came to a dead end and if I wanted to get back on trail I had to cross a log bridge which wasn’t in good shape so I went back to finding the right trail which didn’t take that long. It was now a matter of getting back to the car, which wouldn’t be for another couple of hours. Along the way I met with lot more folks, which was surprising since I just met one person on the way in.

Tricky Bridge

I was in hurry to get back to the campground so that I could grab a campsite before it got full and I was there by 2 pm or so. I was planning on staying there for couple of days and then spend another two at Yellowstone. I really wanted to camp at amphitheater lake but after this backpacking experience I decided that it wasn’t the best idea.

I would love to come back and do the entire Teton Crest trail and i am seriously considering doing in Mid September this year. Though I have to say some company would be great, If you are interested hit me up.

Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks Road Trip Report

One of my goals this ski season was to go to Jackson hole but that didn’t happen and after that when an Alaska ski mountaineering trip wasn’t feasible, I felt the need to get out and take a break.

A visit to Grand Tetons sounded like perfect gateway and when I found out about Teton crest trail the trip was on.

I booked my flights to Salt Lake city and from there the plan was to drive out to Tetons. I planed out the entire hike and had a day or two to visit Yellowstone but the entire trip didn’t go to according to plan.

I knew that this year Tetons had received crazy amount of snow, 2nd highest on record, so couple of weeks prior to my trip I called the ranger station and asked about it. They told me there was lots of snow and hiking over the passes wasn’t a good idea. Since I was by myself I gave up on the idea of hiking the trail.

I still wanted to do some backpacking and then suddenly a brilliant idea hit me. Why not drive all the way from LA so I could lug all my gear including skis. I contacted couple of guiding companies and they only offered private 1 on 1, which was pricey, but I kept that option open.

Packed and Ready

So now that I was set on driving I decided to leave early Friday from work around noon so that I could beat la traffic but unfortunately its LA so I was faced with traffic. I had forgotten to pack my windbreaker and since thunderstorms were predicted I didn’t want to take a chance. I remembered about it only 20 minutes into the drive so it was worth it going back for it and it delayed me an hour.

I hadn’t planned on where I was going to spend the night, all I knew that I wanted to be as close to Tetons as possible since I wanted to get there early enough to grab a campsite and get my backcountry permit for next day.

I wasn’t planning on driving through the night so I decided to spent night at Fillmore rest stop. I asked the nightly rate for Bestwestern but 80 seemed too pricey so I ended up sleeping in my car.

Next day morning woke up at 7 and started the drive. After regular stops along the way and enjoying the scenery I reached Grand Tetons at around 4pm. My initial plan was to get permit for north fork on cascade canyon trail but the south fork was right there so I got permit for two nights. I also wanted to get permit for Sunrise Lake but the ranger suggested that the route was tough and it wouldn’t be a wise idea with all the snow

I decided not to get the permit for now since I could always come back and get it. I wanted to get to jenny lake campground and grab a site before it was full. I managed to get one and after establishing the site and eating diner at around 6 I thought that I could easily crash and be done for the day.

I managed to go to bed but after n hour half of sleep I was wide-awake. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until mid night now and I heard the guys in the next camp talk about how clear the weather was. So I got up and decided to drive around for some night photography. Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed by any of the shots.

It rained at night and next day morning it was quite cloudy. I was unsure about my plans to go and do the backpack so I decided to talk to the rangers about the weather. My main fear was whiteout conditions on the trail but ranger said that there was 20% chance of snow and the weather has been like this for few days and it should clear up later in the day.

I said f**k it, I will take my chances and so I wrapped up the camp and after purchasing bear spray I headed out into cascade canyon and plan was to camp on the north fork trail go to lake solitude and then the next day go to south fork trail and possibly try to go over the pass into Alaska basin. Now that I think about it I can’t help but laugh at the futility of my ambitious plan.

This backpacking hike deserves its own blog post so here it is. Backpacking North Fork Trail

I went to the visitor center to inform the ranger about my change in plans and I asked them what would have happened if I stayed another night at north fork instead of south fork and the ranger said that it would have been fine given that it was still early in the season. It’s just that during peak times they ask folks in the backcountry to stick to their itinerary. I came back to camp and decided that it won’t be a bad idea to have pizza and beer instead of my pre cooked meal so I went to Dornans but they had some event there so I had to drop that idea.

My plan for the next day was to take it easy and do some other hikes in the park.

I woke up from sleep early around 7am but then I remembered that I was on vacation so there was no reason for me to get ready so early and I went back to bed. I was up around 9 and then after enjoying my tea and breakfast I headed over to Spring Lake.

My plan was to do a loop around the lake which was about 4 miles and I was expecting that the trail would be similar to the one on the Jenny Lake loop so finding it wouldn’t be a issue but I was so wrong. I got to the trailhead and pulled in next to a skier. I chatted with him for a bit and he was out skiing alone, only if I had known about him earlier. He took the Ski mountaineering clinic with Exum guides and was staying in Jackson for a month. I didn’t find out about this Ski mountaineering clinic earlier otherwise I would have tried for it.

For some reason I decided not to wear my gaiters, which turned out to be a big mistake, more on that later. Initially the trail was easy to find but then after 10 minutes I saw a group of 3 on a hill, I followed their tracks and caught up to them but they were lost too. They wanted to hike into the palisade canyon, part of the trail for that was common with the one I wanted to follow. I consulted the map and it was obvious that the trail went around the lake and they still hadn’t crossed it so I didn’t follow them and decided to go along my own path. I let them know about it and it wasn’t until 15 minutes I saw them follow me.

I took a break hoping that they would soon catch up to me and then lead the path so I could easily follow in their footsteps but watching them cross the snow it soon became apparent to me that they had no idea what they were doing. They caught up to me and I advised them not to go ahead with their plan of hiking into the palisade canyon, they seemed to agree and retreated. I was left to myself and for a moment I thought that maybe I should retreat too but I had my mind set on doing the loop around the lake and I pushed on. During this break I removed some snow from my shoes and not wearing gaiters was starting to bite me in the ass.

As mentioned earlier I thought that finding the trail would be easier but turned out that I was wrong. From the map it seemed that the trail took me higher and away from the lake but I didn’t want to do that, staying closer to the shores of the lake seemed like a better idea to me so I could easily make my own trail. So with that in mind I went through the woods and after a while came across bear footprints, oh fun. I had forgotten to carry my bear spray so I panicked a little and seemed like I was following the tracks of the bear.

Making my own trail

I tried to remain calm and moved away from the tracks while banging my poles at the same time to make some noise. The last thing I wanted to do is to startle a bear without any bear spray. I hurried and tried to get to an open area to find some resemblance of trail but there was none so I stuck to my original plan of staying along the borders of the lake. As I continued along I came across what seemed like marshes and I really wanted to turn around at this point since I was for sure way too far from the trail but then turning back meant that I had to go through the bear tracks and I didn’t feel like it.

Got some nice views from Marshes

It seemed that there was a way through the marshes so I carried on trying to find the bridge, which would let me cross the lake and complete the loop. As soon as I got into an area with lot of trees I started banging my poles and make some noise. I was post holing once in a while but luckily for me it wasn’t too annoying. After almost hour and half and crossing around 5-6 small streams through the marshes I finally got to the bridge and it was a huge relief.

The Bridge

After another extended break I carried on and this time luckily I had tracks to follow and they led me right way. I was post-holing lot more on this part of the trail and at this point I was really frustrated and wanted the hike to be over so that I could get out of the snow but I still had over a mile to hike. I carried on and all of sudden came across an area where the snow was different and there was a layer of ice underneath. I had to be really cautious and tried not to posthole but unfortunately my left leg went in and there was a surge of ice cold water into my shoes. It was so annoying but I didn’t have a choice and after another half hour I finally made it back to the car. As soon as I got there I immediately changed out of my shoes. It had started to rain and I wanted to get out of the parking lot and go on the scenic route but a French couple wanted ride back to Jenny Lake since they didn’t have necessary stuff to hike in the rain. My car was fully packed so I couldn’t give ride to both of them so one of them came with me and I dropped her at their car at Jenny lake.

My plans for the scenic drive were abandoned so I decided to do the Taggart Lake hike, which was about 3.5 miles RT and for sure seemed to be free of snow. I decided to go to windy point, have lunch while enjoying the view from there and dry my shoes at the same time. It was very relaxing and finally I got to see clear view of the Grand Tetons. I put on a fresh pair of socks and started Taggart Lake hike but 10 minutes into it I realized that I forgot my camera so I had to go back to get it.

Clear View of Grand Teton

It was a nice hike and was great to be on trail devoid of any snow. Since there was no cloud over the Grand Tetons I was hoping to take some reflection shots when I got to the lake. There was some snow on the trail as I got closer to the lake but I had faced worse throughout so this was piece of cake. As I reached the lake it was disappointing to see that the lake was still frozen, there went my idea of taking some reflection shots.

Frozen Taggart Lake

There were some really dark clouds moving in and I didn’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm even though I had all my gear with me. I decided to really hurry and almost started running on the way out, sure enough I hiked little over 1.5 miles in under 45 minutes. As soon as I got to the car it started pouring and I was so happy that I had made it back just in time. I went back to Dornan’s and decided to have pizza and beer, which was great. By the time I was done with it the storm passed by and I went back to the campground.

The Manager of campground, Suzy had invited everyone to her site for campfire so headed over there and met all the folks, which had their own stories to share. There were couple of guys backcountry skiing and I thought about joining them for their tour tomorrow. I didn’t want to impose and if some random person would ask me to join a tour it would be awkward so I didn’t bother. One of the guys there from New Zealand was hitch hiking across the states and had already got over 100 rides.

We stayed there till quiet hours talking about stuff and then it was time for bed. My plan was to spend 2 nights at Yellowstone and I thought that it would be little too much but it turned out that it was less.

I hadn’t booked any campsites in Yellowstone so my main priority was to secure a campsite but at the same time I wanted to take it easy not hurry up and get going. I left grand Tetons around 10.30 and reached Yellowstone entrance at around 1pm. I thought about going further up inside the park but decided against it and went to Madison where I managed to get campsite for two days.

It was now time to explore Yellowstone, I decided to drive north to Mammoth area and cover that. Mammoth hot springs was really awesome, the geysers and springs have some really interesting colors to them. After spending couple of hours there and taking lots of picture I drove east to Tower Falls.

Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

One of my Favorite pictures of the trip

On the way to the falls I came across an Elk, Pronghorn Deer and a Black bear. The place where the bear was foraging was quite busy so I didn’t stop to take pictures. I wasn’t too impressed by Tower falls and unfortunately the road to Canyon area from there was closed so I ended up driving back the same way.

Elk

I ate dinner at Mammoth but once I got to campsite I was hungry again so I made dinner before bed. My plan was to explore the rest of the park tomorrow. I wanted to get up early and get going as soon as possible since it seemed like there was lot to explore and I wasn’t wrong.

Next day I got going by 8.30 and first headed over to Norris Geyser Basin area which was nice but nothing spectacular, only if Steamboat Geyser would have erupted. It was time to go over to the Canyon area but there were quite a few trails in the area that were closed which was disappointing.

I went to the lower falls lookout and then when I went to Grand view lookout I learned about Osprey nests in the area so I started looking for them but wasn’t able to find any. I headed over to the south rim and over there the views of Lower Falls were really nice. I came across a pair of photographers who seemed to find an Osprey nest on the North side of the canyon but they weren’t sure if there were any birds in the nest. I thought to myself that I could get a closer look at the nest from the North side now that I knew exactly where to look, so I went back to the north side and sure enough there was the nest.

Osprey Nest

I saw two birds in the nest though I couldn’t make out if there were any eggs. I saw one of them take off for hunting I presume, it was an awesome sight to see. Now the only thing left on my wish list was to see a Grizzly bear and my wish was granted as I drove out to West Basin Geyser area. There was a Grizzly foraging in the meadows and a huge crowd had gathered to watch it. He was about 100 ft. away or so and it seemed like he wanted to come closer and cross the road but maybe was intimidated by the number of people.

Grizzly Bear

My Yellowstone mammal wish list was complete and I was super happy. I headed over to the West Basin Geyser area and some of the springs were really colorful, there was one in particular where I wasn’t happy with the pictures I took because of the angle of the sun. I thought about returning next day but I didn’t. Now the only thing left was Old Faithful area.

As soon as I got to Old Faithful there was a crowd of people gathered so I found a good spot and set up my camera. The geyser didn’t erupt for another half an hour but when it did, it surely put on a show. I then went around checking out the area and I hadn’t realized that there would be so much to look at. There were couple of Bison just relaxing in the basin area and they let us get really close to them. I didn’t try my luck and maintained my distance however there was a guy with his tripod who only few feet away from it. I had my camera on them since I was certain that the Bison was going to charge but luckily for everyone it just crossed the walkway and carried on.

Old Faithful

Bison close to people

No Harm done but could have been Ugly

I moved to other part of the basin and sure enough one of the geysers where I was earlier erupted, I didn’t get chance to catch it up close. It seemed like I wasn’t going to be able cover the entire area since it was getting pretty late and I was hungry too. So I went around for a bit taking pictures and then waited around Castle Geyser in hope that it would erupt. It had already erupted twice in the day so I didn’t linger for long and then after having Dinner at the cafe it was time to head back to camp.

Castle Geyser

My plan next day was to visit couple of more Geyser areas and then drive back to Jackson and spend the night there. I wanted to do some photography passing through the towns and Bear Lake, which I planned to do it on Saturday. I was hoping to reach LA on Sunday night after some gambling in Vegas but as with this trip nothing worked according to the plan.

I thought about spending another night at Yellowstone but seemed like getting a campsite would be a problem and it was started to get crowded so I wanted to get away from it. I wrapped up my campsite and visited Midway Geyser Basin, which was awesome, specially the chromatic pool. It was awesome to see the different colored mist rising from the pool. I then went over to Black Sand basin, which was going to be my final stop in the park, and I would be on my way.

Chromatic Pool

As I got there, in the distance I saw what seemed like Osprey hunting some birds, I tried to switch to my zoom lens but it flew away before I could. After going around the basin area, I decided to wait for a bit to see if the Osprey came back and sure enough it did. I thought it would go for the birds but they were nowhere to be seen so the Osprey was over the river. I wanted to move closer to it but as I was moving the Osprey made a dive for it and plucked out a fish. It was once in a lifetime experience and it circled over us for few minutes with fish still in its claw and then flew away. I was completely thrilled and it felt so good to see the hunt in action.

Osprey with Fish

Osprey Flyover

On the way to Grand Tetons there was a brief stop over to watch a Mama Grizzly bear with two cubs but they were way to far from road so I didn’t linger for long. I got back to Jackson around 3pm and thought that it didn’t make sense spending the night there so I carried on and thought maybe Logan might be a better option. As I got to Logan it seemed that I could go further and I ended up spending the night at Fillmore in my car, which was the same place as way up. Saturday I stopped over in Vegas to play some poker and then reached LA Saturday night.

Mama Grizzly and cubs

It was an awesome trip even though it didn’t go according to plan. I wanted to backpack Teton Crest trail but couldn’t and enjoyed Yellowstone more which was going to be an after thought on this trip. I took over 600 pictures on this trip, most of them were in Yellowstone and it took me better part of Saturday and Sunday to process them all.

Next time I go to Yellowstone I want to spend at least a week photographing everything and regarding Teton Crest Trail I am considering of going back in Mid September and hiking it.

1 person, 2 national parks, 6 state lines, 9 days , 12+ mammal species, 25+ miles of hiking, 600+ pictures, 2400+ miles and a lifetime of memories. Road trips are so much fun.

The trip pictures can be viewed and bought at http://www.desidiverphotography.com/Hiking/Yellowstone-Road-Trip/

Utah Ski Trip Report

I saw Shawna, from Uber Mammoth meetup group post this trip sometime in november and i jumped right on it. This season i had made it a goal to travel to different ski resorts across the country and that is why i decided to buy Mammoth MVP premium pass which gives 50% off at all mountain collective resorts.

We were going to spend 4 days in Park City and i didn’t really think about where i was planning to ski until the trip got closer which was weekend of 2/28/14. As i was asking different people and reading about different resorts it was clear that i wanted to spend at least 2 days at snowbird/alta. In the end i ended up spending a day each at Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Canyons.

My only worry was the roads to snowbird might get closed because of the storm and we might not be able to make it but fortunately that wasn’t the case.

I want to focus this post only on what i thought about each of those resorts. Please do keep in mind that i am not an expert by any means but just someone who is passionate about skiing and considers himself a snow snob. Every individual has their own style/preference when it comes to skiing and this post is all about what worked for me.

I have been skiing only for 6 years but having taken lot of lessons, i have progressed fairly quickly (i think) and i can ski down most of the runs on any mountain. I enjoy varied steep terrain, tree skiing and wide open bowls.

Park City Mountain Resort

I wasn’t too keen on PCMR to begin with but we were staying walking distance from the resort and everyone in the group was going to ride there so i decided to go along with it.

Jupiter lift has the most advanced terrain so the plan was to get there as quickly as possible but from Silver star lift it took us a good half hour to get there and it was already packed. There weren’t many fresh tracks to be had.

There is little bit of traversing and hiking involved if you want to get to some of the runs and my snowboarding buddies found the traverse to be quite tricky. They dropped in a steep tree line which i wouldn’t have, the snow was great everywhere so it didn’t matter.

After talking to locals the hike to Scott’s bowl was supposed to be good so we decided to go for it. It had a nice 5ft drop so it was a perfect opportunity for me to take the camera out and do some action photography.

Scotts Bowl

I decided to go in first and then wait for others so that i could shoot them. I had put my boots in walk mode and unfortunately i forgot to tighten my left boot and put it back in the ski mode. Ofcourse i found this out after i crashed and lost my ski which decided to go 40-50 ft down the hill and into the trees. Luckily we found it quickly, lesson learnt.

I took my BC setup on this trip since i had read about being able to hike in utah resorts and it was only my 3rd time using it. So it was a very good learning experience for me and i hope not to repeat the same mistake again in BC where the consequences of such a mistake could be far greater.

We had enough of this lift at this point and decided to check out other lifts but it seemed like in terms of advanced terrain our options were limited. We headed over to Mcconkey’s and did the bowl run but the snow was terrible. It was few inches of fresh powder on top but it was crusty underneath and it wasn’t fun at all.

It was time for a lunch break and after that we headed up Mcconkeys again and this time we decided to explore the trees. The first run we dropped into some really tight trees and it was little scary. I wasn’t really linking any turns and it was mainly survival skiing so for the next run i decided to go into area with trees more spaced apart and it was more fun. This area is known as glading in black forest, not sure if i would rate it as double black.

The best part was the lower run which was almost like a natural half pipes with lots of whoops and small jumps and it was the best run of the day for me. Personally i felt like PCMR redeemed itself for me with this run, i did it couple more times and then it was time to figure out way to head back.

Heading back it was the worst snow of the day on the last run and me being lazy/tired i fell couple more times but didn’t loose my ski so that was good.

It was good day at PCMR but i was looking forward to snowbird lot more the next day specially since it had got some fresh snow and was going to snow during the day as well.

Snowbird/Alta

The road was closed but it was expected to open at 8am so we left as early as possible and we got to snowbird just before the lifts opened. It was still snowing and when we got there none of the lifts were running.

When i bought my pass i had to buy the snowbird/alta combined pass because of the MVP premium discount and given the fact that none of the lifts were running at bird i decided to take the shuttle to Alta and check that out instead. I didn’t really want to wait in line and deal with the crowds at snowbird.

When i got to Alta there was a big line for Collins lift so i decided to jump on the wildcat lift instead and it was great. I had to be careful since the visibility wasn’t great but there were fresh tracks to be made everywhere.

After couple of laps i decided to check out Collins and brave the long lines, it was about 10 mins in the singles but totally worth it. Some people were talking about sugarloaf being open so i decided to head over there from collins and ended up spending most of my day there.

It was definitely the best chair of the day, there were times when the visibility was absolutely none but since i was doing laps on the same chair i was getting more comfortable and it didn’t matter. I was having a blast.

I was told the best terrain is off the supreme lift but i was apprehensive about trying to get on more advanced unknown terrain specially when there was limited visibility.

Limited Visibility at Alta

The plan was to do some turns together with a friend of mine who was skiing at snowbird so i decided to head out there but all the gates were closed except for Blackjack traverse and it was an adventure.

Earlier in the day i had seen sign for snowbird from the Wildcat lift and i asked the lifties whether it was open or not and it was open. I followed the sign and it seemed like a traverse through the trees but after a while i was completely lost on where to go.

I wasn’t sure whether i had to stay high up or descend and the path down was quite steep in the trees with me being uncertain whether i was over some cliffs or not. I was little scared at this point but luckily for me there was some guy who came and he was heading in the same direction. He said that i had to follow orange markings on the trees and that was the only sign, it was sketchy but after a while i got out of the trees. This time i could see avalanche danger signs at bird, i got out of the area as soon as possible and even got some fresh powder.

I would not recommend this traverse to anyone who isn’t an advanced skier or familiar with the terrain, if it wasn’t for that guy i would have probably gotten lost in the trees and ended up somewhere in middle between snowbird and alta.

Once i got back to snowbird i decided to ride the peruvian express since we had already decided to be back at the car at 3.30. I headed down from the lift without paying much attention to the signs and it made for some good mogul skiing. I was tired so was stopping after every few turns and after 3 runs on the chair i decided to call it a day.

Snowbird

Since yesterday i missed out on skiing snowbird and everyone was raving about mineral basin area, i wanted to head over there first thing in the morning. It seemed like tram would be a slow way to get to mineral basin since i could take peruvian express and then go through the tunnel but i wanted to experience the tram so i waited and rode it. When we got to the top mineral basin was still closed so i decided to do a lap on little cloud and it was super nice.

I loved the groomed wide bowl of regulator johnson, it had few inches of fresh and made for great skiing. When i took the lift back up, mineral basin had opened up so it was time to head there. After i did lap or two there, i saw the powder paradise had opened up and even though it was mostly lapped up i decided to go there and was able to get my own fresh tracks it was nice.

I was eyeing road to provo from little cloud express and had decided to be one of the first ones to be there when it opened up. So i was just doing laps around that area, ski patrol was still doing avy work and when it seemed that they were getting closer i decided to wait for it.

I waited half an hour for it and when it was about to open the line was at least 100 people long and it was a mad dash for it. I was probably among the first 15 people to go through the gate and instead of going farther into the traverse i just dropped in as soon as i could and it was awesome. I have no words to describe the feeling and it was great to be part of the crowd since it felt that everyone was feeding off each others energy. There were plenty of loud happy shouts and high fives once we got back to the chair lift. It was a huge adrenaline rush and i did couple more laps though of course they weren’t as great as the first one. It was all tracked out in matter of minutes.

Waiting for Road to Provo

After lunch i did a lap on gad zoom but the snow wasn’t that great and it was time to head back to the other side. Early in the day i had thought about dropping into a chute at top of mineral basin but i chickened out so i wanted to hit it and redeem myself. I dropped in and managed to ski fine, the snow would have been lot better early in the morning though. I decided to go through the tunnel for the heck of it and then call it a day.

Canyons

Some folks in the group had bought 2 day tickets for PCMR but since i wasn’t too impressed by it on the first day, i decided to go check out Canyons instead.

I knew Ninety-Nine 90 was the lift for advanced terrain and i wanted to get there first thing but i was disappointed by the snow. It was fairly crusty and not fun at all, plus me being tired from 3 days of skiing wasn’t helping too. The hike to the nearby peaks to go off boundary was really tempting but since i was by myself i didn’t want to risk it.

The quicker way to get to Ninety-Nine 90 was to take Orange Bubble express to thunder mountain express instead of red gondola to thunder mountain express.

From top of 9990, i headed over to red pine chutes so that i could get to a wide open bowl which promised some fresh tracks but unfortunately as i traversed over there it was closed. I dropped into red pine chutes and snow was better than the previous run but i had to be careful to avoid some cliffs. I wanted to traverse over to one side but was unsure if it involved any jumps or not so i took the safer visible path down.

Looking down Red Pine Chutes, Canyons Resort

I was planning on doing the mountain tour offered but it was full so i talked to one of the hosts and he suggested that i head over to dreamcatcher and dreamscape lifts for best chance of good quality snow and some advanced/intermediate runs. I took his advice and wasn’t disappointed. It made for some really fun tree skiing with fresh snow on the ground. It wasn’t as crusty underneath and i did few laps on both the chairs.

After lunch i was tempted to go back on Ninety Nine 90 but that didn’t seem like a good idea since i was tired so after couple of runs i decided to call it a day. It was time to get to the airport and head back home.

Overall it was a great trip and for me the preference of resorts would be Snowbird/Alta, Canyons and then park city. On my next trip to SLC i would prefer staying closer to snowbird instead of park city and then just ski there. Canyons would be a great option if they had some fresh snow, the backcountry seems so easily accessible from the resort. PCMR, i have no intentions of going there again, Canyons is way better option in park city.

My Mammoth Story

This blog post is inspired by a mini site created by Mammoth Mountain and here is my Mammoth story.

This year will be my 5th season at Mammoth and in the past three years i have skied close to 100 days on the mountain, i consider it to be my home away from home though technically it is my third home since i grew up in Mumbai, India.

I caught Skiing bug in 08 and did few trips to local LA resorts, took some lessons but i wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to get better and the only way to do it would be to go often and slowly push my limits. I had heard about MM being one of the best places to ski and luckily Mammoth that year offered their season pass (MVP) to new members. So without ever visiting Mammoth, not knowing anyone who skies regularly i decided to buy the pass. The rationale being that if i bought the pass i would force myself to go to mammoth often and get better at skiing.

The pass was bought in april and as the season arrived i found out about different meetup groups hosting regular trips to Mammoth on the weekends and it was easy for me to join those and make some new friends.

During my first visit to Mammoth for the entire day i only got on Discovery chair (Beginner). I was doing laps on the same two runs and it didn’t matter, I was enjoying myself and having a great time. One of the guys mentioned that the group was going to meet at Mccoy at 10am and then ride together/take pictures and i looked at him blankly. I had no clue what he was talking about and had no intentions of getting on harder runs. I wanted to take it slow and just enjoy being on the slopes.

In first season i never went to the top since i didn’t have confidence in my skiing to be able to make it down in one piece. I met lot of new folks, made new friends who were willing to be patient with me, help me out with my skiing. For the most part i was skiing alone doing my own thing and progressing slowly at the same time. At the end of the season i got in about 15-20 days and considered myself an intermediate skier.

This is how my journey began and now 4 seasons later, 3 of them taking season long lessons, I am finally comfortable skiing most of the slopes on the mountain. I have met so many new people, made awesome friends, it has been a life changing experience for me and i plan to enjoy it for the rest of life.

As i plan to venture into Backcountry skiing and exploring other resorts around the country, Mammoth will always be the best for me and I can’t imagine a life without my home away from home.

My Mammoth

Utah Road Trip

I have wanted to visit Arches and Canyonlands national park for a while now and recently i had some time off work so i decided to take a road trip out to those parks. Initially i hesitated to take this trip and government shutdown happened and it wasn’t possible to go anyway but when utah decided to open its parks i decided to go for it for sure.

I tried to find some company for this trip but i suppose since this was planned during the week no one had time plus i wanted to do it during the week so that the parks along with vegas won’t be super busy. The initial plan was to leave LA on monday (10/14) morning, spend monday night in vegas and then tuesday morning head over to Moab. Spend 3 days camping/hiking in arches and canyonland and then on way back spend Thursday night in vegas and back to LA on friday but my trip turned into something totally different.

My plan was to wing it and find a campsite in one of the parks but then when i did little more research i found the campsites could be full so i tried to book something in advance but the parks reservation site was down because of the shutdown. All the campsites at Dead Horse Point state park were booked so i decided to book my camp site at the archview resort which seemed to be closer to both the parks and quite convenient. I booked it for 3 nights instead of 2 which i had planned earlier and it turned out to be a wise decision.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything during the weekend but a last minute dive trip to oil rigs came up and i couldn’t say no to that, oil rigs are one of my favorite dive sites around LA and i will dive them every chance i get.

I took my sweet time getting ready monday morning and left LA around noon for Vegas, i reached vegas just in time to watch the colts vs chargers and much to my disappointment the colts lost and i didn’t get enough fantasy points from TY Hilton or Antonio Gates. I stayed at Rio and was really impressed by the rooms, after the game went out to have some fun. yes what happens in vegas stays in vegas :)

Next day i left vegas pretty early in the morning since it was going to be almost 8hr drive with all the breaks. To my surprise the official speed limit as i left vegas was 75 and then 80 in Utah, it was a very welcome change as compared to 70 or 65 on most of california freeways. After i got into I-70 the landscape changed a lot and i took my time stopping at various view points and taking pictures. I was making some good time so wasn’t in a hurry anymore so i did stop at almost every possible viewing area.

Castle Valley overlook

Looking over Castle Valley

I-70

The road winding through

Almost after 9 hours i reached archview resort and immediately got my campsite established. Next order of business was to get dinner and i decided to drive to Moab which is about 9 miles away from this place. I wanted to go to the information center and get more information about the parks and the things to do but it was closed. I had dinner at a nice italian restaurant and walked in town for a bit. I really liked the small town vibe of Moab and wished i had more time to explore it.

I decided to visit Canyonlands first on wednesday for some reason i don’t quite remember. i think it had to do something with the moon rise times not sure. After havign breakfast i left for canyonlands and headed to information center to find out what my options were etc. I did entertain thought of possibly doing a backpacking trip but there were no permits available.

After looking at the map, i was intrigued by the idea of possibly going on unpaved roads which require a 4×4 and would offer better views of the park but there was a side note to check the conditions of the road first. I spoke with the ranger and he said all the roads were in pretty good conditions so i decided to take the shafer trail road and hike to the gooseneck overlook for views on the Colorado river.

The road looked pretty steep and scary and going down into the canyon i was little scared but it was totally worth it. The trail to the overlook is pretty short and i did get good views of the colorado river, it wasn’t anything spectacular but it was nice nonetheless. As always i took my time taking pictures and enjoying the views. The drive back wasn’t as bad as i expected though it was nice to be back on the paved road. I was planning on stopping at all the viewing points on the way and do the small hikes to the various look out points and it worked out well.

Shafer trail

Looking back at Shafer trail descending into the Canyon

Colorado River from Gooseneck overlook on white rim road.

Colorado River from Gooseneck overlook

Next on the way was Mesa Arch which is a small arch overlooking the canyon and a good spot for some sunrise photography but i was too late for that. It is half a mile hike which offers good view of the canyons. I planned to come back here for some night photography, i thought it would make for some interesting shooting and the hike itself was pretty straightforward and short.

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

Going further along on the road i stopped at buck canyon overlook and then i decided to have lunch before doing the hike to white rim overlook. As i started this hike there was barely anyone on the trail as compared to the mesa arch which was quite crowded. At the end this hike gave some spectacular views of the canyons but the light wasn’t great for photography and that is when i decided to experiment with HDR feature of my camera.

I am not a fan of HDR in general but then when i saw the results i was pretty sold on it and i was taking most of the pictures using the inbuilt HDR functionality, even though after processing everything i ended up deleting most of them. I came across a lone tree on the edge and it was fun taking pictures of it and playing around. i spent more than 5 minutes at this one spot, thank god for digital cameras that i didn’t have to worry about the amount of pictures i took.

Lonely tree

The lonely tree

The road ends in spot where you can hike to grand point overlook which is the southern end of island in the sky area and offers pretty amazing views of the le sal mountains and the canyons on the east side of the park. The entire hike is on the rim and then later on it switches to the other side of the park. It was the only time when i felt that i should ask someone else to take my picture and i did get one taken.

Looking over at the vast canyons

Looking over

It was getting pretty close to sunset so i had to think about how much time i had left and all that stuff. I wanted to do the syncline loop hike but it was 8.3 miles so i wouldn’t have time for it so i decided to go to the upheaval dome over look trail for sunset but before that i did have time to go to murphy point overlook which was 3.6 miles and quite easy in terms of elevation gain.

This hike presented a totally different landscape and vegetation was completely different on this trail which was quite interesting. The trail itself was lined with old tree branches which was something unique. I didn’t come across anyone else on this hike and it did give present some good views at the end of it but i was happy to be on this trail for the fact that there was no one else on it and the landscape was very different than what i had seen earlier.

Tree trunks lined up on murphy trail

Tree trunks lined up along the trail.

I was cutting it quite close to sunset and i didn’t want to be on the road when it was happening since i wanted to shoot something cool during that time. I had two more points of interest left and i hurried over to green river overlook and was completely disappointed, it was mainly because i was there at the wrong time of the day. This overlook faces west and the sun was about to set so the entire valley was pretty washed out in terms of the light. I didn’t even fire a single shot and then drove to upheaval dome as fast as i could.

This was going to be the my sunset trail and the first overlook is only a 15 minute hike but it gives you view of this crater which is a mystery but in terms of photography isn’t too exciting. So i moved on as fast as i could and the sun was pretty close to setting but then next overlook was another mile away and the trail was tricky to find at certain times.

I decided to be extra cautious and didn’t want to get lost at night, even though it was full moon night and i was carrying a headlamp i was in no mood to do some route finding. So i stopped midway and waited for sunset, i didn’t get the views i was hoping for but it was still nice.

Sunset over Le Sal Mountains

Sunset over Le Sal Mountains

I got back to the car when there was still some twilight out and i desperately wanted to do some night photography so on the way back i decided to head over to mesa arch. I wasn’t worried about this hike at night because i had done it earlier during the day and sort of scoped it out.

It was pretty wide and the trail is very easy to follow so i put on my headlamp and started the hike. I did take some pictures of the arch and also used my head lamp for some lighting effects but unfortunately focussing was an issue and none of the pictures were in focus. I later found out the trick to get proper focus during the night and it helped me the next day while doing night photography in arches.

It was a pretty long day but i was satisfied that i had covered most of the areas of the park though there is lot more to explore and see at canyonlands. I went to Island in the sky area but there in future i would love to drive all the way along the white rim road and camp out there plus there seem to be some really interesting hikes along this road too. Plus the other parts of the park, Needles and the Maze have so much more to offer so they would be fun to check out too.

I woke up early next morning and it was time to check out arches national park. While talking to one of the couple who was camping next to me, they mentioned that devil’s garden was a really fun 7+mile hike and something not to be missed so i kept that in mind. I went over to the visitor center to get more information about the hiking in the park but they didn’t have hiking map and i just got general information about things to do.

As soon as i entered the park the landscape caught my attention and i simply loved it. I stopped at the park avenue and courthouse towers view points briefly along with couple of other spots before reaching the trailhead for Devils Garden. I hadn’t seen a single arch so far but i was in love with this park, i knew that i have to come back here for more and just hike around.

Rock formations at Arches National Park, Utah

Rock formations at Arches National Park, Utah

I started the hike at almost 10.30 but i was in no hurry my plan was to just go with the flow and see as much as i could. I decided to take every side trail to all the arches and take as many pictures as i could. The more time i spent at this place, the more in love i fell with it. It is really hard to explain but i could easily wander for days in this area without getting bored, there was a certain element of calmness to it even though there were lots of people there.

The arches the i visited were tunnel, pine tree, landscape, navajo, partition, double O and private. all of these are on this loop with some having a small side trail, i even visited the rock formation called devils angel which isn’t too spectacular and can be avoided. I am not going to put all the pictures of arches in this post, they can be found on my photography site by clicking on any of the pictures.

While taking a side trail to Navajo arch, i saw someone carrying a tripod and was wondering why would one need a tripod in this broad daylight and sure enough when i got to the arch i took out my tripod as well :)

Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch, had to use tripod for this shot.

Hiking along this trail i met some folks and asked them about capitol reef national park since it was something i could visit on the way back to LA and it was worth it according to them so i kept it as an option for tomorrow. As always i spent my sweet time taking pictures of the arches and other things on the way.

I tried to spend as much time as i could on this trail and just enjoy the landscape and by the time i got back it was almost 3pm. At this point i figured there was no way i could visit everything in the park and i was ok with it since i had such a great time at Devil’s garden.

Delicate arch was the place to be for sunset so before that i had enough time to see skyline and broken arches. I went over to sand dune arch and the place was packed with kids partly because there was lots of sand there was no way i was going to get a good clear shot of it and i was ok with it.

Initially i thought the hike to delicate arch was 3 miles one way and i planned my time accordingly but when i got to trailhead i found that it was 3 miles RT oh well nothing i could do about it now. This is by far the most popular trail and most folks want to be there for sunset which is something i would recommend to everyone who visits arches national park. If there is one thing that you have to do is to view the delicate arch during sunset.

Delicate arch during sunset

Delicate Arch during sunset.

I got to the arch there was a crowd of people just sitting in front of it and i soon found a spot and setup my tripod as well. It was still half an hour before sunset so i decided to get closer to the arch and shoot some pictures. It was hilarious to see everyone pose inside the arch to take pics and they were sort of doing for the whole crowd.

Sun started going down and the whole landscape changed with a golden glow on the arch as well as snow capped le sal mountains in the background. Once in a while someone stupid would try to get into the arch to take some pictures and everyone would start booing them, it was funny.

My camera battery died and i had a spare one which i thought was fully charged but to my surprise it didn’t have much charge left either, i would have been devastated not to be able to take any pictures of the spectacular show that mother nature was putting on for everyone but i decided to be conservative about it and it was all good. Now that i think about it my battery lasted for every one of my night shots later as well so maybe it wasn’t too bad.

I thought about staying at the arch for moon light but with my battery issues i didn’t think i would have had any success plus i was really pleased with the shots i got so i decided to head back and do some night photography on my way out of the park.

I stopped at the courthouse and park avenue viewpoint to do some night photography and was extremely happy with the results and specially with my new learned trick to keep everything in focus i was having good success. It was almost 9 and i was really hungry since i didn’t have a proper lunch so i decided to head to Moab so have some proper dinner and then it was time to crash.

Night time shot of Tower of Babel with The organ in the background.

Night time shot of Tower of Babel with The organ in the background.

Even though i didn’t visit all the areas of arches i was really happy with how the trip turned out to be and totally content with heading back home. I wanted to break down the drive by stopping in vegas for friday night but the hotels were crazy expensive so i decided to try my luck with couchsurfing plus there was option of visiting capitol reef too.

I woke up friday morning with nothing set in stone and i didn’t have any specific plans as to where i was going to spend the night. worst case scenario i would wing it all the way to LA in one shot, it would be pretty stressful but possible. At the last moment i did find a couch surfing host in vegas which was great so the plan was to crash at his place for the night and then head to LA on saturday morning.

I had kept the route for capitol reef in mind just in case i decided to take a detour and while on the road it was a last minute decision to do so. I was just planning on driving through capitol reef national park on the way to vegas but then i thought that why not spend the night there and camp as well if there was space available.

As i started getting to the park the landscape changed again and the fall colors were still present, it was really nice to see that. I stopped at the visitor center and asked if there was any space at the campgrounds and sure enough they had one spot available. I took that spot immediately and now it was time for me to see what i could do out here in half a day.

Fall Colors on way to Capitol Reef National Park

Fall Colors on way to Capitol Reef National Park

The previous day i had some issues with blisters so i had to patch that first before i could think of going on any hikes. there is a spot out here called sunset spot so i knew i wanted to be there for sunset and between then n now i had few hours to kill. I saw the hike for hickman bridge which looked interesting but when i got to the trailhead it was closed due to rock fall danger oh well.

I decided to take the 10 mile scenic drive which was interesting but then i got to the end of it i saw the capitol gorge road which is an unpaved road. I hadn’t thought about it earlier for some reason and i got excited by the looks of it. I drove ahead and it didn’t disappoint at all plus at the end of it there is a hike just over a mile long into the gorge which was also nice though the tanks were not that exciting.

Capitol Gorge drive

Driving into Capitol Gorge

I had to go back to camp to get my head lamp and there was still some time left before sunset so i decided to take pictures of the deer hanging around. They were just grazing at the campground without any care in the world and i have never come so close to them anytime so it was perfect opportunity to test out my 70-200 for wildlife photography. I would have been happier with a tripod but it was too much work plus i had to get going to sunset point.

Mule deer leaping over the fence.

Leaping Mule Deer

Headed off to sunset point which is 1/3 rd of a mile hike and set up my tripod, the sunset was nice and the mountains got a really nice golden glow but unlike the arch there wasn’t any specific feature that i wanted to take pictures of but it was still nice.

Got back to camp and it was time for dinner and after that i had already decided to hike the 1.5 mile long fremont river trail which started from the campground. The moon had risen and i didn’t need my head lamp but the trail was covered with trees so i had to use my headlamp more than i wanted to. I took some pictures and went further along the trail but something didn’t feel right. I was spooked for the first time while hiking alone and going further along on the trail by myself didn’t seem like a good idea so i decided to turn around. I did take some pictures of the campground before heading back to bed and while doing so i met someone who mentioned about mountain lions in the area so my decision to turn back was definitely a good one.

campground at capitol reef national park

Campground in Full Moon

Next day morning i packed up and it was time for me to head back to LA, i wasn’t interested in stopping anywhere for one more night and having to deal with the vegas traffic on sunday so i was going to drive to LA in one day. It was around 10pm that i reached LA.

Overall it was a wonderful trip and i was glad that i decided to stop at Capitol Reef national park. One of the things about traveling solo is that i could do whatever i wanted and whenever i wanted. It won’t be my last time visiting these wonderful parks for sure and there is so much more to explore and see specially at canyonlands. Heck i would go back just to see another sunset at Delicate arch, it was simply magical.

Denali Expedition 2013

Since climbing Mt Shashta last year on my own i was very keen on climbing Denali and figured this year would be a good time to do so. Once i got the vacation approved i had to go for it after E3 since at that time i was working with G4, it also mean’t that i would get more time to train.

The training, entire climb has been a great experience and it was a total roller coaster ride of emotions, physical and mental strength. Instead of writing one long blog post about the whole thing, i think it will be better to break it down into parts.

Preparing for the climb: The Training

Getting to 11k Camp

Surviving the Storm and getting to High Camp

Patience at High Camp and the return Journey.

My Tips for Denali climb

High Resolution pics from the entire climb can be viewed here. you can also prints from this site if you wish. Entire collection is posted on facebook, if you are interested in obtaining high resolution of some picture then let me know.

Tips for climbing Denali

This is final post in series of blogs that i have written for my denali experience. main page can be found here.

Alpine Ascents has a great 6 month training program and if you want to follow that here is the link.

I don’t want to give out a training regimen or some generic guidelines in this blog post. Having gone through the slog myself, i feel i can share some things which are useful before and while being on the mountain.

1) Train with a sled, dragging a 60lb sled can be really challenging and it will helpful if you manage to train with it.

2) If you are not able to train with a sled then just do a lot of deadlifts or some similar exercise to strengthen your lower back.

3) Try to find a training partner or talk with someone close to you so that you are motivated and can keep on track with whatever training programme/regimen you choose. Take breaks, listen to your body as you deem fit.

4) Invest in really good sleeping bag, i had mountain hardware ghost -40 degree bag which is amazing. Chances are you will end up sleeping with your inner boot liners, water bottles and some more gear inside your bag so make sure it is roomy as well. Similarly buy quality gear and don’t go for cheap stuff which might not last or will freeze and not work anymore.

5) Pack a variety of different lunch snacks by that i mean something salty as well as sugary. I had carried mainly nuts and chocolate along with protein bars and at the end of the trip i was sick of them and craving something really salty which i hadn’t thought of.

6) Carry some reading material, i had kindle to save me from the boredom of the tents. you can only talk and interact with your tent mates so much when you are stuck in your tent for days.

7) If you pee as much as i do make sure you carry a pee bottle which won’t get completely filled up at night, my bottle almost over flowed couple of times and it wasn’t fun. Not to mention that during the storm days because of the same reason i didn’t hydrate as much as i should have. Some people empty the bottles inside vestibule but i not fan of that.

8) Whenever you establish camp make sure all your gear is accounted for and placed in such a way that if it snows then it won’t get buried/lost. I made mistake of leaving my crampons outside because i was being lazy and was worrying about them when it started snowing. Luckily, David moved them along with the pack.

9) Always cover your backpack if possible, i had my down stuff get wet on the first day and if i hadn’t got chance to dry it out, my life could have miserable.

10) Similarly cover your boots with gaiters so that snow doesn’t get inside the plastic shell and put the liners away inside your sleeping bag to keep them warm or put them inside the tent at the very least.

These things might seem trivial but trust me at altitude all the trivial problems appear to be huge. I suppose this is for now and i will keep in updating this page as i think about more things.

High Resolution pics from the entire climb can be viewed here. you can also prints from this site if you wish. Entire collection is posted on facebook, if you are interested in obtaining high resolution some picture then let me know.

Denali: Waiting at High Camp and the return journey.

This is part 4 in series of blogs that i have written for my denali experience. main page can be found here.

July 9th

It was a beautiful day and we could have made a summit attempt but it was a scheduled rest day and rightly so. Everyone including me was pretty beat up from the move yesterday we needed a rest day. Initially the plan was to go back down to the ridge and pick up our cache but everyone was so tired that we decided against it. The guides could have gone down and retrieved all of our cache but then they also needed rest and had to be on top of their game for the summit attempt tomorrow.

Not all of us were feeling comfortable with the amount of snack food we had for the summit attempt specially me and Becky. I thought to myself that i would be totally ok if we had to go down and bring our cache even if it mean’t that we had to take a rest day tomorrow and postpone our summit attempt. Dennis raided some abandoned cache and we found a lot of goodies in there which we distributed among ourselves so that our snack bag was looking really good for the summit attempt.

Everyone was feeling great and looking forward to the summit attempt tomorrow but as always mother nature had the final word.

Later in the evening a storm rolled in and it started snowing. It was pretty windy outside and i went to bed thinking that there was no way we were going to make a summit bid with the wind being so bad and indeed as it turns our i was right.

Jun 10th

It was windy and still snowing when we got up so as expected there wasn’t going to be a summit bid. Me and Konrad decided to build some walls around our tent and got to work. I felt much better than yesterday and figured building those walls would be a good exercise for acclimatization. It was hard work but i was happy to do it and felt good while doing it too.

our tent in the background with walls in front.

Our guides teamed up with another group of guides to retrieve our cache today and i was united again with all the protein bars and shot blocks that i had carried. I immediately consumed a protein bar and my body did not like it, it was processed within 10 mins and i had to go use the CMC. I was little bit worried but then for my next bar i decided not overwhelm my body with protein and slowly munch on it which worked way better. I had read that at high altitude its hard for your body to process fat and protein and i learnt it the hard way. :)

I was feeling great but for some reason my O2 saturation level was hovering only at around 70 even after two days at altitude, i wasn’t too concerned by it but Dennis was and it was something in the back of my head. Leslie, who is a doctor, wanted to listen to my breathing but a stethoscope wasn’t available, it would have been really interesting to see what she would have found. I wasn’t planning on taking Diamox or any other drug to help me with altitude sickness since i wanted to see how far i could push myself and i never took it.

We tried to go the edge of the ridge to get in some views of the mountains nearby but it was pretty overcast. Rest of the day was spent inside our tent playing cards and i was regretting a tad bit not carrying kindle with me to kill some time. Its funny that while writing this blog i am trying to recollect how exactly did i spend my time in the tent and i can’t even though its just over a week. We spent so much time just basically doing nothing inside the tent that its not remotely surprising that i am unable to recollect it.

In the evening it cleared up a bit and we could see the autobahn which we had to cross to get to Denali pass and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It was loaded with snow and the avalanche danger had increased exponentially, guides from every team were worried about it and Dennis explained to us that it would take at least 24-48 hours for snow to settle down or a slide for it clear so that we could even think about crossing it.

The route was wind loaded.

At that moment i knew it in my heart that it was over, some of the folks had extra time on their hands and were planning to stay or some still had a glimmer of hope of making a summit bid but i came to realization that it wasn’t going to happen for me. I had to get back to work and didn’t really want to deal with cancellation/change of flights which cost an arm and a leg along with other expensive logistics.

I was at peace with my decision and wouldn’t have any regrets or issues if we decided to head back down tomorrow itself instead of waiting one more day for snow to settle/slide so that a summit bid could be made. I went to bed that night thinking that i would let Dennis know in the morning that i was ok with us leaving tomorrow itself but then my mind played lot of tricks on me. I couldn’t sleep at all and was going through so many emotions that night, so many dreams, expectations, all that training time, effort and money put into the climb and it came down to this. At one point i was on verge of tears and badly wanted a hug from someone, it was crazy feeling so many different emotions in such a short time.

Finally i told myself that i had nothing to loose by staying one extra day and was fretting over nothing and somehow managed to go to bed at around 3am. In retrospect it was kind of silly of me thinking too much about all this but i couldn’t help it.

July 11th

We woke up to a clear sunny but windy day and could see that the autobahn was completely wind loaded, it felt that traveling across it would certainly trigger an avalanche. The wind was depositing more snow on it and we could see the wind drifts over the entire ridge.

I talked with Dennis and told him that i would be ok with leaving today but he said that no was moving on the mountain today because of avalanche danger so we had to stay put and in retrospect i am glad that we did because we were offered some spectacular views of the mountains nearby

We were playing cards in the tent when Mark stopped by and announced that it was very clear outside and the views were outstanding. I got my camera and headed to the edge and the rock formation known as diving board and indeed it was amazing. I snapped some cool pics and then got creative trying to capture reflections on people’s goggles. Mark asked Dennis if we could go and stand on the edge of the diving board so he belayed us while each of us went and stood on the diving board. Becky took the prize for the best pose by doing a yoga pose on the diving board.

Konrad and his goggles.

The Diving Board

Best pose.

After we were done, Dennis wanted to take a group picture and at that point i realized that it was truly over. There wasn’t an official announcement but it made sense and i was ok with it. Later in the evening an official announcement was made that the 3 person team of chinese folks along with Konrad accompanied by Dennis would be staying little longer to see if the weather would improve for a summit bid while the rest of us would descend in the morning.

Our Team

I had no intentions of staying longer since i had to be at work on monday and didn’t really want to deal with change of flights etc. Some other folks would have liked to stay longer as well but Dennis told that unless something drastically changed the chances were way less than 50% of even making an attempt. Knowing the fact that the expedition was officially over i slept lot better that night.

July 12th

When we woke up it was probably the coldest day we had encountered, it was sunny but the wind was blowing at over 20 mph consistently and it was really cold. We some how managed to pack our stuff, take all the group gear and got going.

When we got moving as always in the beginning i had problem catching my breath but it lasted less than a minute and i soon regained my composure on the ridge where a single misstep could prove fatal. It was a very clear day, the clearest that we had so far, no i still couldn’t see Russia, which was great because we could experience the fun of descending on the ridge and how exposed it was on either side.

The steep drops on the either side made the whole descend really fun and thrilling, i was really able to appreciate the route and the rangers had mentioned that this was the best part of the climb and i could see why. Yesterday we had heard about couple of russian guys slogging through all the snow and because they had to track the snow it took them about 12 hours to get to the base of fixed lines from the 14k camp and they spent the night at the bottom of Washburn’s thumb where we met them. They admitted to being stupid and desperate, hopefully they made it to the summit.

Washburn’s Thumb on the ridge.

We took a break just before the fixed lines and descending the fixed lines wasn’t a problem but then what followed next wasn’t fun at all. It had snowed more than a foot and all that wet snow was sticking to the crampons, the anti balling plates weren’t working at all so we had to hit our crampons every couple of steps. It felt that i was back in Rainier where my crampons didn’t have any anti balling plates and i had ended up with more than 6 inches of snow sticking on my crampons.

I tried glissading but with my backpack and no so steep slope it didn’t work that well so we had no choice but to go through that entire section slowly, slipping every now and then and just cursing in general. It took us over 2 hours to get 14k camp just from the bottom of the fixed lines. For a change we were looking forward to put on the snow shoes which were cached at 14k camp.

When we got to 14k camp it had a deserted feeling, the NPS station was all wrapped up and there were only 4-5 tents along with couple of other teams who were descending with us from the high camp. It certainly was the end of climbing season on Denali and you could tell.

It was now time to put our sleds and if you have read everything till now you know how happy i get when i have to drag those god damn sleds. When we dug up our cache i was more concerned about my 70-200 lens which was wrapped in multiple layers of plastic and it seemed fine which was a relief. It was an extended break at this camp, I was still in mood to go to the edge of the world but no one else wanted to plus initially the plan was to sleep at camp 1 at base of ski hill for few hours and then go to the base camp but everyone else wanted to get to base camp as soon as possible. I didn’t blame them for thinking that way but i do love my sleep, i had no choice and it was going to be death march right from high camp all the way to base camp.

We put on our sleds and got going from 14k camp, I was in the middle with Becky leading our rope team and Lauren in the back. So going downhill i had to control Becky’s sled so that it wouldn’t hit her and Lauren would have to worry about my sled and hers. It was an absolute nightmare getting to windy corner.

I kept on getting pulled by the weight of Becky’s sled in front of me and had to really hurry and the fact that we had to rush to get to windy corner and out of the rock fall zone didn’t help. I had to ask Becky multiple times to slow down and yet i kept on getting pulled, it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t help it either since the system is such that the sled was going to keep on pulling me.

We got to windy corner and i asked Lauren there had to be better way, she said that we will turn our sleds upside down on Squirrel and Motorcycle hill so that it won’t pull on me that much and putting the brakes down on the sled could also help. So moving forward during the steep sections of descend we would put the brakes down on the sleds and then take them off on the flat sections. It worked great along with turning the sleds upside down, there was only one section on motorcycle hill where because of a traverse on motorcycle hill i got pinned by the rope and weight of the sleds but it wasn’t that bad.

We got to the 11k camp and took another extended break and almost everyone was out of water so we melted some snow. I picked up significant weight in my sled when i decided to haul the spare 2 person tent which was cached at the camp. I was finally getting over my hatred of the sled and feeling great so didn’t hesitate in taking the extra weight. The sun was also setting and it presented with a really nice pink/orange glow on the neighboring peaks which was cool.

We got going and it definitely seemed like we would get to camp 1 in a single push which was fine with me but then as it was twilight the light on Mt Hunter was simply exceptional. I badly wanted to take out my telephoto lens and shoot but at the same time didn’t want to stop the momentum and not to mention the lens was buried somewhere inside my backpack so it would take some time to get it out.

When we got little closer i asked Becky if she could go any faster but she was having blisters issues of her own so the answer was negative. Oh well, i didn’t really say anything and we kept on going at the pace we were. As soon as we got to the camp i took out the lens and fired few shots, the light had changed and it wasn’t the same but i tried my best. Now it was time to attend to the blisters on my foot, luckily it wasn’t anything too severe and with change of socks i felt that it would be fine. It was a solid couple of hours push from 11k camp to camp 1 and it felt really good doing it without any breaks.

Mt Hunter

It was now time for the final push to the base camp and the upper air strip which involves the dreaded heartbreak hill. Lauren was now leading our rope team and once she gets going there is no stopping her and that was indeed the case. We just kept on going at our steady pace and soon enough we were at the base of heartbreak hill where we stopped to take a small break.

I couldn’t believe it was 8am by the time we started climbing Heartbreak Hill, just over 19 hours ago we were at high camp and now we were almost back to base camp. It was really slow going on the heartbreak hill and i had to use every single muscle in my legs to drag that heavy sled up it. Finally after couple of hours we were back at the upper air strip which is additional half hour hike from the traditional base camp.

The first order of business was to dig up our cache and retrieve those beers. As soon as we started having those lovely bitter refreshments we heard a plane buzzing, oh no we were not ready for it. Not only did we wanted to know our beers but our gear was also not packed properly. We let the other group go in the first flight and after throughly enjoying our well earned beers we caught the second flight out.

Enjoying brews after a 21hr push.

Once we got back to Talkeetna, it was time to get everything in order. I had a scare that i somehow misplaced my camera but luckily it was in my backpack, i was petrified at the thought of losing it. We first got a nice lunch, followed by ice cream and then it was time to sort out all the group gear at the AAI hangar.

By the time we got to Fireweed it was already 4pm and we had made plans to go out for a night of partying at 9.30 so there wasn’t much time to take a nap. After a nice long shower i tried to take a nap but between calling friends and family it was already 6ish and dinner was going to be at 7pm. I tried to nap for a bit but couldn’t so just laid around and tried to transfer the pictures to my laptop but the battery hadn’t been charged for a long time hence it was in deep slumber.

We had dinner and by the time we were done it was already 8.45 and the guides were going to pick us up at 9 to go out in town. Hurriedly we got ready and since there were no mosquitoes this time around i was able to take walk around the inn and it was nice.

Steve and Lauren showed up at around 9.45 and we headed out into town for a night of drinking and partying, what happens in Talkeetna stays in Talkeetna and we got back at around 4am, so yes it was an absolutely fun night of drinking and partying. :)

Took the shuttle next day back to anchorage where we met up with David and had lunch together and after a red eye flight to Los Angeles i was back to work on Monday July 15th.

Overall it was a great experience and i enjoyed every minute of it, the group made the experience even better. We all gelled so well as a team that the guides and everyone else was surprised. Reaching the summit would have been icing on the cake specially after all the waiting that we had to do at the 11k camp and 17k camp.

I absolutely had no regrets at the end of the trip, well not going to edge of world could count as one since i really wanted to get a good view of the cassin’s ridge, it is something that i plan to attempt in 2015 if all goes well.

High Resolution pics from the entire climb can be viewed here. you can also prints from this site if you wish. Entire collection is posted on facebook, if you are interested in obtaining high resolution of some picture then let me know.

Denali: Surviving the Storm and getting to High Camp 17k ft.

This is part 3 in series of blogs that i have written for my denali experience. main page can be found here.

Jun 30th

It was 5am and we decided to take a short nap before waking up at 9am to have pizza for dinner. The wind had really picked up and we were getting some of the weather that denali is famous for. Our plan of doing a carry up beyond windy corner seemed to be in danger but at the same time we needed some cold temps and snow since the rock fall past windy corner was getting really bad and one of the teams decided to call it quits after staying at 11k for 6 days since they thought the rock fall danger was too much and there was nothing but hot weather predicted.

Few hours later we woke up to find that it was snowing and really windy. It was time to get to work and build some snow walls around our sleeping tents and the kitchen tent.

Walls around our tents.

One of things that i wanted to learn out of this adventure was how to build snow walls and i feel it is an important skill to have. The process is not complicated but nevertheless it was nice to experience using the snow saw to chop ice blocks for the wall and building it.

Our plans of carrying load to 14k camp were put on hold and there is nothing we could about it. The gusts were as strong as 60-70 mph with snow. We had some hot drinks and gritz after working for almost 4hrs to build the walls. I wasn’t too interested in eating the gritz so went to bed. For a change we were going to sleep at somewhat of a normal time of 2 am.

For the entire night our tent would shake violently whenever a strong gust would hit but that didn’t prevent me from getting a good nights rest and my sore back felt much better at the end of it. When I woke up the conditions didn’t change much so after having another round of hot drinks n spaghetti for dinner it was time to get back into our tents and hope that the weather improved. We had gotten over a foot of fresh snow so far too bad i didn’t have my skis to enjoy some fresh alaskan powder.

The wind had subsided but it was snowing continuously and we had to do some digging around the tent whenever we got out. After couple days of the same routine, i had lost track of days as the only time we got out of our tents was to have hot drinks and breakfast or dinner. We were still on night schedule and dinners were eaten early in morning and breakfast at nights.

Tent covered in Snow

This wait for weather to improve was really frustrating and chewing into our spare days but there is nothing we could do about it. Our packs, boots and whatever gear that was left outside was frozen and i didn’t even want to entertain the thought of putting on my shoes unless they were heated with warmth of sunshine. The whiteout conditions outside made it impossible to see more than 20 ft, sometimes even less so there was no point in moving and our guides didn’t want to think how windy would it have been at windy corner. Windy corner is a feature on the route where a funnel is created, so when the weather gets bad its even worse at windy corner and travel is not all advisable.

On the bright side we were at relatively low altitude so the storm wasn’t as worse as it was higher up on the mountain and we were eating our spare food so that would mean less stuff to carry. The rock fall danger which prevented one of the teams to climb higher than 11k camp was also minimized due to this snowfall and the crevasses and snow bridges will get better and hopefully on the way back we won’t have to do crazy route finding across the crevasse fields.

Another day passed by with little improvement in the conditions. the storm was supposed to pass by today, i totally lost track of days, but so far it didn’t look like it but once in a while the sun will still try to peek through. Our window of summit was not closed yet, it would just mean days of continous slogging instead taking some of the rest/easy days that we had planned.

In case you are wondering, let me tell you that pooping in that weather was not fun. Its bad enough that you have to sit down butt naked on the cmc but the worse was when you have to wipe. Hands got stone cold rolling up the toilet paper which was wet to begin with and then you have to wipe multiple times. I think this would make for a great torture method, get someone butt naked in the cold and then blow really cold air on them.

July 3rd

It seemed like tomorrow we would be able to make a move and gain independence from 11k camp. We played corn hole, the competition got intense but our team prevailed to take the final game in the series. During breakfast we made plans to move tomorrow and get back on day schedule since the heat was no longer a concern. The plan was to wake up early, have breakfast and then get going as soon as possible. Everyone seemed thrilled but mother nature had the final word.

We had to find ways to kill time.

July 4th.

I wasn’t able to sleep until 3 am and all that while it seemed that the weather had only gotten worse, the wind had picked up and it was snowing. I didn’t think that we would be able to go anywhere. I was right we didn’t gain our independence from 11k camp on 4th july, it was spent playing cards, corn hole and relaxing. The next day looked promising and indeed it was.

July 5th.

I had a good night’s sleep and did dream that all the other groups had left the 11k camp and we were the only ones remaining which was almost the case after breakfast. We were the last group to leave and it wasn’t helped by the fact that Becky lost her ice axe and we had to borrow it from “the old goat” Tom.

Tom and his group of 3 had got to 11k camp yesterday and he had just been the oldest person to summit Denali at ripe age of 78. They had done multiple carries on the mountain and today was their 42nd day of the expedition. Awesome dedication and commitment, i am not sure if i would be able to spend 42 days and counting on Denali.

We got going at around noon and it seemed like we were traveling in the same bad weather that had prevented us from moving during last few days but higher up that wasn’t the case. It was a tough slog with the sleds, i hate them to my guts. i had about 30-35lbs in the sled and about 50lbs in my pack. It was slow going over motor cycle and squirrel hill. Luckily it wasn’t icy and Dennis didn’t have to use the ice screws for additional protection.

Motorcycle hill is where the actual mountaineering on west buttress starts so to speak, the early part of the route can be considered as just plain hiking on the snow but once past the 11k the real fun begins, falls get serious with some serious run outs and the overall steepness of the climb increases considerably.

The weather had improved a lot and going through windy corner we didn’t have to put on all of our puffy layers and not leave any part of skin exposed. I had a really hard time dragging the sled, getting to windy corner i had to ask Lauren to stop once in a while so that i could catch my breath. I was pretty beat up and was going really slow at a snail’s pace or maybe even slower. When we got to Windy Corner, Dennis took out the group gear from my sled which helped me a lot and i felt much better.

We had two more hours to go and the next half hour was the worst in terms of rockfall danger so we had to move really quickly through that section but i started cramping up which was annoying but somehow i managed to get to the next rest stop. I have to admit waiting out the storm for so long made me lazy in terms of taking care of myself, i wasn’t hydrating as much in the last couple of days.

I gulped in more than a liter of water with nuun electrolytes and then had some corn nuts for salt. I figured that would be enough to get me to the 14k camp and indeed it was more than enough. We setup camp and then after having some soup and pasta it was time for bed.

As soon as we got to the camp the light on Mt Hunter was teasing me to take picture with the zoom lens but i wanted to take care of myself first rather than having to worry about taking a picture. However at the end of day i was presented with a much better opportunity and i took full advantage of it. Everyone was pretty beat up from the hike so we weren’t sure whether it was going to be a rest day tomorrow or we would be doing a carry above fixed lines on the ridge.

Twilight on Mt Hunter

July 6th

In the morning we learned that it was going to be carry day to 16200ft on the ridge just above the fixed lines. The guides were also concerned by how much time it took us to carry from 11k camp and how it would factor into actual climb. They asked us to be honest with ourselves and the NPS was going to pack up so we would be one of the last teams on the mountain, a rescue would be really difficult if something were to go wrong.

We all had one on one with the guides and i told them that sled was a big issue for me and i would be fine now since they no longer were used. Lauren had concerns about me having to stop to catch my breath yesterday but i wasn’t too worried since i was confident in my abilities and i knew it was the damn sled that was causing issues for me. My legs and hips are way stronger than lower back and in the last hour of climb yesterday after the cramps i was doing great. i told them that i would do the carry and then depending on how it went make a decision accordingly.

We went over the use of ascenders and my old school ascender even though inoperable by just one hand worked fine. I shed all the extra weight and only took the bare minimum that i needed along with the group gear. The climb to the ridge is fairly steep and the final section has fixed ropes which you have to ascend using an ascender.

After the first break i had a small headache but it disappeared quickly once i drank some water. Now it was time to jump on the fixed lines and after first few steps i got hang of it and it turned out to be pretty fun. I was enjoying hanging on to the ascender and taking a break while others clipped in and out of the rope.

We got at the top of the ridge and went little further up to place our cache. It wasn’t too windy but quite overcast so we got good views of our surroundings only once in a while. When it was time to leave the wind picked up and i thought that i left my beanie behind in camp but it was with me all the time. It was really slow going on the fixed lines since it was windy and me sans the beanie was starting to get a headache because of the cold.

We didn’t stop until we reached camp and i decided to drug myself after dinner to try to get rid of the headache. Tomorrow was going to be a rest day and i was hoping that we could make it out to the edge of the world to see some amazing views of the mountains. i was planning to cache my 70-200 lens at 14k camp so it would hve been good to put it to some use before that.

July 7th

I had a good nights sleep but we woke up to an overcast day and it didn’t seem like we would be able to take the trip to edge of the world. It was snowing and windy, it was kind of day where we wouldn’t be able to travel so i was happy that it was a rest day.

Our campsite at 14k.

It was shocking to find out in the morning that David had decided to call it quits and was planning on descending with another AAI team which had just returned from high camp. He lost battle with the cold and was always having a hard time sleeping and not getting enough rest otherwise he was in great shape. The entire team was really sad to see him leave, if i had to pick one person on whom my money would be to make it to the summit it would have been David.

The day was spent just relaxing, playing cards, sleeping in and trying to get rid of the headache i had picked up earlier. Tomorrow was going to be a huge day since we had to move to the high camp as well as pick up our cache on the way up.

July 8th

With the previous day being stormy i was hoping that today would be clear and indeed that was the case. It would have been a perfect day to go to the edge of the world but we had to move higher. Our plan was to get going at 9am but by the time we got going it was almost noon. Dennis wasn’t happy about it along with the fact that some folks were complaining about the weight of their packs. I was surprised since on Denali you are expected to lug 60 lbs backpacks.

On the carry couple of days ago i didn’t take my camera with me so i told Lauren that we should be the last rope team so that i could chill on the fixed lines and take some pictures. We ended up chilling little too much on the fixed lines unfortunately.

It was a fairly warm day and i had put on my technical base layer which was the only thing i was wearing when we started but when we got to the base of fixed lines it got little windy so i put on my windbreaker. There was another rope team in front of us which was moving really slowly and we went past them before getting to fixed lines.

When we were resting at the base of fixed lines and about to get started they caught up with us, two of our rope teams had started moving and they were about to jump on fixed lines so it would have been convenient for us to follow them and make the other team wait behind us. But being the nice considerate folks that we are, we let them get between our rope teams.

We waited for another 15 mins at the base of fixed lines before we could get moving and then when finally we got on the fixed lines i had all the time in the world to take pictures. The team before us was crawling and with the wind dying down i was starting to sweat like a pig under my windbreaker. It was sucking the life out of me and the pace was so slow that we could have easily taken a nice long nap on the ropes. It was really annoying and frustrating to wait on the fixed lines, we would take one step and then wait for 5 minutes.

Waiting on fixed lines on the Headwall.

We could see our team’s other two rope teams in the front getting to the top while we were still stuck less than half way. Finally after an hour or so, though it seemed like eternity, the leader of group in front of us moved his team to the fixed lines used for descending so that we could get in front of them. It was nice of him but it came little too late, we hurried up to get to the top of fixed lines and i was spent.

We were planning to take a break at our cache location which was 15-20 mins further along the ridge but as soon as i got on top of fixed lines i had to get out of my windbreaker and drink some water. I wasn’t too far off from completely collapsing from exhaustion. We saw Dennis on the ridge trying to see what was going on since we took so long to get to top of fixed lines but it wasn’t our fault.

At the bottom of fixed lines i was feeling amazing, i even entertained the idea of carrying some group gear and my personal cache to the high camp and then possibly trying a summit attempt the next day instead of taking the planned rest day at high camp. But this whole fixed lines fiasco sucked the life out of me and totally knocked the wind out of my sails. I was a shadow of my former self and i slowly trudged along to our cache site.

We took another break at the base of Washburn’s thumb which has a small section of fixed lines but they are not as fun as the ones on the headwall. As we were walking along the ridge it was pretty overcast so we didn’t really get any good views but at the same time i was so tired that i could care less.

I just put my head down and was taking it one step at a time, often asking Lauren to slow down. I was trying to think what went wrong in past couple of hours when we got stuck on the fixed lines and i was feeling so great. We made it past the ridge and saw Dennis taking a break with his rope team. I wanted to take a break as well but Lauren mentioned that the campsite was only 20 mins away.

I was like f*** it and we continued on and soon enough we could see the camp site. It was little cruel path where we had to descend about 50 ft and then hike back up, i wasn’t happy. Finally when we made it to the camp, i immediately took my thermrest, sat down and started hydrating.

We still had to establish our camp i.e. pitch the tents and with David gone it was just me and Konrad. Everything was going on in slow motion, every step, every action was so slow. It just wasn’t me but i think everyone was definitely feeling the altitude, we were at 17,200 ft. I also realized that i hadn’t really consumed too many calories in past couple of days which might be adding to my fatigue so i wanted to make sure that i did eat well before crashing in the tent.

High Resolution pics from the entire climb can be viewed here. you can also prints from this site if you wish. Entire collection is posted on facebook, if you are interested in obtaining high resolution of some picture then let me know.